loreto and fish country
Travels from June 19 to June 29, 2000:
Loreto is a beautiful port, when viewed from the water, with palm trees right to the water's edge. Once on shore, the typical variety is found - streets made of dirt, pavers or asphalt. Homes, bars, tiendas, shops, offices, hotels and empty lots were side by side. The tourist part of downtown is small but very nice, surrounding the square and old mission. I have to admit, although the smaller towns don't offer the same quantity of services and competitive prices, I still prefer them to the larger, full-service cities.
We checked in and out of Loreto with one visit to each office, Migracion and Capitania de Puerto. These were the friendliest and most relaxed officials we have met in our Mexican experience. While the Migracion office has been moved into town from the airport, it is still a mile out from the center of town and a little hard to find. At the Migracion office we were lucky to note that the official forgot to stamp us out, which would have required us to return. A helpful explanation for those boats planning to come to Mexico - the first stamp has a date with an "E" in front of it for "Entrada" (enter). The departure stamp has a "S" preceeding the date for "Salida" (depart). Remember that Mexican officials never make mistakes, only cruisers. You must assure your papers have been stamped correctly or it will be expensive to get the mistake "ignored". Anyway, since the Port Captain was just off the beach where we anchored and they were the last officials we needed to clear, we decided to make that stop just before we returned to Nanjo.
On the way to Migracion, we passed the Internet Café, the largest tienda in town, a produce market, a bakery and several hardware stores. These were stops that we made as we retraced our steps. We actually checked what items each store had, waited for an hour for fresh bolillos which still didn't appear and bought a bolt to replace the pressure knob for Nancy's little pressure washing machine which had stripped its threads. Then we spent an hour at the most expensive Internet Café we've used yet. They were the only one in town and without competition the prices soar. After downloading 30+ messages, faxes and pictures, with the associated problems to be expected, we headed back to Nanjo to read and answer them for uploading in a few days. We stopped at the produce stand on the return to the beach. By the time we were on the way to our final stop, the Port Captain's office, the large plastic container on the luggage cart was full and I had a string bag dangling from each shoulder, each filled to the max. At the last official stop, the officer was very friendly and easily shifted to English without any disgust or hesitation, as I attempted to inquire about how to get propane. He typed what he had to on the back of our papers with little fan fare and signed them himself. Previously, at Port Captain's offices in other ports, the counter officer always had to take the papers to the Captain for signature, many times creating lengthy delays. Furthermore, the Captain was in the office in Loreto - as we were leaving, he came out of his office and we greeted him. During our wait, we saw hurricane, Carlotta, plotted on a chart by the desk. This one looked big!
Upon return to the dinghy dock, we found it with a fair amount of water in it. A small sailboat was tied up to the dinghy dock as well. The two men on her told us that several youths have been playing in the dink and paddling around. Aside from the water and some soggy paper, the dink seemed OK and the outboard was OK, the fuel appeared uncontaminated or used up. So we were lucky. We motored out to Nanjo a little late, at 1400 it was windy and quite choppy. We got wet from the spray. As I was clipping the dink to the hoisting harness, the surging caused by the swells broke one clip. But we were underway by 1430 and headed to Isla Coronados.
The winds had picked up to 20 knots by the time we were anchored, but no gusts. This anchorage is protected by a low sand dune. We understood why some of the boats moved to this anchorage a few days before when they were dragging at Ballandra. A constant tug on the anchor rode is better than the surging and tugging caused by big gusts.
The beach at this anchorage is very white and popular with the tourist-panga day trips. Several pangas would speed to the beach in the morning, set up food and drinks under a small palapa and let the touristas play in the water and drink themselves silly. In the late afternoon, everything went back into the pangas and they would speed away to take their customers back to their campers and resorts.
Two days later we went back to Loreto to send our e-mail replies and finish downloading photos and faxes. We stocked up at the big tienda, got a dozen fresh bolillos at the bakery and had fish tacos at a restaurant. I wanted to get some PVC pipe at the hardware store but it was closed for siesta. So, we made a run by the tortilleria and a final buy at the produce stand. Once again loaded down, we returned to the beach.
We had anchored the dink about a 100 yards off the beach. Just as we were coming across the street, several boys were just starting to climb into it after swimming out to it. We yelled and they jumped out. As it ended, they actually brought the dink to the beach. We returned once more to Coronados anchorage for the night.
The next morning was windless, so we motored to Caleta de San Juanico, a popular anchorage with a cruisers' shrine. One of the boats we had met, Polar Bear, had advised us which location in the cove appeared to be best when they were there the day before with Also II. We tucked in behind a big rock on the southeast corner and it did seem to be the best protection from the large swell, which had pestered us as we came north.
I hailed some boats in the southwest anchorage to see if we knew them or could begin a new relationship. But Juandra, anchored in a protected anchorage further north, Ramada, known for its excellent holding, answered me. He invited us to join them because the wind was nil where he was and 25 knots at our location. Nancy and I liked the view where we were and the power we were receiving from the wind generator, so I declined. The rocks providing some of our shelter were very colorful, especially at sunset. They reminded us of Lands End at the tip of Cabo San Lucas' bay.
A few minutes later, one of two other boats in a southwest anchorage called us to see how our spot was. They were having a lot of problem with the surge. I invited them to come out, which they did. In the late afternoon, another boat tried several times to anchor in front of us and finally decided to try staying about two boat lengths from our starboard side. TakeitEZ was the boat's name. The skipper, Dave, was washing down the remnants of the Dorado he had caught while heading in, while keeping an anchor watch. This means that he watched reference points on land to see if he was dragging anchor and, in this case, watching how close he was coming to Nanjo. He was holding well.
All three boats left the next day, but Danzante pulled in behind us. We had met them at Agua Verde. They invited us over for drinks after dinner and we planned to visit the shrine together the next day.
The next morning, we raised anchor and motored to the northwest anchorage, about a mile and a half away. From there we dinked in to the beach with Danzante. The shrine located here supposedly began years ago when a single cruiser died and was given a Viking burial, cremated by having his boat burnt with his body aboard - the shrine originating in his honor. Now cruisers leave memorabilia of their visits. Some were very professional looking signs, others carvings, painted signs, boatcards and shell wind chimes. All of these are stacked around a tree, hung from the tree's limbs or carved into the sandstone cliff above the shrine. I found a flat sandstone rock and carved a set of dolphins (like my submarine pin) with Nanjo's name, as well as our names and the date. Now we have become part of the memorial.
We had lunch before raising anchor and heading north again. Since it looked like we were going to be motoring for a while, without wind, I started to make water. The watermaker hasn't been working all that well, so I have to monitor it in the cabin.
But as we departed the bay, we saw fish jumping, big fish. I had been working on a fishing rig a few days before. Gemini calls it a "meat hook". I used a 20' piece of nylon line (small rope) with a piece of rubber as a snubber to relieve the shock to the line when a fish strikes. To the end of the line I tied 75' of 40# fishing line and a steel leader with a snap to accept any lure or rig I wanted. I had tied the meat hook to an eye on my radar pole. Nancy said, "You can't catch anything if you don't have a line in the water." [Obviously, I got the smart one.] So I attached a cheap green rubber squid-like thing over the biggest long shanked, head-weighted hook I had and clipped it to the leader. The fishing bible states that to troll for fish the boat must be going at least 5 - 7 knots. Nanjo was going 4 knots or slightly less. It also states the line needs to be out 100 yards. Mine was 100 feet, if that. There was no way I would be interrupted from my water making. I let out the meat hook and went below.
A few minutes later, Nancy called down that she thought we had something on the meat hook. I looked out and a beautiful green and blue Dorado was doing flips in our wake. I put on my gloves and started to hand-over-hand the line in. After only a few feet, the line went slack and I knew we had lost it. But we were excited to have merely had something that big and beautiful for a few seconds. I hauled in the line. As it got to about 40 feet from our stern, a green streak shot from right to left and the line gave another tug before going slack again. I had played with two beauties! When I got the hook in hand, it was bent 90 degrees. That was either a big fish or a weak hook. I checked to see if I had anything larger - NOT. So as an alternative, I clipped another, unweighted hook along with a new weighted one. We are not well inventoried with fishing tackle. Over the side went the meat hook with the modified lure and I went below to tend the watermaker.
I looked up to see the line go taught and a green fish leap first one way before the other. Back on went my gloves. I started bringing in the fish. It kept coming, a few feet at a time. Every once in a while the Dorado would leap free of the water, occasionally it would swim right toward us. Nancy was trying to steer the boat, which she had slowed to idle speed to keep a strain on the line but not too much. We both "oohed" and "ahhed" whenever the gorgeous gem of The Sea lept.
As I got the Dorado to the back of Nanjo, Nancy got our fish gaff out. I had already filled a spray bottle with cheap liqueur to spray on its gills. Nancy tried to puncture the fish with the gaff which only made it flop more aggressively. I took over and eventually slipped the gaff in its gill and hoisted the 36" trophy aboard. Nancy sprayed tequila in its gills. The fish settled some but still thrashed around on the deck behind the helm. I was able to give it a well-aimed smack with the blunt end of the gaff on the crest of its square nose and it stopped. The blue faded quickest, the green lost its brightness.
Nancy turned to me and yelled, "Now we've caught a fish!"
Then reality struck. The part she was fearing most had to be done now: Clean and fillet. Armed with The Cruising Chef cookbook page showing the step by step, her filleting knife we bought in San Blas, a whet stone and a cutting board, she began. I steered Nanjo (you should have seen the GPS track log of our path during the catch-and-clean period), constantly scooped seawater and washed down blood and scales and ran below to manage water making. When she was through, we had 4 large zip-locks filled with fish and we sent what was left over the side.
Nanjo had only achieved 10 miles distance that day, but we didn't mind pulling into a small anchorage just north of Punta Pulpito. After a warm shower, I bar-b-q'ed the first package of Dorado. We had leftover fish after my 4-oz. portion. It was light and tasty, without using any spices or marinades. [We have had another dinner with the next bag and fish sandwiches with the leftovers from those meals. We still have two more bags.]
A peaceful warm night was followed by another windless day. We motored toward Punta Santa Teresa, bypassing Bahia de Los Puercos (Bay of the Pigs). Nancy wouldn't let me put the meat hook back into the water. We saw an Orca whale and more Dorado.
It was hot and calm as we pulled into a small cove just north of the navigational light at Punta El Madano Blanca, north of Santa Teresa. The water was very warm and we were over the side for a cooling swim. I used the opportunity to finish cleaning the keel. I had started with the prop and hull at Isla Coronados, but it was colder there and I get very exhausted free diving and scrubbing. As we relaxed in the cockpit that evening, we decided that we would stay another day at this isolated but interesting place. A nearby reef looked like it might be an interesting dive for us and a white-sand beach always calls. Most boats don't stop here. The wind built during the night but we were well protected.
The winds began early the next morning and they were coming from the southeast with a slight swell. The anchorage was not bad but we decided to make use of the wind and sail north. Motoring for two days was making us yearn for the wind-diesel (sails). Nanjo was underway by 0900. We sailed wing-on-wing, with the wind no more than 10 degrees off either side of our stern until we arrived at Punta Concepcion. By then several boats had caught up to us from the south. The closest one faded back when their alternator froze. They had power/sailed all the way from San Juanico that morning.
On the radio we heard four boats leaving from Santo Domingo, heading north. One of them was Also II. The story appeared to be that it was too hot for them. But then we heard boats to their north, in Santa Rosalia saying it was too hot up there too. So we have arrived in the official heat center. Now we will see what temperature is too hot.
The reason it gets hotter is that the farther north we go, the higher the mountains get, blocking the cooling Pacific breezes. South of here, the mountains being lower permits the cool Pacific breezes to come east and cool the area at night. The temperatures have become high-90's, 85 at night - the heat is trapped.
Nanjo was almost half way up The Sea, at the mouth of the giant Bahia Concepcion. Although we were the first boat in the anchorage at Bahia Santo Domingo that afternoon, a half dozen boats joined us before dark. On the map, look for the big north/south bay about midway down the eastern side of the Baja peninsula. That is Bahia Concepcion. That's where we are. Do you see us waving?
Crew of Nanjo