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!

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.

Ensenada with a Bang

Arriving in Ensenada, we find, the food is excellent, weather a perfect sunny n’ 75, and mucho fun is to be had.! Yet, even in modern 2017 you still can’t drink the water or put it in your boat’s water tanks, unless you want to risk amoebaonic contamination. Transforming your boat’s fresh water system into a fountain dispensing endless bouts of Montezuma’s Revenge but, such inconveniences are easily overlooked. Especially with the current street exchange rate of 20 pesos to $1 US Dollar! Our greenbacks are going a very long way down here. The best fish tacos in all of Mexico are at the Fenix street taco stand, currently costing the equivalent of 50 cents! Might as well order 8 tasty tacos then and while you can get fish tacos most anywhere in Mexico, Ensenada wins hands down for the best Baja style (battered and fried) for sure!

Most times I’ve been to Ensenada with The LighterBro Boat, Isla Todos Santos is breaking, so we’re out there all day long surfing big waves and then sailing nine miles back to the harbor in the evening, to gorge on cheap street tacos n’ beers. But this year, in the dead of winter, when Killers should be killer! Its flat…

Killers on Isla Todos Santos from the air

Instead we all embrace the boat work I didn’t have time to finish before we shoved off from Santa Barbara and gang up to get her clean, organized and ship shape. Which is honestly a bit hard with all the crap you accumulate living on one boat for 10 years. Combined with having a girlfriend who needs to keep a decent, respectable wardrobe mind you, one bike per person and a Disco cat, with all his litter box accoutrements and it all has to be stowed securely somewhere, in not that large of a space which is our boat. At least Natty M is a catamaran, so we can leave lots of stuff on tables and counters under sail, unlike a monohull, which would just vomit anything you left laying out, directly onto the cabin sole in even a moderate sea state. We pull it of splendidly, all pitching in and Natty M is now as organized as is humanly possible for the amount of crap onboard and ready to voyage on.

Ensenada might be a dusty comerical port city, but the sunsets are still beautiful!

Since the surf is flat, and Ensenada is a dusty, container unloading port city, with cruise ships spewing nonstop sooty fumes when in port, covering your boat in a daily coating of brown dust at the minimum or actual oily carbon particles at the filthy max. Myself, the captain makes the call. We’re hanging out through New Years, reveling like only drunken sailors can, provisioning at the local fruit market, when businesses reopen the day after the holiday, hitting the ultra convenient to the marina, gringo Smart & Final supermarket on our team of bikes to easily stock up on supplies. Then fuel up and split the next day.

Courtney enjoying the new bridge over the trash filled slough leading to the Malecon

We purvey the Malecon which now, finally, connects directly to the Cruise Port Marina Village over the trash strewn slough by a brand new bridge, that only took five short years to build down here. But, the bridge is finished and it’s sensational, as every time you desire a fish taco or churro you no longer have to walk by sad eyed young children, who’s parents put them out to beg for change or sell Chiclets gum to throngs of cruise ship tourists on their way into town. All while the parent sits pathetically further ahead on the filthy broken sidewalk, clutching their infants, while looking hopeless as possible and when the tourists pass, they excitedly regroup to splurge on junk food and soda at the corner liquor store.

Who want chili on their coco and mango at a Malecon fruit stand?

The new bridge leads you straight into a semi-authentic Mexican marina/fishing town that has mostly not sold it’s soul to gringo tourism.

Just erect some fancy walls infront of the local flea market to spruce it up

Yet, still makes sure to have ubiquitous Mexican tchotchke markets, unique Mexican architecture and novelty products.

Spoom Boom is what all the kids are into these days!

Such as Spoom Boom, that probably would not be marketed to children under 13 using that name in the United States, for fear of protests from the Christian right.

I just Spoom Boomed all over the sidewalk!

Ensenada’s fish market is filled to the brim with all the freshest local catches from up and down Baja on both side of the Baja peninsula and even without the beneficial exchange rate, everything is priced extremely affordably.

Lots of tasty choices at the Ensenada Fish Market!

Exactly the opposite of an American fish market, where the King Salmon is supposedly on special for $29.99 a pound, normally $34.99/lb. and so you go buy the other heart healthy option of chicken.

The shrimp display, where jumbo shrimp cost an afforadable $6 per pound

Ensenada, benefits from its geographical location, as the city with the best access to the largest variety of fresh seafood produced by Mexico and her bountiful waters of both, the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez on the other side of the Baja Peninsula and the wide variety of seafood is sight to behold.

Chocolate Clams, Tasty Muscles, and Baja Oysters are just a few of the tasty shell fish sold at the market

New Years is my favorite time of year in Ensenada! Starting about three days before New Year’s eve Mexicans will just start throwing firecrackers into the streets at random, scaring the shit out of the uninitiated. “Firecrackers” is really a huge understatement, as most MEDs (Mexican Explosive Device) are more akin to hand grenades and much larger then the M-80’s of your childhood troublemaking. You will be sitting having the most delicious dinner at a street corner taco stand, just about to take your first tasty bite when, BOOOOM! And instantly your face, lap and the side of your neighbor is now covered in salsa coated shrapnel of your Baja fish taco, that you just couldn’t maintain control of during the blast.

A LighterBro MultiTool always helps to light the M-500 waterproof firecrackers

This isn’t my first New Years’ rodeo in Ensenada, and so I’m mostly immune from these random explosions, unlike Courtney who has been transformed into a blonde Mexican jumping bean, startled and screaming with every unexpected detonation, which only encourages the Mexicans to increase their rate of fire. Conveniently enough, a giant fireworks stand is located right at the entrance to the Marina every New Year’s and I always take advantage, buying a few bags of the waterproof M-500s to celebrate the annual occasion and maybe a couple of bottle rockets too.

What other marina has it’s own firework stand?

But speaking of Rodeos, Ensenada has some cool attractions at this festive time of year for all to enjoy and I highly recommend attending the dangerous electric animal rodeo. Where you can actually ride lions, tigers, jaguars and bears along with all the local kids, as you zoom around the circular arena vibing to Christmas tunes interspersed with ten-year-old rap music. But you need to stay sharp on these wild animals or the innocent smiling young girl will cut you off, sending you careening slow-motion into the boards, while their parents look at you with disdain, like we’re the animals.

Taming my rhino & passing on the inside

A very stormy and rainy New Years’ Eve is upon us and its the kind of bad weather that makes you thankful, as a penny pinching vagabond sailor that you are tied up safe and secure in an expensive marina. Our good friends Tina and Tracy of the wooden masterpiece of a boat Marjorie have just sailed in, with their good friend CF on board and we all toast warming cocktails by the heat of their coveted below decks diesel fireplace, while we wait for the rain to let up, hopefully heading into Ensenada’s tourist street with bars a plenty for some merriment. Shortly the downpour abates and we make a break for it. Mindlessly without any rain or foul weather gear at all, something only drunk sailors would do and of course, soon as we are too far from the boat to retreat, it starts coming down in torrents. Dusty streets, are now running muddy rivers and without choice we duck into the first hotel bar we happen upon.

Even Disco visited Marjorie & enjoyed the warm disel fireplace, visable in the back right

Lucky for us it happens to be a Karaoke New Years’ Eve and somehow after a drink or two I’m talked into singing “Super Freak” by Rick James in front of the all Mexican audience. I take the mic, as a gold sequined Courtney and CF join me onstage and we try our best. CF must not have drunk enough and is frozen by the limelight only swaying side to side, while Courtney and I can’t seem to share the one mic. When all of a sudden a crack pipe smoky orange haze drifts across the stage and I feel Rick’s spirt invade me, as I start getting super freaky hitting the high notes, while Courtney gyrates next to me in her gold sequined dress, singing the backup vocals in perfect key (ok maybe not exactly perfect). I depart the stage to an enthusiastic round of applause, whistles and much laughter (at me not with me) and with the feeling of not totally bombing, adrenaline now coursing through my body and Rick James’s forever party vibes still invading my soul, I motivate the troops to hit the flooding streets for the next hot spot.

Lighting firecrackers on the stree is totally acceptabe behavior on New Years’ Eve in Mexico

Light rain is now falling as we head for the world famous, original Hussongs Cantina and as luck would have it all the MEDs I brought along happen to be waterproof. Lighting them with my trusty LighterBro Multitool, I toss them into the street to be swept away by the rivers of gutter water, exploding somewhere down stream and hopefully not under a car’s gas tank. Mexicans all give me approving looks, as the tourist street is rocked by explosions. Its like I’m the only gringo who understands this is the kind of shit you do in Mexico on New Years’ Eve and why I will want to keep coming back to Mexico on New Years’ forever. While lawyers and the many, catering to the finger blowing off stupidity of the few, have robbed the USA of such good old fashioned fun, the Mexicans have yet to give into this hysteria and still revel today like only generations of older Americans remember. All while they drink beer legally walking down the street, with only smiles, friendly greetings and well wishes for the Añuo Nuevo to everyone they pass. I conclude the average Mexican walking down the street really is happier and friendlier than the average gringo back home and I believe its because their lives are still a bit older fashioned then ours and they haven’t caved to the lowest common denominator of society and let their stupidity ruin a good time for everyone else. Its as simple as, not everyone is meant to go through life with all their fingers and that is just the way it is. So get over it, smile and stop worrying about other stooped people and live your life. More Americans need to come visit Mexico to see what we have lost in our “safe” society of the twenty teens.

Cheersing at Hussongs!

Hussongs Cantina on New Year’s eve is revelment at its best! Patrons are packed in shoulder to shoulder, at what I’m sure is well over official maximum capacity, all enthusiastically singing along together with the multiple mariachi bands in the various rooms. Everyone is beyond happy, cheersing drinks nonstop and you can’t help but be overcome by the sheer joy and warmth you feel surrounded by and it makes absolutely no difference that we are the only gringos in the entire cantina. I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend New Years’ Eve, than with the girl I love, in this sea of celebration. Except you can’t light giant bottle rockets inside Hussongs, so we make a beeline for the boats just before midnight, where we shoot four-foot-tall, high explosive rockets off at the stoke of midnight and blow ourselves silly into 2017.

A bottle rocket shoots into the New Years’ night

Lighting M-80 after M-80 until I feel I’ve regressed to well below the 6th grade level of amusement. The port security guards chase us down after a bit, as we are in a secure cruise ship port after all, but we are easily found, as Courtney forgot to turn off our mobile music player belting out the dance hits, at it’s distorted top volume when we made our escape. As security surrounds Marjorie, captain Tracy does his best it wasn’t me, while I hide inside with our few remaining fireworks and let the heat blow over. Afterwards we all laugh heartedly, as dealing with the Mexican security felt more like getting caught by our parents than the police and I just get that feeling. 2017 is going to be a great year!

Ensenada’s farmers market streeet has everyting you can imagine!

When voyaging by sea fresh produce is hard to come by the longer you’re away from land and one of the best ways to ensure fresh veggies for a long time is to not buy them at a grocery store. In modern supermarkets fruits and veggies are nearly all refrigerated and when brought onboard, need to be kept refrigerated to stay fresh (on a boat there is not enough refrigeration space to do this) or they will rapidly spoil. Instead head for the local farmer’s market or fruit market street, where noting is refrigerated and for example. Cabbage is sold with all it’s floppy outer leaves intact and that natural, whole cabbage will last nearly a month when left unrefrigerated and stored in a cool dark corner of the boat.

A tasty truck full of honey!

Ensenada’s farmer’s market street is unbelievably great! With any fruit, vegetable, egg, meat, cheese, dairy, bee product available and all dirt cheap. We stock up on heavy bag after bag of fresh produce and in the end spend amazingly only $30 on all the fresh deliciousness, which in the states would have been the cost of just the avocados alone.

Delicious Mexican cheeses at the Ensenada farmers market

The trip to the market is made easy by the comradery of cruisers. Bill, a fellow friendly cruiser who as been based in Ensenada for way too long now as evidenced by his car, is more than happy to give us a ride with his dog Shotsy who sits on my lap both ways, since I stole his seat after all. And once again, this more old fashioned cursing lifestyle, where people love to help people, has made me smile at the pure generosity of the characters who live it and I just want this lifestyle to continue on forever.

Riding shotgun with Shotsy

With the LighterBro Boat now well provisioned with both fresh and dry stores, and fuel tanks topped up at the last gas dock we will see until Cabo San Lucas 800 miles south. We say goodbyes to our friends both new and old in Ensenada and late in the afternoon of Jan 3, under an ideal 12 knot sea breeze, we hoist full main and genoa sails, instantly making a good 8 knots. Once outside of Ensenada Bay, actually called Bahia Todos Santos and clear of the dangerous rocky headland of Punta Banda, which marks the southern end of the bay, we set our course close to dead South as possible with the straight N wind that’s blowing and sail silently, on a deep broad reach. The weather is overcast grey, the fresh breeze cold and I vow, we will keep sailing south in search of summer.

Sailing from Ensenad in search of summer with the deadly rocks of Punta Banda in the background

LighterBro Boat Sails For Mexico

It is Christmas time and I’m getting the LighterBro boat ready for months of voyaging rapidly approaching all by myself. Everyone else who is coming along for the adventure is visiting family. It might seem a bit lonely of a thing to do at Christmas, but Natural Mystic is more than just a boat, she’s a life preserving friend who’s had my back through many brutal storms at sea and I’m alive today, because of her well built construction and sailing prowess. However, just like your best friend or lover you still get into spats, and just as I’m hard charging into the huge punch list of tasks to complete before we can shove off, the water heater goes out. Now I have to spend hours every day for nearly a week, upside down to fix it. Inverted, with my head wedged in a tight spot, hardly wide enough for a LighterBro, let alone my thick skull to get the job done, so hopefully we can have warm water after surfing, diving, and spearfishing in the cooler La Niña influenced Pacific Ocean this year.

Cutting the stuck water heater hose off with the razor sharp LighterBro Knife in the same spot my head is buried in.

Even without the water heater breakdown, the tasks seem endless, engine work (she’s a catamaran with two motors, meaning four different engine/tranny oils to change), sail repair (the jib needed to partly be resewn, thanks Ullman Sails Ventura), line maintenance, provisioning and most importantly, getting my new surfing foil board set up. This new kind of surfboard fin, which is shaped like airplane to fly underwater, will hopefully let me surf above the waves, free from the drag and chop of the ocean surface.

LighterBro Pro cutting away & loosening the shackle to resew her original jib.

This involves many calls to friends about guesses on technical fin placement measurements or the much less technical. Like hearing Kai Lenny said “put the back of the box at 9”-14” from the tail.” Which is all over the damn place, so I tell Santa Barbara’s best Ding Repair guy Max McDonald, the man installing the foil’s fin box into a thick Channel Islands, 5’10” Biscuit surfboard I bought off the rack, to just whack it in at my lucky number of 13” and let’s pray it works. All while focusing on LighterBro business, the crazy holiday shopping season and for LighterBro LLC, the very busy shipping season. But, the daily punch list on the yellow legal pad grows shorter and less severe the harder I work. And quickly the date approaches when Courtney is flying in from visiting her family and my good buddy Paul who has done so much sailing on Natty M are meeting me at the LighterBro boat, to jump on and then quickly shove off for Mexico.

So, with hugs to Mom and Dad who drop me off at Santa Barbara Harbor and a couple of enthusiastic high-fives from good friends and Marina 3 residents, Pasci and Margo, I walk down the dock for the last time. Finally, we are ready to leave for Ensenada, Mexico in the dead of night. Paul probably road his circusesque folding bike to the boat, which has it’s own cabin by the way and Courtney’s flight connection to SBA out of LAX was canceled, so she had to bus it up to SB. But all slumming aside, she still had time for a cleansing hot shower, before we load up on some Santa Barbara Yacht Club ice and shove off for Mexico at 10 PM on a very dark and moonless night.

Right away its all hands on deck! Courtney is on the bow with our powerful spotlight helping pick our way through the maze of numerous lobster trap buoys that want to snag our boat’s underwater appendages and then in deeper water the double or triple buoyed crab trap lines, that endanger our passage all the way to the oil rigs 4.5 miles offshore. Its tense, as we alter course over half a dozen times to avoid the floating sea mines. We head southeast inside Anacapa Island, as the direct course from SB to Ensenada passes right through Catalina Island. Semi-strong offshore E winds are forecast, so I decide on the inside Channel Islands route to take advantage of them when they kick up.

We clear the oil rigs and drop the crustacean trap buoy state of alert. The bottom is now too deep for trap fishing, but I’m jazzed on the adrenaline of finally getting to do what I have been working and dreaming of for so long, so I take first watch and everyone else heads down to bed, below decks.

Under one motor at conservative 2400 RPM, we are getting close to the Ventura oil derricks and Natty M starts to hit a short E chop, slightly pounding at the bow with still no wind on the water. I take this as a sign of E winds blowing across the Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo valley and I start to ready the mainsail halyard, just as the first light gust of E wind hits me. No need to wake anyone, after 10 years of sailing this boat, I can raise the sails by myself, no problem, in the dark of night without using a flashlight. With the lazyjack bag unzipped and the mainsail’s Wichard bow shackle once again attached to the headboard and the autopilot keeping her steady, with the wind just blowing the mainsail to starboard and out of the way of the boom lift. I hoist away on the winch with maximum effort. Two thirds of the way up the mast is the best I can manage and I grind the main halyard the rest of the way up, quickly bear off, release the boom lift and the giant mainsail fills and bellows to life. In ten minutes it took to raise the mainsail, the E wind has now quickly built to 15 knots and the boat shoots form doing 6.5 under one engine to 8 under main alone. Engine shut down, running backstay on, headsail unfurled and BAM! Ten to eleven knots of boat speed is happening sailing hard upwind and right on rhumbline, as Natty M now powers strongly and comfortably through the building short E chop.

Somehow in all the commotion of spinning winches, halyards and lines no one has woken up and I revel in the majestic nighttime solo sailing. Millions of stars dot my watery road and I smile, as they remind me of my friends alive and past, and while I might be out on the sea currently alone, everyone is along for the ride in my heart and I take comfort in their twinkling wishes of a safe and fun passage.

The sailing is incredible, the wind builds to 18 knots, I’m seeing boat speeds of 12 to 13 upwind and apparent wind of 28 knots, but still not wanting to reef the mainsail. The seas build and we bash rapidly through them, but Natty M powered up is a beast and charges relentlessly forward, with her bow up under the power of a full mainsail. Then, as we pass Pt. Magu, where the land comes out towards the sea with the Mountains of Malibu and Point Doom up ahead, the wind and sea both subside. The wind shifts further aft in direction, but the sailing is still good, making 6 to 8 knots and I give the watch to Paul.

LA’s snow covered San Gabriel mountains poking up over a layer of smog

Four hours of semi-restfull sleep go by and I’m up with the just risen sun. The sailing has been OK for Paul, not the rowdy pre-teens of my early morning foray, but still nice and getting the job done making 4-8 knots. I sail on in the dawn of a new morning, with Catalina Island up ahead and the wind lightening up the closer we get. Our two fishing lines we’re trolling have been unproductive and I don’t expect anything, as the water is too cold even for the fish, and evidenced by LA’s snow covered mountains seen above the smog from 20 miles out to sea. Soon I’m making 3 knots, then 2, then 1.5 and its time to take the sails down, turn on the Yanmar diesel engine and keep on fishing.

We don’t let a small thing like a chart marked with Explosives Explosives alter our course

Alone once again, I drop the sails, stow them, and get us going under one engine. Once again making 6.5 knots towards the border, across apparently dangerous areas of the sea marked “Explosives” on the charts.

Dolphins love to play between Natty M’s bows and always bring smiles!

The sea is now sheet glass, there is not another boat in sight and our friends the dolphins show up to offer me some solace for having to motor once again. I revel in their sheer joy of surfing between Natty M’s bows and hangout with them until they tire or maybe see some fish and have to bail for more important tasks.

Disco sleeping the passage away and taking up the whole couch.

A day under motor comes and goes and never does the clicker of the fishing reel sound. Paul and I settle into our 4 hour on/off watch routine, while Courtney exhausted from cross country air travel sleeps most all the way to Ensenada along with Disco.

Disco checking out this new home in Ensenada Marina Cruise Port Village

We never do see the wind again. Glassy with just a little N swell to help push our Yanmar along and 36 hours later we slide into Ensenada Bay, as the sun is rising and nicely illuminating the many hazardous fishing vessels, both big steel and small ponga that tirelessly traverse the bay day and night. Leaving Isla Todos Santos to port, we head for the main Ensenada Harbor. Disco the ship cat is by my side at the helm, as we both smell Mexico at the same time. Mexico is in the air, as the foreign smells and sounds of this commercial port city invade our senses. A gigantic container ship is docked and noisily unloading, with the coded whistles of the Mexican dock workers blowing in the air. Two cruise ships are tied up, spewing black exhaust and some of the best seafood in the entire world is just a short walk form our boat, which we easily make fast and secure at good ol’ Marina Cruise Port Village in the heart of Ensenada.

After 36 blissful hours at sea, we’re off the boat and heading to get some epic Ensenada Seafood!

A little clean up on Natty M and we excitedly head off to talk about checking into Mexico, which can wait, because first and foremost we need to get some Mixtos Seafood Cocktail, which is the best seafood dish anywhere in the world! A cornucopia seafood ceviche with shrimp, oysters, multiple kinds of clams, octopus, scallops, scallop roe, lime, cucumber, chili, tomatoes, and of course avocado on the top!

Two of the best dishes in Ensenada, Mixtos Seafood Cocktail and Fish Ceviche Tostada! Look at all those fresh clams, oysters and muscles!

We wash down the seafood cocktail with some fish ceviche tostadas and Courtney and I are now contentedly full. Only with burning mouths, from all the fresh spicy salsa and excitedly looking forward to exploring Ensenada over this New Year’s holiday.

After 10 years of sailing all over the world, Mixtos Seafood Cocktail is the best seafood dish I have ever tasted!

Reflecting back on the passage we covered 240 nautical miles in 36 hours, sailed only for about 8 hours, motored the rest under 1 engine at a time, using a moderate 25 gallons of diesel fuel and had zero breakdowns or failures. Overall a perfect passage that just lacked a bit of wind, which is very typical of sailing this time of year in Southern California.

Welcome To Livin.LighterBro.Com

Come join the LighterBro® Boat on a sailing adventure down the Pacific Coast of Mexico, in our Blog and YouTube channel we call Livin.LighterBro.com

Sailing along on the LighterBro Boat under Main and Jib

Please let me introduce myself. I’m Kyber and the captain of our unique ship. I sold most everything I owned 10 years ago, moved onto the French built 55’ Outremer Catamaran, Natural Mystic with some friends and started sailing around the world in search of adventure and fun times. I found it all and much, much more (it’s a really long story & still going)! Along the way inventing the LighterBro® MultiTool while floating in the clear blue lagoons of Tahiti, so no matter where I went, I would be prepared for anything and a good time, now that I had a pocket knife with fire on me always. Making this tough seafaring life just too easy and a lot safer!

Speared Yellowtail at Santa Cruz Channel Island

After sailing back to my home town of Santa Barbara, California from Tahiti, co-inventor Matt and myself launched LighterBro LLC in 2013, which has grown to become a successful company, manufacturing our highly useful multi-tool now loved by thousands for its unparalleled usefulness no matter what you might find yourself doing. LighterBro MultiTool simply unifies mankind’s first inventions of fire and tools into one compact, high quality multitool engineered for todays modern needs.

LighterBro MultiTool prepares you for anything and a good time!

Now what is left to do? But leave Santa Barbara behind and set sail on the LighterBro Boat once again. This time with my lovely girlfriend Courtney and our seafaring black cat Disco to explore the Pacific coast of Mexico from Baja to Mainland with the ultimate goal of visiting the unspoiled and remote Revillagigedo Islands, 300 miles offshore of tropical mainland Mexico.

Putting LighterBro MultiTool to the ultimate test of windy offshore sailing passages, rugged big game fishing, extreme wilderness exploration and hopefully plenty of fun times cracking open beers and sharing good times and story with all the people and friends we meet and make along our watery road.

Kyber & Courtney atop the Isla Todos Santos Lighthouse

We will be spreading the good word of LighterBro MultiTool to all the souls we meet along the way, (giving LighterBros to everyone 🙂 ) and sharing with you what we learn of our earth and its inhabitants. Be it people, animals, activities, problems or concerns. We endeavor to do this as sustainably as possible, as our vessel is powered by wind, solar and diesel which we try to use as little as possible of, as we will be Livin LighterBro. Trying to minimize our impact on our earth, taking only what food we need to live and hopefully sharing with you the beauty we discover on our hopefully windy, but not too windy journey.

LighterBro Opening Many a Pacifico Along the Way

Please join us on Livin.LighterBro.com and follow us on YouTube at LivinLighterBro and see what we discover, as we share our stores, pictures and videos of our Mexican adventure on the LighterBro Boat, from the eyes of Kyber, Courtney and Disco!

Disco Caught a Goggle Eye Fish