Isla Carmen

This is what a sunny day looks like this year in Mexico. It’s been cold, windy, and cloudy for much of our time in the Sea of Cortez. But when’s there’s blue up there, we don’t have to wear socks.

We left Isla Coronados for Puerto Ballandra, on Isla Carmen. More northers in the forecast for the next week or so in the 25+ knot range. Time to hunker down again. On the way to Puerto Ballandra, the waves were running at 6-8 feet high, about 5-6 seconds apart and the wind was around 15-20 knots the whole time, light winds for what we’d been having recently. Our boat speed hit 7.2 knots at one point, really fast for us. We were glad it was a short trip from Isla Coronados, only about two and a half hours. Ballandra offers good protection from northers and there is some nice hiking. Anchored in the bay were four other sailboats and later a couple of big motorboats. Ashore we climbed one of the hills and had a spectacular view of the sea and actually picked up a couple of phone bars for the first time in over a week. We met the folks on two of the sailboats, Dakota and Dina Helena, at a happy hour on Dakota. Dakota came down on the Ha-Ha this past November from Victoria, BC and Dina Helena, originally from the Netherlands, has been working on a circumnavigation for about six years.

We spent five nights at Ballandra waiting for the winds to drop below 20 knots and the waves to smooth out. No sense beating ourselves up just to get somewhere. One of the motorboats, a 70′ aluminum boat, reanchored at least once a day because his anchor dragged. He did not seem to get better with practice. The day before we left, a couple of Drascombe luggers came into the bay and headed ashore to camp. They left the next morning, just before we weighed our anchor to head for either Bahía Marquer on Isla Carmen or Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante. Marquer won the draw as the two big motorboats that had been at Ballandra were now in Honeymoon.

Dina Helena at anchor, Bahía Marquer.

We had calm seas on the way down. There’s a nice arroyo to walk up at Marquer, and a stone and sand beach. Most of the shells on the beach at Marquer and at Ballandra are pretty weathered. We wondered why there aren’t newer looking shells on the beach. Have they been fished out or did the hurricane that went through last year interrupt their breeding cycle? There are few sea birds here so there probably aren’t many fish, either. We certainly didn’t catch any fish while we were at Isla Carmen.

The weather was looking calm for a couple of days so the next morning we headed into Puerto Escondido. We picked up a mooring ball and got ready to meet our friend David who was arriving the next day to do some buddy boating.

Our mooring ball in Puerto Escondido was slightly dodgy. The loop in the end had worn through so someone had tied a new loop on the end. No wind was predicted so we decided to give it a go as it was one of the closer mooring balls to the marina. It still took us 25 minutes to row in, only to discover that the dinghy dock had moved since last time we were there. More rowing ensued. We checked in and got our old gate cards replaced. Rowed back to Gypsy and noticed that our mooring line was tightly wrapped around the mooring ball and found that poking at it with the boat pole wasn’t going to move it. We ended up untying Gypsy from the mooring ball and then redoing our mooring lines. Meanwhile, our friend David arrived at his boat Jean Butler.

We went to Loreto with David the next morning to do some provisioning and had a really tasty lunch at Dory Luz – peru bean soup with pork. The following morning we set off for Salinas, on the northeast side of Isla Carmen. Had a great sail, lousy fishing, but saw whales close by. We all anchored at Punta Perico South as it has better wind protection than at Salinas, because, yes, it was going to blow again. We celebrated with happy hour and a potluck onboard Gypsy with Jean Butler.

Fan coral on the beach at Punta Perico.

The wind dropped the next morning we headed to Salinas. We walked through what remains of the small village from its salt processing days. There are a couple of newer buildings that are the hunting lodge with some staff housing behind them. Mountain sheep were introduced to the island a number of years ago, partly for hunting but also for restocking the populations on a couple of other islands where there used to be herds. The rest of the buildings are slowly eroding away: a school, the machine shop, the doctor’s office, the production office, and other buildings that didn’t have signs telling what they were, some of them probably houses.

After our walk through Salinas we headed for Punta Colorada for the night. In the morning, Jean Butler would head back to Puerto Escondido and we would head as far south as we could get before the winds started up again.

Brown pelican.

3 thoughts on “Isla Carmen”

  1. Hi Bill and Nina:
    Nice to see that you met up with David. He recently submitted an article to the March Foghorn, mentioning that you had connected. There are currently five club members out cruising. Besides Gypsy and Jean Butler, there is Gladiator (Beneteau 461) with Eric and Kim Rimkus, Morgan le Fay (Gulfstar 50) with Ethan and Natasha VanMatre and First Light (Island Packet 380) with Mike and Cindy Reese. Mike and Cindy sailed south on the Baja HaHa, and Mike planned to go west from Mexico. Last AIS position for First Light was on January 24 off Oceanside, Ca. However, there is a boat named First Light currently in a slip in San Diego. I don’t know where Eric and Ethan are at the present time. Morgan le Fay’s reported position, a year ago was at Pichilingue, Mex. Gladiator was near La Cruz about three weeks ago. It’s hard to follow them when they don’t keep their AIS turned on. Keep the reports coming, and stay safe.

    Alan Bergen


  2. Beautiful photos. I always enjoy your newsletters. Share them with land based sailor friends on the west coast. 🙂 I have a friend who belongs to Alamitos Bay YC, when and if you get to the Long Beach, CA area I will put you in contact with her. When you get to SF Bay, I also have friends there in Alameda. Wishing you favorable winds and calmer seas always, Addie


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