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Inside the adventures of 55m Amels Nomad in the Baja Peninsula

28 April 2022• Written by Sophia Wilson


Motor Yacht


Amels ·  55 m ·  2019

Plentiful fishing grounds initially drew Nomad's owner to the Baja California Peninsula and, having now spent two seasons exploring its watery depths, they haven’t disappointed. The owner, captain and lead deckhand tell Sophia Wilson why they believe Baja is Mexico’s hidden gem.

“We’d heard through the grapevine about its legendary reputation, so we decided we had to find out for ourselves whether the legend was true,” explains the owner of 55-metre Amels Nomad, whose yacht has visited the Baja Peninsula twice in as many years. The main reason that the yacht initially headed to Mexico was because the owner is a passionate spearfisherman. The yacht has now covered both sides of this
650-nautical-mile peninsula on the hunt for extraordinary fishing spots and dive sites.

All images courtesy of LJ Strike/strikecophoto.com

Baja’s geographical location, splitting the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, makes it an exceptional location for marine life. “Where these two bodies of water meet, you’ll find ocean currents that provide excellent nutrients, which bring in all sorts of marine mammals, sharks and, of course, what we search for, big pelagic fish,” Nomad’s owner says. One of the owner’s happiest hunting grounds was Magdalena Bay, which sits nearly 150 nautical miles north of Cabo San Lucas on Baja’s Pacific coastline.

Its remote location means that few superyachts venture there when cruising Mexico. “Mag Bay  is just for adventurous fisherman as that’s the  only thing to do there – it’s very remote,” says the owner. The bay has plentiful diving opportunities, which lead deckhand and photographer LJ Strike was delighted to be able to explore. “Mag Bay was fantastic,” says Strike. “You can do a few dives inshore, or you can go out to these pinnacles which start from 30 metres down.” The abundance of marine life helps make the long cruise from Cabo worthwhile. “What you see in the water is just incredible,” she says. “You would be floating out in the ocean and the next minute you would have a big school of wahoo come by.”

The 55m yacht’s water toy set-up is ideal for the clear waters

With so few superyachts making it as far  as Magdalena Bay, Nomad attracted some attention, predominantly due to her ability to provide fresh water. “There are a lot of tiny fishing villages in that area, and they don’t necessarily have a lot of water,” explains Strike. “We had a lot of fishermen in very small dinghies come with their 44-gallon [200-litre] drums and we just used to give them the hose. It was good to be able to give them something that they didn’t have.”

Nomad tows a 12m Invincible tender for fishing trips

In their quest to find the best fishing grounds, the team also ventured west to the even more remote location of the Alijos Islands. “Islands” is potentially a generous term for the tiny, steep, volcanic pinnacles that sit nearly 200 nautical miles from the mainland and act as nesting site for many seabirds. Set in a transition zone where the Pacific current turns westward to form the North Pacific transoceanic current, the waters are a marine haven. “It’s just a rock in the middle of nowhere,” says Captain Phil Benson. “We went out there to go fishing and scored a lot. It was a real highlight.” The Alijos were also one of Strike’s high points. “Because there are no other boats out there it’s just pristine,” she enthuses. “It’s crystal-clear water, lots of sea life and inquisitive sharks.”

Deckhand and spearfisherman Dylan Yeld with a yellowfin tuna

The water conditions throughout the yacht’s time in Baja allowed Strike to collect an astonishing collection of photos. “Most of the time we were dropped offshore by tender chasing bait balls [a swarm of small fish in a spherical formation],” she recalls. “Then there would be dolphins, whales, wahoo and tuna. You are in the middle of nowhere and you can take all these amazing photos.” During her time off, LJ grasped the opportunity to take in some of the other sites that the peninsula is famous for – including Cabo Pulmo. “There’s thousands of jackfish that form tornado shapes. That was probably one of the best dives I did,” she adds.

Captain Lucas Smith

Nomad also spent time exploring the Sea of Cortez coastline, with Isla Espíritu Santo quickly becoming a favourite stop-off. “The water is flat calm, making it an enjoyable experience both on, in and under the water,” says Nomad’s owner. “Smooth, glassy days happen more often than not, making it an ideal choice for all water-related activities.” The crew were able to make the most of the setting with multiple stern-to tie-ups against the rocks. “We had the big projector on the back screen with the football playing or music videos and it just looks so beautiful at night when it’s lit up,” adds Captain Benson.

With all this on offer it seems strange that more superyachts don’t head to Baja. Benson believes this might be partly due to pre-conceptions, especially related to the party hub of Cabo. “I think there is stigma associated with Cabo. I think Cabo to Americans might be seen a bit like us [Australians] going to Bali,” he jokes. “To be honest that’s what I kind of thought before I went there.” The programme on Nomad is based around ocean activities rather than time on land, and despite using San Jose Airport for embarkation and disembarkation, the yacht spent little time there. “I now say to people, ‘You might have been to Cabo, but it is totally different when you are in La Paz or Loreto on an island by yourself having a beach barbecue,’” he adds.

sla Espíritu Santo was a highlight in the Sea of Cortez for its glassy calm waters.

With limited superyacht facilities on offer and Nomad cruising to some of Baja’s most far-flung corners, the yacht’s capabilities were fully put to the test. Both the owner and captain are delighted with the platform the yacht provided. “Amels and Tim Heywood did a marvellous job with all of the design,” says the owner.  “It really is more than you can imagine for a 55 metre. It’s a well-made piece of machinery that handles any seas, manoeuvres well, with solid craftsmanship throughout and a great design. It’s truly a masterpiece.” Captain Benson agrees that the yacht feels more like a 60 or 65 metre in terms of what she can offer. “The hull is amazing; you can go through anything,” he says. “We tow big tenders, so that restricts us a little, but it is a perfect set-up. I don’t think you could ask for much more.”

Nomad explored secluded spots around the Baja Peninsula, like Bahia Puerto Balandra

While the yacht might have passed with flying colours, there have been a few tests along the way. “The biggest thing with Mexico is that there  are crazy importation taxes,” explains Benson. To add to the captain’s frustration, the goods also frequently go missing. “You are getting parts sent in and it’s like, where has it gone? No one knows and no one cares. We learned the second year but that’s the biggest hurdle in Mexico – you can’t get anything sent, big or small.”

A giant oceanic manta ray, the world’s largest ray

Despite the odd challenge, Nomad’s crew and owner agree that Baja’s variety more than makes up for it. “In the La Paz area it’s almost like being on Mars with an ocean,” says Strike. “You are stern-to, to these bright ancient red rocks with this crystal blue, clear water and then you drive around to Mag Bay and there are rolling green hills. And then when you go over to Cozumel and Cancún it’s all white crystal beaches. The two coasts are completely different.”

For the owner the highlights of this varied peninsula – from swimming with sea lions to beach set-ups – are too numerous to mention.  “My nine-year-old son and his friends swimming through bait balls in Loreto was certainly one of them,” he says. And it is the diversity of ocean-based activities that has him now planning on returning to Baja for “years to come”.

“From glassy, crystal-clear days in the Sea of Cortez to anchoring 165 nautical miles offshore, spearfishing in perfect visibility water, what Baja has to offer will always stand out,” he says.  “It turns out the legend was true.”

First published in the May 2022 edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

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