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~ Chapter Twelve ~
Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Mexia
After a good night's sleep in the Mar de Cortez Hotel I awoke at dawn and headed down to the Vaka Viti. The boat was already full of gas and the weather was brilliant. Although today's route was to head in the direction of La Paz, it was unlikely I would make it past the East Cape today.
There were many beautiful beaches to explore, and I was looking forward to a more relaxed pace on the Sea of Cortez. I left Cabo San Lucas harbor and cruised along the beautiful coastline towards San Jose del Cabo. Spectacular beaches broken by low lying cliffs were postcard perfect, and another reminder why so many visitors are drawn to Los Cabos today.
I had cruised this coast in a boat once before under quite exceptional circumstances. On a trip to Cabo about 5 years ago I had run into an old high school buddy who had taken on the job of being a licensed boat captain. He had worked his way up through the ranks over the years, and seemed to love the sea. He was now the captain of the fabulous sailing vessel "Torea" owned by Thomas Jones V. Jones, the C.E.O. of the gigantic defense contractor Northrop Corporation. Dane had introduced me to Mr. Jones late that afternoon who in turn invited me to join them on a cruise along the coast in the Torea to Santa Maria Bay the next morning. It was an incredible boat and a day of sailing I would never forget.
As I found myself approaching Santa Maria Bay in the Vaka Viti my memory flashed back to the day we visited this same beautiful cove in the Torea. We had dropped anchor in about 50 feet of water that day, and I could see the anchor going all the way down to the bottom. The visibility in the water that day had to be over 100 feet! Today the water was also very clear, and I pulled into Santa Maria Bay to check out the scenery. Even though it was only mid-morning there were already people relaxing and enjoying the beach and crystal clear waters. I thought about stopping for a snorkel but I knew even better snorkeling awaited me at Cabo Pulmo, a few hours up the coast.
The Vaka Viti soon neared the Pamilla Hotel, one of Cabo's most exclusive resorts. I looked up and saw the pool area where my wife and I had run into O.J. Simson and Nicole years ago. We had snapped a photo of the happy couple by the pool, never guessing what would happen a year later.
I enjoyed cruising the Los Cabos Corridor, the 25 mile stretch of coast from Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo. Open beaches, exclusive resorts, condos and luxury homes dotted the coast all the way past San Jose.
About 5 miles past San Jose del Cabo the houses stopped and the coastline ran wild again. About 20 minutes past San Jose I saw a Mexican rancher riding a horse along the beach, a scene I would see only once on my 2,000 trip. As I motored closer to get a picture of the caballeros I noticed an interesting twist of fate. On the small hill behind him I saw a bright yellow Catepillar tractor leveling a pad for a new home. The East Cape's yesterday and tomorrow...all in one photo.
After passing Los Frailes Bay I finally hit Cabo Pulmo. Among other things Cabo Pulmo is the only place on the west coast of North American where one can find coral reefs. Seven strata reefs run from the shore area to about a mile offshore, offering some of Baja's best snorkeling and diving. I dropped anchor in sand far enough offshore as to avoid damaging any reefs and jumped in the warm and clear water. I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of fish of all shapes, sizes and colors.
The relaxing swim was a welcome change from the fast pace I was used to when coming down the Pacific coast. I was looking forward to many more snorkel excursions and casual swims as I headed up the Sea of Cortez. This was fun!
After spotting more fish than I could count I decided to head back to the Vaka Viti. The tide was dropping and the top portions of the reefs were beginning to become exposed at the surface of the water. I hoisted my wet body into the boat, using the motor as a step and a brace to gain leverage. After drying off I sat in the front of the boat just taking in the warm Baja sun.
I eventually gained the strength to pull up the anchor and set course for the north. Heading north was a new direction for me on this trip, but since the land was still off to the left side of the boat it didn't seem much different that my southern passage. However the lighting was indeed different. I now had the afternoon sun on the left side of the boat which did not take long to get used to.
The coastline along the East Cape is some of Baja's most beautiful. Not far past Cabo Pulmo I noticed a familiar structure located on a hill, just up from the beach. Baja legend John Bickel had built a brick home with a round cement roof here about 30 years ago, after failing to return from his assignment from Look magazine to document Baja on a photo shoot. Seems the East Cape was just too nice for John to leave, and he never went back to work.
I had visited John several times over the years and always enjoyed his upbeat attitude and warm hospitality. During the 1991 solar eclipse John allowed me, my family and friends to stay on his property to witness the spectacular event, which included a total eclipse of the sun at 11:47 a.m. lasting almost 7 minutes. If you haven't seen the sky grow pitch black and the stars come out at noon you don't know what you are missing!
I had also stopped by for a visit with John a few years ago. Although he did not put on his violin and dancing dog routine for me this time, he did take me into his utility room to show me his latest solution for storing electricity. After years of experimenting with various types of batteries he finally stumbled upon a specific type of submarine battery that stayed charged for a very long time, and took very little time to re-charge when they did drain down. I guess you have to live in the boon-docks to fully appreciate his discovery, but it was a true joy just to see his eyes light up when he showed me the collection of cells, wires and transformers.
Things looked quiet at the Bickel residence this afternoon, so I decided to check out the action further at the coast at Buena Vista. This was a possible gasoline stop for me, but when I reached the Buena Vista area I realized I probably had enough gas to get all the way up to La Paz. But did I have enough light to make it that far today? The sun was already slipping behind the tall mountains, so I had resolved to finding a cove somewhere north of Punta Pescadero and south of Punta Arena.
As the sun set behind the mountains I dropped anchor about 300 feet from shore in a remote area of the coast. I could see the lights from a ranch off in the distance reflecting on the perfectly calm water. It had been a while since I slept in the boat, but it felt good to pull out the mat and cover up with my $12 Mexican blanket. Here I was, finally heading north on my adventure. I was both anxious and relaxed at the same time.
The sky was filled with billions and billions of stars and Carl Sagen would have loved sharing the view of the sky with Elvira from the bow of the Vaka Viti. The stars were beautiful to look at, and I briefly wondered if they played a part in the outcome of my journey. As popular as Astrology is in the world, I doubted the alignment of the stars at the time of my birth had anything to do with the type of life I would lead. The fact that Astrology was invented in the second century at a time when the Earth was considered the center of the Universe only added to my suspicions. Still the view of the bright stars against the black velvet sky was nothing short of awesome.