Santa Maria

~ March 3-5, 2019~

From Punta Abreojos to Bahia Santa Maria is around 150 Nm. So we left Abreojos around midday with light northerly winds, our heading almost due South.

It was nice to have the afternoon to get back into the sail routine and prep the boat. We put the second reef in and then it was time to enjoy the sunset.

The winds slowly decreased overnight and changed direction slightly to the east, but we were still making good time and were able to sail all night as well as get some sleep. Before too long the sun was rising again and we were in site of land on the other side of middle bight of the Baja Peninsula.

We couldn't see the lighthouse that is on Cabo San Lazaro so we still had a long way to go and probably wouldn't arrive in Bahia Santa Maria until late afternoon. The good news was that the wind was steady and sailing was good.

Bahia Santa Maria, our destination, is a bay that lies just outside Bahia Magdalena, one of the two All-Weather anchorages on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula. It is formed by an island of four red and greenish-grey, ominous mountains on the West side touching a sea of sand dunes that form the Northern Protection.

The cruising guides depict it as an excellent surf spot and as we approached the entry to the bay we could see the Pacific swell roll along small bays.

The sea breeze had continued to build and we were sailing along nicely in 20kts of wind.

The bay is very large and pretty consistently 50 ft deep. Whilst the cruising guides suggest that we can anchor in close to the cliff for some wind protection, we found that the wind continued to increase as we entered the bay and gusts were regularly over 25 kts. We drop the sails once we rounded the corner and started heading North into the bay.

There was already one vessel (our Alaskan friends on Vagabondos) anchored in close to the cliffs and there was little sign of much wind protection there so we motor to the north western corner of the bay. The depth was about 20 ft, but there was a lot of wind right across the bay, so much so that not even the seagulls or pelicans were flying - they had all landed on the water to get out of the wind.

We figured that they knew best and anchored in the middle of them just off the beautiful white sandy beach. Then we waited and watched the wind, it was consistent if nothing else with 20kts gusting to high 20's. But by night fall, with the wind generator having the time of its life, we were happy with where we chose to anchor, and we could enjoy the amazing sunset over the mountains we had just come around.

The next morning the wind hadn't got any lighter so we decided it was a good day to spend on the boat doing projects, maybe in the afternoon it would be better for going to shore. We got the solar panel bungied down and after a little bit of playing with the new parts we got in Ensenada, we managed to get the watermaker running for the first time in at least 10 years! It was a perfect day for it, the wind generator purring and the sun beaming down we ran it for the whole day. It was not just awesome to see the our efforts successfully come together, we had water and that means we could celebrate by having a nice long shower.

First attempt at Fish Cakes made from the SkipJack Tuna we had caught

The next day was still windy, but we were determined to get to shore and explore. In the corner of the bay just near where we were anchored was a small fishing camp. The fish camp is on the edge of the mangrove and a small lagoon. We landed through the small breakers and motored up into the lagoon before setting off for what is meant to be a 3hr hike around the edge of the mountains to the Pacific side and the Cabo San Lazaro lighthouse. The fishing village seemed small with a lot of garbage, but actually as we walked further up into the lagoon there were 3 more major area with houses for the fishermen.

The shacks were fairly cool, people had put a lot of effort into building them out of virtually nothing. It was sad to see racks of shark fins being dried. We hope the whole shark was being utilised not just the fins and jaws. We found this cool article about the tradition of shark fishing at Bahia Santa Maria.

We had mountains and cactuses on one side and a beautiful mangrove on the other side. What was coolest, was we were starting to be able to see a mass of sand dunes behind the mangroves. We walked past the camps and headed along the track that we hoped lead to the lighthouse. We didn't get far when the fishermen caught up to us in their truck. Turns out that putting your thumb out is the universal sign for "I need a lift".

We climbed in the to back of this old ford pickup and they drove off along the track. The truck climbed along the track slowly, but we had to hold on pretty tightly as the tray was full of lobster traps and the dirt road was windy and bumpy.

I was wondering what they were going to do with the traps, maybe they had a panga on the other side???

We got to the other side, and the conditions were wild. The fishermen got off the truck, and unfortunately our spanish was too poor to have a conversation, but they pointed us toward the lighthouse, and then two of them head out along the rock coast while 2 others stayed with the traps and started to bait them with limpets. Then they also headed out into the rocks.

The structure in the background is the remains of the freighter that wrecked there. Apparently there was another shipwreck several miles along the beach but that wasn't our mission today.

Our mIssion was the lighthouse, so we headed off in the heat along the long and dusty path.

Eventually we started to spy the white of the lighthouse on the ridge in front of us and it was well worth the walk.

The building was in good condition and still had old furniture inside. It was completely locked up, but outside there were several whale bone and sea lion skulls. The views were spectacular and you could see why it was suggested to stay several miles off the shore when transiting the coast.

On the walk back we walked out to a beach and overlooked the sea lion colony. The wind was northerly and we were down wind of them. We smelt them before we saw them.

We also walked over to check out the graveyard just inland from the shipwreck freighter. We are not sure whether it is related to the Shipwreck or belonged to a local fisherman, but the Tombstone is laid for Maria Canuta G. Apamcio, born January 1885 and passed away June 1933.

We walked back the same path as we had taken earlier that day, this time without the assistance of the fisherman and their truck. The walk was fairly easy and we made it back to the fishing shacks and eventually the beach before the sunset.

After doing the walk it is hard to believe, this whole area is actually an Island, Isla Magdalena. The rugged mountains join into the sea of sand dunes, but somewhere in the sea of sand dunes there is a series of small waterways that separate where we were from the mainland.

The next morning we were ready to leave, the weather was super calm and there was low cloud. We were just planning on making the 20 mile jump around and into Bahia Magdalena. We heard a panga coming along side and when we poked our heads out a couple of the fisherman from the previous day were holding up some lobster. I guess they had picked a good spot to throw their traps in.

After a little bit of backwards and forwards in the little Spanish we spoke, we worked out they wanted to trade these for some some AA batteries. We weren't too worried about bartering so we gave them almost our complete stash. 6 batteries for 3 lobsters seemed a pretty good day.

Lobster from our trade

A Frigatebird soaring in the high winds. An indication that we were getting into Tropical Areas