Santa Rosalía to Isla San Marcos
9/20/20 – 11.4nm /
We were still waiting for our long lost package from Defender Marine to arrive, and looking to escape the heat in Santa Rosalía, we thought to head over to Isla San Marcos for a couple of days. Reported to have some (package tracking capable) internet access, and other than that, a warning of ‘flies’, we sailed and motored the short 11 miles over to the north side of Piedra Blanca. What a pleasant surprise! This part of Isla San Marcos is a contrast to southern end, which has been ravaged as a major gypsum mine, and the small bay we were anchored in was one of the most beautiful on our trip to date, both above and below the water.
We were joined on the second day by RAVENSWING, with Greg and his son Colin (from Novato) on board. They were one of the fastest boats in the Baja Haha, and the trimaran appeared very quickly in the anchorage, despite the light wind, and left just as quickly a couple of days later.
The snorkeling in this bay immediately north of Piedra Blanca, and the one just further north, Los Arcos, was spectacular, and included a cave/tunnel through the rock that we could swim through, and another underwater tunnel that we chose not to, after seeing Greg and Colin emerge somewhat scathed.
I am not sure why Isla San Marcos does not feature more prominently as a highlight in the cruising guides, as this truly was a special place. We could have spent more time here, but it looked like our package was somewhere in Santa Rosalía, and we needed to get back.
(Yes, there were flies, but not as bad as advertised, and they were easier to deal with than bees)
Isla San Marcos to Santa Rosalía
9/23/20 – 10.6nm / 359hrs
Intent on spending as little time in Santa Rosalía as possible, we left Isla San Marcos early and motored back, settled into the marina, and set about provisioning and chasing down the package, determined that if we could not locate it in one day, we would just continue on without it. As it happens, the marina manager, Francisco, arrived at work on the following morning, and drove to the local office to pick it up, where it had apparently been sitting for days!
The water in the marina in Santa Rosalía is not potable so we had been buying water in large containers from a guy, who, usually with his grandson, would deliver water (heavy) to the marina (hot) for 20 pesos each (ridiculously cheap), and we had chatted with them a few times over the summer. This last time, having described our plans to sail some distances, the vendor provided us with a blessing and a card of a saint to carry on board. We really enjoyed our interaction with these two (although their Covid mask wearing was a bit lax).
Provision completed, we sat by the marina pool, the coolest spot in Santa Rosalía, and talked with Michelle from an impressive aluminum boat called Nautilus. Michelle had some amusing stories as a renowned veterinarian (saving the Totem hamster, saving Turtles and helping the ‘Old Seadog’), as well as some useful advise on completing boat projects in Mazatlan.
Santa Rosalía to Punta Chivato
9/24/20 – 27.5nm / 364hrs
The Defender package on board, we motored out around the north reef off of San Marcos and then enjoyed a pleasant sail south. We had bought a few new fishing lures in Santa Rosalía, and had three lines out. The only excitement from those lines however was one bite from something very large, that flipped out of the water behind us, and then disappeared, taking our new lure with it. While we could your this as the loss of a massive catch, it was more likely the result of a poor knot attaching the lure to the line than the size of the fish. Live and learn!
We anchored on the south side of Punta Chivato, off the abandoned ‘Las Flores’ resort, in crystal clear shallow water. Bliss! … until we were joined, unnecessarily close – there was plenty of space, by a party motor yacht full of inebriated gentlemen with some suspect ‘protection’ posted on the rear of the boat and also in a patrol RIB. Fortunately, Julian narrowly resisted complaining about the noise, as we suspect the consequences may well have been far worse than just a bad night’s sleep!
Punta Chivato to Playa San Nicholas (Punta Pulpito N side)
9/25/20 – 42.7nm / 373hrs
The south side of Punta Chivato is a huge bay with a large shelf at around 20′ depth and leaving was a strange experience, just watching the bottom pass beneath the boat through crystal clear water. Beautiful!
It was a very light wind day, and other than one attempt at sailing, it was a fairly long motoring day, however, we did catch three fish, two bonita (thrown back) and one smaller dorado that provided for a fish taco dinner in San Nicholas.
Playa San Nicholas to Caleta San Juanico
9/26/20 – 12nm /
The wind was back and we enjoyed a great trip down to San Juanico, sailing all the way into the bay before taking down the sails. San Souci were anchored in a tight, but pretty, part of the bay, and we had two attempts at positioning ourselves in the same area, but ultimately determined there was not enough room between them and the reef, so moved to an adjacent part of the bay, separated by a dramatic (privacy screen) rock.
San Souci had left us in Santa Rosalía and we were keen to catch up with them and enjoy some snorkeling in the north part of Juanico. We had spent a fairly uncomfortable night in the south part of the bay on our trip north, and San Juanico this time round was a complete opposite experience.
Julian finally discovered that his spear gun did indeed work (until this point, it seemed subject to a defect preventing the spear from hitting anything) and with Heather’s help, he bought home two Mexican hogfish, and a Sculpin (California Scorpionfish). The sculpin has poisonous spines that can inflict a painful sting, but an “I’ll deal with it if you shoot it” encouragement from Heather led to the Sculpin’s demise, which was then followed by him coughing up a whole octopus while being put on the stringer. A strange, but very tasty creature, however, I do not think we’ll be looking to catch these on a regular basis.
Caleta San Juanico to Isla Coronados
9/19/20 – 18.8nm / 376.2hrs
We left San Juanico in a nice breeze, sailing off the anchor and passed San Souci on the way out, just as they were putting in what turned out to be an overly optimistic reef. The wind got lighter and then all but died and it was a slow sail, then motor to Las Coronados.
We spent a couple of days here, enjoying the huge pod of dolphins that came through the anchorage on a few occasions, one time when we were in the dinghy, and got to experience them up close. With no spear fishing permitted, we tried our hand rod fishing from the dinghy, and also climbed the volcano (again), with Heather. It was interesting to see how the landcscape had changed in the few months since we were here before. There had obviously been some moisture (if no rain) and the plants showed signs of turning green, and even the sandy sections seemed firmer under foot.
Relaxing with our hot feet in the water back at the beach we spotted Baron in his dinghy being towed back to San Souci, the result of a a fouled prop on his outboard. Not a good day for Baron!
We spent an afternoon figuring out our (not yet used) stern anchor arrangement, and actually set it as a test, using the dinghy, only to realize that our heavy stainless steel anchor, along with 50+ feet of chain required a mammoth physical retrieval effort from the unstable platform of the dinghy. A revised technique was clearly required.
Isla Coronados to ‘V’ Cove, El Refugio
10/04/20 – 14.5nm /
While San Souci actually sailed off the anchor with no engine, we did use ours to raise the anchor, but then sailed together with San Souci out the narrow cut heading south. Once through the shallow areas we turned east, close hauled, and enjoyed a wonderful sail all the way to V Cove.
Arriving ahead of San Souci, and finding the anchorage empty, we proceed to put our stern anchoring practice to the test. We had spent an uncomfortable night here previously on only one anchor, and with the tight space, and the knowledge that we would be sharing it with another boat, we anchored bow and stern, leaving adequate space for Sans Souci closer in to the beach. All went well, and as it happens on the second night here we were actually joined in the anchorage by two other boats including HARMONY, an enormous mega yacht that maneuvered itself between us and San Souci to tie stern to a large rock.
The snorkeling here was nothing short of spectacular and we treated to experiencing a bait ball in a sea cave and simply ‘aquarium’ quality fish and underwater landscapes all around this beautiful place.
‘V’ Cove, El Refugio to Bahía Salinas
10/8/20 – 14.2nm /
Our friends on CAVU had recommended we go around to the east side of Isla Carmen to explore the abandoned salt flats and sunken reef of Puerto Salinas. The sail there was excellent, passing dramatic rocks and rounding two points to our new destination. In the center of the bay is a large sunken tuna fishing boat, and despite less than perfect visibility, the snorkel over the top of this wreck was a great experience. It was a real treat to see the amazing amount of life that had made this old ship its home.
A walk ashore, we discovered the abandoned salt production village, which is now the site of a bighorn sheep hunting lodge (go figure!). The old church was beautifully maintained and the building ruins held a bunch of interesting artifacts rusting away into the landscape.
A walk over to the salt flats was surreal with only the intense sun and heat reminding us that we were not in fact surrounded by ice and snow.
Bahía Salinas to Bahía Candeleros
10/10/20 – 23.8nm / 393.2hrs
As soon as we cleared the wreck site buoy, we killed the engine and tacked our way out of the bay, enjoying a very pleasant sail, past the rugged landscape of Isla Carmen, and the jagged profile of Isla Danzante. We motored the last few miles and with the promise of dinner at the resort, we waited for San Souci, who had battled to beat their way out of the Puerto Salinas anchorage, and then sailed onto their anchor in Candeleros as the light was fading, just in time for us to collect them and head to the resort for some well earned restaurant food and cocktails.
Bahía Candeleros to Puerto Escondido
10/11/20 – 6.9nm / 394.6hrs
Waking in Candeleros, the water was as clear as we have ever seen it and taking a dinghy ride back to the resort to see if they have found our lost (Mexican) phone, I suspected It might be possible to see it in the sand below, as it was likely lost out of my pocket on the dinghy ride back to the boat. No luck on either count.
San Souci Sailed off the anchor, but it was soon clear the light wind was from the north, and as we were heading directly north up to Puerto Escondido, it was going to be a couple of hours motoring (even for San Souci, not prone to using the engine).
Arriving in Puerto Escondido, we took a slip in the marina which gave us the opportunity to hose down the boat, and remove the build-up of salt, only to then experience the first real rain, albeit short-lived, that we had seen all summer. Typical!
We collected some Amazon packages, and enjoyed the marina, it’s tienda, restaurant, showers and air conditioned crew lounge.
Having not been able to stop at the town of Mulegé on either the trip north or south, we decided to combine the car rental for provisioning in Loreto with a tour, with Baron and Heather, to check out what Mulegé had to offer. It was a fun day, but the town is very basic, and offered little in the way of things to see, and with the Carcel sin Puertas (jail without doors) closed due to the pandemic, the only real sight was the Mission. We were lucky enough to get a tour from a gentleman who may or may not have been ‘official’, but was nonetheless well informed, extremely proud, and happy to show us around.
Puerto Escondido to Candeleros Chico
10/17/20 – 10nm /
With light wind we motored the short distance to Candeleros Chico, and deployed our stern anchor arrangement once again. We enjoyed some great snorkeling and, now being outside of the restricted park that we had been in since Isla Coronados, we could once again try a hand at spear fishing. We were, however, less productive that the panga that came in to process quite the catch of (primarily) manta rays.
We enjoyed a fresh fish dinner with Baron and Heather as Baron had caught a good sized snapper, and we shared the bay with a fellow we met in Puerto Escondido (on his Macgregor 65 – MAMAKA) who had fashioned quite the electric boat out of a NOLA dory, and was travelling quite some distances just on the power of the sun.
Candeleros Chico to Puerto Escondido
10/20/20 – 10.1nm /
Once again waiting on a package, we headed back to Puerto Escondido to get it – success! We also chatted for some time with Betsy from CYAN who was unfortunately calling it quits on cruising, and I made arrangements for the boat to be delivered back to San Francisco for her, so that it could be sold.
Puerto Escondido to Candeleros Chico
10/21/20 – 10nm /
Package collected, we headed back south, stopping again in Candeleros Chico, this time having the bay to ourselves, and swinging on one anchor in the center (a lot less hassle to retrieve in the morning).
Candeleros Chico to Agua Verde
10/22/20 – 15.8nm / 404.17hrs
A day of mostly motoring in little wind while running the water maker, we made our way between some big motor yachts to anchor in front of San Souci. We always marvel at the contrast in lifestyles of those Mexicans with incredible wealth, and those with nothing, and this again was so evident in Agua Verde, where we were witness to pampering of the wealthy, with onshore picnics staged by crew, and endless trips to and from the yacht where they were no doubt collecting an essential sauce or forgotten hat, All while against the backdrop of a rural fishing settlement with little more than basic shelters for homes.
We did come to the rescue of two crew members of a mega-yacht who were struggling to row back to the boat after running out of fuel in their tender. The tender was not small and it was a challenge to tow the entire set-up with our little dinghy and (now dubbed) ‘Hello Kitty’ Honda 2.8hp outboard.
We took a trip ashore, but alas, the tienda was closed, and we were therefore denied the much anticipated goat cheese treat.
Agua Verde to Los Gatos
10/25/20 – 18.1nm / 407.5hrs
We enjoyed the dramatic landscapes on the way down to Los Gatos and, expecting some fairly strong northerlies, tucked up into the more north Los Gatos end of this two-lobed bay.
Arriving first, Colin and I took the opportunity to snorkel on the north reef from the paddleboard, and swam over some spectacular under-water fissures in the reef, seeing a tremendous variety of fish.
Los Gatos to San Evaristo
10/26/20 – 29nm / 408.5hrs
We woke just in time to see Sans Souci heading out under sail in a light breeze towards the rising sun. There was a change in the temperature with some approaching weather and for the first time since we arrived back in Mexico in June, Colin went looking for a hoodie. We left about an hour later and enjoyed great wind all the way, traveling at a nice 6 – 7 knots for a good while. We caught two more bonita (thrown back) and lost yet another lure, this time from the rod along with a whole bunch of line.
Some strong north wind had been forecast so, arriving first, we tucked up into the north part of San Evaristo under some cliffs, and felt well protected. We were joined by San Souci, and then two more boats, and there we sat for a couple of days while the windy front moved through.
We enjoyed the super clear water, swimming though the ever present sardine bait ball under the cliffs close to the boat and the shoals of rooster fish feeding on them, as well as watching the local fisherman coming by to take live bait, which they used further out to catch the rooster fish. We watched two particular boats doing this, one of which was a teenage boy who expertly snagged quite a haul of rooster fish, and we later chatted briefly with him and his father as they were cleaning the fish on the beach.
Watching a movie that evening, we were interrupted by an Iridium message announcing the arrival of Juniper, our newest grandchild. Welcome Juniper!
On shore, we walked throughout the village and over to the salt flats, accompanied by the reliable canine tour guide who had taken us on the same trip the last time we were here. He was rewarded with a whole can of tuna in oil (all I could find in the tienda), and although I worried about the oil, we had just witnessed him eating a fish head on the beach, so I think his stomach could take it. We also enjoyed a dinner at Lupe’s bar, chatting with a charter group at the next table.
San Evaristo to Isla San Francisco
10/30/20 – 9.96nm / 412.6hrs
This was a pleasant downwind sail and we arrived fairly early to see a number of boats already in the iconic south semi-circular bay. We chose to anchor on the northwest side of the bay, as there were less larger boats over there, but from that point on, more and more large power yachts and charter cats arrived. By night fall there were approximately 25 or so boats in the bay, and most seemed to be celebrating loudly. It was Día de los Muertos holiday weekend, and we had landed in the middle of the party, and apparently in a Covid free zone, based on the apparent lack of precautions.
We enjoyed (endured?) Isla San Francisco for two days, and got to snorkel both sides of the bay, but as the party continued, we decided to move on.
Isla San Francisco to Caleta Partida
11/1/20 – 24.8nm / 413.41hrs
This trip provided excellent sailing, an and opportunity to fly the spinnaker. As we were just enjoying sailing, we avoided the rumline in favor of longer, more fun sail. These are good days!
Caleta Partida is a stunning place to enter and there were fewer boats than we thought would be there, based on our experience at Isla San Francisco. We took a walk on the strange muddy (north) beach at low tide, and seeing high tide the next morning took the dinghy through the gap that separates Isla Espíritu Santo from Isla Partida, stopping on the way back at the immaculate sandy (east) beach where the fishing camp sits.
We had a wonderful experience with a seal who decided to play under and around our boat for a while, clearly enjoying interacting with us and showing off. The seal returned later on after dark, and through the light of the moon, we could see and could hear the fun and games again, this time with a smaller seal in tow. Caleta Partida is also home to turtles and these are also magical to watch.
We went spear fishing off the reef at the north entrance to Caleta Partida which is actually detached from the land, and felt quite exposed, but totally worth it. I came up short, but Baron hauled in a large snapper and two good sized cabrilla. Having more than we could eat, Baron went over to a sailboat we had seen tacking all the way down the Caleta (as had Baron and Heather when they arrived), and gave them a Cabrilla as well as some heck for giving up their sailing and turning on their engine to anchor (“I haven’t turned on my engine in 10 days”). This was something Baron was to regret the next morning when he was forced to tack out of the caleta in very light wind to save face with the training crew, who fortunately for Baron, motored out of the anchorage shortly after, allowing San Souci to respectfully proceed under power.
Caleta Partida to Enseñada de la Raza
11/3/20 – 5.22nm / 418.27hrs
A quick motor around to Enseñada de la Raza, which we chose for its proximity to to the reef off Isla Gallo, and it was my turn to ‘feed the family’, although with a less impressive catch of mostly trigger fish, although I was very happy to also get my first cabrilla. These can be wily characters, and difficult to catch.
Enseñada de la Raza to Bahía Falsa
11/5/20 – 17.3nm / 418.59hrs
It was a strange feeling to be heading back to mainland Baja, getting close to La Paz, but the sailing was excellent, and we really enjoyed the few hours, sailing right into Bahía Falsa and only putting the engine on to anchor. Bahía Falsa is adjacent to the Pichilingue ferry terminal and it was a stark reminder to see the large boats coming and going.
We had a delayed departure – I had gone over to say hello to a solo sailor on a Tayana Vancouver, but it appeared he had not had the opportunity to talk to anyone for a while, and was reluctant to let me go, despite San Souci weighing anchor sailing by (me: “Oh, I gotta go!”, him: “Don’t worry, you’ll catch them … as I was saying …”), and so we arrived at the same time as Sans Souci, and for once, a photo finish!
Bahía Falsa to La Paz (Marina Palmira)
11/6/20 – 5.85nm / 421hrs
We weighed anchor just as Max and Stephanie on EXPRESSION were coming into the bay and we chatted for a while. They had been way north in the Sea just days before and had made the long trip in a very short time.
With no wind, we had a very pleasant motor along the familiar approach to La Paz, and, passing Marina Costa Baja (our previous home), the now unfamiliar channel along the first part of the La Paz Malecon to Marina Palmira.
So ends our summer excursion in the Sea of Cortez. The time flew, we saw so much, and learned a lot, not least of which is that we are committed to continuing our journey and our new found lifestyle. We will be staying in La Paz for the next few months to complete a couple of fairly major boat projects, and looking forward to the next chapter.