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Jilly’s Top 5 Anchorages In The Sea Of Cortez

Well, as you know we spent the summer sailing the Sea of Cortez and have visited some of the most magical and beautiful places on earth. Having visited so many amazing places it is hard to pick just five favoriates because each anchorage has its own special charm. Each time we get to a new spot I think, “Now THIS is my favorite place on earth.” Then we move to the next place and it’s even more beautiful. But, I decided on a top 5 and that’s what I’m sticking to for this article. So, without further ado, here we go.

#5 Isla San Francisco  

The anchorage as seen from the ridge line!

This place is truly spectacular. There’s just no other way to describe it. The crescent shaped, crystal blue bay is met at the shore by a white sand beach which leads up to rocky cliffs extending high above the anchorage. There are several hiking trails on the island with one that leads up the ridgeline to the boulder covered peak. We hiked to the top where the views were astonishingly beautiful.

There’s a huge salt pond on the island as well. It’s a pretty interesting sight if you’ve never seen such a thing. When you walk across it you hear a crunching sound that reminds me of traversing a snow covered field.

Across the San José channel from the island is the Giganta mountain range on the Baja peninsula. The sunsets over the mountains are fabulous.

Looking from the west anchorage across the San José Channel to the Giganta Mountains.
View from the trail across the salt pond.

It’s easy to see why this is one of my top 5 anchorages in the Sea of Cortez. From the amazing aqua waters to the hiking trails up to the rocky summit it is truly a wonderful place to spend some time.

#4 Caleta Partida


Caleta Partida is near and dear to my heart for several reasons including the fact that it is one of the first anchorages we visited upon my arrival in May. Dan and I spent five days in this beautiful anchorage one time an another couple of days a few weeks later.

In the early afternoons the water was perfectly flat and beautiful. That’s when the sea turtles would appear and swim around the boat. I wish I had pictures of them but they don’t stay up long enough to get a snapshot. In the early evening the winds sweep through the “window” between the mountains and offer a cool breeze with which to enjoy the evening.

20170515_170128.jpgThere are several Méxican fish camps that dot the shore here. While we were there we would watch in the mornings as the pangeros would hop in their boats and head out to fish for the day. About the time the sun was going down they were coming back into the camps for the night.

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We have wonderful memories of this place and I sure hope to visit it again before we leave the sea. I even scattered some of my father’s ashes here. We have been doing that along the way. Dad loved sailing and adventure. He’d love this adventure we are on! Dan even marks a waypoint on our plotter so we will be able to create a map of the places he’s been with us.

Caleta Partida is a definite “must see” for anyone cruising in the Sea of Cortez. For more pictures of our trips to Caleta Partida, Click Here.

#3 El Alacrán

Las Animas Wilderness Retreat

If you’re cruising in the Sea of Cortez you know one thing. Bees and biting insects can invade the most beautiful of anchorages. Dan and I were at Animas Slot the day before we arrived at El Alacrán. Now let me say that Animas Slot was truly amazing and we had the little gem all to ourselves but the morning after we arrived we were invaded by hundreds of bees. There were so many that Dan wouldn’t allow me outside of the cabin. (I’m allergic to them) Well, even down below I couldn’t escape them. I was making the bunk and was stung. Fortunately Dan was quick to remove the stinger and get me on Benadryl so I didn’t have a major reaction. We immediately bugged out of that truly beautiful place and came to El Alacrán. This turned outimg_2120.jpg
to be a blessing. As you can see above, on the beach is an all-inclusive retreat. The yurts are pretty cool to see and they even have a dog that roams the beach named Chaca. He was pretty sweet. When we landed on the beach with the dink he came running down barking his head off like he was some great attack dog. The minute he reached us he was as docile as a baby bunny. We enjoyed a few minutes with him until we were again inundated by bees!

You see, the bees here are looking for water. That’s what they do in a place as arid as México. The reason we chose El Alacrán is because there is a resort there and they are likely to have water on the island which usually keeps the bees away from the boats. Well, fortunately the bees stayed on the island and left our boat alone this time.

We had the entire anchorage to ourselves which is always a joy. Of course it’s fun to have cruiser neighbors too but there’s something magical about having an entire beach and bay to yourself.

ClownfishAside from the seclusion and beautiful views there was the snorkeling. It’s been a pretty mild summer here in the sea so the waters haven’t been really warm and clear in a lot of places which kept us from doing much snorkeling. El Alacrán, however, had amazing snorkeling. On the north side of the anchorage there is a reef filled with sea life. We took the dink over there and anchored the morning we arrived. There were pangeros there diving for octopus. We never did see them actually get one but they had many on their boat. We spent a couple of hours exploring the beautiful reef before Dan decided he needed a break. He jumped in the dink and I was just a short distance behind him. Just as I neared the dink he said there was a sea lion about 50 yards away. He was in much deeper water so I was a little hesitant to swim out there on my own but Dan started the dink and followed me. OMG! I finally got a chance to swim withSyd a sea lion! Can you say AWESOME DAY? It was a bull so I didn’t get too close but the fact that I was able to get within about eight feet of this amazing animal was so incredible. It truly made my day and my snorkel trip. Later that day we went fishing and found a tiny outcropping of rock where there were about a hundred sea lions. I so love these noisy, smelling beasts!

The fishing here was awesome. The waters were crystal clear and of course, the fact that there were sea lions and I got to swim with one makes this anchorage completely worthy of being #3 on my list!

#2 La Gringa


La Gringa will always hold many fond memories for me which is why it ranks #2 on my list. We arrived in La Gringa in early August for the Cruiser’s Full Moon Party. What a treat this was for us. The estuary that you see above fills with water when the tide comes
la-gringa-float.jpgin and then empties out when the tide goes down. The shallow water is crystal clear and it’s a great place to “ride the tide” on a float or swim noodles. You know, just enjoy a cocktail and cool off after a long, hot day? The estuary rides were a daily event during the time we stayed there. We spent a total of 11 days there on two separate occasions which should tell you how much we truly enjoy this special place.

During one of our estuary rides a school of Golden Rays came swimming toward Dan. One of them brushed up against his leg startling him which caused him to jump out of the water rather abruptly. It was pretty funny. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him move quite so fast. Apparently these rays like to come into the estuary and then as the tide goes out they ride with it. We saw them a Golden Rays2couple of times. I was fortunate to get some awesome video of them swimming directly at me. When they got just a few feet from me they scattered. The picture to the right is from that video. Needless to say, the estuary experience is awesome indeed!

So what else makes this place so special? Well, there’s the many wonderful cruiser friends we spent time with there…Randy & Jodi on SV Free Luff (To check out their blog,   Click Here), Kirk and Kris on SV Linger Longer, Tom and Annie on SV Tappan Zee, Jason and Vicky on SV Volare, and Dave, Laurie and BD on SV Slipper. It was such a joy to spend time with and get to know so many wonderful people.

The fishing at La Gringa was “off the hook” or should that be “on the hook”? We caught Sierra and Dorado and we ate exceptionally well. I’ve caught Dorado on big fishing boats before but never on a dinghy so this was a first for me. Dan and I fished just about every day and we never came back empty handed.

Watching the Dorado go after the bait fish here was awesome! We even saw one chasing bait up the beach in just an few inches of water. Very cool!

La Gringa is also the place where I experienced my first Chubasco. That’s certainly not one of the reasons it’s on my top 5. But, I did get to see firsthand what a truly capable and amazing sailor Dan is and I learned a lot about my own ability to remain calm in the midst of utter chaos on the water, so it wasn’t all bad.

At just six nautical miles north of Bahía de Los Angeles where you can provision and get some wifi as well, this is one great anchorage. La Gringa is a special place and one I highly recommend to anyone visiting the area. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Drumroll please!

And now for Jilly’s pick for the #1 anchorage in the Sea of Cortez…….

#1 Puerto Refugio

IMG_0934.jpgThe guano covered pinnacle marks the entrance to my favorite place in the Sea of Cortez, Puerto Refugio! This astonishingly beautiful place is far north in the sea. Located 40 nautical miles north of Bahía de Los Angeles, this anchorage lies on the northern most tip of Isla Angel de la Guarda. It was our stopping point before and after Puerto Peñasco where we went to have the boat hauled and bottom painted.

IMG_0948What I didn’t know when we passed this picturesque pinnacle was that the beauty that lies here is but a small piece of what was to come. Refugio is, without a doubt, the most beautiful and tranquil spot we visited this summer.

When you pass through the entrance between the islands from the West bay to the East  it is like you have entered another world entirely. As I stood on the bow pulpit looking for shallow rocks I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounded me.

We were the only boat in the area which made it feel as if we were ancient explorers out discovering new lands. The ruggedness of the of the terrain was stunning and the colors, oh the colors! They went from vibrant shades of red and copper to soothing, cool shades 20527581_10207336659293322_2020453379_n copyof blue, green and grey. With each and every turn of my head I was seeing more colors and shapes and textures than my brain could comprehend all at once.

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I heard it. What you ask? The loud barking of the sea lions on Isla Granito, a small island just a mile or so out from the anchorage. What could be better or more adventurous than anchoring in a spot that is only inhabited by wildlife? Oh yes, here we were and I was truly in heaven!

There’s a reason I’ve been called Jungle Jilly most of my life. I LOVE animals and will do just about anything to get up close encounters with wildlife. I wanted to get on the island with the Sea Lions but Dan wasn’t having any part of it. After two days of begging and pleading with him he finally gave in. This was a truly awesome moment in my life. I’ll never forget being up close and personal with these guys! Just another reason Refugio is my #1 pick.

IMG_1698The fishing here was also pretty awesome. Dan caught a ton of Cabrillo and even managed to catch TWO Trigger fish at one time! Now that’s something I’ve never seen before.

We’d fish and explore by dinghy in the mornings and then come back to Dazzler for cocktails and a little relaxing in the hammocks in the afternoon. Refugio is one of those places where you could spend weeks and never see or experience all that is there. We only got a chance to spend six days there this summer but I can tell you this, it was six of the most incredible days of the past four months.

Between the seclusion, amazing scenery, cool wildlife, great fishing and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, Puerto Refugio has truly earned its place as #1 on my list of Top 5 Anchorages in the Sea of Cortez. If you get a chance to get here, do NOT pass it up!

Until next time,



See More Photos Of Jilly’s #1 Pick…Puerto Refugio CLICK HERE!











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Perfectly Wild

Nearly all days on the water are amazing but every now and then you have a once in a lifetime adventure. This was the case for us a few days ago. We awoke early in San Nicolás to find two dolphin swimming just a few feet off our starboard beam. It’s always a treat to see dolphin and watching them play at sunrise is no different. After a brief encounter with the dolphin we loaded the dink on the forward deck and prepared for our 30+ mile journey north to Santo Domingo at the mouth of Bahía Concepción.

It was a beautiful morning with 10-12 knot winds so we hoisted the sails, shut down the engine and enjoyed our morning coffee as we glided through the blue green waters of the Sea of Cortez. There is something so soothing and peaceful when your boat is running six knots and the only sounds you hear are the water splashing along side of the hull and the wind across the sails.

We had a lovely morning sail before the winds died off, the seas turned to glass and we had to fire up the engine. A longer sail would have been nice but hey, we were still on a boat in paradise. It’s hard to find anything bad to say about it.

img_0417.jpgIt wasn’t long before we had visitors flying about the boat. Four brown Boobies began swooping around the bow attempting to land on the pulpit.  After multiple attempts one finally landed on the rail. Within minutes all four had successfully landed and were enjoying a ride on the good ship Dazzler.


I went to the bow to get a closer look and snap a few pictures. They absolutely showed no fear. They even let me get on the pulpit with them. Every so often one would lose its img_0476footing and fly off but soon he’d return. There was one that was a bit bossy. We named him Jefe (boss). When others would try to land he would squawk at them and flap his wings to prevent them from making a successful landing. When they swooped in to land the tips of their wings brushed my shoulders. That’s how close they let me get. I could literally look directly into their sparkling grey blue eyes. It was so awesome to be so close to these birds.

Just about the time I was getting used to the Boobie family being aboard I looked off the port bow to see a large pod of dolphin heading our way. I grew up on the water in img_0643Bradenton, Florida and I’ve seen thousands of dolphin in my life but there is something absolutely magical about seeing a few hundred dolphin all at once. So here we were cruising and we had Boobies on the bow and dolphin in the water. I was thinking to myself that life just doesn’t get much better than this.

The dolphin didn’t linger too long, They were just passing through on their way to some other watery locale but I was grateful for their visit. I left the Boobies on the bow and retreated to the cockpit to study my Spanish.

A half hour or so went by when Dan saw something in the water about a mile off the port beam. It was a large black fin sticking above the water. Instantly he knew…it’s an Orca!
He pulled the wheel hard to port and off we went to see them. I could barely contain myself. Of all the animals we could encounter in the sea, the Orca topped my list of “wants”.

Before long we had five or six of these magnificent creatures swimming along side of Dazzler. I was so giddy with excitement I was like a kid on Christmas morning. Each time they surfaced I giggled and screeched with pure joy.

Dan and I were on the bow taking pictures and video of our new friends when a juvenile Orca about fifteen feet long separated from the pod and came swimming right toward our bow. Before we knew it he was riding the wake on our bow like a dolphin would do. Oh my God! This was a sight to behold. I can’t even explain the level of excitement we felt.

The next thing we knew he is swimming upside down under the keel. We could see the white of his underside as he went from side to side. He came up along side of the boat, surfaced and shot water out of his blowhole all over us and the boat! Never in my life did I dream I would get sprayed by an Orca in the wild! THIS IS AWESOME! My very best day ever!

As I do with all the wildlife out here, I gave him a name. He will forever be called Buddy. Why Buddy you ask? Well, you know when you meet someone for the first time and you feel an instant kinship? You just know you will be friends? That’s how Buddy made me feel. He was playful and fun and the more we cheered the more he played. He must have sprayed us four or five times and easily stayed and played for a good ten minutes. There’s just no perfect way to describe what it feels like to be so close to these amazing creatures. We enjoyed their presence around us for an hour or so. Ultimately there were about a dozen Orcas swimming all around us. Some were up close like Buddy and others could be seen in the distance. Alas, the time came for them to move on and they all started to swim away. I just stood on the bow and watched until I could no longer see their dorsal fins above the water. “Goodbye dear friends. Thanks for the memories!”

Like I said, this was truly a once in a lifetime day….from up close encounters with the Boobies to the dolphins and finally the Orcas I seriously don’t know that we will ever experience another day filled with so much amazing wildlife. As I say all the time, Dan has given me the world and each day I wake up I am getting to see more and do more than I ever dreamed. La vida es grandiose! (Life is Grand!)

We’ve posted a video of our day filled with wildlife on YouTube…Click on the link below to view it. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Until next time…


Click Here to See Our “Perfectly Wild” Video With Birds, Dolphin & Orcas!