Santa Maria Bay to Magdalena Bay to Cabo San Lucas

We spent one more day anchored in Santa Maria – a windy one, not good for going ashore. We had planned to leave the day after next, but we both woke up the next morning thinking it was the day to go. The weather from the net seemed to say there’d be wind that day but not so much the next. So we got the dinghy onboard and pulled up anchor. Our destination was about 8 miles away, as the crow flies – but it was going to be about a 30 mile trip to get around Isla Magdalena and back up into the bay. Here’s a good visual from our chart plotter after we arrived (pay no attention to the gangsta in the background).

MB Charttrip

Turns out there really wasn’t any wind – just 14 foot seas at 18 second intervals. Not the most comfortable trip and we had to motor the entire way. But it wasn’t awful, it was warm and sunny. Jonny caught a very nice bonita (kind of tuna) that would feed us for 3 days.   The mouth of the bay is 3 miles wide and the bay itself is just huge. You can’t see land across it. We anchored in Puerto Magdalena – just off the tiny fishing village. I had high hopes—groceries? Wifi? Shrimp for our traditional Christmas eve dinner? The Capitania de Puerto came out in a panga full of giant plastic containers – fuel. We arranged for him to come back first thing in the morning to check us in and sell us some diesel.

He arrived as scheduled and we filled up 2 of our jerry cans with diesel. He didn’t require us to show him our papers, but we filled out and signed his ledger. I asked him if the arborrotes had verduras (grocery store / vegetables). He laughed heartily and then shrugged a very discouraging “maybe”. He and his son then headed off for San Carlos – a much larger town on the main peninsula. It’s only 11 miles from here, but it’s a narrow channel to get there and apparently there’s a fee for using it and no real facilities or anchorage for yachts up in there. I know it has everything we need, but I think we are not going to make it up there by dinghy or hiring a panga (?). We are hoping he returns in a few days – because we discovered the diesel we bought is black. It’s supposed to be more on the clear side, and not smell the way it smells (perhaps there’s some 2-stroke fuel mixed in?). At any rate we are afraid to put it in our tank – so a little worried about this $50 worth of who-know-what we just got. And we may not have enough fuel to get to Cabo if we have to motor most of the way (which is likely, winds are super light).


When I first asked about a grocery store he misheard abborrotes and thought I said camarrones (shrimp) and I said “no, abborrotes” and then thought better….Y camarrones!!!”. Gomez was the link to shrimp. We were not sure if that was a boat or a man. Every year for my entire life I’ve had my Italian Grandmother’s traditional Christmas dinner of fried shrimp with a special spaghetti sauce and spaghetti. It’s one of the best dinners ever. The first part is cleaning and frying the shrimp, which takes a lot of time and requires you drink a lot of red wine while doing so. I have managed to save a couple bottles of Sante Archangeli Family Wines Pinots for the occasion (thanks, JB!!).

There are shrimp boats everywhere around here. This is shrimp county. How hard could it be to get us some shrimp? We decided to be bold and take the dinghy right out to a shrimp boat and see what we could do. We went pretty far out to a boat that appeared not to be moving. They were working hard pulling up their outriggers. We called out “camarrones?” and they told us not to get to close. It was more of a – ‘move back and we’ll let you know when it’s OK to come get some shrimp’ kind of gesture. We sat a ways off watching them work – it was pretty fascinating, really. But, when they were done, it appeared the crew was not able to persuade the captain to stick around for us. Off they went with their load of shrimp to San Carlos. No shrimp for the birds or us.

MB Shrimp Boat NOgo

Optimistically we headed ashore to check out this little village. I had my grocery bags and everything. The village seemed kind of deserted, except for a group of fisherman gathered under a large lean-to. It appeared they were having a meeting of sorts (it was probably a co-op – Fishing Co-ops are very important and set all the rules and regulations that the fishermen are supposed to follow). Jonny boldly approached to ask about camarrones and Gomez. We were told Gomez would be around early the next day. Also the grocery store was not open until the next day, either. I guess Monday’s aren’t ‘business’ days.

Looking up toward the Port Captain’s building in Puerto Magdalena:

MB Port Captain Office

The Rebar Stick Figure Jesus on the church in Puerto Magdalena was my favorite:

MB WR Jesus

We gave up our shrimp hunt for the day and went off to explore the dunes and see if we could hike across the ½ mile stretch of the island to come out on the beach at Santa Maria Cove (where we had just been – you remember, heavenly beach?). We decided to bring our soap, in hopes of a nice ocean bath. The dunes reminded me a lot of Cape Cod. We hiked up and down and through wiry vines grabbing at our toes – all in all I’m pretty sure that ½ mile was more like a mile with all the up and downs of the dunes! I could hear the roar of the surf, driving me steadily onward. When I finally saw the surf, I was a little dismayed. It looked reddish-brown. As I got closer to the beach, I saw all kinds of debris. Ah yes…the far end of the bay is where all the crap collects. Not sure what was in the surf – red tide? Some sort of plant stuff? At any rate, not very inviting. We decided to walk the beach a little and ‘treasure hunt’ – who knows what exciting things had washed up there?? Turns out it was just mesh bags, plastic bags, Clorox bottle bailers, rusty oil drums, giant pieces of Styrofoam. Nope. No treasures. It was a HUGE beach with an amazing, expansive view, though. And not a soul around.

We hiked back over the dunes to the huge and also deserted beach on the Mag Bay side. I spotted a coyote in the dunes.

We had a bath in the bay, which was actually quite nice (and I was 3 days without a shower, so it was a necessity).

Tuesday morning Jonny slipped away before it was light. He was on a mission to find Gomez – man or boat, we weren’t sure. He came back and apparently everyone in the village knew the gringoes were looking for Gomez. They said he’d be back in an hour or so. Jonny went back and I was feeling skeptical. What or who was Gomez and how was he going to get us shrimp? There were no huge shrimp boats that moored here. Maybe he knew someone on a shrimp boat and could arrange to go get some? After quite sometime I heard the dinghy coming back. I poked my head out to see what had transpired. Jonny held a huge bag of shrimp up. No way!!! I was very excited. It was at least a kilo, maybe more (well over 2 lbs). He said Gomez was a local / small time shrimper who caught them from his panga. He had just come in with a load of shrimp and Jonny helped him pull the heads off the ones in our bag. Freshest shrimp EVER! We had to go back and pay him – 100 pesos (I had set my max at 350 pesos for a kilo). I got dressed quickly because I had to meet this Gomez for myself. We gave him a few extra pesos and a t-shirt (one of our Minney’s Yacht Surplus shirts – try explaining what “Schooner or Later, We’ll Get our Ship Together” means in Spanish… I think I at least conveyed it was a very funny joke…)

Rafael Gomez and his wife (Amarela ?? I didn’t quite get it) offered us chairs and coffee. We sat out and chatted with them as best we could, for some time. Rafael has lived in this tiny village for 32 years. They will have turkey for their traditional Christmas dinner. Also, last year some cruisers brought them cookies at Christmas. I’m not sure if that was a hint. I’m also not sure they’d want my chocolate avocado cookies, which I have nicknamed “rubber dog shit cookies” – more due to look and texture than taste. Although I’m not sure they taste all that much better (hey, all my cooking experiments can’t be winners).

Rafael walked us over to the grocery hut. I was pleasantly surprised to see tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, limes, potatoes and avocados. I need all that stuff. Also got some eggs. Aside from that they had some canned goods and cleaners. Nothing else – no refrigerator, no junk food (and yes, we were kind of hoping for some chips and ‘sweets’! but we’ll be better off without. Besides, there’s always rubber dog shit cookies).

Satisfied with our great accomplishments for the morning, we proceeded to siesta for the rest of the day. It’s a rough life.

At the end of the day we spotted a sailboat entering the bay. Did I mention we were the ONLY boat here? As they got closer we realized it was a Hans Christian 33 (named Prism)– we’d met them in Turtle Bay. A husband and wife with the wife’s brother. I guess we’re not the slowest ones afterall!!

MB Prism

The next morning, Jon rowed over from Prism to say hi. They’d been stopping at a lot of places and having a great time. We told them we were thinking of moving about a mile farther up the bay – it was supposed to be nice and we were kind of getting over ‘town’ and all the fishing pangas going by all the time.

They pulled anchor and headed over there. That got us motivated to up and move, too. Not sure why we’d been so lazy for so long! We went a few miles past to check out the bay, but it wasn’t good anchoring so we went back nearby to Prism. We swam and hung out on Chrismas eve. Then it was time to cook shrimp. I opened some wine and got to cooking. We had a LOT of shrimp! It was the BEST shrimp EVER, I think. And of course the wine. Somehow we put away a lot of that, too.   All in all a very nice Christmas eve – I always like thinking about all my other family members all over the place who are having the exact same dinner. Even though we are far away and don’t even have phone or internet, we are connected by shrimp-nets that night.

MB JCFryin Shrimp

MB dinner Shrimp

Needless to say we were feeling a little sluggish on Christmas Day. I decided to row over to Prism and bring them a bottle of champagne and finally take them up on their hospitality to visit. Prism is GORGEOUS. I have to say it’s the first boat I’ve been on that actually made me a little jealous. Usually I come off of most every other boat thinking to myself “I still love Summer best of all”. I came off of Prism thinking “DAMN…” it’s 3 feet smaller but seems twice as big inside. Amazing seaworthy little boat it is, too. But it was great to get to know Jon, Shannon and Shawn a bit. Shannon and Jon did what we did—sold everything and took off – they’re all in and going cheap. So, you could say we’re all in the same boat 😉   Shawn is Shannon’s older brother and is along for the surf until Cabo.

I hung out with them for a few hours and then rowed back to Summer to have dinner (leftover shrimp! Yes, there was that much).   We were invited to come back for ‘game night’ in the evening. Jonny wasn’t up to it, so I rowed back over. We place cards and dice and Jon was kind enough to share his movie collection with us. It was fun to socialize – I realized how long it has been! The row home in the dark was fun- the stars were incredible.

The next morning Jonny went off fishing and caught us dinner. I had a relaxing morning getting a spa pedicure. NOT. I have to do my own pedicures now and I’m terrible at it, but not as bad as it was starting to look. In the afternoon we went ashore and hiked out on a ‘road’ to the other side of the island to see if there was surf at the point. It was probably a 2 mile hike. Lots of desert like flora and fauna, and we got to go along part of the estuary with mangroves and all sorts of birds. There was also a great abundance of trash. Everywhere. Real trash, too. In Mexico, the trash is very pure. There is nothing even remotely salvageable in what is thrown away here.

The tide in the bayside was still full of whatever it was that was making it all red. The whole bay looked like blood! But around the corner it wasn’t so bad. We found a pretty and remote beach and not much surf.

MB Red tide

The wind picked up quite a bit when we were heading back. We stopped to see how Prism was doing and they were liking the wind and decided to take off for Cabo right then and there. We went back to Summer to radio them some weather from our SSB grib files (which was occasionally sort of accurate…). We watched them sail off and decided that tomorrow would probably be a good day for us to head out, too. The wind looked to be picking up, a nice fast sail would be fun, and it didn’t look like too much swell.

MB Secluded beach

Well the wind picked up a lot in the bay and there was considerable chop. It was the roughest night we experienced there and not that comfortable. The next morning was extremely windy and Summer was hobby-horsing up and down. Getting our dinghy aboard was a bit of a challenge, but we managed to do so with out getting hurt or falling overboard.

I made some breakfast jars, some chocolate almond bread and black beans to hold us for our trip. We had everything ready to go and it was still early. We did not want to arrive in Cabo before daylight, so we had to plan to leave a little later in the afternoon. The wind died down and it got hot, so we decided to have one last swim/wash before the trip.

Out near shore we spotted what appeared to be a kayak. Kayak? From where? There were no other boats in the harbor any more and if they had come from San Carlos, that was like a 12 mile paddle. Sure enough it was a tandem kayak! They came over our way and said Hi. Debbie and Dave are from British Columbia and have a place in Pescadero. They like to kayak and camp all over. They were going around all of Mag Bay. They had camped on the beach the night before and had used up all their water. Dave thought he was shooting a noise-maker in the air to scare off an aggressive coyote, but it turnd out to be a flare. They set fire to the foliage! They used all the their water to put out the fire.   I think Dave would’ve been just as happy if Debbie hadn’t told us that story, but she enjoyed it very much. They asked if they could get water in town. Given our experience we didn’t think it would be a likely possibility. Since we were going to be in full-on civilization in 2 days, we thought we could easily spare some of our water. We gave them a few gallons of drinking water from our Water Fixer. It was fun to chat with them and think about life camping and kayaking – it really looked like fun! I can’t believe we haven’t done that…

MB KayakersDaveDebbie

We finally got underway, expecting a very pleasant, 36 hour or less journey. (Cue up Gilligan’s Island theme song…”the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed”). Anyway, as we were exiting the mouth of the bay (a 3 mile wide area between 2 islands) it was rough and weird, and all of a sudden, within 10 seconds the wind switched 180 degrees and backwinded our main and stopped the boat dead in her tracks. We couldn’t turn in either direction and because of the force of the backwind, we couldn’t undo any of the lines to move the boom. We were kind of freaking out and not sure what to do, and then, just as fast as it happened, it switched again and we shot off really fast. We were doing 7 – 8 knots with just the reefed main up. We went with it to get well outside the mouth and hoped things calmed down a bit.   The winds were really strong and the seas were coming at us from either side. We were doing a beam reach at the fastest speeds I’ve ever gone on Summer. It was kind of fun. At first. It got darker and rougher. I made us some dinner and we ate. I started feeling really sick, so I went to lie down for a bit and hopefully sleep it off as I often do. Things got really bad and it was necessary for us to reef the main again. Jonny came down and told me I needed to get out there and take the wheel. I had no idea how I was going to get my foul weather gear on without throwing up. I thought if I just eased it on as I lied there, it might work. All of a sudden there was a terrifying noise outside, shuddering and whipping of sheets. I knew that we had to do something FAST or we were in big trouble. This is when I learned that there is a hierarchy of bodily functions and apparently sheer terror will override the need to vomit.   I don’t even remember how I got my gear on, but I was suddenly behind the wheel, trying to hold us steady, ready to turn us into the wind if need be. Huge waves were washing over our beam, often hitting me in the face. I kept my head up, trying to see the windex to keep us on a beam reach while Jonny tried to take down more sail.

Jonny finally came to take the wheel from me and let me go throw up…but I didn’t just then. I sat for awhile watching us plunge up and down through the waves, still going at top speeds. I ended up sitting on the cockpit floor, kind of scrunched up with my head down. This was by far the roughest weather I’d ever experienced. Even Jonny started to feel seasick. He lost his clean record of never having gotten seasick on Summer as he lost his dinner. I somehow held it together for a while longer, slumped on the cockpit floor. I had my head on the seat and my arm up and a huge wave sloshed over the side and went down my sleeve. The jolt and scare of that propelled me to the edge of the boat where I also lost my dinner. Those black beans were actually almost as good the second time. Almost. Unfortunately for me, getting sick doesn’t make me feel better afterwards, as it seemed to for Jonny. I went down below and tried to hide under the covers for a while. There was nothing remotely approaching sleep possible. The waves were hitting Summer so hard that sometimes it sounded and felt like we were hitting something solid. If it weren’t for our CPT Autopilot, I’m sure we never would have survived. That thing is simply awesome. Jonny tweaked things as much as he could and eventually he started coming down below to rest for spells as well. It was cold and miserable out there. And it Did. Not. Stop. Morning came and there was a spell of it being less than horrible. I thought I might be feeling better and poked my head out like a groundhog. That was as much as I could handle, I ran back into my cave. Good thing for the breakfast jars, I was in no way going to cook breakfast. I really don’t remember much more of the day. Jonny was optimistic that we were done, but I remembered the forecast looking like it was going to blow for one more day. Sure enough, it came on strong again for the second night. I managed to make some sort of soup, but I was unable to eat any of it.

I couldn’t believe we were in for another night of hell. Several times this thought crossed my mind: “People in their right minds do not do this sort of thing”. But, I guess we knew that, no? At one point we completely dropped the main and we did 6-7 knots with bare poles for almost an hour.  At the speeds we were traveling, we were going to get to Cabo way too early. We decided to heave-to (make the boat stop, basically, sort of…) for a few hours and both try to sleep. As we were heaving-to, things got more violent and somehow the dishes in the cupboard slid up and hit the latch and opened the doors – dishes started flying out. Somehow we both managed to catch everything and nothing broke. But Jonny had to go out and finish up with the sails, and I tried to gather everything in the dark. I didn’t know what to do with any of it and I was afraid I was going to get sick again (into a bowl I was holding seemed like a good option?). I sat on the floor in the dark holding onto a pile of dishes and whatnot (and trying to pick up the trash that has spilled out when the trash can came crashing down on top of me). I just wrapped it all in some towels and soft stuff and pushed it under the settee. Then I got really sick again – this time in the bathroom, which was far more luxurious than overboard (tp and running water and a safe place to wedge myself in). Jonny held my hair (which was quite a brave thing to do – who knows what was in it from before and salt, oh the salt! I thought it had gone white from fright, but turns out it was just salt). Anyway we finally tried to lie down for a while, but sleep didn’t quite happen – but some rest anyway. The motion and sounds were just relentless and scary. We drifted out to sea and a little backwards during this time. When we finally started going again we had maybe 6 hours to go. Somewhere around 3 am I started to feel myself coming through to a more normal state. I was starving – my body had been completely purged of every last shred of anything inside it for more than 24 hours (do you think I could market this as some sort of ‘cleanse’??). I found my travel mug full of soup I had made the previous afternoon – I ate it cold, it wasn’t half bad. That’s when I knew I was going to survive. The sun came up and things had calmed down a bit. We were suddenly near land and surrounded by big, fancy sport fishing boats. We were almost to Cabo! It got warmer and sunnier and scenery got more interesting.

We saw the hotels, condos and beaches near Cabo Falso and the arches and pinnacles of Cabo. As we came into the bay area we slowed down and radioed the marina. We did not have internet access for weeks, so we were not able to make a reservation. But it was our hope to get a slip for 3 nights to be able to enjoy the luxuries of a marina – such as showers and laundry and a boat that wasn’t moving much if at all. The marina said they had a slip for us and told us the dock and number. We were SO relieved. As we approached I thought I saw Prism anchored out down the way. I was hoping we’d run into those guys again.   We made our way through the narrow, crowded marinas area and found our dock. A guy was waiting to help catch our lines and I somehow made a perfect docking. As we were entering the slip I heard people behind us yelling “Summer!! Summer!!” I knew it was Jon from Prism – they were on shore and spotted us coming in. I was glad they were seeing where we’d be.

Cabo Arch Cabo Lovers beach

We did what we had to in the marina office. It’s ridiculously expensive – more than 2x the cost of a slip in Santa Barbara!!! And no wifi – the hurricane knocked it out and they hadn’t had it repaired yet (and still, no discount?). We had high hopes of showering, getting food and doing some errands. Oh luxurious, clean, hot shower!! How wonderful. We managed to find food (at a Jonny Rockets? Really? Just not in the mood for fish tacos that day). After lunch we realized we were both zombies and the only thing we would accomplish that day was going straight back to the boat to sleep. We did for a few hours and then managed to find a store to get some food to cook for dinner, and found the Starbucks, which is very close and has wifi.

Next day I spent 4 hours in the morning doing laundry and Jonny de-salinated Summer. She was a mess, along with our foul weather gear. I talked to the guys in the office about our Black Diesel situation. They thought it sounded bad and we shouldn’t try to use it. They said they could help us dispose of it. Turns out it was going to cost us 480 pesos to dispose of it. I kind of threw a fit and refused. Which made Jonny really mad at me, because he wanted the whole situation to just be overwith and we find some clean diesel (I left out a lot of trying to return it in Mag Bay…but it’s been a thorn in our side). Anyway we managed to find a guy who was extremely happy to take it from us for free. As this was going down, a little dinghy showed up – Jon, Shannon and Shawn had found us! Cabo GuestsWe all hung out and caught up on our most recent journeys. Theirs was rough, but not as bad as ours – they were smart to leave when they did and missed the worst of it. Finally the boys went off to find a fishing store, Shannon come to Starbucks to work on their blog ( and I went off to find a TelCel office to see if I could get my cell phone working in some sort of fashion. We then hung out on Summer some more before they had to take off to get back to Prism before dark. They have quite the cute little motor and dinghy….

CaboPrism Dinghy

Tomorrow night is New Year’s Eve. We are going to have a nice dinner out somewhere with our Prism friends and then probably do what most Americans do in Cabo. On the 1st we are going to head out to the anchorage area –our cushy, expensive slip days are over. We will anchor out there for a few days or however long it takes to get a good weather window to cross over to Mazatlan. We are hoping to do some snorkeling and other fun stuff around here before then, too.