Nov 30, 2011

Bahia de Tortugas Where The Dock Goes On A Walkabout

You are only as beautiful as your last action.
Stephen Richards 

Pantheon (cemetery)
Turtle Bay, so called because of its shape is a good rest area ½ way along the Pacific Coast of Baja California. Imagine living at the end of a 135 mile, not so well maintained, dirt road from any major town, dirt road so rough some people wait for low tide to drive on the beaches rather than using the road when possible. At least the ocean waves smooth out the beach/access more than once a day…

This, unfortunately dying little town of 1,000 people or so is more reminiscent of 3rd world village than expected. The town’s largest/oldest cannery (only real large employer) closed down so only a few fishermen, restaurants (thank you sailing tourists), and stores support this little place.

People are very friendly although I often wonder what it is like for them to cater to sailors/visitors with vessels that are probably worth more than they would make in nearly a lifetime. After lunch at a restaurant our first day here, I was given a small shell and blue bead bracelet made by one of the daughters/nieces of the owner. They wouldn’t allow me to say no. They have so little but they are so giving.

We went to the beach with Nikki, her first day on tierra ferma (tierra ‘arena (sand)’! in this case) in a week. On the way there two very large seals followed us hungrily and closely astern. I think they are trained to know that the sound of an outboard may mean fish leftovers so they follow their ‘stomach’ and chase after us until we get to the beach and they realize we are not fishing.

For such a small town, we have the luxury of choosing between 3-4 grocery stores, each with their own version of specific produce, beverages, cereals, snacks, dry goods, etc. The cruising guide had warned us of only being able to find eggs, avocados, and oranges (local wares) here but we have been able to find most produce we are used to as well as dairy products. Of course produce purchased at these little places need to be eaten nearly immediately but it beats canned goods in a heartbeat. For eggs, you have to provide your own carton, those are not available – it’s somewhat like buying in bulk.

There she blows and blows and blows!!!

The Santa Ana winds blew all day… up to 26 knot wind gusts. Everything is a reddish dusty mess. The winds blew so hard that when they finally lessened (only at 16 knots) we endeavored to go to town with the dinghy to get the rest of the groceries and walk Nikki once more before departing first thing in the morning. Only to find that the ‘guest’ dock had been blown away from the main fuel dock. We therefore had to beach the dinghy (meaning we all got wet but it’s fairly warm so it’s livable). Sailors who left in the morning encountered 34 knot winds rounding the point on the way out of here. We are hoping for a little quieter day tomorrow.

Next paragraph and how very quickly things changed. No winds to speak of until Wednesday afternoon so we are staying put for a few more days. This allowed us to go back to town so I could take pictures to add here.

Typical home
Use of sea shells in driveway
The locals are very resourceful and creative people who create/build/repair anything with what they find around them. In buildings you will find anything from tires to shells and from whale bones to lava rocks. You can also see driveways ‘paved’ with seashells for traction in the dirt. They mix and match unlikely colors, wood with concrete, corrugated metal with saguaro ribs, etc. Their tax code (so we’ve been told) states that if the house is unfinished, they pay fewer or no taxes so you find many homes with front doors leading to nowhere (no stairway, etc), and plenty of rebar showing at the tops/ends of walls, fences, patios, etc. The other theory is that they build with the money they have, little by little. The town only has one paved street so it is rather dusty every time someone drives by.

The best view of the bay seems to be occupied by the church and cemeteries (two of them, an older less colorful one due to faded colors nearest the church and looking full, and a newer one a little further away). They are filled with mini-house like structures (with roofs, doors, windows, etc) instead of tombstones (sorry if there is a name for these, I do not know what it is). These are very well maintained and cared for, better than most homes.

Water must be limited as very few plants/gardens are to be seen. It would otherwise be perfect weather to grow citrus, pomegranates, dates, etc.

We met a couple from British Columbia traveling with two large dogs: a Malamute and a Samoyed. I cannot keep up with the fur shedding and sand tracking Nikki brings daily on the boat. I cannot fathom how they do it. Speaking of dogs, there are several in town and Nikki is making friends. One followed us back all the way to the dock and stayed looking forlornly out to see after his new friend. Traveling with dogs adds another dimension to sailing: looking for best quieter areas for dogs to run free = usually meaning off the beaten path places but it also very often breaks down barriers and many people want to see the dog and they approach you more easily than if you were without.

Standing up to steer panga
While sipping on an afternoon beer at a small restaurant (La Palapa) off the pier, we watched the locals put their dinghies in the water. They actually put them in the water using their pickups in reverse pushing them with their back bumpers. They also use long paddles rowing standing up. It seems a little counterintuitive and very non-secure but they manage to navigate very efficiently and quickly this way.

Birds (mainly pelicans) can be found everywhere you look: docks, dinghies, pier, roads, patios, etc. The smell of guano is quite strong but the natives don’t seem to notice or care. If you leave anything unattended for any length of time, you’ll probably come back to it covered with birds and their droppings. Mother Nature always being productive!

Being here so long has allowed us to complete a few more projects on the boat. Whipping sheets/halyards/ropes, creating a harness to pick up the dinghy to put it up at night (away from thieves), adding more secure tie-downs to the main sheet, fixing a hinge of a lazarette, etc. All projects that were postponed because we were always on the go or still debating how best to build/make it.

It still looks like the winds will be back Wednesday afternoon so ‘right now’ this is our new departure date but we’ll see how that goes.

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