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~ Chapter Three ~
Ensenda to San Quintin
The hotel I stayed in was on Ensenada's main tourist street, Avenida Lopez Mateos, just a block from the marina. As I walked down the ramp at Juanito's I noticed something very important was missing. The Vaka Viti was gone...again. I hate it when that happens! Sitting on the end slip where I had parked my panga was a large cruiser which had come in sometime during the night. To make room for the larger boat somebody had moved the Vaka to another slip on the other side of the dock. Both nights my boat had been moved despite the fact that I had removed the clip that initiates the motor's kill switch. So much for security.
I was so caught up with finding the boat that I hadn't noticed the fog out at sea. Pea soup...the thick version. Hoping it might burn off by the time I hit the harbor entrance I prepared the boat, started the motor and slowly slid south. My goal was to hit the huge natural bay of San Quintin in the early afternoon at high tide, as the harbor there was too shallow to navigate at lower tides. The fog was still thick as I reached the harbor entrance...I couldn't see 50 feet. There was no way I could safely enter the open ocean. Discouraged but hopeful of a quick burn off, I tucked back in the harbor looking for a place to kill time while the fog dissipated. Looking for something to tie up to in the harbor I found the perfect object...the SS Catalina!
The SS Catalina had led a long and productive life shuttling people from LA Harbor to Catalina Island in California for many decades. With the advent of faster boats she was put out to pasture, and after sleeping in LA harbor for many years, she ended up at anchor in Ensenada Harbor. Years of sitting in the water had taken their toll, and she finally began taking on water. Now her hull rests on the bottom of the harbor, listing to one side. A banner proclaiming restoration is proudly displayed on her bow. But the old girl is in very bad shape, and as much of an optimist as I am I'm quite certain that this beauty will never float again. But she proved to be a great place to tie up wait out the fog. It was an honor to share the water with her!
After an hour the fog thinned out enough for me to leave the harbor and follow the coast. The visibility continued to improve until I hit Punta Banda, a rocky point southwest of town. Visibility again dropped to near zero, but it looked patchy ahead as I approached the famous blow hole "La Bufadora". La Buf was performing well this morning and I stopped to take a photo of her large sea spray when the ocean swells filled the narrow crevace in the rocks. Indeed, after negotiating the worst of the rocks and reefs in thick fog the sky opened up and the moist air disappeared. I was now leaving the more populated Baja and heading into the wild. Time to take out my main navigation chart...a tattered 1996 version of the Auto Club Map. Don't laugh, it got me all the way around the Peninsula and up into the Colorado River!
The main agenda today was lobster traps, dolphins, kelp beds and fish camps. It was a beautiful run and I made it to the entrance of San Quintin in time to catch a beautiful sunset.
The tide was indeed dropping and twice my prop grazed the sea-grass bottom as I slowly headed up into the 8 mile bay. Within 20 minutes I had reached my destination, the panga pier at the Old Mill Resort. Tying up the boat and untying the gas cans I could not wait to get fueled up for a morning departure. But as I approached the Old Mill I walked into a strange silence. The fishing shop where I had called last month arranged to arrange gas, the restaurant where I had planned to eat, and the bar I had planned to sip a cold beer...all were closed down and vacant. I thought to myself..."welcome to Mexico"!
I walked down the dirt streets looking for a back up plan to get gasoline. Tiberon's Pangas was located just down the dirt street from the Old Mill, and after offering me a cold Pacifico, the owner agreed to have his friend drive me to the nearest Pemex gas station in town. I put my 5 gallons gas cans in the back of his truck and we headed east down the bumpy dirt road. In broken Spanish I informed my new friend that I was taking my panga down to Cabo San Lucas and then up the Sea of Cortez past San Felipe. He asked me in broken English if I was aware of the dangerous Sacramanto Reef down the coast from San Quintin. I mentioned that I was aware of the reef, and of the many ships from previous centuries that had hit the huge reef and lost their loads of gold.
He seemed silent for a second and then he asked me what I knew about the gold lost in the reefs. I had obviously touched onto a subject that was of special interest to him. As we continued to bounce down the road he realized that I was no threat to whatever interest he had in the hidden gold. He confided with me that he had a friend who was currently searching the reef for lost booty and had been somewhat successful. His friend had found many gold coins a few years ago, but then had lost the exact location and had been searching for it again ever since.
I put 10 liters of gas in his truck to thank him for his efforts, gave him $3 cash to buy himself a beer, and we headed back towards the sea. The conversation changed from gold coins in the water to the easy money some of his friends were making on Unemployment Insurance payments up in Los Angeles. The more he talked the more I was convinced that the unemployment system back home may still need a little tweaking.
Back at the coast I thanked him and headed for the boat to set up my sleeping bag. As I got comfortable in the boat it finally hit me...I hadn't eaten all day. No worries...I wasn't really that hungry. I soon fell asleep to the sound of anchovies jumping in the water next to my boat.
One particularly defiant anchovy kept trying to get into the boat. I kept hearing him slap his 6 inch body against the hull of the boat. I could not figure out why he wanted to get inside the boat so badly. It was two days later when I discovered his stiff torso behind the tool box. Apparently he tried his best to get out of the boat all night before he wound up in fish heaven. As the Skipper always said to Gilligan..."sorry little buddy".