Xmas in the Sea of Cortez

Between the rescues, the border run and the race, it felt like Sea Raven was starting to turn into a floating home again. So we did what needed doing, weighed anchor and headed to the islands for Xmas, or the solstice, or to avoid the impending end of the world as per the Mayans, whatever the reason, we finally dragged ourselves away and hoisted sail again!

morning in the La Paz anchorage

morning in the La Paz anchorage

Ok, so the first leg didn’t involve any actual sailing, we got a late start after our outboard decided to burn out the propellor bushing and refused to go over quarter throttle, which it of course did on a trip to shore in the wind and chop, which left us pretty much soaked through!

he said something about wanting a chup??

he said something about wanting a chup??

With that fixed, it was after lunch and even though its only 15 miles to the Isla Espiritu Santo, its also 5 miles down the channel out of the harbour, so we hummed and harred and decided to head to Caleta Lobos, the small bay we anchored in on our arrival to the neighbourhood back in November.

Seeing as I had some daylight left to play with when we anchored, I decided to clean the bottom of the boat, which with 2-3 kts of current in the anchorage back in La Paz most of the time, was a little difficult.  And man was it needed!  The last time I cleaned it in Turtle Bay, she had been in the water for a year, this time, just 6 weeks later, was ridiculously worse!  It was like a 1 inch fur on the bottom, a fur made up of little shrimp kinda things that get in places they shouldn’t and bite when you try to rinse off in fresh water, but they had to go!

The next morning we headed out of the bay and pointed towards the island, determined to sail there and turn the engines off for a change.

Which we did for the first couple of hours, managing to hit 6.5 kts in 15kts of breeze we were pretty happy with the progress, then the Sea of Cortez did its usual winter thing and started to chop up, only 3-4 ft of swell but about 3-4 seconds apart and with the wind up to 25 kts the ride was a little less enjoyable.

It probably didn’t help that after months of thinking about it, we had taken the windscreen section of our dodger off, and it was a little too cool at the helm in the breeze!

So we furled up the headsail, its pretty useless when it comes to pointing, and started motor sailing into it and towards the anchorage we had picked out.  Things didn’t look to be improving, so I opted to ditch the attempt at sailing in to the anchorage and dropped the main and mizzen too, not long before the winds started gusting to 30 kts.  By that point we were in the lee of the island, so the shitty chop eased a little and we pointed towards a new anchorage selection, one a little closer!

Ensenada de Raza

Ensenada de Raza

Which is how we ended up in Ensenada de Raza.

Just outside of the bay is Isla Ballena, where the Mexcians sank an old Chinese freighter in the 90s to be used as a dive site, I really wanted to dive the wreck, it was one of the reasons I chose the anchorage, but seeing as Sabi wasn’t as keen for the now cooler water dive, and equally unkeen on me diving it alone, I guess I’ll have to rent a friend one day to dive with and come back to it!

We spent a couple of nights in the bay, waiting for the wind to die down a little so we could explore a little with the dinghy, and get some snorkelling in.IMG_5410

Then we picked up the hook again, and moved up to ensenade Grande on Isla Partida, Espiritu Santo’s northern neighbour.

This time we did manage to sail the entire 5 miles! Doesnt sound like much, but with a head wind it took us nearly 5 hours and about 6 tacks to get there, but at the end I even made the crew sit through one more tack, so we could sail right into the bay and anchor.  A note, there was one other boat when we arrived there and over xmas there were up to 8 boats in the same bay, not one of them sailed in 😉


Ensenada Grande

Ensenada Grande

I came to several conclusions on the way to Ensenada Grande, we REALLY need another light air head sail or at least smaller jib, I REALLY need to get rid of the extra weight we are carrying around (still have lead ballast in the stern, 2 x 20gl storage bins of teak finish we probably don’t need, some used wire that weighs a ton, old transmissions from the last engines, and our old main sail!) and I REALLY want a kayak or something, I had wanted to go and fish the reef near the boat, and it was just too far to want to swim there and back with the gear, and not quite far enough to justify dropping the dink in the water….

We noticed straight away the water was clearer, and when I jumped in I found it was colder too!  I finally  tried fishing the second night we were there, and after 15 minutes or so I was starting to shiver bad enough that I got out again, time to drag out the wettie I guess!

The guide book also told us about a hike you could do up a dry creek and to the other side of the island, so f course we set out early one morning to check it out, was part trail part scramble, but the view from the other side was worth it.  It stopped on the edge of a (the guide says 450m but it looked a little smaller) cliff over looking the Sea of Cortez and with views of the mainland to the south and Baja Peninsula to the south.

surprise, there's cactus here too!

surprise, there’s cactus here too!


the view from the top

the view from the top

view south

view south

For a brief second, well almost a day, we had the entire anchorage to ourselves, nice change, but sure enough a few more boats started pulling up, I guess we weren’t the only ones who wanted to escape the crowds to celebrate baby jesus day by eating loads of food and lounging around….

One of the other boats to show was Ultreya, some friends of ours who we first met back in Los Frailes, and had kept in contact with while we were all in La Paz.  Shannon, Jasmine and their daughter Solyce, ended up coming over to Sea Raven for dinner the night of the 24th, xmas day already in New Zealand, and seeing as Sea Raven is a kiwi flagged and captained yacht, it made sense!

It was great to have company over to help us fill some of the space around the table for a change, not that we mind having the space to ourselves, but theres only so long a man can take losing at every game we have – even scrabble to a wife who isn’t even a native english speaker, lucky I’m not competitive!

sunset at xmas

sunset at xmas

The next day, we had planned on heading back to reality, the pre trip provisioning wasn’t as well thought out as it could have been, but after mucking around cleaning the dinghy and packing up, we decided to get an early start the next day and set about reading some more.  Plus I’d been watching the wind gusting to 25 in the sheltered anchorage and the seas were giving a few passing boats free roller coaster rides…

The crew of Ultreya stopped by and invited us over to share the fish they had just caught, so we spent the afternoon eating fried fish and just chillin on someone elses boat for a change, talking and trying to decide where to go for the summer.

The next morning we were off again, we pulled out of the bay with full sail, and after half hour of trying everything, we gave up and fired up an engine, ditched the sails and settled into the familiar hum of the iron jib driving us home….

There was a little breeze out there, just enough that if we had been heading northish, we would have done ok, but with a 10kt breeze right behind us, it just wasn’t enough to keep our sails full…. ahh the joy of hindsight, damn sails!

So now we are back anchored off La Paz, and I have a list of things I need to complete before I can pull up the anchor again and take off to go shoot at fish…

All play and no work makes for unhappy crew, weird huh!IMG_5347


3 responses to “Xmas in the Sea of Cortez

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