The Cruiser’s Shrine Tree … San Juanico

As I’ve said before, each anchorage and city here in Mexico has its own unique charm IMG_E3718and Caleta San Juanico is no exception. This idyllic little anchorage is just 26 nautical miles north of Loreto and offers some of the most beautiful remote beaches, awesome cliffs, hiking trails, superb clear water diving, snorkeling and so much more. With room for many boats, it’s a big hit with cruisers and once you’ve visited this magical place you’ll understand why.

One of the unique features here is the Cruiser Shrine Tree. I’ve tried to find information on how, why and when this shrine was created but there isn’t much out there. No one seems to know the history yet many cruisers have stopped to adorn it along their way cruiser-tree.jpgthrough the Sea of Cortez. It does appear that the shrine has been there for at least 20-30 years which is evidenced by some of the dates on the decorations we saw. Unfortunately due to the location of the tree, some ornaments do not last long. We were just there at the end of June and when we arrived again in mid October many of the items we saw laid out upon the ground around the tree were gone. We can only assume they were taken out to sea with the arrival of Tropical Storm Lidia in early September.

When we stopped by in June we didn’t stay at the anchorage as the winds were out of the south and this just isn’t a good anchorage with those types of winds. Instead we stayed around the corner at La Ramada but Dan and I brought the dink over one day, visited the shrine tree and did some fishing. This is where he caught a Mobula Ray! Now that was something to see. You can see the ray video by CLICKING HERE!

Having only been on the water a short time I wasn’t prepared to create and leave a decoration on the tree during our initial stop. Also, I wanted to see what others had done first as I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard some cruisers call the tree a junk pile or eyesore but honestly, I found it to be rather interesting. No, it’s not exactly a beauty to behold but it did sort of speak to me. So many cruisers have been there and left a piece of themselves over the years. It had me wondering who these people were, where they had been before and where they are now. Dan knows many of the cruisers who have left their nautical mark upon the shrine. Cruisers who have sailed this far north into the sea are a fairly close nit group and after four summers here Dan knows many them.


The tree sits on a remote beach in virtually the middle of nowhere and cruisers from all walks of life leave their mark. Some decorations are as simple as a shell with a boat name and year scribbled on the surface while others are well thought out pieces of nautical art that display poetry, photos, paintings and more. There are adornments made of old shoes, rocks, driftwood, beer bottles and I even saw one made of a pair of old boating shorts! There are literally a couple hundred decorations adorning the tree and the surrounding rocks.

Having seen this eclectic “masterpiece” I started to formulate a design in my head. As we continued to travel throughout the sea this summer I started to collect shells, rocks and other items from the beaches we visited. I didn’t have an exact design but I had a good idea of where I wanted to start. And, Dan is always so creative so of course I wanted to be sure he joined in on the process too. And, he did!

Throughout the summer we found just about everything I had in my head except the piece of wood to attach things to and then it happened. Our cutting board split down the middle. Ahhh Ha! The perfect piece of wood to use for the base and it had been a part of Dazzler for quite sometime. BONUS! You know, except that we had to buy a new cutting board, but whatever…it was perfect for our little project.

Anyway, the summer had come and gone and we began our journey south. The time came for me to stop thinking and start creating. A few days before we reached San Juanico Dan burned the boat name, our names and the year into the wood with his wood burning tool. Once that was done I started to work on how the collected items would be added. I laid everything out on the table and just started playing around with designs as we started nearing San Juanico.

Decor with LabelsIt was important to me that our artwork included items from as many places as possible and that it was a true representation of Dazzler and her crew. Once I decided where everything was going, Dan jumped in and assembled it and I can tell you this, we probably have the most durable ornament on the tree. He didn’t use glue; he used epoxy. He used special plastic clips and wire to hold on the rope and he even used Spectra line to attach the hanging shells. Yes, ours is one solid decoration.

The night before we took our addition to the tree we scattered some of my father’s ashes in the anchorage. We have small vials with his ashes on board and we scatter them at special places along the way. Dad was a sailor and loved the sea so it was befitting to bring him along. Also, I truly believe my Daddy sent Dan to me. He wanted me to have a love who was as true to me as he was to my mother. After scattering Dad’s ashes we attached that vial to the decoration.

On October 19th we hopped in the dink and headed to shore to add our piece of nautical art to the shrine. Dan found a great spot to hang it that appears to be somewhat protected so hopefully it will be there for many years to come. I would love to visit this special place again one day and find out artwork still hanging there.

CLICK HERE to watch a short video of The Cruiser Shrine Tree.

Until next time,


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Author: Dan & Jilly

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