Year 2 – Cruising the Baja and the Sea of Cortez 2021, Part 1

Disclaimer – I waited too long to write this and it is verbose. In other words, it is a long story with a zillion pictures. Writing it, I am reminded that we live a charmed life, for which I cannot express my deep gratitude. Hope you enjoy reading it and if you make it through to the end, you deserve a prize of some sort!

We love Mexico. And I don’t just mean that as, oh yeah, we kinda like it here, I could spend 2 weeks on vacation here, I’ll hang out and drink fruity drinks kind of love. We are in love with Mexico. We love the friendly, kind people who seem to always have a great sense of humor. We love the pride and craftsmanship of everyone from the uber driver to the boat washer to the artists. We love the food. I mean, seriously. I could eat tacos 24/7 and never get bored. We love the stark desert scenery (of the Baja) and the huge towering mountains of rock that meet the aqua waters of the Sea of Cortez. And we really love the vibe and culture of this place. No one is in a hurry. People are present with one another. Meals are an event. And people are happy and grateful, no matter how much or how little they have. It is, as my security guard friend at Marina Puerto Los Cabos says, “muy tranquilo.” I feel at peace here.

Loving the life we live. We are so lucky.

Last year (well 2019) when we arrived in Mexico we were excited to explore and make some tracks. We did spend a month here and a month there, but we covered a lot of ground. This year, it feels like there is no pressure to keep moving (not that there really was last year either I guess). If we feel like staying somewhere, we simply do. Perhaps we are settling into this cruising thing. So here it is, the end of January and we haven’t racked up the nautical miles. And that is a really good thing.

We arrived at Marina Coral, in Ensenada on November 18th. As we stepped off the boat, our temperatures were taken to ensure we weren’t feverish with COVID, and after tying up the boat, we were able to quickly move into the check-in process. Fito and his team were awesome as always, taking us in the van to the health department, immigration and the port captain to check into the country. We spent a bit of time in Ensenada, adding vegetables to the boat, buying more tequila and Controy (only available in Mexico and necessary for a great margarita), finishing up a couple of boat projects and eating!

Michelle raises the Mexican courtesy flag on Gitana.
Sister ships Red Rover and Gitana.
The glee you see on our faces is because these are the very best tacos we have EVER eaten. From Tacos Fenix, a stand in downtown Ensenada. Shrimp and fish. No other tacos need apply.
What I wouldn’t do to eat some more of these right now.
Drinking beers with Mr. Jeffries. Ensenada has quite a cool local brewery scene. This one is indoor/outdoor so it fit the bill!
Uh oh. More tacos. Al pastor. OMG.
Marina Coral and the hotel in the background.
Sunset from the bow at Marina Coral.
The hotel was in the spirit! I think it is funny that it is Xmas not Navidad…
Hotel pool. Too cool to pool this month.
This man is so cute. Oh and so is the bitty Christmas tree.
While we already had “early Thanksgiving” with our kids in Southern CA, we had to do something on actual Thanksgiving. No more turkey and no rib roasts were to be found, so we had the butcher set us up with a giant roast made of tomahawk steaks.
It’s so amazing we just need another look at it.
I am going to eat ALL of this stuff.
Oh wait, we should invite the Canadians to American Thanksgiving with Mexican beef. Absolutely.

We get a lot of questions about being in Mexico during the pandemic. In addition to a national mask mandate, there are some pretty interesting anti-COVID measures in place across the Baja. Most businesses, and even the docks have shoe sanitizing mats. You walk onto a mat filled with sanitizer, and then onto a walk-off mat to take some of the moisture off of your shoes. I have never heard that COVID spreads through sneakers, but if it does, it won’t in Mexico. Some businesses have a “sanitation tunnel” that you walk through before going into their front door. A fine mist of something sprays you as you walk on and off the wet and dry mats. I’m not sure what it is spraying, but it is an odd experience. You cannot walk into a business (indoors or outdoors) without having your temperature taken and having hand sanitizer squirted into your hands. At Costco, the sanitizer guy sits way up behind plexiglass and has a long crazy tube that comes out to your hands to ensure you get good and gooped up while not getting near him. We see people constantly cleaning public and private spaces, wiping seats, walls, handles, doorknobs, everything. I am betting that Mexico has never been quite so clean. It does feel reassuring and we appreciate the effort being put into trying to help keep everyone healthy.

Now walk on the first mat and then do a little stamping dance on the second one to get some of the liquid off of your shoes so you don’t fall down on the travertine floors.

And then walk through this tunnel where stuff sprays on you. Don’t worry, it’s safe. 

The Baja 1000 was gearing up during our stay in Ensenada, and many of the teams staged, and stayed at, Marina Coral’s lovely hotel. So cool. Watching these trucks prepare to run the 1000 was super fun and interesting. From peering in at their “chart plotters” to seeing their chase helicopters land in the parking lot, to watching the many support team members prep everything from tires to shocks…we realized that boating is actually less expensive than something – racing!

Crazy beefy.
Bringing all of your vehicles, you know.
Oh don’t forget your chase helicopter.
The inside of the winning vehicle. Must be a wild ride!
I mean we carry spares but none this big!

After a bit of research, we also learned that many of the wineries in the adjacent Valle de Guadalupe were open, with strict COVID protocols in place. We had to go. A car was rented, a map was procured and off we went to drive the valley and visit two of the more than 100 wineries in the region. We were amazed by the development happening in the valley – cool, modern bungalows, beautiful tasting rooms, and small stylish hotels were juxtaposed against rutted dirt roads, young vineyards, cacti and a vast desert landscape. Throw in a little Sonoma County (say Dry Creek Valley), a little backroad Baja, some Mexican flavor, Mexican art and some inspired entrepreneurs and you have the wine tasting experience of the Valle de Guadalupe. We can’t wait to go back in a post COVID world when we can explore more thoroughly.

Mexico gives me wings. Red Bull too.
Mariachi band out on the winery lawn at Decantos Winery.
Lunch at Decantos.
The wine bar. How cool?!?
Wine barrels make a most excellent Christmas tree.
Cool artwork on the winery lawn.
Wine crew!
Cool logo in stone on the walkway to the winery.
The main wine tasting room at Lomita.
The super cool atrium at Lomita. These succulents are SUPERB!
Egg chair? Or grape chair?
View from Lomita winery.
Love this artwork, love this place. Lomita!
My turn in the egg chair.
Beautiful.

With some advice from Rich, our weather guru, and some awesome sea conditions, we decided to head out on a non-stop trip from Ensenada to San Jose del Cabo. As we started our journey a little later this year, we really wanted to get down the Baja and get started on our winter relaxation so a straight shot was in order. The 710-mile trip from Ensenada took 95 hours, our longest non-stop run with only the two of us on board (no crew) to date. It was a beautiful trip!

Pilothouse snack basket is ready for the trip!
To the playa Mama and Daddy!
Sunsets are beautiful at sea.
We were fortunate to have a full moon lighting our way.
Night helm.
Dawn is the best. Absolutely the best.
Max says he is tired of standing watch.
We had spectacular conditions!
Zoe celebrated the smooth seas with naps on her back in her pilothouse double decker dog bed.
Hitchhikers
Some dorado decided to give into Kevin’s pleas and jump in our boat.
The seas were so smooth Kevin made pancakes. And I took pictures. And the dogs drove the boat.
Whale watching!
Hello Cabo!
Los Arcos.

Arriving at Marina Puerto Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo, we had no less than five men asking to wash the boat. In fact, one of the marina staff called a friend and handed Kevin the phone to see if he could wash our boat. Another security guard handed us the business card of a friend. It has been a tough year for families in Mexico. We wished we could have hired them all. In the end we did hire a nice young man named Juan to wash the boat several times while we were in the marina, and another gentleman to clean the bottom of the boat. As always, the work was exceptional and done with great cheer.

Resting Red Rover.
Juan cleaning the top of Gitana (he also did Red Rover, but we got a shot of him up on Gitana!)
Puerto Los Cabos tiny boats.
Sunset at Marina Puerto Los Cabos.
Zaguate – a Costa Rican flagged boat, translates to Street Dog. LOVE.
The marina is surrounded by a walkway with awesome art.
Oh hey dorado. You are delicious.
Still life: Man With Fish in Bowl.

We originally thought we would spend Christmas in La Paz, but we decided to simply spend a month in San Jose del Cabo. Our daughter Kirsten and her friend Delphine were coming to spend the holiday with us and a stay in SJD meant less travel for them, easy access to the socially-distanced marina beach club and a great downtown to explore. Plus, we were only in SJD for a few days last year and we too wanted to spend a bit more time there. It was fun!

Is that you, Santa Claus?
I love how the Mexican towns and cities have giant artistic name signs.
Cool taco spot. San Jose del Cabo is about color, and art and food. Love it.
Churros. Oh my.
Be sure to sanitize!
Dia del Muertos Navidad Remix.
Christmas tree in the main square in San Jose del Cabo.
Cocktail hour at Acre. Masks off for the photo.

Acre has a beautiful restaurant and bar, a spa, hotel accommodations, real estate for sale and…. rescue puppies you can adopt! We didn’t bring a third dog onto the boat but boy was it tempting.

Taco fixin’s at the Hangman. Beautiful and tasty too.
“The Hangman” – an amazing taco place in San Jose del Cabo.
Playing in the Christmas Light Tunnel on the main square in San Jose del Cabo. Starlets?
Watching the Seahawks (GO HAWKS) outside at District MX.

While in SJD, we also had our AB tender fixed. This was originally on the to-do list for this past summer but finding an outboard company to help us in San Diego proved to be impossible. Our 13.5 foot tender is original to the boat, and is now entering its 16th year of shuttling people and dogs about. We had considered a new tender last year, but when COVID hit and created a bit of economic uncertainty, we decided not to have that big expense just yet. The tender had a hold-over repair in La Paz in February of 2020, but we knew that it would need further work. Basically, years of grease in the steering system had built up and created a super stiff steering experience. We were concerned that the steering cable itself might snap. The fix was to be labor intensive and not something we were dying to do. Marine Group has a yard at Puerto Los Cabos and the guys there took care of the project for us. We even had a fun ride back into the water on a forklift. Nope, not in the US anymore!

One dinghy coming up.
Riding down on the forklift. Why not? Oh that sign that says “no riders” – don’t worry about it. Too funny. It was fun!
Driving away…

Kirsten and Delphine arrived a few days apart and the fun began. The four of us and the two dogs became experts in beach lounging, taco eating, late night churro procurement, margarita fixing, historic San Jose del Cabo wandering and of course, Seahawks game watching. Santa did find us on the boat and brought silly and thoughtful gifts alike. Michelle and Hugo, Kevin and I and the girls went to the magical Flora Farms for Christmas dinner after a funny Zoom call with my parents and my mom’s side of the family, organized by my aunt. It was a fantastic holiday, once again, for which I am quite grateful.

Tiny dog hiding behind tiny tree.
Getting all Christmassy on Red Rover!
Beach club at Puerto Los Cabos. Roughing it.
The beach club is super lovely. Before Christmas there were 4 of us there with the whole thing to ourselves.
We could even take the dogs to the beach club. They dug it.

 

Kirsten arrived! Who is slouching and who is standing on their toes?
We of course had to watch the Hawks play! At District MX once again!
The cookin’ show is always fun. Del and Kirsten join Max in watching Kevin make Beef Wellington. Yum!
Kirsten and Del hit the beach club. Bring more beverages please!
Someone misses her doggo.
Playing Pass the Pigs! Thanks Tom and Shawna!
Christmas Eve dinner with the bubble.
Santa found us!
Obligatory cool photo at Flora Farms on Christmas night.
Flora Farms is full of awesome spots for great photos. Like this one!
Oh and the food is beautiful too. Beet carpaccio.
And burrata. Oh how I love burrata.
Hugo and his humungous pork chop.
A little boat outing with the girls.

 

Max and Zoe have been loving their stay in Mexico as well. In fact, they often introduce us to people as everyone wants to talk with them. Zoe made friends with a number of small kids at the “local beach” in the neighborhood of La Playa, next to Marina Puerto Los Cabos. The kids delighted in throwing her toy in the water and having her return it to their feet for them to throw it again. They call her “Sewey” as the “Z” sound isn’t a sound in the Spanish language. Max, being a “Perro Mexicano” gains a lot of interest from well, everyone. And people remember him. Martin, a security guard at Marina Puerto Los Cabos would call from his golf cart, even many feet away, “Max!” Or he would come by the boat and ask to talk to Max. Martin didn’t speak English so our interactions were always pretty funny. When we arrived in La Paz at Marina Cortez, we walked up the ramp to shore and a lovely young waitress at the café next to the marina shouted out, “Max!” She remembered him from last year. All of this fame and popularity is likely going to his tiny head.

Let’s play throw for Zoe!
These kiddos and Zoe could have played for many hours!

After the girls went home, Hugo and Kevin went fishing with a friend of Hugo’s and came home with a wahoo! Yum! This tasty fish immediately became New Year’s dinner. Nice work guys! They also caught a marlin, but let the fish go.

Wahoo! That’s all we have to say here!
Reeling in!
Fishin’ magicians.

With the new year upon us, it was time to do a little work before moving along. We have been working on a new website for Kevin’s company, and we wanted to spend some time finessing the site while we still had WiFi. So while we are in a beautiful place, we are not on vacation. Work does happen!

New Year’s Eve Rummikub. Fierce battles.

We left San Jose del Cabo early on January 5, heading north toward the Sea of Cortez. The winter months in the Sea bring windstorms called “Northers,” where of course the winds come…from the north. Cruising in the winter involves moving about between Northers and finding safe anchorages in between. After a few months that were pretty marina-heavy, we were so ready to be out on the anchor again. We spent four nights at Los Muertos hanging out through a Norther, with winds over 20 knots (and up to 30 knots) every afternoon. The Rocna held like a champ and the cockpit, out of the wind and in the sun, was a glorious spot to hang out. We were joined in Muertos by a new Nordhavn, N60 Rainbow’s End. The six Nordhavn folks and some new friends, Peggy and Pat from a cruising catamaran, Calista, all enjoyed a great lunch at Restaurant 1535 on the corner of the beach. The server told us that the restaurant is named for the year that explorer Cortez arrived in the Sea.

Landscaping at the 1535 Restaurant.
The 1535. They have WiFi!
Shrimp tostadas. With a bow.

Muertos has a beautiful white sand beach that the dogs adore, and that beckoned for daily wanderings.

Doggo con shadow.
Serious beach man. Con shadow tambien.
Beach walkin.
Michelle having a “the hills are alive” moment.
Turtle eggs being protected from birds.
Beautiful water.
Zoe loving the beautiful water.
Hey, check out those cool boats!
Beach running is the best. The best.
Um, I have sand on my nose. Halp.
What dis?
Come this way, hermie.

With a prediction for low winds, we headed out to La Paz on January 9th. The forecast was good and the ride was spectacular. Arriving at Marina Cortez in downtown La Paz later that afternoon felt a lot like coming home. We just love this small city and this beautiful marina.

We spent just a week in La Paz, watching the Seahawks fail to move forward in the playoffs (sad, sad day), doing some more work on the website, wandering the cool town, walking the Malecon and of course eating. Our time here was low key, as the downtown beaches are closed for COVID, and the Malecon closes during certain hours for strolling. But, it was lovely to be back. While in La Paz we stocked up on fresh vegetables, dairy products and tortillas. The plan is to be out on the hook for a bit. I swear, I think the grocery clerks wonder if we are feeding a family of 20 every time we check out. Mexicans typically only shop for a day or two so our enormous cart of vegetables and cheese does seem to raise eyebrows.

The cool lights outside of the art museum, completed since our last visit.
A more illuminating view. Check out the yellow light. Individualist!
The new plaza in front of the cathedral in the center of town. La Paz invests in their community.
The cathedral at night.
Christmas being deconstructed on the malecon. Looked cool though!
La Paz has gorgeous street art.

Bright and early on Saturday morning January 16th, Gitana and Red Rover headed out of La Paz, with our bows pointing north toward Isla San Francisco. As we spent quite a bit of time at Islas Ispiritu Santo and Partida last year, we decided that we would pop north more quickly and enjoy the La Paz area islands again on our way back down. The weekend weather forecast was for warm, sunny, still days and we were not disappointed! What a spectacular few days! We went hiking, beach combing, dog running and of course engaged in a little sun soaking. I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Droning on – Isla San Francisco.
Red is looking lovely.
Anchored at Isla San Francisco.
Neighbor boat, Devocean with a gorgeous backdrop.
Here fishy, fishy!
Magic hour.
So tricky….
Hiking on the other side of the island. Such color!
Still waters.
Doggos in salt flats.
Oh just a wee small neighbor boat.
Hiking man. And dog accomplice.
Cool desert shrub. Pokey!
Cactus skeleton.
She’s a dog on the edge…
Hiking with my shadow.
Kevin loves salt. And here he walks amongst an endless supply.
Cool cactus.
Zoe wishes the Sea a good night.

Last year, we were not able to anchor at the Los Gatos anchorage, a stunning location that can only be enjoyed in fairly settled weather. This year, we weren’t going to miss it. We left Isla San Francisco at 5 am to arrive at 9:30 am, ensuring a full day of fun while the winds were calm. The dogs were psyched – a cat harbor! An anchorage full of cats to chase? They were sorely disappointed. Not a single cat was spotted. Los Gatos is named for a long-ago puma resident that used to come to the beaches in this area to feed. While the cats aren’t in residence, unbelievable red rock formations absolutely are. We scrambled on the rocks, had a picnic on the beach and enjoyed homemade pozole on Gitana in the evening. The winds came up a bit overnight, with more expected, and we moved along at daybreak, on a simple 2.5 hour cruise to Agua Verde.

Morning ride to Los Gatos. Just gorgeous.

 

Arriving at Los Gatos – it is hard to see that there is actually an anchorage there at first.
Just two Nordhavns hanging out in the harbor of the cats. Without cats.
Dinghy cruisin in the sun.
I kept wanting to call this place Red Rocks.
These are kind of like marshmallow finger rocks. So cool.
Zoe had to ensure that the swimming was up to par.
Maybe Mars looks like this?
Tidepools in the smooth rocks.
More cool rocks. We liked them. Can you tell?
Max on the moon.
Zoe likes the rocks too.
Kind of like Utah meets the ocean. We had our picnic on this beach.
Just can’t get enough.
It was interesting to see how wind and waves wore the rocks down differently as you moved around the cove.
Los Gatos from the air.

We picked Agua Verde as our next anchorage because in a very peculiar circumstance, the winds that we were expecting were coming from the south…not the north. Winds generally come from the south in the spring and summer, so it was a rare occurrence for strong winds from the south in January. Agua Verde has several options for south winds, and upon our arrival two of the options already were fairly full with sailboats. We picked the anchorage that was about 1.2 miles from the village of Agua Verde, a nice spot with big mountains around us on three sides (in particular, to our south) and a beach at the head of the bay. We anchored in a light breeze and watched the sailboats pour into the rapidly densifying “town” anchorage. The day was pleasant until we drew closer to evening when the wind started to truly ramp up. And then…an even stranger thing happened. It began to rain! We have seen rain on the boat three times in the last year. Three. That’s it. Ah, bliss for two Seattleites! Oddly, it was nice to see the rain. Free boat wash! And I should say free boat in a washing machine boat wash. The winds gusted to 39 knots with multiple hours that held an average around 30 knots. At one point the boat turned beam to the wind and the gusts were strong enough to make the boat heel (aka roll) 6 degrees. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, you definitely notice it. And remember that this boat weighs 144,000 lbs and draws 6.5 feet. To keep our minds off of the breezy conditions, we decided to engage in the Mexican panguero pastime of playing portions of songs on the VHF to our buddy boat, Gitana. All with a wind theme of course. The crew of the good ship Gitana had fun coming up with lyrical responses. Just think of us as a floating jukebox. When our “name that tune” game got old, we decided that we should make a wind playlist. And when we ran out of wind songs we decided that even better we should have a “natural disaster” playlist – tornadoes, earthquakes, landslides and of course, hurricanes. Needless to say, it was a long night but we, and the boat, were just fine. And we re-learned the lyrics to gems such as “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (Scorpions), “She’s Like the Wind” (Patrick Swayze – from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack), “Riding the Storm Out” (REO Speedwagon), “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season” (Kenny Chesney/Jimmy Buffett), “Landslide” (Dixie Chicks version), “Black Hole Sun” (Soundgarden) and of course, “November Rain” (Guns and Roses). Our music library is, shall we say, diverse.

The wind meter before things really got rocking. High wind speed on the right.

In the morning, Mother Nature decided to taunt us with a bit of stillness, bringing us off the boat and onto the shore to explore. The winds however, came back up (as anticipated) and we were back to hanging out in the pilothouse watching the wind meter dance. The second night involved a much shorter duration of winds, but we still saw 41 knots. Let me say it again. We LOVE our Rocna anchor. Kevin took pictures of it the next morning (as the water is amazingly clear) and we could see that it just dug in, and dug in, and dug in again. We didn’t move. What is the price of peace of mind? The cost of a Rocna.

Daddy, I know you are trying to put the engine on the dinghy, but we’re getting in.
What type of water force created this overhang?
Zoe likes this beach too.
Explorer Dog and Junior Explorer Dog (he hasn’t earned the Explorer badge yet).
Explorer man. He has his badge.
Gitana at rest.
Red Rover in the clouds.
The Rocna. Diggin in.

The morning was foggy and misty, making us feel like we were home in the Pacific Northwest. But the pilothouse was warm and toasty, the coffee was hot and we pulled up the trusty anchor and wandered north to continue our adventures.

Looks like Alaska, eh? But no… it’s Mexico.
Red Rover sitting quietly waiting for us to take her on her next journey.

17 thoughts on “Year 2 – Cruising the Baja and the Sea of Cortez 2021, Part 1

  1. Really enjoying your Blog! We love Baja and spend a fair amount of time there, looking forward to being back down there next winter. We live in Sidney. BC, and its going to freeze tonight, so in case you were missing the PNW…..don’t lol…

    Cheers!
    Curt

    1. Thanks Curt! We don’t miss the cold but we do miss other things about the PNW. But we just love it here. Thank you for reading and maybe we will cross paths next year! Fun!!

  2. Enjoyed my tea this morning in sunny MDR on a very dock tied Pendana with your lovely blog update. Sounds like you’re taking it one day at a time, which is the absolute best way to live! Miss you guys and long to be out there with y’all. Hugs and cheers and safe passages ♥️

      1. I am so excited to see you guys start on your journey! Well, of course, you started it long ago when you moved aboard. But your journey south awaits!!

    1. We are definitely on the slow road this year, and that’s just perfect right now. Miss you guys too and wish you were here with us!!

  3. Thanks for the update. It was not too long, I waited until Sunday morning to relax and enjoy it.
    Flora Farms is awesome. We went there a lot. When I had had enough, I split from the crowds and hid in the underground wine cellar/taster.
    I know this is a lot of work however it is truly appreciated.
    Take Good Care

    1. Hi Dean! Who knew there was an underground wine cellar?!? Good thing we were not aware of that or we might still be there. Thanks so much for the kind comments. I will get another post up in the coming weeks. 🙂

      1. We were there about 6 weeks and had a house so therefore we attracted family to come and stay. It was always on the list of what to do. Fortunately I found the tasting room and then the spiral staircase to the underground quiet area. It is a good hide out if you go back.

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