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~ Chapter Fifteen ~
Loreto to Bahia Concepcion
Sleeping in a real bed was a dream come true, and it was hard to justify getting up too early. But I was very excited about the coastal scenery I would be seeing today, so I slid my lazy carriage out of bed and headed for the small marina two blocks away. There she sat sleeping in her slip, my girl, Vaka Viti. She seemed to be enjoying her morning seaside snooze, and I hated to wake her up and put her to work. But I had places to go and people to meet, and I couldn't do it without her. So I climbed on board and duct-taped the Auto Club map to the center console. It was time to go north!
I pulled out of the harbor at about 9:00 a.m. and followed the coast. It wasn't long before I passed by one of Loreto's most famous landmarks, The Pent House. This seaside brothel had dished out plenty of servings of short-term companionship over the decades, and was still in business with a new pink paint job. Rumor has it that the best girls now head to La Paz on the weekends where their services garner a better price in the big city. Things looked a little slow at the shop this morning, so I continued north to take a closer look at Isla Coronado, a small island just northeast of Loreto.
The brilliant white sand around the west end of the island combined with the crystal clear water made it difficult to judge the depth of the water. The sea was so clear that, at one point, I actually stopped the boat to see if my prop was near the bottom. Not to worry, I was still in over 10 feet of water! I pulled into the spectacular horseshoe cove at the southwest end of the island. Fish and stingrays swam near the bottom, which started to get pretty shallow as I headed further into the cove towards the inner beach. The water was scene was so beautiful I just had to take a picture. Clear water foreground, bright white sandy beach, green ocean, pristine coastline and the tall La Gigante mountains in the background...what a view!
Within an hour I pulled into Bahia San Juanico, the same name as the cove I had stayed in on the west coast of Baja at Scorpion Bay. After reading about this Sea of Cortez jewel in a boating publication I had big expectations. It was touted as being a completely protected cove with various secondary mini-coves, several small islands, wild geological spires, pinnacles and walls, plus clear waters filled with beautiful reefs and friendly fish. It was a lot to live up to but it was definitely all here. Being a snorkeling fanatic I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I gave the cove a slow tour in the boat and then dropped anchor near the north end. I was in the water blowing snorkel bubbles before you could say 'puffer fish'.
The warm water flowed across my body like a wet blanket. The underwater view from my mask was filled with both sandy and rocky bottom, various reefs, plus schools of fish large and small. I saw a large shell on the bottom and used it as an excuse to hold my breath and test my lungs. The water was so clear it was difficult to tell how far down the bottom was. The depth became more evident on the way back up as I exhaled and slowly watched the surface become closer and closer. I finally broke the surface out of breath and happy, shell in hand. After examining my treasure for a short time I dropped it back into the water and watched it slowly sink back to the bottom. I snorkeled several additional islands in the bay and then headed back to the boat to dry off and relax. After a while I started to get hungry and decided it was time to explore the beautiful waters of Bahia Concepcion, a couple of hours further up the coast.
It was hard to leave Bahia San Juanico, but I resolved to return and stay for a few days next time. As I pulled out of the bay I looked back and felt proud that I had the opportunity to indulge in the joys of one of Baja's best coves. In less than two hours I rounded Punta Concepcion and then entered the large bay itself. A half dozen dolphins greeted me as I closed in on Playa Santispac, a large protected cove where I knew I could find food and drink. Before pulling up on the beach I stopped the boat about a quarter mile from shore, turned off the motor, and just sat and watched. People were playing in the water, laying on the beach, sailboats were at anchor, and fishing boats were floating just off the beach. If there was a main focal point for the huge Bahia Concepcion area, this cove was it.
Anybody who has driven down the Baja Highway south of Mulege has been mesmerized by the beautiful scene of Playa Santispac and it's offshore islands. After all there are few places in the world where you can pull up off the highway in your vehicle and park within inches of the water's edge and just set up camp. Throw in two restaurants, a bakery and some bathrooms and it is a vacation experience hard to match.
I pulled up the Vaka V. on the beach and walked 100 feet to Anna's Bakery. A fresh roll of sweetbread and a cold Coke were all I needed to slip even further into Baja time. The sun was warm and it was another glorious day. I had nothing to do and all afternoon to do it.
I eventually headed back to the beach where I caught a couple of people checking out my boat. Because there is usually very little going on at Playa Santispac, something as insignificant as a new boat landing on the beach can create a moderate stir. Soon there were 5 people standing around me chatting and trying to figure out if my story was true, or if I was just suffering from sunstroke. In the end it seemed like most of them believed that I had indeed circled the Cape from Los Angeles. But of even greater interest to most of these folks was the rumor that tonight was Cheeseburger Night at Bertha's Restaurant, a couple of coves down the coast. We all vowed to rendezvous there in a few hours and continue the stories.
The large bay was still as calm as a lake and I decided to take a cruise south and explore the beauty of the area. I thought it would also be a good idea to track down Bertha's Restaurant while I still had plenty of light to work with. I motored past a few incredibly beautiful bays and decided to pull up on one particularly nice beach and walk around. I landed on the beach in front of a palapa with a Volkswagen camper next to it, and started chatting with the couple sitting in beach chairs at water's edge. Carla and Jim were fun to chat with, and shared a bit about their lives with me. Carla was yet another one of those people I had met on my trip who had recently experienced a life threatening health issue and decided it was time to drop the traditional fast-paced values of society and start enjoying life more often. Jim, who was big into bicycling and had biked across both the United States and Australia, was currently working on a crab boat off Alaska. They both enjoyed the wide open spaces of Baja, and were looking forward to a nice dinner at Bertha's Restaurant, located just back from the beach. Looks like I picked the right beach to take a walk!
The calm cove seemed like a great place for me to scrape off the moss that had accumulated on the sides and bottom of the boat over the last three weeks. It was also a good time to set up the boom-box on the beach and play a little tropical music. Reggae seemed to fit in with the beach scene, and soon the air was filled with the sounds of Bob Marley and other ganja-puffing artists. Several visitors had come by and commented on how my masthead pumpkin Elvira was looking a little beat up from her exposure in the Baja sun. I had seen her melt a little further into the raised fiberglass area at the bow of the boat each day, but found it hard to think about putting her to sleep. But as I cleaned the boat it became obvious that her days were numbered. I resolved to keep her alive as long as possible, as long as I could keep her out of pain.
The hot day gradually melted into a warm evening, and eating seemed to be the logical next move. People were already trailing into Bertha's Restaurant and I sat at a table with a dozen people, some who I had met throughout the day and some I had not. And contrary to the rumor around the bay, it was not Cheesburger Night at Bertha's tonight, it was Seafood Night. Perfect!
We ate super-fresh seafood, drank super-big margaritas, and our conversations solved none of the problems of the world, but we joked and laughed all throughout dinner. It was more fun than watching girls jump on trampolines! But all good things must come to an end, and table by table we spilled into the night and bid farewells before heading back to our temporary homes. My trek was not far as the Vaka V. was sitting in 3 feet of water right in front of the restaurant.