September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World

“El otro mundo” or “another world” is the way Mexicans refer to the long crooked finger of land extending southeast from California, having broken away from the mainland aeons ago. Although more widely known as the Baja Peninsula or Baja California, its nickname evokes the stark beauty of the region with its giant cacti and dramatic landforms.

 
Just as impressive as the land is the sea that resulted from that ancient geological shift. Nestled between the west coast of mainland Mexico and the Baja Peninsula, the Sea of Cortez, the youngest sea on the planet, is a unique body of water that teems with life.

The waters are vibrantly rich with sea life, the skies animated with flocks of birds and of the 29 islands, only two are inhabited by humans.

Together, the land and the sea of the Baja Peninsula present a breathtaking, dream-like scene: metamorphosed rock formations surrounding the coves, variegated shapes and hues of pink stone, an intensely blue desert sky, turquoise waters, white sand beaches, distant hills peppered with scrub brushes and stands of cacti. This soothing landscape of muted colours relaxes the body and soul.

Tom and I have sailed there twice, once aboard Hoki Mai, and once aboard Feel Free and we plan to head there again. It’s definitely in our top ten list of favourite places.

Cruisers around the world are enticed to the region by the promise of striking scenery, countless anchorages, easy access to provisions, interesting culture, good fishing and wilderness sailing. The waters are considered by some to offer the best whale watching in the world and I’d have to agree with that as we encountered far more whales, as well as dolphins, porpoises and sea lions than we’ve seen anywhere else. The bird life is spectacular too.

The weather for most of the year is fair and pleasant with cooler temperatures from December to April and hotter temperatures May to November. The best seasons for sailing are spring and fall with winds from the north. Rainfall is rare, usually confined to brief but sometimes violent summer storms called “chubascos.” Winds are generally moderate, north to northwesterly winter and spring and variable to southeasterly summer and fall. There are local winds such as the southwesterly “corumels” that can blow for parts of the day or night. When “santana” conditions are in effect in southern California, a northerly wind will develop in the sea with winds blowing at 25 to 30 knots, generating five to six foot seas. Then it’s best to hole up in one of the many anchorages that offer excellent northerly protection. Because of the long protective arm of the Baja, there is no Pacific swell; however, when the “northers” or local winds blow, an uncomfortable chop develops. The stronger northers appear in the winter and can last three days.

 

Bird loving mariners thrill to the many sightings of pelicans, cormorants, frigate birds boobies, gulls and ospreys on the open water and egrets and herons on the shores, or even on your boat’s stern! This one somehow thought Feel Free was a good stopover.

 

La Paz, a clean and friendly middle class town built around a church, is the hub of the sea. Here, everything is available from excellent restaurants and hotels to taco stands and large modern supermarkets with abundant produce, hardware stores, movie theatres and marinas. La Paz serves as home base to hundreds of boats preparing to sail away to the nearby islands or distant islands like Hawaii or the Marquesas, often making use of the huge anchorage where you can drop the hook for a small fee. Being at the head of a long estuary, it is subject to strong tidal flow though and at the height of the tidal action the motion, colloquially referred to as the “La Paz Waltz”, can be sudden and jerky and boats sometimes face every which way, so you do need plenty of swinging room.

After navigating your way through the long and shallow but well marked La Paz channel and crossing the five mile stretch of San Lorenzo channel, you will arrive at the southern end of the Islas del Espiritu Santo and La Partida.

 

 

 
Once one single land mass but now separated by the crater of an ancient volcano, Caleta Partida, forms a favourite anchorage with cruisers because of its excellent protection from almost all directions. You can spend several days exploring the numerous scenic coves found in the immediate area.

Here, 12 boats gathered for a Christmas potluck feast with all the fixings, food being laid out on top of overturned dinghies on the beach. The sing-a-long that followed wrapped up a memorable Christmas in paradise. (That’s Tom carving the turkey.)

 

Except for the summer months, prevailing winds are from the north to northwest and tend to build as the day progresses. Heading north, an early morning departure ensures a nice easy sail to your next anchorage while a later departure will require a brisk beat. The reverse is true upon your return to La Paz- a fine broad reach back to home base is the usual pattern.

Our favourite anchorage in these parts is Ensenada Grande which actually contains three coves within the cove. At the head of one of the coves is a wide, fine sand beach with a large “palapa” (a shaded area formed by four posts and a thatched roof.)

Next morning was windless so friends Norm and Pat invited the whole gang to join them for a day trip aboard Tsonoqua II, their Maple Leaf 48, to Los Islotes, a craggy volcanic outcropping just north of the bay, and home to a friendly colony of sea lions. Dinghies were trailed and once Tsonoqua’s hook was down we all set about exploring.

 

 
The stony islet is divided by a natural archway tunnel. The sea lions were as curious as we were, boldly swimming right up to our masks for a good look before darting away.

The 14 mile stretch from Isla Partida to Isla San Francisco can be a vigorous beat or a leisurely cruise in light breezes with spinnaker flying. Our first arrival there found us pulling fresh bread out of the oven and a beautiful dorado off our trailing line. The island is a small hook of volcanic rock with a perfect crescent sand beach and lots of interesting shore side treasures to be found. A short inland hike reveals a group of salt evaporation ponds used by fishermen for curing fish. Good protection from north winds and good holding can be found under the cliffs at the north end. Protection from southerly weather is found at the cove’s south end.

17 mile long Isla San Jose is a short hop away. As you approach a low sand spit, another beautiful bay opens up. Here there is good daytime anchorage under all but very windy conditions. It is particularly worth a trip ashore here to visit the cardon forest, where you can take an intimate look at some of the many specimens of cactus to be found in this part of the world. The cardon, the world’s tallest cactus, can reach 80 feet in height and grow to be 200 years old. The Baja desert seems to naturally arrange itself like a botanical garden with manicured, swept paths and perfectly placed plants.

If the northerlies pick up you have the choice of running back to the shelter of Isla San Francisco or heading northwest across the channel some eight miles to San Evaristo, a safe haven from all but easterly winds.

In this picturesque and popular harbour you will also find a quaint fishing village and small shop with limited supplies.

The coastline now begins to display its most spectacular side. Sailing north, you can admire the finely sculpted sedimentary bluffs and well defined striations of the Sierra Giganta. Puerto Gato is a shallow half mile long cove with sand bottom, about 30 miles north of Punta Evaristo. A strong wind can get you rocking and rolling in there but the stunning panorama and transparent waters make up for it. Here we enjoyed freshly caught trigger and parrot fish while watching the sunset spill over the red rocks and golden sand dunes in the west, at the exact moment when the full moon rose in the east. Our pleasant stay was short lived though as the northerlies picked up during the night, refracting the swells around the point and into the bay.

A little further north, the coast makes a 90 degree turn into the very popular destination of Agua Verde. With several coves, good shelter from both north and south winds, sandy beaches, a small village, good holding and a temporary fish camp, it’s a great cruiser hangout; but if you prefer solitude and privacy, you can tuck into Punta San Marcial, the prominent, steep-faced rocky point of land just south of Agua Verde.

You are probably getting the idea that the anchorage possibilities in the Sea of Cortez are limitless and you’d be right. One could honestly spend a lifetime exploring them. Although Tom and I spent several seasons there, we still feel we barely scratched the surface. The Sea still tugs at our memories “Come back, come back.....” and one day, possibly sooner rather than later, we will return.

Fascinating Facts

- The elegant Tern, a beautiful small black and white bird migrates approximately 5,000 miles from Chile and Peru just to lay its eggs in the desert sand of Isla Raza, one of the 29 islands in the Sea.

- Over 90 % of the world’s Heerman’s Gulls breed on Isla Raza.

- The world’s tallest cactus, the cardon, can reach 80 feet in height and 200 years of age.

- Thirteen species of whale appear (of which six breed) in the Sea of Cortez.

- Only two of the Sea’s 29 islands are inhabited.