La Paz is really a beautiful city and we could have easily extended our visit there. But our planning didn’t allow for a longer stay than necessary. As our time window was getting narrower, we had to advance further north: Puerto Peñasco was waiting for us. We made use of a few days without northerly winds to move forward to the next stop Santa Rosalia.
Calm phases alternated with northerlies that lasted for days. Now the engine would have to be used more and more. We had already prepared ourselves mentally for the fact that the sails would be set less and less. The north wind in the Gulf builds up in the far north of the Baja and blows the 600 nautical miles south to La Paz and beyond almost unobstructed. This means that waves have a looot of time to build up and migrate towards the Pacific with the wind.
Baja Bash to Santa Rosalia?
If you head north during a north wind, you have both wind and waves against you. You’re experiencing the notorious “Baja Bash“, but right inside the Gulf instead of on the Pacific coast. The name says it all. As we didn’t feel like going on a hell ride, we observed the forecasts daily and defined the first day of a calm phase as the day of departure. Now the planning phase started again.
Carmen and I are late
Carmen and I had initially planned an anchor stop south of Santa Rosalia. We were too unimpressed by the scant information we had obtained about the city. But not Iñaki. He encouraged us to take a closer look at the city and its harbour basin. It turned out that his idea was the better choice. Of course, Carmen and I had started the passage planning too late, but it was also because of Iñaki’s experience. He knew when the right time was to deal with the onward journey, where and how to look for suitable places to go. Not just the evening before, but 1-2 days earlier. Shame on us!
The wild ride begins
We headed out early the next morning and left La Paz, which had grown dear to us within a very short time, behind us. We refueled Milagros, our calculation of around 130 liters of tank capacity per tank worked out again. And off we went along the Isla Espiritu Santo. Here we were even able to take advantage of a light north-easterly wind and set our sails on a close-hauled course. The joy was short-lived, however.
We are a motorboat now
When we made a course change between Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla San Jose, the angle of the wind became so unfavourable that we had to furl our headsail and start the engine. The wind continued to decrease and so we chugged forward towards Santa Rosalia. Everything was planned to turn out that way, but we still didn’t like the fact.
Traveling with an engine has its advantages and disadvantages. On one hand there is the constant engine noise, on the other hand you can simply let your boat move along using the autopilot. You don’t have to constantly consider the points of sail and any changes in the wind. Of course, we wanted to sail, but that’s just the way it is sometimes. Boredom can spread because being on the water for hours or days means you have to keep yourself busy. And when motorsailing you definitely have less to do than when you have your sails set.
Me and my night shifts
I especially had to keep busy on my night shifts. Not only was there less to do now, it was also pitch black, compared to the nights at the pacific coast. The moon rose later and later and so there was nothing more to see. 5 hours could feel like 5 days – time stood still. After all, I always had a sink full of dishes from day to wash up. Apart from doing the dishes, there was a lot of thought and reflection, Nintendo Switch and Netflix. I don’t know if I and night watch will be friends after all.
Fireworks on the bow of Milagros
One of my few lights in the dark was bioluminescence. It is triggered in algae, unicellular organisms, jellyfish and the like. Milagros stimulates the animals in the water, to which they react with their luminous organs. They turned our bow waves into sparkling fireworks. Our propeller vortex, which we invisibly drag behind us during the day, turned into a comet’s tail. Such moments remind me of our beginnings on the Cape Verde Islands, where bioluminescence was sometimes absurdly spectacular. Nature just doesn’t fail to blow my mind over and over again. Maybe one day I will know how to use a camera properly, so I can come up with photos of this phenomenon.
We’re chugging to Santa Rosalia
Motorsailing, we moved towards Santa Rosalia. The hours and days passed, and the nearly 350 nautical mile journey had come to an end. We didn’t set sail again even once. The diesel basically evaporated which meant another date with the fuel dock. We calculated that there would be 60 litres left in the starboard tank. In fact, we topped up with 70 litres and so our theory of almost 130 litres of diesel capacity per tank with a consumption of 3 – 3.5 litres per hour was confirmed. During the renovation at the Rocky Point Boatyard in Puerto Peñasco, we will of course get to the bottom of the matter.
To anchor or not to anchor?
In the small port of Santa Rosalia, we had the choice between a marina, or anchoring in the harbour basin, which was surrounded by breakwaters. We chose the former. During our research when planning the passage, we had read about several sailors who complained that the bottom of the harbour basin was littered and that an old, unused underwater cable crossed the anchorage. Our 30-kilogram anchor has grown a little dear to our hearts and a dive in a Mexican harbour basin was not at the top of our bucket list.
Fonatur Marina Santa Rosalia
We made the right decision, because Marina Fonatur Santa Rosalia is small but nice. There are only about 10 berths, that’s very cute. The price is comparatively cheap at 15$ per night, the toilets and showers are clean and well-maintained. There is also a small swimming pool available to guests. None of these things can be taken for granted in Mexico. The WiFi connection was terribly bad, but we were used to that by now.
Perspective is the bigger Milagros
A couple of docks from ours we met Sarah, Brad and their dog Sydney from sailing vessel “Perspective”. They live aboard a Kelly Peterson 46, which is a slightly larger version of Milagros. It turned out that most of the ships in Marina Santa Rosalia knew each other from Puerto Peñasco. Coming from the Rocky Point Boatyard they had gone through exactly what we had before us. Lots and lots of work.
Is Santa Rosalia an insider tip?
Of course, we also had to take a closer look at the city. France began mining copper in Santa Rosalia around 1880. When the mines were no longer generating enough returns in the 1950s, many of the facilities were left to decay. Their remains are visible to this day, and thus lead to a great contrast between city life and industrial ruins. A Korean consortium is now mining copper, cobalt, manganese and zinc in the “Boleo Mine“. In addition to fishing, the mine is likely to provide the main income for most of the slightly more than 12,000 residents of Santa Rosalia.
The main attraction of the city is probably the “Iglesia de Santa Bárbara” church. Legend has it that it is a Gustave Eiffel design. He‘s the architect of the world-famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. Of course, there also was a French bakery in town. We should have gone on a sightseeing tour, but the church only came back to our minds when we were already on our way to Puerto Peñasco. Guess we’ll have to return.
Viruses have their advantages too
All in all, we can say that Santa Rosalia was definitely worth the visit. The city is pretty and the marina is great. We can really recommend Santa Rosalia to everyone who visits Baja California, apart from the fact that you might have to wait over half an hour for a cup of coffee. However, we think that thanks to Covid, there was also a little luck involved. The fact that the marina is so small could be more of a curse than a blessing during high season.
It won’t be long!
It was now time for the last leg to Puerto Peñasco. We had to wait for a weather window with calm winds again, then we could leave. I was excited, because the city in the far north of the Sea of Cortez will be our new home for the big Milagros refit. Fingers crossed.
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