I believe I last posted the day before we were to leave Turtle Bay. After 3 days recovering there, we decided to check the motor before our departure. This is when we learned to check the motor upon *arrivals* from then on… Turns out our heat exchanger bracket broke off. The unit was now wedged down against the engine. Too much vibration over our 3 days of travel? We were uncertain if the unit itself had been damaged. It appeared that maybe there was more fluid in our exhaust manifold? We were a little freaked out, because this heat exchanger was fairly new –our old one busted after our first big trip from Half Moon Bay (was that 2012?). At that time we had ended up with salt water running through everything and it was a big ugly process to flush it all out and get it all working again. We thought we needed a new exhaust manifold then, too, but it ended up being OK.
So, here we are in Turtle Bay, a town of very limited resources. If our heat exchanger was really broken, our only option would be to hitchhike or find a bus (?) out to a more main town and try to get a bus to Ensenada, rent a car and drive to San Diego to get a new part. Not a very exciting or affordable prospect. Our first order of business was to remove the heat exchanger and try to test it. We also went to search for an auto parts store and/ welder to see if we could get a new bracket made. The old bracket was not fixable – as it was already welded once after the last time it broke… Ideally we should move the heat exchanger to a different location, but that would take extra lengths of hoses that we will definitely not find for purchase anytime soon.
We ventured back to Turtle Bay town for a little recon to see what might possibly be available to us.
We discovered it was much bigger than we initially thought, although still quite limited. It was ALL dusty and dirty, though. And the wheelchar accessible sidewalks left something to be desired (check out the pole in the middle…)
We learned a lot of new Spanish words! The auto parts store owner didn’t carry any anti-freeze (anticongelante) but he did know a welder (soldador) he recommended to us. He took great pains to write down everything and teach us a few new words. Very nice guy.
Meanwhile, back on Summer we checked out the heat exchanger and ran water through it and blew through the ends. It appeared that the salt water and fresh water lines remained in tact and were not mixing with each other. This was quite a relief! Now all we had to do was to get a new bracket welded. Luckily Jonny had save a couple pieces of leftover heavy stainless steel bars that would be much beefier than the previous bracket, if we could get them fabricated into a new bracket.
The next day we hunted for the soldador. He was not at his shop. We stopped back by the auto parts store to ask Juan if he knew where we might find Manuel the welder. He ended up loading us into his giant Toyota truck and driving us around town until we ended up at Manuel’s house. He called from the truck “Manuel! Manuel! Clientes! Clientes!”. Manuel came out and Juan translated for us (although Juan spoke not a word of English). Somehow we managed to convey we needed a new bracket the exact dimensions of the old bracket and he said he could do it and use our stainless. It would cost 200 pesos (around $15). We left everything with him and said we’d come back in the morning.
We met some really nice folks also anchored in the bay, Sugar, Jake and Alyce, who were aboard a gorgeous yawl. Sugar is a very accomplished sailor/captain who has a much larger boat up in Port Townsend, but was on this trip aboard his father’s boat. Alyce, his daughter was also quite a sailor who has worked aboard sailing/teaching boats, Jake was a college friend of Alyce and also a sailing instructor. They had some extra mahi that they thought they couldn’t finish- so they invited us to be their dinner guests that night. We were very excited about the prospect of our first ‘boat visit’ in the anchorage! I decided to make a batch of brownies to take over. I have to say this batch was the BEST I ever made!
We rowed our dinghy over to their boat and had a wonderful evening cooking and chatting. Sugar had some amazing stories – including a tale of being first mate aboard a tall ship that sank off the east coast. Four people died and he spent 5 days in 6 person life raft with 8 people. He had a lot of happy stories, too…
The next morning we went to Manuel’s house and he had the bracket. It seemed as if it needed a little bit of tweaking, so he drove us to his shop and made some adjustments for us. Once we had it just right, we asked the price (assuming it would be more for all the extra work). It was still 200 pesos! We stopped back by Juan’s shop to bring him some brownies to thank him for all his help (we never even bought anything from him). I learned how to say brownies : bizcocho de chocolate.
Jonny also gave Manuel a sanding disk for his sander – as a propina (tip).
Jonny spent an entire day working on further tweaking the bracket so it would all fit back together. There wasn’t much to do in Turtle Bay except sit at the restaurant and use wifi and wander to all the tiny markets trying to piece together a decent food supply. Greens are not something very abundant around here. Baja is a desert, so there’s not much local produce to begin with, and these little towns are so remote and deliveries infrequent. There’s just not much variety or availability of anything. I need to learn more cabbage recipes.
I think we spent 4 more days in Turtle Bay after we had wanted to leave. But finally the day came for us to depart. We were really anxious to get more south, still wearing fleece and uggs every night…no bueno!
We left Turtle Bay just before dawn. The sunrise was incredible (and gave Jonny a scare, thinking about the “Red Sky at morning, sailors take warning” saying – but it was really more of an orange, not red…
We had a lovely sail – plenty of wind and everything going in the right direction. It did get a little hairy at one point – huge seas and fishing buoys everywhere, but we got through it and on to more smooth sailing.
We anchored in Bahia Asuncion. There was only one other boat there aside from the local fishing pangas. We saw a lot of people come and go from Turtle Bay – and we were the only ones left when we finally departed. Kind of felt like we ‘missed the boat’ or something… But Asuncion seemed pleasant enough from the boat and I was anxious to check it out. The bay was full of hundreds of baby sea lions, who were VERY curious. They swarmed our boat the entire first night. I wasn’t entirely sure what they were, but there was definitely “something out there” making noises all night. In the morning we discovered they liked to swim around and through our anchor chain – often stopping to bite at it (later in the week they actually loosened our bridle).
Asun Sealions – VIDEO*******
Asuncion has cliffs that vaguely reminded me of Santa Cruz.
There was a main ‘beach’ that panga fisherman landed on and seemed to have the least amount of swell. Jonny was not interested in going ashore the first day, he’d been working on the motor and after the long sail, he just wanted a day to chill on the boat. So he kindly dropped me off so I could explore town. It pretty much blew Turtle Bay away, making me think “Wow, Turtle Bay was a real dump!”. The main drag was clean and tidy and had well kept bougainvillea plants down the center. I went into the first tienda I saw and bought a Jumex pina (the best pineapple juice around) and asked the woman where the internet café was (first things, first, right?). She told me and I understood, sort of. I headed off in the right direction and figured I’d find someone else to ask if I didn’t see it. I saw it, but the lure of what was up ahead had me pass it by. I figured I’d just walk to the end of town so I could see it all and then come back to it. Just before the end of town I noticed Campo Sirena – which I had read about in one of our cruising guides. Apparently the owner is an ex-cruiser who settled here to run this camp. It was rumored they had a shower and other facilities. I wandered over that way and noticed a nice view overlooking the water. I went down to take some picture of Summer at anchor (how many of these pictures do we need? Why can’t I stop taking them?). As I was admiring the view, a bearded man driving a red quad with a puppy in a shopping basket on the front came out my way. The tiny puppy was ferociously barking at me. Of course I went over to say hi. This is when I met Perry and Bonz. I had a short chat with Perry (which later I realized turned out to be over an hour). Perry was caretaking a house next to the camp. He used to work at the camp and filled me in on all the details. There was a washing machine, shower, fresh water hose, and wifi that could all be obtained at this magic little hut in the midst of the campground. I was ecstatic! We needed ALL those things.
Perry is from Shasta CA and looking for a less stressful retirement situation here in Baja. He recently found Bonz, a 3 month old mutt who was abandoned at the dump – which is what often happens to litters of pups down here. She was apparently the only one of her litter not eaten by coyotes. She was desperately in need of a good home –and as it turns out, Perry came to realize he was desperately in need of a good puppy. Both of them are quite lucky. Bonz was giving me flashbacks to Flaco, the puppy I rescued one year down at 9 Palms (where we used to go camping every December). Flaco was taken in by a Canadian family and (I hope) is romping in Vancouver to this very day.
The next day I did a load of laundry over at the camp, while Jonny took a load of water back to the boat in our jerry cans. This is when I met Ricardo, a plump guy who was doing work at the camp. He was taking a break to check his phone at the little wifi/shower/laundry hut. We chatted for quite a while. He was a pretty friendly guy, young and speaking almost no English (at least to me…maybe he spoke more?). Most of what he wanted to talk to me about was if I had a lot of boyfriends and sex…and if I wore a bikini or thong. He tried to show me some porn on his phone, claiming it was a friend of his. I said I wasn’t interested and he laughed at how rojo (red) I got. Most of you who know me, know that sort of thing wouldn’t normally freak me out, but I was suddenly very aware that it has been a long time since I had to be mindful of my safety – and I was “not in Kansas anymore”… I decided that I would wait till Jonny came back before taking a shower in the bathroom with no lock on the door. I left the comfort of the magic hut to sit outside and wait for the washing machine (which was outside the hut) to finish up – and leave Ricardo and his phone in peace. When Jonny returned, Ricardo kindly offered to watch our dinghy – for a tip. We were not worried about the dinghy at all, but when someone offers you protection, for a price, it’s not wise to turn them down. I‘ve seen enough mafia movies.
Jonny and I had a brief walkabout to the end of town after our showers and found the ‘big’ grocery store. There was also a store that looked like it might carry hose clamps. Oh yeah, on the trip to Asuncion, although there was very little motoring, the 2 hose clamps holding our heat exchanger to the new bracket – sheared right off. More work needed to do something about the apparently extreme vibrations.
The following day we went ashore for more laundry (we had SO much) and I brought some leftovers in the event we ran into Perry – to help fatten up Bonz. Luckily we did run into Perry and Bonz right when we got to the magic hut. He suggested it might be nicer if we did our laundry in the machine at his place. What a sweet guy! We went over to the house/compound where he was staying – nice and secure with a great clothes line! Jonny and Perry got to talking about our heat exchanger situation and they got to rummaging through Perry’s stuff looking for parts to help with our vibration issues. I realized that Perry reminded me of Cliff (see Chula Vista Time post) – which endeared him even more. I ended up getting 2 loads of laundry washed and hung while we visited with Perry. He is full of fascinating stories and the day just melts by when you are with him. We all went to lunch at a great restaurant at the end of town. I loved the bathroom there…
We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with Perry and finally made our way back to Summer.
The days went on and on with a number of fun visits with Perry and unfortunately several days of a bad headache (in which I did not get to visit with Perry! He was certainly a highlight of Asuncion Bay). Anyway I’m not sure entirely what happened, but 9 days went by… We kept saying we were going to leave, but the weather kept being off – either the wind was coming from the wrong direction, or the waves were huge. I think in the end I said at least 4 “goodbyes” to Perry.
Jonny had caught a tiny nondescript fish and a small mahi. We brought some to Perry (along with more leftovers for Bonz) and it turns out he was just on his way to have tacos at the best taco place in town. We went along and met Spike (from Hawaii) and ran into another gang at the taco shop. I finally met Shari who owns the camp at which we’d been so grateful to shower several times, and a nice couple from Canada traveling around Baja in their Subaru.
One last shower, using wifi to Skype with Mom and Dad, chatting with Spike, yet one more goodbye to Perry, and a final grocery shop and we were READY to depart. We were cleaning up, putting the dinghy onboard and I was cooking up a storm (beans, breakfast jars, all sorts of passage eats) until well after dark. We had planned to get a few hours sleep and then take off so that we could arrive roughly 38 hours later at our next destination in the daylight. By the time we’d finished, it was kind of too late to get any sleep, so we decided to just take off then and give ourselves a little extra leeway on the arrival end. It was kind of smart, but also kind of dumb (we were pretty exhausted already). Neither of us slept the first night, really. It was REALLY rough, big seas. I was glad it was dark because I was pretty sure I didn’t want to see how big the waves were. And cold. It was cold. We were bundled up. Still not far enough south!! This trip would help quite a bit with that, though. A huge disappointment was that with our dinghy on deck we cannot use our whisker pole. This was a perfect trip for the whisker pole, too. We have yet to come up with a solution – dismantling the dinghy is such a hassle. We may try to find a different storage solution for the parts to make dismantling it easier. Right now it involves taking everything out of our aft lazarette and wedging in the 6 floorboard pieces, 2 rails and seat, and then putting everything else back in on top of that. Putting the dinghy together is that in reverse.
The next full day was a little calmer. But I found myself wondering how we were going to make it through another night – we were both completely exhausted. We contemplated just heaving to and both going down to sleep. We were 50 miles off shore, hadn’t seen land all day and not another boat in sight, it seemed like a safe thing to do. I went down to sleep and Jonny was going to hold out as long as he could before shutting it all down and coming to sleep, too. But after almost 4 hours I felt kind of OK – so I stood watch and Jonny got about 4 hours of good sleep. The 4 hours watch is a common amount of time when underway and luckily our VHF radio sounds an alarm every 4 hours. No, it’s not supposed to do that, but when it can’t find satellites to maintain lat/long position, it sounds an alarm – and when we use our chart plotter, the GPS doesn’t work on the VHF (someday we’ll fix that, it’s a wiring thing). So, we have a handy dandy watch alarm. It was quiet and the air was getting warmer and I did OK staying awake 11pm – 3am. I did wish Perry were there to regale me with some of his great stories, though. I missed him already!
We arrived in Bahia Santa Maria early afternoon on the 16th – only a few hours later than projected. There was only a powerboat anchored in the giant bay. There’s a tiny collection of lean-tos and pangas on the beach. There are mangroves and a giant long beach. The surf was pounding and we did not go ashore for 3 days. We watched the family from the powerboat try to take their dinghy ashore. They went back and forth behind the surf and finally gave up trying to land. Boats came and went and suddenly there were 5 other sailboats in the anchorage. It’s fun seeing other boats come in – when you’re down here, every boat is a cruising boat – there are no daysailors in this neck o the woods. So I nosily watch everyone come in and see what kind of ‘stuff’ they have on their boats, how they anchor, etc. Hey, it’s my only entertainment!
Today we finally (after much cajoling from me) went ashore. We had been watching the fisherman for days to see how they approached and got by the surf. But the distance makes things look quite a bit different than they are. We ended up going too far and too close to the rocks/ shallows and beached quite far from where we’d expected. We love our dinghy wheels! We dragged Peugeot down to the estuary. [OH, did I ever tell you how our dinghy got it’s name? It got this weird rust stain from being in the rafters of our garage – it looks like a lion – you know, the Peugeot logo? So yeah, that’s that, it stuck].
Anyway, at the mouth of the estuary, it all started making sense. We got the dinghy in and were able to motor up a ways. There were a couple of fish camps set in among the mangroves. It got really shallow a few times and we had to row – it was really low tide and we probably should do that when the tide is higher. Finally we gave up and just floated back down stream. I really wanted to go ashore and hike up a hill to see the other side– apparently this is a narrow strip of land and the ocean is just on the other side of the mountain. I tried to get out of the dinghy and drag it ashore in a really shallow spot. The shore turned to deep and suction-y mud. Jonny refused to get out and said we had to wait till the tide was higher and it wasn’t so shallow. So I pried my feet out of the muck and pulled the dinghy back out into the deeper water. I had packed some snacks so we ate and floated along slowly. We were both laughing at how we decided to get off our big boat, which we’d been on for 5 days straight, going really slow and are now spending hours in our little boat, going much slower. But it was kind of nice floating down among the mangroves and watching crabs on the bottom and all kinds of neat birds in the shallows.
We decided to check out the beach when we got to the mouth. We beached and started walking. There’s like 14 miles of pristine, untouched, completely deserted beach here. And if that wasn’t enough, the most AMAZING sand dollars I’ve ever seen. Hundreds and hundreds of them. The ocean was gorgeous, the shells amazing, the weather perfect, no one around anywhere. If there is a heaven and I was allowed to go there, that’s what it would be like for me. Another dinghy did come ashore and I briefly crossed paths with a woman from Seattle on one of the big boats anchored out with us (yeah, they’re ALL big boats compared to us! Get used to it).
SM beach windy — VIDEO******
So we were going to leave here 2 days ago and we don’t have a new departure date yet. I don’t know why I’m bothering to write that, because we also don’t have wifi yet and by the time we do, that sentence will be meaningless. I guess I’ll have to end here and start a new post for whatever is to come before we find wifi again.