Crossing the Sea of Cortez

When I was a teenager I loved a book called “The Girl from the Sea of Cortez”. This story of a young girl who has an enchanting relationship with the Sea and who befriends a gentle manta ray has stuck with me over the years. There’s always been something magical about the idea of the ‘Sea of Cortez’ in my mind.


Distance: 199 nm
Depart: 10am Thursday April 18th
Arrive: 9pm Friday April 19th

Somehow it’s impossible for us to leave earlier than 10am no matter how hard we try. Our excuse this time was the burst water main on Dock C in Paradise Village which meant we had to stop at another dock to fill our tanks. By noon we were rounding Punta de Mita and heading north.

Our trip into old town PV on the eve of our departure

Farewell Banderas Bay

The wind picked up and we had a lovely afternoon of sailing. And luckily we were sailing because we travelled into a field of long lines – fishing nets that are set up miles from land and are connected by plastic bottles and line that sit on the surface. I image that if you motor right into these there’s a good chance the line could wrap your prop and cause serious challenges.  We changed our course and sailed alongside them for about 20 minutes. As soon as you think you’ve seen the last bottle, another one pops up in the distance. Finally Will was fed up and said “Screw this, we’re going straight over”. So we did – and it actually worked out fine (good to know for next time) and even scraped some of the gunk off our keel.

Will and John really enjoyed sailing together with the Hydrovane (who will be named soon – her name just hasn’t come to us yet!) They spent hours at the stern watching her in action, scrutinizing her every move, fine tuning, smiling and chatting, and finally sitting back and just watching her steer a perfect course.

The long line... see the bottle and rope in the top right corner

Our watch schedule (suggested by cruising pros John and Karen) was 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 3. This starts by splitting the hours of darkness into two 5 hour shifts. The great thing about this schedule is that you get to have a “watch partner”. Between partners you can further split up the shifts so one person is sleeping in the cockpit while the other keeps watch. You never have to be out there alone at night.

5 hrs: 9pm – 2am: Sarah and Will
5 hrs: 2am – 7am: John and Karen
4 hrs: 7am  – 11am: Sarah and Will
Lunch around noon
4 hrs: 11am – 3pm: John and Karen
3 hrs: 3pm – 6pm: Sarah and Will
Dinner at 6pm crossover
3 hrs: 6pm – 9pm: John and Karen

We made it into the Mazatlan harbour on Friday just as the sun was setting. We enjoyed our calmest night yet at anchor just off the old Club Nautico.  Our real reason for stopping was to fill up with diesel (Ya, ya, we’re a sailing vessel, but with a forecast for wind on the nose the whole way, we knew there’d be a lot of motor sailing)

John and Karen with their sea legs back

Karen sees land

Chartplotter screenshot: At anchor in Mazatlan harbour

The fuel station at Club Nautico is clearly no longer in service

The jerry can run to Pemex in Mazatlan

We enjoyed coffee with Tom and Liz aboard Feel Free. They completed their incredible 17 year circumnavigation in La Cruz a few weeks ago. They departed when the Curry's were cuising aboard Karina I in 1995. An amazing feat and wonderful coincidence for the Curry's to see them again in Mexico where it all began.


Distance: 230 nm
Depart: 3pm Saturday April 21st
Arrive: 2pm Monday April 23rd

So let’s see, what happened on this passage?  As usual, a whole lot of nothing. We saw one ship in daylight and just a few on the radar at night, had some wind up to 15 knots and some periods of no wind at all, we did a lot of reading, slept as much as possible, and just generally focused on keeping the boat moving in the right direction.

Night watches are tiring

Cooking at sea is always interesting

The sea turned from green to a clear brilliant blue about halfway across. We were visited by giant dolphins – far bigger than any we’d seen previously.  I’ll never get over the dolphins, which is why I’m posting yet another dolphin video:



We approached land throughout Sunday night and at sunrise on Monday morning the mountainous ridges of Isla Cerralvo turned from ominous black to warm desert brown.

A large manta ray swam by us and I watched a smaller one do a huge leap out of the water…

We took shelter for the night in the beautiful anchorage of Caleta Lobos which is 10 nm north of La Paz.  Finally the turquoise water I’ve been dreaming of!  It is incredible.

We made it! Pulling into Caleta Lobos

HYDROQUEST taking a break at anchor. She did very well on the passage!

Will dives on the keel to scrape off the barnacles

We head to shore (and are greeted by horse flies and angry crabs)

Aggressive little fellow


Incredible?  Hmm, maybe not. We knew from our awesome guidebook (Shawn and Heather’s ‘Sea of Cortez’) that this anchorage might have some pesky bugs called bobos, but we really didn’t realize what we were in for.  About an hour after we took this video the boys (not the girls!) had a breakdown.  Will was running up and down the deck waving a towel around his head and John was threatening mutiny if we didn’t pull anchor and find a new spot for the night.  Luckily the bothersome bobos disappeared at sunset.


4 thoughts on “Crossing the Sea of Cortez

  1. Gerry Humphries says:

    Tough life guys! Very envious. Sarah – you are doing an outstanding job of documenting this journey, what fun for the four of you to do it together. I don’t know if you and Will will ever return to these shores!

    Gerry and Linda.


    • HYDROQUEST says:

      Thanks Gerry & Linda!

      When J & K signed up for this passage we may have neglected to mention that it was going to be all upwind (woops!), but it still really was lots of fun.


  2. Gina Lonsdale says:

    I LOVE the Dolphin vids – Sarah please keep those coming – it makes my day!!
    I cannot believe that John & Karen ran into their old sailing buddies and that they have sailing for 17 years (please dont get any idea’s!!)
    These posts are awesome so thanks so much for keeping them coming
    Love you lots

    ps – that crab really does look angry haha – little bugger


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