Dia de los Muertos – 2/11/2019

Dia de los Muertos or in English, ‘Day of the Dead’ is a two-day celebration which is a blend of Spanish culture and European Catholicism brought to the region by the Conquistadors and the Indigenous Aztec rituals. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November.

Brief History

The celebration’s roots are primarily from the Aztecs and other Nahua people living in Central Mexico during the pre-Colombian Mesoamerica period. They believed to reach their final resting place of Mictlan, they had to accomplish nine challenges. During August, families would provide food, water and tools that they believed would help the deceased to reach Mictlan, this tradition continues to this day with families leaving offerings to their deceased on the Day of the Dead. In ancient Europe, pagan celebrations in the fall for the dead involved bonfires, feasting and dancing, while in Spain, families would bring wine and bread to their loved one’s graves and decorate them with flowers and candles on All Souls Day. The Roman Catholic Church incorporated All Souls Day and All Saints Day into their Catholic calendar as minor celebrations. When the conquistadors came to the region, they brought with them traditions from Europe, which ultimately contributed to the Day of the Dead traditions.

While Dia de los Muertos is widely recognised as a Mexican celebration, it’s also celebrated throughout Latin American countries. It’s a widely held belief that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on November 1st and the spirits of children can join their families in the celebrations for a 24-hour period and similarly that adult spirits do the same on the 2nd of November. The day’s purpose is to celebrate the lives of the dead with food, drink, parties and activities that the dead enjoyed while alive, rather than focusing on mourning. Family members either leave the deceased favourite foods on their grave or they set up ofrendas (altars) in their homes. The ofrendas are decorated with cempasuchil (marigolds) and candles are lit, their favourite foods and things that symbolise them are also placed there.

The symbol most would recognise and attribute to Dia de los Muertos is the calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls). The skeleton originates from the Aztec goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl. The modern day take of this, is Calvera Catrina which is attributed to the 19th century cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada, who reinvented or modernised the original Aztec Goddess as La Calavera Catrina in a zinc etching. The Day of the Dead tradition is in fact growing due to pop culture. Movies like James Bond’s Spectre featuring a Day of the Dead Parade and Disney’s ‘Coco’ have brought the tradition world wide acclaim. Calavera Catrina now appears as candies, masks, dolls, souvenirs and costumes that are worn on the day and in parades.

Our Dia de los Muertos

During our stay at the boat yard in Puerto Penasco, we went to two Day of the Dead events – those in the boat yard with vehicles kindly drove us to each event. Our first was an altar expo held on the 31st of October at the Colegio de Bachilleres. Students had put together altars either of a deceased family member or a famous Mexican. The altars all had the common feature of marigolds, lit candles and food offerings. Some took it a step further with motorcycles and helmets, model boats and cars and their own Catarinas. I thought it was interesting, Andrew found it a little creepy.

The second event was held on Rodeo Drive on the 2nd of November, Ava’s birthday.  The yard cattle truck was organised to transport the large group of yachtees wanting to participate in the event.

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The street was closed off to road traffic and a stage erected at either end with dancing on one and judge’s awaiting the Catrina parade on the other. In between the two stages different stands were set up selling tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare. Some of the shop fronts had altars erected in front of their stores. Catrina statues and paraphernalia decorated the streets and offered photo opportunities for locals and tourists alike.

The favourite part of the evening for the teens was definitely visiting the face painting stand and selecting the colours they wanted for their own Catrina style skeletons.

The stand was popular with local kids and tourists. The ladies operating the stalls do so on a tip basis.

The evening culminates in a Catrina parade/competition which is open to all ages from tots to grandparents and male and female. The crowd around the stage was large and we had agreed to meet everyone soon after it had started.  We watched for a few minutes and made our way back to the truck where the Catrinas were patiently waiting their turn on stage. Fortunately for us, the Catrinas who had already been on stage were happy to pose for photos with our excited teens, making them very happy.

I have to say that while the costumes were amazing, the makeup was too. Its bewildering how black and white face paint can not only hollow out cheeks but create a realistic mouth of teeth that looks like a skeleton. The ladies were very happy to pose for photos.  In fact the lady in cream also had her son dressed and participating in the event, somewhat reluctantly.

The teenage girls in our group were a little freaked out with the women’s eyes. If you look closely you will see that they are wearing coloured contacts that are a milky blue colour.

Andrew enjoyed the food, the kids loved the face painting and I loved the costumes and photo opportunities. It was a blast!

Snorkeling with Seals – 13th and 14th July 2019


After re-provisioning in Loreto we returned to Isla Coronados for shelter from the forcasted strong winds.  We decided to go for a snorkel and I suggested it was time to brave it and snorkel with the seals.  The kids very reluctantly got in the dinghy and we headed off.  Along the coastline we saw numerous blue footed boobies relaxing on the rocks, keeping company with pelicans and seagulls.


We got to the point and the male was barking, as he has done every time we have visited.  I donned by gear and hopped in.  The kids were not particularly happy with me and were concerned I would lose an arm like the Buster Bluth from ‘Arrested Development’.  No seals approached, so we anchored the dinghy around the point and all went for a snorkel.

Andrew decided to take the dinghy oar with us for protection.  Max and Ava followed closely behind Andrew.  Not to fear, the dinghy oar was not used in any manner.

Interestingly enough we did see a male seal, only it wasn’t the one in charge of the harem of girls, maybe a future contender?  Andrew dived down and came face to face with him, he wasn’t aggressive and just swam away.

After seeing the seals we went on the other side of the point, where a lot of dive boats come, for a quick snorkel.  The point has lots of rocky ledges and if you dive down you can see large schools of grouper and snapper.  We are used to seeing one or two groupers around a bombie, but never schools of them.  Above the groupers were thousands of bait fish.  We swam through them and they would part for you and then regroup when you passed.

Bait fish on the left and some of the many Sargent Majors.


We went back to seal point with Jamie and Behan, for another attempt at snorkeling with seals.  The kids on both Utopia and Totem, decided they didn’t want to come, so it was an adult only trip.

We admired the seals from the rocks for a while, the current was strong on the point and there was more swell than the previous day.  Finally after a few minutes we anchored the dinghy around the point and donned all of our snorkeling gear.  By the time we reached the point, all of the seals were comfortably ashore, with no indication that they were likely to enter the water.  Everyone admired the many grouper in the water and there were a lot, while we waited for the seals to spring into action.  In the distance beside one of the incoming pangas was a marlin, jumping high in the air.  We watched, amazed as it leapt 4 or 5 times.

Andrew and I swam close to the seal rock and tried to encourage the female seals for a swim and were later joined by Jamie.  Eventually there was a scuffle as the seals squabbled for more room and one of the females came in.  She was soon joined by 4 or 5 others.


It was absolutely amazing.  These curious creatures with their acrobatic skills; tumbling, back-flipping and diving below us. 

Andrew and Jamie swam down with them and had a few curious ones come close. 


We all laughed at a juvenile male who swam to the bottom and scooted along the rock, using it to scratch his back.


We all agreed it was definitely one of the best snorkeling trips we have had.

And a few more pics, because why not.  This is the young male who probably interacted the most with us.

Painted Cliffs

We decided not to stop overnight at the Painted Cliffs, but to return to Loreto.  Our trip to Loreto did take us around the northern tip of Isla Carmen and past the painted cliffs.  You can see the viewpoints we looked at on the map below.

The first point we passed was Punta Perico South.  You can see a few colours in the rocks.


It was after we rounded Punta Perico that the pink and red tones in the cliffs were really noticeable.  Ava says its just rocks, but the different colours offset against the brilliant blue water is truly beautiful.

P1140741The guidebook raves about the next bay, Bahia Cobre or Copper Bay and from our initial view we were really unimpressed.  However, the further around the bay we got, the more colourful the landscape became and it is quite pretty.


Of course the highlight is definitely the painted cliffs.  You can see not only the red, brown and pink sections in the cliffs, but also green, which is copper.


And finally a panorama looking back at the bays and points.


Bahia Salinas, Isla Carmen – 10/7/2019

Leaving Isla Danzante behind we headed to Bahia Salinas on the western side of Isla Carmen.  After a late lunch the kids took the dinghy ashore to have a swim, while Andrew and I recovered from our morning hike.

Andrew and I went for a snorkel on the sunken tuna boat in the middle of the bay.  The 120 foot boat sunk in 1981 and has since split into two pieces.  The wreck is great for either diving or snorkeling, as part of it is only a couple of meters below the surface.  The site provides a variety of fish and a wreck with its cargo holds to explore.  The water visibility has been terrible over the last week and although it had improved today and the water was warmer, the water clarity was still not great.

We met Totem on the beach at 5.30 to explore the old salt mining operation, which closed down in 1984. In 1995 a program commenced to reintroduce desert big horn sheep onto the island. Isla Carmen is one of only a few privately owned islands in the Sea of Cortez and as such you are not permitted to walk inland from the beach.  Rumor has it, that the island is owned by a Mexican ex-president from the 1990s, Carlos Salinas de Cortari. Today set among the decaying ruins at Bahia Salinas is a hunting lodge, where for a large sum of money you can visit and hunt ‘desert big horn sheep.’  Mmm, anyone else wonder why they started the reintroduction project?  There is even a website advertising the lodge: http://mexicohunts.com/carmenisland.html

The site mine is home to not only the hunting lodge, but also a beautiful church, some dilapidated buildings, rusting equipment and a vast area of salt pans.  Our first discovery was a school.  What was interesting about the school was the exterior walls on either side, which are covered in shells.

I decided to go for a little wander to have a look at the salt ponds, while everyone else continued on.  I had seen pictures of large chunks of white crystallized salt in the cruising guide and had hoped to see some.  My endevours were in vain, as the ponds were quite far back on the private island and with signs in Spanish, I decided to not push my luck and turned back.


One of the most photographed buildings at the site is the church.  The white church is in fabulous condition and is really pretty set against the desert hues of the island.

I finally caught up to everyone else in front of what looked like a grain silo.  From what I could find out online, some say it was used to store salt, while others said it was for water storage.  However, today there are seats surrounding it and it appears to be a place to relax for a drink for paying customers.


It was at this point that Ava found a rotting turtle carcass, near the remains of a pier.  The rotting pier is the resting spot for brown pelicans, while recovering from their dive bombing into the water in search of fish. Ava and Siobhan disappeared to have a closer look at the turtle carcass and to collect shells, while the rest of us continued on. 


Among the crumbling buildings are small touches of the past life here, whether it is a typewriter in a building which is slowly caving in, a collection of old toys or a piece of rusting machinery in a room.

Scattered throughout the settlement and near the salt ponds are rusting equipment; cars, forklifts and trucks. The lodge has added small touches to the vehicles, like a cactus driving the forklift.

Inside the buildings are long forgotten household items or signs on buildings advertising past services.

Even without the personalised touches to the buildings and vehicles, the crumbling structures with the desert landscape is a photographers dream.

I loved the site, the full circle of life.  The environment was destroyed or altered to create both the salt mine and a settlement and now in just three decades the buildings and machinery are crumbling and the natural world is reclaiming what was theirs. My opinion of beauty may be a little different, as Ava is begging me not to make her visit any more boring salt mines.  Oh well you can’t please everybody.

Honeymoon Cove Hike, Isla Danzante – 10/7/2019

Written by Ava (age 13)

On the 10th of July at eight in the morning, my family and our friends, Totem, ventured to Honeymoon Cove, on Isla Danzante, or otherwise known as Dancer Island. The anchorage has three lobes and can only fit a handful of boats. From our position on one of the ridges, we had a great view of Sierra de la Giganta.


Leaving Utopia behind for our hike. 

We drove in our dinghies from the northern lobe, where our boat was anchored, to the southern lobe. There, we hiked from the white, sandy beach, to a stony ridge. After spending a few minutes staring out into the deep blue abyss we carried on our hike and arrived at a very rocky and testing mountain foot. All four teenagers; Mairen, Siobhan, Max and I, started off first while the adults lagged behind. By the time we had arrived at the halfway mark we were tired and sweaty, and had to stop for a water break (Max and I did, the others continued marching on). Although we pushed through and it turns out that the further you hiked the tougher it became. The rocks were loose and the dirt didn’t give a lot of grip. I was scared that a rattlesnake would come and bite my exposed arms and legs.


When we arrived at the peak of the mountain the sun too had almost reached the top. It was nice to be able to sit on a rock and drink refreshing water, while staring at the view below and around us. The glistening shades of the blue water, ranging from turquoise to navy blue along with the surrounding mountains and cliffs created a picturesque view. Staring below we could also see turtles bobbing their heads up and down, and rays flying through the shallow waters.


Us at the top of the mountain


The view of Danzante Island from the top.

After enjoying a relaxing break, we had to trek back down the mountain. Now that was difficult. The rocks were even looser and shifty. You couldn’t grip much, otherwise the rocks would fall. I slipped multiple times but only fell once. It was actually fun, slipping around (creating miniature landslides) and trying to talk to the others. Although, I’m sure it wasn’t entertaining for the adults. 


Max and I at the start of the downhill hike.


The view on the way down.


With great certainty I can say that by the time we arrived at the dinghies we were dirty and dusty. Though, the good thing was the beach-side water, which was cool and refreshing, and surprisingly enough the water bottles still were as well.



Baja Dazzles Again with Dolphins and Seals – 28/6/2019

Jacques Cousteau once described the Sea of Cortez as, ‘the world’s aquarium’ and he was certainly right.  Baja has continued to dazzle us with its amazing display of both wildlife and landscape.


Andrew did a bit of research to find out where the seal colony was located on the island, while Ava and I made a delicious pecan streusel coffee cake.  Once the baking was finished, we packed the snorkeling gear in the dinghy and Andrew and I headed off, the kids chose to stay behind.

We had no sooner rounded the corner of the island when we came across a huge pod of dolphins.  We slowed the dinghy as we approached and watched as they herded fish.  A large dolphin let us know through lots of tail slapping that he didn’t want us to get too close.  We watched for a while and then I jumped in.  The dolphins are edgy and it wasn’t long before they were diving down deep.  It was amazing being in the water with them to get the perspective of how large the pod actually was.  It was like watching a huge school of giant fish.

Back in the dinghy we continued our search for the seals.  Have you ever wondered what they call a group of seals?  Turns out there are lots of different names, ranging from a bob, bunch, colony, crash, harem, herd, knob, plump, pod, rookery and a team of Seals.  Who you knew there were so many.  A knob, really?

After getting two thirds a way around the island, we found them.  Our first contact was with a pair of female seals or cows.  They were very cute cuddled together, basking in the sun.

Moving around the rocky point was when we spotted a gorgeous baby.  We watched him/her for ages as he lazed in the sun, dipped in the water to cool off and occasionally lifted his head to see if we were still there.

We had our swimsuits on and snorkeling gear all ready to go, but as soon as we had arrived the male slid in the water and started barking.  The warning was received.  The females were not worried about us at all and were rather curious.  They would swim near the dinghy in groups of two or three and watch us.  It was so tempting to get in with them, but we just weren’t sure what the male would do. So instead I stuck the camera in the water and snapped some photos, hoping that I was actually capturing a seal.



The largest of the harem of girls sat sunning themselves the entire time, with the occasional tussle and barking between them.

In between the little groups of seals scattered on the rocks was one star performer.  Rather than just lazing in the sun, she did some pretty spectacular stretching, which would make any yoga instructor proud, I’m certainly envious.

I think the seals are definitely my favourite in the underwater world, thank you Andrew for sharing the fabulous experience. Ava was very envious and wished she had come, so tomorrow we are all heading back again.



This morning we did another dinghy trip to visit the seals with Totem.  It was a little earlier than yesterday and the seals were less active, content to just relax on the rocks and pay little attention to us.  Ava thought the baby seal was adorable, I think they are all pretty cute.  Interestingly, the male seal was missing today, maybe out fishing.



We continued around the point, donned our snorkel gear and swam along the rock edge to the end of the point.  The current was strong, so we stayed in the sheltered bay and explored.  I think it was Mairen who discovered a stone fish, which are prevalent in Mexico and of course there were lots of puffer fish.  Andrew and Jamie were quite excited about the number of large coral trout they spotted while snorkeling.


No matter how many star fish you see, they never cease to capture the interest of both children (teens) and adults. 

After our snorkel, on our route back to the boat we spotted a large pod of dolphins, probably the same ones as yesterday.  There were lots of oohs and aahs as we watched them.

After returning to the boat, Jamie and Andrew went off spearfishing on the mainland, returning within 2 hours, which is pretty quick for them, with 6 large coral trout.  Looks like we are having fish for a few meals.  I think they were both pretty impressed with their catch.

El Refugio (V-Cove) – 20/6/2019 – 21/6/2019

The anchorage at El Refugio is a small V-shaped cove with white cliffs on either side and a sandy beach at the V.  The cliffs are home to numerous sea caves, a few are large enough to take the dinghy into.  It’s a small anchorage and fits two boats comfortably and three at a squeeze.


Our first day at the cove we went for a snorkel along both cliff walls and in a few of the dark caves, where there were many large trumpet fish and snapper. The highlight for me on the trip was finding a nudibranch, which I was very excited about it. There were many Christmas trees and sea stars of every colour and shape clinging to the rocks.



We stopped at the beach for a look and within a few minutes Ava had accumulated quite a pile of puffer fish skeletons.  The sand was hot, so we didn’t stay long.


The cove seems to trap the heat and by late afternoon it had gotten really hot, so we went for a drive in the dinghy and floated by the cliff walls in the shade.  We took the dinghy into a couple of caves.  


At the end of one of the cliff walls the edge is shaped like a face.  I thought it looked pretty cool, particularly as the sun when down casting it in a golden glow.  We finished the day with fresh snapper that Andrew caught.



The kids had a morning of school work, while Andrew and Jamie went spearfishing returning with coral trout for dinner. There had been dolphins in the cove all morning working in groups of about 10, herding fish to eat.

Looks like coral trout for dinner tonight


One of the dolphins spotted from the boat.

After lunch we took the dinghy out to get a closer look at the two different pods of dolphins nearby.  The dolphins had been riding the bow waves when Andrew went out this morning, but this afternoon they had all become camera shy and rather reluctant to stay above the surface for long.  We did manage to get a few photos.

It appears that the dolphins weren’t so camera shy after all, as they put on a sea world worthy performance just before dusk in front of our boat.  Truly memorable.


Isla Coronados – 16/6/2019 – 18/6/2019


We decided mid-afternoon after the Loreto anchorage became rolly, to make the short hop over to Isla Coronados. As you approach the anchorage you have a sweeping view of the island, with its volcanic cone in the background and white sandy beach dotted with black volcanic boulders and turquoise waters in the foreground.


We had the rest of the afternoon free so we went to shore to have a look around. Unfortunately the water is still freezing, only Ava and Andrew went knee deep into it. Ava and I went for a wander around and spotted a bird squawking, Ava thought it was a seagull, I was adamant it wasn’t. Eventually the beige coloured bird started chasing after a seagull, who turned out to be its mother. I guess Ava was right.

The kids decided to stay on the beach with the kayak and do some exercise. Andrew and I went across to another beach for a look. As we moved closer to shore we noticed a lot of stingrays below us, in various sizes scoot away. It appeared that this area was the seagull rookery as there were baby seagulls everywhere, almost the same size as the parents. The babies were curious, but a little intimidated by our presence and very slowly moved as a group closer to us to have a look, until Andrew went for a swim and they all scattered.


It was hot and I’d had enough, on returning to the boat we discovered about 40 bees inside buzzing around. As Max has a bee allergy we did have to resort to some spray to try to get rid of them and closed a lot of the hatches to prevent their return. Thankfully it appears at sunset the bees disappear.


The kids had a morning of school work before we headed ashore to have a BBQ with Totem. On our way in Andrew spotted large dolphins.  We dinghied nearby and cut the engine to watch, while Max kayaked past us.

The National Park have erected palm leaf covered shade structures with tables and seating, which is great for the tourist who come from Loreto and the cruisers. We had a nice time chatting, while Andrew Barbecued and Jamie and Behan used their solar oven to make some bread rolls to go with the sausages.

The kids and even some of the big ones messed around on the kayak, paddle board and pool float after lunch. There was lots of laughter, splashing and talking going on.


San Cosme – 11/6/2019

Another early morning stop leaving the anchorage at 7.45 am headed for the hot springs of San Cosme.  The boys anchored, while I admired another beautiful backdrop.


A beautiful backdrop with Totem in the foreground.

Another beautiful view.  On the right is Siobhan french braiding Mairen’s hair while dinghying to shore, not an easy task.

We used the cruiser’s guidebook’s description to find the area where the hot springs were located, which Behan found first.  The water is definitely warm and on a warm day like it was the nearby cool waters out of the springs was a welcome relief.

The springs has 5 or 6 little jet streams of bubbles coming from the rocky floor and rising to the surface.  Interestingly the jet bubbles start and a few minutes later stop and it is then that you will notice another jet start up somewhere else.


Its an interesting stop for about 45 minutes.  The kids wandered over the rocks looking for interesting things.  The anchorage is a fair weather anchorage and with the weather prediction forecasting increased wind we pulled up anchor and continued on to Bahia Candeleros.


Bahia Candeleros offers something very important, internet.  After a week the kids needed to catch up with some school work and we needed to check in with Josh and Tristan in Australia to make sure they were okay.  It looks like a couple of intensive school work days ahead for Max and Ava, as the end of term and assessments close in.


Agua Verde – 10/6/2019

Agua Verde is a small village located on the Baja Peninsula, close to Loreto.  The village’s name, Agua Verde is derived from the greenish waters that fill the bay.  The village population is close to 200 people and its main industry is fishing.  The village has two restaurants for both locals and tourists with a fish based menu.  The area also has goat farming and it is possible to buy both goat cheese and a goat if you want.  The village offers hiking, snorkeling and diving opportunities and nearby you can also visit cave paintings or bathe in the hot springs.


One of the local restaurants in town offering fish tacos

We left our anchorage at Puerto los Gatos at 8 am for a 2-hour sail to Agua Verde, also on the Baja Peninsula.  As we approached a next anchorage we past a small rocky island or the San Marcial Reef and all we could hear was seals bellowing.  After anchoring we decided to go and explore seal island before the wind picked up and it got too rough.

Andrew, Jamie, Ava and I geared up in our wet suits and packed up the dinghy with all our snorkel gear in the hope that we might be able to swim with them.  On arriving it soon became apparent that we would not be swimming with them.  It is mating season, and, on the island, there were two very large males.  The males were surrounded with 6 or 7 female seals.  The males made it very clear from the beginning who was boss with their bellowing.  Within minutes of arriving all but the largest male and one sick looking seal were in the water, swimming around us with the male continually barking.


We enjoyed the show.  Eventually the largest male gave in and joined the others in the water.  You don’t really appreciate how big the males are until you get that close to them and you can understand why on Espiritu Santo you are not allowed to swim with them until breeding season is over in August.

Eventually the largest seal had, had enough and managed to lumber his large body ashore.  There was a small seal who had remained on the rocks the entire time we were there and apart from lifting her flipper and head a couple of times she didn’t move or go in the water.  We can only imagine she is sick.  Poor thing.  It was a fantastic 45-minute visit to the island.

After our seal island trip, we stopped at the pinnacle, aptly known as the Roca Solitaria for a snorkel and the water is getting colder the further north we go.  You definitely need a wetsuit.  Despite the cold and the crying of the gulls, we had a good snorkel.  The rock floor is scattered with starfish of various colours, shapes and sizes all gripping onto the rocks.  We even saw a few crown of thorns among them.


The pinnacle where we went for a snorkel

Some of the many starfish and crown of thorns we spotted.

I did spot a couple of Christmas trees which I haven’t seen in a while and just as we were getting in the dinghy Ava spotted what think was a snake or I guess it could have been an eel.

We ended our day by going ashore at about 5 pm to the village, just as the goats were meandering up the steep slope. 

The village consists of a few houses, two restaurants and a few small tiendas, shops.  Among the houses were more grazing goats, kids running around, dogs playing and a turkey all ruffled up. 

We wandered the small village waving to the kids and admiring the local artwork on the buildings.  Behan actually pointed out that the paintings had paintings within them of their local landscape and people.

Eventually we found a lady who had goat cheese, made into a heart shape.  With our cheese in hand we went back to the dinghy. 


Reaching our dinghy we found the beach population had exploded with kids swimming and jumping off a local fishing boat, others running along the beach, pelicans fishing and fighting for space on any available boat, dogs barking and parents chasing kids, it was all happening.

We decided to retreat to the quiet on our boat for sun-downers with crackers and fresh goat cheese.