San Juanico

The rocky peninsula at San Juanico looks pretty from above in calm weather, but with those rocks everywhere, it is definitely a lot scarier from (bucking) boat level in bad weather.

San Juanico serves as a sort of rite of passage for cruisers sailing the Sea of Cortez. Featuring majestic rock formations, turquoise water and excellent snorkeling, it is also where a Cruisers’ Shrine can be found, nestled in a small tree to one side of the beach. Sitting in my office in San Diego, I used to read the blogs of other cruisers, or watch their YouTube videos, and fantasize about one day being able to see such a shrine. What a great way to feel a part of our small but connected society! So naturally, the shrine was the focus of my attention in the months leading up to us getting there. 

Something good to keep in mind.

Checking the weather, we decided upon a good window for us to depart. However, this still being the Sea of Cortez, a ‘good’ window is still highly subjective. So, as we were nearing our destination, we found ourselves once again caught in a classic confused sea state, with building winds and sharp waves sapping the last of our energy. Even worse, we noticed that our planned anchorage was totally unprotected from wind coming this direction. Hunting around the bay, we spied our friends Xpression and Cavu, whom we met in La Salina, pitching sickeningly in the anchorage that we had planned, and other anchorages in the half moon bay not looking much better. Tired and increasingly concerned that we may have to keep sailing in worsening weather, we were glad to hear Xpression hailing us on the radio. They said that they were going to pull anchor and sail on over to the other side of the point, to an anchorage that we had not noticed on our map before, Ramada Cove. Relieved, we followed them over to what turned out to be a small but very protected spot. Not exactly in front of the Cruisers’ Shrine, but still only a nice hike away from it. Finding a good spot to drop anchor, we watched as the sea state outside got progressively worse, and finally saw Cavu rocking and rolling in too, glad for the protection of the little cove. In fact, it was so protected that after awhile, the kids on Xpression got into their dinghy to do a bit of laundry by hand, with help from a hand cranked wringer.

The low key cruisers’ shrine.
Cruisers use what they have on the boat or the beach.

In the bright sunshine of the next morning, we opened our hatch to see tourists wading around the rocky outcrop close by. A perfect day to go hiking to the shrine. On the hills surrounding us stood a few summer vacation houses, accessible by sandy dirt roads. The top of the hill provided a beautiful panorama of the rock features that  characterize this place, at once idyllic as a desktop wallpaper, and scary as you start to notice how rocky the anchorage is wedged in slivers of water between imposing rock faces. Descending to the beach, we found the Cruisers’ Shrine; a jumble of memorabilia from a large assortment of cruising boats that has accumulated over the years, clustered around a small tree. Homemade signs bearing the names of boats and crew, messages in bottles, decorations that boat kids made out of their beach treasures. Some boats visit again and again each season, with subsequent years added on their signs. The cruising community may be relatively obscure, but in the shade of this tiny tree, we felt a sense of connection with the people that share our lifestyles and with whom we become close friends, regardless of age, experience, origin or social-economic status. These people have travelled many hundreds of miles, some across oceans, some over the course of decades, some with children, some with disabilities, but all of us have ended up in this spot, enjoying the privilege of experiencing one of the last wild places in the world which is the Sea of Cortez. 

A boat portrait.
We should probably have thought of something a bit more special, but here’s our on the spot contribution.

Before leaving the area to continue on the Conception Bay, we made a stop at Punta Pulpito, along with our now buddy boats Xpression and Cavu. Merely a tiny cove formed by a point of land sloping upwards like a pulpit, it did not offer much protection against wraparound swells, but nevertheless featured the clearest water and the best snorkeling that we have encountered so far. In the shallow crystalline water, a grassy seabed played home to a good variety of fish, unafraid of these strange human visitors. Right under our boat, small and shy garden eels stuck their heads out of the sand like beansprouts, quickly ducking back underground when they noticed that they were being watched. Rowan was happy to have a quick dip in the warm water, floating calmly around in our yellow horseshoe float with papa beside him.

Punta Pulpito.

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