Just Say No to Cabo

Sometime around the end of November we left Bahia Santa Maria and decided to bypass Cabo San Lucas, as it’s expensive and touristy. It was about a two day sail to Los Frailes, on the east side of the Baja Peninsula. We were thrilled to finally be headed into the Sea of Cortez!

The ocean near the cape is incredibly alive! The water is such a rich, deep blue that in the early morning hours it almost looks purple. I was reading John Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez
and he had remarked that this is what fishermen call “tuna water”. Sure enough, we could see yellow fins cut through the water, and Sandy on Imagine caught two of them! We also saw marlin jumping and millions of jellyfish.

It was thrilling to see the changes in the landscape and fauna as we headed further south. On our way to Santa Maria we saw our first frigate bird, a sure sign that we were headed towards the tropics. But while new sightings are exciting, nothing thrilled us more than a night-time visit from Koiya’s old friends, the common dolphins! I had just turned in for some sleep when Todd shook me awake, telling me there were dolphins on the bow. I scurried up and found Koiya on the bowsprit, pointing a flashlight down at the dolphins. They were with us for about half an hour, and returned again a little later. Though there wasn’t as much phosphorescence as we’d seen on the way to San Diego, Koiya left her flashlight off for their second visit, and got to see them glitter.

We had heard that the winds could be very gusty near Cabo Falso (just west of Cabo San Lucas), but we rounded it with no problems (and motoring because there was no wind at all!). Todd was relieved and thought we had this passage in the bag. Then I listened to the weather forecast, which predicted 10 – 15 kt winds from the north in the Sea of Cortez.

“I’m afraid we’re gonna get hammered when we turn north towards Frailes,” I said.
“Nonsense!” chuckled Capn Cocky. “We’re already heading north and it’s no problem! That last 12 miles will be a cake walk!”
“Um, aren’t we heading east right now?”
“It’s so cute when you try,” he said, patting me on the head, “but why don’t you leave the navigation to those of us with certifications, m’kay?”

Well now, a four foot swell in the Pacific is not even worth mentioning, but it seems that here in the Sea of Cortez, strong north winds make for four foot wind waves that come right after another. This means that if you’re trying to head north, not only are you going into the wind, but you are constantly bashing into wave after wave. We watched our speed drop from 5 kts, to 4 kts, to 3 kts. So at 10 am, the GPS predicted our arrival time at noon; at 11am, it said we’d be there at 1pm; and at noon, it said we’d be there at 2pm. The running joke became, “Well, we’ll be there in two hours!”

Capn Cocky quickly became Capn Cranky. “Oooh,” he whined, “This sucks!” I suggested we take over from the auto pilot and hand steer, so that when we saw the bigger waves coming, we could take them at a slight angle and keep some of our forward motion. I don’t know if it really helped- it seems like it did- but most importantly, it was kinda fun, and kept our minds off the fact that we were still two hours from our destination.

After just 12 miles of that, we resolved to avoid bashing into a norther if at all possible. We anchored at Frailes, and would have loved to stay and snorkel there; it is right next to Cabo Pulmo National Park, with a fantastic coral reef. But winds from the south were predicted for the next day, followed by stronger north winds; so it was “Adios, Frailes, Hola La Paz!”

See photos, and video of Koiya riding the bow (at least she had fun!) here:


3 Responses to “Just Say No to Cabo”

  1. Hannah says:

    Well, you’ll be happy to hear I finally found my own copy of the Log from the Sea of Cortez at our local used book store, so you no longer have to fell guilty about not lending me yours, and I can follow along as you go!

    We sure have enjoyed getting weekly updates about your trip; sometimes it’s almost like seeing you in person. I’m surprised at how quickly I got used to seeing you all at Christmas. This year I feel gipped! I opted out of the CA trip this time around: “Is it really worth traveling all that way when Todd and Susan won’t be there?” (Answer: no.)

    Anyway, we are sending happy holiday thoughts your way, and looking forward to the next installment!

    Lots of love,

  2. eva a. milton says:

    Hmmm, so you too got to “ride” the northerlies! Some of your pix brought back memories …. sure you did not hijack them from my computer? 😉
    Steinbeck’s “Sea of Cortez” was the book we too discovered while motoring in the Sea. Are you tuned to Don on “Summer Passage” re weather? He nails it pretty good. (Amigo net, PST 0615, frequ. 8122.0)
    Happy Holidays! Eva a. Milton

  3. bob detwiler says:

    i watched the video of koiya and started to feel sick. had i smelled diesel at the time, i’d have lost it for sure! does anyone offer drydock vacations at these places? 😉