Crossing the Northern Sea of Cortez

Easy to mistake for floating trash, this coke bottle was actually marking a net. On this leg, we also saw small personal sized water bottles tied up as floats and they were really difficult to see. Farther south in the Sea of Cortez, it’s not unusual to see detergent bottles used as net floats.

Our stop at Bahía San Pedro was just an overnight. The anchorage gave us a slightly rolly night and then we were on to Las Cocinas for a quick day stop before an overnighter to Bahía de los Perros on Isla Tiburón. The wind and waves were picking up and we wanted to get some protection from the building north winds, known as northers. When we’re away from a marina we get our weather via single sideband radio (SSB) as there’s often not cell phone service or internet in the Sea of Cortez. We get the NOAA and Soriana forecasts via SSB email and we can also hear the weather on the morning SSB and ham radio nets. Weather is a major determinant of when and where we go and is one reason sailors try not to commit to meeting someone at a specific date and place.

We had only two fishing fleets to sail through that night, both on Nina’s watches. We arrived at Perros a couple of hours after sunrise and had a nice quiet day catching up on sleep. That night, the wind began to blow well into the 20s but the bay offers great protection from northers. Less wind was predicted for the next day, so we headed over to Bahía de las Cruces on the south side of Isla Tiburón. Saw pop bottle floats on the way.

We were originally planning to do another overnighter to head to Puerto Don Juan, on the Baja side, but we had another weather window so we did a daylight run to Isla Partida. Winds dropped to less than 10 knots and the seas settled down. Slightly rolly night, but the weather stayed calm for our over overnight stop at Isla Partida.

The south side of Isla Partida. The rock face looked like it exploded out from a point on the left at the water line.

The next day we headed to Don Juan. Since leaving San Pedro, we were the only sailboat out. As we were heading toward Don Juan, we did see another sailboat, but they were heading south. The day started with light winds which after a couple hours started to pick up. Heading into the Bahis de los Angeles the wind had picked up to a steady 20-25 knots and the seas built to 6′ swells a couple of seconds apart. A couple were drenchers splashing into the cockpit. Once we got into Don Juan, the waves died down and the wind dropped. Anchor down, we listened to the wind blow. The only other boat we saw was a panga trailing gulls and pelicans as it left the bay.

The next day was calm enough that we got the dinghy together to go to shore. The pull cord on the outboard was frozen so Nina rowed us to shore. It was the first time in about four days that we’d been off the boat. The arroyo looked promising so we followed it to see where it would go. Lots of different flowers in bloom and green shrubs. Not too many birds were audible or visible, but Nina looked up at one point and saw a coyote about 20 feet away. It jogged up a small canyon and she kept going up the arroyo. At the top of a hill we could see the next bay, Ensenada de Quemado. We had a very nice walk and Bill then had a 30 minute row back to Gypsy into gusty wind.

In the morning we heard a dog barking on shore. No other boats were around and we hadn’t seen any indication of houses nearby. Where did it come from? It was a coyote and it was barking away at something farther down the rocks while a small pod of dolphins was feeding nearby. Since there was no wind, we went rowing toward the wreck on shore. We couldn’t figure out what it was the remains of. Down a ways from the wreck were three coyotes trying to move a fish that was about the same size they were. Two of them shied off as we came near, but one kept circling back to the fish, trying to move it. The fish looked pretty fresh. The tide line looked like it had about a six foot range and the fish must have washed up during a high tide. We were going to row over to the ventana part of the bay while Nina fished, but within five minutes of dropping a line, Nina had a fish. It turned out to be a couple of Mexican barracuda, maybe 15” long. Our fish book didn’t say if they were good to eat or not, but when she cleaned them, their flesh was light so we gave them a try, filleting one and steaking the other. Bill had made brownies before we went rowing and all in all it was the start of an excellent day.

The weather was cooperating so we weighed the anchor and headed over to the village in Bahía de los Angeles. It was larger than we thought it would be but surprisingly had no cell phone bars. There was a high school ceremony going on in the street and the end of a 108 km walk through the Baja desert. We bought some groceries and headed back to the boat. It was too early for lunch. The wind started picking up. Our mellow forecast was turning into 20 knots of wind. Back to Don Juan we went, only to be met by bees, lots of them. Around 1600 another sailboat dropped anchor in the bay.

Coming toward the village at Bahía de los Angeles.

We had been hoping for better weather so that we could spend more time in Bahía de los Angeles. It has a number of islands, whales and their calves winter there, and there’s a town if you need provisions. It’s incredibly beautiful. But during the late fall it can also have strong northerly winds. There aren’t a lot of protected anchorages when those winds blow. We were experiencing a windy, windy fall. Time to head south.

Weighing anchor the next morning we saw five coyotes on the beach. A couple of hours later we dropped anchor in Ensenada el Pescador. We rowed over to the beach, a long arc of white sand with a small arroyo on one end and a rocky beach on the other. There were a couple of nice houses on the beach and a few fishing shacks. There were also some open palapa roofed structures set back a bit from the beach, some of them falling down. We walked the length of the beach looking for shells and found a bunch, some of them new to us. The wind picked up again so we headed back to Gypsy and stowed the dinghy on deck. The next day was windy, gusting to over 30 knots in the afternoon, with white caps in the bay. The forecast was strong winds for the next day, and by the time we realized that the light winds we were getting were staying light, it was too late to head to Bahía San Francisquito, a seven hour trip. We left the next day and caught up with the sailboat we’d anchored with in Don Juan.

There wasn’t much beach at San Francisquito but we rowed to it anyway. We’d heard coyotes singing in the morning and saw their footprints on the beach, but we didn’t see them.

Not much to stay for at San Francisquito so we left in the afternoon for another overnighter to Santa Rosalía.

Beach at San Francisquito.

4 thoughts on “Crossing the Northern Sea of Cortez”

  1. 2 fish at once ! That is good fortune. How was the flavour ? I think that you sent the winds up here but it is much colder. Snow tomorrow perhaps !

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  2. Today, 12/5/22, just found message above ; without communication from you kids for longest time ( years?) REALLY happy to hear from y’all! What temperatures you have? 1st snow here today. We were in Tampa Bay, Florida, for art conference and kayaking months ago. Your Buds, Charlie Needles Kate Mayo

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