Log - 6/13/2002 to 10/8/2002
Loreto to the Midriff Islands, Mexico
In this log Alan describes the journey from the Loreto/Puerto Escondido
area across the Central Sea of Cortez to San Carlos and then northwest
to explore the Midriff Islands. This page includes the following
- Puerto Escondido
- Isla Coronados
- La Ramada
- San Carlos
- Bahia San Francisquito
- Isla Salsipuedes
- Seafood on the Grill
- Puerto Don Juan & Bahia Los Angeles
- Midriff Islands
- Bahia Este Ton
- Migrating South
The huge, nearly land-locked, anchorage of Peurto Escondido is
the center of boating activity for the central sea of Cortez. This
area has amazing mountainous desert topography. Yet, something about
the throngs of boats in the anchorage and the abandoned marina development
turns me off. Although water is available in Peurto Escondido, access
to most supplies and provisions requires a trek to Loreto, 15 miles
to the north.
After spending too much time in the Puerto Escondido area, we went
to Loreto, visited the Port Captain to secure out departure paperwork,
reprovisioned (with what meager provisions were to be had in this
Gringo fishing town), and headed to nearby Isla Coronados.
Isla Coronados (July 15, 2002 - 26° 06.85´N,
Unlike our previous visit to this Isla Coronados, I initially appreciated
Coronados this second visit because there was tolerable underwater
visibility and the stinging "String of Pearls" jellyfish
(that plagued us on nearby Isla Carmen) were not present. After
one nice day, the "String of Pearls" stingers descended
on the waters around Isla Coronados. It was much too hot to not
be safe jumping in the water to cool down, so we pulled up the anchor
and headed north.
La Ramada (July 17, 2002 - 26° 06.85´N,
Sailing up the coast of Baja on a broad reach was a pleasant change
from the last month of puttering around using the engine as our
primary means of propulsion. We started with our spinnaker at 2
knots & finished the sail making 5 knots using only the jib.
We had to bypass San Juanico, our intended anchorage, because the
southeast wind was driving nasty waves into the bay. We continued
a few more miles, and found shelter from the southeasterlies in
La Ramada cove. Initially, with the prospect of getting away from
the jellyfish, we were hopeful to be in a new anchorage. However,
the underwater visibility was poor, the air was hot, and we were
sweaty. The next morning we woke up to a rolly anchorage as the
swell wrapped around the point. We considered the next big destination,
Bahia Conception, but it was reported by other cruisers to be the
most hellishly hot place in the Sea of Cortez. So, we decided to
abandon cruising for a month, by holing up in a marina with a pool,
and do some boat projects.
San Carlos (July 19, 2002 - 27° 56.79´N,
During the 90-mile overnight passage from La Ramada to San Carlos
(on the Mexican mainland) we had some ideal broad reaching then
some fine beam reach sailing. We also witnessed a bizare, rare shark
event. The eight-foot long blue shark performed three amazing leaps
clearing the wave by at least six feet. According to our fish identification
book, you do not want a blue shark landing on your deck - as it
reportedly has is unfriendly when prodded it an oar.
We parked s/v Squiz at Marina Real, as it was the cheaper
of the two marinas in San Carlos. San Carlos was still hot, but
at least we had access to copious amounts of fresh water, a pool,
and we purchased a 115-volt AC fan. I won't bore you with a lengthy
description of the boat work we performed during our stay in the
marina; thankfully, s/v Squiz's crappy old plumbing is a
thing of the past. By the end of our stay in Marina Real, we felt
that we were getting a leg up on most of the important maintenance
and improvement to keep my 14-year old boat happy. Our stay in civilization
was rewarded with meeting new friends & sharing some great time
together & reuiniting with some old friends too.
the world's least adventurous cat, had a most interesting time at
San Carlos. Somehow, one night, lazy Squiz managed to fall overboard.
The following morning, we discovered the loss, sent out search parties,
put up signs, and cried a lot. Squiz was nowhere to be found. One
person Katherine informed about the loss was a local cruiser who
was house and dog sitting, she gave Katherine moral support. One
evening our new acquaintance hollered at us from the other side
of the marina harbor (100 meters away); the dobberman had sniffed
out Squiz! We sprinted around the harbor, to find a crouched and
very scared cat. Squiz was across the harbor (downwind and probably
down-current) hiding in a thicket of morning glory - under a dock
ramp on the rocks at the edge of the dirty water. She initially
hissed at me, but quickly remembered my smell & began to purr.
After bathing the smelly and bedraggled feline with soap (what a
sight she was), she drank LOTS of water and began nibbling bowl
of food. Squiz received ICU-type attention from Katherine (probably
unnecessary); but the cat stayed extremely lethargic and hid inside
for about a week. Then, Squiz suddenly reverted to her normal lazy,
but happy behavior. I just wish there had been a "Squiz cam"
mounted on the kitty to record her big Kon-Tikki expedition.
Bahia San Francisquito
(September 2, 2002 - 28° 25.77´N, 112° 51.94´W)
After spending too much time in San Carlos, we waited for a good
weather forecast, chipped away the fossilized dock lines, and headed
west - back across the Sea to the Baja peninsula. We were rewarded
for having weather patience. This crossing was our finest overnight
passage yet; an 8-14 knot south wind provided a wonderfully pleasant
sail for 17 hours. Arriving outside of Bahia San Francisquito before
daybreak, we had to heave to (park) outside the bay and wait for
Thankfully, the air temperature was about five degrees cooler than
at San Carlos, and the water was also refreshingly cool. We could
briefly cuddle for the first time in two months. After fifteen minutes
of snorkeling, I (Alan) speared a medium sized grouper (22"
= four servings). Squiz returned to her old daytime rest position
- perching belly up under the windscoop - a sign that we are cruising
In Bahia San Francisquito we temporally reunited with some great
cruising friends: Gwen and Don on s/v Tackless II, and Lisa and
Patrick on s/v Seahorse (a Tayana 37' sistership of TGN). We enjoyed
socializing for a few days while waiting for a threatening tropical
storm to dissipate. Then, we headed twenty miles north to Isla Salsipuedes.
Gwen and Don introduced us to "noodling" as a way to
cool off, and now Katherine is hooked! Noodling is a social gathering
(popular with Caribbean cruisers) that takes place in the water
- normally at 1630 local time. It serves as a way to cool down our
bodies' core temperature after a day in the hot tropical sun. Noodling
is also a way to visit with the other people in an anchorage, without
messing up someone's boat or having the guests stay too long. Everyone
provides their own beverage(s), we gather in the water at the stern
of the host's boat sitting on "noodles" or other floatation
devices. The classic noodle is a 4" diameter 5' long polystyrene
floatation aid; it is ridden either astride or "swing"
style. We have had great success sitting on our inverted cheapo
orange life jackets and using them as pseudo-noodles. A foam pad
-- tethered to the stern of the host vessel using a 50' line --
acts a floating bar. You can set stuff on it, or "arm up"
to the bar for additional support.
Isla Salsipuedes (September 8, 2002 - 28° 43.38´N, 112° 57.10´W)
We anchored in a small but lovely cove, known as the "North
Slot" on tiny Isla Salsipuedes. Just before sunset the breeze
- a few hours after anchoring in the sheltered (north) side of the
island - the breeze clocked around so we deployed a second anchor
to avoid swinging into the rocks. At sunrise the next day, the wind
began blowing in earnest, turning our nice little cove into a dangerous
lee shore. We went through a long procedure of raising both anchors
while the waves grew to uncomfortable heights and skidadelled around
the island to the new sheltered side. The deck of the boat was boat
was drenched with seawater as we ploughed through the rough seas.
But, luckily, a rare rain shower began - just as we began reanchoring
on the south side - and washed the salt back into the sea where
This rugged little island has an appealingly primal quality. Salsipuedes'
strangely varied volcanic topography is surrounded by some of the
most diverse sea life of we have seem in Mexico. We enjoyed six
days of fine snorkeling and seafood dining (grouper, lobster, and
scallops) at Isla Salsipuedes. Lizards and birds (including the
comical blue-footed boobies) are the only sizable land animals.
Seafood on the Grill
Katherine stumbled upon a simple, little-to-no-mess way of cooking
fish without using the stove or oven, which heats up the cabin.
Choose a "world" flavor (i.e. Asian, Greek, French, or
Indian) and gather up the appropriate seasonings, sprinkle the flavors
(usually with optional onions) on fish fillets, wrap in heavy foil,
and toss on a medium hot on BBQ grill. Fifteen or twenty minutes
later - voila - great moist fish with nice flavors, good slurping
juices, and less fat than fried fish.
After tiring of steaming lobster and serving it with butter or
rich sauces, we also found a way to prepared lobster tails on the
barbeque. Use kitchen shears to snip away the relatively soft underside
of the tail, then use a heavy knife to crack the tail shell lengthwise.
This allows the lobster tail to be butterflied and laid flat on
the grill. Marinade with any yummy flavorings for 1 to 24 hours
and toss it on a hot grill. Rotate a few times and pull it of as
soon as the meat is opaque. We both like the reduced fat and diverse
flavor options; and the marinade seems to makes the lobster meat
slightly more tender. Katherine made a great marinade using chipolte,
lime, garlic, tequila, olive oil, and sugar.
Puerto Don Juan & BLA (September 16, 2002-
28° 56.49´N, 113° 27.03´W)
After Isla Salsipuedes, we made a brief visit to an uncomfortable
anchorage on the southern tip of Isla Angel del La Guarda. With
a potential tropical storm brewing south of Baja, we decided to
move over to Puerto Don Juan. This bay is the most well protected
"hurricane hole" anchorage in the northern Sea of Cortez.
As we waited out the weather, the brisk winds let us generate enough
electricity to play on the computer, watch a DVD, and borrow a sailboard
from another cruiser.
Once the tropical storm dissipated we traveled a few miles west
to the only town in this area - Bahia de Los Angeles (BLA). For
a little town in the middle of nowhere, a surprisingly good variety
of provisions were available in BLA; if you shop within a couple
days after the once a week "veggie" truck arrives, even
fresh produce is available. Unfortunately, fuel is expensive ($3/gallon)
and water has to be hauled in jerry jugs. After reprovisioning in
BLA, we set of to explore some the Midriff Islands (the collection
of islands in the northern Sea of Cortez).
Midriff Islands (September
Isla Ventana (28.59.98'N & 113.30.81') is a picturesque island
only 5 miles north of BLA town. In spite of nice hiking and scenery
above sea level - underwater it is rather barren, relative to many
other islands in the northern Sea.
After a few days in anchored in Caleta Ventana, we moved north
to Isla Smith (29° 03.56´N, 113° 30.71´W).
We returned to the town of Bahia de Los Angeles (BLA) for a few
days while Katherine tried to coordinate a phone interview for a
temporary nursing job with OHSU. While we were in BLA, a miserably
hot west wind began blowing off Baja. We deploy the sun shades and
Katherine has draped the boat with sheets, towels, etc to shade
the deck from the sun -- giving TGN quite the refugee look. After
grabbing some more provisions, we had a nice sail out to Isla Angel
del La Guarda.
Bahia Este Ton (September 26, 2002 - 29° 09.69'N and 113° 19.90'W).
We anchored in Este Ton -- a circular bay on Isla Angel del La
Guarda. It is open to the south, with enough room for one boat to
swing comfortably at anchor (with cooperation and closeness, the
bay might hold three boats). The arid polychromatic terrain of this
side of Angel del La Guarda provides a stunning panorama of orange,
gray, red, and ochre strata. Rocky points forming the entrance to
the bay are home to dense masses of 2"-3" silvery fishettes.
These are stalked from below by leopard grouper, large schools of
barracuda, and other predators. Marauding schools of barracuda compact
the little fishettes upward and the surface periodically erupts
in a frenzy of leaping fishettes and feeding barracuda. Luckily,
we are one step up the food chain, so we had plenty of grouper and
lobster to eat. Katherine successfully speared her first fish -
a nice sized grouper.
Migrating South (October
After 5 wonderful days at Este Ton we had a weather change; on
October first, it cooled off enough to actually use a blanket at
night. Unfortunately, the notorious "Elephante" winds
kicked up a west to east wave pattern that refracted into our lovely
little bay and made the anchorage a little uncomfortable. So, we
returned to Bahia Los Angeles for a few provisions. Then, the autumn
northwesterlies kicked in and inspired us to start migrating south.
A boisterous sail in a 25-knot northwest wind took us back to revisit
lovely Salsipuedies island. Unfortunately, the large northwest waves
made the Salsipuedies anchorages uncomfortable. So we picked up
the hook and moved 15 miles south to the all-around protection provided
by Bahia San Francisquito. After a few days of mellowing out, we
bid farewell to the Northern Sea of Cortez; an overnight passage
took us to the funky town of Santa Rosalia where I hope to upload
a new version of this web site.