Sailing Pacific Baja Sur

Reaching Turtle Bay still left me with about 500 miles of sailing to reach Cabo San Lucas, before I could turn north towards La Paz. A long haul, but so far this has been my favorite part of the trip. All the stops were great and I was able to sail most of the way when traveling through.

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Leaving in the night got me to Isla Asuncion, 55 miles to the south, the next morning. I just stayed here one night, but this was one of my favorite stops of the whole trip. A small island a mile long and a mile or two offshore, the island is a large sea lion colony with a lot of clear water and tons of life. Kayaked around the island for an initial survey, followed by sea lions the whole time and with large groups of juveniles coming out in a couple places to investigate me.

Spent the rest of the day snorkeling in various places over the island, great time and the best of the trip thus far. Rocky palm kelp bottom sheltering lots of fish with some large schools, lots of visits from sea lions, saw several turtles and mobula rays (like smaller manta rays).

Wrapping up afterwards, snorkeling around the boat anchored in warm, clear water, fish all around, was something. I hadn’t been actively seeking this out, but this experience so embodied an ideal of sailing for me, what I have daydreamed about it being like, well enough beyond anything I’ve done before, that I just had to sit for a bit to absorb. Pretty simple, really, but unforgettable all the same.

Could have easily stayed here longer, but left early the next morning almost just to preserve this island as it was in my mind. Motored through the morning, then was able to sail when the wind steadily picked up approaching the next stop at Punta Abreojos. The main point here shelters a small town, with a second point a couple miles east. The second point is less developed with a scattering of houses, sand road and some cars and RVs of surfers camping up on the short bluffs. I anchored near this second point and surfed for a few days.

For someone who knows what they’re doing, this point had what was probably the best wave of the trip: tall, steep, well formed waves during the sets. I, however, am still working on being able to take off on steep waves, and while I got several very good rides I found the wave somewhat intimidating. First, the waves were large and powerful enough — double overhead during the larger sets — that getting caught in the whitewater was like being thrown in a washing machine for several seconds. Second, the point is rocky, a jagged conglomerate that cut my legs up some and kept me from finding easier rides closer in. Still, this was a good learning experience and prepared me well for the rest of the trip.

After a couple nights, left in the afternoon, sailed on the sea breeze until it died after sunset and motored to Scorpion Bay, about 75 miles further south along the coast. This is another surf spot, and the most well known of the ones I went to on this trip. A series of point breaks inside Punta Pequena, the swell here was I think not quite right for the spot and only generating good surf in one or two spots. The other breaks still had some surf, just smaller and inconsistent, and while I moved around a bit trying spots and having fun I ended up gravitating to the same break it seemed as everyone else in the area. As the afternoon went on the break got pretty crowded, but the next morning was quieter and I was able to get in some really nice, long rides before continuing my way south.

Sailed almost all the way to the next stop at Punta Hughes, 100 miles to the south. This is an awesome place. A sharp point at the north end of Bahia Santa Maria, a bay about 8 miles across on the outskirts of Bahia Magdalena, this spot had my favorite surfing of the trip, great pristine scenery, and a ton of nearby side trips and areas to explore. Quiet and isolated too, with a small surf camp on the point near the break and a larger fishing camp further in. Stayed here three nights.

The surf spot here is a right point break, the same as all the other breaks I surfed this trip. Excellent shape for me, with waves that were steep but not too steep, and large but not too large (overhead plus), and a clean, steady break that let me take long rides back in to the beach over and over again. No crowds; several people were staying at the surf camp but I was usually alone on the break.

Part of why I liked this spot so much is that I was able to really feel how much my surfing has advanced over this trip. At the start I mostly just knew how to catch rides in the whitewater and on mushy waves — steadily breaking, with no curl or steepness. By the end I was able to ride steeper waves and, particularly, stay in the unbroken part of the wave rather than in the whitewater. Riding an unbroken wave has an amazing feel to it; the closest experience I can think of is skiing fresh powder for the first time after a while on groomed trails. I can easily see now how surfing is such an obsession for so many people. While this was my last surfing of the trip, I can’t wait to get back to it. The break, in the morning:

Plenty of other stuff to do around Punta Hughes. My favorite side trip was kayaking to Laguna Santa Maria at the inside of the point. There is a small mangrove forest here, with great birding at the lagoon’s mouth and in the maze of channels reaching back to the surrounding sand dunes. Mangrove forests become more common while heading south along the peninsula, and there are a bunch in Bahia Magdalena just east of here which I would like to see someday. This was a good introduction though, and a nice place to while away the afternoon. The lagoon, and some of its residents:

The point is also good for hiking, with trails along the coast, sparse vegetation and occasional paths for climbing up the peaks which form the point.

I debated a bit about whether to spend time in Bahia Magdalena proper, but ended up nixing this on account of the weather — the wind had been steadily picking up the last 24 hours I was at Punta Hughes, and I wanted to take advantage of it before it died. Between Bahia Magdalena and Cabo San Lucas there is nothing but beaches, with no good anchorages, and from Punta Hughes I had a passage of about 200 miles to do in one go. After leaving in the morning on October 12, the winds kept up for more than a day, and I was able to sail the first 140 miles or so continuously, the longest I’ve done. Really nice. In the afternoon, had a booby come by and circle around the boat repeatedly trying to land in the rigging, crash landing on the deck twice. It’s an odd thing to come up from the cabin and find a bird floundering about next to the cockpit.

The wind died the second afternoon and I started motoring, and after more than 40 hours got to Cabo in the middle of the night. I didn’t anchor here, just motored on by up the coast and towards the Sea of Cortez.

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