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Stories from the Sea of Cortez

We are now back in La Paz after spending three magical weeks exploring the Sea of Cortez a hundredish miles north of here. While our To Do List Before Crossing the Pacific consumes us now, we tried to put it out of our minds during our time up north and just enjoy exploring this stunning desert wilderness. Not having access to the internet certainly helped, and when our HAM radio went out with a pop and a puff of smoke in Agua Verde blogging and emailing ceased completely. We didn’t mind too much as it gave us even more time to soak in the beauty around us. Stories have piled up, as have memories of simply being together in the Sea.

A Surprise Reunion With Our Sailing Gurus

We waited in Ensenada Grande nearly three days for the northerly winds to die down which had turned us back while enroute to Isla San Francisco. We tuned into the Southbound Net one evening hoping to hear from our good friends that we’d last heard were on their way to Banderas Bay from San Carlos. Then we heard it, a booming check-in “TILLICUM!” that was so loud it was like they were right next door.

Turns out they were – just north of us at Isla San Francisco Robert and Rose on S/V Tillicum had made a surprise stop in Baja on their way south. Hailing from Sidney, British Columbia, we’d originally met these inspiring voyagers ten years ago while on our way to Mexico on our Alberg 35 and have kept in touch over the years. Two days later we were anchored right next to them at Isla San Francisco, where we’d also anchored together nine years ago, only this time of course we had our young girls to join us for tea in the afternoons. The crew of Tillicum, now well into their 60s, continues to inspire us with their endless youth and energy. They are now planning their fourth trip to the South Pacific — or maybe this time across the Atlantic — and shared hours of advice and stories for us as we plan our first.

Leah Turns Six

We officially celebrated Leah’s sixth birthday at Isla San Francisco. Earlier in the week at San Gabriel, we’d had a little beach party with our friends on Del Viento where all four girls ran around making sand dams and salty rivers for hours. At Isla San Francisco, we brought chocolate cupcakes over to Tillicum for another quiet celebration with friends.

A few weeks before, Leah was inwardly upset that there would not be a large gathering of her friends and a big party organized as we’d done in years past. But as her actual birthday approached, she was perfectly happy with our small celebrations of just a couple close friends, her family, a few small goodies and a day of sunshine and feeling special and loved. Another birthday to remember.

In Ague Verde, We Meet More Inspirational Canadians

Ken and Francesca are a retired couple from British Columbia who drive down from Canada to the little village of Agua Verde each winter. Their truck and camper was parked in an inconspicuous shady nook on the beach as it has been every winter for the past 10 years or so. We met them while wandering down the playa on our first day in the village. They took us under their wing, bringing us along on visits to their local friends’ homes, inviting the girls to visit the village preschool and personally showing us the painted caves that lie above the westernmost side of the inland valley.

Hiking our way up the cliff side to the aforementioned caves, Ken and Fran scrambled up the rocky hillside with ease while we huffed and puffed following behind. How we want to be like them, now and when we are approaching our 70s ourselves: full of life and smiles and energy and still excited to experience the new after years of exploring.

Holly’s First Day of School

The night before the girls visited the little preschool at Agua Verde, Holly could hardly sleep. She was so excited to be going to her first day of school, so giddy.

We woke up early that morning, ate bowls of hot oatmeal, got dressed in the finest school clothes we could find, piled in the dinghy and surfed into the village. We met the teacher at 9 am at the little one-room schoolhouse; she told us that there are usually 10 kids in class everyday and they are aged 3-5. At 6 they move on to the primary school on the other side of the village.

The room was small and simple but bright and had everything you’d expect in a preschool: tiny tables and chairs, walls plastered with the alphabet and numbers, a table of books, an art and science station. Over the next two hours the kids made a craft (painting glue over their printed name then scattering sand over it). The topic for the day was transportation; Teacher Sandra showed pictures to the kids of planes, trains, trucks then they gathered into a circle and played charades. Leah got to pretend to be a rocket, Holly a hot air balloon. The kids then cut pictures from magazines of things that moved and pasted them on a board, sorting by sea, land and air.

While 6-year-old Leah was quite frustrated at not understanding the language and was exhausted at morning’s end, Holly, at 3, didn’t mind it at all and asked when her next day at school was.


We were anchored in Agua Verde when an enormous 160’ motoryacht joined us in the bay. Nearly half of the boat’s stern was dedicated to water and air toys: at least three powerboats tucked in several deck layers topped with a small helicopter. We were kind of awestruck at the arrogance of someone flaunting such wealth in front of a village of pangueros, with families living a life of such simple means.

The next day Ken and Francesca invited us to visit the home of their friends, Lenora and Alejandro, in the village. It was a lovely cozy home, painted in all my favorite shades of blue with a cool covered front porch where the family was gathered and a small garden out back. Francesca told me it was actually one of the larger homes in the village, with four rooms (a kitchen, the main bedroom/living room and a bedroom for their daughter and one for her son). Their home, like most others in the village, had a small 80-wattish solar panel and battery outside to power their lights and radios in the evenings.

Sitting in the cool shade of the front porch, we chatted with the family in our rudimentary Spanish. Michael, Ken and Alejandro talked about the solar panels most families now had in the village. “You are the velero with four panels, yes?” Alejandro asked us. We nodded, blushing with the knowledge that even our simple boat was adorned with excess.

The Los Gatos Hermit Crabs Come for a Visit

We spent a week in beautiful Agua Verde and could have easily stayed much longer but the time had come to boogie on south back to La Paz. Happily, while we had motored just about all the way up to Agua Verde we finally got to take advantage of all the nice northerly wind in the Sea to sail back.

The weather was fine to stop at Los Gatos, which is surrounded with the most amazing, smooth, bright red sandstone. It is just stunning and the rocks are perfect for scrambling around on.

Los Gatos is also home to herds of land hermit crabs and three of them came to Wondertime for a visit. Coco, Hermie and Sweetie enjoy raisins, carrots and most of all our leftover arracharra beef from Rancho Viejo here in La Paz. Our crabby friends will return to Los Gatos via our friends on Del Viento who plan to head up that way in the next few weeks.

One More Day at San Gabriel

We had 25 knots of wind blow us down the San Jose Canal and Bahia de La Paz back to Isla Espiritu Santo. It was a downwind boogie board ride that reminded me that (1) 10 foot waves are best spaced more than 10 feet apart and (2) these kinds of days are great for getting the counters and shelves cleaned off.

Anyway, we pulled into San Gabriel for the fourth time. I think this is our favorite beach ever; there is a salt water lagoon lined with mangroves that fills up at high tide which turns the beach into salty rivers as the water runs out with the tide. The girls can splash, and float, and build and bury themselves here silly. The sky is blue blue blue, the sand blindingly white and our favorite spot is edged with green mangroves with pink hills farther in the distance and the girls are just a blur, dashing and darting all over in pure play.

Our last morning at San Gabriel, before sailing to La Paz later that afternoon, I just stood on the beach here and took in the view around me, trying to remember all the details so I can return here again and again and again.


  1. Kyra says:

    Loved this post! I’m so happy we’re on our way there… The Sea is charming me from afar… Hope the prep for the big crossing is going well – and here’s hoping we make it on time before your departure for big hugs! Cheers, the Nyon crew

  2. Deborah says:

    Great post, Sara! I’ve missed your updates lately. The story about Holly and Leah going to school made me smile, as did the one about Leah’s birthday. So sweet. 🙂

    It sounds like you’re having an incredible adventure.

  3. Marie says:

    Agua Verde sounds so magical, we must go there soon too!

  4. Kirsten says:

    Love your blog, Sara! I’ve been following closely and loving your writing and pics. I’m really looking forward to hopefully having you guys with us on our trip this summer. Any new plans with that?

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Kirsten! We’ll have to make a decision — north or further west? — when we reach Tahiti. Still don’t know for sure but leaning towards NZ at the moment…it’s a heck of a lot easier to sail there than back to the NW once we get that far south! Sure would love to sail with you and Steven though! Miss you both and I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog. Looking forward to having 3-4 weeks soon with little to do but read, eat, relax, write and sail. 🙂