Gary here - if this pisses people off its not my wife.....
no photos necessaryWe always had doubts about cruising the Mexico mainland. That’s why we stayed up in the Sea of Cortez for two years. The problem is that after a couple of winters up there you really start to tire of the northers. We would be hunkered down behind some cliff face in February, pinned down for three days., and listen on the radio about the folks down in Tenacatia, or Barra - they always sounded so contented about their 80 degree water and cabin temperature - almost smug - like they had made the right choice to come south, while we barbarians remained in the north, fighting off the wind and cold. Now I understand why the Norse Viking always came down and raided into England - it seemed like a warm little paradise compared to their frigid north
The Sea of Cortez in the winter is stark and beautiful. Once you get away from La Paz and all of the very popular anchorages you can have the place almost to yourself. There may be a few boats here and there - but you are just a likely to come into an anchorage by yourself. The fishing was very good for us there. I could catch fish off of the dingy at most points, and Marianne could find lots of shells on the beach. The downside is that outside of La Paz, Loretto, or Santa Rosalia there is not a lot of human type shore activities. No restaurants, shopping, or palapa bars.
I was ready to move on, and told Marianne that more than a few times when we were trying to get out of La Paz. My nature seems to be that whey I tire of a place, I start running it down as a prelude to leaving - a bad trait. Now that I am down south in the land of milk and honey - it is a lot easier to reflect on the pros and cons of the Sea versus Mainland Mexico.
On the mainland - you are anchored out in bays that are little indents on the coastline. They have generally provided fair protection from the rolling swells. Unfortunately they are also where all of the coastwise development in Mexico has occurred. So everywhere we have been on the mainland - Puerto Vallarta, Chamalla, Tenacatita, Barra, Manzanillo are covered with big shore side developments. Towering white hotels, condos, and homes. The beaches are lined with palapa bars - grass shacks serving food and drink to the nationals and tourists who flock to the beach. Since they are bays, and protected, they have a lot of water skiers, jet skiers, and tour boats going around. The anchorages are generally fine - but have more than a few cruisers in them. Typically, there are 15-30 boats anchored out in each of them.
The water has been nice and warm - and the air temperature great - never over the low 80‘s in the cabin, and cooling off nicely in the evening.
We have snorkeled all the hot spot we could find and they seem to be devoid of any type of large fish. Lots of small fish but nothing to hunt with a spear gun. I have not had a decent bite once after fishing off of five different points. The population and fishing pressure is high down here - its mostly fished out in the close in waters. Pangas still go out to the deep for bottom fishing and migrating species - but there is nothing in close.
The difference in cruising down here is a lot like the difference between car camping and wilderness backpacking. In car camping you are in a very controlled and artificial environment - a camp space - surrounded by people making noise. You do, however, have amenities like stores, restaurants, etc around you. In wilderness backpacking you have a lot of quiet - but not much else.
If you like to car camp around 300 of your friends, enjoy the sound of boom boxes and discos going all night - and love motorized sports - the roar of water skiers, jet skis and pangas all day - then you will love the mainland. This comes with some extremely nice weather for the middle of January, and access to lots of restaurants and provisioning. Also, down here you do have to travel some distance - if night passages scare you then the mainland can be a problem.
If you like the wilderness approach - the austere sound and beauty of a rock face - and a quiet and peaceful anchorage - accompanied with 60 degree weather and 20 knots of wind - then Baja is for you.
The cruisers down here are awfully friendly though. In Baja - the place is populated by folks who have been there for 10 years - they have settled in, and can get a bit cranky and possessive about their spots - especially in La Paz and in Puerto Escondido. They don’t sail much up there - a long trip is 40 miles between anchorages. A lot of inexperienced people cruise Baja in winter - traveling the 200 miles of protected anchorages from La Paz to San Carlos does not prepare you for much.
On the mainland - everybody is just passing through - you can’t stay here year round because of the heat, humidity and hurricanes. It’s a subtle thing, but some are a bit smug about being here. I would venture to say that may of them have not spent a winter in the sea - too rough, too cold, too windy. Most will venture up into the sea about March and April when things settle down. They would do well to spend winter up there - it would provide a good contrast the Mayberry that is Tenacatita.
I miss the sea - but am enjoying being anchored out in Santiago Bay in the fine weather, waiting for our next 180 mile jump to Zihuatanejo. It’s a different experience, and one that is worthwhile if you are headed down this way.
I wrote this a ways back - we are now in El Salvador heading south….