Our Twizzle Rig takes us
An elegant power yacht preceeds us into Magdalena Bay.
Pangas filled the bay.
It is simple living at the fish camp.
Just steps from the water, life is lived close to nature.
Pelicans roost on wooden pilons from
a bygone age.
Concrete pilons from an ancient jetty.
This could almost be Roosevelt
Lake outside Phoenix.
Gulls line the shore at Belcher Point.
We found shells of all shapes and sizes on the beach.
Friends come to join us ashore.
A peaceful view out into Magdalena Bay.
Lots of round vertebral disks were
scattered among the shells.
Shrimp-like creatures lay in thick
waves along the beach.
Closed up on the defensive, a rock.
Opened in offense, watch out!
Several pangas rafted up along the beach for a lunch break.
A loved one's memorial overlooked the
beach and bay.
Virgin sand stretched before us further down the beach
at Belcher Point.
A thick bank of fog surrounded us as we crept out of the bay.
Fog along the Pacific shoreline of the bay
resembled glaciers in the distance.
The last lighthouse of Magdalena Bay. Next: 150 miles of open
water as the shoreline slipped away to the east.
Two frigatebirds took turns trying to land on
our swaying mast.
Leaving Cabo behind, a cruise ship returns north while our
Cabo adventures still lie ahead on the southern horizon.
Pacific Baja California Coast, Mexico (2)
Mid-November, 2010 - Continuing our sail down the 750 miles of the Baja California Pacific
coast, we left Bahía Santa Maria and made our way 20 miles further to Belcher Cove in
Magdalena Bay. We were now about 80% of the way down the coast on our way to Cabo
San Lucas. As we sailed, we experimented with our twin headsail setup. With two jibs hoisted
on the twin grooves of the single forestay, this is a powerful downwind rig. We had run it
without using any whisker poles on previous days, finding that it worked very well as long as
there was little swell and we were faced directly downwind. On the short leg to Bahía Santa
Maria we sailed it exactly as it is designed to be sailed, using twin whisker poles joined
together by a multiply looped line.
A faster way to go, of course,
is by large motor yacht. As we
lumped along making 4 to 5
knots in less than 10 knots of
wind, a sleek power yacht
slipped along the shoreline
ahead of us.
Magdalena Bay ("Bahía Magdalena") is as large as San
Francisco Bay, and it is teeming with fish and fishermen.
Watching and listening to the pangas (open boats used for
fishing) motoring around the bay us reminded me of my
childhood days on Boston's north shore where lobstermen
plied the waters every morning, setting and retrieving their
traps. The fishermen were friendly and would wave every
time they passed us.
We anchored at Punta Belcher (Belcher Point), a small anchorage just
three miles from the entrance to the bay. The main town, perched
along the shores of Magdalena Bay, is Puerto San Carlos, about 10
miles further on at the north end of the bay. It sits on the inland shore,
tucked behind a long, twisting channel. Out here in this outer part of
the bay there was just a small fishing camp on the beach. The living is
very simple here, with lean-to shacks, Coleman tents, and clothes
hanging out on clothes lines.
The fishing must be excellent.
The horizon was littered with fishing
pangas in the early morning, and the
pelicans seemed well fed and content.
From the mid-1800's to the 1920's
Magdalena Bay was a major Pacific
coast base for whaling, and it is still an
important area for grey whale calving.
Now all that remains of those early
days is some concrete pilons and
other ruins along the beach.
Looking back towards the hillsides it
seemed we could have easily been at
Roosevelt Lake in Arizona, where we enjoyed
many kayak rides in the
Sonoran desert a little
over a year ago.
We walked along the
beach, where seagull and
pelican flocks huddled by
the edge of the water.
At our feet we found
endless shells and other
remnants of sea life. The
debris was so vast and
varied we found ourselves
continually stopping amd
trying to guess what
creature's skulls and
vertebrae we were looking at
in the sand.
We realized as we walked along,
feeling the sand sneaking up
between our toes while the world
swayed oddly around us
(although we knew it wasn't), that
this was our first time off the boat
in 12 days. We had been so comfortable aboard,
and so tired from sailing, that during our other stops
we hadn't ventured ashore.
The views into the bay were lovely, but we couldn't
help but stop and gape over the shark carcass, the
dolphin (pelican?) skull, the perfect puffer fish
remains and the many backbones we found, both
intact and separated into vertebral discs.
The thick wave of red shrimp-like creatures got our
attention too, both from the huge spread of their
bodies across the sand and the powerful odor.
The animals seemed grouped on the beach, with
piles of clam shells followed by shrimp and then
oysters and later a bunch of crabs. These crabs
could close themselves up tightly to look like a rock
and then open themselves to reveal their claws.
Meanwhile the fishing pangas started to gather for their
lunch break. First one panga dropped an anchor and the
fisherman raised a beach umbrella over his boat. Then
another one came up and rafted alongside, raising
another umbrella. Soon a group of five or six pangas
was tied together, while pelicans and seagulls eagerly
circled the group looking for scraps.
Further down on the beach we found a shrine for a deceased loved one.
Built on a slight rise, there was a little blue building with an open door
and a cross on the roof. Surrounded by small Christian votive candles
and icons planted in the sand, this humble but meaningful memorial
overlooked the bay and the beach.
We had seen footprints, both human and lizard-like at the
beginning of our walk, but as we neared the end of the beach the
sand was virgin, and at the farthest end the tidepools were
The next morning we set out for our last overnight trip along
the Baja peninsula, a 25 hour 170 mile sail from Magdalena
Bay to Cabo San Lucas.
We had managed to avoid fog for our entire trip so far,
and had been told you don't encounter fog once you get
this far south. So it was a surprise as we lifted the
anchor in the pre-dawn light to see a thick bank of fog
rolling in through the bay's entrance right into our
For an hour we tiptoed out of the bay, watching the
pangas on the radar but unable to see anything beyond
a boat length or two around us. Mark blasted the horn
periodically, and I watched the radar as my hair became
soaked from foggy moisture, and a trickle of water ran
in steady drips down my glasses. But eventually we
cleared the bay's entrance and emerged from the fog
bank into warm dry sunshine and limitless visibility.
The sailing was perfect for a while, with a brisk breeze
and ever warmer air around us. I noticed a flat patch of
water with some bubbles in it up ahead, and I peered
over the side as we went through it. Suddenly I saw two
sea turtles almost within arm's reach. They were
munching a floating clump of grass. A little further on
was a third turtle doing the same. We were moving so
quickly it was just a brief encounter, but what magic.
Up in the sky we watched two frigatebirds circling our boat. They are
prehistoric looking, with crooked wings and forked tails. Male frigatebirds
sport a bright red pouch on their necks that they puff up to impress the
gals. We didn't see any of that flirtation going on, but these two frigatebirds
that came to visit were totally intent on landing on our mast.
Taking turns, each bird flew to the masthead, spread his tail and flapped his
wings to slow down, stretching his toes towards the mast. But getting a foothold
proved challenging, as the mast was swaying quite a bit in the swell. After each
failed attempt, the bird would circle away and let his buddy have a go at it. After
a few tries they both gave up and flew off.
On the radio we heard people talking about seeing humpback whales, which we
never saw. But a friendly pod of dolphins came to play along the bow of our
boat, swimming just inches ahead of us and rolling on their sides to look up at us
as we hung over the rail. One by one they left, but the last one stayed quite a
while. When he was done playing he suddenly doubled his speed and shot
ahead of the boat, and then rocketed into the air in an enormous leap. I couldn't
help but scream with delight. He slipped back along the hull of the boat and then
jumped one more time near where Mark was standing in the cockpit. Then he
As the day ended we watched a cruise ship zip past us in the
opposite direction. It was moving fast, probably en route to San
Diego or Los Angeles for a "day at sea" after visits to Cabo, La
Paz, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta down south. The brilliant
sunset behind it must have thrilled the passengers that were on
deck as much as it thrilled us.
We enjoyed a peaceful night at sea, with little wind and little swell
but lots of warmer air. Just a sweatshirt or jacket was enough to
keep out the chill when we ventured into the cockpit every 15
minutes for a look around. We had basked in the tranquility and
remoteness of the last few days, but just ahead lay the mega
party town of Cabo San Lucas.
Find Magdalena Bay on Mexico Maps.