North to the Sea

After 4 months in Banderas Bay, it was time to head north to the Sea of Cortez for the summer. We left La Cruz at around 8am for the 170 nm sail to Mazatlan. We could have stopped along the way at a number of small anchorages but decided that we wanted to get north as soon as possible to enjoy the beautiful turquoise waters for which the Sea of Cortez is known. Don’t get me wrong, Banderas Bay is lovely, but there’s nothing like swimming in water where you can see your anchor (and all of the other things that might be lurking around).

At around 2pm the following day, we arrived at our anchorage just outside of old Mazatlan harbor. Two days later we were off again to cross from Mazatlan on the mainland to Bahia Los Muertos on the Baja Peninsula – a journey of 196 nautical miles. Each of these overnight passages were uneventful except for the fact that, although we were heading in slightly different directions each time, the wind managed to change just enough each time to be what we call “on the nose”, or blowing directly into the direction in which we wanted to sail. For those non-sailors, you can’t sail directly into the wind, which means additional miles of sailing were required. So in the end, the 170 nm and 196 nm passages were actually much longer. After a day of rest at Los Muertos, we stopped at San Gabriel, one of our favourite anchorages on Isla Espiritu Santo before heading back into La Paz.

Richard at San Gabriel

We had only planned on a quick “in and out” while in La Paz in order to refuel and reprovision. While we were there we met up with our friends Ken and Sheri on the sailing vessel Cake and met some great new people as well. Four days later we hauled up anchor and said goodbye to La Paz for the second time on our travels. We headed back to Bahia San Gabriel with Cake to show them one of our favourite anchorages.

San Gabriel at Dusk

(Before I continue, I must share a bit of local weather terminology. Coromuel winds are found in the La Paz area where they usually begin in the evening and blow throughout the night. They are more frequent in the late spring and summer and usually blow from the south or southwest. The information that we had on these winds, however, never indicated the typical wind speeds.) We had just finished a lovely dinner aboard Cake and dinghied back to our boat in flat, calm conditions at 10:30 pm. By midnight the wind suddenly picked up and continued throughout the night at around 30 – 40 knots. By 5:30 am, the water had become so rough that the boat was bucking in 4 – 5 foot waves. We even had to close our forward hatch because waves were crashing over the bow! This continued until 10 am when the wind finally died and we departed for another anchorage under such calm conditions that we could barely sail. Imagine that! After speaking with some other cruisers, they said that this was not a typical Coromuel but rather a storm system. However, it was enough for me to seek out every bit of protection from the south or southwest in the ensuing days.

Our next stop was Playa Bonanza on the opposite side of the island. Bonanza is the longest sand beach on Isla Espiritu Santo, stretching nearly 2 miles. It was heaven for beach walks and shelling and also great water for swimming. We did experience Coromuels each night, but had sought enough protection to mitigate its effects. These were more “typical” Coromuels registering only 20 – 25 knot winds. After a few days at Bonanza we continued north to our new favourite anchorage called Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida. The colour of the water there was unbelievable – turquoise and incredibly clear. You could see every blade of grass on the sandy bottom.

Ensenada Grande Hike

We spent four days there with other friends and enjoyed swimming, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, beach walks, bocce ball and many happy hours. We even had a session of what we called “red neck water skiing” where the guys were each pulled behind the dinghy on a paddleboard.

Happy Hour

Red Neck Water Skiing

Red Neck Water Skiing 2

Richard Hiking Ensenada Grande

Auds at Ensenada Grande

Each night we were visited by the Coromuels, but we had tucked in so tightly in the anchorage that we were all set. We had heard that these night-time winds would disappear the further north we headed, so we decided to continue northward to a beautiful anchorage called Bahia San Francisco. I thought the water was beautiful in Ensenada Grande, but this water was even more turquoise and more clear. That night we slept peacefully without the howling of the Coromuels. Had we finally left them behind?

Bahia San Francisco

Auds and Richard at Bahia San Francisco

Since leaving La Cruz, I have vowed that I would take advantage of the beautiful, calm waters of the Sea of Cortez anchorages and swim each day. Our morning regiment now includes 20 laps around the boat followed by some water calisthenics for me and kayaking for Richard.

So far the Sea of Cortez has not disappointed us. We’re looking forward to checking out many other anchorages throughout the summer and saying good-bye to the Coromuels.