Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico


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Entries in friends (8)


santa rosalia, baja, mexico

I just got this from our friend Brian on Vela. I was interested to know what Santa Rosalia would be like and I think I got my answer. He was responding to some of my questions so there are a few edits to provide more context.


I'm at the Fonatur marina here in Santa Rosalia, Baja, Mexico. There is no one here, just myself and three other boats. A common theme I'm seeing is that all these Fonatur marinas are shitholes. Like they built them and then basically abandoned them. The docks are nice but you have to chase away about 20 cockroaches before you try to take a shower. Impossible to hail anyone on the radio prior to arrival. Puerto Escondido Fonatur was the same way. Santa Rosalia itself is a super cool little town. Really interesting architecture, no one speaks English. Hardly any gringos. The currents coming in here are bizarro boiling seas... 2 knot currents hitting each other head on. It's not too bad if there is even a slight breeze but a lot of times there is no breeze at all and it's sweltering.
I've heard from several people that this is one of the hottest spots on the Baja side, apparently it gets a little better up in Bahia Los Angeles and not as humid. In fact, when I was headed in here the other day, the whole area was blanketed in a thick sheet of fog in the morning. Burned off by the time I got up here in the afternoon. Bahia Conception looked nice, didn't have time to explore it. The stretch between San Juanico and Punta Pulpito is pretty remote and seems like it gets big wind and waves when it's blowing out of the southeast. Not many protected spots to anchor until you get to Bahia Conception. Got a little too close to shallow water and a reef off Punta San Antonio, north of Punta Pulpito because I misread the coastline and my chartplotter maps suck ass.
Brian I hope you don't mind me posting your reply but I would have love to have this before I headed up there!




balandra, home of the ice cream cart-barge

One thing that makes the La Paz, Baja, Mexico area pretty cool is that there are a lot of neat places nearby. Hailing from San Diego, the closest “cool place to go anchor for the weekend” was 80 miles away to windward, at Santa Catalina Island. And honestly you couldn’t even anchor there as the primary destinations have moorings installed. Here in the sailing Mecca of La Paz however, there are several islands, many large bays, and countless smaller coves within a few hours. Further destinations are merely another hour or two away beyond that, and so the story goes for hundreds of miles up Baja’s interior peninsula.

Balandra isn’t the closest stop north of La Paz, but it’s the most popular. On a busy weekend you’ll have a dozen boats in the cove, half of which are local charters letting their sunburned gringo clients zip around on suped-up tenders and drink margaritas. And yes, that’s “busy” for here.

Though we had plans to head to Espiritu Santo Island, a student in Cora’s Mexican preschool we have her enrolled in gave us an invite to a birthday party on the beach in Balandra. We’d been here before for a single night when coming in from Bahia Los Muertos, and this time we spent three days and two nights anchored in this beautiful cove. 

We had some friends on Classy Lady II that showed up as well with their five year old daughter Solis. They sold their last sailboat, bought a powerboat, and are looking to build a new sailboat. If you think we have an interesting story, trust me, these guys have us beat hands down.

There are really two aspects to Balandra: as an anchorage and as a beach.

As an anchorage it is relatively straight forward although first time people in the La Paz area will likely be spooked by the Los Coromuelas that kick up around sun down, howling wind out of the south west until ten the next morning. There are also crappy little flies that don’t bite but otherwise manage to annoy the hell out of you as they land on your face, neck, ears, and every other square inch of skin. Happily, these odd insects don’t seem to enter the cabin all that frequently and don’t hang out after sun down. Their domain is the uncovered pitch heat: probably where you’ll spend the least amount of time.

The beach of Balandra, or Playa de Balandra, is the real gem of this bay. It’s weird to look two hundred yards out and see people standing in waist high seas but that’s how this place works. The water is crystal clear, fish zip around by your feet, there is no surf, and for hundreds of yards the water is so shallow and calm that even the most timid beach goer finds themselves happily flapping around in 80 degree (f) water. Also, the bugs that are present in the anchorage are mysteriously absent here.

The ice cream man has his little cart that he pushes with high volume wheels: not only do they handle the sand well, but in deeper water the whole thing floats so he can push it along like a barge. Like a lot of Mexico, it’s the strange blessing and curse of stunted economic development that allows beaches like this to be accessible to the average citizen and not have a resort built right on the sand. Charlotte and I frequently walk around and shake our heads saying, "Imagine what this place would look like if it was in the States." I sincerely hope that as Mexico continues developing and growing as an economy it can preserve locations like Balandra: the natural beauty around here is quite literally, priceless. 


met our friends and scoped out the mazatlan aquarium

I keep the fires of industry burning from Latin America.My day started by tracking down the "computer room" which is a hut of sorts on top of another building. It's Mexico so it's of course made of concrete. Marginally acceptable broadband with solid 4G coverage and I was able to do my job for a few hours this morning. To the untrained reader of my emails and recipients of my phone calls I may have managed to come across as not being in developing nation with a two guys arguing behind me in Spanish about a missing hammer (true story).

Us with our friends from Jean Maria in a Mazatlan pulmonia.We have friends on a sailboat named Jean Marie that we were lucky enough to meet in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle a few months back and when we checked in on the Mazatlan VHF net, they hailed us we made plans for checking out the Mazatlan Aquarium today so we could catch up and the kids could play together. They've been dealing with engine issues for a while but apparently they're going to be all straightened out next week, and leaving for the La Paz area (our destination) with the quickness.

The Sea of Cortez is really diesel territory and without one you'll spend a lot of time waiting for weather. Similar to the west coast of the USA, going north with the wind is basically impossible and unlike the Pacific where you can dogleg your way via Hawaii, there's no Hawaii in El Mar de Cortez. Sailing in the Sea of Cortez when needing to make any northbound progress is really "motoring" in the Sea of Cortez.

The aquarium itself was cool. Charlotte read off some of the tripadvisor reviews last night and it's funny listening to people who consider themselves to be the arbiter of good times. One reviewer complained that it was all in Spanish (we're ~1500 miles south of the border) and another that the cages were too small and that these things would never be tolerated in Canada. There is a level of smug superiority dripping with paternalism that seems to be the domain of the North American left. Always ready to espouse their own culture's level of advancement compared to our backwards neighbors to the south. I'm guilty of it sometimes my self so I find it especially offensive: the things we dislike most in others are usually traits we posses ourselves.

One of my favorite things about visiting other cultures is getting a chance to see the contrasts between their way of life and my own. There are a lot of things that I take for granted as "normal" but then you start to see that there are multiple "normals" out there. That in turn shows that so much of society, the bedrock of our experiences, is quite fluid and that we blindly accept a lot of norms for which there are quite functional alternatives. I know this is sociology 101, but it's more poignant when it's in your face.

Well, that's it for now. We're still waiting on weather and will go climb the lighthouse tomorrow.

Hasta luego.


friends, sailing style

Charlotte and I don't fit into the normal "cruising" (I hate that term) demographic. Coupled with our two children and their early-to-bed and early-to-rise schedules, we don't get invited to a lot of parties. It certainly can't have anything to do with my personality, of course.

But tonight would be different and with my family secured for the night I hopped in the dinghy and sped over to Calypso and met up with the crew of Tie Fighter and later on Landfall. Anchored in the bight between Bucerias and La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, I sipped on margaritas and tried to ignore the dead rat I'd been handling barely an hour before

Interestingly enough Calypso is a Union Pacific 36 which is roughly identical to our boat except that Jasna and Rick take better care of their boat and don't have two children wreaking havoc onboard. 

Calypso is also planning (a very loose term in sailor land) to cross the Pacific in 2014 which is our target date as well. Knowing that we have less than a year to prepare ourselves and our vessel for such an onslaught might not be daunting, but it's certainly sobering. Knowing that we'll have friends out there along the way makes the mighty Pacific Ocean seem just slightly less empty.

The flip side to friends you'll be seeing again are the ones that you won't for a while, and possibly never again. Drew and Miya on Tie Fighter will be heading north, and eventually the last time we see them might indeed be the last time.

In the sailing world you meet some amazing people doing some amazing things, and the double edged sword is that you only met them because you're both travelers and more likely than not you'll be parting ways soon.

The seas are beautiful and shockingly powerful. They have a story to tell and it's worth listening to. But the people you meet along the way in the journey are part of a special club, one that you can only join with salt behind your ears and a respect for the sea that is at once both a source of life and death.

Everyone gathered on the bow for an official renaming ceremony, pouring one for our homies into the water as an offering to any higher powers that can keep us safe on the water.

It's a certain kind of person that chooses to go to sea, leaving significant portions of their lives back home as they watch the last sliver of land dip below the horizon.

But life out here in the big blue is special, and I'm proud to count my fellow mariners as friends. 


holy crap: less than 48 hours left in the USA

I still can't wrap my head around it, and I think until we cross into Mexican waters I really won't believe it. Weirder still is that I don't think we'll actually be able to stay, or something will go wrong between now and then.  

I've been to Mexico dozens of times, and taken sport fishing boats and sailboats in and out a bunch of times. Distance wise, we're just going to Ensenada which should be about as boring of a short transit as there ever was.

But as Charlotte mentioned to me this evening, it's not so much about the sailing and the water as it is the life shift. If anyone out there thinks I'm adventurous, let me be clear: I'm a pussy. Ten times out of ten I would much rather sit in a nice warm environment, resting comfortably, reading a good book or watching an action movie. Someone else (with a stunt double) can do the exciting stuff and I'll just sit back and drink my glass of milk, thank you very much.

But now that the paperwork we were waiting on is here, we're out of excuses. The boat is pretty damn close to ready (no boat is ever really ready), the weather is so benign it's frankly boring (knock on wood), and my wife isn't going to be getting any less pregnant. 

I went for a walk today and tried to remember what it was that had me originally thinking of doing all of this sailing stuff. When I was a really little kid (maybe 8) I had a little globe and I dragged my finger around it, thinking it would be amazing to do that on a boat. Years later in my early 20's, it was an escape route. A way of bailing from a life (both the culture and my own doings) that I couldn't seem to extricate myself from.

As I got older I learned more about myself, I started a family with Charlotte, and here I am: a semi-grown up guy who actually has a really nice life. My existence isn't my tangled mess of garbage that defined most of my young adult life. It's nice now. I'm relatively fit. My wife is great. My kid is awesome. Lyra will probably be rad too. I have a great job and work with great people. I live in America's Finest City.

I think part of what motivates me still though is that all of those things I have: my family, my career, my friends, I have because I worked at them. I like creating things, I like making things, and I like learning. 

I really don't have a cohesive point I'm trying to make other than to capture the thoughts that are rushing around in my head right now. 

To my friends, thanks. I'd put down names but in doing so I'd alienate others and honestly the list of people who've either motivated me or put up with my bullshit would make this already rambling blog post even longer.

Here's hoping that after Saturday the next post comes from Mexico.


said good bye to some friends today

Growing up I got used to people coming and going. I moved around a lot as a child so nothing really lasted forever. As a grown up (if I indeed am one, I'll leave that up to you) it's been a whole new world for me. I finally have control over my friendships and the people who are in and out of my life. The Internet, a bank account, and the general mental decision making capacity of adulthood leave you armed to maintain friendships that in other worlds would have been severed. 

Today Cora and I waved good bye to our good friends Stan and Diana. They've been in the painful process of pulling their rig and getting Westwind loaded up on a truck to ship back to Maine.

They've been great to our family and are genuinely cool people to know. Rather than concentrating on the slightly painful memory of their boat being gone and Cora asking where they are every time we go up and down the docks, it's a good reminder that you can't stay in one place for too long.

When I lived in New England I knew people who lived in the same towns they were born in, sometimes the same house. While I'm not trying to bad mouth anyone, there's only so much you can do sitting on a boat in San Diego forever. Getting a move on and changing your life towards the things you want is what you're supposed to do.

If there's something you want, if there's something you think will make you happier, you owe it to yourself and everyone around you to make it happen. For our friends, it was yanking the boat from San Diego and changing things up.

It's also a good reminder that even if you want things to stay the same, you're under the illusion of control. Your job can vanish and your friends can move. Your world can change even if you try to keep it the same. So since change is inevitable, you might as well make it of your own creation rather than leave it to the whims of chance.

Stan and Diana, we'll see you guys soon.


said goodbye to my friends Ryan and Alex today

This morning, along with the rest of the Baja Haha fleet, my friend Ryan and his wife Alex left San Diego bound for Mexico (and finally, France) onboard their Mariner 40 Shalimar. It was great to see them embarking on something so challenging and rewarding, not to mention something that they've worked very hard on. Other sailors might be able to understand this but to my land lubbing readers, it takes a lot of work to get a boat around the world. 

Ryan and I have sailed together on several occasions on four different boats. In fact, the first real time I spent with Charlotte was with Ryan as the three of us headed to Catalina for a few days onboard his dad's Lancer. 

Beyond sailing, I worked with Ryan back in 2001 and continued to work with him until a few days ago. When I was in my band I played in his garage at a party, and we were eachother's best men in our respective weddings.

So it was with a heavy heart that I tossed his bowline onto his deck and watched them sail away.

Ryan's mother who was on the dock as well this morning ribbed me a few times, saying this was "all my fault" since I dragged Ryan into sailing in the first place. 

I remember zipping around in my old Ericson with Ryan and he'd half-jokingly say that we just needed to swing by Vons to pick up some groceries and we could head down to Tahiti that night. 

I know I'm rambling, but it's hard to get all those emotions lined up properly. Happy to see him go, sad to see him go, excited to see him go, and a tinge worried about their safety (as any friend would be). 

Fairwinds my good friend, and I'll see you soon. 

Ryan and Alex have a blog, although it's primarily in French.


meet my friends Ryan and Alex

So if you've read this blog for a while, you might have heard of me talking about my friend Ryan. Ryan, for as technical as a guy as he is, avoids having an "Internet presence". No facebook, no twitter, no website, no blog, etc. Fortunately his fiance disagrees with him, so now they've got a blog going on that I can follow. Also, here's the rss xml if you're looking for it.

You might care about this because Ryan and Alex are living on a 43' Mariner wooden ketch. Beautiful boat, great people. Leaving for the big blue ocean in a few months.