A Holiday, and a Reminder of Why

Dressing ship in honor of Benito Juarez at the Navy Base at Guaymas
Dressing ship in honor of Benito Juárez at the Navy Base at Guaymas

Merging onto the Modern Highway

We arrived back in Guaymas on the weekend of the vernal equinox, taking advantage of a break in the winter’s persistent northwesterly winds to make a jump north. Now, instead of a peaceful life in the isolated anchorages of Baja California, we’re in the throes of the 21st century. Excited to use the internet, but not about some of the news it brings. Excited to see our car, at least in its role as bodega/storage shed, but we can’t get the doors open because the battery is dead. It makes me think back to a line from a book I’m reading about the 1930s adventures of a young couple who traveled from California to Panama in a kayak.

"Machineless men, dwelling outside the currents of time and change, the faces of the villagers of Punta Duro reflected the peace and contentment that came from being presented with no problems beyond their capacity to solve." From Enchanted Vagabonds, by Dana Lamb. 1938, Harper and Brothers

We were raring to go out and see if we had the capacity to solve our problems and thereby reacquire peace and contentment on Monday , but whoa! Slow down! It’s a holiday! Honoring Benito Juárez, on March 21, this year is a holiday that segues neatly into Semana Santa, the Holy Week bookended by Palm Sunday and Easter, probably the biggest vacation week of the year in Mexico.

Overheard on the radio: “The beaches are already filling up and they’ll be so packed by Thursday that you’ll think there’s no more space. Then everybody else will come.”

Back to Benito Juárez:

I’d venture to say that there is not a town in Mexico that does not have a street named after Benito Juárez. And there he is on the twenty-peso note. He was president during tumultuous times in the 1860s. But why else would he be called Mexico’s Abraham Lincoln?

The most used piece of currency in Mexico is the 20-peso note featuring Benito Juarez. It's plastic, not paper, with secret codes embedded.

The most used piece of currency in Mexico is the 20-peso note featuring Benito Juárez. It’s a durable kind of plastic, not paper, with secret codes embedded. Each bill in Mexico is a different color, and some are different sizes too, making them easy to tell apart.

So I read about him on Wikipedia. I’m trying to keep my summary short and sweet, but these were very confused times in Mexico and some hard-to-imagine things occurred. Kind of like current events.

Importantly, Benito Juárez was a indigenous Mexican, not Spanish, but Zapotec, born in 1806. His parents were peasants who died when he was young; he was a shepherd and farmer until he was 12, when he walked to the city of Oaxaca to go to school (and learn Spanish). An acquaintance who was impressed by his intelligence arranged for his education.

Eventually he became a lawyer, and in his 30s, a judge, and in his early 40s governor of Oaxaca and the husband of a 20-years-younger white woman, which was notable considering the prevailing racism and social stratification of the era.

Benito Juárez with his sister Nela (right) and his wife Margarita Maza (left), 1843. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, Benito Juárez entry

Meantime, the Mexican War with the Americans was taking place; Juarez was exiled for several years and worked in a cigar factory in New Orleans. But he returned as the Liberal party regained power. In this Reform Period, an effort was made “to create a modern civil society and capitalist economy based on the model of the United States. The Ley Juárez (Juárez Law) of 1855 declared all citizens equal before the law and severely restricted the privileges of the Catholic Church.” (Wikipedia)

Juarez, as interim president of the country, headed the liberal side in the  turbulent Mexican civil war known as the Reform Wars through the late 1850s.

He was eventually elected president in his own right in 1861 but the country’s infrastructure and economy had been badly damaged by the wars; Mexico defaulted on debts owed to England, Spain and France.

So France, with the support of the Conservatives from the Reform Wars, invaded, and Napoleon III installed the Hapsburg duke Maximillian as Emperor of Mexico. Juárez  ran a government in exile in Chihuahua until 1867 when the French were finally defeated and Maximillian executed.

Juárez won election twice after that, once ‘clean’ and later ‘widespread controversy and fraud’. He died of a heart attack at the age of 66 while reading the newspaper at his desk.

The period of his leadership is known in Mexican history as La Reforma del Norte (The Reform of the North), and constituted a liberal political and social revolution with major institutional consequences: the expropriation of church lands, the subordination of the army to civilian control, liquidation of peasant communal land holdings, the separation of church and state in public affairs, and also the almost-complete disenfranchisement of bishops, priests, nuns and lay brothers, codified in the “Juarez Law” or “Ley Juárez”. Wikipedia, Benito Juárez.

His life did overlap Lincoln’s, and parts of their life stories and political agendas have substantial similarity, and reforms worth fighting for, so I guess it’s a viable comparison. But in one way they were quite different, Lincoln being notably tall and lanky, and Juárez ‘peaking’ at only four feet, six inches tall.

UPDATE: I’ve found a way better write-up here: http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/274-mexico-s-lincoln-the-ecstasy-and-agony-of-benito-juarez

The author commented that Lincoln in one sense was lucky to have been ‘martyred’ at the height of his success and thus spared the frustrations and disillusionment of Juárez’s last five years.

I can’t help but try to imagine how the wild and wooly events of Mexico in the 1860s would be described by today’s journalists and commentators. And wonder where the likes of today’s politicians and plutocrats would have found themselves in the 1860 landscape. There’s a bit more analysis of Juárez’s legacy from Wikipedia as a footnote.

While banks are closed today, I don’t think Diá Benito Juárez is a retail shopping extravaganza, at least not here in Guaymas and not at the battery store. I do hope that everyone is making the best of the day!

Sailboat sinks after hitting a whale

Because, on a more somber note, we are also thinking about a friend whose sailboat sank beneath him this week, after he hit a whale in the pre-dawn darkness. In twenty minutes, from his dinghy, he watched his very well-tended pride and joy sink in thousands of feet of water, thirty-odd miles short of Guaymas.

The good news is that the safety net we don’t want to count on but secretly do, consisting of an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and the person or institution it notifies (in this case Canadian authorities and through them the Mexican Navy) – that system worked exactly as it should.

Our friend was safe ashore very quickly. He did have insurance, and had prepared himself well for the voyage by having his ditch bags and liferaft ready in the cockpit. So although he needed to borrow shoes and clothes, he had his paperwork and electronics, etc. And his life. But his floating home is gone forever.

We had plenty of time to contemplate all the above as we came the same way the following night, scanning the darkness for debris, and for a concussed, angry, or dead whale, seeing nothing.

It’s a reminder just how fast a situation can change. With that in mind, let the Mexicans enjoy their holiday, and let us enjoy it too.

Footnote…a bit more about Mexican political history and Juárez’s legacy, from Wikipedia

“*La Reforma represented the triumph of Mexico’s liberal, federalist, anti-clerical, and pro-capitalist forces over the conservative, centralist, corporatist, and theocratic elements that sought to reconstitute a locally-run version of the old colonial system. It replaced a semi-feudal social system with a more market-driven one, but following Juárez’s death, the lack of adequate democratic and institutional stability soon led to a return to centralized autocracy and economic exploitation under the regime of Porfirio Díaz. The Porfiriato(Porfirist era), in turn, collapsed at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.”

So much, from more than a hundred years ago, sounds so familiar in this description.

Learning the surf landing, watching the swell

waves breaking anchored boats

Every so often there’s an adrenaline-rush day for the small craft operators in Bahia Tenacatita, as illustrated in this photo taken by Aimee aboard sv Terrapin. Is the “Featured Image” missing above? Visit this post on GalivantsTravels.com.

West Coast accessories?

The first time we saw a dinghy with wheels, on a shiny new boat from California, we thought it was another example of what some of us from the little states in the eastern US think of as West Coast, over-the top, accessorizing.
Hauling the boat up the beach is easy with drop-down wheels bolted to the transom and the horsepower of the bocce players.
Hauling the boat up the beach is easy when the wheels  bolted to the transom are flipped down. Horsepower from the bocce players is useful too.
However we’re finding that a lot of the anchorages in the Pacific are open to the swell of half the Pacific ocean, and have marginal headlands to hide behind, or bays to enclose us. Our present dinghy is a ten-foot AB Alumina inflatable, more like an SUV than a kayak, as is appropriate for its duties as our one and only ‘do anything everywhere’ transportation interface. Doug has always wanted a strong dinghy,  but it also has its disadvantages.
At nearly 200 pounds when loaded with a 15 hp outboard and a full tank, it’s not easy to drag up the beach. Being inflatable, it’s not a good rowing boat. Despite its aluminum floor, we wouldn’t want to drag it over rocks, or even sand. And on some beaches you have to pull the boat up pronto, before the next wave, and pull it a long way. Once we understood what the wheels were for, we wanted some.
One basic theory is to put down your wheels and wait just beyond the line where the waves reveal themselves. When you see a potential big one, rev up and try to stay just on its back side. That way you get carried as far in as possible up. Then, hop out of the boat (you’re dressed for wetting, I hope) and haul it up before the next wave breaks. The steeper the beach, the more important this becomes. In some places, with careful timing, and a lot of luck, one might feasibly hop out in dry pants, maybe even dry shoes!
A second theory, which works pretty well on the flat beach of Tenacatita, is to not deploy the wheels. Sometimes the wheels hitting the ground can brake you before you’re clear of the surf break. But then you have the full weight of the dinghy to deal with; the trouble is getting it far enough up the beach to avoid it washing away on the incoming tide on a long day away.
 The local pangueros are expert at landing on the beach – that’s what their boats are designed for.  But they have 20′ high-bowed boats*,  bigger engines, and a transom deeper in the water, so the prop keeps a better bite. They often back in, with the propellor a bit lifted and the bow lifting nicely to the breakers. Sometimes someone (the junior crew member!) jumps in the water to keep everything lined up. Usually when a panga delivers you to a beach, you can step right off onto sand.
The panga is designed to be operated from a beach.

 Most important lesson so far

Don’t get in front of the breaking wave if at all possible, and especially, don’t get sideways to it. Also, the kill switch, which turns the engine off when the clip is pulled: you want its lanyard on your wrist and the switch in good working order. You could dump the dinghy, douse your outboard in salt water, lose whatever you were carrying, etc. Better not to chop up the remains while you’re at it. Who needs that kind of excitement?

This is the surf landing we're practicing up for.
This is the surf landing we’re practicing up for. This photo was borrowed from the blog svyolo.com, in a post called Pitchpoled in Tenacatita.

Two families with four young children between them, headed ashore in kayaks last year, and got in too far to turn back. They got dumped on the way in, and as conditions worsened with the tide, they decided to stay at the hotel down at the end of the beach, rather than take on the waves they photographed above.

It’s an interesting story, since the hotel isn’t set up for that kind of guest, and they weren’t set up to be there. But it reinforces one of our rules, which is: when you go ashore, no matter where you think you are going, always take shoes and always take money.

Feel the surge!

The other day we had some surge-y conditions, and I don’t think anyone went ashore. According to  surf sites like magicseaweed.com, there was a 2.3 meter swell train from the northwest, trending down some violent-looking weather systems battering northern California. And there was a 1.4 meter southwesterly swell, can’t say what is generating that without looking south of the equator. These were long period swells, up and down every 15 or 20 seconds. Listening, particularly in the wee hours, you can hear the boom of surf on the other side of the bay.

The swell, often 20 feet tall every 20 seconds, is getting them cranked in Hawail, but it, or similar swells, can affect coasts thousands of miles away.
This swell, often 20 feet tall every 20 seconds, is getting them cranked in Hawail. This, or similar swells, can affect coasts thousands of miles away. magic seaweed.com

We are well-anchored, but it is disconcerting to watch our neighbors zooming forward, as if they’re getting underway, and to know that we’re doing the same ourselves. We just can’t  feel the conveyor belt we’re riding.

Feel the Roll too

But we can certainly feel the side-to-side rolling that comes when the swell and the wind are perpendicular. There’s an accessory for that too. The flopper-stopper is rigged to hang from a pole stuck out the side of the boat. In the water is something that resists being lifted, but sinks readily, like a weighted platform, bucket, basket/check valve, or a big flat hinge. Even if it doesn’t stop the roll completely, it breaks the harmonic cycle.  That’s one accessory we haven’t yet acquired.

The 'traffic cone' flopper stopper slows down the boat's roll.
The ‘traffic cone’ flopper stopper slows down the boat’s roll.

And no one is going ashore today, at least not in their dinghies. Surfing in would be one problem, getting back out would be another kind, and maybe more difficult.

Landing on the beach lessons cancelled today.
Landing on the beach lessons cancelled today. Photo courtesy of sf-terrapin.com

Launch techniques

We’re learning that the wheels aren’t always the answer to getting out either. The problem is that they leave the bow of the dinghy down, easy for the waves to break into while you’re trying to get into the dinghy, get the engine started, get the passenger aboard, stay steered straight out, etc.

They're just about to make their move, and did a great job of it, for an appreciative audience.
They’re just about to make their move, and did a great job of it, for an appreciative audience.

As for ourselves, well, we sometimes come home wet, and glad of a dry bag for storing things. It does help to decide early who is calling the shots, or you’ll both get doused in the space between go, go, go and wait, wait, wait!

Footnote about the panga

*from Wikipedia, I learned this about the ubiquitous panga.

  • The original panga design was developed by Yamaha as part of a World Bank project circa 1970.
  • Key features of the panga design are a high bow, narrow waterline beam, and a flotation bulge along the gunwale, or top edge of the hull. The high bow provides buoyancy for retrieving heavy nets, and minimizes spray coming over the bow. The narrow beam allows the hull to be propelled by a modest-sized outboard motor. The flotation bulge along the gunwale provides increased stability at high angles of roll.
  • The original Yamaha panga design had a length of 22 feet (6.7 m), and a waterline beam of approximately 5 feet 6 inches (1.7 m).
  • Pangas are usually between 19 and 28 feet (5.8 and 8.5 m) in length, with capacities ranging from 1 to 5 short tons (0.89 to 4.46 long tons; 0.91 to 4.54 t) and powered by outboard motors of between 45 and 200 hp (34 and 149 kW). Their planing hulls are capable of speeds in excess of 35 knots (40 mph; 65 km/h)

Costa Alegre and Tenacatita’s Blue Bay

Galivant, foreground,  at anchor in Tenacatita Bay. The town of La Manzanilla is across the bay behind our mast.

We arrived here on Christmas Day, after a nice sail around Cabo Corrientes, under the light of a gloriously full moon. Full moon brings with it a whole different set of thoughts than a dark and windy night, especially when it’s Christmas Eve and you can imagine a world full of people looking for Santa’s sleigh silhouetted on the very moon we’re watching.

They like to call this the Costa Alegre, alegre meaning cheerful. Happy, joyful, maybe a little drunk, says one dictionary.

When we arrived in the middle of the afternoon, there were a handful of Big Mexican Motor Yachts, who left within hours. And there were just two other cruising boats in this capacious bay. Everyone else had gone to the next bay for a Christmas pot-luck dinner. Out came the swim ladder and into the warm salty pool we slid. The water really was 84 degrees. I don’t even remember the dinner, but I’m sure it was pot-luck too. And alegre.

Since then a cruising community has slowly been evolving, to the point that there were 40 other boats here last week, although now half have moved on.

What’s Here?

There’s a half-mile of beach, punctuated by all-inclusive resort, Los Angeles Locos, (formerly Blue Bay) at the far end. The hotel suffered damage during Hurricane Patricia, but is up and running. The vegetation is recovering and the sand has been pushed back down onto the beach. Behind the road was a shrimp farm owned by the hotel, but that’s still being rebuilt.


At the near end there’s a palapa-roofed restaurant called La Vena, a tent campground, and the barred mouth of a small river which wanders back into the mangroves for a couple miles. There are herons and chacalacas  (turkey-like birds) and terns and no doubt much else upstream, even some small crocodiles. Don’t molest them, say the signs. Don’t worry!

Tenacatita upstream to estuary resize crop

Supplies, groceries and the like, are available not too far away, but not too close either. The small town of La Manzanilla is three miles across the bay by water, when it’s not too rough, or half an hour by taxi. The bigger towns of Barra de Navidad and Melaque are in the next bay, about 14 miles southeast. And a cell phone tower twinkles, although it sometimes seems that’s all it does.

The Mayor and his constituency

Tenacatita is the kind of place some people stay for months, and come to year after year. So perhaps it’s fitting that there be a Mayor; Robert aboard Harmony of Alameda is the latest, and maybe the longest serving too, although I suspect that the First Lady, aka “The Lovely Miss Virginia” is the real Mayor. Being a background Empress myself, I recognize the signs.

They keep the morning radio net going, and the social calendar up-to-date, and generally know what’s going on. The Mayor also hosts a Friday afternoon raft-up.

Robert, the Mayor of Tenacatita, surveys his constituency on New Year’s Eve.  ‘Bring your drinks, and a plate, and some food to share. And make sure to bring plenty of food, because the mayor is always hungry” is the weekly announcement. You’ll be asked to introduce yourself, and sometimes there is a talent show, or jokes, or show and tell, or a topic for discussion.

Turtle launch

The hotel ‘rescues’ sea turtle eggs, holds them until they hatch, and then involves the hotel guests, particularly the children, in the ‘launch.’

fenced in labels marking turtle egg nest locations
The security guards try to calculate when the eggs will hatch. Then they move the hatchlings into a concrete tub until nightfall, when it is deemed safer for the turtles to be released to the sea.
New Year’s was a busy time, 90-plus sea turtle hatchlings and nearly as many kids.
Man holding sea turtle
This turtle is ready to get swimming
sea turtle babies surf line
“Hurry up! We’re almost there!”
Photo courtesy of WorldWlidlifeFederation.org

Boys at play

“Bocce on the beach at 2 PM” is the main item on the social calendar. It’s usually followed by drinks in the palapa. It’s not always all men playing – anyone is welcome. But the women tend to walk the beach or sit in the shade and chat while the men knock bocce balls around.

Bocce ball on the beach



Two dolphins , one rubbing on anchor chain
One of our neighbors in the anchorage, John Rogers aboard Moonshadow, who took the top picture of Galivant (foreground) and Gia from his masthead, also saw these dolphins using his anchor chain as a fin scratcher, and went to investigate, camera in hand. Image courtesy of  ‘Lectronic Latitude 38.

Several years ago I read a book called Beautiful Minds, which compared intelligent animals, particularly primates and cetaceans. I was struck by the authors’ observation that, because of the environment in which they lived, their anatomy, and the tools not available to them, dolphins and whales have few options and many limitations when compared to the great apes. Backscratchers would just be the start of the list.

Out of Guaymas, Out of the Sea of Cortez

In the spring, we left Galivant propped on stands, out of the water, in Guaymas for the summer, as we had done the year before. We drove back across the country to Maryland, smelling some roses on the way, to finish some house projects. And then in October we drove back in a minivan loaded with boat bits, arriving again in Guaymas at the end of the month, about when the Sonoran summer weather began to cool down to the 70s and 80s.

Flooding in Guaymas

We had seen photos of flooding in Guaymas, the result of over a meter of rain in just a couple hours on October 2, which left thousands at least temporarily homeless and roads washed out, according to thenews.mx. So we weren’t sure what we’d find.

There was a whole lot of rain in a brief period and this was the result, but it only lasted a couple hours, I was told.
There was a meter of rain in just a few hours, overwhelming the roads and sewers.
In the far far background a mile or two away is the dry-storage yard where Galivant was hauled out. We got excited when we saw this picture, but there apparently were no similar consequences.
The malecon flooded too. In the far far background on the other side of the bay is the dry-storage boatyard where Galivant was hauled out. We got excited when we saw this picture, but there apparently the boatyard stayed high and well-drained. Photos from thenews.mx.

Everyone we asked in the downtown area pictured above just shrugged.  In short, downtown was dried out and back in business with no problems readily discernible to the outsider.

Roadwork too

But there is a lot of new, and necessary, road work going on. There is major work on the road to the boatyard, involving an extensive excavation one foot over and three feet down from every passing tire. New water pipe awaits installation nearby. There were numerous shifting detours through pot-holed and puddled neighborhoods. Washed-out dirt-rock side roads are gradually being graded, even paved. Poles, piles of rocks, and other eclectic markers keep the alert day-time driver clear of missing manhole covers. Driving in town was quite the adventure this year.

The new gobernadora* may be the one responsible, or maybe it’s been in the mill for years, brought forward by the big rain. Certainly,  everyone, –drivers and water users, roadside business owners, bus passengers and cyclists– anyone who uses the roads or depends upon those who do  — will breathe a huge sigh of relief when the holes, ruts, potholes, and ditches are finally filled in and evenly paved.

A public banner showing a couple happy and relieved at the state of the new road behind them. This is a bad picture, and from the state of Nayarit not Sonora besides, but the sentiments are surely the same. The companion poster shows workers putting bright yellow paint on a speed bump, which would also be cause for rejoicing were it the new standard.
A public banner showing a couple delighted at the state of the new road behind them. This is a badly exposed picture, and from the state of Nayarit (looks like the Punta de Mita road) not Sonora besides. But the sentiments are surely the same. The companion banner showed workers applying bright yellow paint to a speed bump (tope), which would also be cause for rejoicing were it the new standard.

 We spent a long month out of the water at Gabriel’s Marina Guaymas working on things. We still like it there, finding it a friendly and straightforward do-it-yourself yard. What’s to Like about living in the shipyard tells you more about that! Nonetheless, we’re not motivated to linger longer than necessary when there’s so much to see and do over the horizon.

Finally free to move, we faced a decision: should we head back to familiar places on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez?

Last winter we stayed in the Sea of Cortez, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. We found the rugged Baja scenery striking, and liked the exotic emptiness of the landscape. I read as much as I could about the area (a lot about geology), and would like look around some more.

It was nice, but it was also  – well, cold would be an exaggeration, perhaps an offense to those under the chilly mantle of actual winter. In fact, despite the occasional dips of overnight temperatures into the low fifties, the days were usually sunny and seventy plus – pretty pleasant in my book. But I do like to don my snorkel and mask, but not my wetsuit, and swim along the shoreline looking at whatever there is to see. And the water temperature never got above the mid-sixties, which is – cold!  Too cold for a whiney woman in a lycra suit, anyhow.

So this year, lured by daily morning radio reports from other boats of balmy temperatures (“water in the pool 83 degrees”), we turned south from Guaymas.

Heading South

The trip out of the Sea of Cortez can be broken into comfortable legs with stops along the Baja peninsula, but we took the straight-down-the-middle approach, which made for a roughly 600-mile trip to Punta de Mita at the mouth of Banderas Bay. It took us five days.

Satellite image of mexico track labeled copy
This is not our actual track, which was more of a downwind zig-zag. Map courtesy of geology.com, I think.

The winds at this time of year are almost always northwest or some variant thereof, which, since we were going southeast, might be considered a fair breeze. Driven by systems ‘across the fence’ (that’s how Geary the weather guy refers to the US and Canada), the northerlies can be strong and persistent. Those steady 20+-knot winds that send us south (and keep us there!) also chunk the seas up into short square blocks. “Seas five to eight feet at five seconds” is not an uncommon weather report, and one that makes for uncomfortable sailing conditions.

So when you wish your friends “fair winds”, make sure to add on “smooth seas” too. Also, by the time we got moving, the moon was in its last quarter, rising after 2 am and dimly, when not clouded over entirely. I seem to have spent a lot of time in my life waiting for a moon to rise, then being surprised by it when it does!

The trip south was a mix of screaming along downwind at the northern end and drifting along in not-enough wind at the southern end. We’re a little cautious (or is that lazy?) about sailing efficiently in the dark of night. It’s a complicated rig of hardware, poles and guys, that keeps the sails from crumpling as we roll off the waves. We mainly don’t want to have to spend much time on a rollicking foredeck when we can’t really see all that’s happening. So we tend to reef early and accept compromises to speed in the name of comfort.

Afloat in the universe

The occasional freighter bound for Guaymas or Topolabampo passed at a distance but otherwise, it was just us and our modest red, green and grey navigation and instrument lights. While one of us sleeps, the other sits alone in the dark in the middle of the sea contemplating the universe. I suspect there is sometimes napping as well.

Anyhow, there’s plenty to think about. The firmament, for one, beneath whose dome only we two know that we are here, a minuscule moving mote. I think about the generations long gone who studied and named the night sky, and of the eons beyond counting that the stars have endured, and will endure, beyond whatever we can do to our planet. So, alone, even melancholy, and yet exhilarated too, by the luxury of real darkness in this age of artificial light.

The heavens may be “empty” and silent, but the nearer world of water, ceaselessly sloshing inches away, is anything but quiet or still. The waves do the same thing over and over, only differently each time. It’s mesmerizing. The laws of physics seem quite reliable, gravity in particular.

Breathing metaphors come to mind, heaves and pants, hisses and sighs. It does seem wrong to associate the ocean with breath, because of course it’s the last thing you can do in it. So stay on the boat, keep the water out and maintain buoyancy throughout at all costs!

We always think these shortish coastal passages are harder on the crew than ocean passages lasting weeks. On the short haul, it’s harder to find the rhythm of sleep and watch-keeping, and closer to land, there are more ways to get into trouble. But short trips end soon enough, and then you’ll wake up to find someplace new and different.

sunrise, calm seas, toenail and cleat
Out the galley window as we arrive in La Cruz de Huancaxtel, Banderas Bay. I wonder what’s in there?

*There was a nationwide election in Mexico in June 2015, and the winner for governor in the state of Sonora was the PRI candidate, Claudia Pavlovich, the blonde woman on the political posters which sprouted on roadsides throughout the spring. Although she lost Guaymas proper to the PAN, she won statewide with about 47 percent of the vote.

According to Wikipedia:

Claudia Artemiza Pavlovich Arellano (born 17 June 1969) is a Mexican politician and lawyer affiliated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). She currently serves as Governor of Sonora, the first woman to govern the state. Her family is of Montenegrin descent. [1] Previously she served as Senator of the LXII Legislature of the Mexican Congress representing Sonora.[2]

And the PRI is the party that ruled Mexico for much of the previous century. It is also the party of the country’s current president, Enrique Peña Nieto.

San Juanico, Baja California Sur

Jagged eroded small island and peninsula in the bay called San Juanico.

One of the nicest places we sailed to in 2015 is the bay called San Juanico on the Sea of Cortez. On the chart it’s also called Punta San Basilio and lies about 26 22 N, 111 25.7 W, halfway up the Baja California peninsula. This is not to be confused with San Juanico the surfer/fisherman town at Scorpion Bay on the Pacific side. Please see the Photo Gallery at the bottom of this post – more pictures than words this time!

Looking north over San Juanico bay and anchorage from the 'ridge trail.
Looking north over San Juanico bay and anchorage from the ‘ridge trail’ above the south shore.

Squint or zoom and you’ll see a couple of empty houses on the far shore, fancy by some standards (swimming pool!) but realistic in terms of the ten or fifteen miles of dirt road that separate this spot from the highway, and the thirty or so beyond from Loreto, the nearest town. 

Here’s how it looks from the sky, courtesy of Google Earth.

San Juanico by Google Earth. The houses are where the dirt road comes in from the north. The main estuary comes in about 9 o'clock and the ranchito  and ridge trail about 6:30.
San Juanico by Google Earth. The houses are where the dirt road comes in from the north. The main estuary comes in about 9 o’clock and the ranchito, a small estuary and the ridge trail about 6:30.

You might see a couple of RV or pickup truck campers on the beach. Only the relatively intrepid people make it this far. The smart ones come year after year and stay for weeks on end, driving out occasionally for water and supplies. It’s muuuuy tranquilo here.

But for the most part San Juanico is visited by boaters like us. It’s one of the better anchorages, with protection from the prevailing winter northwesterlies and the summer southerlies. Although, I can testify that an uncomfortable swell can and does roll in around that northeast point when the winter winds are up.

You can walk along the roads, or on some trails along the estuaries or atop one of the ridges. If you try to walk all the way to the highway (and don’t bake or desiccate first) you’ll pass a small encampment where a family sometimes has vegetables to sell. We also heard of a place with petroglyphs but never stumbled upon it. Maybe next time…

Between the hikes and the beaches and excursions by dinghy for fishing and whale-watching, you won’t even notice that there’s no word from the outside world. It’s as distant as the occasional con-trail overhead.

Our second visit coincided with Easter week, Semana Santa. The handful of  RV people had gone back north. They were replaced by Mexican families, from Loreto and beyond, celebrating what must be the biggest holiday week of the year. Fishing, popup sleeping tents, shade tents, kids playing in the sand, it was all great to see.

By the end of the week they too were gone.The beach again belonged to the seagulls, the bay to the yachts moving north toward their summer homes.

Easter eve campfire on the beach
Easter eve beach campfire.The cardon cactus has a wood-like frame, and stands in for driftwood.
The Easter Bunny found us.
The Easter Chicken visited Galivant.
The bocce champion.
The bocce champions.


San Juanico Photo Gallery

So without further ado, let’s look at some pictures of the bay and the land around it.