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~ Chapter Five ~
Santa Rosalillita to Bahia Tortugas
Sometime early in the morning before the sun had come up I awoke to the sound of the boat bouncing off of the sandy bottom. Although I had allowed for a dropping tide when I set the anchors the night before, I had not allowed for such an extreme drop. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, waded over to the anchors to pull them free from the sand, then started the motor to head for deeper water. Again I anchored the boat and tightened the lines, this time in 10 feet of water, and then slipped back into my still-warm sleeping bag.
Even though yesterday's run from San Quintin to Santa Rosalillita was my longest, I anticipated today's run as the scariest. Today I had to navigate the entire western "hook" of Baja, known for extreme fog, huge shoals and unpredictable wind and waves. And because of the low lying geography I would have few landmarks to check my progress. The good news was that, once I rounded Punta Eugenia at the tip, it would be all downhill to Cabo! Calmer seas, warmer water, less fog and hot days all waited for me around the point. These perks were enough to give me the incentive I needed to get up at 7:00 a.m. and walk to the village in search of gasoline.
Walking towards the main beach where about two dozen pangas were at rest I asked a lone fisherman where I might purchase some gas. He pointed to a yellow house about 100 yards back from the beach with a woman sweeping the front porch. Grabbing my 5 gas containers I walked up to her and asked if she had any gas for sale. She pointed to a large 55 gallon drum and said "Si...mucho". Before long I found myself sticking one end of a plastic hose in the large drum and the other end in my mouth. Sucking hard to get the flow going, I knew that there was no way to avoid getting a mouth full of gas before putting the flowing tube into my gas cans. It didn't taste nearly as bad as I thought it would. Unleaded gasoline for breakfast, what a way to start the day! Within 20 minutes I was full of gas (and so were the gas cans!) and ready to rock and roll.
I was pleased that there was no fog on the horizon and that the winds were calm. The glassy seas enticed me to stray a bit from shore in an effort to take a little short-cut across the bay and towards the entrance of Scammon's Lagoon. Although the lagoon would be full of hundreds of California Gray Whales within two months I knew I wouldn't be seeing any of the big fellas today. My goal was to get past the 2 main entrances of the huge lagoon without getting stuck on the large sandbars that extend almost 2 miles out to sea from the mouths of the lagoon. These shoals of sand were wide and the ocean surface over them was very choppy...and shallow. I did my best to stay outside of the green water which warned me that sand was just a few feet below my prop. Getting stuck here would be a disaster.
After carefully maneuvering past both shoals I angled back closer to the beach to catch a glimpse of the coastline and the never-ending sand dunes. This was the beginning of Malarrimo Beach where all of the jetsam and flotsam riding the Pacific Ocean currents ends up on shore. Items from all over the world land here after bobbing down the Pacific coast and it was a scavenger hunter's ultimate dream. I motored close to shore to see if was possible to hop out for a look at the goods, but the waves were too big and the risk of getting stuck was just not worth it. I made a mental note to come back in the future with a 4 wheel drive vehicle to look for treasures. Within a few miles my fears of getting stuck were confirmed...a huge freighter was grounded sideways ahead, half in the water and half permanently stuck in the sand.
The coast gradually transitioned from sand dunes to low lying cliffs. After 3 hours of not seeing another living thing I finally began seeing fish camps again. The air was still very clear and way off in the distance I could see Isla Natividad, an island just off the tip of Punta Eugenia. It would take me over two hours to get to that point, but when I did get there a feeling of euphoria came over me like I had never experienced before. I guess deep down inside I knew that getting past this point was a major landmark in my big adventure, and rounding the point put me in a fantastic upbeat mood. As I passed the point the ocean surface became lake-like and the following seas pushed me for the next 8 miles to the entrance to Bahia Tortugas. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world and became re-energized for the balance of the trip to Cabo!
After a brief rearranging of pangas with a fisherman at the base of the pier, I tied up the Vaka V. and tried to figure out how to get up the death-trap ladder to reach the top of the pier. The rungs on the metal ladder were old and rusted and once on top there was a huge wooden beam preventing a smooth transition from the ladder to the dock itself. Fortunately a bevy of local kids accompanied by the local town drunk came out to greet me, and one by one they caught my empty plastic gas cans as I threw them from the boat to the top deck of the pier. And then they noticed the tennis balls that I had brought along for gifts on the front deck of the boat. You'd think these kids had never seen a tennis ball before! I had passed up one for each boy but kids know no limits. "Mas...mas!" they shouted with big smiles. Who could resist! I think each kid ended up with 3 or 4 tennis balls and a few of the fly swatters I had brought along as well.
I hiked to the Pemex station to fill my cans with gas and I was not surprised that it was out of gasoline and closed. A young man in a beat-to-death truck offered me a ride to another place just outside town that sold gas, just a soon as he put air in his right rear tire. The tire bead had come off of the rim so we wiggled and waggled the tire until the bead set, filled it with air, and off we went. By the time we got to the gas stop the tire was flat again. I put 10 liters of gas in his truck to thank him for his help, he filled his tire with air again, and off we went back to the pier. I wondered how many times each day this kid had to put air in his tire! I gave him a couple of dollars for a cold beer, thanked him and off I went. Soon I had my full gas cans in place on the bow of the boat, and I was ready for my first meal of the day.
I noticed a hamburger cart next to a small grocery store on a dusty side street. After buying a pack of cookies to snack on for the trip, I ordered up what was probably the best hamburger this side of Todos Santos. The monster burger patty was dressed in fresh guacamole, catsup and mustard, mayonnaise, onions, jalapenos and who knows what else. Partnered with an ice cold Coke...I seemed at one with the Universe. Only one thing could make this night any better...a hot shower. Was I asking too much?
The small but clean Hotel Morraco offered 5 upstairs rooms at $120 pesos each. At $14 U.S. it was a no-brainer...I would have paid that much just for a shower! It felt great to lay on a bed again, and I barely planned the next leg of my voyage to Punta Abreojos before falling asleep.