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 sections:

  1. Puerto Escondido
  2. Isla Coronados
  3. La Ramada
  4. San Carlos
  5. Bahia San Francisquito
  6. Isla Salsipuedes
  7. Seafood on the Grill
  8. Puerto Don Juan & Bahia Los Angeles
  9. Midriff Islands
  10. Bahia Este Ton
  11. Migrating South

Puerto Escondido

The Good Neighbor anchored at Puerto Escondido.

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, 111° 17.06´W)

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, 111° 17.06´W)

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, 111° 05.53´W)

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.

Squiz gets the salt washed off.Squiz, 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 sunrise.
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 once again.

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 it belongs.

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 23, 2002)

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.

Este Ton on 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 3, 2002)

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.