Sailing further north, we made a few stops and enjoyed seeing friends we have made along the way.
Puerto Ballandra is just 9 miles east from Loreto, so it’s an easy stop closest to a “big” town. We stopped here and found a great protected anchorage on Isla Carmen known for the repopulation of Big Horn Sheep (which we didn’t see, unfortunately). It’s part of the protected marine parks around Loreto, so the wildlife is abundant, and there is room in this anchorage for more than 10 boats. When the tide is low, the water table changes pretty dramatically (more than 4 feet); we were anchored in about 20 feet of water, and we woke up one morning to find ourselves in about 9 feet (the draft of our boat is 7!). We heard that there is wifi here from Loreto, but our booster didn’t pick it up. While there were no bees here, the mosquitoes here were fierce! This was the first and only place so far where we have seen mosquitoes (other than a few here or there in town). We were thinking of staying here longer, but we just couldn’t deal with these guys, so we left.
On our way to Caleta San Juanico, we had one of our best sails since being down here; a broad reach with ~15 knot winds, and we were doing about 6 knots in a comfortable heel. Quiet and peaceful. San Juanico is a wide bay that was supposed to be well protected from north winds, but our anchorage here was a bit rough and rolly. We held very well, but we decided to keep moving north (also, no wifi or cell signals). The bonus was no bees and no mosquitoes!
The long 45 miles from San Juanico to Conception Bay takes all day, but it was a pleasant trip, mostly motor sailing as the wind was coming directly at us for most of the day. Getting into the bay is tricky as it’s very shallow on both sides of the bay; even 1/2 mile from the shore, we were still in only 10 feet of water, surrounding by submerged rocks and islands; it’s not a place you want to enter at night. The navigation markers on land are good but not plentiful, and being able to see the color of the water was one of the few ways we could tell if we were safely traveling or not. The charts were very inaccurate on the water depth. Places that were supposed to be 30 feet and deeper were less than 10 feet. We found a lovely little bay to tuck into called Santispac Beach with wifi at a couple of restaurants but no cell service.
Bahia Concepcion (or Conception Bay) is a long narrow bay that is supposed to be home to whale sharks, although we didn’t see any, we heard that they had just left a couple of weeks prior – next year, we definitely want to come back during this season! The anchorage and water here is exceptional and clean. We swam each day, snorkeled and enjoyed the lovely northwest wind that kept us cool and comfortable; with water temps in the low 80s, there was no shock when diving into the water. We were here during a very quiet period near the end of the season, but we have heard that during the busy season, the beaches are loaded with RVs and campers. With the proximity of Highway 1 just next to the bay, you do get some big rig noise pollution when they brake, coming down the hills, so although beautiful, it’s not the quietest of anchorages. No pesky mosquitoes or bees here, but we did encounter some nasty sand fleas which chewed up our ankles and shins one night at a local beach restaurant – best to stay on the boat!
It’s only 13 miles from a small town called, Mulege. You can’t really safely anchor in Mulege as it’s open to the sea and there is a river that winds up 2+ miles into town, so one day, we got up early and were going to hitchhike into town along Mexico Highway 1. We landed the dingy on the beach* and started walking to the highway, when a woman stopped us and asked us if we were headed into town. She was there to pick up someone who hadn’t shown up, so we were the fortunate recipients of a ride! She had errands to run, so we met her back in the main plaza several hours later where she gave us a ride back to the beach and our boat. Wonderful!
As it turns out, she was in Mexico (living) writing a biography on her late husband, Tap Tapley, who we learned was quite a character. They were married over 30 years, and she was a treasure and delight to talk to – after doing a little research, we understand her husband was the real deal – founded Outward Bound and lived quite a rich life. His wife, Anita, was pretty modest about it all – we hope to keep in touch with her! Characters abound in Mexico – you never know who you will meet by just saying “yes” to whatever comes your way.
Mulege is a lovely town (with 4G Telcel service!). Anita dropped us off at the top of the hill where the mission was built and has survived several hundred years of hurricanes and storms. The caretaker there opened the bell tower for us, and we climbed to the roof along narrow and steep stairs where we were afforded lovely views of the valley below. After visiting the mission, we had breakfast at a beautiful old hotel in town once inhabited by beloved Mexican poet, Alán Gorosave. The interesting thing about Mulege is how lush the landscape is; it’s an oasis in the desert, mainly due to the river running through the middle, with migrating birds and forests of date palms, coconut palms, mango and avocado trees.
As we left the bay in glassy conditions, a small pod of dolphins escorted us back out into the Sea 🙂
Next stop: Punto Chivato & Santa Rosalia
*We’ve never had any problems or heard of problems of theft here (other than in Cabo San Lucas), but we always take our key and lock the engine on the dinghy, so if someone were to be tempted, they would have to procure some very large boltcutters to get the lock off the engine to make the dinghy usable.