Salish Sea vs Sea of Cortez

We’ve been land-lubbers in Vancouver since mid-June and, although it’s been great visiting with family and friends, we’ve been missing HYDROQUEST and our life aquatic – big time. We were lucky enough to be able to spend 10 days back on the water on a family friend’s boat, S/V Seaquill. She is a 2004 Catalina 310, a perfect boat for the Pacific Northwest.

Having experienced coastal cruising in two fantastic “Seas” in the space of a few months, we thought a simple comparison might be of interest. The parts of these seas in which we cruised share attributes that make them great cruising grounds: they are only partially accessible by road, have many close protected anchorages – meaning that overnight sailing is not necessary, and gorgeous scenery.

Wikipedia says:

“The Salish Sea is the intricate network of coastal waterways located between the south-western tip of the Canadian province of British Columbia, and the north-western tip the U.S. state of Washington… It reaches from Desolation Sound at the north end of the Strait of Georgia to Oakland Bay at the head of Hammersley Inlet at the south end of Puget Sound.”

“The Sea of Cortez is a body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is bordered by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa with a coastline of approximately 4,000 km (2,500 mi)… The [Sea] is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet, and is home to more than 5,000 species of macro-invertebrates.”

Time period July/August 2012 May/June 2012
General Route and Anchorages Visited We swapped the car for the boat at Campbell River, a small fishing town on Vancouver Island that is approximately 100 nm north of Vancouver, and we returned Seaquill back to Eagle Harbour in West Vancouver.We spent nights in Gorge Harbour and Cortes Bay (both on Cortes Island), near Prideaux Haven (Desolation Sound Marine Park), and in Garden Bay. Our favorite period of cruising anywhere in Mexico was while travelling 100 nm north from La Paz and back.We spent nights at Caleta Partida, Isla San Francisco, San Everaisto, Los Gatos, Agua Verde, and Bahia Candeleros.
Sea Conditions Flat – protected waters Flat – protected waters
Weather The weather was good as it gets! In fact, it was better than we ever remember it from our childhoods (we both grew up boating in Desolation Sound).Daily highs of 30 degrees over the long weekend while we were in Prideaux Haven.

Great tanning conditions.

Of course, being the Pacific Northwest, we also experienced cold rain, thunder and lightning.  We spent three nights holed up in Garden Bay, Pender Harbour waiting for a storm to pass and the winds to change.

Sun every single day.Air temperatures up to 40 Celsius. Since we don’t have full shade in the cockpit we had to rig up all sorts of pieces of canvas to try and hide from the sun.

Too hot for tanning, at times.

Water Beautiful and refreshing at 20 degrees.Greenish color. 2 ft clarity.

Friends revealed the ‘Swimming Hole’ near Prideaux Haven where the water is clean and calm. Perfect for late afternoon cocktails.

Like bath water. Ranging between 23 degrees in the morning and up to 29 degrees by the afternoon.The clarity was incredible. Most places we could see our anchor on the bottom at 30 ft.
Water Hazards Many log sightings, including some deadheads. Deadheads are partially or fully submerged logs that are floating vertically in the water. Few – It’s easy to get used to seeing absolutely no debris in the water except for a few red seaweed patches now and then.A large whale breached next to us, luckily not right underneath us.
Sailing Not great.Mainly motor sailing due to winds right on the nose or very light – under 5 knots. We did, however, have 25 knots on the nose between Powell River and Pender Harbour.

Our only sail on the trip was from Welcome Passage to just outside of Eagle Harbour (20 nm).

Slightly better.Generally light. Consistent winds between 10 and 15 knots on a couple of days.

Our best sail was from La Paz to Isla San Francisco – a beam reach in 12 knots. Another good sail was through the San José passage – upwind tacking in 10 knots. Hydroquest loves upwind sailing!

We still had to do lots of motoring.

Scenery Stunning.Tall mountain peaks plunging down into deep green water. Snow capped mountains and lush evergreen forests interspersed by arbutus trees and dry grass on rocky faces. Stunning.Desert islands, colorful rock formations, white sand beaches, turquoise water.
Wildlife (in order of number seen) Seals, Eagles, Otter, Deer.We were expecting to see more, but that was it. Tropical Fish, Rays, Birds, Sea Lions, Dolphin, Whales.Deserving of the name ‘The World’s Aquarium’!

Surprisingly, the dolphin we encountered in this area weren’t interested in us.  No amount of knocking on the hull would lure then over to play 😦  Maybe it was the time of year or the species…?

Activities The best part about this trip was the activities!Yoga: On our very first morning in Gorge Harbour we joined a $5 drop-in outdoor yoga class overlooking the bay.  Sitting cross legged is a stretch for Will so I had to supress my giggles for an hour…   not that I was much better.

Running and Biking: Will was training for the half marathon and he was able to do a few runs on Cortes Island and in Pender Harbour. Unfortunately the terrain is VERY hilly. I borrowed a bike from the RVYC Cortes Bay outstation but (due to the intense hills!) Will still outran me.

Kayaking: Borrowed from friends and the RVYC Garden Bay outstation.

Swimming: More like floating with a beer in hand.

Gorgeous hiking and exploring: On deserted islands and in small fishing villages.Paddle boarding: We are masters of the two man paddle board.

Swimming and snorkelling: Impressive marine life underwater!

Scurfing: Surfing behind a dingy.

Lots of reading: Due to the heat, it was difficult to be active for too long.

Other Boaters Our trip happened to fall over the busiest boating weekend of the summer: BC Day Long Weekend. There must have been 300+ boats in the Desolation Sound Marine park area over that weekend.Only Canadian and American

30% Sailboat, 70% Powerboat

Due to the high number of boaters on the water, it was impossible to use the auto pilot for long.  The power boat wakes kept throwing Seaquill’s auto-pilot course off so constant hand steering was required.

Much more deserving of the name ‘Desolation’. The average number of boats we shared an anchorage with was 3. The busiest anchorage was an astonishing 13.Mainly American and Canadian but also some European and Caribbean country flagged boats.

90 % Sailboat, 10% Powerboat (not counting the small pangas)

Hours of solitude on the water with maybe only one or two other boats sighted in a day. Hydrovane or autopilot (when motoring) steered for hours on end.

Social Life The social life is lots of fun if you know other boats up there, but I think it would difficult to meet people if you don’t.Rafting-up is very popular and we saw up to 12 boats rafted together.

We were happy to see quite a few people that we knew. We were also lucky enough to make new friends – mainly through connections with RVYC.

There is no hesitation in paddling over to say hi to strangers (aka fellow cruisers).We were happy to run in to friends we had met in La Paz, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan.
Seafood We didn’t catch any fish, but were kindly offered food by better skilled fisher-friends.We ate: Clams, Oysters, Lingcod Same goes.We ate: Clams, Lobster, Various white fish
Favorite provision Coconut Water – much healthier alternative to Gatorade. We hope it’s available in Mexico… Gatorade – thanks to sun and heat induced cravings for electrolytes
Most valued pieces of equipment (during the two week period) 1) The engine2) The electric heater

3) The (new) ipad

1)The watermaker2) The trustworthy anchor

3) The solar panels

Communication Staying in touch with the business is important and so it was nice to be connected throughout the trip.Will inserted his iphone SIM card into the ipad and was able to keep up with emails over the two weeks. I was also able to keep up with work using my blackberry.

No extra charges – just using the data from our cell plans.

The only time we were able to work was while in Bahia Candeleros – thanks to the wifi connection from the (empty) hotel on the beach. There is no cellular coverage north of La Paz until the Puerto Escondido area, so the Banda Ancha was out of commission.It felt great to be totally disconnected at times – but it also created stress knowing that there would be lots of catch up to do.

Plans are in place for adding SSB & Pactor modem for text email as well as using data through the Inmarsat Satellite phone when we cruise this area again in the fall


For pictures of the Sea of Cortez, visit this post: Glorious Days in the Sea of Cortez

2 thoughts on “Salish Sea vs Sea of Cortez

  1. Marisa says:

    Nice report on the contrasts — muchas gracias! As for coconut water being availble here? Only the REALLY fresh kind, as in, if you find a vendor that will sell you a “cocos locos” — he’ll open the coconut with his machete and if you ask him to save you the water he will, otherwise he discards it, then puts various kinds of seafood (scallops, clams) and hot sauces and limon into your half coconut shell (with the meat still in the shell) and hand it to you. Even I can’t handle it, and I grew up eating fresh coconuts, but not with all those additions! Thanks for the entertainment….keep the stories coming! Saludos from San Carlos….Marisa y Allan


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