We made it to the Sea of Cortés! And we made it on time, as planned, for one of our 2023 plans.
The Road to Reunion
We had promised to meet family in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in January, but weather stopped us from leaving Ensenada in time. So, we met them by car instead of by boat. And that was also almost foiled, but by something more human—cartel reaction to the government’s arrest of El Chapo’s son. The cartel blocked major roadways by burning semi-trucks and other vehicles. Some shootouts occurred between law enforcement and cartel members. But the chaos subsided in a few days, allowing us safe passage past the still-hot skeletons of burned vehicles. We drove that road that is now way too familiar (this made our second round-trip on it) all the way from Ensenada to La Cruz, for a week with family and some bonus friend-visits.
The Boat’s Schedule
Our next plan was to meet friends in Loreto at the end of March. We departed Ensenada on February 27, and we docked the boat at Marina Puerto Escondido (just outside of Loreto) on March 22, a few days before our friends’ plane touched down at Loreto International Airport. Victory!
Of course, our goals had been to arrive a month ahead of them, to leisurely explore islands and anchorages on our way to meet them, and to limit our passages to short and easy. But such planning is impossible on a boat. A boat’s schedule is her own, she communicates with the sea and the wind on a whim, never writing anything down and regularly changing her dates and intentions. In other words, one cannot devise a plan where location and date align without some sacrifice of comfort, sanity, or safety, to the boat and her accomplices, sea and wind. And when we dare make our own plans to meet family and friends, we generally sacrifice some of each.
Pacific Baja Round 2.0
From Ensenada, we relived the Pacific Ocean, off of Baja’s western coast, which you may recall included some harrowing experiences last time. We can now report that, in the last two years, the Pacific Baja Ocean has not lost her vigor. At least that is true for the early springtime, when we took both of our adventures along that coast.
Again, we waited out weather at the mouth of San Quintín’s inner bay and in Bahía Tortuga, Bahía Asunción, and near Bahía Magdalena. This time, our games of Mexican Train were broken up with some television time, thanks to Elon Musk (and Starlink). Again, on the passage to Isla de Cedros, we discussed quitting this boating nonsense and moving to dry land. Again, we arrived in the beautiful, peaceful Isla de Cedros—an oasis in the middle of Pacific Ocean wrath—and remembered why we continue this. And, again, we carried on as best we could with the encouragement of the whales jumping up along the way.
Our ignorance and persistence paid off with quality friend time in a beautiful place. We explored historic sites, festive streets, dusty trails, and a couple of beer-glass bottoms. We made it out on the water for a day sail, anchoring for lunch and a swim at a nearby island. That sail established Mapache’s youngest-ever passenger—our friends’ 9-month-old. He seemed to share my thought on life jacket comfort—there is none. And he seemed to approve of the boat and to succumb to the Sea’s charm.
2.0 in Review
Having completed the 940-mile passage from Ensenada to Loreto, we now feel we have logged sufficient time on the boat to provide a realistic assessment of the 2.0 version of Mapache. Her spaciousness inside and out brings a comfort that Rob and I need. We are people who desire space. We dislike confinement, no matter how much safety it brings. I suppose that isn’t surprising given our life choices. Her design lends to sailing in light winds, and to speed in anything more than light winds. On this trip, unlike our trip down Pacific Baja on the original Mapache, we rarely ran the engine. We sailed (not motor-sailed, but really sailed) most of the time, and we made better time. The absence of engine noise was a relief from a stress we had not wholly appreciated. But the friskiness of Mapache 2.0 translates into a lot more movement. Steering her requires a sensitivity that Rob has developed, but I have yet to master. Activities in the cabin while underway, including cooking, require more balance and awareness. And her heels (leans) have more flair. Despite my best efforts to secure our belongings, books, cookware, and a laptop found their way to the floor.
The grass is never just greener, it is different with its own pros and cons. To us, change is the most important part of moving pastures. And we are learning to love our 2.0 selves. We are also trying to abide by the boat’s schedule, which really means not having one. We are learning to take her advice to live in the moments, and to go where the sea and wind take us.
We rang in 2023 in the Valle de Guadalupe, just inland from Ensenada, with sequins, friends, and champagne at a “glam” party.
Our roadtrip from Ensenada to La Cruz took us through the state of Sinaloa two days after Mexican authorities captured Ovidio Guzmán, El Capo’s son. The Sinaloa Cartel responded by blocking major roadways with burning vehicles.
On our roadtrip, we counted 29 burned semi trucks, 1 burned delivery truck, 2 burned buses, 3 burned cars, and 1 burned Oxxo convenience store.
Family reunion in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
We took our family into Puerto Vallarta and to Vallarta’s Botanical Gardens. This is a famous statue on Puerto Vallarta’s Malecón. The Boy on the Seahorse is a city icon and is actually a replica of the smaller 1960s original, which was washed away in a hurricane and recovered twice. The original is still maintained by the city.
Vallarta’s Botanical Gardens are impressive, and set on the side of a coastal mountain, 45 minutes’ drive outside of the city.
We could not get enough of the colors at Vallarta’s Botanical Gardens.
Vallarta’s Botanical Gardens had diverse flora and fauna! We saw macaws flying over us, and met several of these Guineafowl.
Air plants, at Vallarta’s Botanical Gardens
Sarah’s father enjoying the ocean views, aka Old Man and the Sea
Before leaving Ensenada, we celebrated Carnaval.
Ensenada’s Carnaval Marshall
The whole town celebrated Carnaval for a full week.
Before leaving Ensenada, we also undertook some boat projects, which often left the inside of the boat looking like this.
One of our boat projects was replacing our solar panels with larger ones. We now have these two 550-watt panels.
We donated our old solar panels through our friends’ nonprofit, Compass for Kindness, which connects donors with local organizations and community leaders.
Our final night in Ensenada was spent with friends, viewing the city from the top of a ferris wheel.
Mapache 2.0, heading out of the marina in Ensenada
Us, as we leave Ensenada, unsuspecting of the trials ahead on our journey south along Baja’s Pacific Coast
Sarah, learning Mapache 2.0’s touchy steering
Rob, ensuring that the boat is okay in the heavy wind and large wind-waves at our anchorage in San Quintín. Notice the blue line holding our bimini down against the storm. We were particularly worried as one of our new solar panels is mounted on top of it.
The calm after the storm. The day after the storm passed, we watched a gray whale fish around our boat for hours in perfectly tranquil water.
We were pretty chilly the whole way down the western Baja coast.
Rob captaining on one of our rougher days of the passage. His face says it all.
Rob, after anchoring in Isla de Cedros.
Mapache 2.0, anchored in the harbor of Isla de Cedros
Isla de Cedros is always serene and beautiful, despite violent storms just outside her protected shore. We made a couple of friends while we strolled the island’s streets.
One of our new friends almost came back to the boat with us.
The sails were up and the engine was off more often than not on our passage. Here, we sail out of Bahía de Tortuga.
The Pacific coast, near Bahía de Asunción
The sleepy, dusty streets of Asunción
A sign of good things to come in Bahía de Asunción
We followed the sign and found an unassuming pizza place. And it was open!
Mapache 2.0 (centered in the photo), anchored in Bahía de Asunción
When the meaning of “leaky little boat” becomes too literal. We heard the bilge pump start running in the middle of a night passage. This is Rob lying on the cabin floor investigating (and praying it wasn’t dire). It ended up being raw water leaking from the engine, which we remedied after making it to Loreto.
Our last stop to wait out weather on the Pacific side of Baja, Bahía Santa María (just north of Bahía de Magdalena)
Whales joined us throughout our trip south, but they were particularly exuberant at the southern end of Baja
Thar she blows!
A whale giving a violent wave
Finally rounding the bottom of Baja at Cabo San Lucas
We stopped for fuel in José del Cabo, lining up with the big boats (that seemed like they were almost on top of us).
And, just like that, we made it into the Sea of Cortés!
Mooring ball attached in our goal destination, Puerto Escondido.
The gang at Sophia’s cooking class at her restaurant, Restaurant Canipolé.
The Loreto mission, which was built in 1697, peaking out from behind Sophia’s traditional restaurant in downtown Loreto
Our friends, wandering Loreto’s streets
The views around Loreto are magic.
A view of the coast line from a peak near our marina
Rob, checking out Puerto Escondido
Out on a day sail — our friends with their baby, who was skeptical about the comfort of his life jacket
A happy baby on our boat (after we anchored and his life jacket was removed)
Te Amo, Bahía de Loreto.
We are certainly trying.