The San Carlos area is a departure point for both day-sailors and gulf-cruisers alike. The combination of generally mild weather conditions over a sheltered body of water makes the Sea of Cortez ideal for both novice and experienced sailors.
The immediate region possesses approximately 60 miles of coastline with over 40 sheltered anchorages. Several islands are also within easy reach and with a little effort you can find your own private beach, if only for the day.
For those looking for a more extended multi-day sail, a trip over to the Baja peninsula makes for a great voyage. Probably the most popular destination for sailors leaving out of San Carlos is Santa Rosalia, a quiet town in central Baja. From there, many sailors visit Mulege and Loreto before heading back. San Felipe in the northern Gulf lacks some of the tropical ambiance of Santa Rosalia, Mulege, and Loreto, but is an easy sail and allows one to island-hop the midriff islands on the way to Baja.
Essentially the opposite of the scuba diving season, October through May are considered to be the prime time for sailing, with the dry season being December through April. Topside temperatures during this time of year are mild, from the 50’s to the high 70’s and you miss out on the “Chubascos”, summer squalls that can pack a punch. Winds are often from the northwest in the winter, and variable in the summer. Afternoon winds in the winter can reach over 25 knots.
The unique shape of the Sea of Cortez creates wave patterns in windy conditions that are characterized by sharp short waves. The narrow Gulf does not allow for the formation (typically) of very large waves like those seen in the Pacific, but those that do form often have a very sharp rise and fall. Boats moving across these waves may find themselves in an uncomfortable seesaw motion with sudden slaps as the hull drops into the wave trough, only to start climbing the next. With experience, sailors can easily manage these seas, and talking with locals will give novices a good idea as to whether they should stay within the protected confines of San Carlos Bay.
There are a number of individuals and organizations that offer sailing instruction in San Carlos;
Sonoran Sport Center offers American Sailing Association certifications, and has a range of boats available for rent both with and without skippers.
Sonoran Sport Center
Edificio Marosa #1 San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, 85506
Tel # 011-52-622-226-0929
The San Carlos Sailing School also offer ASA certified courses and a have a friendly and experienced staff. They offer boat rentals and excursions including expeditions to the Baja Peninsula.
Their U.S. # is (520) 509-4334 and the local San Carlos # is 01 622 226 1933
The Tucson Sailing club runs frequent excursions, regattas, and cruises based out of the San Carlos area. They provide a wealth of information and always seem to be up to date on the happenings in the region.
The bays around San Carlos seem custom made for kayaking. Protected from the wind and waves they offer easy paddles around the walls of volcanic rock that characterize much of the coastline.
A favorite paddle is through the estuary (see the On Land page) where schools of fish meet flocks of birds. For those with an adventurous spirit, the point where Marina San Carlos joins the open sea is filled with huge crags, sea-caves and overhangs. Surge in these holes can be severe so caution is a must.
Many establishments in the area rent kayaks and can provide advice on what good sites might be, given the prevailing conditions. Near-shore kayaks are typically the plastic open-hull or sit-on-top varieties, but for experienced kayakers with true ocean kayaks, winter island hopping excursions to the Baja side are favorite challenge. These crossings, while tempting, are extremely difficult and dangerous and should be undertaken only by the most experienced kayakers with substantial planning.