On the hook in Bahia de Tortugas

December 2014#Bahia de Tortugas_Pelican church

The first light of dawn
The only thing I like about arriving in a new harbor after dark is the exhilaration I feel waking to new vistas. Light crept through our portholes at just after 6:30 am the morning of the 10th, beckoning me to crawl swiftly from our v-berth, much in the same way the aroma of bacon or coffee tugs me from slumber, and to feast my eyes upon Bahia de Tortugas. The bay that had felt so confining beneath a murky sky and a sliver of a moon was enormous by day.

#Bahia de Tortugas_Ay chihuahuaOne of our guidebooks had described Bahia de Tortugas as “coyote ugly.” To the contrary, the bay struck me as beautiful; beautiful in a dusty monochromatic kind of way. Much of the shore was barren, but a smattering of houses whose colorful paint had faded to dull under the mighty desert sun rested along the water’s edge. Roughly 10 boats were at anchor, among them some of the Umbrella Dumpers and s/v Full Shell, one of our sisterships. Only 60 CM440s were built, so to awake to one was quite a surprise! Her crew had just weighed anchor and were on their way out to sea.

The temperature was already approaching 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the kiss of an awakening sun felt good on my skin. In just 30 feet of water, I watched a pair of dolphins and a female sea lion hunt for their breakfast. Dozens of brown pelicans passed by in a single file flight pattern, flapping their wings in unison and gliding just above the water. Panga after panga of Mexican fishermen sped by, their wake rocking The Red Thread as they hurried to fish the dawn golden hour. This scene recurred each and every morning thereafter. Cindy climbed out onto s/v Namaste’s deck. We made eye contact and both did a happy dance, cheering silently that we had made it halfway down the coast of Baja!#Bahia de Tortugas_Dolphins diving#Bahia de Tortugas_Giddy NeilSuds and voyeurs
Of all the things that have become routine since cruising (e.g., stowing would-be projectiles before passages, reefing sails), showering is not one! After a few long days at sea, we looked rough and smelled worse. We waited until our fellow Umbrella Dumpers had left their boats to explore town before stripping down beneath the heat of the sun and shimmying into the crisp turquoise water. Showering on the swimstep is a bit of a cruiser’s rite of passage. We were laughing and enjoying the moment when we noticed we weren’t exactly alone! Fifty yards away on a blue-hull sailboat that had appeared quite empty just minutes before, was now perched a middle-aged man, fists planted sternly on his hips, unabashedly watching our boatside bath time! I gasped and toppled over into the cockpit! We quickly lathered and rinsed, laughing; not knowing whether we should find humor or offense that there was a voyeur in our midst! At least the chap didn’t have his binoculars out!#Bahia de Tortugas_The Red ThreadTuna, todopos, and nothing but time
That night, we hosted a potluck tuna feast aboard The Red Thread, happy to share the bounty of big eye tuna we had caught on our passage from Ensenada. Fourteen sailors joined us aboard, sharing more delicious homemade nibbles than we could finish and planting the seeds of friendships in conversation and laughter. We loved hosting such an incredible group of people!

We remained in Bahia de Tortugas for five wonderfully relaxing days. I welcomed the sun with yoga on the cabin top, and Neil and I savored our coffee in the cockpit each morning. We examined the rigging, worked on building bookshelves for our main cabin, and completed miscellaneous boat tasks. Each afternoon, a vortex of hundreds of pelicans, terns, and gulls dove like Olympic athletes into a bait ball of fish. The huge splashes and cries punctuated the otherwise quiet anchorage, and we ranked their dives based on skill and speed.DCIM100GOPROWe headed to shore and experienced dinghy wheel envy when we saw those of some of our friends; muscling a rigid bottom dinghy with a 90-pound outboard engine strapped to its aft is no small feat! We explored the small town, where homeless dogs with dreadlocks roam the dusty streets. Fishing is the primary industry in the area, and the town bears scars of poverty and hurricane damage. The citizens of Bahia de Tortugas were friendly, their large, vibrant smiles belying the ramshackle state of their worn village. We wiled away afternoons at Maria’s Restaurant, wrestling with a shoddy internet connection over 25-peso Pacifico beers ($1.88 USD) and todopos and salsa. S/v Sea Rover II hosted a game night in which we played Mexican train dominoes, and we met up with friends to discuss weather and route planning to continue our journey south.#Bahia de Tortugas_Dinghy drama #Bahia de Tortugas_Pink houses #Bahia de Tortugas_Dredlock doggie #Bahia de Tortugas_Maria's restaurant#Bahia de Tortugas_N+J#Bahia de Tortugas_TownAnd then we said goodbye to our new friends. Tears fell as we hugged John, Cindy, and Journey (s/v Namaste), the first friends we made as cruisers. Our path was about to diverge from the rest of the Umbrella Dumpers…or so we thought.#Bahia de Tortugas_With Namaste#Bahia de Tortugas_Umbrella dumpers

7 thoughts on “On the hook in Bahia de Tortugas

    • It was lovely, Lily! The town is very, very small…it’s not totally clear to me if there are even true hotels there. That said, it would be worth the adventure, in my opinion. The most interesting plan would be to explore the central Baja coast between January and March when the baby gray whales become active. The only three bays in the world where they give birth are along the Baja coast. Check this out: http://www.allaboutbaja.com/whalesofbaja.htm. ~Jessie


      • Now isn’t that a million-dollar question! There are several places where we would have enjoyed spending more time or stopping at all (e.g., Barra Navidad, MX). As much as we loved the west coast of Baja, however, we feel satisfied with the time we spent there. We had friends (some of the Umbrella Dumpers) who stayed in Bahia Santa Maria for a bit, but they had a rough go of it in a rolly anchorage. That said, it’s on my (Jessie) bucketlist to make it back to Baja someday to see the baby gray whales. Staying for a month or so for that, would have been waiting longer than we would have wanted, however. ~Jessie


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