South to Cabo San Lucas

Asuncion was touted as being a step up from Turtle bay, so it was with great anticipation that we prepared the dinghy for our trip ashore. Kathy was a little nervous due to the roar of surf breaking on the beach, but I assured her that it sounded worse than it was, and with careful timing we would get ashore without any issue. We wanted to find an internet cafe, or some wifi so we could attend to various tedious matters that were pressing back home.

So let me paint two somewhat different perspectives on what happened next, see if you can work out who is who.
1) Great we’re off to town, might get some internet, and do some decent shopping. First get makeup on, look smart and get into the dinghy. Next thing it’s as if someone has jumped out from an alley, and thrown an icy bucket of water all over your head, then they are pushing you into a swimming pool backwards. Not much fun.

2) Wow were off to explore a new place, and we get to go in the dinghy, brilliant, big surf, exciting, wonder if we can ride a wave right up the beach, better just wear swimming trunks, with any luck I can have a little swim. Woosh, what fun.

Of course Kathy wasn’t happy when the big wave hit her full frontal, and then to top that there was nothing in the town of interest, the internet cafe had just shut and the shops were very basic. Still it was a pretty little town.

The next day we did a short hop to Abrejos, which means ‘open your eyes’ . The pilot guide says this is because there are many rocks and dangers on the route there. Our plan had been to find a local panga (Small run around boat) owner who could take us around the nature reserve lagoon where whales return every year to calf and nurture their newborns. However we were a few weeks early and the pangas were nowhere to be seen. On top of that the weather wasn’t great and the surf on the beach was worse than at Asuncion, and Kathy had no interest in going ashore. so we stayed on board, and had a lazy afternoon.

Bahia Santa Maria
The next day we headed off doing an overnighter to Magdalena bay. This was a 140 mile trip, not a lot happened on this passage, but once we arrived near the bay, we opted to overnight in Santa Maria Bay, a lovely quiet spot and for the first time since we left the USA we were out of the pacific swell.
For those who don’t know there is a difference between swell and waves. Swell is caused by large storms or gales that happen out in the oceans, where waves can be mountainous in size. Once the weather clears, the big waves calm, but continue to travel across the ocean as a long period undulations on the surface. When you look at the surface it appears flat close up, but as you look further away you can see the rise and fall of the sea. When the swell is hitting us side on, the boat rolls terribly, the boat has a resonant frequency for swinging, and if the swell is near this the boat can end up swinging quite violently, with just the slightest swell. We often have the mainsail up, even when there is little wind, as its inertia helps reduce the swinging.
Swell tends to get into everywhere, as it wraps around headlands and reaches into what you would think of as protected bays. It was great to be so far around the headland here that the swell was almost zero.

At last the water is warm enough to enjoy a swim

Mag Bay
From Santa maria Cove we did the short 30nm hop into Magdalena bay itself and anchored off the town of Magdalena Harbour. Here we were also very sheltered and had a lazy few days swimming, kayaking and walking the pristine beaches in the bay.

Sansouci with their drifter heading to Belcher Point

Belcher Point
From the town we moved down to Belcher point in order to be ready for the long passage down to Cabo San Lucas, which would be our next long passage.
Belcher point is a small strip of land that once had a phosphorus plant, a small airstrip and a cannery. Now all that remains is a lot of broken concrete and a small camp some temporary fisherman that have set up there. I went ashore in the kayak and found the place a bit depressing, the temporary camp was very basic and quite bleak.

Temp camp for fishermen

Onwards to Cabo San Lucas
We left at first light for the overnight passage to Cabo San Lucas. This port is at the bottom of the peninsula, and marks the end of the Baja Haha Rally, which completed a few weeks back. We were hoping to get a few nights in the marina there and restock. It has everything you expect of a modern town, with several big box hypermarkets out of town.

Sailing wing on wing heading south to Cabo San Lucas

We arrived mid day and anchored off the main beach in front of some flash looking hotel complexes. The water here is amazingly clear. Cabo is very popular with Americans who come here for the water based activities, sailing/fishing/glass bottom boats/Paragliding, all the usual stuff.

Approaching Cabo San Lucas

On our way here I felt a glitch in the steering while we were on autohelm, next the autohelm was broken, the motor was whizzing around, but the wheel wasn’t connected anymore. I managed to look in the lazarette and could see the chain had come off, due to a short length of rope that had fallen into the locker and got caught up in the cogs. We had a long way to go so I hooked up the Monitor wind vane steering and that took over for the next 20 hours. In the morning the wind was dropping and I realised that if it dropped much more we wouldn’t be able to sail, and would have to hand steer for the next 6 hours. I had a closer look at the autohelm, and could see that the drive shaft was not connecting to the motor, in fact it was hanging out of the casing. This looked like a major failure, and I was resigned to spending many thousands of pounds getting a new system. I expect my current system is so old it won’t be possible to get spares.
We did end up hand steering for the last three hours doing 30 minute watches, which wasn’t so bad.
While at the anchorage I was able to dismantle the motor and gear/clutch assembly. The shaft had ripped itself out of the clutch mechanism and the key had fallen out stopping it from engaging. Miracuously all the bits went back together, the main problem being two circlips that had been stretched when it broke. It took a few hours, but eventually it all went back together and has been working fine since. Phew!

So we moved from the anchorage into the IGY Marina, a very expensive place, but we haven’t been in a marina for so long we felt like treating ourselves and ended up staying three days.
The town is built around the marina with the main boardwalk/Malecon running around the inner basin that contains three marinas. All around the marina you are constantly being offered boat trips/Tequila tasting/fishing excursions/trips to the famous arches/Cuban cigars, and even weed and coke. Thankfully a ‘No Gracias’ is all you need to say to most of them.

Talk about glass bottom boats, these are 100% glass.

Passport problems
So Cabo is a port of entry and has a harbour master, as do most mexican ports. It is a requirement to clear in and out with each harbour master, or ‘Puerto Capitan’ so off we went up the hill on a very hot day to log in. The bag below had all of our paperwork and our passports in it, it also has a slit down one end where things like passports can slip out when your least expecting it, and be lost forever, which is just what happened.

Now losing your passport in a far away place is something I have always dreaded, and not only had I lost mine, but I lost Kathy’s and my previous expired passport, which I keep as it has my 10 year B1/B2 USA Visa in it, this wasn’t easy to obtain.
I had the receptionist at the Marina write a little note for me that I could show to all the vendors/bars I had passed between the boat and the captains office, it said something like ‘I have lost three passports, has anybody handed them in to you, por favour’
I had seen some unfortunate people approaching me, looking very sad and holding a bit of paper asking for money to alleviate their plight’ now I was in the same boat, in as much as looking miserable and pleading for help! Of course I was fortunate enough that I can just buy my way out of the problem, not an option they have the luxury of.

So I was able to get travel documents issued to me by the authorities here that allow us to move around Mexico without issue. Kathy needs an emergency passport to be able to get home in January, so we have to travel to the capital of Mexico, Mexico City, and visit the British embassy where Kathy will be interviewed, before she is issued the relevant papers. I just need to apply online and they will post it out to me here. I presume Kathy will need to answer the British Citizenship test, she better start brushing up on how many overs there are in a test match, which way to pass the port and who will be ‘getting brexit done’. In a way it’s no big deal as we get a holiday in the City, Kathy was flying via there anyway, so it’s just the cost of a few nights in a hotel, and we get a free trip to the big city.

We went looking for a restaurant that night and found an Indian one, which is usually a safe bet for vegans, besides fish I am mostly vegan now as well.
It was closed but next door had a lovely restaurant where the staff made a fresh salsa to our design as a free starter to our meal.

Great restaurant
Downtown Cabo

We had a walk around town the next day and there was a small market with some street performers. Very pleasant

On our last day we had a walk around the marina and Kathy ended up trying some magic creams that the street vendors are constantly pushing. It was quite funny, but the poor guy didn’t get any business from us. Later we looked online and this ‘poor guy‘ had scammed many unsuspecting ladies out of a small fortune by quoting in Peso’s and billing their card in $US, a 20:1 gain. Also a lot of people had bad skin reactions after testing his creams. To be fair we couldn’t be sure it was this particular guy, but that seems to be the MO of the sellers here.

Next we leave Cabo San Lucas and make our way around into the Sea of Cortez. Some bad weather is on the way so we are going to hide for a few days. We won’t be heading any further south this year. In fact we are in the tropics now, but will move back out of them by the time we reach La Paz.

Paul Collister.

Ensenada, Mexico. November 2019

Ensenada has the largest flag I have ever seen. It has pride of place at the centre of the small town square on the waterfront. We could see it billowing in the wind as we approached Ensenada Marina on the morning of Friday 8th November after an overnight passage from San Diego. For most of the way we had been hearing frequent marine reports on the VHF from the San Diego coastguard, delivered in clear and concise language relating to weather, things to watch out for and the odd ‘pan pan’ call. In the early hours of the morning during my watch I was in the cockpit looking at the shoreline of Mexico in the far distance when I was startled by a cheery ‘Hola’ from one of the fishermen on a nearby boat and realised that the American broadcasts must have ceased at some point during the night. We were truly in Mexico now. By the time Paul came on watch at 8am more boats, or pangas as they are called here, had appeared and the shoreline was getting nearer so it didn’t seem worth going to sleep.

Approaching Mexico
Flag visible on the right of the picture

The flag was now clearly visible as Mexico’s colourful national flag and made a captivating sight high up as it was and moving gracefully in the wind. We hadn’t bothered calling in to report our approach because we’d already been allocated a specific berth. I was looking out for it through the binoculars, waiting for the pontoon letters to become clearer when I noticed two men standing on the one at the outside edge. They beckoned us over, took our lines and one of them bid us ‘welcome to America’ (just Victor’s little joke – he’s not a big fan of the US). Victor, the manager at Baja Naval Marina proved to be an efficient, friendly and helpful guy as we got to know him. It was he who, after we’d freshened up a little, escorted us to the places we had attend to check in for immigration, customs and with the harbour master. Victor acted as our interpreter, tour guide and instructor as we were hurried through the dusty streets after 20 minutes of passing forms and sheets of paper back and forth in his tiny office. First we had to visit a shop in order to change a bank note so that we would have the exact money to pay the various authorities. I hardly had time to take in my surroundings as he and Paul strode on ahead. I did, however, come to notice one of the first differences in Mexico from Canada and America on those streets. Crossing the roads was hazardous! If I fell too far behind due to taking photographs and Paul and Victor had crossed a busy road ahead, I found myself struggling to work out the ‘green cross code’ equivalent for getting to the other side without being mown down.  If no lights were in operation to halt the traffic you simply had to wait for a suitable lull and take a chance stepping out and hurrying across before the next car got too close. I also noticed the pavements were in a state of disrepair, with rubble, gaping holes and uneven concrete slabs providing more hazards to avoid. Victor appeared to know every stall holder and passer-by we came across, shouting a cheery ‘bon dia’ to them as he marched us forward.  

Main road, Ensenada

We chatted to him along the way, telling him where we were from, where we were heading and asking questions about where to find things in Ensenada. Arriving at the building slightly out of breath and sweating from the heat (I was anyway), Victor guided Paul to the relevant desks and told him what papers to show, translating and explaining and selecting the money needed to pay for permits etc. I was a bit superfluous to most of this so took the opportunity to sit and rest while watching the proceedings and marvelling at the fact that Victor has to do this several times a day for foreign boat owners, both for checking in and checking out. Small wonder he is so slender, but he’s also unfailingly cheerful, witty and appears to have endless energy. Our energy was diminishing rapidly by the time we got back to the boat. We hadn’t had much sleep and the heat, walking and all the bureaucracy had taken it out of us. We would have two weeks to explore Ensenada so were in no hurry to do too much on our first evening. A promenade runs along the length of the waterfront from the Cruise Ship Terminal to end of the harbour. This walkway is lined with restaurants, bars and shops, the square being roughly in the centre.

Baja Naval, Ensenada
An eclectic part of Ensenada…
The waterfront promenade

The square is lined with fast food stalls and has a stage for performances. As we got ready to go for a short walk the unmistakeable sound of brass instruments reached our ears. The mariachis were tuning up – actually they were playing tunes, it just sounded like they were tuning up to me. I’m not a fan of music with brass instruments, especially trumpets, and there would be no escaping this considering our position in the marina. It seemed every eatery along the prom had their own band or a recorded performance emanating from it, causing quite a cacophony of sound. As we walked along each and every restaurant had staff placed outside urging strollers to come in to eat or have a tequila/margarita/mojito/beer/.  Since this was to be our main route into town it looked like we’d have to get used to simply politely declining several times and hope they’d remember that one of us was one of those weird ‘veganos’ while the other was a ‘sin alcohol’ person.

Town centre, Ensenada
Mariachis taking a break

Naturally, as in most of the places we visit on a coastline, the food on offer in most restaurants and shacks is predominantly seafood. One afternoon during our time there Paul decided to try the highly recommended tacos in a tiny outdoor cafe just off the main street. It was clearly popular with both locals and tourists and there was a man busily working behind the counter to keep up with demand, flushed and sweating from the heat of frying and ladling the various fillings into tacos. While we waited for Paul’s order I watched what other customers were doing with their plates of food. It seems there is quite a ritual involved in putting it all together. Once you have been handed the plate, you then add things like chopped onions and tomatoes, green chilli sauce, and a selection of various dressings to pour on top of it. It all looked a bit of a messy affair to me. I’m sure I would have ended up with a multi-coloured face if I’d attempted to eat one by hand as so many were doing. Paul enjoyed his chicken one with the aid of a fork – a pic of his dish below.

Ensenada’s Hermosa Beach is described in our National Geographic guide as a popular place for horse riding but goes on to state that the horses there look ‘rather miserable’. We saw those horses when we walked to the beach on our first Sunday in Ensenada. It was a hot morning when we set out for the 30 minute walk and we planned to find somewhere to have a drink once we reached the beach. The walk was adjacent to the main highway and we passed a ranch type establishment which had a group of horses tied to a fence near the road.  Horse-drawn carriages ferry tourists from the cruise liners on pleasure trips along the road so they are probably used for that purpose as well as beach rides.

Main highway, Ensenada

As we neared Hermosa Beach, I could see that while there is a vast stretch of sand and the beautiful glistening Pacific, the similarity to California’s beaches ended there. This is mainly because of the lack of money to add ‘finesse’ to the surroundings. For example, the beach wasn’t tidied or maintained so although it wasn’t filthy, there was some litter and horse droppings to avoid. Deserted and industrial-looking buildings and barbed wire fences in-between the beach and the main road gave an overall downbeat vibe to the area. The sand was dotted with brown, palm covered tables for picnickers and the odd makeshift tent selling beers and drinks from a cool box. A line of passenger-laden horses was being slowly led along the edge of the beach, on a path set away from the people on the sand. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the miserable-looking description. The owners must make sure they are adequately fed and watered but they certainly didn’t look groomed or ‘perky’ with their heads down and their mottled coats…and some of the riders were not exactly slender.  

Hermosa Beach

At the end of the sand there were a few buildings selling seaside articles such as buckets and spades and windmills but a distinct lack of anywhere to get a drink, apart from the cans being sold on the beach. We sat for a while watching families and visitors make the most of the balmy weather and decided to walk back along the sand. In hindsight, I realise I was judging Hermosa harshly having so recently left California’s pristine resorts, which isn’t really fair. The distinction between the two countries is obvious. America has money in place to make the most of its waterfront locations. Mexico’s economy has no budget for leisure like that of the US. We bought a book about customs and culture in Mexico and learned that 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and the majority are not far above it. Leisure is important in this hard working country, especially on Sundays which is, and always has been here, a day for families to spend time together. An afternoon on the beach is made the most of, however it looks. I would clearly need to refine my expectations if I was going to make the most of my time here.

I have never thought about owning a grain of rice with my name on it but we were constantly being asked to buy one whenever we walked past the street vendors. On Monday I ventured out on my own to get a few things from the supermarket. The streets were very crowded and without Paul’s expertise on crossing busy roads, I found myself pathetically sidling up to other people waiting to cross and tailgating them to the other side. Along with the rice sellers were the usual street touts, urging you to go inside shops and buy genuine Mexican souvenirs or into bars and restaurants. Several of the establishments in the town have signs outside welcoming cruise ship passengers, so I guess they are likely to be Ensenada’s main visitors. The supermarket shop was pleasingly cheaper than any in Canada and the US had been, although I hadn’t got used to converting pesos yet and I had to call on my very limited Spanish to understand what was being said to me at the checkout.

Our stay in Ensenada lasted two weeks so we got to know the town quite well. We paid a visit to the nearby museum and the cultural centre one sunny afternoon. We declined the option of a guide to show us around the museum, preferring to read the exhibit signs ourselves. It would have been churlish, however to refuse one young guide’s kind offer to lead us into one of the private balconies above a hall on the upper floor so that we had a view of the area where a casino used to be. He told us in his limited English that rich Americans used to flock there during the prohibition to drink and gamble.

View from the balcony in the museum

The cultural centre had a Spanish-style square with stalls selling handmade crafts and gifts. We sat there after buying drinks in a very impressive old style bar enjoying the sun and admiring the products on sale.

The bar in the cultural centre

Later that day when we’d just found a laundry recommended to us by the marina staff, a man approached us to tell us that it was an excellent laundry with lovely staff. He then produced a flower he had fashioned out of palm reed and asked us to buy it. He had a young boy with him and explained that he was trying to teach his son that you don’t get money just by asking. Paul told him he admired that, gave him some money and said he liked him. We were surprised by his retort; ‘well I don’t like you’. He followed with a laugh that it was only a joke, but there was just enough in his face for me to wonder, and then he held his hand out and asked for more money and we decided it was time to make a polite retreat into the laundry. Thankfully that was an isolated incident. We’ve mostly been greeted with smiles and waves and experienced good humoured interaction everywhere we’ve been.  

It was good to see the celebrations for revolution day while we were there. The weekend before the actual day on the 19th, there was a performance in the square on the Saturday evening. We went along to have a look at the dancers which was very similar to line dancing. The music was quite good, too in that it wasn’t dominated by trumpets. We weren’t quite as keen on the female singer dressed up as a bullfighter who let’s just say, didn’t sing all that well.

We also saw the raising of the mammoth sized flag which was quite a sight to witness. Viewed from far below the flag looks like a giant silk handkerchief, very light and delicate. When we reached the square we saw men from various military groups lining the edge of the square armed with rifles and standing to attention. The flag was rolled up and being held by at least a dozen men in a row with their arms stretched out to support it. It was clearly heavy and we could see that the material was much thicker than it seemed. The strain of holding it up began to show after a while and I felt thankful for them that it wasn’t a sweltering hot day. Behind us on the main street, armoured vehicles carrying men poised with rifles appeared, much to my consternation. I don’t think I will ever get used to feeling comfortable when weapons are in such close proximity.  

Waiting to hoist the enormous flag
This cat was a welcome visitor one morning

Later that day we saw and felt the first rain for weeks; it gradually became heavy and lasted well into Thursday 21st causing parts of the town to become flooded. We were due to leave the following day and the rain had delayed our preparations a bit so we had to fit a lot in on that Thursday. The town was in the throes of preparing for its annual Baja 1000 car rally and our route to town in the morning took in the streets that had been especially prepared for the event. Stalls had been set up along every available space either side of the main road, traffic had been diverted and people were packed tightly on the road browsing the stalls and viewing the customised cars on display up to the starting line. We heard later that the rain caused the start to be postponed due to the flooding.

Part of the waterlogged route for the car rally

We had to make two trips to supermarkets, stocking up with food and drink since we would probably only have access to tiny village shops until we reached Cabo in the middle of December. Once we had bought and unloaded the provisions we had to check out of Ensenada, in line with the regulations of the Port Captain. This was basically a reverse of the checking in process, involving more form filling, more paper being passed across desks and another brisk walk to the port authority building with Victor. This time we had company in the form of Jordan, a solo sailor from California who would also be leaving in the morning. He kept me company while Paul and Victor marched ahead, and was kind enough to help me cross the road, too ;-).   

After two weeks in Ensenada’s naval bay, we were going back to sea in order to continue our journey south along Mexico’s Baja California coast. We left at our planned departure time of 9 30 and I watched that huge flag get slowly smaller as we left it behind.        

Ensenada, Mexico to Cedros Island/Town

8th November 2019 , Mexico at last!

I never feel like I can relax in a new country until we have cleared customs/immigration and port control/harbourmaster. Fortunately we had Victor, the marina manager to help us. Victor is a lovely cheery chappy, he went through all the paperwork we would need, made all the copies required, and then walked us to an ATM where we could get the required Pesos out for the visas and boat permits. As he escorted us across town to the relevant office he pointed out places to eat and other useful stores. Once there Victor did all the leg work and we just had to stand there, smiling and signing forms for the relevant officers. It turned out to be very easy, perhaps not the cheapest country to visit by boat. But we were soon signed in with a 6 month visa each and a ten year pass for the boat. Later we would buy fishing licenses and nature reserve passes. 

First impressions of Ensenada are that of a vibrant town on the up, but also a place with no shortage of poverty. In the last few years they have opened up a cruise terminal and there are 3-5 visits a week even now in the winter, we watched the carnival ships Inspiration and Imagination pop in and out on 5 days round trip ‘taster cruises’ from Long Beach LA and also the Disney cruise ships on longer trips. The town now has a nice Promenade, or ‘Malecon’ which leads the cruise passengers from the ship into the main high street where they can be fleeced silly by the local vendors, before they are beckoned to have a meal of ‘fish tacos’ and be serenaded by a local mariachi band. The whole thing  doesn’t appeal to me, as I marched down the same street and had a chicken taco 😉

We had arrived at the start of the Revolution ceremonies, Mexico has had a few revolutions over the years, but the 20th November is the official one now. The town square is right next to the marina and sports a giant flagpole and the ceremonial raising of the flag by representatives of all the forces and official bodies, police/fire/rescue etc became a regular event.

Some flag
The flag raising

We also saw a concert in the square of traditional Mexican song and dance which was very entertaining. 

Great dancing video

Once settled we were off to check out the shops, I was hoping that the town only had a few supermarkets, but it turned out to have about ten main ones and quite a few smaller mercados. After a bit of shopping around I managed to buy a couple of android phones, a Huawei for Kathy as her old Redmi had packed in after she took it for a swim, and a Moto 7 for me, I had hoped to ‘root’ and enable hot spotting, something I can’t do with the iPhone on my at&t plan. I’m still fighting with the phone to get in and flash new software.

Ensenada beach

While we were here we endured a few days of very heavy rain, the temperature dropped and we were running the heater for a while. This wasn’t quite what I had ordered for the winter and wondered if I had ticked the wrong box for ‘paradise’.

We had a very nice day visiting the local museum, this was housed in an old hotel complex built in the 30’s when the town was very small, it was built for wealthy Americans to come down and drink and gamble in the casino, it was an impressive building, and after the museum we had a drink in the bar there and bought a few trinkets from the stalls setup outside the bar in a pretty courtyard.

Back at the boat, it was time to make our preparations to leave and start the long passage south and into the sea of Cortez. The tap water is not potable (Drinkable) here, so we order 10 * 20 ltr bottles at $1 a bottle, to be delivered to the boat. I took a taxi ride to the garage to fill our jerry cans with 70 ltrs of diesel, this being how much we had used getting here from San Diego.

Before we left we did a big shop at several of the mercados, this being our last chance before we reach Cabo San Lucas. Shops along the way will have very limited choices. 

On our way to the shops we walked through the start line for the Baja 1000 motor race. I hadn’t heard of this before, but apparently it’s a big deal in motor sports. There was quite a collection of off road vehicles, along with lots of stalls setup to service them and the tourists who had gathered for the event. The race which starts on the river banks in the centre of town had to be delayed by a day due to the heavy rain causing the river to flood. 

Finally, fully loaded we were ready to leave. We said goodbye to our neighbours, Brenda and Clay on Sansucci, who we had met first in Monterey, then later in San Diego and off we headed off early the next morning hoping to do a short hop down the coast, and spend the night in a little enclave about 32 miles south called San Jose. However as we left it became apparent that the Pacific Swell was quite big and might make that spot uncomfortable. As we approached it, we heard two yachts in front leaving the cove saying it was too rough and the kelp there was terrible. So I made the decision to go straight to San Quentin which meant an overnight passage to cover the 120 odd miles. 

Arriving at our destination revealed that quite a few squid had decided to jump onto the boat during the night, and expire on the deck. I wouldn’t mind, but on expiring they had left huge ink stains I still haven’t been able to remove fully.


San Quinten, (pronounced San KeenTeen) is quite well protected from northerly winds, of the type we expect to have for a few months now, but turned out to be quite Rolly all the same. It has an entrance to an estuary which I had hoped to explore by Kayak, but altogether the weather was grim, the water choppy, so we slept a lot and the following day pushed on to our next port of Cedros Island. 

Before we left, I popped up the mast to replace a halyard that had shredded. I use it for the spinach pole uplift. I spent a bit of time rejigging the whole spinnaker setup and it’s much better now. I can get my pole up without a huge wrestling jousting match.

Ensenada’s giant flag pole

Leaving for Cedros town meant another overnighter, and we arrived an hour before sunset. We spent 30 minutes trying to get the anchor to set, on the third try it dug in, but it dragged a little when I gave the boat max revs astern, but as it was very calm I left it at that and set up an anchor alarm on my iPhone, just in case. We hurried ashore before the light left us as the pilot guide suggested this town was one of the more sophisticated along the Baja coast. We weren’t convinced. It reminded me of my few months in Afghanistan, dirt roads, dust everywhere, destroyed buildings, with dogs rummaging through them. Was this a taste of what was to come?

Cedros clouds

We found a shop and said hello to a few locals. Everyone seems very friendly here, but the town was very run down. There is some fishing done here, but mainly the island is home to a huge salt distribution centre, with a deepwater dock a mile south of the town, with mountainous piles of salt piled up there.


On a rather technical point, I had a shocking, and it was all about shock loading, experience in San Quinten. This is about how not to set an anchor, so skip this paragraph if you like. Basically we normally set the anchor by gently falling back on it , with the engine in low revs in reverse. When I feel it has dug in, we usually increase the revs, to near maximum, depending on the weather and expected weather. Before we reverse, I put a small snubber of the anchor chain from in front of the windlass, back to the Samson post, so that the strain is taken by this line and not the windless when we reverse. Once we are set, I put a bigger snubber line out that goes into the water. We had been reversing, with moderate revs, but the anchor chain kept going from taut to slack, presumably as it wasn’t holding. I was confused, it seemed to set, but then the chain went slack. What was actually happening, and I hadn’t twigged, was the swell was quite large, and was lifting the boat up 5-10 foot on the crests every 15-20. Seconds. Later In a period of low swell, the anchor seemed to be holding so I asked Kathy, who was on the helm to give it maximum in reverse, she did, the chain went bar tight, the snubber taking the full force and I was happy we were set, just needed to check our speed on the gps and we would be done. However at that moment a large swell came in and lifter the boat up high, it was more than the snubber could take and it snapped in an explosive kind of way, the chain hook left the chain and shot off like a bullet, and the remaining rope recoiled back onto the deck. The windless clutch wasn’t engaged, so the anchor chin started screaming out at full speed. I got the brake on the clutch and concluded we were set. Fortunately I had a spare anchor hook, and the one I lost had been a cheap galvanised job, so no great loss. Also the rope I had been using for this short snubber was an old piece of halyard, probably the worse choice as they are designed to be non stretch. The next day I found the old hook sitting on the bow platform right at the front ready to fall off. 

This wasn’t going to be the end of my snubber woes this week.

Wed 27th November, Cedros to Turtle Bay.

Cedros Island Harbour

As we left the next morning we passed in-between two sets of crab pot marker buoys. I had assumed the two buoys 100 ft on the left belonged to one set of traps, and the group of buoys 100ft to the right, another. Imagine my surprise when I noticed we had gone over a length of floating polypropylene rope joining them together. Normally the rope would glide along our keel and pop out the back without any issue. The shape of our hull means the prop and rudder shouldn’t be able to trap the rope. However this time the rope didn’t pop out and all the buoys were now following us. I had already killed the revs and gone into neutral before the rope had got near the stern of the boat, and I couldn’t go into reverse for fear of snagging the rope, so we just drifted slowly forward towing the buoys as I pondered my next move. Kathy was asking me what are we going to do, and I really couldn’t think what, this shouldn’t happen, there’s nothing for the line to snag on. I’m guessing there must be barnacles on the underside of the keel big enough to hold the rope. Anyway, we hadn’t travelled more than a boats length when the ropes went taught then popped out the back of our boat and we were free to continue our voyage. Over the next few days we found a lot of floating lines are used on marker buoys here and it’s a very dangerous situation, especially for more modern boats that can snag lines easily.

As we left the weather began to turn bad, the rain started and really picked up. I could have filled our water tanks if I had a decent capture system. 

We also had to navigate through endless amounts of marker buoys before we got to Turtle bay. It was only a short day trip across, but required me to put on full foul-weather gear. By the time we arrived in Turtle bay things had improved and we motored close to the town pier and the beach to make it easy to dinghy ashore. 

Turtle bay is the main / biggest town between Ensenada and Cab San Lucas and the first stop on the Baja Haha Rally. A lot of boats refuel here as it’s the easiest place to take on fuel before Cab san Lucas, however the second source of fuel stopped, leaving Enrique with a monopoly. The going rate is normally around 22 peso a litre, but he has upped the price to 33 peso, a 50% hike, plus he charges 10% extra if you want to pay by card. There is a Pemex petrol station in town, but Enrique tells everyone it doesn’t sell diesel, which it does. If you insist on going there, he tries to stop you by saying he will get the police onto you for breaking his exclusive contract to supply diesel in the town. One of the skippers went to the police to get the story and was told Enrique was talking nonsense. Failing all else he tries to intimidate you with his friends on the jetty. All in all this left us with a very bad impression of the place. It wasn’t helped by the very run down nature of the town. It’s such a shame, word will get around and people will stock up on fuel or go to the next port of Bahia Asuncion where there is a Pemex selling diesel for 22 pesos.

On our first day we didn’t go ashore, I wanted to fix our bilge pump. It was making a whirring noise, but not pumping. It took a while, but eventually I had it out from the bottom of the deep bilge, and years of oil removed from its case. When I ran it it seemed to work, but the centrifuge was actually not connecting to the drive shaft due to a retaining circle being absent. I managed to fit a new one, I carry a huge selection, thanks to Aldi who did plastic boxes of this type of thing for a few quid, I have copper washers and fibre washers and springs, all from the same source. I do miss Aldi and Lidl for these bargains. Saying that I expect it’s meant to be stainless steel and the mild steel circlip will soon fail, but I’m going to get a new pump anyway as this one sounds a bit growly, I suspect the bearing in on the way out.

Turtle bay is well protected from all directions except the south west, winds from that direction are very rare at this time of year, however the forecast had been for 10-15 knots from the west, which might bring some swell into the bay. Back at the boat, I checked the forecast and we were now looking at 15-20 knots from the SW, others had a prediction of 20knots from predictwind, which is often very accurate. This was a worry as we are so close to the beach/rocks and 20 knots would be pushing us towards the rocks, should our anchor fail, it would be a matter of 5 minutes before we hit the rocks at best. The wind was forecast to peak at midnight, and by sunset it was around 15 knots and rising. Our anchor was holding well and I was optimistic that we would hold well even if it rose to 20 knots. I was now in a horrible situation, I knew if we left now we would have a very tricky time getting the anchor up in a crowded spot, the swell / waves were getting big and we would have to get everything right to navigate through the anchorage 2 miles across the bay to a more sheltered spot, unsure just how much shelter that spot provided, and the holding over there was reported to be worse the here. So I decided to stay, a few more hours at 20 knots then it was predicted to drop. So by midnight we were up to 25 knots, massive waves rolling and conditions still worsening. The anchor chain and snubber rope were very taut, and we were taking a bashing from the swell. I told Kathy we had to do an anchor watch system, 2 hours on/off, keeping a close eye on our GPS position, and watching for the other 17 boats upwind from us to make are they didn’t drag onto us. By 2AM the wind was hitting 40 knots and the waves were massive. One boat said he saw 50 knots on his anemometer. My eyes were glued to the GPS position on the chart plotter when I heard a loud bang from the bow, as I had feared our snubber had snapped, I later found out the slack chain had been rubbing against the snubber around were it snapped. Climbing up to the bow I could see the chain was iron taut on the small snubber I have by the windlass, since the previous failure I had found some strong nylon rode for this snubber, but I worried it wasn’t going to be enough to absorb the loads we were seeing. I lashed a spare bit of 3 strand nylon around the chain, fed it through the starboard hawse pipe and cleated it off, that would be a temporary solution, but I needed to slacken the other snubber and let out some chain, unfortunately, this rope had locked itself somehow that I couldn’t undo it from the Sampson post, such was the force on it. I decided to try to haul the chain in a bit with the windlass, I waited for a gap between the waves , pulled in the chain, got the hook off, released the chain and let the new snubber take up the slack. It just worked out. I then had to get some new rope to rig up the port side of the snubber, and use a chain hook. This took another hour or so, it was about 4 am before I had it all sorted and the wind seem to have steadied then around 30 knots. All this time the anchor had not budged at all. 

By around 5am the wind was dropping along with the waves and we started to relax.

Come the morning things were more settled and we managed to dinghy ashore.

We had a nice walk around town later, it’s a very scrappy, dusty, muddy place, however the church was spotless and well cared for. I had some lovely fish tacos in a restaurant overlooking the bay and we chatted with other cruisers. In all their were about 20 sailboats at anchor here, as we motored back to sister Midnight from the pier the wind was picking up. 

I had heard of two other cruisers Mike & Chris who were stranded there because there steering had failed. It was a wire and chain system like the one on stardust and Sister midnight, so as I had just rebuilt mine in Sointula I offered to help them fix theirs. A few hours in their rear lazarete the next morning sorted the problem out. Their quadrant had slipped down the rudder post and the wires had left the grove in it, it took a bit of fiddling around to get it all back together, the biggest problem was the swell was causing the rudder to flap from side to side as I was trying to re-attach the cables. It’s great to be able to help people out in a jam, that’s a great thing about the cruiser community, everyone helps each other out.

The following day we hauled up the well dug in anchor and headed off, glad to be out of Turtle bay and heading for Bahia Asuncion.

Since we left Ensenada, cell coverage has been awful, when we do get it, it’s usually 2g with next to no data connectivity. Right now we get a good signal once in a while.

Cedros Is

Paul Collister