La Paz: Doing The “La Paz Waltz” and Hiding from Northers
Breaching whale on the malecòn in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Breaching whale on the malecón.

Cathedral in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

La Paz cathedral.

La Paz, BCS, Mexico has hilly streets.

Hilly streets of La Paz neighborhoods.

Meat on its way to market, La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Carrying meat to the market.

We are greeted by the Mexican Navy outside La Paz, BCS, Mexico

The Mexican Navy checks us out.

Quick and easy boarding by the Navy in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

It was an easy boarding.

The water heater comes to the dock for repair in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Mark opens up the hot water heater on the dock.

The offending stainless stub on the water heater, La Paz, BCS, Mexico

The offending stainless steel tube that needed

a bead welded around the sleeve joint.

Super Burrito, home of great carne asada tacos, La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Super Burrito, home of great carne asada tacos.

Awesome taco dinner with real coke at Super Burrito in La Paz, BCS, Mexico for 8 USD total.

Real coke and yummy tacos for two, all for $8.

Watching for a Norther online at La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Wind travels in the direction of the arrows.

Green=14 mph.Yellow=18mph. Red=24mph

Checking onlines weather status in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Wind travels from the hook of the hockey stick.

White is light wind and dark blue is heavy wind.

The La Paz Waltz brings two boats together in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

The La Paz Waltz causes anchored boats to collide.

A neighbor fends off a derelict boat in La Paz, BCS, Mexico Tide swings are very important in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Boston, Massachusetts tides.

La Paz, BCS, Mexico has odd interim tides between true high and low.

La Paz, Mexico tides.

The Comercial Mexicana Mega store opens in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

The new Comercial Mexicana Mega supermarket.

The Mega supermarket in La Paz, BCS, Mexico is huge.

Mega is big enough to

require an escalator.

The Mega supermarket claims to be cheaper than nearby Walmart in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Mega claims to be cheaper than Walmart.

A big produce department in La Paz, BCS, Mexico

Plenty of fresh produce.

Channel Buoy #5 gets blown ashore in the channel outside La Paz, BCS, Mexico

A channel buoy was blown ashore in

the Norther.

Tents for kayakers on Playa Bonanza, BCS, Mexico

Playa Bonanza: tents for kayaking

guests on the beach.

Kayaks on Playa Bonanza, BCS, Mexico

Kayakers get ready to leave.

Kayakers leaving Playa Bonanza, BCS, Mexico

Off they go.

Sunset at Playa Bonanza, BCS, Mexico

Sunset at Playa Bonanza.

Ferry boat at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

A ferry heads into Bahía Pichilingue next to Bahía Falsa.

The beach bar at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Bahía Falsa has a small beach bar in the sand.

Pretty white sand and a panga on Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Bahía Falsa.

A line of beach chairs at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Bahía Falsa.

Someone's unfinished dream at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Come finish this developer's dream!

In the mangroves at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico, a pelican pretends to be a heron.

A pelican pretends he's a heron in

the mangroves.

A heron in the mangroves at Bahía Falsa & Bahía Pichilingue, Mexico

Beach bar at Bahía Falsa.

A fun spot to get a beer, barefoot.

Richard, Volker and Petra on a

transcontinental cycling tour of the


Pedaling off to the ferry.

La Paz, Playa Bonanza and Bahía Falsa, Mexico

Mid November, 2011 - This is the time of year in the Sea of Cortez when the winter

weather patterns begin to dominate, and a Norther was predicted to blast us with a

few days of brisk north winds.  That was enough to send us out of the exposed

island anchorages outside La Paz and into the safe refuge of the bay of La Paz for

a while.  We walked the now-familiar malecón while the wind whipped up the seas out

at the islands, as unconcerned about the sea state as any breaching whale might be.

After a month in the small remote

anchorages of the Sea of Cortez, it was great

to walk the urban streets of La Paz and

gather all those provisions that only a city can

offer.  Our daily walks took us all over town,

past historic churches and up and down the

steep hilly neighborhood streets.  Many of the

streets were now filled with memories from

our visit last spring, and we knew exactly

where to go to find our favorite bakery, the

bank, the marine chandlery and the

supermarket.  It felt good to know our way

around town.

On our way into La Paz

we were boarded by

the Mexican Navy for

the first time this

season, our fourth time in two years.  Now it is a familiar and

easy affair.  This boarding was conducted while we were

underway, and we didn't even need to stop motoring.  One

man nimbly came aboard Groovy to review our paperwork and

fill out his forms while his crewmates putted alongside our boat

in their panga.  Once he was done he climbed back into their

boat and they were off.  Fast and easy.

Not quite so easy was the leak we had developed in the hot water

heater.  Marine hot water heaters use the heat of the engine to

heat the boat's fresh water by sending the hot antifreeze from the

engine through a hose to the hot water

heater where it envelops the tank and

heats up the water.  The steel pipe supporting the connection between

our antifreeze hose and our hot water tank had developed a leak and

needed to be welded.  Mark took the hot water heater to the dock in the

dinghy and handed it off to the highly recommended La Paz stainless

steel expert, Sergio Galindo.

He repaired the leak, but

in the end, we paid more

for him to weld the joint

than it would have cost

to buy a brand new hot

water heater and have it

shipped from the US to

Mexico.  Ouch.

Without a doubt, Mexico's finest marine stainless steel fabricator is the creator

of our solar panel arch, Alejandro Ulloa, in Ensenada.  His exquisite and artistic

craftsmanship is not only clever and functional, it was very affordable and

enhances the look of our boat.  He was a pleasure to work with and his

polished welds are a thing of beauty.

We put the frustrating water heater repair behind us, and enjoyed

being return visitors to La Paz, seeking out our favorite haunts.

The colorful restaurant Super Burrito has terrific beef tacos, and

we had a feast topped off with "original" Coke in old style glass

bottles and formulated with sugar rather than high fructose corn


We kept an eye on the developing Norther on the two weather

websites we use in the Sea of Cortez: and  Northers appear in the Sea when high

pressure builds in the "four corners" area in the US (the juncture of

Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico) and low pressure builds in

southern Mexico.  This causes the wind to get sucked down the Sea

in a wild blast.

We were anchored in the well protected large bay in front of town.  It is a long,

skinny, shallow bay and the tides sweep in and out creating very strong currents first

in one direction and then in the other.  In light winds all the anchored boats face one

way for a few hours and then the other way in an orderly fashion as the tides turn.

However, when the wind pipes up during a Norther, some boats respond to the

current while others

respond to the wind.

This results in the La

Paz Waltz where each

boat does its own

dance steps to the

tune of either the

current or the wind,

depending on

its hull design and the

state of the tide. They

all end up facing in

different directions.

Sometimes boats actually sail into each other, usually in rather slow motion.

We watched our neighbors fend off an unattended boat that kept pursuing

theirs like a hunter chasing its prey.

The tides in Mexico -- and all of the west coast -- are very

different than the tides I grew up with in New England.  On

most of the east coast the tides march along in a steady

procession, going all the way from one extreme to the other

every six hours.  Here the tides do a little blip at the mid-tide

between the extreme high and extreme low, producing a

kind of false high and false low tide on the way in and out.

This is confusing, as a high tide may or may not actually be

"high."  Also, the maximum range of the tides in La Paz is

just over 5 feet whereas in Boston it is almost 15 feet.

Although we were getting a kick out of

already knowing many of the hot spots in

town, La Paz had one amazing new

addition that had arrived since we were

last here six months ago.  The

supermarket chain Comercial Mexicana

had the grand opening of their Mega store

the week we were there.

We grabbed a grocery cart on the ground

floor and rode the escalator with it up to

the main shopping floor.  Two stories and

an escalator -- that's a pretty big store!

Strutting their stuff against nearby

Walmart, they displayed two identical

shopping carts to prove Mega is about 10%


Inside the store the produce section was very

large, and the special Gringo area featured Costco's Kirkland brand products

in their signature oversized containers.  Peanut-butter pretzels -- yay!

When the weather settled down we went back

out to the pretty anchorages that lie within a two

hour sail from town.  Getting to the open ocean

from La Paz requires going down a long narrow

channel.  It is several miles long, dredged to a

good depth and marked with large buoys.  As

we were leaving Mark carefully noted each pair of buoys when we

passed between them and searched for the next pair up ahead.

Accidentally slipping outside the channel here would put us hard

aground.  Suddenly he said, "I can't find the next green buoy!"  We

looked and looked and it just wasn't there.  Then we spotted it -- on the

beach.  The powerful swell from the Norther had uprooted this huge

buoy and tossed it on shore.

Playa Bonanza is a long white beach

that is deserted except for a small eco-

tourism camp at one end.  Five canvas

tents for guests are tucked into this

corner and two tents are reserved for

the guides and for cooking.   When we

arrived a colorful collection of kayaks

and kayakers was lined up at the edge

of the water.  Within a few minutes

they all took off and disappeared

around the point, and we had the

beach to ourselves.

Later that evening the guides returned

without the kayakers and relaxed on

the beach with a small fire and some

fresh caught fish.  The next day they

vanished for a while to return with

another group of kayakers and the

pattern repeated itself.  That's not a

bad gig: hosting vacationing kayakers

for a few hours each day and kicking

back on the beach in between.

Another day we sailed

over to Bahía Falsa, a

large bay with several

beaches, some

mangroves and a beach

bar under some thatched

shade ramadas.  A pile of

kayaks lay to one side

waiting to be rented.

Bahía Falsa lies next to Bahía Pichilingue which is the big commercial

harbor and ferry dock outside of town.  Ferry boats cross between

Mazatlan on the mainland and La Paz every day, and we watched lots

of ferries and other large ships going in and out of the harbor.

Around the corner we found an unfinished and abandoned building with

a steeply pitched round roof over an arch-encircled room or patio.  It is

on its own private beach, just begging for someone to finish the dream.

At the far back of the cove there is a

cluster of mangroves, and sure enough

lots of mangrove types of leggy birds

live there.  We snuck up on a few in the

kayak and caught them on camera, but

most of the pictures were a flurry of

flapping wings and blurred legs and

feet as the birds flew off.

One afternoon while relaxing at the beach bar we noticed three German

cyclists enjoying themselves a few tables down.  Their heavily ladened

touring bicycles were leaning on a fence nearby.  We went over to talk to

them and discovered they are on an epic cycling adventure.

"Where are you coming from?" I asked.  "Anchorage,

Alaska."  My eyes got wide.  "And where are you going?"

"Argentina."  My jaw dropped.  It turned out these guys

had left Anchorage in the spring of 2011 and planned to

get to Argentina in the winter of 2013.  Volker and Petra

had started their adventure together.  They met Richard

on the road and he decided to merge his cycling

adventure with theirs as far as Puerto Escondido

south of Acapulco.

The trio were on their way to the ferry dock to catch

the overnight ferry to Mazatlan.  They climbed onto

their bikes and we watched them ride up the long

grind towards Bahía Pichilingue.

A while later, while pedaling our kayak towards

Groovy, we saw their small forms high on the ridge,

pedaling towards their South American dreams.  Soon

we would be continuing our travel dreams across the

Sea of Cortez in Paradise Village.

Find Playa Bonanza, Bahía Falsa and La Paz on

Mexico Maps.

Read about our experiences in the La Paz area in

April, 2011 here.





















































































































La Paz: Isla Coyote, Isla San Francisco & Isla Partida – Remote Islands
Salt mine ruins at Bahía Salinas, Isla San Jose, BCS, Mexico

Salt mine ruins at Bahía Salinas.

Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Isla Coyote framed by the mountains of Isla San Jose in the distance.

Statue on Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Statue on Isla Coyote.

Manuel, resident, Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Manuel, 50-year

resident of Isla Coyote.

Whale museum, Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico. Whale museum, Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

The "Whale Museum" on Isla Coyote.

Whale museum, Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Whale spine.

Room with a view, Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Every house has a view.

View from bluff on Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Looking down from Isla Coyote.

View from Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Groovy waits patiently.

Baja view, Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

View from Isla Coyote.

Chapel on Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

The community chapel.

View from Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico. School building, Isla Coyote, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Solar panels provide electricity to each building.

Isla San Francisco, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla San Francisco beach.

Baja view from Isla San Francisco, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Baja mountains as seen from Isla San Francisco.

A yellow-rumped warbler at Isla San Francisco, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A yellow-rumped warbler visits

us on Groovy.

Burial of a yellow-rumped warbler, Isla San Francisco, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Mark buries our feathered friend.

Charter boat at Puerto Balandra, BCS, Sea of Cortez, near La Paz, Mexico

Charter boat - life of luxury.

Beach cocktail party at Puerto Balandra, BCS, Sea of Cortez, near La Paz, Mexico

A cocktail party on the beach.

Sunset at Puerto Balandra, BCS, Sea of Cortez, near La Paz, Mexico Mark dives for Euros, Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, BCS, Sea of Cortez, near La Paz, Mexico.

Mark dives for Euros.

20 Euro note found at Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, BCS, Sea of Cortez, near La Paz, Mexico.

20 Euro note.

20 peso note.

20 Peso note.

Cliffs at Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, BCS, Sea of Cortez, near La Paz, Mexico.

The dramatic cliffs of Islas Espiritu Santos.

Dramatic cliffs at Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, BCS, Sea of Cortez, near La Paz, Mexico. Puerto Balandra (Playa Balandra), BCS, near La Paz, Mexico.

Puerto Balandra - turquoise beauty amid towering mountains.

Sunset at Puerto Balandra (Playa Balandra), BCS, near La Paz, Mexico.

Sunset in Puerto Balandra

Standup paddling at Puerto Balandra (Playa Balandra), BCS, near La Paz, Mexico.

Isla Coyote, Isla San Francisco & Puerto Balandra

Early November, 2011 - Continuing south from the Loreto area, we enjoyed some

downwind sailing and stopped for a brief overnight at Bahía Salinas at the base of

Isla San Jose.  This is a small bay that used to be home to a salt mine.  The ruins

of the buildings and even some old vehicles are scattered just up from the beach.

The Sea of Cortez has many abandoned structures, from buildings once used in

small industries like salt mining and fishing to tourist hotels and housing

developments that never got off the ground.

There is one unique, tiny island, however,

that is covered with dollhouse-sized buildings

that are still lovingly maintained.  Just a tenth

of a mile or so across, it is clear even from

out in the anchorage that every possible

square inch of Isla Coyote sports a small

building or patio.

Sculptures, sea shell

arrangements and

other creative

decorations are

scattered about the


As we motored ashore

towards the two-

dinghy-sized beach,

we were met by a man

who introduced himself

as Manuel.  He

graciously tied up our dink and invited us to

walk around the island and explore.

He told us that he had lived on the island for

fifty years and had raised his kids here.

A few steps from the beach he showed us

the "Whale Museum," a collection of whale

bones with a little sign listing the kinds of

whales:  sperm, finback, pilot.

Only the sheer cliffs on the east side of Isla

Coyote are bare.  The rest of the island is

packed with the homey signs of a simple life

well lived.

Isla Coyote is tall enough that

each one- or two-room building has a

wonderful and unobstructed view.

A little trail snakes up the hill

between the buildings.  It is a

three minute walk from the

beach to the bluff at the peak.

There is a whimsy and

charm here that speaks of

a happy group of families

that made a life here on

this miniature island for

many years.  At one time

this tiny island was home

to 30 people.

Manuel told us his wife was

currently living in La Paz while

his son attends university

there.  He stays out here on

the island to keep an eye on

things.  "It's just me and my

dog Luna here," he said to me

in Spanish, although he did

have a friend Roberto staying

with him when we visited.  His

only other company is occasional cruisers that drop by and daytripping

tourists that take a four mile boat ride out from the tiny seaside village of

San Evaristo on the Baja mainland.

He keeps in touch with the

world via VHF radio and cell

phone, but he doesn't have

a TV.

Each building has a solar

panel on a stick outside,

and down on the beach

there was a collection of

large drums that held the

fresh water he had just

received from San Evaristo.

San Evaristo is also the source of most of his provisions.

A tiny chapel has a commanding view of the bay, and another building is covered

with a pretty mural depicting the undersea world.

Around the corner from Isla Coyote is a favorite cruiser

destination, Isla San Francisco.  We had loved this

classic anchorage last spring and thoroughly enjoyed

visiting it again this fall.  The water was amazingly

clear, and when I went snorkeling I saw several large

brown eels cruising around under the anchored boats.

They had mouths like moray eels and they swam with

them wide open.  I kept my distance!  A beautiful

mobula ray also flew past me slowly under water.

The mountains in the distance cast dramatic shadows in the morning light,

and we sat in the cockpit in the mornings and evenings, mesmerized by

our surroundings.

Up on deck one afternoon I heard a faint

chirping and watched a tiny bird land in

our cockpit.  We were in the midst of

moving Groovy from one end of the

anchorage to the other, and when I

started the engine the bird vanished.

Once we dropped the hook again he

suddenly reappeared in the cabin.  He

had taken the cross-harbor ride with us down below.  He seemed

unsteady on his feet and kept closing his eyes and nodding off as he

perched on our table in the cabin.  I offered him a dish of water and

some bread but he kept his eyes closed while I looked him up in our

bird book.  He turned out to be a female yellow-rumped warbler, a

migrating bird that spends summers between northern California and

British Columbia and winters in Mexico.  This tiny fluff of a bird had

just flown 1,200 miles or more.  No wonder she was tired.

We went about our business that evening, but our little bird friend got weaker and weaker.  Finally she

stretched out on her side and closed her eyes for the last time.  We were both very sad.  We had

hoped a good night's sleep on Groovy would revive her spirits.  Mark made a little coffin from a yogurt

container and the next day we went ashore and buried her on a ridge with a beautiful view.

Ensenada Grande (on Isla Partida, the northern island of Las

Islas Espiritu Santos) had been another favorite stop on our

way north last spring, and we dropped in for a few nights on

our current trek south.   We had been seeing more and more

charter boats in the last few anchorages, and at Ensenada

Grande we parked right next to a beautiful big power boat in

the middle of the turquoise bay.  We watched the crew get out

the snorkeling gear and launch the kayaks and mix the drinks

and break up the bags of ice and all kinds of other things

while the guests kicked back on a high deck with a view.

A crew member dinghied

ashore and set up some

beach umbrellas and beach

chairs.  Soon the guests were enjoying a shaded cocktail

party on the beach.  What a life.

That evening we saw the same beautiful sunset from our

cockpit as they did, but we'd had to launch our own kayak

and dig out our own snorkeling gear earlier in the day.

Mark and I snorkeled along the rocks, admiring the many

brightly colored fish.  They come with all kinds of trim, from

stripes to polka dots to loud, flamboyant patterns.  All of a

sudden Mark pointed at the sand and I saw the corner of a

blue 20 peso note waving slowly from under a rock.

"Cool!!" I thought, "That's enough for a beer at a beach

bar!"  (20 pesos is about $1.50).  We grinned goofy grins at

each other through our masks.  Mark reached for the

money and then pointed excitedly at the corner.  It was a

20 Euro note!!  Wow.  Make that beers and dinner for two!!

(20 Euros is about $27).  Cruising is paying off.

A swell came in overnight, making the boat prance in the waves and keeping us up all night.  In the forward berth

you were tossed in the air as the boat jumped and fell in the waves.  In the aft berth you were in a perfect

soundboard that magnified the crashing thunder of the stern pounding the water.

In total frustration we

got up at 3 a.m. and

watched the movie

Terminator with the

volume turned way up.

It is an interesting

experience to get

absorbed in a movie

like that while your

theater seat and movie

screen are flying all

over the place.

The weather was

getting iffy, and we didn't want to risk another sleepless night, so we continued south along

the spectacular cliffs of Islas Espiritu Santo.

We made one more stop at

lovely Puerto Balandra as we

continued towards La Paz.  This

bay is the quintessential tropical

anchorage that lies at the heart

of most cruising dreams.  The

water is an exquisite shade of

aquamarine, the white sand

beaches are truly white and

almost powdery, and the rocky

mountains undulate around the

bay in a snug embrace.

More charter boats showed up to enjoy an

afternoon of perfection in paradise, and we sat in

the middle of it all with binoculars, cameras, drinks

and snacks in arm's reach.  This was our delicious

prize, our reward after a sleepless night.  The thing

about these moments of bliss in nirvana is that you

can earn them from the workaday world and jet

down to the tropics where a crew or resort staff

caters to your every need.  Or you can slog it out

on a small rolling boat, at the mercy of the weather,

snorkeling for Euros, and repairing the many things

that break on board.  Either way the price is paid

and the handsome reward of a few precious

moments in paradise becomes emblazoned in your

memory forever.

Those moments are brief, however, and an impending Norther sent us into safety and the urban thrills of La Paz.

Read about our experiences in Isla San Francisco, Ensenada Grande

and Puerto Balandra in April, 2011 here and here.

Find Isla San Francisco, San Evaristo, Ensenada Grande, and Puerto Balandra on Mexico Maps.






























































































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!
































































































































Bahía Concepción & Punta Chivato – Great Sea of Cortez Anchorages

Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Punta Chivato's elegant hotel.

Shipwreck at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico


Wildlife at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Osprey at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico


Osprey flying over Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Shell Beach at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Shells on Punta Chivato's "Shell Beach."

Castaway's Wilson is at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

We're not alone -- Mark

found Wilson!

The pretty hotel at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Stairs leading up to Punta

Chivato's hotel

The hotel's patio bar at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Charming outdoor bar.  Too bad it's closed!

Lovely landscaping at Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Interestingly landscaped grounds at the hotel.

Playa Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Playa Coyote in Bahía Concepción is like glass.

Playa Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Heron on watch.

Playa Coyote in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A perfect day for a lazy kayak ride.

Coyote Beach in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Playa El Burro in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Playa El Burro beachfront ex-pat homes.

Homes on Playa El Burro in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Each home is a little different.

Homes in El Burro Cove in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Homes on El Burro Beach in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Homes in El Burro Cove in Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Some have a removable front wall to bring the

view all the way in.

Relaxing on El Burro Beach, Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Snoozing on the water is the only way to beat

the heat.

Geary Ritchie's home is totally wired.

Geary Ritchie's home is totally wired to help with

his weather forecasting.

Geary, the Sea of Cortez weatherman himself.

Geary, the Sonrisa Net's Sea of Cortez

weatherman himself.

Playa Coyote, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Playa Coyote.

National Outdoor Leadership School lunch room.

The lunch room for the staff at NOLS.

National Outdoor Leadership School kitchen

NOLS houses a complete commercial kitchen...

National Outdoor Leadership School provisioning.

…extensive provisioning for the students...

National Outdoor Leadership School camp store.

…and a mini-REI right here on the beach.

National Outdoor Leadership School solar setup.

The entire campus, like every building in this bay, is

run on solar power.

NOLS kayaks ready for use.

Kayaks ready to go to sea.

NOLS yawl for saiing instruction.

The centerboard yawls used by the sailing

portions of the classes.

National Outdoor Leadership School yawl for saiing instruction. NOLS yawl for saiing instruction.

We catch a NOLS class on the water and see

the yawl in action.

Punta Chivato & Bahía Concepción

Mid-October, 2011 - Once the effects of hurricanes Jova and Irwin

way down south had stopped churning up the waves and wind in our

neighborhood near the middle of the Sea of Cortez, we ventured

across from San Carlos on the mainland to Punta Chivato on the

Baja side.  There wasn't enough wind to sail, and we had an easy

70+ mile crossing under power.

Punta Chivato is a small community of vacation villas fronting a long

shell-strewn beach.  The point is dominated by a sprawling hotel.  But

what really caught our attention as we approached was an apparent

shipwreck of an older sailboat resting on its side along the rocks.

Although this anchorage was very peaceful when we arrived, it could

obviously be quite nasty at times.

The temperatures were still hovering near 100 degrees

everyday, so the whole community was closed up tight.

The only sounds were the raucous cries of gulls and the

shrill whistles of a pair of osprey.

We wandered along the beach,

admiring the endless array of


Adding to our sense of remoteness,

Mark suddenly found Tom Hanks'

best friend, the basketball "Wilson" of

Castaway fame, sitting among the

rocks and shells.

We had heard that the hotel at Punta

Chivato was a perfect place to spend

some relaxing afternoon hours sipping

cool drinks while perched high above

the sea with a sweeping view

around the point.

Unfortunately the hotel and it's

charming outdoor bar were

closed until December.  So we

wandered around the lovely

grounds and imagined how

much fun it would be if

the pretty, shaded

outdoor bar were filled

with happy vacationers

enjoying sundowners

along with us.

From Punta Chivato it is an easy 25

mile or so daysail south to the broad

bays and anchorages of Bahía

Concepción.  A long channel

separates this bay from the rough-

and-tumble Sea of Cortez, and the

water where we anchored at Playa

Coyote was like glass.

We could see schools of yellow and

black striped sergeant major reef

fish below the surface, while an

occasional giant angel fish would

glide by and look up at us in the kayak.  The

herons, gulls and pelicans

watched the motion of the fish

with as much interest as we did.

A happy couple floated by us in

a tandem kayak, looking very

kicked back…

Then a large fish began leaping

out of the water, almost dancing

on its tail as it darted across the

surface.  A gull flew in to try to

catch the fish in mid-air, but a

heron beat him to the punch and caught the stunned fish mid-leap.  The heron quickly

dropped into the water, fish in beak.  He wasn't nearly as graceful a swimmer as his web-

footed companions, but he managed to stay afloat.  Just as he was angling the fish in his

beak to swallow it in one gulp, a pelican swooped by and snatched the fish right out of his

mouth.  In a flash the pelican threw his head back and ate the fish.  Yikes.  The heron

was stunned, we were stunned, and the whole thing was over in an instant.  The gull flew

off, scolding everyone as he rose above the water.

We took the kayak around the corner to next-door Playa El Burro.  This intriguing ex-pat

community had perked my interest when we were here last June, because the beach is

densely packed with small thatch-roofed houses built right in the sand.  Many are closed

up tight for the hot summer months, but a few were open and we could see the inhabitants

milling about inside.

Each house is unique.  Many have a porch

out front or a removable front wall that opens

the interior of the house to the view of the

bay.  They are cute, although very rustic, as

there is no electricity, town water or sewer

service.  Everything runs on solar power and

water is brought in to each house by truck.

All of the homes are owned by ex-

pats, and it struck me as very odd

that such wonderful vacation living

would be the exclusive property of

foreigners rather than Mexicans.

The heat at this time of year is

pretty much unbearable, and

lots of people spend their

days submerged in the 80+

degree water.  One fellow was

on his floating bed for several


At the end of the beach is the

distinctive home of Geary

Ritchie, an avid amateur

meteorologist who provides

sailors with Sea of Cortez

weather forecasts every

morning via SSB and VHF

radio.  His home is covered

with antennas.

Geary was at home when

we stopped by, and he

graciously invited us to sit

on his front porch with him

for a while.  What a spot!

He explained a little about

how all these tiny homes came to be sitting on the water's edge here.  His

was the first home on the beach 15 years ago, and at the time the Mexican

government charged him $30/month for his bit of sand.  He built a little

beach palapa home, and he has lived here ever since.  Nowadays the rent

has gone up nearly eight-fold, but is still a phenomenal bargain for a

bungalow in paradise.  And the beach has filled in with similar homes.

Folks like Geary provide an invaluable service to sailors worldwide, and

they achieve legendary status among cruisers for their dedicated volunteer

efforts.  Geary has been told his radio voice is similar to his fellow

forecaster in South Africa.  I was intrigued that he got his start by providing weather reports for a friend in the States who had

left his boat in the bay one summer.

Back at Playa Coyote around the corner we visited another

intriguing shoreside property.  The National Outdoor Leadership

School ("NOLS").  They have a "ranch" on this beach, one of many

worldwide campuses that provide bases for student wilderness

excursions into our planet's wonderful outdoor classrooms.

We had met the assistant director David and his young family out on the

water.  They were camping on the deck of one of the boats in the bay to

escape the excruciating overnight heat in their home on shore, and they

rowed past us on the mirrored morning water on their way "to work."

They invited us to visit the school, and what an eye-opener that was.

We arrived on the beach to find several staff members having

lunch under the huge mesquite tree that shades their strip of

sand.  Becca, the director of trek provisioning, gave us a

delightful tour and explained the essence and nature of the


Something of a cross between Outward Bound, the Boy Scouts and an

elite college, the school offers classes ranging from a few weeks to a full

year, many of which accrue college credit at universities around the world.

Classes are conducted in the wild and include kayaking, hiking, rock

climbing, horseback riding and sailing between remote destinations.

Students learn skills ranging from biology to environmental studies to

backcountry survival to group leadership.  Most classes are about 15

students with 3 or 4 instructors, and all camping is open air: no tents and just a few shade tarps.

Becca's job is to make sure everyone is well fed on the

expeditions.  The kitchen and store-room she oversees are

enormous.  The recipes use gallons instead of cups.

This particular campus in Baja California was established around

1990, and its ultra-smooth operation is thanks to the two Mexican

families who have become an integral part of the school.  Initially

they provided the land and buildings for the "ranch," but now the

operation of the school and campus is a family enterprise.

This was the first place I had ever been in Mexico where every

Gringo was fluent in Spanish, and Spanish was the default

language for everyone.  As Becca said, "The ladies here do all the

shopping and food preparation, and if I can't converse in Spanish I

can't do my job."

The tuition for classes here is similar to a private college, and the education is on the same level.  Students are told what to

bring, but just in case they can't find a particular item, the school has a small store that looks like a mini-REI or Cabella's

camping store.  What a surprise to see all this high-end Patagonia clothing for sale in the middle of a community made up of ex-

pat beach bungalows.

Just like everyone else on the beach, the school runs without city

water, city sewer or city electricity.  The grid of Outback solar charge

controllers was very impressive.  We have an Outback charge

controller in our fifth wheel, but just one, not six!

Along with a library filled with books on outdoor adventuring, the

school has a repair yard where the sailboats and kayaks can be

patched up between expeditions.  The sailing component of the

classes uses small open centerboard yawls.  Of course the students

sleep outdoors on the beach during the sailing portion of the class

rather than on the boats.

We picked up a beautiful 100-page glossy brochure for the school

while we were there and lusted over the stunning photographs of the

courses offered everywhere in the world from the Amazon to

Australia to Scandinavia to the Pacific Northwest.  Each site has a

"ranch" campus like the one we had seen.  What a fantastic

educational experience it must be, perfect for a "gap" year between

high school and college or before grad school.

Later, when we were daysailing at the mouth of Bahía Concepción, we

saw one of the classes on the water.  Four yawls were tacking back and

forth near the entrance of Bahía Concepción, and we tacked back and

forth along with them.  The next day when we left Concepción for La

Ramada Cove and the Loreto area, we saw the four yawls pulled up on

a remote beach.  Two shade tarps and the four boats were all we could

see of their wilderness experience.  Besides ourselves a sailing few

miles out on the water, there wasn't a sign of humanity anywhere to be

seen on the coast for another 25 miles.

Read more about Bahía Concepción during our previous

visit in June, 2011 here.

Find Punta Chivato, Bahía Concepción, Playa Coyote and

Playa El Burro on Mexico Maps.




















































































































San Carlos – A Gringo Party Town!

Algodones Bay, San Carlos.

Algodones Bay, San Carlos.

Palms lining the beach at Algodones Bay, San Carlos, Mexico.

Palms line the beach at Bahía Algodones.

Beachside villas, Bahia Algodones, San Carlos, Mexico

Beachside villas on Algodones Bay.

Watersports at San Carlos, Mexico Looking out into Algodones Bay, San Carlos, Mexico

Groovy anchored between the palms.

San Carlos harbor anchorage.

San Carlos harbor anchorage.

San Carlos Harbor

San Carlos Harbor

Marina San Carlos.

Marina San Carlos

Marina San Carlos.

Marina San Carlos.

Marina San Carlos.

Bahia Algodones villas, San Carlos, Mexico Raccoons raided the pantry on a neighbor's boat.

Raccoons raided the pantry on a

neighbor's boat.

Raccoons raided the pantry on a neighbor's boat. Resort near the Soggy Peso Bar.

Resort near the Soggy Peso Bar.

Resort near the Soggy Peso Bar.

We are back in vacation land...

Resort near the Soggy Peso Bar.

...back on the beach...

Soggy Peso Bar, San Carlos, Mexico Soggy Peso Bar, San Carlos, Mexico Soggy Peso Bar, San Carlos, Mexico Palacio Municipal, Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico

The "Palacio Municipal" in downtown Guaymas.

The cathedral in Guaymas, Mexico

The cathedral in Guaymas.

The cathedral in Guaymas, Mexico The cathedral in Guaymas, Mexico The cathedral in Guaymas, Mexico The lighthouse outside the Fonatur/Singlar Marina.

The lighthouse outside the Fonatur/

Singlar Marina.

Marina San Carlos.

Marina San Carlos.

San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

Early October, 2011 - After saying goodbye to the bugling elk and

Route 66 memorabilia in Williams, Arizona, we hustled down

from the mountains to Phoenix where we put the trailer into

storage, gathered a few things together, and took the overnight

bus to San Carlos, Mexico.  Groovy was waiting for us in her slip,

and she eagerly welcomed us back.

San Carlos has special meaning

for us, as it was not only the end-

point of our cruise last year, but

is the place where our cruising

ideas were initially hatched

during Thanksgiving of 2005.

A friend of ours has a

lovely home at Marina

Real in San Carlos, and

he had taken us out in

his open fishing boat

that fateful Thanksgiving

weekend.  Feeling the

wind in my hair and

watching the sun

sparkle on the brilliant

blue sea, I was

enchanted and suddenly

blurted out, "Hey Mark,

we could do this -- we

could go cruising!"

As a lifelong lover of the woods and

the desert, his feet planted firmly

between pines and cactus, he looked

at me in wonder.  "Cruising?!"

"Sure!"  I said, "We could live on a sailboat and sail the seven seas and

fish for our dinner and swim in tropical anchorages…"  It was all so

vivid in my mind.  He wasn't sure what to think, but he was very excited

to catch a yellowfin tuna during that little Thanksgiving excursion.

As we motored along the rugged shore with the fish on ice in a cooler,

I spent the next several hours painting a colorful picture for him of us in

our swimsuits living on the sea and sailing from one exotic port to the

next.  I realized I had made an impression on him when we returned to

the dock and he suddenly said, "Well, if I'm going to be fishing for my

dinner, I'd better see how this thing is filleted."  He closely watched

every flash of our captain Carlos' fillet knife, studying the way he

expertly carved up the

fish.  "Wow," I thought,

"Maybe we really could go cruising…"

A long long time had passed between

that little fishing trip and our cruise of

the Mexican coast on Groovy last

winter, but when we pulled into San

Carlos this past June we felt like we

had come full circle.  We sailed by the

island where Mark had caught his

yellowfin tuna on our friend's fishing

boat, and we anchored just outside the

entrance to Marina Real where we had

seen a Beneteau anchored way back

in 2005.

This past summer had given us the chance to revisit our home in Phoenix and run

away in our trailer to the Utah red rocks for a few weeks.  Now we were back in San

Carlos with a new cruising season ahead.  For us San Carlos seemed to be a point

of intersection, the juncture of past dreams and present transitions.

A lot of the boats we had traveled with

last season were on the docks in San

Carlos, and the air was abuzz with their

various plans:  Central America, Panama

Canal, South Pacific, Caribbean.

We didn't have any concrete plans beyond

sailing the Sea of Cortez for October and

November.  We took the kayak out into the

harbor and enjoyed the early morning light,

slowly getting used to living a water-based life


One morning a couple told us they had had

returned to their boat after a night ashore to

find that otters had wreaked havoc aboard.

They had seen webbed footprints, but it

wasn't clear if otters were really the culprits.

After a little sleuthing, it turned out that a family of raccoons lived in

the bushes next to the marina docks, and they had taken advantage

of the boat's open hatches to get aboard and raid the pantry.  Food of

all kinds was strewn throughout their cabin.

Mark was returning from the shower one night and saw the raccoons

up close.  It was a little family of five, and they were very cute,

although one parent hissed in annoyance at having its photo taken.

San Carlos is a gringo

vacation town, and one

afternoon we joined some

friends to check out the

Soggy Peso Bar.  This

breezy little beachside bar

sits on the edge of the white

sands of Algodones Bay,

and it has a fantastic view

looking back towards the

Marina Real enclave of

waterfront villas.

The beers were ice cold and

the beach scene was hot,

and in a flash we realized we

had left the US along with our

life in our trailer, Route 66

and Utah's red rocks far

behind.  We were in our beachwear once again,

back in the land of sand and sun, back on the

Mexican coast.

The village of San Carlos is a small vacation

community that was built on a single rancher's

ranch land a few decades ago.

Ten miles down the road is the

much older city of Guaymas,

complete with a historic city center.

We took the bus there and strolled

around one afternoon.  A

"Municipal Palace" building

dominates a huge, open plaza, and

the cathedral lends a touch of

charm to the otherwise gritty town.

A lighthouse marks the entrance to the

municipal marina, and there is a nice

"malecón" or waterfront boardwalk for


We had dashed down to

San Carlos in hopes of

resuming cruising while the

water was still warm at the

very beginning of October.

When we arrived it was reportedly 91

degrees.  Fantastic!!  We couldn't wait to

get going.  But two hurricanes showed

up on the radar down south--Jova and

Irwin--and although we were far from

their path, the weather promised high

winds and choppy seas in our

neighborhood for a while.

So we waited in the marina and

watched the water temperature slip

down to 82 degrees over the course

of a week.  Finally our window of

opportunity came, and we left the

marina for Bahía Algodones around

the corner where we got the boat

prepped for this season's first

crossing of the Sea of Cortez.  Punta

Chivato and Bahía Concepción

would be our first stops on the Baja side.















































































Bahía Concepción – From Fury to Fantasy in the Sea of Cortez

Isla Coronado, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Coronado on a calm day.

San Juanico, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Bahía San Juanico at dusk.

San Juanico, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Beach at San Juanico.

San Juanico anchorage, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

San Juanico.

San Juanico, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Desert hills stretch to the interior of Baja.

San Juanico anchorage, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

San Juanico anchorage.

San Juanico anchorage, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Desert cactus meets the sea.

Fog, San Juanico anchorage, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Morning fog.

Diving duck, San Juanico, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A diving duck fished under our

boat for hours.

Fog, San Juanico, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Fog layer at Bahía San Juanico drifts out to sea.

Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Gringo beach homes line the shores at Playa El Burro.

Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The source of the SSB radio

Sonrisa Net's weather


Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Looking down at Playa El Burro from

the mountain hike.

Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Playa El Burro.

Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Playa El Burro is fringed with ex-pat beach houses.

Petroglyphs, Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The Ancients saw the same striped fish we have.

Petroglyphs, Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A sand ray?

Petroglyphs, Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Sea turtle.

Flowering cactus, Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Scarlet cardón cactus flowers

have started to open.

Lizard, Playa el Burro, Bahia Coyote in Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Estrella del Mar bar, Playa Coyote, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Mark tries the pole at

the infamous Estrella

del Mar pub.

Playa Coyote, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Pretty homes between tall palms on Playa Coyote.

Playa Coyote, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Chicken barbecue!

Playa Coyote, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Playa Coyote.

Bahia Coyote, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Bays within bays: Playa El Burro within Bahía Coyote within Bahía Concepcion.

Bahia Coyote, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico Playa Santa Barbara, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Easy living at Playa Santa Barbara.

Playa Santa Barbara, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Fancy beach palapa in

Playa Santa Barbara.

Playa Santa Barbara, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

"Tents" for eco-tourists at Santa Barbara.

Playa Santa Barbara, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

"Boondocking" on Playa Santa


Isla Requeson, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Peace and tranquility at Isla Requesón in Bahía Concepción.

Playa Buenaventura, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

George greets us when we stop

for the world's best burger at

Playa Buenaventura.

Isla Requeson, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Nature's mosaic: rock patterns on the mountain at

Isla Requesón.

sv Groovy anchored at Isla Requeson, Bahia Concepcion, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Isla Requesón.  Bahía Concepción's beaches and bays make the world slip away.

Bahía Concepción, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

June, 2011 - Two days before we left the Loreto area, at the very

end of May, we enjoyed a perfect evening in Isla Coronado,

drinking sundowners with a group of cruisers in a friend's cockpit on

flat calm water.  The air was still as the sun slipped from the sky.

We chatted about the north winds due to arrive the next morning,

because we were all anchored in a cove that was totally exposed to

the north.  Everyone agreed it was way too late in the season for a

real Norther where the wind would howl for several days, but no

one could make sense out of the forecasts which had ranged from

15 knots of breeze to 35 knots of wind, and from 12 hours to 24

hours duration, depending on the forecaster.  We all decided to wait

until morning and see what happened.  This anchorage was way

too pretty to leave, if we could avoid it.

On the opening pages of The Log of the Sea of Cortez John

Steinbeck writes:  "The Sea of a long, narrow, highly

dangerous body of water.  It is subject to sudden and vicious storms of great intensity."  His description is right on target.  After

a perfectly calm night, at 4:00 a.m. the boat turned and began to rock gently.  At 5:00 a.m. a breeze began to blow.  At 6:00

a.m. the rigging began to make noise and the wind was up to about 18 knots.  We took a peak around the anchorage and all

but three of the boats had left for safety on the south side of the island, two miles away.

How much more would it blow?  The weather sites we had relied on for 7 months both predicted nothing over 20 knots.  No

problem.  We stayed and began our customary wobble dance as Groovy began to roll and bounce.  By 10:00 am the wind was

up to 28 knots and our gyrations were like the death throes of a rabid animal.  Groovy pitched violently from side to side and

from front to back, and the waves poured into the anchorage relentlessly.

We were backed up to a lee shore whose white sand beach looked like a soft landing but whose crashing surf looked like it

could pummel anything to dust in minutes.  We were confident that our ground tackle would hold us firm, but it was unnerving

to watch the fierce action on our the bow as Groovy yanked the anchor chain this way and that like a wild beast.

Finally we could take it no more, and at about noon we decided to make the two mile trek around to the south side of the

island where life might be equally blowy but a lot less jumpy.  We hadn't traveled a half mile when the waves suddenly became

vertical walls of water.  I have never seen such steep waves so close together.  Groovy valiantly climbed and fell over each

one, alternately pointing her nose at the sky and then nearly burying it into the troughs of the waves.  All around us the waves

curled over and broke like the tunnel waves you see on TV surfing shows.

A spray - not a wave - caught the kayak and bent the stainless steel racks supporting it like they were made of thin wire.  That

was all it took to send us back into the anchorage.  Bumping around for a while longer was better than risking life and limb to

get to smoother water.  Once settled back on the hook we resumed our windy carnival ride under the mocking, blazing sun.

Who would ever guess this usually gorgeous anchorage could have such a mean streak?  Such is the Sea of Cortez.  As one

cruiser told us:  "For every two days of paradise you get in the Sea of Cortez you have to pay with a third day of hell."

A fishing panga had crept ashore in the early hours as the wind was

coming up, and we watched two people huddle under a beach palapa all

day.  They had overnight gear with them, and as the day ended and the

wind showed no signs of simmering down, they set up camp and spent

the night.  By first light the next morning the wind had blown itself out

and the sea had flattened to a lilting roll with barely a ripple scuffing the

surface.  Life was easy again and the little fishing panga disappeared

around the bend.

In the early days of June one online weather forecasting website wryly

noted:  "Winter just refuses to let go of Baja."  The winds which usually

turn south in the spring/summer continued to come out of the north until

mid-June.  However, they were mostly light breezes that made for

pleasant sailing, and every night the wind and waves stopped all

together, letting us sleep in peace.

Except for its unpredictable bad temper, the Sea of Cortez is a dreamy place, and

as we settled into the pretty bay of San Juanico 20 miles or so north of Loreto, we

fell out of contact with civilization and the internet once again, and nature

overtook us.

Steinbeck noted in his Log, "One thing had impressed us deeply on this little

voyage: the great world dropped away very quickly... The matters of great

importance we had left were not important."  And such were our days in the first

few weeks of June.  Out of touch with everything but our immediate surroundings,

our world shrank to just the coves around us.  Bahía San Juanico is a small bay

outlined by short beaches and punctuated by craggy rock towers.  Osprey were

nesting in the peaks of several rock pinnacles, and their cries filled the air

mornings and evenings.

We took a hike up one of the mountains and were

rewarded with sweeping views.  The anchorage lay

peacefully on one side of us and waves of brown,

scrubby, cactus covered mountains lay on the other

side.  When not hiking or kayaking or snorkeling, we

rested, losing all track of time and days.  Was it

Thursday or Monday?  Was it noon or 4:00 pm?

Darkness didn't come until well after 9:00 pm, and we

woke only when the sun came in the windows and

forced our eyes open.  Naps came easily.

Steinbeck also fell under this area's spell some 71 years before us, saying after a morning's snooze:  "Sleeping late... has its

genuine therapeutic value," noting that with good rest he could work more effectively.  Like us, however, he seemed to feel a

little bit of guilt as he melted into delicious lethargy:  "We wish we could build as good a rationalization every time we are lazy."

Sailing another 35 miles or so north, we entered Bahía Concepción whose many charming anchorages swallowed us up for

the next ten days.  This long slender bay runs along the Baja coast for 25 miles, and embraces several smaller bays along the

mainland shore.  The region is cherished by nature loving gringos who drive down from the north to camp on its calm shores.

Palm thatched palapas offer shade for campers, RV parks offer hookups, and beach homes lie cheek-by-jowl along the sand.

Playa El Burro is the most popular among cruisers, and it is also home to Geary of

Single Side Band radio weather forecasting fame among sailors.  His beachfront

home is the one covered with antennas.  We later met Geary in October, 2011.

We enjoyed a terrific hike up a zig-zag route

that gave us stunning views of these

beaches.  At the base of the hike is a large

collection of petroglyphs, cryptic notes from the

Ancients carved into the rocks.  It seems they saw

many of the same things we've seen in this area:

striped fish, stingrays and sea turtles.  A little

lizard kept a close eye on us as we passed.

A stop at the Estrella del Mar beach bar in Playa

Coyote saw Mark testing out their stripper's pole.

This is actually a very tame bar with a great group of

locals that we got to know over the ensuing days.

The community here is tightly knit, and we were

welcomed in as "los veleros," the sailboat people.

Playa Coyote boasts many lovely gringo homes

peaking out from beneath a canopy of tall palm trees, and we were

invited to a terrific chicken barbecue at one home.  All our new friends

from the Estrella del Mar bar were there, and we felt like one of the bunch.

We enjoyed listening to them talk about the challenges of living and

running businesses on the beach without electricity, as we have lived

without electricity in the fifth wheel and boat for four years now.  There is

electricity "in town" in Mulege 15 miles away, but the beach homes and

bars of Bahía Concepción operate on solar power and generators.

After a few days we slipped away from the crowd to see some of the less

visited places where the languor of Bahía Concepción overtook us

completely.  Nature became our entertainment.

Five whale sharks, docile 25 foot long plankton eating fish that are neither

as imposing as a whale nor as fearsome as a shark, had taken up

residence in Bahía Concepción over the last few months.  Cruisers and

shore visitors alike had enjoyed dinghying and snorkeling among them,

although we had not seen any yet.

As we pulled into the small, scenic cove of Playa Santa Barbara I kept seeing

radar returns on our chartplotter like that of a small boat in the middle of the bay.

Mark was on the bow and reassured me there was nothing there -- until he

spotted a whale shark.  It must have surfaced a few times just high enough for

our radar to pick him up.  We dropped the anchor and the whale shark reversed

direction and came over to check us out.  What a thrill to see this enormous

spotted creature so close to the boat.  Unfortunately he didn't stay long enough

for me to get a photo, and we never saw him again.

For several days there was just us, the desert and the sea in the tiny cove of

Playa Santa Barbara.  Each morning we were awoken by the haunting calls of

quails and the shrill revving engine noise of cactus wrens in the thick grove of

cardón cactus on shore.  The caws of crows and sing-song trills of cardinals

rounded out the sounds of the desert and brought a little bit of Arizona into our

cockpit.  Mixed among these desert noises were the piercing cries of ospreys the

splashing water -- like kids at a pool -- from pelicans diving all around us.

We watched groups of creatures traveling together.  Huge schools of tiny fish

swarmed Groovy, and when I jumped in to snorkel with them they were like a

thick dark cloud around me.  Small jumping schools of fish pranced across the

water in leaps and bounds like steeplechase horses or skipping stones.  Birds

commuted in well-formed lines, and for the first time I saw mixed flocks.  A line

of boobies drafted off a pelican, like cyclists drafting off the lead rider, and

another time a single gull got an easy ride trailing at the end of a line of

pelicans.  The days slowed down so much we noticed these things.

There was a single travel trailer parked

down by the beach and we kayaked

ashore to talk to the fellow living there.

His life was as simple as ours but more

permanently anchored to the beach.  He was

bolstered by a huge cistern full of water and an

enormous propane tank.  He turned out to be a

watchman for the owners of a resort that is being

built on the beach, and every Saturday he and

another fellow switch off spending a week in the

trailer overseeing the grounds.

The resort is currently comprised of several tent

houses that look like an ideal getaway place for

an eco-tourist vacation.  There is a beautiful,

upscale beach palapa with an ornate thatched

roof, well crafted chairs on a large wooden deck,

and an enormous barbecue.  Under a tree you

can pull a chain and get a fantastic fresh water shower.  The resort's construction

supervisor arrived in a pickup and told us of plans to put a hotel on the hill and an 18 hole

golf course in place of the large stand of cardón cactus.  So Baja California slowly

transforms, trading its wildness for gentrified beauty, one beach at a time.

A few miles south lies

Playa Buenaventura and Isla Requesón, a tiny island

hanging off the mainland on a sand spit.  We tried to anchor

in this area twice but were blown out each time by

unexpectedly high afternoon winds.  Sailing there at 2 knots

in a whisper of breeze the first time, Mark thought he saw

pelicans diving in the distance.  It turned out to be a swatch

of whitecaps, and in a few minutes we were engulfed in 20

knot winds.  The anchorages here are not protected, so we

ran back to hide at Playa Santa Barbara.  We repeated this

exercise again two days later.

Finally the third time was

a charm, and we got the

hook down at Isla Requesón for

several days near its pretty, remote

beach.  Giant angel fish outlined in

neon blue with brilliant yellow stripes

across their bodies came up to us as

we snorkeled, and the reef fish were


Camped on the white sand we found

a wonderfully friendly family from

Arizona who had set up their rugged

tent trailer just steps from the warm turquoise water.  It was refreshing to

be with a family again, kids, parents and grandpa, and we shared a

pleasant afternoon together.  But it also made us a bit homesick.  All this

immersion in Arizona type desert and family campers made us long for

our trailer and family and friends back home.

Our days on the Groovy boat in the Sea of Cortez were drawing to a close, but our thoughts lay ahead of us in the crazy

logistics of transferring from 18 consecutive months on a sailboat to a brief summertime land-based life, while trying to tackle

the immense list of boat-related and living-related tasks that had mounted over the past few months.  It wasn't until many

weeks later in our trailer at Bonito Campground / Wupatki National Monument in Flagstaff, Arizona, that we were finally

able to take a deep breath and ponder the impact on our lives of four years of traveling by RV and sailboat and the shock of

going home again.

Find Bahía Concepción, Playa El Burro, Playa Coyote, Playa Santa Barbara and Isla Requesón on Mexico Maps.





































































































































Loreto: Fun times in Puerto Escondido and Loreto

Nopolo, near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Mexico's Highway 1 slips past a golf course

at Nopolo, just south of Loreto.

A finch greets us at Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A finch on our stern rail sings

us a welcome song.

Tripuli RV Park Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The Tripuli RV park feels like it is set in Arizona.

Cardon cactus, Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Flowers bloom on a

cardon cactus.

Tripuli RV Park Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A few homes have a spot for an RV too.

Tripuli RV Park Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Headin' on down the road.

Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A lean, mean carbon fiber sailing machine.

Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Bridge to a broken dream.

Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A developer's hopes dashed.

Loreto panga harbor, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Loreto's panga harbor.

Loreto malecon, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A fishing panga on Loreto's shore.

Heron fishing in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

This guy was fishing on the

beach every morning we

came ashore.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Loreto has many charming walking streets.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The Loreto town center.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

There are lots of outdoor eateries

in Loreto.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

At a taco stand I meet a little

girl who shares my name.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Trees carved into an arch over one of Loreto's

walking streets.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Almost Starbucks.

Loreto Mission, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Loreto Mission of Our Lady (Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto Concho, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Misión de Nuestra Señora de

Loreto Conchó.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

An inviting hotel gate...

Musician plays guitar in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Chacho Damianee sings

and strums.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Getting a haircut in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Mark gets a haircut.

Going to the dentist in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

I get a cavity filled.

Sunday Farmer's Market Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Loreto's Sunday farmer's market.

Sunday Farmer's Market in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Vendors sell produce of all kinds.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Three brothers.

Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Veggies are not hard to find in the Sea of Cortez.

Mark rebuilds a solenoid for one of s/v Groovy's heads in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Mark rebuilds a solenoid for a head.

Dia de Marina in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Little tykes in sailor suits head out for a boat ride on Día de la Marina (Navy Day).

Puerto Escondido & Loreto, Mexico

May, 2011 - We left Ensenada Blanca reluctantly, but we were getting low on

provisions so it was time to hit a big town.  Puerto Escondido ("Hidden Port") is

just a few miles up the coast, and it offers both a well protected outer harbor

and a fully enclosed inner (or "hidden") harbor.  John Steinbeck and his crew

stayed in the outer harbor when he did his six week tour of the Sea of Cortez in

1940.  Cruisers now affectionately call that

outer harbor area "The Waiting Room."  We

traversed the shallow entrance to the inner

harbor and found a spot to anchor near the

dinghy dock.

After anchoring, we got a surprise welcome

serenade from a little finch who landed on our

rail and sang his heart out for us.

Puerto Escondido doesn't have

much besides a small

government run marina and a

little "Modelorama" convenience

store half a mile down the road.  Modelo brews Corona and

Negra Modelo among many other beers, and their convenience

stores are great places to buy many things.  However rival

Tecate can't be found there.

There is an RV park near the

Modelorama, and we wandered

through, hoping to meet some

RVers.  Fifteen years ago a

devastating fire raged through the park

and most owners now have homes built

on their sites instead of RVs.  Several

homes had outdoor kitchens and bars

which looked very inviting.

There is one parking area available for

transient RVers, and we watched with a

funny feeling of nostalgia as two big fifth

wheel rigs pulled out and headed up the

road.  The boating life is fulfilling, but

lately we have been missing the

trailer, especially as summer


Back on the water, we got chatting with the captain of a 65 foot catamaran on a mooring

next to us.  This stunning yacht, built entirely of carbon fiber with a Kevlar overlay on the

hulls, boasts a navigation station reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise.  It had completed

its maiden voyage from California to Cabo San Lucas last year.  That was to be the first

leg of a circumnavigation, but the thrill of crashing down the coast at 25 knots was a little

more than the owner had bargained for, and when he got off the boat he had just two

words for the captain:  "sell it."

This is hardly the first boat that

we've come across where the

owner's plans changed once

the real cruising began.  But at

just under $4 million, it is

definitely the most expensive.

Cruising is a challenging way to travel, much more so than any

other way we've tried.  The difficulties are rarely discussed in the

magazines and books that drive the boating industry, as they prefer

to paint vivid pictures of an idealized life instead.

For most people a boat represents an aspect of a dream, and as one

boat broker once said to me, "I sell dreams."   But for many, including

ourselves, the dream can be elusive.  Defining exactly what the dream is

before setting out can often spell the difference between happiness and

unhappiness in the cruising life.

Resorts are dreams of another kind, and we had just spent several

dreamy days anchored in front of the spectacular Villa del Palmar resort

at Ensenada Blanca which is being constructed by a firm with immensely

deep pockets.  Here in Puerto Escondido we discovered a different

developer's dream-turned-nightmare.  Next to the dinghy dock there is

an intriguing canal that runs under a bridge.  We jumped in the dink one

morning to see what was beyond the bridge.  We found a maze of

canals that wander off in a spider web of possibilities, scooting under

several bridges and fanning out into a subdivision of lots and roads.

This was intended to be a cluster of lovely waterfront homes

and shops, all built along the edges of the canals.  The first

group of buildings was partially constructed some years ago.

We could easily imagine colorful little shops in these buildings,

full of life and tourists.  Instead they are half-built and

abandoned.  Beyond the vacant buildings there are large two-

lane streets with big street lamps hanging over slowly

crumbling sidewalks.  It could be such an awesome place if the

developer's dream had come true, but now it is disintegrating.

Cruisers use Puerto Escondido as a jumping off point to visit and

provision at Loreto some 15 miles north.  Getting to Loreto is not

all that easy, however, as the bus service is infrequent and taxis

and rental cars are expensive.  So we simply took the boat to

Loreto and anchored in front of the town.  It is not a protected

anchorage, but at this season it was fine.

According to his Log of the Sea of Cortez, when Steinbeck

anchored in front of Loreto in the spring of 1940, his arrival was

a special occasion for the town because so few boats ever

stopped in.  He and his crew entertained the port officials on

their boat for hours and gave them cigarettes and matches to

smooth the clearing in process.

When we dropped our anchor we

were one of four boats in front of

Loreto on that at particular afternoon,

and no one paid any attention to us

except our friends on the other boats.

After being in Mexico with a boat for

so long, we have had many

encounters with government and

Navy officials.  We are used to the

crisp uniforms, unfailingly polite

demeanor and the automatic

weapons that can accompany

meeting them on our boat.  We have also grown accustomed to the

long waits that can typify visits to their offices ashore.

So we laughed aloud at Steinbeck's description of the Mexican port

officials as "well dressed men...armed with the .45 caliber automatics

which everywhere in Mexico designate officials.  And they were armed

also with the courtesy which is unique in official Mexico... One fine

thing about Mexican officials is that they greet a fishing boat with the

same serious ceremony they would afford the Queen Mary, and the

Queen Mary would have to wait just as long."

One of our missions in Loreto

was to renew our FM3 travel

visas.  These visas allow tourists

to stay in Mexico for a year

rather than six months, and you

can renew the visa without

having to leave Mexico.

Obtaining an FM3 and renewing

it involves a delicate dance and

shuffle lead by the courteous,

uniformed officials at the

immigration office.  You are

asked to do a lot of fancy

footwork, and once they are

satisfied you are granted a small

laminated ID card.  One of the

more unusual parts of the

process this year was that we

were asked to buy manila

folders so our paperwork could be filed, and at the last

minute our cards were delayed by a day because the

laminating machine had run out of plastic.

The town of Loreto is utterly charming, and impressed us

immediately with its pretty layout, its casual walking

streets and its inviting town center.

It would be easy to laze away many days simply strolling

the streets and sipping morning coffees and afternoon

beers at the outdoor bistros.  There is a friendliness and

relaxed air here that made us smile.

Starbucks hasn't quite

arrived, but a good

imitation has set up shop.

Loreto was

founded in 1697

by Father

Salvatierra, and is

considered the

birthplace of all the missions in both

Baja California and the state of

California.  The mission church has a

quiet presence at one end of the town

center, having withstood many

hurricanes over the centuries.

Out on the waterfront a new resort, as

yet untested by hurricanes, sports an

ornate gate.  We couldn't resist passing

through the gate, and inside we found

a large pool bar where we listened to

Chacho Damianee playing classic rock

n' roll favorites one afternoon.

We always enjoy getting haircuts in small towns, and at

the edge of Loreto we found a wonderful little shop where

two haircuts and some lively conversation in Spanish cost

us a grand total of 140 pesos, or about $12.

Dental work in Mexico is carried out with an efficiency and

simplicity to match a barber's, and we stopped at a

"dentista" for a quickie consultation.  A pain-free filling by

the most gentle and sympathetic dentist's hands I've ever

experienced cost me 450 pesos, or about $40.

The last thing on our agenda for the "big city" of Loreto

was a trip to the Farmer's Market.  Held every Sunday, this

is both a swap meet and a vegetable market.

Many of the veggies are imported

from the US, and the variety and

quality are excellent

This is a big weekly event for

everyone that lives in Loreto, both

Mexicans and gringos, because it

is the best place to stock up on

produce.  The vendors start setting

up their stalls the night before, and

families come right at daybreak to get the best selection.  Meats, goat

cheese, jewelry, clothing, electronics and DVDs can all be found along

with peppers and broccoli.

A toddler eating an apple caught Mark's eye and I snapped a photo of

him.  His older brother noticed and wanted to be in the picture too.

But first he ran over to another stall to drag his other brother back with

him so all three could be in the picture.  They laughed and pointed

when I showed them the photo in the back of the camera.

Before cruising the Sea of Cortez

we had heard that finding fresh

veggies would be very difficult.

Not so.  Now I'm wondering what I

will ever do with all those cans of

veggies I stuffed into the bilge!

There are always little things that

need fixing or tweaking on a

boat, and Mark sat down one

afternoon to rebuild the solenoid

from one of the heads when the

head started running continually.

Little did he know as he smiled

for this photo that in a fit of

"repair me too!" jealousy the

other head would suddenly

refuse to flush two days later.  He

wasn't smiling then!

One day we awoke to Mexico's "Día de la Marina" or "Navy Day" festivities.  Last year we

were in Ensenada for this event and the Navy put on a huge show with tours of their ships,

a parade and lots of fanfare.  Loreto is a much smaller town, and here the day was

celebrated by bringing all the school kids down to the docks for boat rides on the bay.

They were a happy, noisy bunch as they stood excitedly in their school uniforms on the

pier waiting for the boats to pick them up.  And what a gleeful crew they were as they left

to go out into the bay.

That was our last morning in Loreto.  We

had been in the area for three weeks,

and getting ready to leave felt like we

were starting a new chapter.  After

waving off the kids in the pangas we

readied Groovy for our next destination:

San Juanico and Bahía Concepción.

Find Puerto Escondido and Loreto on

Mexico Maps.






































































Loreto: Isla Coronado & Villa del Palmar – Taming the Sea of Cortez

Roads Less Traveled

Villa del Palmar resort in Ensenada Blanca (Bahía Candeleros, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Villa del Palmar resort in Ensenada Blanca (Bahía Candeleros).

Isla Carmen's

Isla Carmen's "Painted Cliffs."

Isla Carmen's Punta Perico anchorage, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Carmen's Punta Perico.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Coronado.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Coronado.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The turquoise water reflects off

the seagulls.

Turkey vulture, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A turkey vulture looks for carion on the beach.

Cardon cactus and seagull, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A seagull perches on a

desert cactus.

Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico sv Groovy at anchor, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Bus parking lot for Villa Del Palmar workers, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Buses wait in a dirt lot to take the resort

workers home.

Liguii village church, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Village church.

Fresh catch - cabrilla (bass) Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jose holds up a cabrilla for us.

Panga fisherman fillets cabrilla, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jose fillets the cabrilla in his panga.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

View from a Villa del Palmar 7th floor balcony.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The resort pools are creatively laid out.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A golf course is going in behind the resort.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A spa and restaurant will grace one end of the resort.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The pool bar overlooks the bay.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Dining in the desert by an open fire -- reminiscent of

the finest resorts in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Groovy anchored in front of Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Groovy sits quietly at the resort's front door.

Isla Coronado & Ensenada Blanca, outside Loreto, Mexico

May, 2011 - At Agua Verde we really began to

relax.  All of a sudden the exertion of seven

months of cruising the Mexican coast had

caught up with us, and there in that little oasis

of tranquility we unwound until we became

blobs of jello.  We went to bed before sundown,

got up after sunrise, and stretched out for naps

in between.  For 17 days the Sea of Cortez

gave us a life without the distraction of the

internet.  The world beyond our immediate

surroundings on the sea seemed very far away.

As we sailed north and turned the corner to pass inside Isla Danzante

our eyes popped out of our heads when a massive resort suddenly

rose out of the mountains, overshadowing a cove and filling our view.

"Holy mackerel, what is that?"  Civilization.  Land of plush vacations.

We could almost hear the air conditioners throbbing, the fresh water

pumping, the workers scurrying.  We could almost see the elegant

meals being served by uniformed waiters on linen tablecloths while

patrons gazed at the expansive view of the Sea and its desert

islands.  Our guidebooks called the bay "Bahía Candeleros," and

mentioned only that a resort was under construction there.  Well, it's

open for business now!

We weren't ready for all that quite yet.  We pressed on, weaving between

the islands and taking a detour around the eastern side of Isla Carmen.

Here the colorful towering cliffs and crying gulls took over once again.  We

stopped at Punta Colorada, and again at a place the guidebook called

"Painted Cliffs" and finally at Punta Perico.  Besides one other sailboat and

the hum of cruisers talking on the radio, humanity disappeared once again.

A few days later we arrived at Isla

Coronado, an ideal little aquamarine

cove where the water is such a bright

turquoise that it reflects off the gulls'

wings as they fly overhead.  We relaxed

into jello once again.  Between swims

and kayak rides I began reading John

Steinbeck's Log of the Sea of Cortez while Mark played guitar.

Visiting the Sea in 1940 on a personal quest to study life in the

coastal tidepools, Steinbeck gives hilarious descriptions of life afloat

on a chartered California sardine boat.  Packed in with six other

guys, he took a six week voyage from California to Cabo, and then

along the inner coastline of the Sea of Cortez and back.  Endless

jars of pickled specimens that the crew collected from tidepools

filled every available space on the boat: crabs, worms, sea

cucumbers, and much more.

I laughed out loud at his wry tales.  They

were all the more poignant because

certain aspects of traveling the Mexican

coast by boat have not changed since

Steinbeck's time.  His skiff's cranky outboard engine, which he derisively nicknamed the "Sea-Cow,"

quickly became an eighth grumpy personality in the mix, running only when it wasn't needed and

leaving the men to row their dinghy in the most challenging conditions.  The crew bickered about

whose turn it was to wash dishes, harassing each other with practical jokes.  And they got caught by

surprise in the La Paz Coromuel winds which "sprang upon us" and "seemed to grow out of the

evening."  By the end of the trip they were all thickly encrusted in salt, as they had long since given up

using fresh water to wash their bodies or their clothes.  In fact, from the start they found the quality of

the fresh water they were able to get for their tanks so dubious for drinking that they endeavored to

consume as little water as possible and live on beer instead.

As I read Steinbeck's Log I found myself pondering the many changes, both

subtle and dramatic, that have taken place in the last 71 years in this remote

part of the world.  Cabo San Lucas, a raucous, pricey, resort-filled party

town today was, in Steinbeck's time, "a sad little town" whose road in from the

bay was "two wheel-ruts in the dust."  At La Paz he bemoaned a new

"expensive looking" hotel going up, as it spelled the end of the town's unique

character and isolation.  "Probably the airplanes will bring weekenders from

Los Angeles before long, and the beautiful bedraggled old town will bloom

with a Floridian ugliness."

In several different parts of the Sea he described seeing schools of leaping

swordfish.  Swarming the boat in thick schools, they "jumped clear out of the

water" and "seemed to play in pure joy."  In other places the schools were

tuna, and they too leaped around the boat with total abandon.  The tuna

would shimmer silver in the sun as they rocketed out of the blue depths and wriggled in the air.  On the Pacific side of Baja

between Magdalena Bay and Cabo San Lucas, he wrote: "We came upon hosts rock-lobsters on the surface,

brilliant red and beautiful against the ultramarine of the water...The water seemed almost solid with the little red crustacea."

We haven't seen any of those things, and we haven't heard of anyone else seeing them either.  However, the leaping manta

rays Steinbeck describes are still here, doing somersaults and slapping the water in loud belly smacks.  We had first seen

them 500 miles south in Las Hadas in Manzanillo.  They cruised Isla Coronado's cove in huge schools, fooling us when we

first arrived into thinking we had accidentally anchored next to a rock.  Jumping in with masks and snorkels, we searched

everywhere for that rock only to realize it had been a school of rays floating past.

Steinbeck vividly describes

the Japanese shrimping factory ships that filled the Sea in 1940.

He and his crew spent time on one of these ships and watched in horror as the massive nets scraped

the bottom clean of all sea life.  Fish from every level of the sea came up in the nets: sharks, turtles,

pompano, sea horses, sea fans and more.  All were discarded overboard in a sea of death, except the

shrimp which were processed and packaged to be taken home to Japan.  He bitterly lamented the

waste of a massive food source that could feed the Mexican people indefinitely.  At the same time he

conceded that none of the dead fish were wasted, as the birds scooped up every morsel that had been

thrown over the side.

A Spanish speaking cruiser told us he had talked at length with some lobstermen on the Pacific side

of Baja as he sailed south from San Diego last January.  He learned that these men work in

cooperatives for Japanese ships that wait in Ensenada and sail once the holds are filled.  The

lobstermen have a quotas that the cooperative must meet -- some 20,000 tons of lobster

per month was a number he was given -- and all the lobstermen are paid equally if the

quota is met.

While Steinbeck and his crew got progressively grubbier, drinking warm beer and eating

spaghetti twice a week, they felt a stab of jealousy when a sleek black yacht sailed by.  The

passengers, dressed in white, relaxed in chairs on the shaded back deck sipping tall cool

drinks.  Today we see the enormous power megayachts and can only wonder what that life

is like.  The upper crust passengers are usually hidden behind large tinted windows, and

the sliding glass doors are usually closed to keep the air conditioning in.

Eventually our curiosity about the resort we had sailed by earlier overtook us and we

doubled back.  "Bahia Candeleros" seems to be the name that was assigned to this bay by

the earliest cruisers and nautical charts.  But we soon learned that everyone in the nearby

village -- and even Google Earth -- refers to this bay as "Ensenada Blanca."

Whatever the name, it is a fascinating convergence of the old Sea and the new.  At one end

of the cove stands a small fish camp where drying clothes hang out on clotheslines and

cisterns hold water on the roofs of rickety shacks that look like they would collapse in a

storm.  A tiny village half a mile inland has a small church and store, reminiscent of Agua

Verde a few miles south.  Pangas on the beach bring in small boatloads of fish.

A friendly fellow at this end of the beach named Jose sold us a

"cabrilla" (bass) that had been caught and laid on ice that morning.  He

filleted it expertly on the seat of his panga and rinsed the flesh in the

seawater at his feet.  The gulls and pelicans gathered in a noisy crowd

nearby and fought each other over scraps.

Jose explained to us

that the well built

fiberglass pangas we

have seen on every

part of the Mexican

coast are built in

Mexico using molds

made in the US.  These

rugged boats have replaced the common

fishing boats that Steinbeck described as "double-ended canoes carved out of a single log of

light wood, braced inside with struts...seaworthy and fast."  Today's pangas are driven by

powerful outboards whereas the canoes were "paddled by two men, one at either end."

The eldest Baja citizens, whom Steinbeck called "Indians," would have been small children

when he was here.  He wrote: "When we think of La Paz it is always of the small boys that we

think first."  They swarmed his boat, curious and eager to help him collect sea creatures when

he offered a few centavos per specimen.  Those boys would be old men now, and they may

still be telling tales to their grandkids of gathering clams and worms and crabs for some crazy

gringos in exchange for a few centavos each.  Not even a full lifetime has passed.

Wandering down to the other

end of the cove it seems like

centuries must have gone by.

The gargantuan resort is called

Villa del Palmar, and the guards

were happy to arrange a tour for

us.  What a place.  Only the

finest materials have been used,

the highest end appliances fill

each suite, and the layout of the pools and gardens, as viewed

from a seventh floor balcony, is an artful pattern in the shape of

a sea turtle.  It is Scottsdale, Arizona on the Sea.

We learned that this resort is just the first of three similar hotels

planned for this small bay.  "Villa de la Estancia" and "Villa del Arco"

will follow.  A golf course will line the base of the mountains and

condos will be built in all of the nooks and crannies in between.

We looked out over the construction in awe.  Backhoes clawed

the dirt while cement trucks flowed to and fro.  Uniformed men

with clipboards checked the progress while workers nodded

confidently at them, wiping their sweaty brows with dusty

hands.  The air was filled with purpose and excitement.

Our tour guide, Gabriel, lives in Loreto and he couldn't stop

smiling throughout the entire tour.  He is thrilled to have this

job, working in a beautiful place in handsome clothes and with

what he believes is a fine future ahead.  He told us the resort

employs 250 people.  About 50 guests were there during its

second month of operation.  We had seen the buses that the

company uses to bring the employees in from town.  The road

to the resort is not yet paved and the buses park behind the

fish camp in a large dirt lot.

In the afternoon Mauricio, the music electronics whiz who sets up

the karaoke machines at the pool bar, told us he transferred in

from Mexico city.  He is being housed in one of the beautiful

condos set back in the hillsides while he looks for a home so he

can transfer his family from the mainland.  He likes the school

system in Loreto and is pleased there is a university there.  His

wife, a bank manager, may find work at the hotel too, and he hopes

his kids will be able to continue the after-school activities they now

enjoy in Mexico City: horseback riding, swimming and soccer.

The entire resort pulsed with the feelings of opportunity, promise

and the future.  This is the new Sea of Cortez that Steinbeck

knew was coming, tamed and gentrified for well-heeled tourists.

Along with the classy resort came an internet signal, and what a

surprise it was after so long adrift from world news to find out that

Osama bin Laden had been captured and killed.  This mirrored

Steinbeck's experience too.  He discovered that while he was in

the Sea, "Hitler marched into Denmark and into Norway, France

had fallen, the Maginot line was lost -- we didn't know it but we

knew the daily catch of every boat within 400 miles."

We stayed for several days, enjoying

placid, clear water and lovely views as

Groovy slowly swung at anchor.  Finally a

need for provisions pushed us into the

busy ports of Puerto Escondido and


Find Isla Coronado, Ensenada Blance and Loreto on Mexico Maps


































































































Loreto: Agua Verde – “The Best of the Sea of Cortez”

Sea of Cortezl blog - We bought fish at San Evaristo, explored sea caves at Ensenada Ballena, waited out a Norther in Santa Marta, and fell in love with life in Agua Verde.

San Evaristo: a family visits to sell us

"langostas" (lobster).

A family on a fishing panga visits in San Evaristo, Baja California Sur, Mexico

"Gosta" said the toddler, eliciting proud smiles.

Puerto Los Gatos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Puerto los Gatos is rimmed with smoothly rounded

red rocks.  Utah on the ocean.

Bahia San Marcial / Bahia San Marte, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Sedona meets the Sea.

Sierra de la Giganta mountain range, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Vibrantly striated cliffs along the Sierra de La Giganta mountains lining the Sea of Cortez.

Punta Gavilan, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Punta Gavilán ("Oarlock Point").

Sea cave, Ensenada de la Ballena / Bahia Berrendo, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Sea cave at Ensenada de la Ballena.

Sea cave, Ensenada de la Ballena / Bahia Berrendo, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Inside the sea cave was a

complete ecosystem.

crab, Ensenada de la Ballena / Bahia Berrendo, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Brilliantly colored crab.

beach, Ensenada de la Ballena / Bahia Berrendo, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Cactus grows among the rocks on the beach at

Ensenada de la Ballena (Bahía Berrendo).

Whale bone, Ensenada de la Ballena / Bahia Berrendo, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A whale's pelvic bone sits on the beach at aptly

named Ensenada de la Ballena ("Whale Cove").

Whale bone, Ensenada de la Ballena / Bahia Berrendo, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Those guys are big!!

Bahia Santa Marta, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Groovy braces for the norther at

Bahía Santa Marta.

Late season norther, Bahia Santa Marta, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The results of a

savage wave.

Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Two days later Agua Verde

is the mirror of tranquility.

Roca Solitaria Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

"Roca Solitaria" evokes the Grand Canyon's "Point Imperial."

Red rock cliffs Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The red rock cliffs tower above

the sailboats at anchor.

Sierra de la Giganta Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A sailboat disappears against Baja California's

spectacular mountains.

Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Cactus and pretty water

at Agua Verde.

Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico


Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Agua Verde's picturesque bay.

Mission church Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Agua Verde village church.

Free range goats, Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Goats wander freely.

Free range cattle, Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Everyone rests in the shade

at midday.

Maria's Tienda Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Maria's Tienda

Mini Market Miguelito

Mini Market Miguelito with a solar panel out front.

Mini Market Miguelito Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

No fancy gourmet goods, but the basics are all here.

Mini market Miguelito Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Outdoor refrigerators contain chilled vegetables.

Fishing village Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Agua Verde is all about fishing.

Sea kayakers Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Sea kayakers travel

this area frequently.

Cactus on our hike, Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Old cemetery Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Agua Verde's old cemetery dates from the mid-1900's.

Free range cattle, Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Where's the beef? Free-range cattle

make a meager living out here.

Desert skull, Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Groovy is boarded by La Armada de

México (the Mexican Navy) once again.

Puerto Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Path from town to the beach.

Agua Verde, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Late April-Early May, 2011 - We left Isla San Francisco to head north knowing that a "Norther" (several days of big north

winds and seas) was due to arrive in a few days.  So in the back of our minds at each anchorage we visited we asked

ourselves "would this be okay in northerly blow?"

Our first stop was San Evaristo, a small pair of coves on either

side of a fishing camp that houses a few families.  As the sun was

setting a panga loaded with people came out to visit our boat.  It

turned out to be a family, including a baby.

"Negocios!!  Quieren langostas?" (Let's do business!  Do you want

lobster?).  I explained that we don't really like lobster but we love fish.

To my astonishment, the young driver told me they had no fish on the boat but he would be back in an hour with some for us.

When they came back, as promised, it was dark.  A young girl held up the toddler.  "Escucha!" (Listen!") she said, and then

prompted the toddler to say "langosta," the word for lobster.  "Gosta" the little girl said hesitantly.  The mom beamed at me

with pride and everyone in the boat laughed.  There's nothing so cute as a baby struggling to say its first words, even when

they don't quite say them right.  If only my feeble efforts at Spanish were met with such delight!

We decided to move further north and stopped at Puerto Los Gatos.

This is a stunning cove, just big enough for a few boats, where

beautiful, smoothly rounded red rocks roll down to the water.

Before we had a chance to explore ashore, we were suddenly

chased out of the anchorage by a horde of thirsty bees.  They

buzzed all over Groovy looking for fresh water.  There are so many

fresh water sources fit for a bee on our boat (faucets, shower

heads, sinks and toilets) that it was easier for us to leave the cove

than to persuade the bees to leave the boat.

The Baja coast along this

stretch pierces the sky in

enormous, jagged

mountains, cliffs and rock

formations.  In many places

the carved rock faces are

striated in a rainbow of

whites, reds and browns.

We stopped briefly at Ensenada de la Ballena, also known as Bahía Berrendo, a

small gravel beach tucked into the south side of a craggy point.  High up on the cliffs

is a perfectly round hole giving the point its name "Oarlock Point" or "Punta Gavilán."

There is a small sea cave in this bay as well,

and we snuck inside and listened to the waves

echoing off the back walls.

Lots of little bright red legged crabs crawled

around the inside of the cave.

It still amazes me to see this junction of the

desert and the sea.  A large stand of cactus

filled a valley behind the beach and ran up the sides of two mountains.

Here and there, tucked into the beach rocks, we found baby cactus

taking root.

A little further on

we came across

a whale's pelvic

bone.  It was very

well preserved,

with individual

vertebrae and

some very long

narrow bones

resting nearby.

There are three anchorages in this area

that offer north wind protection, and we

chose the prettiest one, Bahía Santa

Marta, to wait out the Norther.  There was a beach with a

collection of palm trees at one end, and the red rocks

rising behind the beach were layered.  In hindsight a

better choice would have been Bahía San Marcial (also

known as Bahía San Marte).  But you don't necessarily

know these things ahead of time.

Once the wind started to blow it seemed like it would

never let up.  We saw gusts over 30 mph, and later we

heard that a few miles north in Puerto Escondido where

"Loreto Fest" was taking place the gusts got into the 40's.

The last day of their activities had to be canceled as no

one wanted to leave their boat.  Some boats broke off

their mooring lines and other boats dragged their anchors.

We had no such trouble, but the swell was merciless.

Groovy rocked and rolled and the two of us fell all over ourselves

and each other as we tried to move about the boat.

I snuck off in the porta-bote just to get a change of scenery during

each of the three days, but the conditions were downright scary in

the dink and I didn't go far.  Our anchor chain got hung up under some

rocks and pinned the boat on a very short leash for a while.  This made the

jerking motion even worse as the bow of the boat yanked at the chain like

a wild dog.  At one point Mark came up into the cockpit asking if I'd seen

the kitchen knife.  We use this knife many times every day, and it never

goes missing.  "I left it on the counter..."  I said.  He found it stuck in the

floor like a javelin.  The force of one of the boat's rolls had flung it off the

counter with such power it had landed point down and stuck in the floor

about a quarter inch.  Thwang!!!

We were grateful when the norther finally blew itself out.  Rounding the

point we finally made radio contact with the rest of the cruising fleet and

were relieved to hear human voices and stories once again.  We

discovered this had been supposed to be a "mild late-season norther," and it caught everyone a

bit off guard.  Everybody was amazed that a blow like this could hit with such ferocity as late as

early May.

When we arrived in idyllic Agua

Verde, where the water was

smooth and the wind just a

pleasant breeze, it occurred to

us that the Sea of Cortez has a

Jeckyll and Hyde soul.  One

minute the Sea is a raging

terror, and the next minute it

is a tranquil paradise.

We took the dinghy out at

daybreak one morning and

slipped across mirrored water.

The rock pinnacle "Roca Solitaria"

stands sentinel at the mouth of

Agua Verde bay, and it stood out

in sharp relief against the striped

rock cliffs on the shore behind it.  I

was reminded of "Point Imperial"

at the Grand Canyon's North

Rim.  But the glassy water at the

foot of the cliffs planted this place

firmly in the Sea.

Agua Verde is very popular, offering

three unique and delightful spots to drop

the hook.  The boats were dwarfed by

the rocky mountains rising behind them.

We took a hike up and over the hills that

rise behind the northern beach.  The

views looking back down at the bay were


Wandering into the village one morning,

we walked the dusty streets.  The

nearest town, Loreto, is 60 miles away,

25 miles of which is a mountainous a dirt

road.  This little fishing village is isolated

and close-knit.

Goats wander freely, their little bells tinkling as they walk.  Spring

had been good to the goats, and almost all the goats we saw were

mothers with their babies.

Days are hot and still, and everyone takes shelter in any kind of shade

they can find.  We passed a school and watched the children walking

home in their tidy little uniforms carrying their school papers and


We were in need of a few

supplies and had heard that

Maria's Tienda (Maria's Store)

had a few supplies.  The only

thing that distinguished Maria's

Tienda from the surrounding

homes was a little bit of writing

outside the door on the front wall.

She had some staples, but not what we were looking for, so she sent us

on to the other village store, telling us to look for a red building.  "Mini-

Market Miguelito" was much better marked and a group of moms was

hanging around inside chatting with each other.  These village stores are

not supermarkets or even convenience stores, by any stretch of the

imagination, but the few shelves had a surprising variety of items.

When I asked about vegetables I was led outside to some

large top-loading refrigerators under the trees outside.  I

peered in one and was astonished to find peppers, celery,

cucumbers and apples.  What impressed me even more is

that these refrigerators -- as well as almost every building in

town -- were powered by a solar panel or two outside.  A

simple wire ran from the panels to the charge controller, car battery and inverter.

Agua Verde lives and dies by fishing, and the dads went out in

their pangas twice a day six days a week to fish.  Early in the

morning the men would suit up in bright orange foul weather

gear and cast off, waving goodbye to their wives on shore.  In

the early afternoon they would return and a whole commercial

exchange would take place.  Fish were unloaded from the boats

and carefully counted and loaded into coolers in pickup trucks.

One by one the trucks would take off, including one small

refrigerator truck.  Another truck carrying gasoline tanks would

arrive and run a hose to fill the gas tanks on the fishing boats.

Then the beach would clear out for a few hours and return to the

possession of the gulls and pelicans.  As the sun was setting the

whole process would repeat, with the wives and kids waving off

the fishermen as they left for the night's catch.  Long after dark

we would hear the pangas return.

I was reminded of my great-grandfather who was a lobsterman on Massachusetts' north shore in the

early 1900's.  He rowed his dory from lobster pot to lobster pot faithfully every day, hauling them by

hand.  His village was small and tight-knit too, made up mostly of Scandinavian immigrants and

situated at the end of a long journey from Boston.  Agua Verde lives in the early 21st century,

however, and the Honda outboards were big and powerful and the pickup trucks were late models

from Dodge and Chevy.  One fisherman was putting in his iPod earbuds as he zipped past our boat,

and they all had VHF radios and antennas.  The trade is the same, but it is a different era.

This part of the Sea is traveled by kayakers

as well as fishermen and cruisers, and we

met several who were kayaking and camping

en route to La Paz from Loreto.

One day we hiked over the hill past an old

cemetery.  The tombstones were from the

1930's to the 1960's, and some still bore

adornments lovingly placed there by living family members.

The hiking trail

follows a wash

out to the

beach, and

the free-ranging cattle were

in abundance.

Laid out on the ground in

one spot we saw the

skeleton of what we thought

was a horse, complete with

skull, vertebrae and leg

bones.  All the bones were

bleached white in the sun, and a jawbone laid off to one

side showing a full row of molars.

One afternoon a Mexican Navy boat entered the bay

and anchored.  All the cruisers kept an eye on the boat,

waiting for the inevitable moment when we

would all get a visit.  To our surprise the Navy

boarded several fishing pangas as the

fishermen headed out for the evening's catch.

This business of being boarded by the Mexican

Navy is an equal opportunity affair.  A few

lagging pangas snuck out of the bay on the far

side to avoid being detained, but another went

straight to his buddy who had been waylaid and

waited for him to finish with the Navy so they

could go out to fish together.

The cruisers' turns came the next

morning, and as before it was an

easy process.  This time it was

more like a US Coast Guard

boarding: along with the usual paperwork they wanted to see that our flares were up

to date, our fire extinguishers hadn't expired and that we had life preservers for

everyone on board.  We have now been boarded three times in two months (the

second was so trivial I didn't mention it on these pages).  Seasoned cruisers say it

was never this way in the past.  It's just a sign of the times.

Agua Verde was a classic Sea of Cortez stop.  Clear turquoise water, calm nights and

a dusty but vibrant fishing village, all set against the soaring jagged peaks of Baja

California's Sierra de la Giganta mountain range.  By the time we left our sprits were

completely restored after the wild ride we'd been given during the late season

Norther, and we were ready for more Baja adventures in the Loreto area.

Find San Evaristo, Puerto Los Gatos and Agua Verde on Mexico Maps.





























































































































La Paz: Ensenada Grande & Isla San Francisco – Stunning Anchorages

Sail blog post - Ensenada Grande is an exquisite anchorage of red rocks and turquoise water, and the hikes are matched only by those on Isla San Francisco.

Red rocks and cactus at

Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Cactus on the water's edge, at

Isla Partida's Enseanda Grande

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

This could be Sedona,


Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Unusual rock formations line the far edge of the bay.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

These cliffs dwarf the huge

cactus rooted on them.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The calm, clear waters of

Ensenada Grande bring

charterboats of all sizes.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A campsite for dive charters on the beach at Enseanda Grande.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

You can sleep in a tent or out under the stars.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

These funny little buildings turned out to be


Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Not bad facilities for a beach camp

on a desert island.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Divers kick back here to contemplate all

they saw on their Sea of Cortez dives.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

We wander up a wash and look back at the cove.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Cardón cactus, cousins of

Arizona's Saguaro cactus, grow

all over the canyon.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Bats pollinate these cactus at night.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

As we hiked into the canyon

the heat and stillness erased

all thoughts of the ocean.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

It is a bit of a stair-step hike.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Little whispy trees seem to thrive.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The hike ends at cliff's edge

overlooking the Sea.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Looking east from isla Partida.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

On our way back the view of Ensenada Grande grows larger.

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida, Islas Espiritu Santos, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Beach living at its best.

Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla San Francisco just a few miles north of Isla Partida.

Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Vivid colors of Isla San Francisco

Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla San Francisco's popular  "hook" anchorage.

Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The anchorage opposite the "hook."

Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Hiking trail on the ridge of Isla

San Francisco.

Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Moorings bareboat charter boat.

Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Spectacular views reward hikers after a long scramble.

Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla San Francisco.

Ensenada Grande & Isla San Francisco, Mexico

Late April, 2011 - Our first stop north of La Paz was at

Ensenada Grande located on the west side of Isla Partida.

This is one of the few anchorages in the area that is well

protected from the nasty nighttime south/southwesterly

Coromuel winds, and we tucked right up into a tiny cove

where we were well sheltered by red rock hillsides.

Looking at the scenic bay around us, it seemed we were

at the meeting place of the desert's most spectacular

cactus-adorned red rocks and the jade green sea.

We jumped in the kayak to see everything up close, and

moseyed along the base of the red rock cliffs.  Cactus

grew out of crevices in the rock, somehow eking out a

living from those few morsels of dirt that had gotten

wedged into the cracks.

The deeper water undulated turquoise green, while the

shallower water revealed all the details of the rocks and

fish under the surface.

On the far side of the bay the rock

formations were intriguing.  Carved

out underneath by the wind and

waves, the rock cliffs were smooth

and rounded, as if shaped by a divine

hand working in wet clay.  On top of

the bluff the desert's crispy crust

seemed almost to drip over the sides

towards the water.  The tall cactus

seem small compared to the cliffs.

Leading up to the main beach the

water runs shallow for 100 yards or

more, rising and falling in a billowing

veil over the sand.  This is a popular spot for day and

weekend charters from La Paz, and during our stay we saw

several extraordinarily appointed megayachts stopping in for

an afternoon or an overnight in the bay.

We pulled the kayak up onto the beach and were very

surprised to find a little encampment perched on the water's

edge.  A Mexican fellow was singing Queen tunes as he raked

the word "Welcome" into the sand.  His name was Hernando,

and he told us this little oasis was a "campsite" for visiting dive

charters.  Three large, rugged tents were set up with cots and

bedding.  True nature lovers could take their cots out onto the

beach and sleep under the stars.

Off to one side stood several homemade little shacks with

doors.  Peaking inside one I discovered it was a neat little

outhouse, complete with a marine pump toilet, toilet paper

and a colorfully woven wall covering.

Hernando started

working in the

little kitchen

building, and he explained that

this place was used by dive

charter companies and was open

every day from April to

November.  Down on the beach

there were plastic lounge chairs

and some fantastic varnished

wood chairs and umbrella tables.

What a cool place to take a load off after a

reef dive in the Sea of Cortez.

Turning back towards the red rock canyons

behind the dive camp, we found a desert

wash running down from the mountains to

the beach.  Lush vegetation grew all around

and beckoned to us to

walk in a little further.

Wandering into the wash,

we found ourselves

surrounded by healthy,

vigorous cactus.  As we

got deeper into the

canyon, the sounds of

the bay began to vanish, replaced

by the buzz of heat bugs

alternating with the intense silence

of the hot desert rocks.

We have been away from the

desert for so long it felt like coming home.  We happily

soaked up the dry heat, enjoying the feeling of the sun

prickling our arms.  The cactus were amazingly thick,

and as we walked deeper into the canyon we were

suddenly immersed in utter silence.

We had come ashore just for a quick look around and

were wearing water shoes and bathing suits.  This

place deserved a much closer look, and the next day

we came back dressed more appropriately for a

desert hike, armed with hats and hiking boots.

A few cardón cactus arms were trimmed

with flowers.  Like their northern cousins,

the Saguaro cactus, these guys get

pollinated at night by bats, so their

flowers are timed for nighttime opening.

The hike is a scramble up a boulder filled

wash, and it was a good little workout

stair-stepping our way up.  As the bay and

boats and beach receded behind us, we

became more and more certain that we were

deep in the Arizona desert, far from all

thoughts of oceans or water.

Little scraggly trees grew here and there, taking tiny sips

of water from the moisture that occasionally seeped down

the wash.  Lizards crawled on the rocks at our feet.

Finally the boulders in the wash gave

way to a wide open pebbly expanse,

and we marched up and out of the

canyon onto a vast plateau.  Sensing a

stunning view just over the rise, we

picked up the pace to a near run until

we stopped short at the edge of a cliff

that hung out over the water below.

The Sea of Cortez stretched for miles

of blueness into the distance, and we

could clearly see every rock and

contour of the water hundreds of feet

below us.

After inhaling a few

deep breaths of

success and

satisfaction we started

back down again,

watching the little cove

of Ensenada Grande

growing beyond the

desert rocks and

cactus.  What a

fantastic combination of

desert and ocean.

As we walked the last few steps through the scrubby brush at the base of the wash, the dive

camp reappeared along the beach.  The scene looked so inviting, like a little slice of heaven.

The Coromuel winds continued to howl at 20 knots all

night every night, making the boat swing and sway on the

anchor line.  But we were close enough to the shore to

prevent any waves from reaching us, so we stayed flat and

slept well.

One morning we caught the tail end of the previous night's

Coromuel wind for a ride up to Isla San Francisco.  With

the breeze at our backs we romped along steadily at 8

knots, exhilarated to feel the boat surge forward in

response to even the slightest puff.

Isla San Francisco has a picturesque anchorage that is shaped like a

huge circular hook and is lined with a thin white beach.  We took our

position among the collection of anchored boats and then just stared

at the shore for a while, mesmerized by the colors and the view.

Bright blue sky, craggy reddish rock hills, blindingly white sand, and

smooth green water lay before us.  The island begged to be explored,

and we immediately dashed ashore to scurry up the short hike to the

ridge trail that snakes along the hills at one end of the bay.  What a

perfect perch to gaze down at the anchorage and out across the bay

to the Baja mountains on the horizon.

There is another anchorage on the other side of the

island, opposite the favored "hook" anchorage, and it is

easily visible from this ridge trail as well.  We pranced

along the skinny footpath, meeting the crews from

several other cruising boats and charter boats along the

way.  This place is "not to be missed" and few boats

coming up from La Paz ever miss it.

During our stay we connected with the crews from two

bareboat charters.  One was a young couple form

Vancouver Island aboard a McGregor 26 for a week.

After seeing so many heavily outfitted 40' cruising

sailboats driven by grey haired retirees, it was refreshing

to see these two kids in a little boat arrive in the anchorage.

Their sailboat was outfitted with just a simple outboard

engine, tiny solar panel and mini-fridge, but what a blast

they were having.  They swam and snorkeled with

abandon, and when we invited them aboard Groovy for

cocktails along with some other cruisers, it was soon

evident that even at their young age they were more

experienced sailors than many cruisers.

We saw several sleek

charter sailboats from

the Moorings too.  The

one with the Swiss

family aboard was our favorite.  They were celebrating their 20th anniversary and sharing

the moment with their four young teenage and pre-teen children.  The mom and dad were in

and out of the water as much as the kids were.  Sunbathing, reading, teasing each other,

and pushing each other over the sides, this family made the most of every day.  They were

on the boat for just a week and they liked Isla San Francisco so much they stayed for four

nights.  Like the other young charterers, they were seasoned sailors, and had chartered all

over the Mediterranean and Caribbean.  We were impressed when they headed out for an

afternoon daysail and sailed off their anchor with ease, rather than using the engine.

Watching these exuberant vacationers was

inspiring.  It is easy, after living this lifestyle for a

while, to forget just how special each day is.  When

Mark stood on the swim platform for a very long

time one afternoon, debating whether or not to

brave the cold water, I reminded him, "Hey, those

folks on the charter boats wouldn't think twice..."  With

a loud splash and a gurgled shriek, he hit the water

and bounced back to the surface

wearing a satisfied smile.

Isla San Francisco has another

hiking trail that leads up to a higher

peak.  This trail is not used too often,

and after passing a few rock cairns

that marked the start of the trail, we

were soon scrambling up an

unmarked pebbly, slippery slope.

At the top we were rewarded with

marvelous views that were well worth

the dicey descent that followed.

We had heard news of an impending late season "Norther" that would

bring big north winds and stormy seas for a few days.  Crews of boats

began strategizing which anchorage would offer the best protection,

and because of the huge cruising event called "Loreto Fest" going on

a bit north of us, we knew we would be challenged to find a good

anchorage that wasn't already loaded with other boats if we didn't get

going soon.  Looking back with 20-20 hindsight we now realize we

should have stayed put at Isla San Francisco for another week, as it

offers the best north wind and wave protection in the area.  But we

didn't, and we were soon in for a wild ride before we found paradise

again at Agua Verde.

Find Isla Partida (Ensenada Grande) and Isla San Francisco

on Mexico Maps.