Saturday, December 15, 2012

Turtle Bay

For the last week, Elaine and I have been hanging out in Turtle Bay. Turtle Bay is located half way down the Baja coast between Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas. It is situated on a beautiful natural bay with lots of wildlife and is surrounded by one of the largest Biosphere reserves in the world. It is extremely isolated, being over 100 miles from the nearest town of any size, more than 50 miles of which are on dirt roads through empty desert.

Due to its isolation and the closing of the tuna canning plant over 20 years ago, the town is nothing to write home about (although I am writing home about it anyway). It has a population of about 3000 that live primarily on fishing and the supply of and transportation from the fish camps in the area. There are a couple of so so restaurants, some OK stocked tiendas and not much else. The main reasons boats stop in Turtle Bay are the excellent anchoring in the bay and the availability of “yacht services”, mainly diesel, water, laundry, trash drop off and food. After Turtle Bay, you are pretty much on your own until Cabo.

Our primary reason for stopping here was for water, since our water maker was on the fritz (thankfully now fixed) and laundry since we had been out from Ensenada for almost 3 weeks. The other reason is to wait for a suitable weather window that will let us continue to go slow down the coast and stop in some of the cool bays and anchorages along the way to Cabo. Unfortunately that window hasn’t arrived yet but we are not in a hurry.

While waiting for our weather window, we have been strolling around town, hanging out with some of the other boaters, making friends with Rogelio, the owner of the beach bar, and exploring the area. As I mentioned the sea life in the bay is great. We have been treated to dolphins playing around the boat, huge sea lions swimming by and hundreds and hundreds of cormorants, pelicans and seagulls flying in great groups hunting bait fish. We have also seen herons, egrets, several types of ducks and even an osprey.

On one excursion we took the boat over to the south end of the bay to explore the beach there. Elaine has become quite the beach comber, on the hunt for interesting shells, rocks and her new passion sea glass. While she found some cool “keeper” shells and we came across some interesting whale bones, the beach was filled with trash at the high tide line. In hind sight this was predictable since 90% of the times the wind blows from the north thus pushing any trash from town that makes it into the bay onto the south beach. The best part of the day

On the subject of sea glass, I would have to say Elaine has a new obsession and may need an interventionJ. Both her brother Sam and good friend Jennie are sea glass collectors and as we have been walking on the beaches she would see a piece and would say “oh Jennie and Sam would like this”. Well stopping for a piece here and there has quickly evolved into a full on hunt any time we hit the beach. Lucky for her, Mexicans have thrown a lot of glass into the ocean over the years and nobody here seem to be interested in the glass after it has been broken up and tumbled in the sea. We found 2 spots in particular where she picked up handfuls of glass of all colors, in a matter of minutes. Now when we are walking on the beach, I have to remind her to look up every once and a while and enjoy the view !!

Our most “exciting” adventure so far was yesterday afternoon and evening. We have been keeping a close eye on the weather, primarily to find a weather window for our trip south but also for anything coming our way. Well something did come. A fast moving frontal system arrived about 2pm yesterday and blew 20 to 25 knots steady all afternoon, last night and this morning with periodic heavy rain squalls thrown in for fun. It felt like being in a car wash for hours, with the dry mechanism stuck on. To make matters more interesting, the initial, and biggest winds were forecast to come out of the south with the winds shifting to the W then WNW later at night.

The problem with the shift in wind direction is that the primary anchorage in the north end of the bay, off the town, is good for most weather but is open to the south. The anchorage in the south end of the bay is well protected from southerlies but is less so as the wind shifts W and NW. The question of the day was whether to stay in the north anchorage or head to the south. Ideally, one would head to the south anchorage, hang out there until the worst of the southerlies passed, and then head back to the north anchorage as the winds shifted WNW. The problem was the wind shift was forecast to occur in the middle of the night. In general, anchoring at night is not desirable. Making matters worse, it was a moonless night and there was a large oyster farm with dozens of buoys between the south and north anchorages!! After some moderate agonizing, we decided to go for the southern anchorage to get protection form the biggest winds and hope the wind shift to the WNW would be late enough that we would only have to endure them until first light when we could head back north.

I am happy to say we make the right choice although it was not a comfortable night. At about 11am, we headed for the south anchorage and tucked into a nice spot. The other 2 boats here had decided to stay north. As forecast, the front arrived at 2 pm and by 3:30pm the wind was ripping, white caps filled the bay and rain was pouring down.  At this point, we were just fine. The anchor was holding well and the boat motion was minimal, and it was still warm enough for shorts and T-shirts. At 4pm, in the height of the first squall passing, I looked out the hatch and what do I see but the 2 other boats from the north anchorage emerge from the sheets of rain seeking shelter in the south anchorage. It must have really sucked up there if they both moved at the height of the rain. As the evening proceeded, the wind persisted in the mid 20’s and the predicted shift unfortunately came early. The bad news was that the wind waves from the westerlies came in pretty good into the anchorage. The good news is that the steady winds kept us pointed into them so we mainly hobby horsed (pitched bow up and down) vs. roll side to side, which is the worst. None the less, I only slept about half the night and Elaine not at all.

Looking ahead, we will probably be here for a couple more days. Tonight we are going out to dinner with the folks from 2 boats. Should be fun.

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