It’s possible to best the Baja Bash with no overnight runs.
Article by Pat Rains
April 19, 2017 | SEA MAGAZINE
Late spring is when many boaters return to the U.S. from Mexico, before the onset of hurricane season. The home stretch is a 720-mile motor dead to windward, from Cabo San Lucas to the customs dock in San Diego. Many captains and crews would like to take on the bash in daylight runs, anchoring and getting a good night’s sleep before the next day’s bash. Let’s say the average powerboat cruises at 10 knots and that Baja is known for its paucity of good anchorages. Knowing that, is anchoring every night even possible? The short answer is yes — with one exception, which is the first leg. A big contributing factor is that in the spring there are almost 14 hours of useable daylight.
LEG 1: Cabo San Lucas to Santa Maria, 180 miles, 18 hours
Leave at first light, which happens to be the calmest time to round the cape. Round it within a mile, because wind and seas are worse farther out. Then turn north and parallel the coast 2 to 5 miles offshore, which is longer than a straight shot to Santa Maria, but wind and seas are calmer closer in, and the current may even be favorable. It’s worth the added miles. Abeam of Boca Flor de Malva, head to a point at least 2 miles off Cape Tosca, standing well clear of the shoals in the false southern entrance to Bahia Magdalena. Then run parallel to the two islands that form the outside of Bahia Magdalena and bypass the entrance to Mag Bay. Doing so brings you into Bahia Santa Maria at midnight, the only night run on the outside of Baja.
Normally, I recommend never entering a harbor at night that one has never been in before, but Santa Maria from the south is a very rare exception. It is wide open from that direction and has a huge expanse of anchorage with a good sand bottom in the enormous lee of the mountain that creates Cape San Lazaro. Come into 30 feet of water at least 1 mile east of Mt. San Lazaro and well clear of the lagoon entrance. Turn in. Six hours of sleep is a lot better than nothing. If that’s not enough, sleep in and spend the entire following day and night.
LEG 2: Santa Maria to San Juanico, 96 miles, 9.6 hours
Leave at first light. Even with 14 hours of daylight to work with, I still leave early to offset any unforeseen delays. Once the boat is around Cape San Lazaro, it’s a straight shot to San Juanico, which is a good anchorage, though not as large as Santa Maria. Ashore is a small village.
LEG 3: San Juanico to Abreojos, 65 miles, 6.5 hours
Sleeping in is permissible. After a leisurely breakfast, raise anchor and ease around Punta Pequena, but stand well off its shoals. Once clear of Punta Santo Domingo, it’s a straight shot to Abreojos. I prefer to anchor in the calm bight northeast of Abreojos village known as Campo en Medio. From this anchorage it’s possible to mount a panga expedition with a guide into the nearby whale watching lagoon of San Ignacio, but by late spring the grey whales have already migrated north. Abreojos has a very active fishing coop that monitors VHF Channel 16. In case of an emergency, the coop members have a rescue vessel and can be quite helpful.
LEG 4: Abreojos to Turtle Bay, 104 miles, 10.4 hours
Depart at first light. Pass carefully offshore of the reefs Bajo Knepper, Bajo Wright, Roca Ballena and La Rinchadora. They give Abreojos its name, which means Eyes Open! Once you clear the reefs, parallel the coast to the northwest. This run can be cut approximately in two by stopping overnight in Asuncion, an excellent anchorage, at about 50 miles. In Turtle Bay, anchor off the town pier. Fuel is available by Med mooring to the pier or having it delivered by panga. Restaurants are plentiful ashore, and while they don’t provide fine dining, nobody on board has to cook. The town has a small medical clinic.
LEG 5: Turtle Bay to Islas San Benitos, 57 miles, 5.7 hours
This is a short day, so sleep in. Once underway, pass outside of Isla Natividad and Cedros, to avoid the current and the fishing nets and pots in Dewey Channel. The approach to San Benitos is wide open from the south. I like to anchor halfway between the large western island and the smaller middle island, but be mindful of some submerged rocks. This is one of my favorite stops because of its isolation and the large sea lion, seal and sea elephant rookery on the middle island.
LEG 6: San Benitos to San Quintin, 126 miles, 12.6 hours
Depart at first light, because there is just enough daylight to accommodate a 10-knot passage. Exit through the channel between the middle and east islands, but know that this is potentially the roughest leg of the trip; it’s usually bounciest at departure and lessens as you close again with the coast. If you can’t make it to San Quintin before dark, shorten the run to 100 miles by anchoring at Punta Baja. The anchorage at Bahia San Quintin is large, well protected and similar to Santa Maria. Anchor in 30 feet of water well to the east of the lagoon entrance.
LEG 7: San Quintin to Ensenada, 107 miles, 10.7 hours
Depart at first light for another long run. In Ensenada, present the necessary documents and clear out at the CIS offices on the harbor front.
LEG 8: Ensenada to San Diego, 65 miles, 6.5 hours
Consider an early departure to ensure arrival at San Diego’s customs dock on Shelter Island during business hours, to avoid any overtime charges or long wait times.