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Sailing in Baja

I’m a lucky bastard with a lousy memory. That’s 2 good reasons for choosing photography as a profession, so at least I have visual proof of all the great things I do in my life.

In the last 12 years I (think) I’ve been sailing in the Sea of Cortes, Baja California 8 times. I keep going back because I get invited to join other’s trips and because I love Baja as much as any ecosystem in the world. I’m always happy to be there.


Thanks to Google Earth and NASA you can appreciate the invitingly convoluted coastline of the offshore islands that lie in a daisy chain just to the North of La Paz.. Each cove is an anchorage going from whitesand beach shelving gradually to to aquamarine shallows and on to deep blue sea and usually protected from 3 sides.

and from 200′ it looks just as inviting.

To leave an anchored sailboat, paddle ashore in a kayak, set off hiking uphill, reach a plateau of red slab rock scattered with looser rubble, hardy stunted plants and tall cardon cacti and there to stretch and feel the wind under the sun and to look out over a seascape of other rocky islands backdropped by mountains and washed by bluewater….

well, it’s heaven on earth for me. For Gordy too, I reckon.


The islands of southern Baja are all about the quiet, the solitude, the elements encompassed, the resilience of nature in a sparse environment, the cleanliness and purity of the light, air and the sounds. It’s a place for meditation with your eyes open observing everything from the expansive to the minute. It’s a feel-good movie without the saccharine. Peregrine falcons live there. I even saw a Maltese falcon there….fair dinkum. Read on.


The first time I went there was with Emily.

(that’s Richey on the bowsprit. Emily’s the 30 footer).

She was lovingly built by one of San Francisco Bay’s boat-building legends, Bill Garvey. She was sweet in every way except for her engine (which is paradoxically and too often the way in sailboats). Richey is also a boat builder so Emily, because she was so well put together, never left anything to do for crafstman Richey so he sold her and set about renovating a string of old woodies that needed his love and his weekends. Emily was also the vehicle for the nuptial flight of me and the missus but that’s another story entirely.

Most other visits to the Sea have been aboard boats from the Moorings fleet out of La Paz. One time we got a catamaran which was like sailing an oil rig but also very accomodating as a viewing paltform.

The majority of trips were made on pop-out Beneteau monohulls produced for the bare-boat charter business. As such they have plenty of water and fuel capacity, plenty of heads and just enough performance to keep them out of too much trouble.

And when you’ve had enough sailing you can always just park the bloody thing and…

go fishing

go swimming



or explore while someone else does the driving.

You can skip rocks,

balance on a rock

balance your own rocks

or see how Nature does it.

You can find seashells by the seashore,

or practice the ancient art of fossicking.

Sailboats and Baja are good for family reunions

good for the young

the young-at-heart

and the old farts who can rediscover their youth too in the course of an average day’s shenanigans!

In Baja,like anywhere, you can wait for photos to come to you or you can go looking for them.

Oh. And the Maltese Falcon? She was there with us in Ensenada Grande on Isla Espritu Santo – all 289 feet of her and attended by sundry support craft from a classic 100′ European motor-sailor to a two-man sub! The largest privately owned yacht in the world.

more pix from the 2008 sailing tour of Baja

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A Weekend Away

Puerto Vallarta is the sort of love:hate place you need to get away from every so often in order to keep that ratio in a healthy balance. Fortunately there are easy getaways in any compass direction (except west unless you have a boat or are a strong swimmer).

A couple of weekends ago I went south about 100km to camp on the beach at Bahia Chamela at a place called Xametla. I took along Cashew for some company that didn’t require dialogue and together we had this beautiful place to ourselves. Cashew is a slightly silly version of a pit bull that doesn’t look for fights and avoids pits. She does however love to chase a moving target but doesn’t quite know what to do when the quarry is cornered. Cats and even squirrels usually have the last word. Tossed coconuts are more easily pursued, subdued and chewed.

She loves the beach but never says no to a road trip anywhere.

After a lazy start we’d arrived late in the afternoon but time enough to swim, walk and read a bit before the sun settled down for a prolonged sunset.

The onshore breeze went with the sun and the extended twilight that followed heralded an annoying spate of no-see-ums (hehenes). Repeated infusions of cold beer dulled the annoyance and lime juice eased the itching. A glorious sunset and call to tripod also took the mind off the pesky little insects. We slept soundly, Cashew inviting herself into my hammock with the pre-dawn chill. What a pussy.

A little further south down the Costa Alegre on the way to Careyes is one of my favourite seafood restaurants, La Viuda, which proves every time that you can’t beat fresh fish and that an eatery doesn’t have to be flash or expensive to be top notch.

A secondary reason for the weekend away was to revisit careyes to present some photographic prints of a job I’d recently performed there, shooting some of their hallmark villas.

A tertiary reason for the road trip was to watch some international polo as USA, Canada and Central America competed for the right to play in the 2008 World Polo Championship. Canada won. Mexico, being the host nation for the 2008 tournament also get to go.

The afternoon’s event was a good spectacle but the highlight was when the excitable Cashew, who had been dutifully restrained from pursuing the equestrian targets, finally wriggled out of her collar and ran on to the field, causing chaos, general panic and eliciting curses from players and umpires but conservative cheers from the small crowd. She eventually singled out one retreating horse and gave a spirited and high speed chase down the length of the field, prompting one heckler to suggest that they paint a number on her flank for the next chukka. I’d have photos of the action but was too busy chasing after the bloody dog….!

And as if that wasn’t excitement enough…. on the drive back to PV the next day we happened upon a recent accident involving a fuel tanker and a case of exceso de velocidad which delayed our return to PV but added some different photos to the weekend’s catalogue.

Where to next weekend? Cashew’s next adventure?


Stay tuned.