Fish, Clams, and an ever-changing scenery
It took us about an hour to motor from Isla Coranados to Loreto where we anchored just off the main port. We all hopped in the dingy with all of our trash and trolled up to the dock. Our first destination was the Ferr Mar, which is a dive and fishing shop. We took both of the spear guns off Viva that were in desperate need of new string and rubbers. The guys at the shop were super helpful and we were able to get everything we needed for about 1000 pesos- a little less than 50 bucks. I also purchased some professional dive gloves for about 20 bucks and a weight belt for about 15. The weight belt makes it a lot easier to stay under water when clamming or spear fishing. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to float in the salt water here. Even with a 5lb spear gun and 0ver 6 pounds of weights on my waist I can float just fine. When you’re just chilling and drinking a beer you can float and tread water with just your feet. It’s freaking awesome. Anyway, the girls went across the street and each purchased a new dress from a thrift store, then we went back to the dingy to return to Viva really quick to drop off all of our new gear. After that, we returned to land to go to the grocery store. There are 2 in the town of Loreto, the Ley market that is the local store and then another market targeted towards gringos that is much more expensive but probably had a better selection. We went to the Ley first to see if we could get everything we needed, and we could. We asked a couple guys in a truck how to get there and they told us to jump in the back and they drove us there! We tipped them 20 pesos, that they tried to refuse, but we insisted. The people in Mexico are so nice. It is truly incredible how sweet everyone is. At the Ley we bought lettuce, cucumbers, avocados, pickled ginger, vanilla, sliced bread, frosted flakes, jalapenos, baking soda, juices, zucchini, tomato, a few other things I’m forgetting, and 2 fifths of El Jimador tequila. Total price? $37 dollars American. Should have bought a case of tequila. So freaking awesome. We once again returned to Viva to drop off our groceries. I’ve become a pro at driving the dingy, and Bob loves it. As he says every time we learn to do something new on the boat, “Hey! One less thing I have to do!” Bob is hilarious. Always joking, always kind. I drove back to the dock again to go out to eat at the Blue Anchor Restaurant where Bob had been the entire time taking advantage of free WiFi. We went upstairs to a covered area where they had a little bar and sat down at the table next to Bob where we ordered margaritas and appetizers. I had two margs, shrimp ceviche, and a plate of mackeral sashimi served with jalapenos, red onion, and a balsamic soy sauce. 5 star delicious. I was in heaven. The view was magnificent overlooking the beach and ocean. After about an hour, Ben showed up to take us to his house to use his WiFi so we tabbed out. My total was 320 pesos. I gave her a 500 and asked for 100 back using my translator on my phone. That’s right- all that including a good tip was only 20 bucks. 2 apps and 2 margs. I love this country.
We hopped in Ben’s truck and rode about 5 minutes to his lovely home. Ben is a retired wallpaper hanger- well he owned the company and obviously did quite well because is house was beautiful. It also had no wallpaper in it. It was pretty cool to see the surrounding area packed because they were filming a movie, but it also meant that bandwidth was low so download speeds were only about 5 mbps and upload was only .19 mbps hence the absence of my gopro videos online. We got a tour of the house, picked about 15 lemons from his tree in the backyard, and then he took us to a liquor store where we picked up champagne, Grand Marnier, other margarita liquor`, and some Malibu. Mom and Steve, they had Vueve` but it was normal priced unfortunately. We went with the Asti. Then we went to a nursery where we purchased 2 spearmint plants and a sweet basil plant.
We departed Loreto in heavy winds and huge waves directly on our beam (the side of the boat). We had about an hour and a half crossing to Isle Carmen, a 20 mile long island that had a protected anchorage where we could stay for the night. The island had wild long horned sheep and we actually saw 3 the morning we left, which is rare. I got some gopro footage. The next morning we decided to head south, round the tip of the island and head back north to go to Bahia Salinas, directly on the other side of the island. There is an old shipwreck in this bay that was actually pretty disappointing, but the clamming was AMAZING. Lauren and I gathered 175 Chocolates` in about 2 hours. We had never clammed before. We would dive down anywhere from 5-10 feet and you look for to black holes very close to each other. When you get close enough, you can see the bi-valves of the clam, that are those black holes, but no sooner than you see them, they close up and disappear under the sand. So, you dig your hand down in the sand about 3 inches and pull those mothers out! I could get as many as 6 clams in one dive. It was very fun and extremely satisfying. We ate all 175 that night. They were beyond delicious.
The next day I shot another Grunt fish over by some rocks and we fried it up that night. We also collected about 75 more clams. Would have had more, but I was busy chasing Gafftopsail Pompano fish, that are supposed to be excellent. I shot one, but it didn’t penetrate and he got away. No Bueno.
The last morning at Bahia Salinas, we all got up early and went back to the lush clamming spot to load up before we left. We ended up collecting about 125 more which gave us over 5 gallons of clams. As I was diving for clams, about 20 feet from our dingy, 3 Pampano’s swam right up next to me. I popped up, yelled at Seth who happened to be in the dingy, and told him to toss me the spear gun. He made a perfect throw about 5 feet in front of me. I dove down, grabbed the spear rifle, flipped the safety off, and within about 10 seconds of the gun hitting the seabed, I turned, fired, and got my first Gafftopsail Pampano. It was one of my finest moments of the trip thus far, with the excellent assist by my brother. We ventured back to Viva, basking in the glory of all of our clams and the wonderful Pampano we would eat later that day. We showered, stowed things away on Viva, fired up the starboard engine and headed south to our next destination, Caleta Chico.
It took about 4 hours to get down to Chico, which was a tiny little cove, with room enough only for one boat, and we were lucky enough to be it. We had a little service for about 20 minutes as we were approaching, and I was able to get about 8 messages to Nikki, but unfortunately she didn’t get to respond in time. I haven’t talked to her in about a week now, which is by far the toughest part of this trip. I was also able to find out that the Chiefs lost to the Bucs. That was tough, too. The opening of Chico was to the north, which made it a little bumpy in the night, but every other side was protected by mountains or huge rocks. The rocks had many faces and a strange feel to it. But the snorkeling was fantastic, despite the jellyfish, and we were able to gather some cool shells on the beach. We had ran out of horseradish for cocktail sauce for our clams, so I drove the dingy over to a resort about a mile away and Lauren went in and got some. For free! Haha. They thought she was a guest . We also pulled up to a super yacht in the same bay and asked them first, but they said they were all out.
We stayed another night in Chico, and then departed for Agua Verde, which we were excited for because they had a couple little mini markets. By mini markets, I mean buildings smaller than the saloon of Viva, and with less food. But, we were able to reload on eggs, sugar, potatoes, zucchini, and I bought some candy to hand out to the local kids who were running around. It was quite a culture shock to see the little village, but it was very clean, it had two churches, and a school that everyone was very proud of. By the time we returned to the dingy, the waves had picked up immensely. I’m glad we decided to buy 36 eggs, because we lost nine, and our clean and dry clothes departing the beach. But, we made it back safely to Viva, and hung out with our friend A.J. who cooked a wonderful dinner of some fresh fish he had caught that day. We have cooked fish twice now in this same style: Make a tin foil boat, line the bottom with potato slices, cover those with onion slices, and put your fish filets on top. Season the hell out of it and cook it on the grill for about 15-20 minutes. The onions may be the best part! We sat and ate our dinner as we admired a 200+ foot luxury cruise ship, lit up to perfection with the mountains and the colors of the sunset behind it.
We left Agua Verde, and headed to Los Gatos, which had a whole new style of rock formation. They were big, smooth, and red. It looked as if a volcano spilled out hot lava and it melted at the base of the jagged rocks above. I went lobster hunting with A.J. for the first time, and even though I didn’t get one, I improved my diving skills, diving as deep as 25+ feet, looking under rocks for these clawless lobsters. I haven’t timed it, but I think I can probably hold my breath for about 45 seconds or so. Going down that far requires equalizing your ears at least 3 times which makes the water pressure bearable.
That evening, A.J. joined us for dinner again, and a cove a couple miles to the south that we left for at around 4 p.m. He had caught a Dolphin (not what you’re thinking) aka a Dorado, or as you probably know it, a Mahi Mahi. As our fish book describes the Grunt fish as very good, the Pampano as excellent, the Dorado is described as “none better”. We grilled it in our new favorite style and even though it was about twice as much fish as we normally have, we ate every last bite. I always say to Nicole, “I know I’m eating something truly exceptional when the flavor gives me the chills”. I got the chills more than once during this meal. Never have I had fish so delicious, so fresh.
We sat around after dinner and taught A.J. to play Presidents and Assholes, and I had to tell him that the girl who gave me the deck of cards for the trip, put together a whole little gift basket for me, and her name is Andrea Johnson, and her father Alan, goes by A.J. as well! By the way, thanks, Andrea, and on nights it’s too windy for cards, Bob has a magnetic set that we use that would be perfect for windy nights down at the Armbrusters!
In the galley of Viva, there are two sinks. One that pumps in saltwater, and one that supplies our fresh water, which we make aboard about every other day. We produce about 10-15 gallons an hour and can hold about 140 gallons. We can do this strictly on our 4 85 watt solar panels, but this is not desirable as our refrigeration system tends to lose a little power and will rise from 40 degrees to about 50. So, we invert power for charging devices, making ice, making water, and doing laundry while we are under way with one or both of the engines, or while we are at anchor with the Honda 2000 generator that is a truly remarkable source of power. One gallon of gas will power us for about 7 hours- sometimes more. Cheap energy, and its relatively quiet. Anyway, back to the sinks- the salt water sinks is used for rinsing and the fresh for cleaning. The problem with everything in a saltwater environment is that eventually, it corrodes. So one can imagine, a faucet that pumps nothing but saltwater will corrode rather quickly. After two years, our saltwater faucet finally bit the dust and we had to replace it. Seth and I went to town, taking off the old one, tag-teaming the socket wrench in tight and awkward places, and drilling new holes for old scrap plumbing parts we had to use to get the brand new faucet installed. And after about an hour, we had it working perfectly! Quite the success, and then it was time to sit and read a book- John Steinbeck’s “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”, appropriate, don’t you think?
We left Los Gatos and went right around the corner to Timbebiche`, literally about a mile away. The melted lava-looking rock was gone, but A.J. had told us we could find clams here. And we did. Not nearly as many as we did at Bahia Salinas, but enough to get a good dinner out of. My middle finger on my right hand had been sore for a couple weeks and it was finally starting to feel better. Clamming in Bahia Salinas didn’t help, I know, but since it was feeling ok I decided to clam there in Timbebiche`. Before I went out though, I decided to make a PB&J to tie me over for a couple hours. You won’t believe this shit- I f ing sprained it/reinjured it opening a goddamn jar of strawberry jelly. You can’t make this shit up. Already dressed in a wetsuit, I taped up my finger and went out. I used my left hand the entire time and was still pretty successful. I gathered about 60ish Chocolates` and 2 big-ass white clams that were at least 8 inches under the sand at a depth of about ten feet under water. I could feel the clam hanging on and digging deeper into the sand as I tried to pull it out. It was a gratifying feeling finally pulling it out. So much in fact that I tried to yell “hell yeah!” through my snorkel underwater, but couldn’t quite get it out because it took about 40 seconds or so to get that thing out of there, and I was out of breath!