Eighteen miles north of Isla Coronados is a bay that might have been designed solely to reward the intrepid for leaving behind the delights for the Loreto area. San Juanico as it is known to cruisers (and San Basilio as it appears on navigation charts) is a collection of coves tucked in amongst rock pillars and sweeping swaths of lemon yellow sandstone. At least, those were the most memorable landmarks to us.
On the north shore, above the sandstone were three luxury houses, two of them sculpted tastefully into the landscape (the other looking rather like a sore thumb). Nothing else man made was in sight anywhere, except for a line of seven blue pup tents along the very white beach of the next cove west. Whether the houses are private homes or rentals, we never learned, but for the very first time the Two Captains saw something to spark the imagination of what could be should we ever decide to beach ourselves. On the other hand, only God knows how they reach those houses and how far away the nearest services are.
San Juanico was another anchorage just made for kayaking, and I launched the blue machine and spent my first afternoon paddling every corner. When I was hot and sweaty, we then jumped in the water and swam to the two rock pinnacles behind which we were anchored. Here we found the best snorkeling yet of our time in the Sea. The pinnacles were surrounded with boulder piles shaped to recall the great coral heads of the Caribbean. These were draped in picturesque algae, and amongst them swam a very dense and very diverse population of fish, large and small. Don was beside himself as I had begged him to leave behind the hunting implements. I was in heaven, free-diving deep to cruise among these coral lookalikes, pausing to poke into all the myriad nooks and crannies. Truly for the first time was I missing the luxury of a scuba tank. The next day, of course, when we went back fully armed, the visibility had deteriorated and the fish life thinned. I, however, got treated to a huge school of yellow jacks unlike any we have in the Caribbean which swarmed around me on each dive for maybe twenty minutes, only disappearing when the great white hunter hove into view! Only later did I find out that the black-barred yellow jacks are supposed to be excellent eating!
Our second night in San Juanico saw the wind pipe up in the middle of the night, which brought us from our beds against the event we’d have to bolt to hoist the kayak aboard and put away all the things we’d left carelessly out on deck. We were able to go back to bed the rest of the night, but with sun-up the swell started to take its toll and we were driven out around the headland to La Ramada.
La Ramada was 2.3 miles away by sea, but it is actually connected to San Juanico by an arroyo behind the houses. Indeed the access road to the houses coils across the isthmus to the La Ramada side before disappearing inland. The two anchorages, however, bear little resemblance to one another. The north-facing La Ramada is shaped by a cobblestone hook to the northeast and a boulder bank to the west. We had heard through the grapevine, however, that La Ramada had particularly good fishing along these rocky shores, and the great white hunter was positively salivating.
We had had San Juanico to ourselves, but we found, as we rounded the bend, our fellow cruisers Kevin and Mona of Dreamcatcher, had been quietly hiding out in La Ramada for almost a week. There is much to be said for keeping a low radio profile; all your compadres don’t show up in your private spot. While there is nothing harder to do than intrude on a fellow cruiser who has had an anchorage to themselves, there was not a plethora of options near at hand, so we dropped our hook quietly behind them.
On our little road trip to Cabo San Lucas a few weeks ago Don learned a new Spanish word -- tope (pronounced toe-pay). If all of Don's linguistic education could work this way, he'd be fluent in Spanish. See a road sign that says "TOPE" and immediately after, there's a speed bump. Got it! Baja, Mexico may not have taken to the concept of road shoulders, but they sure have taken to topes. They're everywhere!
Well, life in Paradise is not without its little topes. On our first afternoon, Don and I swam a quarter-mile over to the cobble bank to see what there was to see. What there was were some big cabrilla (yummy grouper-type fish). So down goes the great white hunter and thwang goes the speargun. Now, for those of you not familiar with spear-fishing technique, you don't just aim down on the fish you want and haul him up. You have to dive down to its level, hang loose as long as you can until the fish relaxes and turns back or sideways to you, and then, of course, you have to hit it. When Don fires off the gun, he is often at the end of his breath-holding limit. The spear is attached to the gun with a 20' line and the gun itself floats toward the surface. In the ideal scheme, Don is hauling in on that line as he drifts up for his next breath. However this big cabrilla did not give up gracefully. It darted smartly down into the boulder bank at about 25 feet, deep leaving the gun floating up like a marker buoy about five feet below the surface. Don and I took turns diving down to try to back the fish and the spear down and out from where he'd wedged himself, but at that depth neither of us has tons of time. In frustration, Don finally swam back to Tackless II (a quarter mile away) loaded a scuba tank into the dinghy, and rowed (we hadn't put on the outboard) all the way back...only to realize he'd left his regulator on the deck. So back he had to row again.
Meanwhile, I'd been checking on the fish and the spear and on my last dive down discovered that a large green moray had moved in for the free shish-kebab dinner! By the time Don got back and down, there were TWO giant green morays at the feast. Don had already resigned himself to giving up the fish; he just wanted his spear back. Even with scuba, this took a little negotiation with the two large eels, but he did prevail, ripping the spear backward through the fish. I might add, he climbed right back on his hunting “horse” and went out and secured us another, slightly-smaller cabrilla for our dinner, taking care to shoot the fish away from the boulders.
We stayed in
La Ramada through the next day, snorkeling farther along the hook
(and finding little crawly things with antennae...yum!) in the morning,
and then, in the afternoon along the boulders on the west side.
A highlight of this activity, was a school of some fifty bat rays
passing underneath us, making it seem like the whole bottom was
moving! Before dinner, we packed the boat away -- dinghy and kayak
hoisted aboard -- ready for an early start on a long 30-40 mile
trip the next day.