After Bahía Salinas, we spent about 2 weeks in Puerto Escondido. It’s amazing how time flies even when you are standing still. During that time we rented a car for provisioning and took a trip to San Javier to visit an old mission. We did a few minor repairs that had accumulated.
We spent a couple of nights on the dock in Puerto Escondido preparing the boat for our friends (old neighbors) visiting from Alameda. The boat had not seen a fresh water hose in almost 2 months, but it’s amazing how much cleaner the boat stays when it is not in a Marina close to the dirt of a city. Car exhaust, construction dust, brake dust, jet exhaust, and other sources all deposit a tremendous amount of debris into the air which settles onto the boat leaving a brown film within just a few days. But after months on the ocean or at anchor, there was very little to remove except dried salt.
The Other Woman
As we were scrubbing the boat, a power boat pulled in behind us. They were talking about one of their four engines not revving fully. This is terrible thing for a boat with only 1400 horse power. Yes, the four motors were custom painted Yamaha 350’s. I casually sauntered down the dock to listen in. They narrowed the problem to a leaking fuel tank valve that was letting air into the fuel line.
It was time for a test drive, they offered -“Hey come on aboard and check it out.” (Me) “Hey honey, I’ll be back. I have to go for a ride on The Other Woman.” We leave the dock idling; the boat has six airline style seats with headrests that are kind of narrow between the arm rests. We are six aboard including the owner’s taxi driver who has been on standby all afternoon to run parts etc. We idle through the anchorage taking pictures on the cab driver’s cell phone that make it look like he’s driving the beast. He knows nothing of boats and we explain the purpose of the throttle levers.
The engines are running smoothly. I am amazed by how quiet these engines are considering their size. The owner throttles ahead. We are flying. A 3-4 foot swell is running in the channel and we are taking these almost on the beam. The boat seemed to just power through with a gentle up and down motion… Ok, not that gentle, but much less than you would think. The guy sitting next to me is familiar with the boat and I ask him how fast we are going…48 miles (not knots) per hour. I comment on the smoothness. He says the boat is 42 feet. I would have guessed 35. Weighs 32,000 pounds, carries 800 gallons of fuel. (probably not enough). I would guess this boat burns 60 gallons an hour easy. We cross the roughly 7 mile channel in a few minutes and idle in a small bay on Isla Carmen. They snap a few pictures and then roar back across at 55 mph because the swell is now hitting us a little on the stern quarter.
It’s been a busy day for The Other Woman. They left San Carlos on the other side of the Sea of Cortez at 7 am, crossed to San Juanico 112 miles away, had lunch, and got to Puerto Escondido by 1:00 PM after another 44 miles. And I didn’t have my camera along for the ride.
Mission San Javier
On a whim, we decided to visit the mission in the hills above Loreto. A 45-minute drive up a twisty mountain road led us to the town of San Javier. A cart full of flowers welcomed us to the mission which dates from 1699.
Our friends arrived April One for their 10 day vacation, and they accompanied us on our trip north to Bahía Concepción.
Isla Coronados April 2-3
We spent two nights here enjoying this little bay. The second day we anchored off of Loreto for six hours because it became obvious that we had seriously under provisioned tequila, limes, white wine, and milk. The beautiful white sand beach gave our guests their first snorkeling experience in the Sea of Cortez.
Caleta San Juanico April 3-6
It was pretty rough and windy at San Juanico, so we stayed there a couple of nights anchored under the protection of the point. Lots of boats were there to wait out the stronger winds. At sundown on the second night, a single hander came in and anchored. Testing all of the worst places and clearing a mountain of weeds each of the six times he had to reset his anchor. In situations like this I find myself dying to give advice,but refrain knowing that each person is the master of their own ship and unless they ask your advice, you need to hold back. and so, I watch as they anchor, but don’t say a word – despite the fact that when their boat goes adrift at 2:00 in the morning, it may be drifting straight toward our boat!
Playa Santispac, Bahía Concepción April 7-8
A calendar is the worst enemy of cruising, so rather than risk being pinned down by high winds, we pushed on to Playa Santispac so that our guests could be assured of not missing their flight home. This was to be a long passage with our friends, 44 nautical miles, 7-8 hours.
Along the way, I started to notice a smeariness in the vision of my right eye. After fiddling about a bit, I figured I was having a vitreous detachment (although most people my age have already done that) or a retina detachment which is less common, but much more significant. I felt I had a small hemorrhage in my eye because I could see red blood cells (they look like tiny life savers) and a red color shift. As a retired optometrist, I have advised my patients many times on this condition. My words to them “don’t finish your Mexican vacation, find someone locally to look in your eye and tell you what is going on, then decide what to do”. So, now it’s my turn. We meet Carlos, one of the proprietors of Ana’s Restaurant, which has been at Playa Santispac for 38 years. He is all about helping. He drives me to nearby Mulegé, where my internet and cell phone works. I call my international health insurer and they give me a doctor in Tijuana, a 20-hour drive away. He takes me to the local clinic where a couple of harried doctors are caring for a large waiting room of patients. One of them steps away and offers the information that there is a good ophthalmologist in Ciudad Constitución about 3 hours distant. No phone number. We go back to Santispac, no better off. Carlos is a good, but aggressive driver.
Later that evening we are off to Ana’s for dinner. We are the last ones dining and Carlos sits with us telling us how he learned to speak English as a runaway 14-year old in Portland, Oregon. While he was in Oregon both his parents died. I think Rosie is a little taken aback by the story. She may never have met anyone like that. Carlos offers to drive me to Ciudad Constitución.
My symptoms have been stable for 3 days with good vision when I’m not trying to look through the huge floater. We decide that the risk of Carlos’ driving may exceed the risk of retina detachment, and if things start to change we could sail to Guaymas in a day which is a large city with resources.
Decision made, I try to put the eye out of my mind. Playa Santispac is getting crowded in preparation for Easter Week, which is a big deal in Mexico. The beaches are filling in with tents. Jet skis and dirt bikes make their presence widely known; a traveling Carnival begins to set up miles from nowhere. Trying to escape the noise we move a few miles south to:
Playa Coyote April 8-9
We have been told there are Whale Sharks here. Whale sharks are huge animals up to 35 feet in length weighing up to 35 tons. They eat krill, plankton and small fish by filtering and grinding huge gulps of water through their 2mm teeth. Their grayish body is covered with a pattern of large white dots. Bring the dingy alongside (or SUP board), roll in with your snorkel gear on and provided you can kick fast enough, you are swimming with sharks. Very cool, and a highlight of this trip I’m sure.
On one of his trips to the beach, Mike meets Anita Stalter, whose husband brought her here 38 years ago. Now a widow, she spends half her year at playa Coyote and half in Santa Fe New Mexico. Her late husband started the NOLS school, which is an off shoot of the outward bound program. They have a beautiful campus right next door.
Later that day we snorkeled along the north side of the bay, enjoying myriads of small fishes who seem as curious about you as you are about them. Best snorkeling to date. We ate out at Pollo Bertha, which is out of chicken “pollo”, rice, and doesn’t make margaritas.
Our guests are off at 8 am to catch the 9 o’clock bus to Loreto where they will fly home. Ben and Mike are feeling a little queezed out and so am I. Turns out Bertha did have a bug for the boys in the group as all of us were sick. At 11:00 am the wind is kicking up and a weird swell is coming. Lisa & I return to Santispac with much better wave protection and I spend 20 of the next 24 hours asleep. The wind is in the high teens gusting to 25, while I sleep with the anchor alarm on. The eye is unchanged.
Semana Santa (Holy Week), April 9-15
While Michael slept recovering from likely food poisoning, Playa Santispac and all the neighboring anchorages filled in with people celebrating Semana Santa. Apparently, a great family tradition to camp out in Bahía Concepción and other places I’m sure. We walked along the beach to check out the happenings. Everyone was in great spirits. We chatted with a man, recently retired from a government job in Tijuana, enjoying the celebration here for the first time. We watched anxiously as boys, ages 7-10, raced their motor dirt bikes on the road in back of the tents. The Jet Skis were towing squealing kids on their inflatables. The air was filled with the smell of campfires and barbecued meat. Family dining tents alive with laughter, sharing meals and drinking. Good times, but noisy for us. We visited Isla El Requesón (also lined with tents) & then left to return to Playa Coyote, hoping to see the Whale Sharks again.
The Lore of the Lucky Box
As we started to turn into Coyote Anchorage, we noticed a kayak towing a crowded inflatable raft way off shore. The wind had picked up and the afternoon sea was choppy. Was the kayak in trouble? It looked to be stationary up against the waves. Michael turned the boat and we went to offer help. At first, the man in the kayak said no help was required, “we are OK”. Two women and their young children (without life jackets) in the vinyl raft (with 3 inches of water) – were also at first dismissive. But, as we talked with the waves pounding, the kayaker agreed that it would be easier without towing the others. We brought the women & children on board. They sat quietly. They were not very concerned, though they admitted it was taking very long to return and they were tired. The wind had caught them by surprise. It didn’t look that far to the island and back and the snorkeling was supposed to be great. They were grateful for the ride. The kayaker insisted on staying with his boat, still towing the now empty vinyl raft. We got to the Playa Burro Anchorage where they were camped and watched and waited for the man to return. He was not making much headway. Michael dinghied to him and towed both boats back to Footloose. Michael then offered to dinghy the women & children to shore. Two of the women said they would swim. One took off, but the other one clearly did not know how to swim. Realizing this, she tried to board the kayak with her boyfriend, but capsized it in the effort. Michael then towed the kayak and the whole bunch to shore, righted the kayak emptying the water and all was well. I read recently in “Harmony on the High Seas” about the lore of the lucky box, which states an imaginary treasure chest is implanted in the heart of each boat during its construction. When we go out to sea, we have the opportunity to fill this box with Lady Luck’s intangible treasures of fortune or good karma. We felt that we added to this box on this day. We do marvel at the helpfulness of the boating community and we’re glad to contribute.
Punta Chivato, April 15-16
We enjoyed 2 nights anchored here. We walked the infamous “Shell Beach”, and found many shells for our collection. There is an active community living here, with some 200 homes we’re told, plus an aircraft landing strip. In the evening, a helicopter repeatedly buzzed over the anchorage, treating his friends to a thrill ride. We watched a motor boat cruising fast to get a close up of some dolphins. We try not to judge, but seriously people. We met a couple guys walking their dogs on the beach, both long-time residents. One reported, “I started coming here in 86’, first there were tents, then RVs, then houses.”
We anchored next to two boats, Ahmeek and Attitude. We met Dennis and Sherie on Ahmeek for Sundowners when we found out the restaurant was closed for Easter. We remembered meeting the couple from Attitude when we first arrived in La Paz. They are long-time cruisers and we recall having enjoyed listening to their experiences. They stopped by in their dinghy to say hi and to share some news. They bought a home at Punta Chivato! They were swallowing the anchor. Attitude was soon for sale. We could tell that it was a sudden decision, and while Neil seemed excited, Kathy wasn’t yet sure. It’s hard to say goodbye to a boat and to a lifestyle. They were off to share Easter dinner with some new friends in the community. We wished them well. We are still on the other side of this cruising journey, still just getting started. We do wonder when our moment will come, when we’ll choose to return to land and settle somewhere. Not today, tomorrow- Santa Rosalia!
Santa Rosalia, April 17-24
We docked here yesterday afternoon. It’s been awhile since we’ve stayed at a Marina. We slept well last night without any anchor angst. We will be here a week. We will be provisioning, doing laundry, fixing and cleaning. We’ll also get out to enjoy this working-mining town. We walked this morning and found breakfast at Tercos and bought some eggs, limons, cheese, and hot sauce at the small mercado. Michael found fresh baguettes at the bakery. We’ll venture to Ley’s later this week to truly stock up. We may try a Chinese restaurant tonight, first Chinese we’ve tasted in Mexico, reported to be fresh & good. We were hoping to find an Eye Doctor for Michael here, but we checked at the hospital and there is not one in town. His eye is stable, still it’s worrisome not knowing. The things we once took for granted in California -like abundant fresh produce and abundant choices of medical care – are not as accessible here. It’s all a part of the adventure.