12-8 Turtle Bay to Hipolito

Our last posting was from San Quentin, but before the best part!  The day after the attempted dinghy landing, we had a more satisfying experience (although still no progress on surf-landings of our too-big dinghy).  We left early in the day, and went just around the corner from the place we first stopped.  This timing allowed us to avoid the breakers entirely.  We beached the dinghy (with a small anchor in case the tide came up further than we expected) and went for a hike in the dunes of the tiny peninsula which protects the bay from the ocean swell.  It was lots of fun to get a little bit of altitude and see both sides of the peninsula, from the breaking waves on the Pacific side to the estuary on the inside.  We startled numerous jack-rabbits and enjoyed watching them bound wildly across the hills.  We saw our first cactus of the journey, along with some sage-like scrub, a few in bloom.  The land here is quite barren, though, and Dan keeps talking about being on the moon.  When we turned back, it was only because we knew the tide would be going out and we didn’t want to get caught behind the breakers. 

The next day, we went back but took the dinghy further into the estuary.  We’d read that it went back up to 10 miles but that the deep and shallow spots shift frequently so non-locals should be cautious.  As we entered the area, we were greeted by the spout of a whale – we figured that was proof that it wasn’t too shallow for our dinghy!  We puttered in, to a place I’ll call the inner bay.  We turned off the outboard and just floated for a couple of hours, enjoying the sights and sounds.  The inner bay was much bigger than we expected, a few miles across.  Not surprisingly, it was loaded with birds: ducks, pelicans, gulls.  They were diving and calling and generally enjoying their bird-lives.  A few sea lions and a seal or two popped up to see what we were doing.  The whale reappeared, and we watched him for a long time.  He was basically just relaxing at the surface, presumably enjoying the sun – like us!  Occasionally we’d see a flipper or two as he rolled over exposing his belly to the sunshine.  Sometimes there would be a swirl in the water, perhaps as a fish went by and he grabbed a bite to eat.  Most of the day he was in less than ten feet of water.  A few times he relocated a dozen yards or so, and we would paddle after him.  It was a lovely, lazy day.  As we headed out, we noticed another whale coming into the inner bay.  We think this was a humpback, while the one we were hanging out with had been a gray whale, so the two probably didn’t have much to say to one another.  🙂

We left the next day, heading south again.  We had a lovely day of sailing with the wind at our backs.  We had a fishing line out, but no luck yet.  We decided to stop for the night inside Cedros Island.  A pod of dolphins was leaping around in the nook that we had selected – that seemed like a good sign.  We anchored, but had to get pretty close to shore, so we took the dinghy out with the hand-held depth sounder to make sure that we had plenty of depth.  We stopped briefly on-shore for a quick look-see.  The area we saw was mostly composed of composite rock, layers of sandstone with lots of embedded pebbles or small stones.  Kathy was tempted to try a little rock-climbing, but the Crocs we were wearing weren’t exactly appropriate.  🙂  There were lots of lobster shells and a number of beautiful cone shells on the beach.  Nearby was a large rock coming out of the water that was covered in pelicans.  There were also a number of them up on the cliffs.  We were curious what a pelican’s nest looks like, but never did identify one.  The island rises pretty steeply from the sea, with some wrinkles that funnel the winds surprisingly strongly.  We’d periodically get blasted with an intense breeze, but the anchor held well and they only lasted about a minute or two.  A local fishing boat (a.k.a. panga) approached us and asked if we’d like a fish.  We asked if they had any lobster (there were tons of lobster pots in the area).  They said that they wouldn’t until morning, and we agreed to buy some at 6:30 a.m.  At least that’s what *we* thought we’d agreed to.  🙂  They didn’t show up the following morning and we left the anchorage around 6:45.


We had another beautiful day of sailing, although we had to dodge lots of lobster pots between Cedros Island and the main peninsula.  We had two pangas pull up to us on the way.  The first offered us some lobsters – yay!  When we asked how much they cost, they said free, tossed 5 slightly damaged lobsters up onto our deck, and drove off!  The other boat wanted to make sure that we didn’t run over the floats marking their lobster pots.  🙂  We also had a brief encounter with the Mexican Navy.  They approached us in a large gray cutter and hailed us on the radio.  It took a couple of tries before we realized that it was us that were being hailed.  Fortunately we got it, and we responded appropriately.  They only wanted to know who we were and where we were going.  Then they told us to have a nice day and to call them if we needed anything.  Very friendly!  The winds died down a bit, so we decided to motor the last few hours.  Unfortunately, when we went to start our engine, it made an awful growling sound, so we turned it back off again and started fretting.  We put up all 5 of our sails, and fortunately the wind picked back up again.  We had a great sail, and came all the way into Turtle Bay, where we were intending to spend the next few days.  We arrived in style, and put away our sails just in time to anchor.  No one else had any idea that we were limping along.  We had the lobsters that night and they were FANTASTIC!

We spent the night thinking about the growl.  Dan suggested that it might be the cutlass bearing, which surrounds the propeller shaft.  Repairing this would probably require us to haul the boat out of the water, and there was nowhere within 400 miles that could do that!  We’d need to sail down the coast without an engine.  Or maybe it was something even more intrinsic to the engine like a main bearing and we’d need to re-power the boat – that could take weeks (or months) and in the neighborhood of $50K.  An expenditure like that would significantly affect our lives.  🙁  When we got up in the morning, though, we decided to check the starter motor.  We’ve had a few incidents with this motor in the last few months, and it turned out that this was one more.  The pinion gear that extends from the starter to engage the engine’s flywheel is supposed to retract when you release the starter switch, but somehow managed to get stuck out.  Drat! or Hooray!  While it’s a pain in the neck to remove the starter, it’s not nearly as challenging as being engine-less!  We got it fixed before lunch and suddenly life looked rosy again.

Turtle Bay is about halfway down the Baja peninsula, just underneath the big point where it starts to curve east.  It’s a well-known way-station for cruisers, so we were looking forward to this stop.  It turns out that there’s not really all that much to see & do here, though, other than re-fuel and re-provision.  We left our dinghy at the fuel dock a few times while we wandered around town.  This dock used to be owned by a cannery, but (as we learned in Alaska) the canneries are being shut down and the towns that they supported are fading away.  The dock is too.  🙂  Several homes near the beach had whale vertebrae as ornaments, and Kathy was charmed by this bench made from a pair of them.

Purchasing fuel from unknown sources in third-world countries is one practice that periodically causes for cruisers, if there’s water or other contaminants in the supplier’s tank.  We’ve come up with a brilliant scheme (if we do say so ourselves!) to make sure that the diesel supply to our engine is clean.  We have two separate fuel tanks, so we decided to only use fuel from one of them, only put new fuel into the other, and to transfer the fuel from one to the other through our own fuel filter.  As a matter of fact, Dan had previously installed a small fuel pump with a Racor fuel filter in line with the pump for a different purpose.  Now we can be confident that our engine and generator will only get clean fuel.

We headed south again on Tuesday, and had a brisk wind.  It was a great day of sailing!  The winds picked up more than we liked in the evening, though, so we ducked around a corner and spent the night in Hipolito Bay.  While we were there, the winds really began to howl, pushing 30 knots.  We had to  wait two days before the winds subsided, so we’ve been out of Internet contact for a couple of days.  Our new anchor system, which uses chain instead of rope, is working really well, thank goodness.  The heavy chain is almost an anchor in itself, so we don’t swing around the anchor as widely as we used to.  None of the winds we’ve experienced so far have come close to removing the catenary from the half-inch chain rode.  When we’re at anchor, we set our navigation software to sound an alarm that will wake us up if we get more than 150 feet from the spot where we set the anchor.  We also set it to draw a track where we’ve been, so we can see in the morning how far we strayed.  This track has gotten much more compact since the switchover to chain rode. 

We’re now on our way to Bahia Ballenas (Whale Bay).  Wonder what we’ll see there…

Until the next time, take care and drop us a line if you have a moment!

>> Kathy & Dan


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