Civilization greets us at dawn.
Homes and resorts on the approach to
Cabo San Lucas.
Mansions balance precariously on the cliffs.
Playa Grande looks inviting.
The famous arch at Cabo.
A steady stream of sport fishing boats was leaving the
harbor at dawn.
Tourists blanket the charter boats in happy sunburned pink.
Three cruise ships arrived along with us.
The resorts have palm trees!
A US Coast Guard Cutter shares close ties with the
Water taxis cut across at full speed.
Even at an early hour the resorts are ready for action.
Dozens of resorts line the bay.
Beach umbrellas and water toys are lined up for guests.
The marina is the hub for an upscale mall.
Marina Cabo San Lucas.
We caught the tail end of a parade celebrating
Mark noticed lots of Beatle memorabilia on the walls
behind an open door.
Gordo Lele, the fifth Beatle.
Belting out "Til There Was You" and "Let It Be,"
Gordo kept us happily entertained.
Two prospective hitchhikers changed their minds
when we showed up.
A friend makes a splash in Cabo.
Crazy jet skiers circled the anchored boats all day.
There are charter boats of all kinds, and the beer
A marlin gets carved up before an array of
A pelican waits for dinner on
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Late November, 2010 - Just as dawn began to break at the end of our
last overnight voyage, our long trip down the remote Baja California
Coast came to an end. The first signs of civilization greeted us on the
cliffs as we approached Cabo San Lucas.
Before the sun crested the horizon, we noticed the smells of
land. We had read about people smelling land as they
approached it after days at sea, but we hadn't thought this
would happen on a coastal trip like ours. However, the smells
of restaurants, dirt, cars and civilization tickled our noses for
an hour as we sailed towards the lights of Cabo in the dark.
Then the sun made its appearance, casting an orange light across
a small lighthouse. A few minutes later, clusters of homes and
resorts began to blanket the hillsides.
Closer to town, these groups of multi-family buildings became
individual, unique mansions, elegant estates that clung to the rock
pinnacles. The homes were perched in every crevice that could
support a building.
We glided alongside these craggy ridges, basking in the glow of the
rising sun and in the glow of personal accomplishment, having sailed
some 800 miles from San Diego to Cabo. We hadn't rushed. It took
us 17 days all together, and our wanderings between anchorages
increased our total distance traveled over those who sail the route
directly. But we had done it: night sailing, big seas, fog, radio chit-
chat, meeting friends, and wildlife sightings.
We had been to Cabo years ago and hadn't like it, finding it
too touristy and too expensive, and we had stupidly lost a
precious day of vacation to sitting in the hot seat at the Playa
Grande timeshare resort. The salesmen there had been a lot
more aggressive than the congenial ones back in our home of
Arizona during the hey-day of the sport of timeshare
promotions, and we left Cabo vowing never to return.
As everything does, however, Playa Grande looked
very charming from the sea. Suddenly we knew that
Cabo would be a great experience for us this time, and
we couldn't wait to get settled.
Rounding the bend into Cabo's picturesque bay, we passed the
famous rock pinnacles and arch. Fishing boats were streaming out
of the bay in droves and every charter boat in the harbor seemed
to be taking the day's first clients out for a tour.
The decks of sailing catamarans on snorkeling tours were
dripping with pink and white bodies in skimpy bathing
suits. We caught the the flash of happy grins as people
posed for each other in vacation snapshots and soon
found ourselves grinning and taking their photos as well.
Not only were the smaller boats buzzing around us, but three
enormous cruise ships were in the bay as well. One was
anchored, rapidly unloading tenders ladened with passengers
into the water. Another was in the process of anchoring, and a
third was waiting in line for its turn. These behemoths took up
one whole portion of the bay, and we felt utterly dwarfed by
their towering presence as we snuck past.
We could hear
from the dozens
of huge resorts
that line the beach, and each charter boat that zoomed past was thumping to its
own exhilarating beat as well. What an overload for the senses after more than
two weeks of sea, salt air, occasional animals and remote anchorages.
We decided to get fuel right away, so we ventured into
the inner harbor first thing. What a crazy zoo-scene it
was in there. There were gazillions of boats with crew
and passengers crawling all over them, some still tied
to the dock and others pulling out.
A US Coast Guard Cutter was tied to the Mexican Navy pier, and water
taxis flew past us in every direction, throwing their wake around with
great enthusiasm. "Welcome to Cabo!" a crewman yelled from a large
charter catamaran as we went by.
We got our
rushed out of the
inner harbor as
fast as we could,
seeking refuge in
anchorage that lines the beach. The water was a gorgeous shade of
rich aquamarine, and in 20' of water we could clearly see the ridges of
the sand on the bottom.
the boat for anchoring and Mark let the anchor fall. "You know," he
said coming back to the cockpit with a big frown. "We're in this huge
sandy bay and you picked the one spot where it's all grass and
weed." He pointed to a large dark patch alongside the boat.
Anchors don't hold well in grass and weed, a big concern in this
busy anchorage. I looked back at the angle of the sun on our boat,
gave him a quirky smile and suggested he dive in and have a closer
look at the grass. He did and came up spluttering and laughing
sheepishly. The dark patch was actually the boat's shadow on the
sand. "You salty dog," he laughed. "You knew that."
The day was just getting going, but every resort had
a party in full swing. The umbrellas and beach chairs
were out, jet skis were wiped down and lined up
ready to go, and the beach bars were serving
mimosas and bloody marys. We assembled the
Porta-Bote as fast as we could (we're still learning
how to do this efficiently!) and putt-putted over to the
dinghy dock at Marina Cabo San Lucas.
The marina is nestled in the cradling arms of a hundred boutique
restaurants and shops, making for an upscale mall whose center
is made up of docks and flashy boats. Trendy, rich, and catering
to vacationers' every whim, this area is Las Vegas by the Sea. We
quickly hustled past Hooters and the Häagen Dazs ice cream shop
to get out into the main street.
We were immediately grateful for having lived in Ensenada,
Mexico for six months, as the dusty streets, bustling traffic, friendly
waves, mom and pop shops, and mixed bag of run-down and well-
built buildings were both familiar and comfortable. There were a
lot more Gringos here than in Ensenada, but we could read the
Spanish signs and felt very much at home.
Suddenly we noticed a huge group of horses across the
street, lined up along the edge of the road as the motorists
zoomed past. We asked a fellow who was also staring at
them what was going on, and he said it was the tail end of
a parade celebrating 100 years of Mexican Independence.
The official date was September 16th, but being the
centennial year, the celebrations started early in the
summer and will continue well into winter.
We were on a mission to
find the Port Captain's
office, as Cabo is an
official port of entry
where mariners must
check their boats in upon
arrival and check them
out again upon
departure. We had
already done check-in
related paperwork in
Ensenada to bring the boat into the country of Mexico, but there are additional
laws requiring boaters to check in and out of certain ports within the country
during their travels.
We found the office, but it
was closed. However, our
walk down the smaller back
streets to find this office took us past an open doorway where Mark saw
walls lined with Beatles memorabilia. Being a Beatles fan of the first
degree, we had to stop.
A little fat man came out to
greet us. Mark had barely
asked about all the Beatles
photos and posters when the
man grabbed a microphone,
hit a button on a boombox,
and burst into song. In an
instant Mark joined him,
happily crooning Til There Was You. This guy was hilarious. At appropriate
moments during the song he grabbed a toy guitar for a long air guitar solo, and then
a toy piano to bang out the some chords.
Once the song was over, the two of them shared true Beatle Love. Mark told him
how one of the great tragedies of his life was not being allowed to see the Beatles
when they came to Detroit because his mother felt he was too young. The little
man, who introduced himself as Gordo, had a faraway smile on his face as he
reminisced about the magic of seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium. "You couldn't
really see them, and the fans were too loud to hear them, but it was fantastic." He
had been in New York for two weeks back then.
Other Gringos arrived and we got chatting with them as Gordo
disappeared into the kitchen. It turned out that this guy is a well
known attraction in Cabo. "Gordo Lele" is his full name, and Gringos
come from far and wide to find his taco shop and listen to his songs.
His beef tacos are awesome, and just a little over a buck apiece. One
filled me up. The shop is not easy to find, and several Gringos
enjoying lunch and tunes along with us mentioned that they had
walked all over the area before they located his shop the first time.
Totally elated, we returned to dinghy to find two pelicans
standing watch on the rail. We tried to coax them to hitch a ride
with us out to Groovy, but they flew off as soon as we got in.
Friends that we had met in San Diego and had heard on the radio
periodically during our travels south had pulled into the anchorage
while we were in town. I got a photo of the captain diving off his yacht
but the slow shutter speed on my camera missed the dive and caught
only the splash. It was like old home week as boats we had traveled
with arrived, shared quick stories of their travels, and left.
The anchorage was very rolly and crazy. Jet skis with half-
drunken speed demons raced all around us, and water taxis
zipped by at full speed without any regard to the huge wake
they threw. Groovy pitched and rolled. But it was such a
beautiful place and so much fun ashore that we stayed
anyway. At night the resort across from us set off a stunning
fireworks display. I jumped into the cockpit to enjoy the show
while Mark popped his head out of the forward hatch. Just at
that moment a large cinder floated through the hatch and
onto the mattress in the v-berth, fortunately turning into a harmless
flake of ash by the time it landed. "Hey, watch it!" We shouted at the
shore. But the show was over in moments and no one heard our
protests anyways. The next morning the boat was covered in ash.
We moved to a spot in front of a different non-fireworks generating
resort, and ended up moving yet again during our stay. But life on
shore was so much fun it was worth a little discomfort on the water.
We accidentally came across our friend Bob from the charter sailboat
L'Attitude 32 in the marina. After we met him at the Police Dock in San
Diego, he had sailed south with the Baja Ha-Ha fleet. He instantly
tossed cold beers our way when he saw us in our dinghy. On another
day we dinghied up to a pirate looking ship in the anchorage and they too tossed cold beers down to us. That's the nature of
this town: friendly, happy, and warm. The only requirements are that you must drink beer and you must spend money with
total abandon. We enjoyed some of the former but avoided much the latter. When Mark casually asked at Marina Cabo San
Lucas what it would cost to park our boat there overnight, the lady said, "171." Mark shrugged, thinking she meant 171 pesos,
about $15. But she meant 171 US dollars. For one night. In our own boat. With our own linens, and our own mattress and
our own bathroom. And no maid service.
We wandered around the other side of the marina, still in search of the Port
Captain. An agent had left a note on our boat saying we owed 130 pesos per
night for staying in the anchorage. But they didn't say how to pay. Wanting to
stick to the right side of the law, we were told to hunt down the API Port
Captain, a different person than the regular Port Captain. But his office was
closed too. No matter, our search had taken us to a part of town we hadn't
seen yet, filled with more tourist shops and more friendly shopkeepers. Down
on the docks a man was carving up a huge marlin. We watched him slice
mammoth steaks from the middle, and then his buddy sawed the beak off with
a handsaw. They sliced six finger-holes in the skin, and the two men grabbed
the skin through the holes and peeled it back with an enormous tug. Ugh! But
I'm sure it tasted delicious.
Sport fishing isn't just for vacationers. A
pelican took up residence on our bow for a
while, scanning the crystal clear water for
A lot of cruisers skip Cabo or stay as short a time as possible. But we thoroughly enjoyed
ourselves. We could feel the chill of winter descending, however. High winds were predicted
for the end of the week, and we knew those winds would bring the end of summer fun to
Cabo. So we braced ourselves for a 330 mile double overnight passage to Chamela Bay,
the northernmost bay on Mexico's Costa Alegre on the mainland.
Find Cabo on Mexico Maps.