San Benito

~ February 14-15,2019 ~

When we left Isla San Martin we were planning on heading to Cedros Island, but once we were out there and checked the weather we decided to skip Cedros as strong winds were coming and time would be limited. We headed straight for the Islas San Benito which we both really wanted to visit. If we had made the trip up from Bahia Tortuga to see them it would be 60 miles up wind... So we figured, while we're here and we have the weather window - we should check them out. We’re so glad we did! They turned out to be our favourite place.

We approached from the North into southerly winds, rocks rise out of the water to form 3 islands - Benito de Oeste, Benito del Centro and Benito del Este, (Benito West, Central and East). Whist the main anchorage is on the southern side of Benito de Oeste in 30 ft of water on sand between the kelp beds, the only anchorage on the North side sounded a little more challenging and probably on a rock bottom so we figured we would head to the southern end of the islands and check it out.

To do this we took the narrow passage between the cliffs of Benito del Este and the small Benito del Centro. We saw quite a few Pangas rolling around in the swell and buzzing from one fishing spot to another. Rounding del Centro we traversed across to where the anchorage should be. A large fishing boat was anchored off the fish camp so we turn in towards the rocks between the kelp forest to where the cruising guides suggested an alternative anchorage to be. Luckily being winter the kelp wasn't at the surface and after a few circles we found a spot that was mostly sand and was seemed a safe distance from the jagged rocks.

You should be able to spot us in this picture as a little white spec just off the closest rocky bay.

It's a very impressive anchorage, but not the best protection from the Southerly wind and swell. With the forecast for the wind to swing from the SW to the NW we decided this would work for us. It was going to be another rolly night though.

We were pretty tired when we got in. To be honest, I (Ashley) was totally exhausted - I hadn't been sleeping that well at anchor, plus with the overnight sail we hadn't gotten much sleep in the last 24 hours. But we had limited time there so wanted to go explore.

We prepped for going to shore - we blew up the dinghy, got the outboard ready, packed our bags, etc. We went to check out the elephant seal colonies on the Center island but there were so many seals there, there was no beaches left to land at! The wind was just turning from Southerlies to NW, so the water was a bit choppy too. The outboard gave out on us and we had to paddle back to the boat, just in time to hide from the rains... So our first landing attempt was thwarted.

It was as expected, a really rolly night with the changing winds, and I hardly got any sleep - I had to move from the V Berth to the settee in the middle of the night it got so bad. I swear I was airborne. Paul slept fine. But the next day was amazing. We were decently rested and ready to go to shore early. We were able to row in (it was actually calm now) and avoided the closest beach because it had a seal right in the middle. We thought we had a good cove picked out for our landing, but once we were already committed, and surfing our way in, we found it was full of elephant seals! Super cool, but a bit intimidating too! We kept as far away as possible - but it was a small cove so we were only about 40ft from the seals. There was one huge male - probably 12 feet and 1500 pounds! There was no mistaken what he was - he had a very pronounced elephant snout! There were a couple dozen females, and pups about. The babies are so noisy! They sound like whiny brats.

We walked towards the village, there were several coves full of other elephant seal colonies - each with one giant male, many females and pups. There was also one large male that was up away from the water - we think he lost a fight with another male and was dying/recovering.

On the way back from our hike though, we saw him make his way back towards the water (past the bodies of 2 dead males). But the one big male already in the cove clearly didn’t want him coming through. We thought we were going to see a fight, but he snuck past the guy and back into the water.


The village has just a handful of buildings; a generator, church, dorms, a conservations building and a few houses. We said hello to a several people, but only one guy was interested in chatting. I guess if you live on a remote island, you probably aren’t that interested in chit chat. From the village we hiked up to the lighthouse.

It’s a beautiful hike up to the Light House - desert terrain and beautiful views.

From the new lighthouse we saw the old one on the far west side of the island and decided to check that out too.

It still had the old prism inside and you could walk all the way to the top to check it out. Super cool to see, but it doesn’t look like anyone is maintaining or even taking it down - so it will just be destroyed with time.

We had an awesome time exploring San Benitos, and could have easily stayed a week.

They have diving all over the islands, elephant seal colonies, Guadalupe Fur seals, lava tubes, and hikes all around the island. But there was some weather coming in, and we wanted to get to Turtle Bay before it picked up.

So once we got back from the hike we prepped the boat for a night sail and headed out into 15kt winds that were predicted to build.