What’s your favorite cruising destination?

dolphins sea of cortez

With 71% of our planet covered by oceans, there is no shortage of places to explore by boat. So when asked what we thought were the world’s most exotic sailing location, well, I had to wonder: how could we possibly choose just one from among our favorites? I asked the question on Totem’s facebook page and had a slew of interesting suggestions… so we started thinking more about ours.

In interviews we have done for podcasts or print, the question of a favorite place typically comes up. I’m not sure we’ve referenced the same place twice, because not only is it hard to pick one, but we don’t all agree: should it be Papua New Guinea’s Ninigo island, Suwarrow atoll in the Cook Islands, the glorious Tuamotus in French Polynesia, or Banda Neira in Indonesia? Pushed to name a selection of favorites there’s one place that all five of us bring up, especially as it falls father into hindsight. Mexico, and in particular the Sea of Cortez, is a stunning place to go cruising. By one measure after another, it is simply an epic destination. We spent about a year and a half in Mexico, and more than four months in the Sea of Cortez, between 2009 and 2010. Why do we love it? Why should you go?

Soak up the larger-than-life landscapes. I expected to dislike the desert; I expected to dislike it quite a bit, in fact. In truth, it is spectacular. I found it impossible to resist the lure of this stunning, majestic landscape. Anchorages in the Sea of Cortez offer these one after the other.

Simply spectacular landscapes of the desert
Simply spectacular landscapes of the desert

Dive into unforgettable snorkeling. In Agua Verde, we spent many hours taking in the beautiful clear water of the bay. There aren’t corals here to speak of, it’s too far north, but the diversity of fish and other marine life exceeded anything else we saw underwater in Mexico, especially out at the pinnacle ‘Roca Solitaria.’

Enjoying the view
That’s Roca Solitaria on the right, distant

Be utterly and completely alone. Crown yourself regent at one uninhabited island after another. Some might want to turn up the speakers, but what’s truly special is the ability to luxuriate in the glorious silence of a night uncluttered with a single other man-made sound, just the occasional howl of a coyote.

no neighbors here

Surround yourself with vibrant Mexican culture. When you’re finished with the solitude, communities sprinkled along the Baja side of the Sea are vital counterpoints to the desert space.

dia de los muertos
The same gravesite, before and after Dia de los Muertos

Lose yourself in the food. On one hand, there is the incredible food to be found in towns: from the classic fish taco with queso fresco, to one with succulent fresh shrimp, grilled and tucked into a warm corn tortilla. Should I mention the bacon-wrapped hot dogs of Santa Rosalia? The flip side of the awesome food is the utter and total lack of anyplace to buy groceries for some very long stretches. That might be a downside for some, but we loved the lessons it gave us in planning, self sufficiency, and foraging.

fish fishing
catching sand bass for dinner in the northern Sea

The beachcombing is insane. Byproduct of so many miles of coastline and so little of… well, anything. Fish, whale bones, agates, glorious shells, ancient artifacts, desiccated starfish, rusted industrial remnants. It’s all here and more.

we attempted to cull the collection at one point
we attempted to cull the collection at one point

You can go sailing! OK, that’s a bit tongue in cheek- this is about a favorite sailing destination, after all.  And yes, we did our fair share of motorsailing and motoring there, too, but the sails on Totem had a LOT more use during a few months in the Sea of Cortez then they have in a year and a half in Southeast Asia.

sailing sailboat sails
She sails! thanks to Jesse Stephens for this photo of Totem.

History lives here. From an anchorage you can spot the middens that are hallmarks of ancient settlements, long lost to memory. Walk around them and you can find arrowheads, heat-cracked stones, and more.

Petroglyphs near El Burro

Mexico didn’t show up as one of of the picks on the LOOK campaign that prompted this post, and I think it deserves a spot. But check out their favorites: the list started out feeling a little predictable, then took a left turn with an entirely unexpected destination that grabbed my interest. No spoilers, find out for yourself!

11 Responses

  1. Thank you for bringing back a flood of fabulous memories of the Sea. As we adjust to life on land for a while and our boat sits on the hard in San Carlos, we are making plans for the next adventure. Perhaps we should stop looking far and consider getting to the many places in the Sea that we didn’t make it to yet……hmmmm

  2. Your comments about Mexico echo those of many of our friends and customers. Mexico is spectacular and really a pretty easy place to be. We enjoyed spending time with you and the kids there and still have some photos of the children from when Jim and Diana were visiting. They’re barely recognizable though as they’ve grown so much in the past 5 years.

  3. We just completed our one year in the Sea and have to agree. We can’t believe how many beautiful anchorages where we snorkeled and hiked and never saw another soul. We got out of the Sea and sailed down to Zihuatanejo, but everyone wanted to turn around and get back to the clear waters and abundant marine life of the Sea. Yesterday, we sailed 10.3 knots on a clear day with small swell coming out of Bahia de Los Angeles. How can you beat that? Awesome.
    Now, if we could just get more sailing families into the northern part of the Sea!

      1. Hi Michael! We are so bummed that we won’t have the opportunity to join you guys. We had to head into Puerto Peñasco earlier than planned because we lost our water pump AND our water maker on the same day. Aarrggh! We hope to raise money and parts and be back in Dec to fix her and head out for the holidays . Please wish Eleanor a very happy birthday and we will reach out when we return to see if we can meet up!
        Take care!

  4. Its nice to hear a voice so natural to the surroundings. Giving Mexico a pleasant simplified sailors view, LOVE it! We have yet to take our boat into Mexican waters but when we do I will think of this and take it all in 🙂 Thank you for this, Abrazos.

  5. I understand the difficulty of finding just ONE favourite destinations. I have been spending the last 2 weeks working on a television show about our favourite Top 10 Destinations – it was hard enough to cut it down to 10 🙂 But here’s a vote for the Bahamas – we have spent nearly 2 years cruising here out of our 25 years cruising. It surely has the prettiest blue waters anywhere!

    1. It was hard for us to come up with a “group favorite” (we all have different individual picks!) after six years. I cannot IMAGINE trying to settle on one after 25! Guess we better keep the Bahamas on our wish list of destinations- so curious about your other nine, now!

Comments are closed.