[031231, 1925 UTC, Bahia Los Frailes, BCS, Mexico; 2322.9'N/10925.4' W]

Dear Friends;

Happy New Year!

We left Cabo San Lucas yesterday morning at first light and are looking forward to pursuing a few more isolated and quieter haunts in Mexico in the coming days. Our first stop is Bahia Los Frailes ("FRY-lees" meaning The Friars) about 50 miles up the eastern shore of Baja towards La Paz. We're very glad we stopped in Cabo to take in its spectacular location and to visit with and enjoy the company over the Christmas holiday of good friends Dennis and Fredricka who indulged us in a fabulous meal of turkey and all the trimmings overlooking our boat at anchor off the beach. (By the way, Dennis claims to have arranged for the fireworks that lit up our row back to Carina on Christmas, but considering the potential for flaming fallout, we are not so sure!)

Anchoring off the beach in Cabo though requires a bit of patience. The anchorage is well away from town and there are no dinghy landing facilities until you are within the basin which by mid afternoon represents a hazard to navigation due to wakes of dozens of boats and jet skis. As a result, we utilized water taxis for most of our trips to town, costing "seis" (6) US dollars plus tip each way, a few dings in our hull and a few lost cans of food over the side due to a taxi driver who'd been enjoying cerveza before taking our fare. "Felipe" (a name everyone seems to love to call out) even became an "amigo preferido" (favorite friend) of Connie and Jose of Zaida's Glass Bottom Boats (and water taxi service).

The anchoring shelf at Cabo is sand and it is a bit unstable with sand slipping into a deep canyon in the center of the bahia. Combine this with every imaginable motorized pleasure vessel (jet skis, parasail boats, ultralight airplanes, cruise ships, party boats, etc.) driven by overzealous tourists who zoom back and forth through the anchorage from 9 am until sunset and you have what might be described as mayhem. Many jet skis came way too close to Carina and other boats which Philip says helped him to understand why gringos are not allowed to have firearms in Mexico (one private captain lost his cool one day and began screaming at a pair of jet skis who'd just buzzed him).

Cabo San Lucas also is not, surprisingly, well equipped to service cruising boats. For instance, the fuel dock was confused by our request for water! "Agua? No, no agua". We replied, "Dinero para agua?" To this, "Oh, senor, do you mean your tanks need filling?" and then, "Si", we replied. We finally got agua (and for those who are curious, we filter, treat, and then filter again before drinking water we obtain from such public facilities). Propane tank refilling is only available four miles out of town and-thanks only to our friends Dennis and Fredricka-we were able to refuel. Guidebooks are even out of date with respect to where and how to obtain supplies or provisions. We asked also about laundry at the Marina Cabo San Lucas and simply got a shrug from the receptionist ("Lavaderia is for marina tenants only."). Eventually we were able to obtain everything we needed but it seemed to be more difficult than it should have been. On a positive note though, the Port Captain, Immigration and API (where you pay your anchoring fee) were all quite helpful and professional.

What Cabo San Lucas is however, is a beautiful, prosperous and booming destination filled with lovely shops, excellent restaurants and ever-expanding leisure communities that are geared for land-based tourists pursuing golf, sport fishing, glass bottom boat tours, horseback riding on the beach and glorious weather. The surrounding hillsides are greener than the western side of the Baja and the scenery is a combination of mountains, ocean and spectacular rocky coastline. (If you get the chance to go to Cabo, be sure to look for the restaurant called the Baja Cantina in the inner basin for modestly priced food and nice ambience and, while you are there, check out the newly minted painting of Gryphon D'Or (Dennis and Fredricka's boat) that now hangs amongst the pictures of mega-yachts!)

Our trip to Los Frailes was marked by little wind and therefore involved motoring for seven long hours. Breaking up the monotony though were whales, whales and more whales. Most appeared to be humpbacks or members of the same rorqual whale family (read, BIG!). Excited by the nearness of the animals during our first encounter, we idled and waited while the whales sounded and were suddenly surprised by one surfacing about 10 feet off the bow and blowing a fine mist of sweet smelling water over a startled Leslie! Wow, now that's close.

Now in Los Frailes anchored off the beach, the cat is catching up on sleep, Philip is enjoying his birthday watching boats fishing and baby manta rays leaping, and we're planning a trip to shore to meet the vegetable truck before visiting with friends Jay and Janice on Ceilidh. Tomorrow if we summon up enough ambition we'll probably hike the promontory that dominates this anchorage. It's a granite boulder-strewn hill of nearly 700 feet that rises straight up out of turquoise blue water. As we explore the dunes, beach and arroyo surrounding us we'll be certain to share more details about this pristine spot in a later dispatch.

Until then,

Philip, Leslie and Jake the kitty