Sand Dollar Beach and Cruising South on the Pacific Coast

Mar 03, 2020 - National Geographic Venture

We awoke today to uncertainty. With two amazing days behind us, having made memories that will certainly last a lifetime; we were faced with a weather forecast that suddenly threatened to rob us of a day at the beach.

Winds gusting to 20 knots made crane operations a bit iffy, but our intrepid deck hands managed to finesse a Zodiac into the water, so that a test run could be made to the beach. The Capitan determined that it was safe, although guests were certain to get a bit damp on the way to our landing, but they would arrive, and return in safety. Such is life, and it’s never nothing!

Sand Dollar Beach is a prize that must be won, but one that is certainly worth the effort. It is accessed after a half hour walk over sand of varying consistencies, some of which require more effort than others to cross.

The hike up and over the dunes from the inner reaches of Bahia de Magdalena to the mighty Pacific took us through ancient shell mounds, or middens that in some places pre-dated the Spanish occupation. And, in many places the sand inexplicably gave way under foot, causing us to sink several inches, yet all persisted, and reached the mighty Pacific, and it did not disappoint.

Ah, to be a kid again, and several of us were…Well, not again, but you get my meaning! On an endless beach. To have no worries other than making sure you get home on time, this is the essence. The beach stretches as far as the eye can see, in both directions, and our only regret is that we cannot spend the whole day here.

This is a beach that was made for long days and a dog. Well, none of us had brought a dog, but it was clear that members of the canids had been enjoying our beach, none-the-less, as we surveyed coyote tracks coming and going up and down the beach.

As we returned from our reveries, we realized that the wind was still blowing, and it was time to make our way back across the sand to the relative serenity of Magdalena Bay, and our home on the water, National Geographic Venture.

A pod of long beaked common dolphins intercepted us shortly after we left Magdalena Bay, and gamboled around our bow until they tired of us and departed for other diversions. A few breaching humpbacks in the distance reminded us that we truly were among the great whales as it became evident that the weather had decided to give us a bit of a break on our way south.

Lunch provided time to reflect with friends before we readied for our passage south along the Pacific coast, knowing it could be anything but pacific in today’s winds. Surprisingly, after a bit of motion crossing out through La Entrada, our ship was favored by the weather, and we rode a relatively gentle stern sea south on our way to Los Cabos in the morning.

And now it is time to let the ocean rock us to sleep.

Buenas noches!

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About the Author

Jeff Campbell


Jeff Campbell fell in love with the ocean while attending boatbuilding school in Eastport, Maine. Since completing his MS in Marine and Estuarine Science at Western Washington University, he has worked for NOAA documenting the ecological impacts of transoceanic fiber-optic cable; the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife developing an aging method for sixgill sharks; the Lummi Tribe as a Harvest Biologist; Northwest Indian College teaching Fisheries and Wildlife Biology, and as a volunteer for the Whatcom County Marine Mammal Stranding Network. He has been involved in research developing mitigation methods for harmful algae blooms, sterilization methods for oil tanker ballast water, and techniques for screening refinery effluent for harmful ecological effects. He also served as Principle Director on a USDA-funded grant using student interns to study the impact of nutrient-rich run-off on seasonal dead-zones in Bellingham Bay.

About the Photographer

Sean Neilson


The summer after Sean graduated from college, he waited tables in Yellowstone to delay entering “the real world”. It was there, in the unending beauty of such a special place, where he realized the natural world was the real world—and it had captured him.

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