Isla San Francisco


Panorama of Isla San Francisco.
The Sierra La Giganta mountain range across the channel.

In the middle of the Sea of Cortez lies a small island with a big personality. At only 1.5 square miles, San Francisco Island is home to steep rocky hills, flat dry scrubland, white salt flats, pebbly beaches and rocky reefs. With a view of the majestic Sierra La Giganta to the west, the main anchorage is a favorite among cruisers that come to enjoy the view and protection from wind and waves. The fecundity of the island’s water is evident by the number of pelicans fishing the bay and local fishermen in pangas, throwing out nets for baitfish, followed by lines thrown out for larger species.

Alex scouts out a trail for us to hike up, while the rest of us speculate on what is the best route.
View at the top of the hill, looking down into a turquoise snorkeling cove.

Here, we rendezvoused with our friends on S/V Seachelle and S/V Litha that we had first met on Isla Espiritu Santo and San Diego respectively. It was a happy coincidence as Alex from Seachelle and Kim from Litha were both celebrating their birthdays during the few days that we were all gathered at anchor. In a life filled with constant traveling and goodbyes, it was a treat to spend several days surrounded by familiar faces, catching up on sailing stories and perspectives on expat living while sharing meals and birthday cake on each other’s boats. Rowan especially enjoyed the company of the kids on Litha, despite age differences.

Rowan helps daddy negotiate a way thru prickly plants.
The east and west anchorages, separated by a salt flat, are seen from the top of a hill.

Out on a group hike, I was reminded of one of the benefits of spending time with others: stepping out of your comfort zone. Alex, who has been to the island before, led us all up a hill trying to find the highest point on the island. Soon we were scrabbling up a loosely pebbled hillside that seemed sheer vertical from ground level, following a barely visible animal trail, feeling like maybe we had taken on more than we had bargained for. At this point however, it was easier to go up than slide back down, so we persevered. When we reached the top of the hill, our efforts were rewarded by a breathtaking view of Isla San Francisco, looking across the water to the colorful mountains and down to turquoise coves all around. Rocky outcrops all around us sheltered interesting plants and shy lizards. Making up our route as we hiked along, we managed to find a more gradual trail back down to the water, and enjoyed the thrill of having arrived in one piece. Our hike ended on the beach on the opposite side of the island, where everyone made a fun project of looking for amethyst geodes that were rumored to be found here.

Coral found on the beach.
A collection of Sea of Cortez seashells.

All too soon, it was time to say our goodbyes. Our friends were headed south, while we were making our way north. The sea before us stretched blue, vast and mysterious. It was sad to see them go, but we knew we would meet again, and have more stories and experiences to share when we did.

Cruisers teach us how to eat like locals
Pastel tres leches
Pico de gallo
Agua Jamaica

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