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Sea of Cortez, Part 2: Sailing, diving, and hiking (May 2018)


Sea of Cortez anchorageIt’s been a while since I wrote about our first experience sailing in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, when we made the upwind (slog of a) passage from San Jose del Cabo to La Paz back in February of this year. So that was Part 1 and now I’m finally getting to Part 2. In between, we spent a couple of weeks in La Paztouristing and doing boat projects in early March and then provisioning and doing boat projects in early May. (In March and April we were back in the US working ashore.)

Anyhow, that’s some background to catch everyone up since I’m so behind on the blog!

So here goes! 

On May 9th, we left La Paz for a short Sea of Cortez cruise prior to our Pacific crossing. That was only 6 days after we’d returned to the boat, which we thought was pretty quick and efficient given all the projects and provisioning we’d done. Nonetheless, we didn’t actually make it off the dock until about 10:30 AM, which occasioned all the usual dockside sarcasm about the reality of our departure…. All the “oh, you’re really going now, are you??” *rolling eyes*

Marina Cortez

Marina Cortez, La Paz

Part of the reason for this was that it was already May, pretty late to be crossing the Pacific. So I can easily see how we would appear to be the type of dreamy cruiser who never actually gets it together to go. But it is kind of funny how much incredulity and negativity you get when you admit to your plans – crossing the Pacific, sailing around the world, sailing to the Arctic, whatever they happen to be – so we’ve found (after a few unpleasant experiences – the La Paz dock doesn’t count – we’ve had much worse) that it’s nicer just to keep our mouths shut, in person and online, until after the fact. We’ve found that it’s also better to keep our plans to ourselves in case we change them – one of the many cruising jokes is that plans are drawn in sand at low water, i.e. they’re subject to all the vagaries of weather, breakages, and unforeseen troubles like illness, injury, or family emergencies. The latter of these can be quite private and thus not the type of thing one wants to blog about, all the more reason to keep mum about plans!

Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a rant about naysayers, dockside loungers, and online trolls, so I’ll get back to the Sea of Cortez!

It was a calm day, so we motored the length of the channel out of La Paz and then put into Costa Baja marina to fill up on diesel fuel, which was really just an excuse to fill up our water tanks with their free desalinated drinking water that was led right to the dock with a hose! Then we cast off again for Espiritu Santo Island, a few miles away.

Sailing in Sea of Cortez

Sailing to Espiritu Santo island

The wind came up enough for us to have a lovely reach across San Lorenzo Channel and then part way up the leeward side of the island. We put into the most protected anchorage on the island for the night, knowing that the wind could easily blow up into a Coromuel – a strong southwesterly that’s common in the southern Sea of Cortez in summer.

We enjoyed a peaceful night that evening (although we had a Coromuel for two other nights), and then set off to explore Isla Partida to the north of us. We put into a tiny cove with just room enough for one boat to swing at anchor. It was a postcard perfect Baja spot – red desert, cacti, turquoise water, white sand beach, and us all alone there!

Sea of Cortez island

Perfect Baja cove

We first launched the dinghy and filled it up with our dive gear, to do our first scuba dive in the “world’s aquarium” (as Jacques Cousteau famously called it).

Preparing to dive

Ready to dive, scuba kit assembled!

The visibility was not particularly good (making photography difficult), but we enjoyed a lovely dive nonetheless, around interesting rock formations. We saw a lot of fish and even a big guitar ray!

And it was great to be scuba diving again! We first learned to dive on our circumnavigation, quickly fell in love with it, bought 2 tanks when we were in Panama, and managed to get in some 60+ dives from the boat or the dinghy on the rest of the voyage. We’ve done very few dives with dive companies, preferring just to pay a few dollars for air fills and go on our own. Our last dive before this one was in Monterey Bay, CA, and before that it had been quite a few years – we don’t have drysuits so hadn’t dived in Alaska.

Diving in Sea of Cortez

Diving in the Sea of Cortez

Ashore, we hiked up the arroyo behind the beach. It turned out to be quite the scramble, but we got a lovely view of CELESTE and the bay.

And we got in more practice flying our drone – first from shore and then from CELESTE’s anchored deck, trying to get the hang of launching and landing it from the confined space of the boat and from among all the obstacles of the rigging!

Celeste in Sea of Cortez

We spent another day and night back on Espiritu Santo, walking ashore and doing more boat projects – diving down to put new zincs on the prop and prop shaft and dealing with some wiring (too technical to bore you with) – before it was time to set off south again. With summer already well under way in the Sea of Cortez, and hurricane season fast approaching, it wasn’t the moment to linger! But we’d enjoyed our brief time in this beautiful, unique part of the world.



9 thoughts on “Sea of Cortez, Part 2: Sailing, diving, and hiking (May 2018)

  1. Pingback: Sea of Cortez Part 3: Return Passage to Cabo (May 2018) | Gone Floatabout

  2. Did you use Espiritu & Baja Tours? We did, he’s a friend of a friend (Jose) for Whale shark swimming, then baby turtles launch in Todos Santos sunset and grey whale tours in Magdalena Bay. Great time in that area. I can’t forget after the whale shark tour we went for lunch with this older British couple. She was reservedly giddy about ordering Margaritas at lunch time!
    Great posts

    • Hi GordN,
      I assume you’re referring to my earlier post about the whale shark snorkel tour we did in La Paz? (https://gonefloatabout.com/2018/06/21/mexicos-sea-of-cortez-part-1-passage-to-la-paz-a-family-visit-and-snorkeling-with-whale-sharks-february-2018/_)
      We used an outfit called On Board Baja – they were great – very professional, respectful of the animals, and really made an effort to be sure everyone was comfortable and having fun. It was just a one-day tour – I think that’s all they do.

      We did manage to get out to Todos Santos with a rental car and enjoyed seeing the town and the turtle nursery, though none of the turtles were hatching when we were there. And we loved Mag Bay when we anchored there aboard CELESTE on our way south – the gray whales were there and we had some come up to breathe right off our bow! Very exciting!

      Great to hear you had such a good time in Baja, too – it’s a really beautiful place! We feel very lucky that we were able to sail there and see so much!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. I have found its best to stay quiet as well, I prefer to post things I’ve already done. People love to interrogate 🤣. How bad were the corumels?

    • Yeah, that’s how we feel… though I think I let things go too long and then I realize I’m posting stuff that happened literally months ago! Oh well – it’s not time sensitive really 🙂

      The Coromuels were okay, though unpleasant. The two nights we had them, it blew about 25 knots and created noticeable chop in the anchorage. Unfortunately none of the anchorages on the west side of Espiritu Santo are very well protected from them, though we were in the best one. We nosed around looking for a better spot after the first night of bouncing around and getting up to check the anchor, and we did manage to get a little snugger into shore and out of the worst chop, which helped. We were lucky in that there were not too many other boats in the anchorage – often its other boats dragging that can create the biggest problems. Our ground tackle held fine (we weren’t that worried as it’s held through a LOT worse wind and chop in the Arctic and Bering Sea) – so yeah, the trusty Mantus did it again 🙂

  4. Very cool to see the dinghy Brian made it still with you. It made it to the Sea of Cortez long before we will! Hope all it going well with you!

    • We LOVE the dinghy!! I actually wrote an article about it for the Aussie magazine Sister Ship – I’ll email a PDF of it to you – I think you and Brian would enjoy it. I hope things are going well with you, too!

  5. Thanks for sharing your private cove and cruise with us. In reality I’ll probably never get to do what you’re doing, but experiencing it through you and Seth is wonderful. Thanks so much! Grace and peace to you!!