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~ Chapter Eighteen ~
Mulege to San Francisquito
Sleeping in late is impossible on a panga beach, or even a panga river as was the case in Mulege. Pangeros can be a pretty early bunch of hombres, heading out to sea early with the idea of catching as many fish as possible while they are still biting. The weekend was over, it was now Monday morning and time to get busy. Even though I wasn't going to work I did have a lofty goal of reaching a spectacular destination...Punta San Francisquito. This coastal hideaway is one of the most remote beaches on the Baja Peninsula and I could not wait to get there. But I just couldn't get the boat to start!
It was frustrating to have the prop issue resolved and now have a motor that wouldn't start. I played with everything from fuel filters to plug wires and must have done something right because after half an hour of fiddling she finally came to life.
Leaving the protected waters of the river and heading out into the open sea I noticed much more wind chop than I would have expected this early in the morning. But soon the wind died down, the water turned to glass, and I got back to my favorite Sea of Cortez past time of chasing sitting ducks.
It's not that I have anything against ducks, it's just that it's so much fun to watch them make decisions once they realize you are coming at them at warp panga speed. Basically they have two choices if they want to avoid becoming duck soup. They can either choose to start flapping their wings while running on water in an attempt to fly away from the incoming idiot, or they can choose to do what comes naturally for ducks...they can duck. Which is probably why somebody decided to call them ducks. Anyway, the fun begins when they become confused, not knowing whether to try to fly away or duck. One particularly dingy duck started his escape by dipping under water, then changed his mind and surfaced to try to fly away. Loosing ground he then gave up and hit the deck a second time when he realized he was almost history. It was tail feathers and bubbles all the way down and it left me laughing hysterically, which shows you how little it takes to entertain someone who has been out at sea for 3 weeks.
I decided to make a gas stop at Santa Rosalia, to top off my cans before I headed even further into the remote Baja waters. Just like in Mulege, I decided to abandon the proper procedure of making landfall by first checking in with the Port Captain, Immigration and then pay the port fees at the bank. This was the law when traveling in Mexican waters. But it was too time consuming and too expensive, and as long as I didn't get caught I could stay out of jail. The problem in Santa Rosalia was that the Port Captain's office was directly across from the Pemex station. I would literally have to drop anchor in front of the Port Captain's windows, slip over to the Pemex station with 2 bright red gas cans, and then slip back into the boat and depart without being seen. Now this is my kind of fun! I pulled it off without a hitch, and soon found myself headed north towards empty Baja waters.
The sea was smooth as I closed in on Punta San Francisquito in the early afternoon. I pulled up on the waveless beach and decided to get the gasoline routine out of the way. I walked up the the palapa restaurant and found Charry the owner working in the kitchen. I had known her for many years from my annual road trips to her rustic resort and she gave me a hug and a big smile. After small talk about my trip she confirmed that she had gas for me and asked me to bring my gas cans up to her pickup truck. Soon I was full of gas and ready to go snorkeling.
The main beach at 'Francisquito was framed by two extended rock promontories at either end, with the resort located somewhere near the middle of the one mile long sandy beach. The north end was a bit more protected from the wind today, so I walked down to the end to explore King Neptune's domain. The snorkeling was great and I spotted an octopus, several stingrays and even a lobster. The bottom was covered with white sand and huge granite boulders, along with a variety of shells and lots of fish. It was a refreshing dip after a hot day at sea. The day was growing long and I was getting hungry, so I decided to get out of the water and head back to the main palapa for a pre-dinner cocktail. But before heading back I took a short nap on the still-warm sand, just above the shore. It was a spectacular place to ponder the joy of just being alive.
Most of the visitors to Punta San Francisquito arrive the old fashion way...they fly in. Although arriving by vehicle is not impossible, the 12 hour drive from the border on a two lane road followed by a three hour dive on a one lane dirt road tends to thin out the traffic. The resort gets busy on weekends from fly-ins and drive-ins because that is when most Baja aficionados can slip south of the border, away from the responsibilities of their jobs. However today was Monday and there was still a few birds on the ramp and a few stragglers at the resort. We watched the sky grow dark from the outdoor patio and then settled into the open air palapa restaurant for hot yellowtail, cold beer, and lukewarm conversation. Bedtime hits the resort early and the generator is usually shut down by 9:00 p.m. I set up my bed on the boat and fell asleep counting shooting stars.
I don't know what it was that caused me to wake up at about 2:00 in the morning, but I'm sure glad I woke up when I did. It was pitch black and the wind had picked up, so I thought I would check on the front and rear anchor lines. I grabbed the flashlight and pointed at each of the anchor lines. They both went straight down, not at an angle as I had placed them when I set them for the evening. It was impossible for the tide to have risen so far that the lines could head straight down so I checked to see how far I was from shore. There was no shore to be found anywhere.
It began to sink in that not only was I not anchored to the bottom, I was nowhere near the coast. I had no idea how far offshore I was, the dark night left no clues of land in any direction. And the wind started to blow even harder. This was getting scary. I again searched the horizon for some sign of land and finally spotted a dim blinking light a long distance away. I had no idea where the light was located, but unless it was attached to a boat it was probably located on land. And that is exactly where I wanted to go as soon as possible.
I started the boat motor and very gently pushed the throttle forward. I could not see anything in front of me, so I moved forward at a snail's pace just in case I hit something. I continued in the direction of the light for a period of time that seemed like an eternity. After 2 hours of anxiety I neared the light and pulled back on the throttle. I was exhausted and I still wasn't sure where I was. But the glow of the light on the surface of the water led me to believe that going any further could prove to be disastrous. I shut down the motor, set the hooks front and back, and then collapsed into a sound sleep on the mat in the front of the boat.