What makes a good cruising destination? First impressions of Isla Espiritu Santos…

The archipelago of Espiritu Santos, a short sail North from La Paz, has the reputation of being one of the best cruising destination in the Sea of Cortez, and even in Mexico. But as we motored in a hot cove to be boarded by hoards of “bobos”, little flies that come in annoyingly large numbers (luckily they do not sting), we wondered what makes a good cruising destination…

El Empachado wouldn’t be bad without the bobos!

The El Empachado cove was pretty, indeed, but we had once more experienced the La Paz unfortunate wind patterns: a lot of wind at night – more than you would like for a peaceful rest – and no wind during the day. Definitely not very cruiser friendly, or at least not sailor friendly. We had tried to plan a night departure at 3AM to get a little bit of sailing in, but had bailed when the alarm had rung, having just managed to find sleep. On top of it, these local Coromuel winds blow from the West and most, if not all, of the 9 to 13 bays (depends on how regarding you are) on Espiritu Santos are open to that wind direction: another serious drawback, aggravated by the fact that shoaling restricts the best protection to low draft boats like multihulls and motorboats. And now, the bobos, a lot of bobos!! We had been excited to spend time in the Espiritu Santos National Park, we had even bought pricy yearly permits (valid in other parks of Mexico as well) to have the luxury to spend as much time as we wanted there without having to wonder about running out of daily passes, but we’re not up to a great start!! In addition, the water was not turquoise nor transparent, an important part of the definition of good cruising ground according to Yalçın’s (spoiled?) book (but who could blame him when the name of his home country shares its root with the word “turquoise”); instead the water displayed an uninviting green, and, finally, Caleta El Empachado was our second choice as the larger and nicer bay, Bahia San Gabriel, with as we heard a stunning lagoon, was now forbidden to 30+ foot boats. Bummer!

Bahia San Gabriel in the distance

We were starving, so the cove would do for a late lunch and a reef at the entrance with a wreck ship visible 2 feet below could still make up for a nice afternoon. Or would it? Who knows, there may be turquoise water with good visibility just “next cove”? Yalçın’s enthusiasm had instilled a doubt in my mind: yeah, what if? We decided to go with his plan of exploring more to the North and sail in every cove, possibly all the way to the Northern end of the island (only 5 nm away after all) to see if water would get any better.

Weighing anchors. For most of Espiritu Santos, we switched our usual “anchoring roles”, Yalçın was at the windlass and Marie at the helm
Tirb on the move

We weighed anchor and explored one by one Caleta Gallo, Caleta Gallina and a third caleta for which I’m unsure about the name (de la Raza?). After that last one, Yalçın had given up on transparent water but had been seduced by the amount of sea turtles that had poked their head out to look at him, sometimes meters away from the boat. I got more enthusiastic too, the turtles of course, and these wider bays were also more appealing than the narrow El Empachado cove that we had chosen a little bit by default. The first of the three Caleta would offer a good protection from Southerlies (and maybe Southwesterlies) as we could tuck in the deepest, the second would offer more wildlife with shallows where pelicans were diving on one side and even tents on a separare beach on the otherside (human beings probably but no sighting to report yet!), and the third cove was the most scenic, surrounded by stunning red cliffs with cacti. We opted for the second one and decided to swim to shore and attempt to walk around the cove as it looked like there may be a path in the rocks all the way to the beach. If we’re lucky, there may even be pretty fish in the rocks, and who knows we may encounter a turtle on the way, and we could explore the mangrove that was visible behind the beach. We were pumped up again, so we got ourselves ready and started to swim! Once close to shore, the idea of snorkeling by the rocks was cut short by the presence of big bushes in the water that were creepy to swim through no to mention to walk on. Reaching land was looking more challenging than anticipated. We eventually found an opening in the vegetation to reach a rocky beach where we were welcome by an army of fleeing… cockroaches! I guess once could be grossed out but I guess that was their natural habitat. We had seen some in Balandra already hiding under the rocks as we walked, but the ones here seemed in paradise with a lot of decomposing seaweed on the shore. We had reached a actual city as Yalçın put it: here is the mall, here is the gym… From our spot, we were able to admire Tire-Bouchon at anchor, a popular activity among cruisers as our pilot had emphasized, but the path we intended to take all the way to the beach turned out to be only rocks and barely a path, definitely not tuned to our the flip-flops we had brought in our dry-bags. Half disappointed, we turned around and swam back with a light intention of reaching the beach with the dinghy instead. The attraction on a drink in the cockpit with a setting sun won the battle and enjoyed the scenery from our backyard. A panga reached the camp on the other beach and some humans paddled in the sunset, more turtle came say hello, bobos were nowhere to be seen and the sun left place to a multitude of stars in a dark sky. We had a nice chatty night before a light diner, life in Espiritu Santos wasn’t that bad after all…

Option #2 – we went for that one. (I would have sweated I took a picture of option #1 but I can’t seem to find it!)
Option #3
From our anchorage (option #2): the beach on the right
Our (failed) playground
Yalçın is the best at spotting wildlife in the water!

Wednesday, April 14th, Day 1 on Isla Espiritu Santos

Bonus:

Symmetry out of La Paz on the same day as us. We still had a connection with this boat after all 😉

3 thoughts on “What makes a good cruising destination? First impressions of Isla Espiritu Santos…

  1. Sonunda kavuştuk. We missed texts,photos and tire-bouchon. Islands had have been
    a challengining adventure. Anyway, welcome to Malatlan.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ces lieux sont très sauvages, vous devez vous sentir vraiment déconnectés de la société et la vie que vous avez quitté. Comme je vous envie. Bises à vous deux

    Liked by 1 person

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