Squeezing thru the narrow, reef fringed San Lorenzo Channel that separates Isla Espiritu Santo from the Baja Peninsula, we sailed on in to Balandra Cove, famous for its beautiful turquoise shelf where clear water meets shallow white sand. Looking at charts of the cove, we knew that there would not be much protection from north winds common this time of the year, but we were so smitten by photographs of this inviting cove that we steeled ourselves to tolerate an uncomfortable anchorage for a chance to enjoy this subtropical paradise. Indeed, Balandra Cove almost meets the trifecta of anchorage perfection; beauty, isolation and internet connection, were it not for how unprotected it is. Our first night, waves coming into the cove were so choppy that for the second time ever on Monsoon, we had to sleep outside in the cockpit to avoid seasickness, as our bow rose and fell 5 feet with each wave.
The next morning, waking up from a dream where Monsoon had beached herself on a shopping mall staircase, we were rewarded with a scene from a travel catalog. A bright turquoise shelf stretched before us, framed by a mangrove on its furthest end, and desert cliffs dotted with drought resistant scrub on either side. Pushing thru the fog of grumpiness that a bucking boat can create, we dinghied to shore, waving at neighboring sailors with big smiles on their faces.
With glee, we stepped off our dinghy a quarter mile away from the beach into thigh high water, warmed quickly in the sun by its sheer shallowness. Just because we could, we anchored Clementine right there, and Rowan was off the dinghy, happily splashing and playing with handfuls of sand picked up from underwater. This is a child that is deathly afraid of bath times after novice parenting resulted in an unhappy introduction to swimming pools, but he enjoyed himself thoroughly nonetheless. Then, just because we could, with Rowan standing at the bow of the dinghy like the captain of his own boat, we walked clear across the cove, towing Clementine behind us, water never coming higher than waist level.
Avoiding the mangrove full of wasps, we made our way to the main beach where tourists are offloaded by bus for the day. We hiked up a small cliff overlooking the water in time to see a panorama of the cove at noon, when the angle of the sun shows the turquoise shelf at its most brilliant.
As tourists would know from the images on tchotchke souvenirs sold downtown, Balandra Cove is synonymous with a particular mushroom shaped rock on it’s shore. Wading up to the structure, we feasted our eyes on this famous outcrop, now repaired with a metal bar down its center after being toppled by vandals. “ It’s… cute. Kind of a lot smaller than I expected”, we noted, watching as a tourist used the shade of the rock like an umbrella, busily sending text messages on his phone.
With the sun setting over the cliffs, we rowed over to the other side of the cove, picking a deserted beach to call our own. Tourists were packing up busses to return home, but we had the freedom to stay here as long as we wanted. Rowan picked up pebbles and giggled as he dropped them into surf, water gently lapping against his feet. Sleeping in the cockpit turned out to have been worth it after all.