Cabo to Mazatlan: Leaving Baja California for mainland Mexico

We arrived in Cabo Thursday December 1st feeling overjoyed, overwhelmed, relieved, happy and very excited to return to a place where modern amenities were not only available, but abundant.  After a week on the hook in a remote anchorage, our senses seemed heightened and we felt the joie de vie of Cabo in a way I would imagine a sight or hearing-restricted individual might.  It was quite a shock to our systems to take in the zipping around of pangas/water taxis, the gargantuan cruise ship in town, the many jet skis, motor boats, personal sailboats and tourist vessels on the water all at once.  

To be sure, we have certainly been on the ‘other side’ of that experience – we have done more than our fair share of touristy things on our previous visits to Mexico from parasailing, ATV-riding through the desert, trinket and souvenir shopping on the beaches and in town, visiting the local pharmacies for RXs typically ridiculously expensive in the states, expensive dinners on the waterfront and snorkeling boat trips/booze cruises. But this time coming into Cabo felt completely different.  The first obvious difference – arriving on our boat after 1200 miles of travel from San Francisco made the arrival *feel* hard-earned.  The realization of a dream of my hubby’s for the longest time–to sail the Baja from tip to Cape with his family– was a sweet, sweet victory.  But it was more than that, and it wasn’t easily identifiable at first.  We both felt a different sensation upon arrival and it wasn’t until later discussion that we realized what it was:  We felt more like residents (albeit temporary) than tourists and as we moved through the tourist hub-bub surrounding the marina doing our daily chores (taking laundry to the marina laundromat for washing, going out on reprovisioning runs, etc.) we realized that eventually the folks around us were seeing us differently too.  Sure, the first day, we were inundated with “ya wannas”–i.e., ya wanna go on a glass bottom boat ride? see the arches? ya wanna go horseback riding? . . .  But by the second or third day of seeing our familiar faces ‘round the corner to our marina services (often with our trusty wagon in tow)—the locals stopped asking.  Perhaps it was our wagon full of laundry or loaded down with groceries. Perhaps it was just because they had seen us so many times before. Perhaps it was all in my head!  All I know is that the last day we were in Cabo, having promised Elliott we’d visit the local fishing store to get him set up for ocean trawling off the back of our boat, we finally made it to Minerva’s (quite the professional outfitter indeed! Thanks Minerva!) and as the boys and I walked back to our boat with a tall gaff in my hand (and a Minerva’s bag with a fishing club, fillet knife and tuna-grade lure), *no one* hit us up. Not even for a sport fishing trip. 🙂

As one might imagine, the cost of docking at the marina in Cabo is a costly endeavor. In fact, we were told by the locals that it’s one of the priciest, if not the most pricey, marina in all of Mexico. Given the boats that we saw docked there, complete with full-time crew cleaning and tending to them every day, I’d say they are probably right.  The water taxis alone are paying $1200 USD per month (!!) to dock on that front row right in front of the Malecon (which gives me a whole new respect for their sometimes-aggresive sales tactics!), and the monthly cost for our slip would be almost as much as our mortgage back home.  So after provisioning, refilling our tanks with the “free” potable water and getting all our laundry done, we needed to high-tail it outta Cabo and bring our living costs back down to normal cruiser-status. 🙂

After much discussion and weather research, we decided to try to squeeze in a quick trip up the Baja Peninsula (rounding the corner into the Sea of Cortez) to Cabo Plumo–which houses the largest living coral reef in the West.  The pictures and descriptions in our cruising books were astounding and we could not wait to see the whale sharks and gorgeous fish in person, just a short snorkel off the beach!  But alas, Mother Nature had other plans for us.  We departed the marina in Cabo San Lucas on Monday December 5 hoping to anchor just north of Cabo Plumo National Park (the reef) by sunset that same day (about 45-50 nms).  However, just after we passed Los Cabos (the “other” Cabo in Los Cabos–the one most folks know as closer to the airport and just off the highway), the winds kicked upwards of 15-17 knots and the we started bashing madly in the chop and wind.  Had the wind direction been more favorable (or our destination in a direction more favorable to the wind), we might have been able to continue on.  But the incessant “bang bang bang” on the hull, bashing upwind and eventually taking a wave not only over the bow but INTO the cockpit and inside our cabin, forced us to re-evaluate our plans.  Luckily, we had only gone about 30 nms and were still just to the west of Los Cabos.  So… we made the left turn and, taking the swells and chop abeam, made our way to Puerto Los Cabos Marina for the night.

As it turns out, that was a *good* call.  I was informed by the folks at the Marina that we were one of a few sailboats who had tucked in and aborted their travel plans due to the unforecasted weather conditions.  And I’m glad we did, even though it means that we now have to ditch our plans to see the beautiful reef at Cabo Plumo (for now) and take advantage of the perfect weather window to make the crossing over to Mazatlan.

Indeed, we have plans to visit with friends in Mazatlan and spend Christmas with my husband’s family there. And we are beginning to learn about the fickle and ever-changing nature of the weather patterns in the Sea of Cortez.  Previously, all along our journeys south from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, we *only* had to worry about the Pacific Ocean.  But now, as we are moving into the Sea of Cortez and making our way to mainland Mexico, we are dealing with a different animal.  Luckily, hubby has sailed many different places in his life and over dinner he was explaining to the rest of the crew that, in his experience, sailing here seemed a lot like sailing in the Great Lakes.  He recounted stories of sailing steep, short seas there and what that felt like was eerily similar to what we felt Monday afternoon.  So, once again, very thankful for his wisdom and intuition in guiding us to get out of what *would* have been a very hairy, ugly and uncomfortable sail up to Cabo Plumo.  As we told our boys (which we hope is true) “The reef will be there and hopefully we can visit in on our next trip to Cabo!”

For now, the boys are content to be underway to Mazatlan to (Finley) be at a dock and (Elliott) get some new fishing gear (we lost that awesome tuna lure today while trawling on this passage!).  I, for one, will be glad to set up shop in a great, protected and well-appointed marina for the next few weeks as we prepare for birthday and holiday celebrations with friends and family.  The opportunity to actually relax a bit AND have wifi, land to run on, a pool for the boys, and access to lots of cool activities for the family sounds *awesome.* I’m also looking forward to being a bit farther away from the hub-bub of Cabo San Lucas where we traded the ultra-darkness and zillions of stars we left in Mag Bay for the musical libations of Senor Frogs on a nightly basis. I certainly won’t be missing bad karoake renditions of “Sweet Caroline” and Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” anytime soon, nor will I miss the constant tooting of whistles encouraging turistas to “drink! drink! drink!” 🙂

Elliott welcoming us to the Mazatlan marina area. 


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