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Old 24-12-2011, 11:52   #1
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Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

We will be chartering from La Paz in the Sea of Cortez end of April/early May and would appreciate comments from people with knowledge of the area. Planning to head North from La Paz as far as Loreto then back.

From reading so far:
-Late enough there should be no 'Northers.
-Early enough there should be no Tropical Storms.
-Coromuel winds in the evenings around La Paz are likely. Every night?
-Mostly West or Southwest winds would be expected throughout the days?

Thanks for your comments. Any other thoughts/suggestions about the area? We're really looking forward to this sail.
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Old 24-12-2011, 12:45   #2
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

Perfecct time to be there. Not to hot, not too cold.
Enjoy !
Check out the V cove on the North end of Carmen Island.
It's just West of the NE point of the island.
White rock bluffs with caves you can dinghy into.
Good snorkling on a small reef and around the fringes.
Our favorite spot.
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Old 27-12-2011, 07:48   #3
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

Best sailing we had the whole time we were in Mexico. My thoughts:

* Coromuels every night. As soon as the sun goes down. In the La Paz area, the best place we found to escape them was in the Balandra anchorage tucked way down in the southern end of the southern bight. You'll still get wind but you won't get the swell. Caleta Partida on the islands can sometimes be safe but we still got swell in there. All the other island anchorages (even Playa Bonanza) gets swell in the Coromuels.

* We found 10 to 15 knots of wind almost every day. If I remember correctly, it was out of the north.

* The northers were pretty well over by then.

* Favorite anchorage ever: Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante right across from Puerto Escondido. We tucked up into the northwest bight and laid to bow and stern anchors. Gin clear water. Beautiful snorkeling and spear fishing.

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Old 27-12-2011, 08:42   #4
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

Best time for the SOC is after March or before Dec., otherwise it's a bit cool.Bay of L.A. at north end is the summer hideout for year round cruisers.In winter most sail down to Zihautanejo area where water is warm.The sea temp. in the SOC is the lowest I have seen for this time of year.We had to wait out a late norther at end of April,last spring.We will spend our first summer in sea this year because my upcoming back surgery has postponed my winter stay.Caleta Lobos,just south of Ballandra has better protection from all winds.
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Old 16-03-2021, 09:56   #5
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

Wanting to revisit this question to see if others have thoughts.

I'm planning to sail from La Paz to San Carlos in mid April.

Can anybody else share their experience as to the frequency / strength of northers around that time?

Thanks!
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Old 16-03-2021, 20:44   #6
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

Done it twice. Winds nw 50 percent of time. Assuming you are cruising up the Baja side winds were generally light mornings. Northers fairly frequent generally for about three days. Both times were nice trips overall. Plenty of places to stop to avoid snotty weather.
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Old 10-04-2021, 10:24   #7
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

@Zzmeyer Thanks! About how long did you take getting from La Paz to San Carlos? Of course you could easily spend months, but I'm trying to figure out if my hoping to make the trip in 7 or 8 days is too ambitious, given that I may have to wait out northers and, being solo, don't want to do more than one or two overnights. Thanks!
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Old 10-04-2021, 11:24   #8
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

Took a season working north on Baja side. Other time went from Loreto over - about 100 miles, but you would need to wait until no norther. We took two weeks from La Paz to Loreto, but it is only about 120 miles. So I guess you could do an overnight from La Paz to Loreto (Puerto Escondido) and then another overnight to San Carlos.
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Old 10-04-2021, 12:33   #9
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

The legs along that stretch of Baja between north-protected anchorages are short, so you will not have to overnight unless you get behind and are in a hurry.

The crossing from the Loreto area is an easy 24 hours, less as you jump from anchorages further north. The forecasts for northers are pretty good, so you should have plenty of warning if you are poised to jump from there.

If you are going to have wind for the crossing, it will almost certainly be from the N/NW, so you will be happier the further north you are when you cross. We've done a beautiful asym run from Santa Rosalia.

The trick for this trip on your schedule is to not get pinned down twice by northers. As other posters have noted, the weather will probably be good, but a little strategy could help.

We did Muertos to Guaymas on a schedule like your's once. We moved every day and skipped some of the wonderful anchorages along Baja so we could get within range of Guaymas should a norther appear in the forecast. The tradeoff was that we ended up dawdling at San Juanico rather than at Isla San Francisco or Los Gatos. You pay a price for being on a schedule, but that wasn't bad. We crossed on glass, as it turned out.

One more thing to consider: as a norther ends in the SOC, the wind often disappears altogether, while the short-period, steep SOC waves roll on for a while. It can suck - an agitated sea state with no power in the sails to deal with it. No fun even down the wave train, and miserable pounding up.

Have fun - it's a beautiful part of the world.
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Old 10-04-2021, 13:07   #10
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

April/May is great in the SOC. As others have mentioned, not too hot, nor too cold. Northers are mostly done. We sailed from La Paz to San Juanico and back during this same time period (arrived back in La Paz on about 8 or 9 May) and followed the advice of several other cruisers based in La Paz: make as much northing as possible and then rely on prevailing northerly winds for the trip home. That worked well for us.

We were stuck in Puerto Escondido by a big norther for a couple of days on or about 15 April. We turned around to head back south from Caleta San Juanico on about 3 May.

Other than the norther in Puerto Escondido, the sailing weather was great with only a single day of no wind. Most days were in the 10 to 20 kt range.

Note that "Coromuels" start at about this time. Our night anchored in San Evaristo was notably bumpy - items left on the chart table (e.g. an iPad) became airborne at around 1AM. The anchorage was relatively crowded that evening (we arrived late) and we were anchored fairly far out. Being closer to shore would have been much better.

During the 5 or so days we spent in San Juanico, a strong breeze showed up pretty much daily at around 4 or 5 PM and continued well into the evening. There was roughly one point in this large anchorage that did not experience very bumpy conditions and we were not in it.

We kept our boat in the SOC for nine years and loved it the entire time. We will go back there when we are done with the southern hemisphere.
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Old 10-04-2021, 13:35   #11
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

"Note that "Coromuels" start at about this time"

Corumels are more common April/May and later, but we found them occurring anytime throughout the winter and early Spring. A pain (they won't be forecated...).

Still, a great cruising area.
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Old 14-04-2021, 21:16   #12
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

This thread was very helpful for us, planning to go on a one week charter from La Paz in the last week of May. I am a little uneasy about the unknown anchor gear on board a charter yacht, hence a few questions:

So far I noted
  • Lower chance of Northers at this time, but should they occur, we might be seeing strong North winds for a few days in a row. Hunkering down would be a possibility. Are there some recommended anchorages for that in the vicinity of La Paz? Will Northers blow throughout the night? Is 50knots a realistic force to expect? How likely are we to encounter these in one week end of May?
  • A bigger issue could be the Coromuels during our time, for which there is no forecast as I understand it. Thank you for the recommended anchorages, @janders.

Some additional Questions:
  • What source do you recommend for weather forecasts? What VHF Channel at what time? Spanish or English?
  • How far in advance will a Norther be generally forecast?
  • How crowded is your average anchorage at the end of May (if that can be foreseen in this special year).

Many Thanks
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Old 15-04-2021, 06:21   #13
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

At $60, pricey, but a must is the book Sea of Cortez, a Cruising Guide from Amazon. It talks about all the anchorages. It is my favorite cruising guide, ever. There are several very nice anchorages. If you are chartering I bet you are picking the boat up at CostaBaja. Just a few miles north is Bahia Falsa, an OK stop. A few miles further north is Coleta Lobos and then a couple miles further the must stop Bahia Balandra. Espiritu Santo island isn't much further north. Note that the port captain in La Paz will close the port to departures for several days with strong winds. I don't know how charter fleets handle that. There is a cruisers net every weekday morning but I forget the channel. They talk about weather and lots of important stuff. They will know it at the charter company. Predict wind goes out 14 days, but isn't free. Windy is a free app. Download it now and start playing with it. The longer out the forecast, just like anywhere, the less accurate. I've almost never seen 50 knots, but 35 knots is fairly common in a norther.
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Old 15-04-2021, 08:16   #14
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

Blue Latitude Sea of Cortez guide is a must! (also, get their charts - - ocharts for OpenCPN has them).

May have changed since 2015, but sorry, NO forecasts on VHF (excluding the cruisers net in La Paz).

You can get various forecast from computer models (NO human adjustments), such as GRIBS, Windy, Predictwind, etc. Corumels will not be forecasted.

Cell reception (Telcel) OK near La Paz and a few other places, but mostly not. So you need other method, including SSB (marine or ham) and pactor modem, or satellite.
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Old 15-04-2021, 11:06   #15
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Re: Sea of Cortez Winds - Apr/May?

Luft -

Yes, the book is worth it.

Zzmeyer has covered the anchorages close to La Paz. The bays on the west side of Isla Espiritu Santo are good for northers, but open to corumels. Very scenic.

Isla San Francisco has three anchorages. I am not familiar with the one on the north side of the island. There are two on the SE, across a low isthmus from each other. The southern of the two is the most popular, and offers protection from waves from the north, but little protection from wind. It is open to corumels. The northern would be your spot in a corumel, though you might be uncomfortable if there is a swell running from the north. Your option then would be to take the head-on pounding from the wind waves in the southern anchorage. There is very good holding on deep sand in the southern anchorage. If you charter a cat, there is an extensive, shallow flat in the SE corner of the southern anchorage for you to get away from other boats. The National Geographic cruise ship and big power yachts visit this spot but it would be hard to fill it up. Very scenic - the attachment was shot looking northwest from the south end of a ridge that runs along the east edge of the south anchorage. Tremendous views from the top of the ridge.

San Evaristo has a hidey-hole for northers on the north side of the bay with high ground all around, but it has swirling winds and spacing can be complicated. The second attachment shows the spacing with four boats. Protection is great from a norther. No protection from a southwest wind, which has some fetch. The main bay has good sand, with little fetch from south through north if you get to pick your spot, as Marathon1150 points out, and no wrap-around from the north. No wind protection.

I have not anchored south of the mangroves on the south end of Isla San Jose. The point with the abandoned salt farm on the west side of San Jose protrudes enough that it offers wave protection on a norther, but it's flat and offers no wind protection. I have not stopped at the fishing village on the northwest corner of the San Jose Channel.

If you get as far as Los Gatos, it has high ground to the north and offers some north wind protection. You have to tuck in pretty tight to avoid wrap-around waves from the north. Very scenic.

The northers are the result of big weather rather than local conditions, something to do with highs establishing themselves over the Four Corners region of the U.S., and the wind is relentless. We saw 58 knots at 3 a.m. in the wind tunnel that is Puerto Escondido, but expect what Zzmeyer reports: when you look to the gauges during a gust at the height of the event, you will see high 20's to 35 kts.
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