Now that it’s over, there is time to reflect back on spending the summer in the Sea of Cortez. We had talked to people that had done it before we made our decision and the general consensus was it would be beautiful, hot, and desolate. There were other places we considered, but our favored Gold Coast area of Mexico is prone to hurricanes, with no place to hide from them. We were quite ready to go further south, although it was tempting. The mainland area of Mexico, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta, is known for extreme humidity and almost daily rain and thundershowers, and Mazatlan till carried a slight risk of hurricanes. La Paz, while in the Sea of Cortez, is not considered typical Sea of Cortez cruising grounds. It can be, and has been, hit by hurricanes. There are several marinas here that are generally thought of as a safe place to be during a hurricane, however I was a bit worried about them filling up before we were able to secure a slip if something nasty were to head our way. And – as much entertainment as they provide, towns tend to cost more money. I had this idea we would head up into the Sea and not spend much money as about the only thing we would need to buy would be groceries and some fuel.
So, despite some misgivings, especially on Jenn’s part, we stocked up on provisions and headed north from La Paz to see for ourselves. The short answer is, people were right. It was hot, there weren’t very many people around, and it was scenic. At first, it wasn’t too bad. We were seeing new anchorages, and as I’ve previously written about, we went to the 4th of July Party in Bahia Concepcion and took a trip home to Seattle. Our plan was to sail north to the Bahia Los Angles area after our trip to Seattle. This is a rather remote area where most cruisers hang out for the summer. After our trip to Seattle, we decided to stay in the Loreto area for the summer, which worked out since the biggest negative of the decision was a higher risk of hurricanes, and we did not end up with the adventure of experiencing one.
That, however, seems to be the high point of the summer. It pains me a bit to say it, since really living on a sailboat in a beautiful area is a special treat. But… it was HOT, and not just that, it was generally brutally humid. I’ve always dealt with heat well, back in Seattle when we would have a rare heat wave I was not one of the people complaining about the heat once it pushed over 80 degrees, or even 90. But the humidity – that was unexpected. I guess it makes sense, seeing as we were out at sea, but I think I was expecting more desert dry air. Maybe all the cactus on shore fooled me. We were also lucky enough to experience the first rain in three years in the area. Once it decided to rain once, the weather seemed to enjoy the experience so it kept doing it. Of course, after a heavy rain that turned streets into rivers, the sun would often come up, and the already unbearable humidity would skyrocket. Since I don’t want to just whine, the plus side of the rain was some amazingly green shores to view from the boat. But the combination of heat and humidity was demoralizing. Swimming at least provided a brief respite from the sweat tricking down intimate crevices of your body, but with water temperatures close to the air temperature it wasn’t particularly refreshing. Walking for more than a minute or two was a challenge, so hiking was out of the question.
The plus side of the sun was plenty of solar, so we often huddled in the boat in front of the fans and watched more TV than I care to admit. I’m not sure we would have survived without the fans, two in the cabin and two in the v-berth that made the difference between sleepless nights and a cool breeze that allowed for slumber. The need for them is diminishing, but we still run them a bit, just not non stop like we were doing. Our solar kept up with the fridge, which was good because we were drinking more water than I’ve ever consumed before and it was a lot more pleasant ice cold then at room temperature. Especially when room temperature is 90 plus degrees.
Some of the other factors in the unpleasantness of the summer were swarms of flies – killing them became kind of a hobby. Then at night with they vanished, the giant moths would appear. This was much to Minion’s delight, since after hiding from the heat all day he would go out at night and hunt the moths. We didn’t mind so much except when he would occasionally manage to sneak past the screen door with one and let it loose in the cabin. This would produce more excitement then any of us wanted. Even when trying to sit out in the cockpit after sundown they would fly into you, which, while harmless, was a bit unsettling. There weren’t many people to hang out with, and most of the people in the area were long time residents, not cruisers. They all knew each other, and the main activity seemed to be sitting in plastic chairs outside of the tienda in Puerto Escondido drinking beer. We did meet some nice couples but no one else that seemed to be staying in the area. Again looking for the upside – it was generally pretty easy to get a prime spot in an anchorage when we did move around, and more than once we were the only boat so we could choose to drop the hook where ever we chose. This does make from some less stressful conversations about where exactly to anchor, unlike the conversations when we are trying to place ourselves away from the 10 or more other boats in an anchorage.
In the end, we survived by mostly anchoring at the Candeleros anchorage in front of a large resort that due to low summer occupancy rates is friendly to cruisers. We spent some time hanging out at the their pool, stayed online with their wi-fi that covered the anchorage, and took their free air conditioned shuttle bus into Loreto for groceries every week or so. There was also a small store in a small town at the other end of the anchorage where we could get some supplies. I’m sure the resort staff was wondering if we were ever going to leave, but they never asked us to or banned us from taking advantage of their generosity. We probably didn’t do as much business with them as they hoped since the prices were a bit high, but Jenn bought her share of diet Coke at their store, and we occasionally splurged for Happy Hour beers when the two for one price brought them down $2 per beer range.
In hindsight, we probably would have left the boat somewhere and gone back to Seattle for the summer (and of course everyone back home has told us what an amazing summer we missed). Or stayed in La Paz where there are more people, air conditioned movie theaters and marinas we could head to if there was a hurricane threat. There were some scenic anchorages, and we enjoyed watching the rain turn the brown Baja peninsula into a green garden. But we were hot, bored, annoyed with the insects and unable to take advantage of much of the scenery on shore. I’m hoping to get in touch with some of the boats that went further north and see if they had a better time, or just being around other cruisers gave them a misery loves company camaraderie.
If you want to see the Sea of Cortez I would recommend trying to see it in the spring or fall. I suppose even the winter would be okay – although it might be cold in a relative way. If I had it to do over, when we arrived in La Paz in the fall we would have loaded up on food and headed north as quickly as possible. Once up north we would explore until the seasonal northerly winds filled in, then sailed back south to La Paz for a visit before working our way over to the mainland. I’ll keep in in mind if there is a next time in this area.
However, despite my misgivings about the summer, we did end up with one special reason to remember this summer. After spotting a cage of puppies out front of the vet\feed store in Loreto from the shuttle bus while returning to out boat one day, we returned the next day for a closer look. It was a tough decision with four adorable dogs to choose from, but Jenn made a decision and Agnes joined our crew. Our best guess is she is a poodle yorkie mix. but we’ll probably never know for sure. She has turned out to be as comfortable on the boat as Minion, not phased by the engine or the heeling over under sail. We still need some big waves to find out if she gets sea sick, but I’ll be surprised if she does. She is now about 4 months old and still weighs just under 4 pounds, and we are hoping for her full size to be between six and seven pounds. Minion has always shown an interest in other animals, and Agnes has been no exception. The two of them spend hours playing, and although Minion is about four times her size he manages to play without mauling her. Once she has had her trip outside in the morning her favorite activity is to start running the length of the cabin, grabbing a kibble of food out of her bowl as she runs by. She is a little head turner, and we enjoy walking around La Paz with her as people point and and turn their heads to watch her go by. She loves people and wants to approach everyone with the expectation they are going to pet her. Jenn has been working on training her and already she is learning a few tricks. Now if she would just pick up the pace a bit on the potty training – although she is doing much better with that. Being a cat person I wasn’t quite clued in to this puppy challenge, but we have a doormat we put in the cockpit and she is pretty good about taking care of business on it.
So while overall the summer was quite what we were expecting, and certainly not what we were hoping for, we made the best of it and now have full crew on the boat. Sometimes it seems a bit much when I’m trying to relax with my morning coffee and animals are racing around the boat playing, which seriously harshes on my morning chill time, but in the end I have to just laugh at how unbearably cute the whole scene is and laugh at the animal antics.
Warning: Possible cute picture overload below – you have been warned.