Loreto Area: La Ramada Cove, Isla Coronado & Puerto Escondido – Gifts From and To the Sea

Sea of Cortez islands, mountains and peninsulas blend into each other.

Bahía Concepción: the islands, mountains and peninsulas blend together.

Noting the accuracies and inaccuracies of modern electronic navigation in the Sea of Cortez.

Leaving Bahía Concepción the orange islands are inaccurately

charted.  The purple radar image shows the correct locations. 

The red triangles identify accurate GPS locations of the islands. 

Our boat is the size of a city block.

Dangerous pinnacle rocks near Puerto Escondido.

Dangerous pinnacle rocks.

Pinnacle rock near Puerto Escondido.

Pinnacles dot the Sea of Cortez landscape.

La Ramada Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

La Ramada Cove.

Strolling the beach at La Ramada Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Strolling the beach at La Ramada.

Clear water at La Ramada Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Perfectly clear water.

Groovy anchored at La Ramada Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Looking down at San Juanico, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Caleta San Juanico.

Looking down at San Juanico, Baja California Sur, Mexico

San Juanico

Groovy catches the wind and heads south.

Groovy catches the wind and

heads south.

Dolphin swims underwater next to Groovy.

Dolphin swims underwater next to Groovy.

Brightly colored cliffs near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Brightly colored cliffs near Loreto.

Happy sailing on Groovy. Hidden beach at Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Hidden beach at Isla Coronado.

Vivid colors at our private beach on Isla Coronado, Sea of Cortez.

Vivid colors at our private beach.

Footprints in the sand at Isla Coronado, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

It's just us and the


Hidden beach at Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Isla Coronado.

Hidden beach at Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Private islando oasis at Isla Coronado.

Beachside villas outside Loreto, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Waterfront civilization just outside of Loreto.

Walking towards Loreto's town square, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Walking towards Loreto's town square.

Inside the atrium at the Hotel Posada de las Flores, Loreto, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Inside the Hotel Posada

Inside he atrium at Hotel Posada de las Flores, Loreto, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Hotel Posada de las Flores.

Loreto Mission of Our Lady, Loreto Cathedral (Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Loreto's "Misión de Nuestra Señora."

Inside Loreto Mission of Our Lady, Loreto Cathedra (Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Inside the cathedral.

Capturing the Loreto Mission Church (cathedral) on an iPad, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Capturing the antique cathedral on

an iPad.

Marina Puerto Escondido, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Puerto Escondido's marina docks.

Puerto Escondido fuel dock, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Groovy waits at the fuel dock.

Los Candeleros, outside Puerto Escondido, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A boat is lost on a pinnacle rock.

Boat on the rocks at Los Candeleros, outside Puerto Escondido, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Shipwreck at Los Candeleros, outside Puerto Escondido, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Mark catches a Skip Jack Tuna.

Closeup of the Skip Jack Tuna.

La Ramada, Isla Coronado, Puerto Escondido, & Loreto

Late October, 2011 - It was hard to leave Bahía Concepción, but the time finally came and we headed out of the bay to

continue our trek south.  Looking back over our shoulders we were reminded once again what a miracle GPS and electronic

marine navigation systems are for sailors today.  In his Log of the Sea of Cortez, John Steinbeck talks about how hard it was to

navigate these waters in 1940 when the only tools the captain had were some sketchy charts and a coastal pilot book.  The

islands are often indistinguishable from the mainland mountains and peninsulas, and the rugged coast often becomes a

bewildering mirage.

A glance at our chartplotter shows just how confusing this

landscape can be even today, but for different reasons.

Unlike navigating in the US where electronic charts are

accurate down to individual slips within marinas, the

survey data used in Mexico's modern electronic charts

was collected not long after Steinbeck's voyage.  Although

it gives a general idea of the layout and depths, it is often

inaccurate by a half mile, mile, or more.  Islands that don't

exist feature prominently on the charts, and islands that

are a true threat in the water are nowhere to be found on

the charts.  Fortunately the boat's radar tells the story as it

really is, and the electronic chartplotter overlays the radar

image onto the chart.  You get used to sailing through

charted obstacles that aren't actually there.

The thing about the Sea of Cortez is that there are lots of pinnacle rocks

that stick up out of nowhere.  Most are fifty feet or more in height, making

them easy to spot with radar and with bare eyes.  But you still have to stay

on your toes, as many of them don't appear on the charts and can loom

up unexpectedly.

Fortunately, the guidebook Sea of Cortez by Bansmer/

Breeding lists the GPS coordinates of every danger and

destination in the Sea, so for a boat equipped with a GPS

chartplotter, navigation is actually an easy paint-by-

numbers affair.

The prevailing winds in the Sea of Cortez generally blow either from the north

or the south, and in autumn you get a few days of one direction alternating

with a few days from the other as the summer's predominant south winds give

way to winter's predominant north winds.  We caught a ride with a big north

wind that swept us south to our next destination, La Ramada Cove.

This picturesque

spot is protected

only on its southern

side, but we got

lucky and the winds

shifted to the south

for the next few


So we were able to enjoy the isolation, peace and quiet of this idyllic

anchorage while staying just out of reach of the south wind that howled

outside the cove.

The water was beautifully clear and warm,

and sitting on the edge of the cockpit we

could see fish of all kinds swimming under

our boat, flashing in the sun as they zipped

this way and that.

One night we came on deck to see the most unusual bioluminescence.  Brilliant little sparkling "eyes"

seemed to be looking up at us from the black depths all around the boat.  One at a time they would

wink a few times and then suddenly burst and fade away into the black depths.  As each light

exploded and dispersed it seemed to take on the shape of a jellyfish, but our flashlights revealed

nothing but ordinary fish around the boat.  After a while the glittering stars disappeared.  We still don't

know what they were.

One afternoon we hiked the

short distance from our beach

at La Ramada Cove to the

scenic cove of San Juanico on

the other side of a small hill.

We had spent several

languorous days at Caleta San

Juanico last spring, but now the

anchorage was deserted

because its mouth opens to the

south, which would have made

it very uncomfortable in the

current south wind.

However, the osprey were still

there, perfectly content with nature's unpredictability,

not worried in the least whether the wind was from

the north or south.

We caught the next north blow to carry us a little

further south to Isla Coronado outside of Loreto.

A pod of dolphins spotted us underway and came

leaping over to greet us.  The water was so clear we

could see them perfectly as they swam under the

water alongside the boat.

Our route followed the contour of the mountains that make up Baja's

shoreline, and in places they were dramatically striated in shades of

red, black, brown and grey.

This is the magic of the Sea of Cortez.  It is a rugged, remote, barren,

harsh land, but if you look beyond the surface it reveals a dramatic

beauty and is teeming with life.

Last spring Isla Coronado had been the scene of some of the

worst conditions we had experienced in seven months of cruising

Mexico when an unexpected post-season Norther blasted the little

north-facing anchorage.  Fortunately, when we arrived this time

the bay was tranquil and inviting.  We shared our island oasis with

just one other boat, Valkyrie, a small sloop captained by a friendly


There is a

private beach

away from the


and we took the

dinghy over to


Lush green

vegetation stood

out in sharp relief

against the

burgundy carpeted

rocks in the


We felt like we were standing on our own

private island, a world away from reality.

Our footprints joined those of

the herons that had been

walking on the sand earlier.

But there were hints of

civilization.  After several

days without contact, we

were now able to get internet

access via the cell phone

tower at Loreto just a few

miles away from our island.

Soon we were lured across

the water to visit the town in

person, and we anchored outside

Loreto's tiny harbor.

It was a great feeling to

return to a town we had

come to know and love

last spring.  We saw it

now with fresh eyes.

The town was celebrating

its 314th anniversary

when we arrived, and a

portion of the town

square was decked out

for the weekend's festivities.

We returned on the big night,

and the place was hopping

with music, fun, food, and stage events.  If that

is how Loreto celebrates turning 314, imagine

what will happen when they hit a round


The ornate Hotel Posada de las Flores and the Mission

of Our Lady Church dominate the town square.

In a wonderful juxtaposition of the modern and the

antique, I watched a man lining up a photo of the

historic cathedral on his iPad.  After he got his shot, a

group of us all stood around and admired his wonderfully backlit 8x10

photo.  It was beautifully accented by the iPad's white frame and

made me realize what a long way we've come since the days of


A few days of big north winds and accompanying steep waves sent

us into hiding nearby at Puerto Ballandra, one of the few truly

protected anchorages in the Sea.  Last spring it had been nicknamed

"Bee Landra" because of the abundance of fresh water seeking bees

that harassed all the boats.  We decided a few bees in a peaceful

anchorage would be better than rolling around in big seas and winds somewhere else.  As

it turned out, the bees were few and manageable, due, in part, to the really good fly

swatters we brought down with us this season!  With the Sea of Cortez bees we have

found that the best defense is an aggressive offense.  None of that pansy "leave the bee

alone and it won't bother you" stuff.  We go all out in our attacks, swatting the air, the boat

and each other to kill the scout bees.  They are slow moving and must be a bit delicate, as

they are easy (and very satisfying) to kill with a swatter. (I tried asking them nicely to

leave, but they refused).

While in Puerto Ballandra one

afternoon we were idly watching

a boat sailing towards the entrance when we noticed that by dusk it

still hadn't made it into the anchorage.  Mark hopped in a friend's

dinghy and they motored out to see if the boat needed help.  It turned

out that along with a broken engine and a sail that was stuck partially

raised, the fellow sailing the boat could not find the entrance to the bay

and had been drifting back and forth looking for it all afternoon.  He

was confused by the mirage of rocky peaks, and didn't have any

electronic navigation gear on board.  Darkness fell, and Mark and his

buddy guided the boat into the anchorage, nudging it forward with the

dink, and helped him find a place to drop the hook.

When the north wind diminished to a manageable scale we

continued moving south, making a quick fuel stop at Puerto

Escondido, the only place with fuel for a hundred miles or so

in either direction.

As we sailed towards Puerto Escondido there was a lot of

commotion on the radio about a boat that had gone up on the

rocks nearby.  There were no injuries, but the singlehanding

captain was rapidly unloading all his belongings onto the

rocks and examining a six inch wide hole in the bottom of the

boat to see if there was any way to salvage it.  We listened as

a group assembled to lend assistance and bring out sheets of

plywood, bilge pumps and moral support.

The next morning as we left Puerto Escondido we could

see something glinting in the sun on the horizon ahead of

us.  Soon it morphed into a sailboat on its side in front of

a towering pinnacle rock, and we realized this was the

boat we had heard about the day before.  This pinnacle

rock was one of several in the area called "Los

Candeleros" ("The Candlesticks").  We later sadly

discovered the boat was Valkyrie, the one we had

anchored with at Isla Coronado a few days earlier.

Tragically, the captain had driven straight into the

pinnacle rock and nailed it head on.  Ouch.  Thank

goodness the only loss was material.

Taking a deep breath and forging ahead, we made our way south

towards Agua Verde.  With no wind and nothing to do on board as

we motored along (just one pinnacle rock for 40 miles), Mark threw

out a fishing line.  Last year all the cruisers complained of bad fishing

up and down the entire west coast of Mexico.  So we were stunned

when within half an hour Mark had landed a fish.  Wow!  Yikes!!  What to do?  We were totally unprepared for a fish actually

biting the lure.  I ran around excitedly, trying to be helpful, "Are you going to stun it by pouring alcohol in its mouth like our

friends suggested?  What kind - rubbing alcohol?  Where do we keep that stuff?  Are you going to slit the gills to kills it?  Do you

need a knife?  A cutting board?  Gosh, you gotta do something with that flopping fish, and quick!"  I must have run up and down

the companionway stairs six times.  At least I didn't cry this time.

Mark was much more level headed.  He calmly threw some ice in a bucket and put the bucket and

the fish in the dinghy off the back while we continued on to Agua Verde.

One of the weird things about

fishing is figuring out what you

caught.  Fish don't come with

labels and a lot of species don't

taste good and need to be

thrown back.  Mark looked up his

catch in a book, and it was a Skip

Jack Tuna, rated as "good

eating."  Sure enough, once we

were anchored he filleted it like a

pro and barbecued it.  We

enjoyed it for three absolutely

yummy meals over the next few

days as we made our way south

towards the beauitful island anchorages near La Paz.

Read more about our adventures in the anchorages near Loreto during our previous visit in May, 2011, here and here.

Find La Ramada Cove, San Juanico, Isla Coronado, Loreto, Puerto Escondido and Agua Verde on Mexico Maps.

**While in Acapulco we read an article in their yacht club magazine about the salvage and recovery of the yacht Valkyrie!