The Second Season Has Started!

As we neared the boat yard in Guaymas where Carmanah was hauled out for the summer, we had butterflies in our stomachs and there was nervous chatter at the thought of what we might find. But when we arrived just before sunset, she looked fine—from the outside. Finding a ladder to look inside was a little challenging however when we finally were able to climb aboard and slide the hatch back, none of our fears were realized. Everything was as we left it except that the self inflating man-over-board device had self-deployed in the torrential rains of hurricane Newton.

We spent the next four days preparing the boat for launch. We stayed in a nearby hotel with air conditioning which kept us from passing out from heat stroke, it was hitting over a hundred each day. October 13 is a little on the early side for returning, and “they” say it was an unusually hot October. We ended up setting the alarm for 3:30 AM to get as much work done as possible before the sun rose then knocking off for the day by noon. But we were able to launch a day early and motor up to the marina in San Carlos for the final preparations which took 9 days instead of the 4 that we’d hoped for. But we got to hang out with fun people and the 20 peso (about $1) draft beers at Hammerhead’s made it enjoyable. Still we were pretty pumped when we finally sailed out of the harbor and started heading north.

We decided to sail up the mainland coast to Isla Tiburon, the largest island in all of Mexico. The whole island is a nature preserve and homeland to the Seri Indians so we had to ask Lucy to be on her best behavior and not cause any ecological disasters. In return we agreed to anchor at Dog’s Bay on the first night. Right away we felt the seclusion and rawness that can be found north of Vancouver Island or the west coast of the Queen Charlottes. We (Carmanah and Voila) were the only boats at almost every anchorage we visited. We never even saw another boat out on the water other than local fish boats. The window between summer heat and winter gales(cold winds from the north start in late November) is fairly narrow, you have to enjoy it while you can. Kind of like the BC northcoast. The water cooled from 82 down near San Carlos to 76 at Tiburon and when we crossed over to Isla Partida near the Baja side, we ran through some strong tidal currents that caused even colder water to well up between Tiburon and Isla San Estaban creating fog. Really, fog in the Sea of Cortez. A first for us since rounding to Cabo San Lucas last year. We had to fire up the radar….and it still worked. Yes!  The fog only lasted the width of the channel but it was exciting and reminded us of home.

Isla Partida was a convenient midway stop on our crossing to Baja that turned out to be a real gem. Moderately protected but we had very settled weather and we discovered an abundance of fish when we hopped in to go snorkeling. Unfortunately when I pulled back the band on my spear gun for the first time, it broke and I thought I was out of luck for fishing with groupers, sierra, triggers, and bass swimming everywhere and begging to join us for dinner. But I dug out my fishing pole and an unlikely lure and began trolling from the dinghy. Fish-on immediately. And so the fun began. We dinghy fished everywhere after that. In some ways it’s more fun than catching the big fish like yellow fin tuna you can get in the open water and you can keep only what you need for dinner.     The wind came up from the wrong direction on our third night at Partida and we had to do a midnight move to the other side of the island. Luckily we had previously set a way-point for anchoring there and our GPS tracks were easy to follow around the rocks in the dark.

But it was time to move on so the next day we sailed on a close reach to the Puerto Don Juan on the Baja. No port there but a completely protected “hurricane hole” that gave us a base to visit Bahia de Los Angeles, the only town in the area. BLA village sits on the water adjacent to a low area in the mountains that separate the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez so winds can come roaring in with a vengeance from the Pacific side, especially at night when “Elephantes” can reach 50 knots as cold air slides down the valleys.   We decided on a day trip. Very cool little town but with a lot of drive-down Americans who trailer small boats to go fishing. The town map (as with many coastal communities) shows a section called “La Gringa” where most of the expats have homes.

Our last stop in the area was at remote Bahia San Francisquito where we were able to tuck into a small inner lagoon that required high tide entry but was very sweet. White sand beaches and plentiful cactus and green desert scrub made for a beautiful setting and the marine life was beyond plentiful. Of course we were the only boats. We’re getting spoiled. When the north winds started filling in, we sailed the 80 miles down to Santa Rosalia for our first marina stay in a while.

Santa Rosalia is one of the few coastal towns where there is very little foreign tourism. It was built around the beginning of the 20th century out of wood from the Pacific Northwest by the copper mining company which founded the town. We’re used to cement and stucco in this part of the world so it’s strange to walk down streets lined with 100 year old wooden buildings. And it’s refreshing to be at a place not set up for exploiting tourism. We’re more of an anomaly here. It feels good. We’d like to stay on longer but still have a long way south to go before Thanksgiving. We’ll leave after we watch the election results and find out if we want to go home again and if we’ll be welcome in Mexico. But, we’ll definitely be back in the spring though.


Our Route so far in red, anticipated future route in pink.


Our home while we were in the boat yard. Air conditioned room was big enough to lay out all of our stuff for the boat. $25/night was worth every penny.


First coat of bottom paint, started at 5:00 AM. Not early enough, the instant the sun comes up, it’s too hot for painting. We began at 4:00 AM for coat #2 and finished just in time.


Carmanah with her new black bottom paint going back in after a long summer baking in the Sonora heat–really no worse for having experienced hurricane Newton.


Jimmy and his son Jimmy completely polished every bit of stainless steel on the boat.


Paulo and his son Pablo built a new cruising sun cover for Carmanah out of material we brought from home. One of many father/son businesses.


Our new sun shade is Backpack material on the top and phifertec on the sides for air flow.


Tamales from Alejandro, he delivers to your boat–very, very good


Both Donna and Lucy look pretty tense on our first leg out of San Carlos on a beat to Bahia San Pedro


Carmanah disappearing into the fog off Isla Tiburon.


Ghosting toward Isla Partida from Dog’s Bay, Isla Tiburon.


Voila, Carmanah, and Cahoots looking very serene from the rim of Partida (things were a bit more lively that night)


The west anchorage at Partida, absolutely stunning. The diving (for fish) was potentially productive but my spear gun band broke on the first draw (summer heat was not kind to all things rubber)


Lucy taking in the sun set while at anchor in Isla Partida


Fishermen in the northern sea are very friendly and always willing to trade for fish, shrimp, or lobster.


Donna on a rugged Isla Partida hike sporting her ultra tough rock climbing flip flops.


Margaret of s/v Cahoots is ready to dive in with the rest of us in Carmanah’s cockpit to lobster traded earlier in the day for candy bars and soda pop with local fisherman.  We cooked them whole and split down the middle on the bbq. 



Carmanah and Voila moved to SE side of Isla Partida the previous night as NW winds kicked up a considerable chop in our idyllic anchorage about two hours after the big lobster feed.


Looks like early morning snow at Bahia Los Angeles. Actually it’s a bird watchers paradise and that’s not snow.


The only “hurricane hole” in the area, Puerto Don Juan on a blustery afternoon. As usual, Carmanah and Voila are the only two boats in the area.


Carmanah anchored off the village of Bahia de Los Angeles. Celine, Moi, and Donna enjoying the best Margaritas of the trip (so far).


Great Blue Heron(?) on the small dock at the head of the inner harbor at BSF.


The fishing party of Pat & Celine of Voila and me representing Carmanah at San Francisquito.


Trolling just before the hook incident where I got a barbed hook in my finger which was attached to a lure with a berserk fish on the other hook trying real hard to “set the hook”. Ouch x 3. Celine finally held my finger down while Pat yanked the hook out with a pair of pliers. Ouch x 4.


Pat, a (early) retired park and rec administrator from Bend, Oregon (and aspiring fishing guide/guru), showing off a bountiful catch of Rainbow Runners. They hit hard and fight like crazy, and they taste great


Dinghy trolling in Bahia San Francisquito produced a bountiful harvest of Rainbow Runners, Bass, and one really small wahoo. They were all very good on the bbq cooked whole.


Best part of night passages is dawn at sea.


The town of Santa Rosalia has a harbor constructed of slag from the copper mines nearly a hundred years ago. Pretty sweet spot to tie up for about $15/night.


All of the buildings in Santa Rosalia are unique to the Baja in that they were built out of old growth fir from the Pacific North West by the local mining company over a hundred years ago. Many hundreds of buildings.


Old mine openings along the road into Santa Rosalia. Pretty spooky that anyone can just walk in. (definitely not us though)

1 thought on “The Second Season Has Started!

  1. Psboatguy

    Great post and pictures! As they say, one picture says a thousand words. I’m talking about the shot with the spinnaker. You guys have made the final jump to ‘cruiser’ status with the appearance of a sock at the top of the mast. Who would have guessed? Thanks for the post.



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