Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Away from the city, out on the ocean, sailing and motoring farther and father south as the waters become warmer and the need for jackets and insulated pants becomes less.

Many blogs back I wrote to stay tuned for how my stomach adjusted to the motion of the ocean. I’d thought that I was getting used to the rocking and rolling, pitching and yawing motions, until the journey from Ensenada to Turtle Bay Nov 6-8. We started out in the afternoon to sail across Ensenada’s bay, and down the coast a short way to Bahia Todos Santos to anchor for the night, but the anchorage had winds over 20 knots, and masses of kelp floating around waiting to snag on the propeller, so we continued on to Turtle Bay, two nights and days away. Even with Vontrol, a Mexican dramamine, the washing machine action had me sick four times in 40 hours, until we finally passed Isla Cedros and were out of the waves caused by NW winds for the 20 miles along the island coast. After Turtle Bay, the stomach did fine, I think once the seas get rough I must reach a certain level of non-tolerance. Many of the other sailors on that particular leg commented on feeling seasick, even the experienced ones, but not Nikk, luckily.

And how are we doing living in close quarters? Very well, I think. We do an interesting dance sometimes when we’re both trying to brush teeth, or dress, or move about without bumping each other. When we’re sailing, we’re both in the cockpit during the day, but take turns sleeping at night so that one person is always on watch, which lessens collisions both with other ships and ourselves. When we’re anchored, we’re busy with repairs, cooking, reading, or going exploring on shore. How are we doing avoiding chaos aboard? Really well, although sometimes in order to do repairs Nikk needs to pull almost everything out of the secluded quarter berth behind the nav station, and pile it up on the settees, then the cabin looks really messy. And out in the cockpit all the boxes and boxes of parts, tools, rope, cans and bottles of solvents and other chemicals get deposited on every level surface so that Nikk can work or go down into the hold. Then it all gets put back and order is restored after the project is completed, and we can enjoy being able to move around in a cabin that’s tidy.

Despite the rebellious tummy, this section of the journey surrounded us with the beauty of the present moments. At sunset the first day dozens of dolphins came by to frolic with the boat and then get back to their feeding frenzy. At night the stars came out, the Pleiades rising first, then Jupiter, followed quickly by Orion, out on the ocean even the Milky Way was visible, I realized on this voyage how much I’d missed the night sky, living near Taos at almost 8000 feet elevation, the night sky was a constant presence, each night I’d take the dogs outside at about 10, and look at the profusion of silver stars in a jet black sky. In Portland just seeing the BIg Dipper, the moon and planets, and maybe Orion on a clear night was all that was possible. Lightening appeared on the second day, and at night many shooting stars, and a very unusual occurrence, a sighting of Mercury right before sunrise, a faint orange object barely above the horizon.

Of course, when it was my turn to be on watch the second night, with Nikk really needing sleep, the radar showed a boat getting closer and closer, when it was about half a mile away I turned on the bright spreader lights to show the sails. It looked like a tugboat, which could change course much easier than we could, since we were sailing wing and wing, with the mainsail out to starboard, and the headsail out to port held there by a pole attached to the mast. But on it came on the same course, so I had to wake Nikk up to change course and adjust the sails, looking to see if the tug was towing a dark black object, which would be the barge. We’ve agreed that I don’t go up on deck to change sails, and adjust what I can from the cockpit. Finally after much effort we changed course and then got the ship on the VHF, and it turned out to be a sailboat, Gold Dust, a 42 foot Islander, who wanted to keep the course they were on, but agreed to fall off until we were by them and in front. Nikk stayed on watch and I slept until 1 am, when Gold Dust was no longer even on the radar. Later we met up with the three guys on Gold Dust at a restaurant in Turtle Bay, the captain, James, said that they thought we were a fishing boat!

Isla Cedros has “cedars”, which are really junipers, and also a kind of pine tree only found there. We could see these trees on the highest ridges as we sailed by in the morning. On the eastern side of the island the hills rise steeply from the ocean, with almost no anchorages, and thus no habitation. Early Spanish explorers encountered natives living on the island, mostly inland, except for the southern tip, where the land slopes gently. Of course, there is a town there now, with a huge facility that stores salt from the lagoons across the water on the peninsula, where they process seawater into salt. The lagoons are so shallow that big ships can’t dock there, so the salt must be taken to Isla Cedros and dumped into huge piles, before being loaded into huge container ships to go to Japan and the US. Once past Isla Cedros, we motorsailed through the Dewey Channel, a narrow, 4 mile wide section with fairly shallow waters, watching the extensive sands of Isla Natividad on one side, and Punta Eugenia, a rocky promontory, on the other. Soon Kelp Point appeared, along with several rocks that we needed to avoid, and then we were anchored in 28 feet of beautiful green water in Bahia de Tortugas, about 200 yards from shore, at 4 pm. We quickly ate leftover mac and cheese with green beans and stewed tomatoes, a staple that we first began eating while sailing the Baja HaHa a year ago, and Nikk went to bed at 5 pm! I stayed up for a little while, and was visited by an official looking boat with two Mexicans dressed in slacks and white shirts. Thinking that they asked me where I was from, I said “Portland, Oregon, USA”. Then they seemed to be asking me if I wanted any potatoes or candy? All of us were thoroughly confused, so I told them I was tired and needed to sleep, and bid them Buenas Noches. They went off to visit another boat. The next day, another boat said that they asked them for their papers, but because they looked suspicious, the other boat sent them away. Nobody else ever came to the boat to ask for any documents. Being tired and blonde must have worked in my favor?

Bahia de Tortugas (Turtle Bay) is a large, SW facing bay which provides some protection from the prevailing NW winds, however the anchorage faces the town, which has almost no hills, and lets the NW winds funnel into the bay, as we experienced Sunday morning when the wind was howling and the boat really rocking. The east end of the bay has a long, wide beach, where the HaHa had a picnic and party last year. Turtles probably laid their eggs on that beach long ago, but no turtles have been seen in the bay for a long time. It’s not just the meat, eggs and shells that are prized. A college friend lived in Columbia in the 70’s, and was severely burned all over her legs in a kitchen fire. While recuperating, a neighbor told her to rub turtle oil on the scars. She did, and six months later there were only faint scars, so she was able to model in New York and Miami for several years after that. I was glad to read in one of the books about Baja California that the Mexican government is now attempting to protect these endangered turtles.

The town of Turtle Bay has about 3000 inhabitants, a school, several hotels, restaurants, little grocery stores, and a Pemex gas station. It also has an airport and medical clinic, and is the largest port on the Pacific side in this part of lower Baja after Magdalena Bay. It’s located 135 miles from Hwy 1, the Main Transpeninsular Highway, known as the MTH, on a road that was just recently paved. Income from all the cruisers who usually stay there several days is important. Like many of the small coastal towns we have anchored at, the homes are small, made of wood, with tiny dirt yards, sometimes some flowering trees or shrubs, and often a new SUV or truck. Kind of reminded us of a ghetto stereotype. I’m including pictures at the end of this blog, since pictures don’t load until I have internet service.

We loved being in Turtle Bay. The first thing we discovered was that Turtle Bay, being below the 28th degree of latitude, is in the Mountain Time Zone. When we woke, the sun was coming up at 5:30am, until we discovered the need for the time change. A panga came out to take us to shore, which involved getting onto the lower dock, jumping across to the steel ladder painted blue, and then up to the rickety long upper dock on wooden pilings, and then the beach. A short trudge along the beach and we were at Maria’s Restaurant, where we had a wonderful reunion with Dolores, our waitress, who remembered us from last year. We also had Huevos Rancheros and an Omelette Jamon, with cerveza at 10 in the morning. Fortified, we found a few groceries and an internet hut which also had a shower. Unfortunately no one came to open the shower and take our money, and the internet didn’t work (I think it was because there were too many people in there on the internet already). Finally we heard that showers were available at the Hotel Morocco up the street, and we wound up in Room 4, taking a shower for 100 pesos, about 8 dollars. Little did we know that it would be our last shower for several weeks.

That evening we paddled our kayaks to the dock in the dark, with our headlamps brightly glowing, in order to eat dinner at Maria’s, and found the three men of the Gold Dust sailboat, who were very entertaining conversationalists. We also left our laundry with Dolores. Coming back our headlamps shone on all the pelicans surrounding the large fishing boat like garden art. We met Tim and Jane of Midnight Blue, a beautiful 42 foot Camper Nicholson sailboat. They came by after a surfing jaunt in the afternoon to meet us and say hello. Another stroke of luck, because the next morning we couldn’t get a panga to come get us, it was too windy, so Tim and Jane called us on the VHF and came by to pick us up in their dinghy. We all needed to check out the little markets (tiendas) and then on to the Hotel Veracruz for a very late lunch at 3pm. After lunch of Pescadero de la Veracruz, fish with tomatoes and peppers in a mild sauce with rice and beans, the owner/waitress treated us to meat tamales and then tamales dulces (sweet filling). No need for dinner that night. Beautiful Maxfield Parrish clouds at sunset, with forecast for winds abating by the next day.

No winds abating, all day Sunday the winds blew and blew. This was good for drying the clothes that had been washed by Dolores and hung on the line at her house. I remembered that we’d been carrying a small pumpkin all the way from Newport under the sink, and thus the Pumpkin Pie Project began. I peeled the pumpkin, scraped out the seeds, cubed it up, brushed it with oil, and then roasted it at 350 for 45 min. Made pie dough, mashed the pumpkin, mixed 2 c pumpkin with evaporated milk (and part soy), 2 eggs, 2 t cinnamon, 1 t cloves, 1 t pumpkin pie spice, and 1/2 t ginger. Into the oven it went. Unfortunately the boat was rocking so much the the filling sloshed out and onto the back wall of the oven. The heat ruined the red bottom of the little Ikea baking pan that I put underneath to catch any spills. The pie turned out great, however. Got it done just in time to get picked up by Tim and Jane to go into town for diesel, shopping and a long lunch at Maria’s. We took many pictures of us with Dolores, and even a picture of Nikk’s plate of food as art. Cleaning the oven when we got back took another 45 minutes, to end the Pumpkin Pie Project. Nikk fixed the preventer deck plate to keep moisture from coming down the bolt and into the cabinet with my books. Luckily only the Sudoku book got wet! Nikk’s other work was readjusting the anchor bridle line, fixing the wheel adapter for the wind vane and reorganizing the anchor chain locker.

Monday the winds were even stronger, 25-30 kt gusts, the boat was rocking, lines were banging, the boat slewing all over. Not much sleep that night, so we overslept in the morning, then Nikk had a flashback and called on the VHF identifying himself as the boat he owned 30 years ago. Saw Midnight Blue, Gold Dust, and Encore leaving at 7 am, so we skedaddled too at about 7:30am for Bahia Asuncion, 48 miles away, saying goodbye to Turtle Bay, our haven for three days. Goodbye to the cumulus clouds and Death Valley scenery, goodbye to the friendly people of this little town, goodbye to the cute little dogs, and goodbye to any internet connection until we get to Cabo San Lucas. It’s not really going back 30 years, though, we still have radar and VHF. There will be more time to read, but I’ll miss the ability to connect with family and friends.

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Where the Death Valley-like scenery meets the sea

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The rickety dock leading to the leap to the blue ladder in Turtle Bay

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Maria’s Restaurant in Turtle Bay<;

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Nikk’s favorite house in Turtle Bay complete with whale bone house ornament

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One of the five squid that landed on deck during the rough water episode

Comments on: "South Along the Baja Coast: Ensenada to Bahia de Tortugas" (3)

  1. I love these posts Jan! Did you eat the squid that jumped aboard? Mmmmm! Can’t wait to read more xxxooo!

    • THANKS Kristy! I can’t get on FB yet, so tell Riley that I’m seeing lots of fishes and dolphins and saying HI from Riley. And no, we didn’t eat those squid, they’d been out on deck overnight and weren’t sure they were still OK to eat. Pretty, though, weren’t they?

  2. Happy Thanksgiving to You and Nikk, and to the rest of your families!
    Wonderful story of the Pumpkin Pie and sloshing it got in the oven.
    And pictures of the rickety dock and blue ladder leading up to it.
    The jump to it must be all part of your High Adventure, I imagine.
    Lots of love from Philly.

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