VAGABUNDOS DEL MAR 2006 SEA OF CORTEZ SMALL BOAT ANNIVERSARY CRUISE
July 11, 2006, Jay Hammer, Baja California, Mexico:
The Vagabundos del Mar Boat and Travel Club, a Baja club now having over 15,000 members from all over the western United States, commemorated their 40th year by reenacting the crossing of the Sea of Cortez. In the old days in order to become a member you had to cross the Sea of Cortez in a small boat, in those days about 18 to 19 feet with a 25 horse engine.
This year's Baja cruise started out June 24, 2006, with a trailer boat caravan from Tijuana to Bahia Los Angeles lead by me, Jay Hammer.
Another boat caravan crossed the border at Nogales, Ariz., and headed to San Carlos, Sonora.
The plan was to meet at "Dog Bay" off the tip of Tiburon Island, ancient home to the Seri Indian nation who are famous for their ironwood carvings.
As usual I signed off at school, hooked up my boat and headed for KOA Chula Vista. I like spending the night here so the next day I can cross the border early, 6 A.M., and meet up the Vags who were caravanning at the first terminal on the Baja toll road to Ensenada.
This year I had three boats waiting. A 26 foot Skipjack "Black Knight", 24 foot Striper "Alley Jack", 23 foot Wellcraft "Betty Boop" and of course my boat "Hammer Time." We ambled down the Baja road through Ensenada and took a stop at La Paloma Santo Tomas for a brunch and rest before we tackled the Santo Tomas grade.
After a pleasant rest we headed up the hill towards San Quintin our first Baja night rest. Upon reaching Rancho Cielito Lindo, San Quintin the group split up as some went to the La Pinta Hotel, others to the Cielito Lindo Hotel and the rest to Gypsy's dry campground.
The nice thing about Gypsy's is you're by the sand dunes of the beach, a strong wind keeps the flies down, and most important, clean rest rooms and hot showers. The price per night had gone up from last year from $5 to $10 but was still reasonable for the services.
While setting up two more Vags came rolling in, Thoma 28 foot skipjack with captain Larry and a new face "Heavy Metal" 23 foot aluminum boat just purchased in Southern California. Next morning after a night of the famous "Stone Crab" dinners and killer Margarita's, everybody wandered into the "Buzzard" for breakfast burritos and black coffee. We lined up and headed out to Bahia Los Angeles.
We had a walkie-talkie in the front and tail of the Baja caravan.
As we were heading out of San Quintin toward El Rosario, the fatal words came over the walkie-talkie: "We have a problem". Turning around we found that Black Knight had thrown a tire on his dual axel trailer.
We went back found the tire and contemplated our dilemma. Soon a car stopped and recommended a mechanic "Antonio" which we promptly called and twenty minutes later showed up.
He recommended that Black Knight return to San Quintin for repairs. The rest of the caravan went on, hoping the best for Black Knight.
At about 2 P.M., June 25, 2006, we arrived at Bahia Los Angeles, splashed the boats and head to Don Juan cove for a night on the water. The next morning we had a quick breakfast and head for Isla Tiburon and Dog Bay 60 miles away.
We had an absolutely flat sea for the crossing and cruised through Cactus Pass and into Dog Bay. We were the second boat here as a boat from Loreto had already arrived. Anyway we threw the hook, my backup Danforth anchor, as I came to find out my primary Bruce had bounced off the shackle to the bottom on the trip over, and relaxed for the afternoon.
Throughout the day the boats from San Carlos gradually started to arrive until we had 14 boats anchored in the small bay. Although this was a rolly anchorage and we endured a summer rainstorm, the night was uneventful.
The next day we busted across the choppy San Esteban Channel, cruised by Isla San Esteban onto the whirlpools and cross currents of Isla Lorenzo and then into San Francisquito Bay's inner white sand harbor. Here we encountered the "Tortuga" a 55 foot Trawler who had come up the coast for the cruise. As some boats were in need of fuel, a few went ashore and walked into Rancho Barrile, and bought gas, beer and a taco lunch for the next leg of the trip.
The next day "BOLA" Baja group of Hammer Time, Alley Jack, Betty Boop and Tahoma went out fishing on their way to the north slot of the Isla Salsipuedes anchorage. Throughout the trip Alley Jack caught numerous fish, ten different species, which Rico generously shared with the other boats so we had fish every night.
The hot ticket was the deep diving "Fire Tiger" MirrorOLure, Rapala "Fire Tiger" and the "Gulp" lures, which were especially effective with Cabrilla and small Grouper.
After Isla Salsipuedes we decided to go to Isla Partida instead of Estanque because there was an interest to fishing the area. Alley Jack wound up with some 20 to 30 pound yellowtail. A Tony Reyes mother ship moved in for the afternoon and had great sport catching Squid. As the sun set the mothership headed north for their next destination. The next day we headed for Bernabe Rocks for some fishing and were lucky with the Rapalas for yellowtail.
We then cranked it up and headed for Don Juan where to our surprise we ran into "Black Knight". He told us about getting the wheel fixed in San Quintin then having his brakes go out in El Rosario where another guy worked on it, and finally making it to Bahia Los Angeles, still minus trailer brakes where he turned it over to the competent Sammy Diaz to work on while they were cruising. After a pleasant lunch and with a rising tide we all went into Bahia de Los Angeles for haul out.
This officially ended the 40th Anniversario Cruise. "Alley Cat" headed back to Los Angeles, Heavy Metal fished all over the area but kind of went on his own plan, and Tahoma turned south with the big boat cruise south to Loreto.
As for Hammer Time, Betty Boop and Black Knight, we spent the night at Papa Diaz' and pushed south by road the next day for Loreto and the 21st Annual Dorado Tornea.
On Baja's Highway Mex 1, we stopped in San Ignacio at Rice and Beans for a pleasant lunch and then onto Santo Rosalia and the El Morro Hotel, which overlooks the harbor. At night you can look out over the water and see 100's of boats with little lights fishing for squid.
There has been so much squid the last few years that there is a squid processing plant being built in the north part of town. Later that night we went into town and hit the ATM machine to replenish our pesos.
The next day we had a wonderful breakfast at the "Pollito" and stopped at the llantera to fix a tire and buy a spare.
Back on the road we happily breezed to Loreto. For some reason the Federale stops were not being manned and it was nice not having to stop for inspection. Upon entering Loreto, Black Knight launched at Puerto Escondido, Betty Boop, checked into the Tripui trailer park, and Hammer Time beach launched at Juncalito. We then took a day of rest.
The 21st Annual Dorado Tournament started on Monday.
Fishing with Jose Torres Sportfishing, guia Manuel Torres, I was lucky enough to finally catch the largest dorado (also mahi-mahi), 37 pounds, for the first day of competition which featured 65 anglers. The last three years I had experienced a string of second place finishes. Rolling the dice Tuesday, Hammer Time came up empty, but on Wednesday weighed in the second best fish.
The fishing was the best it had been in years as anglers if you can imagine had to keep pulling baits away from marlin and sail fish, which were all over the place. To fight one of these would seriously cut into your Dorado time as there were no awards for billfish and fish had to be weighed by 2 P.M. A great time was had by all and we made it back across the border without incident.
Next year 2007:
"San Felipe" cruise, Gonzaga, Refugio, Estanque, Partida, to Bahia Los Angeles, three day Yellowtail Tournament and return cruise to San Felipe. For more information on the Vagabundos Del Mar go to vagabundos.com.
(See "Mexico Fishing News" online for current fishing reports, photos, weather, and water temperatures from Baja and other major Mexican sportfishing areas. Vacation travel articles, fishing maps and seasonal calendars, and fishing related information for Baja California may be found at Mexfish.com's main Baja page.