Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Baja Part 2

Bahia Tortugas was a relaxing stop. Its a small costal town popular with cruisers, and the harbor had 10+ yachts in it when we arrived. The sun came out, and the boat and our gear slowly dried out, and we scouted around town, finding a place to take a shower, the number one thing on our list, and most of the essential food items we needed. The town is dusty. The roads are all unpaved except for the calle principal which leads to a big dust cloud every time a car passes. And the exhaust smell of that passing car has that very mexican quality to it. I don't know if its the leaded gasoline, but it only leads to an increasing desire for another shower. Which is hard to come by on Sula, we mostly rely on saltwater dips over the side. As could be expected from three single guys sailing for months alone, we were interested in finding the "nightlife" in this town. The closest we came to it was a place with the word Bar scrawled across the door. I'm not sure what we stumbled on, but it was a small hole in the wall, with a pool table, red lights, gigantic androgonous bartender, and the single sullen customer was a woman who silently watched us play pool, trip over the boards sticking up from the floor, and almost hit our heads on the nails sticking out of the roof. The giant, curious bartender woman?, at one point silently handed me a hammer from behind the bar to pound sideways the nails from the roof. Our other "nightlife" expereince was a pool hall with about 40 caballeros smoking, drinking, playing pool. At one point the entire Bahia Tortugas gay community walked in the door, with all white suits etc. We had a good time, but not one woman was to be seen.

We spent one weekend in Bahia Tortugas and then set out for the next big stop, Bahia Santa Maria. We spent one night at anchor, waiting for wind, then set out he next morning again only to have our breeze die off. We kept the motor off for a while, and jumped over the side to refresh ourselves, as the air had finally climbed above 70 degrees. We found the water as well, had finally reached comfortable range. What a relief to be clear of the 60 degree water that had been with us since the start. Just after we dried off, the breeze did pick up again, and we were off again, running dead downwind, straight toward the next bend in the coastline and the next safe haven. This was real ocean sailing. Downwind in a fresh breeze with the speed always high, and the boat rolling deeply either direction, and land nowhere to be seen. It was great to make good time and not listen to the engine or see the fuel supply dwindling. It was a night arrival on the third day out and we tucked into Santa Maria in a nicely protected anchorage from the NW. The next morning, after a pancake breakfasat, we braved the warm rain, to load up the dinghy with surfing equipment to try another trek across the land that protected us from the swell, to find that swell breaking on the ocean facing beach. Here we motored the dinghy up a strange mangrove estuary, past several fish camps, shortening our walk. This was reminescent of our last hike. Huge dunes, fields of cactus, and big breakers on a lonely beach.
This beach was filled with plastic garbage, dead animals, and the wreck of a 1950s midship house cargo ship. The surfing was good for novices and we had a great time in the waves, "riding" the big longboard for quite a while, Waikiki style. We promised to be back the next day, for more surfing, and a beachfire barbeque. The next day the rain was even harder, and the wind had come up. The waves were blown out, and we could barely get driftwood to catch fire. We aborted, and headed back for the boat. The previous day we had been caught leaving at dead low tide, and so we had to row and haul by hand the dinghy through the mangrove swamp. Today we were smarter, and had more water. We stopped in the fish camp to see if they had any lobsters for sale. As we approached this strange swamp encampment, we were encouraged by the fishermen to land, and "step into the office." Sure, they had lobsters, but there was no hurry, so sit down on the porch and have a beer and we'll see about some lobsters. The ringleader was Victor, a very kind and very drunk fisherman who made sure we had whatever we needed and more. I'm not quite sure what happened, but more and more people appeared, and more and more bad spanish was spoken and more empty Tecates were thrown into the big cardboard box, and our crate of lobsters and fish got bigger and bigger. When we finally pried ourselves out of Victor's claws it was getting dark and we had another low tide swamp to navigate out of, this time in a dinghy filled with 13 lobsters and a big red fish, for which Victor and Tony Tijuana would accept no money. We were successful in declining the huge handful of marijuana that was thrust toward us at one point. They said we were the first gringos to visit their swamp in a long time, and I imagine we were farily entertaining for them, contstantly running aground in their backyard. Whatever the case, they were unbelievably nice and generous. While we had been trying to lite soggy beach garbage on fire, and sharing Tecates with Victory and Tony Tijuana, the stiff SE wind had continued to blow, and the dinghy ride back out to the boat was rough. The bow was thrown high into the air several times over semi-breaking waves, and the climb back aboard the bucking Sula was a little hairy. I'm not quite sure how it happened but we managed to get the dinghy and engine aboard, lashed down, and the anchor up, safely, while at the same time we all ate 3 lobster tails with garlic butter. I'll just say that I've got a pretty amazing crew. Sula was this whole time, anchored off a lee shore, pitching heavily into the chop. If one anchor or rode element had let go, in only a minute or two, Sula would have been on the beach for good and we would be able to spend more quality time with Victor and Tony Tijuana. But my beautiful 33lb steel Spade anchor held like a bull. We made our way out into the storm. I made a radio call trying to find the other boats at anchor who may have shifted into the southern part of the bay to find relief from the SE chop that had built up in the north. I made a faint contact with another yacht who said it was better down there, so we set off, motorsailing in rough conditions in total darkness in, 20, 25 knots and hard rain. At one point, out in the middle of the bay, I looked up to see a pure white streak of water flying past the masthead light. Seconds later, a big gust of wind knocked Sula over deeply and the air was abolutely filled with water. We luckily were only flying a scrap of the jib, and were able to head up into it as the sail flogged like a machine gun but brought the boat upright again. In 30 seconds it was over, and we were a bit speechless, but we began motoring again, towards what we hoped would be a calm, protected anchorage. In another hour, we were there, and the stars had come out, and things were much calmer in the south. We happily set the anchor again and fell into our births. The next morning it was Ian who was the hero, with an amazing Thai lobster stir fry with rice. It was a short sail to Bahia Magdalena, and just after noon we anchored down off a sandy beach, in the sun, with all our wet gear spread across the deck, drying to a nice salty crust in no time. It was time for another hike, and this was the day. The vantage from atop Monte Isabel was a semi religious experience. Cumulus clouds and ocean as far as the eye could see, 60 miles out to sea.
I hope this video can capture a bit of this place too. After the hike, and a meal, with spirts high, another beach fire, a good rest, it was south yet again, only 130 miles to CABO!

Cabo is not too bad. We're anchored for free just off the harbor entrance. Civilization is loud and busy, but nice for a change, even if it is overpriced and Americanized. The weather and water are amazing. Today I'm going to fix the shaft seal, as it threatens to sink the boat every time we motor. I think we're going for a swim at the famous Playa de Amor just to the right in the pic above, then next morning fuel and water filled up, we'll leave for points....... north?

Sorry about the typos. Wish I had more time.

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