WWS (Women Who Sail) is a 7000 members strong, strictly female virtual sailing community on Facebook. While we spend a great deal of time helping each other online, we rarely get to meet other WWS members in person unless we are already in a high density sailing area. Last year Holly Scott organized a rendezvous in which women from all over the US and Canada met and sailed chartered boats around the British Virgin Islands for one week. This year the second annual WWS Rendezvous was in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico and Holly opened up the event for people to Bring Your Own Boat (BYOB). Although this is an all Women organization, husbands of the BYOB’s were also invited to attend.
Being as Steve and I were in the neighborhood we couldn’t resist the opportunity so we scheduled our arrival into La Paz to coordinate with the event. There were 65 participants from all over the US, sailing on on 4 chartered Catamarans, 2 chartered Monohulls, and 5 BYOB’s. We greeted the event with excitement as we had been looking forward to spending time with our good friends Holly and Jo, connecting with familiar people from the WWS FB site and meeting new friends. This also marked the beginning of our adventure into the Sea of Cortez.
Our whirlwind trip with the WWS Rendezvous began on April 17th, departing from Costa Baja Marina early in the afternoon and spending the first night in Ballandra Bay just 6nm north of La Paz. We anchored right across from the famous mushroom rock and spent a lovely evening dining onboard Pablo with our new friends Kirk and Heidi from s/v Due West (another BYOB). We really had the opportunity to take in the beauty of the blue waters and rocky shore line. It would have been easy to stay in this bay for several days but we were up and out early, heading north along the coast of Isla Espiritu Santos to our next destination.
Caleta Partida is a magnificent bay nestled in the waters between Isla Espiritu Santos and Isla Partida. The islands are so close in proximity that there is but a narrow waterway separating them, which can only be traversed by dinghy at high tide. The bay is almost completely surrounded by the walls of a long extinct volcano, offering great protection from wind and swell. Water colors vary from deep blue in the center of the bay to an almost ice blue in the shallow regions of the most northern point. There is a substantial fishing camp on the beach where fisherman come and go all day long working their trade. There are not enough pictures to show the true beauty of this place.
There was a happy hour raft up scheduled on board the Mothership. So we dropped the anchor, got Pablo settled and hoisted the outboard onto Picasso. Grabbed our food to share and cocktails and beers jumped into the dinghy and grrrr the outboard would not start. It was too late in the day to spend the time fixing it so we called Jo who came and got us. We arrived a bit ruffled but soon the frustration melted away. It was great fun, yummy food, and plenty of silliness.
The next morning we chose to lollygag and fix our outboard, which turned out to be a loose fuel tube in the gas tank that fell off. So we didn’t get out of Caleta Partida until mid-day. This wasn’t a problem as most of the boats were stopping at Isla Islotes to swim with the sea lions before heading to Isla San Francisco. Every person I have ever met who has done this says it is the most amazing snorkeling/diving experience of their lives. Still I have no interest. Perhaps I have lived around the beasties for too long to even think about getting into the water with hundreds of them.
It took us three hours to motor sail straight to the anchorage known as the Hook. Once settled we jumped into the dinghy and went ashore. There is a trail that follows the ridge above the anchorage that affords the most stunning views in every direction. Steve and I walked along behind a larger group heading for the top. I unfortunately had to stop short of the summit because I got vertigo as the path started to follow the ridge line with a steep drop to either side. I don’t feel cheated however, as I was close to the top and the vista was indeed all that was advertised.
After a rather bumpy night’s sleep of hobby horsing in the swell we woke early and got underway. Our destination was Isla San Jose. First stopping at Bahia Amortajada where we attempted to take a tour through the mangroves. With the tide against us and the waters getting more shallow by the minutes our outboard began to misbehave. Not wanting to risk being upriver with a broken outboard we abandoned the expedition for a later date. We walked the beach and watched as other groups dragged their dinghy’s through the shallow waters to get to the river mouth. I was at first disappointed but who could be bummed for long in such a lovely place. The sky was blue, the waters an amazing array of colors, and the day was beautiful.
That night we anchored in 15 feet of water along the shore at Bahia Cazadero. During our passage to the anchorage Steve and I spotted a whale jawbone washed up on the shore of the island. It was too remote to go ashore but the waters were deep enough at the shoreline that we were able to get Pablo within a few hundred feet to get a good look. That evening we had a bonfire on the beach next to an old fishing campsite. I have lived many years in Santa Cruz and been to so many beach bonfires I can hardly count them, but I have to say that there is something really amazing about a beach bonfire on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere Mexico.
When morning came we met up with people from three of the other BYOB boats before heading off again. We walked the beach collecting shells, trading stories, and marveling in the beauty of our wild surroundings. Soon we boarded our boats and headed off to San Evaristo on the Baja Peninsula. Here there is a fishing village that surrounds the bay with approximately 40 families in full time residence. There is a small tienda which offers a wide variety of canned goods and gets a weekly delivery of fresh veggies, fruit, and eggs. There is also a restaurant owned and operated by Lupe Sierra and his lovely wife Maggie Mae. These fabulous people along with all their family members put on a dinner for the whole lot of us, some 65 people. The food was incredible, the service was great and the place is cozy and eclectic. Each of the attending guests brought bags filled with art supplies, solar lamps, books, backpacks, and clothes for the local school and community. We posed for pictures in our WWS Rendezvous shirts, ate, drank, swapped tales and shared dreams. It was a great time out on the town.
The last day for us with the WWS rendezvous was a 27nm trek back to Caleta Partida. Steve and I really had our hearts set on raising the sails and getting some quality sailing time in so we weighed anchor at 8 am. The winds were mostly good and mostly going in our direction which is a rarity these days, so we were able to sail with full main, jib, and staysail for at least four hours before we realized that we just couldn’t get enough speed to get to our destination in a timely manner. Begrudgingly we dropped the sails and started the motor. Soon after starting the engine Steve realized that our bilge pump was going off. We were taking on water at an alarming rate somewhere near our prop shaft and could not identify the exact problem. So after reviewing our options we headed to the anchorage, figuring that we could get into the engine compartment after letting the engine cool and find out what the problem was.
The bellows on our shaft log had loosened and slipped off and all of the anchoring which requires shifting gears forward and back multiple times per anchoring event pulled everything apart. So we clamped it back together for short term (to be completed in the morning), ate some chicken and fell into bed. I make this all sound so cavalier. Truth is, in the moment we were a bit freaked out. We remained calm and worked well together as always. We worked through the problem reasonably, but Geez-O-Pete, it was a bit scary.We now refer to this event as “The Drama”.
The saddest part about our water crisis was that we missed the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone. As we were coming into the anchorage we could hear a get together being planned on one of the boats. Not wanting to have our drama ruin everyone’s evening we kept our situation quiet. There was nothing anyone could do until we knew what the problem was and for the moment we had the everything under control. So while they gathered and played, we fixed our boat.
When morning came we said goodbye to our friends new and old. We watched as each boat pulled up anchor and waved farewell. The rest of the group was heading off to one more anchorage before returning to La Paz. Steve and I still had so much we wanted to see so we would spend the next 2+ weeks exploring this part of the Sea. Besides we really liked this bay. To date it is one our favorite places in all of Mexico. We had so much fun being a part of the WWS Rendezvous While the schedule was a bit taxing it really gave us a great jump start into this leg of the Grand Adventure.