Loreto Fest Brings Seawind Sailors Together in Baja-v1
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Loreto Fest Brings Seawind Sailors Together in Baja
By Lowell McCulley
Loreto Fest is an annual cruising sailboat rally held in Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Baja California Sur the first weekend of May. The Festival is the largest boating event in the Sea of Cortez. It draws together cruisers that have spent the winter in southern latitudes before moving north for the summer as well as boats that call the area home. Gato Loco, our Seawind 1000 catamaran, has brought us to the festival the past 6 years. We have long been advocates for the beautiful islands in the Loreto National Marine Park. We have encouraged fellow Seawind owners to join us to cruise the islands and also join in the Loreto Fest activities. Gato Loco is co-owned by friends who live in Puerto Penasco, Sonora in the northeastern Sea of Cortez and use the Festival as reason to sail south when the conditions are perfect in the months of April, May and June. Seawind owners in the southwest meet each August on Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles for a rally organized by Kurt Jerman. Kurt is the US importer of Seawind catamarans made near Sydney, Australia. This past August a plan was hatched to hold a spring Seawind Rally in the Loreto area during Loreto Fest event.
Kurt and Lowell (me), one of the co-owners of Gato Loco , continued the planning in early spring and soon found that at least 4 Seawind catamarans would be joining the Rally. Two Seawind 1160s spent the winter in Puerto Vallarta and would sail north. Another 1160 sitting in Cabo San Lucas would also join us, allowing plans to proceed.
Meet the Seawind Crews
John and Patsy Peterson on Sea Esta (a Seawind 1160) were at Loreto Fest last year. They arrived from Puerto Vallarta to the Loreto area weeks early this year to enjoy the numerous anchorages and friends. They have had Sea Esta in Mexico for the past 3 years, spending their winters at Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta.
Ralph and Helen Marx on Mood Drifter (a Seawind 1160), who have been sailing the Loreto Marine Park for 15 years, upgraded to their beautiful new 1160 this past summer. They also sailed north from from Puerto Vallarta after spending the winter at Paradise Village Marina as well.
Bob & Ginny Wolff have kept Cuba Lista in Cabo San Lucas since taking delivery last fall. They found they could not make the rally but kindly offered their 1160 to Kurt, his wife Lori, and fellow 1160 owners Roy and wife Debi Adcock. Kurt and Roy decided to sail Cuba Lista north and pick up their wives in Loreto along with Kurt’s friend, Mark Pillsbury.
Gato Loco, with co-owners Bill Hensler, Lowell, wife Frankie McCulley and golden retriever Neely, left Puerto Penasco April 10th and arrived during the last week of April for the Seawind Rally. We host different crews on one week legs sailing to Loreto and back over an eight week cruise that we call “Baja 09”. Our crew for Seawind Rally week includes Kerry from Sydney, Australia. Kerry and her mate Richard (the owner of Seawind Catamarans) joined us in Loreto last year. Kerry is back this year to enjoy one of her new favorite locations to sail. Our good friend Chris also joined us for Loreto Fest.
Sailing the Loreto National Marine Park
For sailors to experience Loreto and the National Marine Park, it requires a serious sailing commitment. All four Seawinds have made the passage south down the Pacific Coast of Baja into the Sea of Cortez sometime in the past, and have sailed for weeks to finally anchor with their Seawind friends. Cuba Lista was the last to arrive after sailing hard from Cabo to Loreto in 48 hours to pickup crew and supplies there. They arrived near sunset to join us on the east shore of Isla Carmen in the Bahia Salinas anchorage. As usual, the first night was filled with stories of our adventures sailing to Loreto. Mark, Roy and Debi had not been to Baja before and were very impressed by the vibrant desert colors and turquoise waters. Roy and Debi’s Seawind 1160 Selah is in San Diego and they now have the inspiration to bring Selah to Baja to enjoy with family and friends.
Our first night’s anchorage is on Isla Carmen, which is the largest island in the park with many anchoring options. Bahia Salinas is a south facing bay framed by a mile long white sand beach. There is an historic village and salt ponds to the north and offers the best north wind protection on Isla Carmen.
The old village was a solar salt plant operation that produced a very pure grade of salt that closed in the early 1980s. The dwellings have deteriorated significantly and are closed for safety reasons, but make for great photos from a distance.
< Loreto National Marine Park
Day Two: We’re off to a lunch stop at Gato Loco’s favorite anchorage, Vee Cove, on the NE corner of Isla Carmen. Vee Cove (pictured in lead photo) is a long narrow channel with a north facing white sand beach and a large sand dune rising to the south. The fossil-filled, steep, white stone bluffs have eroded from north seas, forming caves that can be explored by dinghy that also form a great underwater landscape for snorkeling and diving. The bluffs also provided a good vista to get some group Seawind Rally photos. Gato Loco, right, has all the crews on deck for a group photo. Eventually (no one ever wants to leave), we have to haul the anchor because there’s not room for all of us to safely anchor in this small bay. Not a problem. There is a good anchorage 2 miles west, named La Lancha, with ample beach and good holding sand for another night of fellowship. I have to say that John on Sea Esta does a great job of constantly entertaining the group.
Day Three:We decided to escape from the Marine Park and head north to Bahia San Juaninco on Baja, 15 miles north. It’s a rare no-wind day forcing us to motor the distance. We arrive at the signature south entrance “Tres Pilars” for some snorkeling to cool off mid-afternoon. San Juanico is a large 1+ mile wide bay with good south and north wind protection. Lots of free-standing, colorful, pinnacle rock formations make for a very interesting area. It also has some shallow bay anchoring, which naturally preserves anchorages for our shallow draft catamarans, and puts us close to the north sand beach which is perfect for a sunset beach BBQ. Patsy on Sea Esta organized yet another good meal with our feet in the sand. Close to our BBQ camp is the Cruiser’s Shrine Tree where boat crews create momentos and plaques documenting their visits dating back 35 years. The Cuba List crew is now part of history.
Day Four: It’s time to sail south toward Puerto Escondido as Loreto Fest is getting underway. The Rally has been much too short for Cuba Lista. They decided to split the 35 mile leg to Escondido by stopping at Isla Coronado, the northern-most volcanic island of the park, while the other boats head for Loreto Fest. Coronado has a good anchorage formed by a long southwest spit with volcanic rock and white sand beaches. This is a very popular anchorage, with plenty of room for the many boats that anchor here. The white sand bottom and beach make the water here the most turquoise in color of all the beaches in the Park. There’s a great nature trail that winds to the top of the island. It’s a long haul, but the Cuba Lista crew made it up at least part of the way.
This year the festival was moved to the new Singlar Marina which is part of Baja’s “Escalera Nautica” (Nautical Ladder), upgrading the festival facilities. The marina staff was awesome helping the Hidden Port Yacht Club host a great festival. Over 120 boats and local sailors enjoyed 4 days of festival activities raising money for local charities as well as sprucing up the Puerto Escondido bay shoreline. What a great cruiser party. So much fun meeting old friends as well as new ones.
For the Seawind Rally crews this was yet another great Baja experience after spending the past days together. We’ve had a great time and agreed to try to do this again next year. Okay, Kurt, it’s time to start planning…
Until the next Seawind Rally…
Adios, mi amigos!
Seawind Rally crews enjoy the Saturday night festivities >>
Left to right back, Mark, Patsy, Kerry, Debi, Roy, Lori, Kurt & Bill
Read more about the Gato Loco Baja 09 Cruise and the Seawind Rally at: www.gatolocosailing.com/blog