Our 11-day stay in San Diego wasn't near as hectic on this cruise as it was when we were here in 1990. We didn't have the engine problems we had then and we weren't so new to the whole process of preparing to leave the States for a foreign country. Still there was plenty to do. We provisioned, got our last series of shots, obtained our Mexican fishing licenses and visas, and got the boat fueled and watered.
On November 17 we had no excuses for remaining in San Diego and so at about 5:45AM we departed the Police Dock and headed south out of the harbor and past Point Loma. The photo to the right is looking east-southeast toward Tijuana, Mexico.
Our slip neighbor from Murphy's Landing in Gig Harbor, Stan Brice on Mar Y Joe, was right behind us. Having never gone through the process of clearing a vessel into a foreign country, Stan wanted to tag along with us to Ensenada.
Once we crossed into the territorial waters of Mexico, later that morning it was time to put up our Mexican courtesy flag. Normally, courtesy flags are much smaller than this, but we happened to pick this one up at, of all places, a used book sale in a tent in the Safeway parking lot at Gig Harbor.
It's only about 60 miles from San Diego to Ensenada and thus we were able to arrive well before sunset. Upon entering the harbor we could see the yacht anchorage area just beyond the Cruiseport where the cruise ships dock.
Having just had a great sunrise leaving San Diego, we were now treated to a pretty sunset shortly after getting anchored in Ensenada harbor. Here we're looking west toward the commercial fishing vessels moored inside the jetty.
And right beside us to the south is the cruise ship dock with another cruising boat anchored on the very edge of the small vessel anchorage area. It was amazing to us how they could maneuver these huge ships in such tight quarters without wiping out those of us anchored so close by.
We stayed in Ensenada a little longer than we might otherwise have due to weather and Steve's cold. We had a good time in Ensenada, despite one cold and rainy day. We did some shopping and had a fantastic dinner at the El Rey Sol restaurante. But finally it was time to move on. Stan on Mar Y Joe was still with us when we left, and we picked up another addition to our little fleet, Beso, a Nordhavn 40 trawler-style motor vessel. We first met Chip and Kay on Beso in Marina Del Rey when we all happened to be staying at the Pacific Mariner's Yacht Club.
Kavenga was the vanguard of the "fleet" as we approached Punta Colonet (or sometimes Colnett). If you looked at it on a chart, the point looks for all the world like a human nose jutting out into the Pacific. There's a semi-protected anchorage on the other side that we are all headed for.
There's an arroyo on the south side of Punta Colonet exactly where the nostril would be if the point were in fact a nose. It is said that it is not a good idea to anchor directly south of the "nostril" as the arroyo accentuates any wind coming over the top of the mesa-like point. They say "when the nostril sneezes, look out!" It looks as though Beso is anchored in that spot, but in fact they are anchored much further in our direction than it appears in this photo.
This shot was taken as we were leaving the following morning.
Our next stop was another "day-hop" south to a very large open bay, somewhat like Drake's Bay north of San Francisco. It's called Bahia San Quintin (pronounced "kin-teen").
Here Kavenga is on the far right. Beso is on the far left.
When we briefly swung in here for a quick look in 1990 it was blowing 25 to 30 knots and didn't look all that secure so we kept going. In reality, as long as the winds don't come from the south, it's a decent anchorage.
We had two peaceful night's anchorage here and, thanks to Kay, a wonderful, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, for which Stan joined us.
From where the above photo was taken, if you turn 90 degrees to the left, you get this view of the entrance to the large estuary at the head of Bahia San Quentin. Inside would be a more protected anchorage. However, the channel leading in is a tad shallow and always changing from season to season. The Mexican government has talked of dredging and buoying it, but so far it's just talk.
Eight miles up the estuary is the small village of Molino Viejo (Old Mill) where we were given to understand there might be a restaurant. We thought of trying it via dinghy but in the end decided it was too long of a haul with too many things that could go wrong.
"The Fleet" decided to stay in Bahia San Quentin long enough to move to the other side of the bay and anchor off the hotel beach. Here is Mar Y Joe following Beso.
San Quentin is a rather remote place, but they do have a decent hotel and a motel/RV park. We heard there was a little restaurant at the latter and braved the surf landing to check it out. The surf wasn't as bad as it looked from the water side and we all made it in without getting wet. We had a nice, typical Mexican dinner at the Ceilito Lindo motel and RV park and then braved the surf once again to get out to our respective boats.
For the next leg we had planned another day-hop to a semi-protected anchorage in the lee of Punto San Thomas. But when we listened to our weather guru, Don Anderson, on the Amigos cruiser's radio net in the morning, he was warning everyone of very strong winds coming in 24 hours. Punto San Thomas offered us very little protection if the winds clocked around to the west, which eventually he said they would.
The next all-weather anchorage to the south was Turtle Bay. All things considered we felt it best to make the longer, overnight passage to Turtle Bay and arrive there ahead of the coming gale, rather than have it catch us at Punto San Thomas or enroute the next day to Turtle Bay. It was a good decision. In this photo, we are anchored at Turtle Bay with 35 knot winds sweeping the anchorage. Unfortunately they were also sweeping yards of dust out of the hills and depositing it all over Kavenga and the other anchored boats.
We were unable to leave Kavenga to go into town for a day and a half due to the winds. This shot was taken just as the winds had finally begun to abate and we soon caught a ride via panga (open fishing launch) into town.
It hadn't changed much in 14 years. Still dusty and downtrodden. If anything it's a little worse off than it was in 1990. Shortly thereafter the cannery had to close when the USA quit importing Mexican tuna because it was deemed not "dolphin safe". The population in Turtle Bay dropped from 5,000 to 3,000 or less in a short time. It's over 100 miles to the main highway and so doesn't have much going for it other than being a great harbor. Perhaps investors will build a resort and marina here some day. For now it's home to lobster fishermen and a welcome refuge for pleasure boats headed north and south along the rugged Baja coast.
Once the wind died down we were treated to this beautiful sunset over Turtle Bay.
After quick stops at Asuncion and Abreojos, we made a 135-mile overnight passage to Bahia Santa Maria, one of the more popular stops for southbound cruisers. There are fishermen to trade with for lobsters, fish, shrimp and abalone; beaches to comb; surf to ride or run; mountains to hike; and mangrove estuaries to explore.
In this photo is one of three fish camps upstream on the mangrove estuary that feeds into the head of the bay. The surf often breaks all the way across the entrance so it makes for an exciting dinghy transit from bay to estuary. This photo is somewhat unusual in that it telescopes the varied terrain of the surrounding area. Immediately in the foreground are cacti, common to the dry hills and mountains surrounding the bay; in the middle is the unique ecosystem of the mangrove estuary; and beyond are the miles of dunes on the ribbon-like isthmus that separates Bahia Santa Maria from the Pacific Ocean to the north.
The fish camp is typical of Baja. For the most part we're told that these are not permanent homes. The fishermen and their families come out and live here for the fishing season. The small town of Puerto San Carlos is within reasonable distance via panga for food and other necessities. Some of the more well-to-do shacks had a solar panel and a TV dish antenna outside, so life is not completely primitive here. Those are pangas lining the shore.
We ran the surf in our dinghy at least three times to get into the mangroves. On this day we were dropping off some second-hand children's clothes to a couple of ladies in the camp. Along with the Beso and Mar Y Joe crews we then beached our dinghies and went for a hike to the Pacific side of the isthmus.
It took us less than an hour to hike to the beach. After walking it for a time we felt like naming it Playa de Los Muertos--"Beach of the Dead". We saw the remains of a couple dead seals and dead turtles, and this 4-foot long whale skull. It had some rope tied around it indicating past attempts to drag or float it off the beach.
There are are also "skeletons" here of human origin--ships. There are two shipwrecks on the beach. The one we visited had been almost totally decomposed through the work of rust and heavy surf.
Sadly, the beach is also littered with numerous plastic containers that previously contained soft drinks or motor oil.
The weather during this period was very settled with little or no wind most of the time, which made for comfortable anchorages and a good night's sleep. Fortunately, when it was time to move, it was just a 28-mile jaunt south to Bahia Magdalena, so our pleasant days continued anew at this anchorage, Man O War Cove at the northwest corner of this very large bay. Like several of the large shallow bays and lagoons along the Baja coast, Bahia Magdalena is a prime breeding and calving ground for gray whales. We saw only one on the run down here but there are more showing up every day according to reports from other boats near the entrance where they congregate.
Here you see Kavenga and Mar Y Joe (Beso had departed for Cabo San Lucas) lying peacefully in the windless anchorage. The isthmus in the distance is all that separates Bahia Magdalena from Bahia Santa Maria, from where we had just come. The green strip in the isthmus is another mangrove estuary.
On the way down from Bahia Santa Maria we noticed a wild looking ocean beach that would be approximately opposite our planned anchorage at Man O War Cove. So after we got situated, we found this arroyo which appeared to lead to a pass in the mountains that we hoped would be above this same beach. This arroyo, or dry creek bed turned out to be one of the highlights of the hike. The fine-pebbled creekbed was like a superhighway trail and was surrounded by a beautiful variety of plantlife. Only near the summit of the pass were we forced to switch to a nearby trail.
It was wonderful to break over the ridge and see that we had all of this beach to explore.
Here's Stan, skipper of Mar Y Joe, on one of the two huge beaches that the three of us had all to ourselves. We found shells, sponges and interesting geology here.
Here's another shot of Man O War Cove and a piece of the little town of Puerto Magdalena. Kavenga is anchored at center, Mar Y Joe beyond and the junk-rigged Gia (from Albany, Oregon?) in the foreground.
Here you get a better view of the extensive mangrove estuary and neighboring Bahia Santa Maria in the background.
While anchored at Man O War Cove, we took a side trip via panga to Puerto San Carlos, seen here in the distance.
When we were here in 1990 we took Kavenga up the zig-zagging shallow channel and anchored in near the commercial wharf. This time we felt it was worth the cost of a "water taxi" to avoid having to anchor in the ship channel with its 2-knot reversing current.
We had hoped to find a bank or ATM here, but had to settle for just a lunch at the quaint Los Arcos seafood restaurant and a stroll around the little town. In 1990 we were here for New Year's Eve and the town was gaily decorated. This time it was sadly rather drab.
On our passage down the Baja coast it seemed as if we were usually sitting out winds that were too strong in some harbor, or motoring or motor-sailing in winds that were too light. Here's a rare moment when we were sailing. Photo taken by Stan Brice.
This was quite different than our 1990 cruise when we had moderate to strong winds a good deal of the trip.