SV Pandion

Who Wants to Swim in an Aquarium?!?

Our summer goals were simple. Keep the boat safe (it is hurricane season), our spirits up (Covid-19 is a real bummer), and try not to melt in the Sea of Cortez (not actually possible). With having some internet requirements for Everest's school, we ended up exploring the heck out of the Loreto area. It is such a great area with a ton of islands, big, beautiful anchorages for any type of weather with great holding, a big town nearby with everything you need, and even a fancy marina with a boat yard in case things go wrong or the weather decides to get nasty. It really makes it hard to come up with a good case to leave the area. We ended up making sort of a star shape route of bays and anchorages that we bounced around in the Loreto area. We explored some of the less visited locations, snorkeled, practiced freediving, and played with underwater photography in some of the clearest, warmest water we've seen yet.

Our favorites;

Candeleros

For internet, nice snorkeling, many beaches with walking, and if you need a restaurant, I like the mile return trip beach walk here.

All hail the almighty pug
All hail the almighty pug
All hail the almighty pug

Montserrat

Two beautiful anchorages that we have been to (North end and East side) with INSANE snorkeling on the east side, sea lions and good snorkeling to the north along with some really beautiful beaches. If you go on the east side, there is a small almost beach that has the most spectacular array of shells I have seen in a long time. I know our crew buddy Kris Wild would stay for hours if I could get him there!

Starfish under water in Montserrat south anchorage

Coronados

Great beach, lots of dolphins and good snorkeling. Some cell signal. Coronados is a bigger bay, so it’s usually more social too. It has bees, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little.

All hail the almighty pug

Ballandra Bay

A really really lovely bay with some cell signal. It feels very remote. Has great snorkeling. Has bees. Sometimes you can handle the small number, however we did get run out by a large set of bees once.

All hail the almighty pug
All hail the almighty pug
All hail the almighty pug

Juncalito

Beach bay with a small inlet we anchored in very close to Puerto Escondido so you get some signal. Good snorkeling. Lots of chance to walk. You can even walk up to town! Feels a bit funny though as you can hear and see cars and trucks on the road between Puerto Escondido and Loreto.

Anchored in eight o'clock cove at Juncalito

Loreto Bay

Access to the marina in Loreto, which allows us to go to town and shop. We found some great tacos at Tacos Ray. We don’t typically stay overnight here, but as a shopping stop it is very easy access. Garbage out, food in!

All hail the almighty pug
All hail the almighty pug
Provisioning at Loreto Marina! Deluxe veggie delivery. Look it that watermelon!

Puerto Escondido Marina

Full service marina (fuel, repair services) in a nice spot. Really nice staff, nice store and restaurant (get the mango margarita, guacamole and seafood tower!) Small pool, but the pool patio is shady and deluxe. If you need a marina this is a great stop.

Everest piloting us out of the marina channel
Salty out for a marina walkabout! 

Yah, but what went down???

So our summer consisted of sort of ping ponging between these places depending on where our buddy boats went, when we needed food and if we were having boat issues (oi! We did once!). The heat has been a pretty big factor in just trying to keep our days pretty chill. I always paddle Salty to shore. We have a late leisurely meal. Then we try to “do stuff” fix things, patch things, clean things etc. by afternoon we essentially HAVE TO snorkel. As the water temperature rises in the sea the algae dies out and the water gets REALLY clear. Like drop your anchor and see it hit the sand floor at 30 ft clear. We head out with our snorkels and masks to cool off and see so many beautiful fish.


Since late August and for all of September the visibility has been so good and the sea so active with life we'e had a few really stand out experiences.

Swimming with Sea lions!

In Montserrat, from the north anchorage we took our dinghy out to the two  rock formations north for some snorkeling. We were met with a small sea lion family. Everest and Patrick swam around with them by being very passive and chill. The smaller sea lion came to check them out and then the bigger sea lions too. It was pretty magical to watch those big beasts move around under the water together. We have had a lot of close sea lion contact on land in Moss Landing marina. I sort of disliked the sea lions for pooping on our boat at the California marina when we weren’t there and then blocking the dock access to the boats. However seeing a small number of them out in the wild felt much cooler. I was won over again!

Swimming with Dolphins!

On two occasions while we were sailing between bays we encountered really really large pods of dolphins. There were easily hundreds of dolphins! The first time we stopped Pandion, Everest and Patrick jumped in with mask and snorkel to seek them out. The second time I jumped in. Both times we ended up swimming very close to them and could see small packs of dolphins swimming below us. More than the visual, swimming with dolphins is a very auditory experience. The high pitch sounds in the water let you know you are very close. As the dolphins get closer there is more nuance to the pitch and tone. You can hear more of that squeaky noise. It’s pretty overwhelming and cool.

Might as well JUMP! 
Giant pod of dolphins racing Pandion!

Swimming with Rays!

I had been waiting a long time to see rays in the water when we snorkeled. We have seen them many many times while on the paddle boards, they stream below the board or skirt away quickly as we approach the beaches. Finally one day I took a longer swim back from the north point of Candeleros and saw a bottlenose ray swimming below me. I stopped. Floated. Waited to see what they would do. Slowly they moved the direction I was going, so I slowly kicked my way with them. For about five minutes I just kicked around wherever they went. I was so excited. I could hardly breathe. After a time they really started swimming quickly opposite of my destination so I had to move on.  Since that day we have snorkeled with 2 spotted eagle rays! One in Ramada and one in Painted Cliffs.

Not a ray, and not a screensaver. Just a lot of fish.

Two octopuses and a sleeping turtle.

The north point of Candeleros has this rock with buoys around it. If you anchor your dinghy and snorkel there it is awesome! In one visit we saw two octopuses, and a sleeping sea turtle chilling underwater. The octopuses were really tucked under rocks but you could swim near and peak in at them. We also finally found some Blennies to peak at. Blennies are like the smallest little fish that live in barnacles and peak out of them with big eyes. When you get close they pull into the shell but you can still see them. SO CUTE! We have also swam with turtles in Ramada, and Candeleros. In Coronados there are many turtles to watch from your boat, but I have not been lucky enough to see one in the water. I know Candeleros also has many Octopuses, as Tulum’s first mate Michelle got to see one on her BIRTHDAY snorkel. What a day!

These are our faces when we see cool stuff.

Painted Cliffs city of Atlantis.

Although we only managed to get to Painted Cliffs on the East side of Isla Carmen once the snorkeling there was truly breathtaking. The visibility was very good and as we swam around the south corner, the rock structures below the water are large, and there are many flat and angled surfaces. I can't really explain it other than to say as you dive below it feels like a city with buildings under water. Tons of busy fish going about their business. Like NY underwater. Busy through ways and stop points. Strong contrasts of light and shadows make it feel almost spiritual. Randy from Free Luff describes it as a cathedral. I get that feeling too. It’s truly other worldly. The fish there were HUGE and teeeeeeny. Just so many and so much of everything. One fish so big I called it the grouper shark. It looks like a grouper but it’s HUGE like a big shark – easily 60 or 70 lbs. Crazy grouper shark.

What Next

As we look to October we are planning to get to Mazatlan and have some boat work done. Our last stop north was San Juanico and Ramada around the corner. Really really lovely bays with great beaches – that connect through a 1 km hike on a sandy road. There was clearly a lot of activity to these beaches by cars at some point. Maybe pre-covid in the before times? Not sure. Again the snorkeling was unreal and we saw a spotted eagle ray, a turtle and Salty took a very very long swim. Why? Not sure. He needed the exercise.

I’m really glad we had this summer in the sea. We were warned about heat and bugs and bees. We have only found 1 of those 3 things to be an issue for us. We move away from the bees when we need. There were less bugs this year (YAY!) and the heat. Yah. It’s a lot. We try to sleep outside and just stay in the water in the afternoon. Fans and shade help. Friends help. Cards and drinks on the shady deck of Free Luff have lifted our spirits on several abysmally hot days.

We are closing in on one year of cruising. I am not sure it could have worked out any better during this really unusual time in history – the corona-virus pandemic and a dictatorship in the US being the things that we are grateful to be a bit removed from.

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About Tara Franz
A sailor, UX Researcher, and master of the canvas.
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