Scratching the Surface – from Agua Verde to San Carlos

After 10 days without internet access and with our time schedule in mind, we left Agua Verde. Our route took us further north. We explored Candeleros Bay, Loreto and Isla Coronado. Ultimately, we crossed the Sea of Cortez to San Carlos on Mexican mainland.

Before every passage – even if it is only 20 nautical miles long – we draw up a passage plan. Among other things, this serves to actively and consciously deal with what lies ahead. How far is the destination? How long will it take to get there? When do we have to leave at the latest? What weather conditions will we encounter on the way? Are there any particular dangers? Where can we anchor? What are the tides and currents? What are our alternatives? Are there certain conditions that need to be met to make the passage at all?

The paper plan

The plan is ideally made on paper and contains waypoints, the distances between them and the courses to be sailed. This piece of paper therefore also serves as a backup for navigation in case all electronic systems fail. This is particularly helpful for longer passages or crossings without the shore in sight. For shorter passages, we make do with route planning in the Navionics navigation app that we all have on our tablets and phones.

Google Maps for boats

It is like a Google Maps route navigation and super handy with lots of additional information about the area we’re sailing in. Especially helpful is the constant update of the estimated time of arrival to assess if something needs to be changed so that an anchorage can still be reached in daylight.

On the hunt for reception

In this case, a digital route planning from Agua Verde was sufficient. Our destination was Candeleros Bay, 20 nautical miles away. It’s not particularly beautiful, but it has cell phone reception. Addicted as we are, we wanted to reconnect with the rest of the world after 10 days without reception. Cavu was in on this plan, so without having to get up early, we made our way to Candeleros. There was even a bit of sailing! But when the wind dropped below 5 knots (9 km / h) we gave up.


Shortly before Candeleros we checked out a small, special anchorage called “The Hand of God” or “Candeleros Chico”. It was on Dave’s wish list. Unfortunately, another boat had already anchored in there and two other boats didn’t fit in. So, it stayed with our original destination. As soon as we dropped anchor in Candeleros, we were greeted by Mike from SV Ikigai, whom we had met in Agua Verde. We arranged to have drinks at the huge all-inclusive resort on the beach.


Drinks in the resort

Since Dave and Iñaki wanted to chill on the boat rather than drink beer at the resort, Carmen and I grabbed the dinghy and went ashore alone. We hadn’t even finished mooring the dinghy when a woman in beige ranger clothes and carrying a clipboard appeared. “Where are you going?” she asked us. “Having drinks at the resort”, we answered. So, she led us across the entire resort to the reception. There we had to hand in our ID and were given visitor wristbands in return.

Visiting hours

Suddenly it occurred to one of the receptionists that visitors were only allowed until 6 p.m. It was exactly 6 p.m. So, while they checked with their manager whether we were allowed to stay, we stocked up on cold beer and chips in the resort’s small supermarket. If they turned us down, we could still go to the beach. They kindly let us stay. Visiting the restaurants was allowed with our visitor wristbands, but swimming in the pools was not. OK no problem. Marla and Dave from SV Cavu also joined us and we enjoyed a couple of completely overpriced beers in a fancy ambience.

We meet Skookum

When we had arrived in Candeleros the day before we saw a catamaran at the other end of the bay and wondered if it was SV Skookum. We messaged them, but they said it wasn’t them. But a few hours later we were delighted to see that Skookum suddenly anchored next to us. We visited them the next day and Carmen boarded a catamaran for the first time. Although we like our monohulls very much, a big “terrace” like the catamarans have is sometimes very cosy. We spent the rest of our time in this bay doing things that you do in a bay: snorkelling, swimming, cooking, washing, relaxing.

Back to civilization

We ran out of fresh vegetables, so it was time to return to civilization. Loreto was our shopping destination of choice. Since there was slack, the iron light wind sail aka engine was used. We used the time to practice reefing (reducing the sail area). The person at the helm took command, while the other two loosened or tightened various lines. All this under the supervision of Iñaki and the stopwatch: we had 2 minutes to do the whole procedure. So, the 4.5 hours we needed for the 20 nautical miles passed quickly.


Loreto is a lovely town that lives mainly from tourism. Many things are within walking distance, including the supermarket. But first we treated ourselves to a cool drink on the plaza. First the pleasure, then the work, as we all know. With our final destination San Carlos in mind, we kept checking the weather and decided to cross Baja California sooner rather than later. That’s why we only stayed one night in Loreto and made a small detour to Isla Coronado. Simply because it is so beautiful there. And maybe also because none of us had made the passage plan for the crossing.

Isla Coronado

Carmen was our captain for the 9 nautical mile short trip to Isla Coronado. There was a gentle breeze and we could comfortably sail there. We had visited the anchorage of Isla Coronado briefly on the way to La Paz, after our fishing net incident. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to explore everything this time either. Because the passage plans still needed to be made. Iñaki also gave us the task of selecting and thinking through an emergency scenario at sea. So, I dealt in depth with the “person overboard” scenario, Carmen and Dave with water ingress and rigging failure: what to do in such a situation and how to prevent it? Although we were now well prepared mentally for these situations, we hoped that everything would only remain theoretical.

Encounter with rays

Later, Carmen and I grabbed our snorkelling gear. The turquoise-green water was quite murky, but still, visibility was a few metres. Along the coast, the seabed was covered by a forest of kelp. All kinds of small and large fish hid in it. In free patches of sand on the bottom lay burrowed rays that dashed away when we swam over them. Unfortunately, we still haven’t found out what kind of ray we saw. They were round, about 3 ft (1 m) in diameter and had large, protruding eyes. Since we didn’t know if they were stingrays, we didn’t want to get too close to them. But one of them was brave enough to swim between us and looked at us closely as we looked at him closely. That was pretty impressive.

10 o’clock sharp

The start for the 120 nautical mile (about 220 km) crossing to San Carlos on the Mexican mainland was scheduled for 10 am. Although Captain Iñaki was not entirely satisfied with the speed of our preparations, the engine was started punctually at 10 am to weigh anchor. The wind forecasts had been practically useless all the previous week. Nevertheless, we hoped that the forecast of 8 – 15 knots of wind from the west was right this time. That was what we needed. As our destination was pretty much to the north of us, the wind was perfectly sailable.

The passage

We were not disappointed. Pretty much exactly half of the miles of our roughly 25-hour passage were covered under sail. Shortly after 11pm, just as Dave was taking over the night shift from me and I was going to sleep, the engine had to be started again. Unfortunately – because engine noise combined with the heat (during passages the windows remain closed), do not necessarily make for good conditions for restful sleep. Dave and Iñaki meanwhile shared the two middle night shifts to play football manager together.

Are we there yet?

After my morning coffee ritual, I joined Carmen in the cockpit. She had the last of the four night shifts from 4 – 7 am. When the wind picked up a bit, we set sail again and enjoyed the calm and the view of the coast. Only shortly before entering the bay of San Carlos did we take in the sails again. And soon we reached our last anchorage of this trip. The beautiful bay was surrounded by red, chunky rocks on which a multitude of cacti grew.

San Carlos

The last few days in San Carlos, before we travelled back to Milagros to Puerto Peñasco, we spent comfortably at anchor. Although it was quite hot at 100° F (37° C), the water was not inviting for swimming. The town of San Carlos is not exactly a beauty and there was not much to see. That’s why we took it easy. Carmen used the time to sew bags out of her old main sail with the Sailrite sewing machine. We also treated ourselves to a 3-hour training trip with really good wind off San Carlos. We practised tacking and heaving to, which is one of many storm tactics and also commonly used as a manoeuvre to stop vessels, for example if a person falls overboard.

A summary

For us, it was time to get back to work again. In the 25 days on Anila, we were at sea for 15 days, covered 285 nautical miles, 132 of them under sail, and anchored in 8 places. Not bad, is it? This has paid into our experience and further prepares us for what is to come in the future. However, we have only scratched the surface and are already looking forward to exploring the Sea of Cortez with Milagros in peace and without time pressure.

At this point a big thank you to Carmen and Iñaki who took us on this journey with Anila and made this training possible. If you would also like to sail with them, check out their homepage.

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