Bienvenido a un México diferente. Welcome to a different Mexico.
Bahia Tortuga was a small fishing village, a few thousand people at most, dirt roads BUT… satellite dishes, internet, cell phones, modern cars. Bahia Santa Maria….not so much a town but a fishing camp. But before we got to the land part, we did have two nights and days at sea to survive.
Traditionally, the time of year and shape of the land makes leg 2 very quiet, calm seas and little to no wind. We left on Hallowe’en morning and had a ‘rolling start’ from 9 – 11:15 a.m. The trip is, after all, a ‘race’ so there is an official starting time, and it’s supposed to be a sailboat race so you are supposed to…well, sail. But when there isn’t any wind – we started the day under diesel power because of very light winds.
Then, as predicted, both the winds and the sea swell picked up during the day and by nightfall there were gusts up to 25 knots, 6-9 foot seas with a short ‘period’. The period is the number of seconds between wave crests. When the period is short, that means the waves are close together and the boats are getting knocked around. Remember that these are sailboats, they are designed to stay upright in this kind of sea, but that doesn’t mean they have shock absorbers. No china tea cups or manicures in this stuff!
Nakamal rolls with the punches, so all we have to do is keep her fed (diesel or wind) and happy and she takes us right along. Our big jobs are keeping track of all the other boats around us and hanging on whenever we want to move around.
We were fine, even in the raucous seas, but there were other boats with issues like torn sails, auto-pilots that went out, and one boat got both their jib and mainsail jammed and couldn’t roll them in. A common tactic in higher winds is to “reduce sail – you want to have some sail up but if you have too much, the boat is overpowered and sails at a very steep, uncomfortable angle (i.e. is ‘heeled over’). Cool to see in raceboat pictures. Not so cool for crew below trying to cook, eat, or sleep. Or pee, but that’s a whole different set of problems.
All this crew could do was keep the boat turning in circles until the winds died down enough to go out on deck and hand-roll the jib in. Then they proceeded for the next 36 hours with the mainsail stuck, but at least the winds died down to a manageable level and they were not in danger. Once they reached Bahia Santa Maria, crew from another boat helped them with the mainsail and everything was normal after that.
Unlike Bahia Tortuga, there are NO services in Bahia Santa Maria. No restaurants, no internet cafes, no beer on shore, no diesel, no water supplies. So I’m thinking this is a perfect place to (finally) take a swim. The air and water have been getting progressively warmer as we come down the coast, and I’m ready for some wetness. The Captain, however, thinks it’s the perfect time to wipe the growing stuff off Nakamal’s belly.
So it wasn’t so much a swim as it was a boat job.
There is a fishing camp, and over the years one of the leaders, Victor, has developed an organized party for the Baja HaHa group. They cook up fish tacos and trimmings, truck in a bunch of beer, and a band makes the trek from La Paz over the desert to play for tips only. Using generators for power. It was really quite awesome.
The camp is one larger building that is a community center, a few single room buildings that serve as sleeping quarters and a water closet. With actual flush toilet. Sort of. I don’t know where it flushes to. Ignorance CAN be bliss.
After another fun afternoon, our panga took us back in the mangroves. Yet ANOTHER side of Mexican life. Along the channel were many wooden shacks – some looked like workrooms for boats and engines, others looked like living quarters. They made Victor’s camp look downright middle-class.
The group was scheduled to leave at 7 am on Wednesday , but the Captain wanted to start early to ensure we reached Cabo San Lucas before afternoon. So home to Nakamal to prepare for our 3 a.m. alarm!