Next Stop Bahía Magdalena

Waking up early, but not too early, in a calmish Bahia Santa Maria, as we don’t want calm conditions if we are to be sailing south, further down the typically winy Baja California coast and wind power is a kind of free, unlike diesel.  So, well rested as can be, we rig the boat back up for sailing after spending some wonderful days enjoying the natural beauty of a splendid anchorage.

Disco cat inspecting the foredeck while sailing to Mag Bay.

By 9 AM the wind has already built to a solid 15 knot breeze and we raise the mainsail and jib in the semi-lee created by the craggy and desolate mountains which rise from the north shore of Bahia Santa Maria. With full sails up, the LighterBro Boat quickly takes off when her sails fill, and instantly we are cruising on a perfect angle out of the six mile wide bay, with a course set to clear the southern headland of the bay quite closely. Aiming to better investigate the windy side of the bay and what secrets its ruggedness might conceal.

Disco ready to get some of that Yellow Tail, I’m bleeding out in the bucket.

That secret sure wasn’t the surf, I couldn’t see any traces of rideable waves and the wind direction was straight onshore, shredding what ever swell there was into messy pieces. But, we did find the bay’s secret stash of tasty yellow tail and just as we cleared the head land of the bay we hook up, with the reel spinning off at a not too serious pace. By the sound of the reel alone, I know its no monster tuna, but still Paul and I quickly set a course to depower the boat and slow her down, giving us a much better chance of landing the fish under sail. When you’re sailing fast and hook up on a “trophy fish,” unlike a power boat which can quickly stop, throw it in reverse, making the anglers life easy to land that fish, there is no such luck on a powered up sail boat. We have to work hard on slowing the boat down from 9 or 10 knots, to 3 or 4 knots, to give us a fighting chance, assuming the fish isn’t too big.  So, we furl in the jib, bear away and get the boat slowed down, best we can in the fresh breeze. This slower speed, results in me rapidly horsing in a nice young sashimi sized yellow tail, on our boats relatively heavy tackle and we never even dropped below 6 knots of boat speed.

Fishing fever grips me and we head out to sea, once again on a starboard tack broad reach, aiming for what look to be the most favorable depth contours on charts. We never do hook up again, but time flies by when its great sunny downwind sailing and before we know it we need to tack, as the angle now looks perfect to sail into Mag Bay on port tack. However, for Courtney, the festive sea state has got her feeling a bit green and the tack couldn’t have come soon enough. We bang her over and the more favorable swell angle is instantly noticeable, not only has the ride become much smoother, we start to surf just a wee bit, hitting boat speeds in the low teens, and Courtney quickly rebounds into her gregarious self.

Heading towards the entrance of Bahía Magdalena with one of the fishing trawlers that constantly ply the Baja waters up ahead.

From 20 miles out we quickly approach the 2.5 mile wide entrance into Magdalena Bay, which might seem quite wide, however in reality, Mag Bay is near the size of San Francisco bay on the inside, meaning it is giant, so currents and sea states can be vicious in and around its entrance. But, as we approach the entrance we see pangas zooming by on the inside and multiple pods of California gray whales blowing their spouts, as well as a couple of treacherous wash rocks that extend into the sea a bit off the northern point of the bay entrance, but are well illuminated by the bright midday Baja sun.

No problem entering this large bay when the tide is flooding (going in).

We sail right through the calm entrance, on a perfect beam reach, the tide is obviously flooding at just a knot or two, nothing extreme. Rounding the northern point of the bay, we crank in the sails and head close to true north as possible. We get a little way up the long bay under sail, towards our destination of Punta Belcher, which lies around 3 miles up the bay, but the tall mountains which hold back the sea start to block the wind as well, creating intermittent calms, then overly strong gusts, so we drop the sails and motor for the last few miles to avoid any unnecessary sailing breakage, and since we are going to be firing up the engines to anchor soon enough, might as well warm them up.

In Blue Water sailing, offshore passage making and remote cruising, it is this essential ability to know the capabilities of the systems on your boat and employ them most effectively to get you and your boat to your destination in one piece. There is no prize for being the fastest, using the least amount of fuel, or claiming you sailed the whole way. The most efficient use of your systems will win you the prize of not breaking anything on the passage. Which is the best prize of all! Because, now there is no necessary boat work in an exotic place, no FedEx-ing parts to some remote outpost, only the typical preventative boat maintenance that never ends and you get to enjoy the fruits of your new surroundings to the fullest.

In the vicinity of Punta Belcher, our charts show unknown shoaling is common. The anchorage is a big sand point, with sands that shift around, but the sun is still overhead and the shallows easily seen and as the protecting land has lowered in elevation a bit, the wind is back. Scanning the shoreline with binoculars, it looks like the modest sized point offers some decent protection from the prevailing wind and swell in the bay, because just behind the point the swell is flat.

The turquoise waters in the lee of  Punta Belcher are indicative of a sandy bottom.

Down goes the anchor in 25 ft. of water. I drop the hook a bit on the outside of the lee of the point, because downwind of the point there is a lee shore of dangerous rocks and if Natty M were to drag anchor, I would have a good 500 meters more of sea room, than if I had thrown the hook just off the shore. I constantly try to plan ahead for the worst case situation with our boat and never take anything for granted. Especially in a new spot, you have never visited before, with unknown dangers.

The rocky shoreline below Punta Belcher is what awaits a boat dragging anchor.

Usually, turquoise colored water is a dead giveaway for a sandy bottom, and this time is no exception, as the anchor holds firm even under hard reverse in the strong breeze. I learned my lesson the hard way with dragging anchor, sailing Natty M a decade ago in the BVI and now I always set my anchor hard no matter how calm or windy of an anchorage. I want to know if the anchor is going to hold, but I will admit that sometimes you know a certain bottom is quite foul and then it might not be prudent to set hard, or even at all, forcing a dive to retrieve situation, that needn’t occurred. As they say, there is always the exception to the rule and its the experienced captain which knows when those are.

Over the brush and mountains is lies the Pacific Ocean

Upon gazing at the land my initial reaction is, wow!  This place looks to be really interesting in terms of learning some the history of our seas. This actual point, Punta Belcher, was the last whaling station that was actively functioning in Californian waters, only being shut down in 1982 by the IWC’s (International Whaling Commission) outright ban on commercial whaling.

Rotting remains of the whaling station at Punta Belcher remind us of the ignorance of our past.

Massive rotting remains of humongous concrete and steel piers, of which I can’t discern how they once functioned, now crumble into the ocean and provide a poignant reminder of just how giant these animals were they once slaughtered and how the time of people thinking, the supply of creatures in our oceans was endlessly exploitable is not that distant of a memory. And while whales might have transcended humanities industrial and economic necessity before it was too late for them and for us, as now we know the health of whale populations,  directly leads to a healthy ocean ecosystem. However, it seems the lessons humanity learns are selective, as I spy another panga, full of sharks of all kinds and sizes, go zooming by us, destined to be processed by the current, ignorant industry which now makes the point its base.

How long can this environmentally degrading practice of shark fishing, with no limits or quotas go on? The ignorance of today!

I cherish these sailing voyages, as opportunities to actually learn what is really happening in our world, unfiltered by TV editors, or biased “journalists” and I can’t wait to learn more and explore on shore and talk with the fishermen of the “campa” which now inhabits the point, 200 meters away, at the top of our new bay inside a bay.

Plenty to discover exploring the nice sandy beach of Punta Belcher.

Our boat is secure at anchor, so we set off for the land, which is covered in scrappy semi-green brush just beyond a nice sandy beach. We walk down to the rocks with mark the end of the nice sand of our little bay and scour the whole way for sea glass and other shelly treasures. We comb the sands in our bare feet and avoid exploring deep into the land with its deadly thorns being no match for our tinder gringo feet.

Most all of the plants of Baja California sport spikes and thorns aplenty.

We find just a bit of decent sea glass and are excited by the continuing new colors that are distinctly different from American Glass, but as we make our way towards the Campa, with the orange sun now getting low in the sky, gun shots ring out, then more shots again and I decide it might just be best to head back to the boat and sashimi up that yellow tail we caught earlier. No need to press our luck anymore on what has been a truly great day. Plenty of time to see the ruins and fishing village under an honest, bright sun tomorrow.

Nothing make a sailing adventure worth it like the enjoyment of truly good food. As well as being the captain I also enjoy being the cook and I try my best to treat the entire crew to the finest dinner every night. This is made possible by the LighterBro Boat, having a most capable kitchen, with even a KitchenAid stand mixer, Vitamix blender and also carrying all the specific stores and provisions you need to make scrumptious dinners. On this evening, specifically sushi themed, so sushi rice, rice vinegar, ginger, wasabi, nori paper, sesame seeds, a sushi roll roller, for sure sake, beer too, and we revel into the night enjoying the fruits of another tremendous day, which mother nature and our miraculous blue planet, absoutly smashed out of the park.

Alwas nice to enjoy the sunset in a new location, as the wind starts to die off for the night.

To top off a great day, the wind dies to nothing and the nearly full moon rises overhead, completely surrounded by a massive foretelling ring, together casting a most magnificent, magical ocean light over the rest of our evening and the entire gargantuan Mag Bay.

Ring around the moon foretells the weather is changing!

Livin’s EZ

Bahía Santa Maria

I love arriving in an anchorage at night, then waking up to see where in the world you are.

Stretching in the sun after his first 3-day voyage
Breakfast of the tasty fruit from the Ensenada Farmer’s Market

I looked out and saw how beautiful Bahia Santa Maria truly was. The mountains surrounding the Bahía Santa Maria. The topography, creating all the peaks and valleys. The texture that looks like a beige velvet, rolling hills and valleys reaching down to sandy beaches, welcoming sea-goers, with open arms. The shadows in the valleys and sunshine on the barren desert-like landscape. Powerful and majestic. The warm mountain colors contrasting the cool ocean colors. They taught me that a balance of fluidity/strength is crucial to a healthy life, remain spontaneous but do not get pushed around. Stand strong to what you believe in.

Taking a moment to commune with nature

I decided to celebrate the milestone along the Heartwood Path of finishing the Introductory Experience and to wander in nature, with no itinerary.

Kyber far off in the distance, I am always hurrying to keep up!

We kayaked into the beach and explored the canyon, I was attracted to the pretty pink flowers, standing out in the crowd of cactus. After exploring the canyon, we went up the trail to the cliffs. I was in a bikini and it felt great, specially since it is the middle of winter. The cactus lined the trail and I regretted wearing flip flops made out of recycled rubber, because the spines would go straight through the soles (confirmed). Even the bushes had spikes hidden behind every leaf. None of the spiked scene attracted me. Made me wonder, who would be attracted to cactus.

Cactus obstacle course

Ironically, later that night I read this passage in the book I was reading called, “The Power Of One.” “The Almighty conceived the cactus plant.  If God would choose a plant to represent him, I think he would choose of all plants the cactus.  The cactus has all the blessings he tried, but mostly failed, to give to man.  Let me tell you how.  It has humility, but it is not submissive.  It grows where no other plant will grow.  It does not complain when the sun bakes it back or the wind tears it from the cliff or drowns it in the dry sand of the desert or when it is thirsty.  When the rains come it stores water for the hard times to come.  In good times and in bad it will still flower.  It protects itself against danger, but it harms no other plant.  It adapts perfectly to almost any environment.  It has patience and enjoys solitude.  In Mexico there is a cactus that flowers only once every hundred years and at night.  This is saintliness of an extraordinary kind, would you not agree?  The cactus has properties that heal the wounds of men and from it come potions that can make man touch the face of God or stare into the mouth of hell.  It is the plant of patience and solitude, love and madness, ugliness and beauty, toughness and gentleness.  Of all plants, surely God made the cactus to his own liking.  It has my enduring respect and is my passion.” I found a new respect for cactus and deeply appreciated it the rest of our times wandering in the desert.

After about 10 feet from the coast it was hot- like really hot. Baja California desert hot. We kept wandering the desert terrain and came across piles of glass where someone had burned a bunch of trash.

Signs of possible sea glass below

Below that cliff we saw a cobblestone covered beach. We both thought oh, wow! Sea glass central! We scoured down the cliff and checked out the beach. I found three round gem-like sea glass pieces. I was shocked that that was all. Kyber didn’t see one until right before we left.

Success!

We decided to move on and continue our exploration. Back up to the cliffs, back up to the heat, back to a beach, back to the cool ocean air, and so on. Eventually I got so hot up on the cliffs that the next beach, had no choice but to jump in. It was a giant sandy beach with rocky tide pools on each end. Very flat and welcoming.

Not a (human) soul in sight

We went skinny dipping and cooled down our core temperatures. After drying off in the ocean breeze, we continued back to the boat.

Feeling refreshed and renewed

What a serene surreal secluded beach. Perfect. Once back on the cliffs (about 20ft above sea level) we were instantly back to being warm. Kyber stopped to watch a panga boat cross the bay and enter the mangrove swamp channels, taking notes. While standing still, I realized how hot I was, so I walked to the edge of the cliff, there it was again, that refreshing, reviltalizing, rejuvenating, cool, ocean breeze. You could stand 10 feet back in the desert and then back to the cliff… and wow what drastic vibes. Just then Nature had presented the natural attraction of the day. Crisp seaside air. The ocean was like a magical natural air conditioner for the Baja desert. Oh how grateful I was to find refuge from the desert heat, down by the sea.

Dolla Dolla Bill Ya’ll

One day we decided to go exploring in the sand dunes. We rode the dinghy to the beach. It was basically a large sand spit that extended out with the ocean on both sides and a little green folliage in the middle, but no land.

Interesting merging of many different eco-systems

On the way in we saw stingrays lining the bottom of the sandy sea floor… EEk. As we would cruise along they would spook and dart around like floating gliding hockey pucks. After we all three pulled Red Rocket up past the tide line all the sudden it was Kyber, Paul and I, no plans. And the words, “Ready Set Go” played in my mind. Go do whatever your heart desires on this vast deserted sandspit.

Vast and expansive, enjoying the foot massage while walking along the sand ripples

We all instantly started to beach comb and soon realized we had hit a landmine of every shell imaginable. More sand dollars that I had ever seen and the kind you see in the stores for sale, with the holes in them. I spent the next couple hours wandering alone looking for treasures.

Looks like someone is overdue for a wax

I found many shells that you could not see in Santa Barbara. I found so many interesting things I had to set up a bank for my sand dollars so I could make deposits once my hands got full. I did not plan to take all of these shells home with me. I just wanted to see them as a collection and create a little shrine. Also I wanted to show Kyber all of the treasures I found! At the end I would pick a couple that I could not live without. I really felt as tho I was depositing money into my mermaid bank. And let me tell you I was thinking, “I’m rich b****!” the whole time. Cash Rules Everything Around Me C.R.E.A.M. get the money, dolla dolla bill ya’ll.

My Mermaid Safety Deposit Box

I also started to collect a lot of trash as well. I started using an old soda liter bottle to carry my sand dollars to my bank.

I then realized how useful some of the trash I found on the beach could be. And that I would not just bring it back to the boat to throw it away or recycle it, I could actually repurpose the liter on the beach. It got me thinking about how there are so many treasures you could find on the beach, not just pretty sea shells.

Took three for the sea!

The biggest natural attraction of many was the soft dry sand that made it feel like you were floating as you walked. the warmest, fluffiest, softest, sand I had ever walked on.

Light and Fluffy

Later we went for a dinghy ride in the mangrove swamps. Very cool maze in 0-3-6ft of water with beautiful peelers at the river mouth. As we entered into the mangroves we saw a fisherman camp along the banks.

Mangroves bound

We stopped to give them some LighterBros. The men were unloading their catches of the day. As I peer into their panga I was very surprised to see it was all sharks. About 3-4ft long. Then… get this, he takes the shark out of the panga and just in the blink of an eye, slices the fin right off and places it into a special box that helps preserve it correctly so they could sell it. Unlike many of the fisherman in the world, he continued to fillet the shark and save it to sell the meat. He would toss the waste back into the water, explaining the swarming birds circling above, now fighting over the scraps. He had the biggest smile on his face.

Shocking.

It was in that moment that I realized he is not the issue. The fishermen who are catching the sharks for the fins are not the issue. The issue is the people who are buying them. And the biggest issue is the people who are then eating them. Surrounding the panga was an entire village of people. Many of the men dressed in their waterproof white boots and waterproof overalls, clearly “pescaderos.” The children all run around playing. The women sit chatting and some cooking in the kitchen. These men are just trying to feed their families. It was an important lesson that if there is a market to buy things, people are going to provide it. The providers are not the real issue. It is the people who are supporting that economy.

As an environmentalist it would be easy to do a story on how horrible these fisherman are… “look and what they just did to the shark!” But standing there as he over and over sliced the sharks fin off, I did not have those feelings. Not one single bit. You read about the die-hard environmentalists doing sit-ins and protesting but I now have a new take on that sort of activism. There is more than what meets the eye. You have to think about the big picture, the grand scheme of things, and address the root of the problem.

Always the first place I look for him after returning to the boat

The rest of the days we were simply spent EZ livin… LighterBro.

Yoga mat with a view
Kyber doing his daily board sport and earning brownie points 😍
Looking like a true ship cat, Discs
🎶 Soundtrack:

Hawaiian Tribute to Sublime -Livin’s Ez

 

Bahía Santa María

The 6 mile wide entrance to Bahia Santa Maria makes entering even at night quite easy.

Well, we didn’t quite sail to summer on our first shot, but 600 sea miles and 2/3 of the way down the windy Baja California Peninsula we “felt” our way in and dropped anchor in the dead of a pitch black night, in Bahia Santa Maria, in 30ft of 68-degree water. It might not be tropical water, but at least we’re doing better than the 58-degree water temps we left back home. It was my first time to this remote yet semi-famous bay, as the 100+ boats of the annual Baha Haha cruising rally stop here each year to party in the desolation, on their way down, filling its vast emptiness, just a wee bit, for a short time. It is always an intense and heightened experience coming into an unknown bay or anchorage for the first time at night, especially with no moon shining. Even with modern electronics, which put a radar overlay on the GPS chart plotter, it can be harrowing, however this bay seemed to have plenty of room for us and with our anchor holding solid on our first set, in what seemed to be sand, with no other boats close to us at all, I knew I could rest easy for the first time in five long days. The LighterBro Boat was secure and after a brief time decompressing, enjoying our new found stillness, sitting alone in the cockpit, marveling at the billions of stars, visible both above and below, as they twinkled, reflecting off the mirrored still waters of bay, I joined Courtney sound asleep in bed below and slept well, but mostly finally longer than four hours in a row, in a truly placid, sheet glass anchorage.

Disco cat sleeping in the bright sun of Bahia Santa Maria
Disco cat sleeping in the bright sun of Bahia Santa Maria after the windy trip down.

Arising late, awakened by the glare of the fierce Baja desert sun and the heat of even a winter’s Baja day, I shake off the weariness of coming back form a sleep deprived state of being. Coffee is in my hand and caffeine quickly invades my arteries, as I admire the overly spacious Bahia Santa Maria and its still glassy conditions. I see where the row of pongas (narrow, but long, small Mexican fishing boats with outboard motors) were anchored last night and spy another cruising power boat at anchor, which turns out to be just one of our many encounters with Boppy’s Star along this watery road. We had bid farewell to them, when they departed Ensenada a few days before us on New Year’s Eve and now we had caught up. For exactly the opposite of us, they had been waiting for the wind and sea to calm down before heading further south, reducing the roll and increasing the comfort of their down hill ride.

Plenty of room between the LighterBro Boat and Boppy's Star in spacious Bahia Santa Maria.
Plenty of room between the LighterBro Boat and Boppy’s Star in spacious Bahia Santa Maria.

When boating at night, everything looks much closer than it really is and from experience, I knew I wasn’t that close to the other boats anchored in the bay, but now, illuminated by daylight, I was truly way far away from them, because Bahia Santa Maria is huge! It is shaped like a perfect small bay, but on steroids, 9 NM across to the exposed side, 4 NM deep and truly vast. We picked an ok spot to anchor in the middle of the night, but it was probably not the best spot should the wind decide to blow again, which you know it will soon again in Baja and we were far away from what looked like some cool land, hills and mountains to explore on shore.

Looking across the vast Bahia Santa Maria to the other side, with Natty M and a local ponga
Now anchored closer to the north shore and looking across vast Bahia Santa Maria to the other side, with Natty M and a local ponga zooming by.

Weighing anchor and moving closer to the land on the north side of the bay for exploring and hopefully a bit more shelter should a good blow put in. Our twin yellow kayaks are launched and Courtney and I set off to explore the land.

The dry Baja desert is punctuated with areas of bright colorful plants and flowerrs. However most all have deadly spikes and thorns!
The dry Baja desert is punctuated with areas of bright colorful plants and flowerrs. However most all have deadly spikes and thorns!

The stark beauty of Baja never ceases to amaze me, thorny, spiky plants, but beautiful, colorful flowers top many of them, with historically old trash from ancient camp sites scattered here and there and I’m in love with the rawness of it all!

I always hike in the Baja Desert with my LighterBro MultiTool for saftey & survival, with a knife & fire in one compact tool, I'm prepared for any emergency.
I always hike in the Baja Desert with my LighterBro MultiTool for saftey & survival, with a knife & fire in one compact tool, I’m prepared for any emergency.

Combing the beach, below an old trash pile, we discover our first sea glass of the trip and are thrilled at the find. For, we enjoy collecting the manmade, but nature polished jewels and something about the idea of the nostalgia of a time, when the trash of society was beyond benign, actually transforming into shimmering, frosted points of nontoxic colorful beauty for our world over time. How do we go back from the polluting plastic of today which is exactly the opposite?

Discovered sea glass jewels offer the perfect backdrop for a LighterBro MultTool photo shoot.
Discovered sea glass jewels offer the perfect backdrop for a LighterBro MultTool photo shoot.

We also encounter our first perfect deserted beaches of the trip, which are ideal for cooling down after a dry and dusty Baja hike. We meet just one friendly local fisherman along the way, who is collecting whelks, a type of sea snails used for lobster bait. He probes the nooks and crannies of the tide pools, using a long metal stick with a hook for an end, which appears to be hammered and formed out of rusty rebar. Probing the cobble rocks, he deftly hooks them, then flicks them into his hand crafted bicycle rim ringed, mesh basket, quickly filling it. He informs us there is a fishing collective or “campa” up the mangrove estuary, who’s entrance through the surf at the head of the bay is still a mystery to us, yet exists, as we have now seen multiple pongas go slowly through the small waves, only to speed off again, vanishing into the dense mangrove swamp.

An areal view of the entrance to the green mangrove swamp of Bahia Santa Maria.
An areal view of the entrance to the green mangrove swamp of Bahia Santa Maria and its winding waterways.

We decide to investigate, for amazingly this mangrove estuary at the north of the bay, is the furthest north in the entire Pacific Ocean strand of mangroves that exists in our world and is a critically threatened habitat that is disappearing. Awareness needs to be made that pollution and population expansion need to be more effectively combated by whatever means available, to protect these sensitive areas, which contain so much unique biodiversity and are a protective nursery for many spices of infant marine life.

Nothing exemplfies Baja California's wildness, like the silhouette of a lone coyote searching the Bahia Santa Maria sand dunes for dinner.
Nothing exemplfies Baja California’s wildness, like the silhouette of a lone coyote searching the Bahia Santa Maria sand dunes for dinner.

Thankfully Baja’s vast distances, wide open spaces and inhospitable terrain help to geographically isolate many of these sensitive areas and keep wildness within the land.

After a day of tranquil calm, the great windy Baja blow did come, but a solid 20-25 knots of wind is only going to want to make me go kiteboarding since the surf and swell are all flat and even surf exploring is out of the question, with only ankle high waves rolling through on the outside of the bay. I grabbed the hydrofoil that I kite race on in Santa Barbara, rigged my smallest 7-meter kite that I haven’t used in way too long and proceeded to try to launch it and myself off the back of the LighterBro Boat in very windy, gusty conditions. Our catamaran is 25’ wide and it allows me to string my kite lines around her parameter to launch the kite, as I pay it out downwind. With everyone’s help to make sure the lines don’t snag on anything, as we payed out the kite on the water, downwind of the boat. It goes out ok, but one of the five lines is hooked up incorrectly, so I swim out, retie it, swim back and its all good to go. I launch the kite, quickly get my foilboard under me and soon I’m silently gliding across the bay, with my board a full meter above the choppy water, in the gusty, dry wind, with my 7m kite bobbing all over the place like a jelly fish in the strong gusts. But its fucking great! The feeling of hover-boarding exits today and its epic! Only, it is just on water, with a hydrofoil and I cruise around the bay and past a few of the other cruising boats that have now shown up, seeking shelter from the blow. One cruising sailboat in particular, has launched their dingy and a man is rowing into the wind, making no headway whatsoever, apparently for no reason whatsoever, other than to get some exercise and probably enjoying being off his boat for a little bit, even if it is in, a smaller boat.

I also began my quest to learn how to ride a foil surfboard in Bahia Santa Maria. Easy at first when you are towed behind a boat.
I also began my quest to learn how to ride a foil surfboard in Bahia Santa Maria. Easy at first when you are towed behind a boat, but that is not reality, its extremely hard.

The kite session lasts for a good two hours of zooming for miles, nearly across the entire bay, all by myself and I absolutely love it. Upwind, downwind, sidewind, whatever wind, on a foilboard its just no problem. You can go wherever you want, silently, at 25 knots easy, powered only by Mother Nature. By foil, I was able to see yellow sand dunes that stretch for miles along the rugged shoreline of the far side of the bay and spied possibly even it’s fabled left point break, all blown out with the normal Baja wind direction. Too much fun on the water, back on the boat, still cold Pacificos and a smiling, warm girlfriend to celebrate the sunset with after a great day in Bahia Santa Maria! This is what life is about, this is why I love to do this, it is the days like these, and there can never be enough of them to remember at the end.

Beach combing the gigantic beach at low tide in Bahia Santa Maria, as one of the deep channels which drains the estuary is exposed.
Beach combing the gigantic beach at low tide in Bahia Santa Maria, as one of the deep channels which drains the estuary is exposed.

Gradually we get into the groove of Bahia Santa Maria, we enjoy the strong wind, it powers our boat after all through our spinning wind generator, we learn the tricky entrance into the mangrove swamp, through the breaking waves in Red Rocket dingy, with her engine kicked up a bit to avoid the shoals.

Disco is through the surf line and ready to explore the beach fishing shacks before we enter the mangrove swamp.
Disco is through the surf line and ready to explore the beach fishing shacks before we enter the mangrove swamp.

Which leads us to start exploring the huge beach, with its unbelievable assortment of colorful sea shells, wild animals and eventually into the scary mangrove swamp.

Some of the beautiful sea shells and sand dollars found on the beach of Bahia Santa Maria.
Some of the beautiful sea shells and sand dollars found on the beach.

As we penetrated the tricky surf line, aided by the clear water and encouraged by the sandy bottom, so if we did strike ground the propeller should still be ok, we discovered it wasn’t too hard to stick to the deeper channel we could just descern.

Cruising the wide main channel of the mangrove swamp in Bahia Santa Maria.
Cruising the wide main channel of the mangrove swamp in Bahia Santa Maria.

Soon past the beach fishing huts, we’re into the wide main channel of the swamp, where it’s deep and we roared though, or maybe rather cruised through, while the pongas who know these narrow waterways, loaded with shallow spots and dangerous submerged tree branches absolutely roared through at full speed, often kicking up a hefty rooster tail, which exceeded the height of the mangroves themselves.

Frigate birds diving for the discarded shark entrails.
Frigate birds diving for the discarded shark entrails.

Stopping first at the fishing huts we saw mostly sharks that had been the day’s catch being gutted and prepared for market. As frigate birds soared above, watching keenly for scraps to eat, diving bravely for them just over our heads, the fishermen meticulously sharpened their knifes until they could effortlessly slice the fins off hammer heads, makos, blue sharks, both big and puny, in one swift stoke of their fillet knife. They told us the sharks will all be eaten, not just the fins, and the birds get the guts, which is the only waste.

A proud fisherman of Baha Santa Maria displays just one of the many sharks he caught, while taking a break from sharpining his fillet knife.
A proud fisherman of Baha Santa Maria displays just one of the many sharks he caught, while taking a break from sharpining his fillet knife.

There is no way a person like myself, a privileged first world citizen, can complain to these fisher people, living in beach huts and swamp shacks, with no electricity, that shark fishing is bad and they should stop. They are only just getting by, in poverty conditions, trying to feed their shoeless kids and doing what mankind has always done, harvesting from the sea. It is not telling these people to stop shark fishing, that is going to end the environmentally damaging problem of shark fishing which is throwing ecosystems off balance world wide. Only by removing their markets and access to both the legal and black markets which exist to fund their operations, while offering them a new opportunity to earn a living, like eco tourism, such as whale watching to replace their lost income that will help solve the shark fishing problem. But in a place like Bahia Santa Maria where there is no tourism, then what? It is a question, I wish, I could find an answer for.

Exiting through the surf on the bar to the entrance of the mangrove swamp is kind of tricky in Bahia Santa Maria.
Exiting through the surf on the bar to the entrance of the mangrove swamp is kind of tricky in Bahia Santa Maria.

But, lobster is sustainable and even in Mexico there is a season, with minimum size limits and we meet some of the lobster trap fishermen who live way up the mangrove swamp in their “campa” and they stop by our boat in the morning by ponga and we trade them some batteries and LighterBro® Multitools in exchange for a scrumptious live lobster dinner. Perfect, as the Ahi tuna we hooked upon arrival is just about out, so time to switch to lobster. Sometimes the ocean throws storms at you and sometimes it throws seafood. I’m always shooting for more of the latter.

All in all, Bahia Santa Maria is an exemplary anchorage! Calm, sheltered water in strong winds, good holding, friendly inhabitants, yet mostly deserted, great hiking, beach combing, sea shelling, and mangrove swamp running. But, sadly our time was up, it was looking like our next stop was just a short day sail away to Bahia da Magdalena, so on another beautiful Baja morning, with a steady northwest wind blowing, we departed in search of new adventure, having learned new lessons in the ways of our world, in our too short four days anchored in Bahia Santa Maria and for sure on our way out, I’m going to sail by the south point of the bay to look for that mysto left point break again.