[031207, 2139 UTC, Bahia Tortugas, BCS, Mexico; 27º41.2'N/114º 53.3' W]
We’ve been anchored in Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay) for two days now. Turtle Bay is an isolated spot near the “elbow” of Baja California that offers the best anchorage between San Diego and the Sea of Cortez. It’s a large, nearly perfectly round bay with small, graceful mountain peaks in many shades of auburn around its entire periphery. (Think Montana meets the Pacific Ocean.) The wind and swell protection is excellent, the depth is shallow and the bottom is sand, so most small cruising boats transiting the coast stop here for supplies and a respite from passages.
The town of Turtle Bay is small with few resources except its fishery. It sits 125 miles down a bad road from a marginal one and its streets are unpaved making dust prevalent as soon as you are away from the water. There is however, a lovely church overlooking the bay that looks much like a Bavarian barn with a bell that rings its tinny tone VERY early on Sunday. We are hoping to visit this before we leave as it appears from the anchorage that it has beautiful stained glass windows.
One small bright spot in the economy is the servicing of transient boats. This microeconomy boasts an interesting cast of characters. Of those we’ve met, there’s Ernesto who is a panguero who’s been delivering diesel to yachts for many years; he is suffering from competition and not taking it gracefully. There’s also Miguel who helps visitors to find parts and supplies, offers laundry service, ($5 per load, wash, dry and fold), etc. He visits you immediately in his kayak and offers to meet you at la playa and help you…all for a fee and a “sorborno pequena” (a small bribe such as a couple of fingers of whiskey—which he claims to drink immediately hoping for more—or coffee or a t-shirt). Then there’s Carlos, Mercedes and daughter Isabel who host cruisers at their waterview restaurant which is much like a car-port with a palm roof and a dirt floor. They have a lovely menu including bistecca mexicano (“con o sin papas?” …with or without potatoes?) and tacos dorados that we enjoyed our first evening here along with a cerveza (at roughly 60 cents in USD) and “juga de naranja” (orange juice) that turned out to be…Tang! We talked with Carlos—a small man with a large graying mustache and bright smile—through broken sentences about Bahia Tortugas, its fishing economy, our trip, etc. He seemed to enjoy the exchange and to appreciate our desire to struggle with his language (during a later visit he smiled approvingly at our Spanish phrase book!). We’ve also met Jorge and his crew aboard the Anabell who run a first class operation delivering diesel, provide “water-taxi” transport (for tips) and other services to visiting yachts. They are taking significant marketshare from Ernesto. Rogelio is the proprietor of a palapa in a tiny building that looks as if its first life was a truck body. He offers mainly cerveza but also snacks in the shade at the edge of la playa (the beach). Rogelio is a small, handsome man who is warm, quick to smile and generous with information without expecting compensation. When Philip went in search of “aqua pura” yesterday, Rogelio’s wife ended up driving Philip and our jerry cans up to Carlos’ and then Rogelio helped him to drag them out to the dock to await the panga-cum-water-taxi. (The elevated rickety dock and its bent, rusted ladder is a challenge but it saves us the hassle and humiliation of trying to land our pram on the beach in the surf, even as benign as it is).
One surprise to us is how modest the prices are here for commodities. We were told that Baja is very expensive because everything is imported. Certainly the supplies are extremely limited, especially of fresh produce, but still prices are low. In retrospect, this makes sense since locals have only limited means.
The locals (not surprisingly) do not speak any English. This situation has forced us, reluctantly, to dig out our Spanish phrase books and try to speak the language. As a result, our Spanish has improved markedly; it’s now merely awful rather than atrocious. We find we enjoy speaking (correction, trying to speak) Spanish and get a real feeling of accomplishment when we are actually understood!
Interestingly, Turtle Bay has an internet café (actually there are two). The preferred site is simply a corner of the largest mercado (grocery store) which we only found by asking “donde esta el mercado en el edificio amarillo” of about 10 different people! It seems as if they have high speed connections but we’ll find out on Monday when we return. We’re heartened to find this resource here but at 20 pesos per hour (ca. 1.80 USD) it may still be out of range of most of the residents. We hope while we’re here to make some www.sv-carina.org website updates. If not here, Cabo San Lucas is “only” 395 nautical miles downwind…
Viento bueno (fair winds),
Leslie, Philip and Jake the cat