Story & Photos by Lowell McCulley sailing Gato Loco (a Seawind 1000)
Seawind Rally boats in the south bay of Agua Verde near Loreto
The Baja Seawind Rally always starts as boats gather for the annual Loreto Fest cruiser rally in Puerto Escondido, a huge protected harbor 10 miles south of Loreto, Baja California South (BCS). This pegs the Rally starting the first weekend in May so make your plans for next year.
This year’s festival drew nearly 200 cruising boats for the 3 day event raising money for local charities, pumping a little money into the local economy as well as cleaning up the Puerto Escondido harbor. Lots of events, food and entertainment is the norm.
The Seawind crews ruled the dance floor on night one.
Right.. Blindfolded dinghy races with crew directing the driver provided lots of entertainment on Saturday.
Loreto and the Sea of Cortez
The Loreto area is a perfect place to hold our annual Seawind Rally with a beautiful national reserve park of islands just off shore. All of this lies in the Sea of Cortez where the sea life can be spectacular. Cruisers head south down the Pacific coast from US ports each fall to winter in the Sea of Cortez and the mainland coast of Mexico in places like Puerto Vallarta. The May Loreto fest marks the nearing of the end of cruising season when boats head home, have their boat hulled for the summer or head further north in the Sea where waters are cooler for the summer.
Gato Loco, our Seawind 1000, begins our spring cruising season late April in time to arrive at Loreto Fest. Our home port is in the far north of the Sea of Cortez where the weather is just warming and seasonal storms are subsiding as we head south. The window between late April until mid June is our ideal spring sailing season as weather goes from cool to hot. Despite news reports these cruising grounds have never felt safer with the heightened Mexico security as we’ve completed our 9th season in the area.
4 of the 5 islands that form the Loreto National Marine Reserve can be found in the chart to the left. Below is Isla Coronados’s north and south anchorages with turquoise waters and white sand beaches.
Loreto is one of the cleanest and friendliest cities on Baja with a nice international airport making it a great destination to visit even if you were not heading out sailing.
Back to the Seawind Rally…
With Loreto Fest wrapping up by mid-day Sunday the Rally plans were to head out to a near by anchorage Sunday night then on to Loreto for provisioning on Monday. All cruise plans are weather permitting as safety and comfortable sailing is very important. This year a strong weather front blasted into Puerto Escondido late Saturday night forcing crews to forgo Sunday Festival activities and stand watch on board as 50kt wind gusts blew through the harbor. Boats on both mooring balls and anchors danced for the next 48hrs delaying our plans. Monday winds were still gusting so some crew members organized a land trip to get provisions while others stayed on board to watch the weather. This turned out to be a good plan which allowed us to make our way to our first Rally destination on Tuesday, FINALLY.
Tuesday and the Rally is off for Salinas Bay on the NE corner of Isla Carmen (the big island). This gave us good protection as we sailed north and smooth water at the anchorage. This turned out to be a good plan as we still had 25kt north winds coming over Carmen giving us all a hot ride to Salinas Bay on relatively calm water.
Finally, that Rally happy hour we’d been trying to have for the past two days came together. Ralph & Helen hosted a great evening on MoonDrifter with entertainment provided by Steve, Clare, Bruce and a special treat from Devin singing acapella.
The Rally boats are:
Ralph & Helen on MoonDrifter (1160)
Steve & Pam on Barramundi (1000)
Larry & Nancy on Island Time (1000)
Guy & Carol on Stray Cat (1000)
Bruce, Tina & Devin on Cat Can Do (1000)
Lowell, Bill & Carol on Gato Loco (1000)
Carol & Clare on Paradox (Cantana 38)
Our Phoenix sailing friends on a Moorings 443
Wednesday morning the unusual late season storm had passed and we awoke to glass smooth water in the bay. Our plans… Visit the old Salt Mine operation on shore, dive the old wreck in the bay and then sail on to Isla Coronados 20 miles NW.
Salinas Bay has a beautiful 2 mile white sand beach with a old Salt Mine operation, the only settlement present. A portion of the operation has been restored and is a hunting camp for big horn sheep hunted on the island. The staff gave us permission to tour the property at our own risk as many of the buildings are near collapse. Ralph was our tour guide since he has been many there times and knows a lot about it’s history. The mines not so old only shutting down around 1980 but seaside deterioration goes fast especially on these primitive structures.
An old barge wreck from the salt operation sets in 35’ of water exposed on the surface and a nice place for snorkeling and diving. The Barramundi and Cat Can Do crews joined Gato Loco for cool swim to check it out. Water was 10 degree cooler than normal because of recent storms.
We made way mid-day and had wind at our backs as we rounded the NE point of Carmen. Before long Gato Loco and Stray Cat were racing west toward Isla Coronados with their spinnakers flying. It’s always a treat when dolphins show up on your bow and especially with visibility this clear.
Wednesday night birthday party for Bill on Gato Loco
Rounding the corner heading into the north Coronados anchorage the water depth shallows to 5’ which created some interesting radio conversations. This anchorage is made for Seawinds with a shallow white sand bottom. Most keel boats have to anchor further off the beach making room for our Rally boats to anchor off the beach.
Gato Loco was the host for our Isla Coronados anchorage. Before long she was decorated and ready for the birthday party.
Barramundi takes anchorage in 4’ of water >>>>
Thursday.. Island Time & Barramundi needed to be in La Paz by the weekend so we decided to make our final Rally anchorage 30 miles south at Agua Verde where a small fishing village calls home. This is another nice size anchorage with a north and south bay. The south bay, where we anchored, has a nice beach perfect for our annual Kurt Jerman Winnie roast. Unfortunately, Kurt and wife Laurie couldn’t make it this year but having this beach party made us feel they were with us.
Steve & Pam on Barramundi took children’s school supplies in to the village and traded it for fire wood. Larry, on Island Time, set up a nice fire pit for the evening activities. Perfect weather for a Winnie roast.
Friday morning, our last Rally activity, Ralph & Helen had everybody over for a french toast breakfast with the help of all our contributions. Barramundi’s Bloody Mary’s were especially good.
Our finally goodbyes and a group photo puts another great Rally in the books. Even with the shorter cruise due to the weather delay, a great time was had by all. Plans for next year are already underway.
Come join us next year!!
Seawind Crews… Back.. Carol, Bill, Nancy, Ralph, Steve, Guy, Bruce. Front.. Lowell, Larry, Helen, Pam, Carol Tina & Devin
If you would like to read more here’s Gato Loco’s blogs from the Rally days
Here’s the best pictures taken by Gato Loco during the cruise.. Click “View Slide Show” or “Download All” to view.
See you next year… Lowell