The last leg from San Jose del Cabo to La Paz could be motored non-stop under favorable conditions in little more than 24 hours, but why? When cruising, the destination is simply the end of the journey. The journey is where it’s at, because once you’re there you’re in a floating trailer park, albeit a rich man’s trailer park. Nothing compares to the sensory fulfillment one enjoys when cruising, living onboard on the hook. Each new anchorage affords fresh beautiful views, new adventures both on land and undersea, and at night the peace, the quiet and lack of light intrusion not found wherever mankind congregates. So I set aside 8 days to savor the fruits of this last leg to La Paz.
Arriving at Marina Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo at 1130 on 12/1/19 the wind was already on the way up again and the forecast had us inclined to hang tight here for several days. Prudent as it may be, that’s like tying me up on a short leash. San Jose is certainly worth a look and a walkabout which we did, riding the local Collectivo bus in and out for 12 pesos each way (Taxi would be about 150 pesos each way). Back at the boat to make dinner and watch a movie offers a relaxating comfort zone not found onshore. Lots of movies onboard makes the perfect distraction from weather limbo, especially a series with multiple seasons.
After a good night’s sleep I anxiously awake at the crack of dawn in hopes of calm. If calm in the morning, I muster my crew of now one to take off; if already windy, I go back to bed. By 0600 on 12/4/19 upon arising the winds were light, my spirits were strong and the weather forecast showed a short window of lighter winds starting by noon and lasting for a mere 24 hours followed by multiple days of high winds from the NNW. I could wait until the following morning for a leisurely 6 hour motor up to Los Frailles then hunker down for a few days. Or, take off right now, muscle my way up round the East Cape heading up into the Sea of Cortez in hopes to catch the early ease in winds and be ahead of the light wind window.
By 0615 Stephen and I were already motoring out through the breakwater into a very different sea with winds blowing 15 knots but offshore allowing us to motor sail with jib out at 7-8 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground- actual GPS measured movement). By 1015 Los Frailles was only 3.6 nm away. The next anchorage Ensenada Los Muertos was another 44nm north. As much as we both love Los Frailles, especially for snorkeling its reef in 80 degree water, we opted to push on to Muertos. Stephen had voiced his hopes to explore more of Isla Espiritu Santo. I saw that window of opportunity blowing away. Shortly after we rounded the Rock of Los Frailles the winds brought our SOG down below 5 knots, the plan was being challenged. And so it was all day – slow, bumpy but beautiful, sunny and steadily forward.
With Muertos already in sight, 20nm ahead, by 1500 our SOG increased to 6.2 knots ETA 1830. Sea state still building off our starboard nose, that’s what was holding us back even as the wind backed down. Arriving in the dark was inevitable but without anxiety, I’ve been there 10 or more times before and know the wide open anchorage well. Watching my depth gauge would be my most important concern. Looking around and up, the waxing moon was already high in the sky which meant arriving at dark would not be a problem at all.
Another push paid off bigtime as the best day was still ahead of us and we were already here to enjoy it. We did even better than my predictions, anchor down and set by 1700. The next day was all ours: fishing, swimming, for Stephen kayaking and roaming about for photographs. In the dinghy or kayaks I always like to make the rounds of the boats at anchor and say hi. Everyone seemed resigned to the notion that we’ll be here for a few days while the Blow passes.
By 0630 12/7/19 I saw another weather window of calm on 12/8 , a perfect day to be exploring Isla Espiritu Santo’s anchorages. Anchors up I was willing to pay the price of slow go and bumpy seas traveling today for a picture perfect day or two manana. Just put your sea legs on and go, the INNcredible Sea Lodge will get us there if we’re patient. Our iron sails, two 54hp Yanmar diesels, like a little exercise and this captain knows how to carry on. Up through the Cerralvo channel all day with the prize in distant view, we powered through winds gusting to 24 and waves 4-6 feet and lumpy. But by 1430 we were safely at anchor in 12 feet of crystal clear warm water off my favorite Playa Bonanza ready to play and explore with all 3 miles of sandy beach to ourselves both day and that night.
12/8/19 That day we paid forward started out beautiful and at 0800, anchor up, we were headed through the San Lorenzo channel on our way up the westside (inside) of Islas Espiritu Santo to Candelero where some pretty fine snorkeling awaits. But first Stephen read about a Blue-footed Boobie rookery farther up near Ensenada Grande. That had him salivating for photos capturing these blue-footed curiosities of the ocean sky. Cruising into this quiet multilobed cove, we panned the volcanic walls of welded tuff whose trapped gaseous pockets left perfect sheltered housing for these birds to breed and hatch their chicks. Turned out to be a Boobie trap as no birds were in residence now, maybe being the wrong time of year.
Heading back down past the island’s many fijords we found a perfect spot to drop the anchor near the Rock at Candeleros in 21 feet at 1200. Not wasting any time we suited up for a long snorkel and were close enough to actually swim over and slowly circumvent the Rock’s extensive reef. Wonderful resident schools of different types of fish each roaming their preferred area seem not to be bothered by our presence on this gorgeous day. There was only us. The sun was high, the lighting perfect and the water was clear and warm. I like to check on each community down under each time I’m here like the SeaStars (aka Starfish) around the outer tip and the Crown of Thorns combing the rocks on the southside. Stephen captured some cool pics.
As is typical when the North wind stops blowing for a moment of calm, it’s not long before a SW and then W wind fills in. Later toward the summer they call these Coromels and they can quickly render these otherwise protected anchorages totally uncomfortable with wind waves charging right in. That started to happen and went through the night but not at the intensity of the Coromels. In the morning we still had one objective yet to do – the hike up the canyon to the Oasis. Launching the dinghy in these conditions is a lumpy bouncing rodeo ride for me until I’m detached from the mother ship then not so bad. Hooking back up, is the same , a rodeo.
This hike is spectacular and moderate in ability required and short. In its short distance, it really delivers a lot with interesting botany and geology and spectacular views. This year with all the recent storms, the canyon’s creek was still running and the vegetation was a vibrant fresh palette of greens. Stephen was clicking so many photos that had it been with film he would have run through a dozen rolls or more.
Back at the boat the sea conditions let it be known that this may not be the place to stay tonight. So we headed for a more suitable anchorage called Bahia Falsa cut into the mainland of Baja within Bahia La Paz. On the way the wind and sea conditions improved so much so I diverted to the iconic and most celebrated beach in La Paz called Ballandra and dropped anchor in 12ft at 1400. Although we were for a moment the only boat anchored the shoreline and shallow waters were teaming with folks walking up to their waists and swimming with snorkels all around these shallow clear waters.
Tempted after our long swim/snorkel to stay put for the night here, my past experiences told me not to. It was so calm and beautiful, I was torn. Torn until
about a half hour before sundown a immense cloud hovered into place as if it was a UFO and the wind and waves started up and heading right at us with no protection. That’s the way I know this place. So up came the anchor and into the twilight we headed under that great cloud that stretched for a mile or more. Passing suitable coves to tuck in for the night, they seemed already full of boats with the same in mind. It’s right off the entrance to the big port Pichilingue that my go-to anchorage Bahia Falsa lies. Heading in racing the darkness overcoming the twilight, I saw a hole amongst 6 other already anchored boats that I could maneuver into and set my hook. No boater ever enthusiastically welcome another boat to snuggle up with them but I really had no other choice and there really was plenty of room too. All tucked in, non too soon as the wind came at us steady all night but the INNcredible Sea Lodge offered us its usual comfort regardless of the conditions.
Next morning we were up and headed toward Marina CostaBaja, our homebased for the next 6 weeks. But upon check-in, they claimed they had no room. The number of Catamarans has exploded on the West coast and in the Sea of Cortez over the 8 years since we brought our cat over from France. Also the rich guys buy fabulous boats but seldom use them. Over time they just permanently fill up most of the berths in all marinas. We may be homeless in La Paz. Manager Gabriel came forward and offer to put me amongst the mega yachts in a 90 foot slip temporarily. Thank you Gabriel. And now we just moved to a more appropriate sized double berth on F Dock, the same Dock we started at in 2013.