Saturday, January 31, 2009

No Problem!

We have learned while Living Loreto that some of the best things happen spontaneously. Last weekend while we were attending a birthday party in the town of Loreto, one of the people we met was Dave. As we visited with him during the course of the evening, he asked us if we would like to go out on his boat the next day. Of course, we enthusiastically said “yes, we would love to get out on the water” and so plans were made to meet the next morning on the dock at Puerto Escondido.

Dave lives aboard his 40 foot Motorsailor “No Problem” and anchors it just outside the main harbour at Puerto Escondido, in an entrance bay referred to as the “Waiting Room” by the cruisers who frequent the area. The monthly rate of just over $30 to anchor here is about 10% of the rate that is charged to moor in the main harbour - that is the main reason why most of the live aboard boats “hang out” outside the harbour.

Singlar is the marine division of Fonatur which develops and manages the boating infrastructure in Mexico. They have completed a major upgrade of the facilities at this natural harbour, the largest on the west coast of Mexico, with new dockside facilities including a restaurant, washrooms, laundry facilities, a new launch ramp with a large capacity travel lift, and space for extensive dry storage of yachts. By the way, with all of this water-side development completed, Fonatur is in the midst of a very big infrastructure project in the undeveloped land surrounding the harbour with the apparent intention of offering the land with new streets and utilities to a developer.

We had arranged to meet Dave on the dock at 9:30 in the morning and he would take us out to “No Problem” in his dinghy tender. Being Canadian, we were sure that we arrived on time, and while Cathy paid for the day's parking (55 pesos), I carried our bags out to the dock. As usual, we overpacked - knowing how changable the weather can be (especially on the water) we had some extra clothes, my camera, binoculars, some contributions to lunch and, of course, beverages! When all of this, and us, were loaded into the inflatable dinghy with Dave, we motored about a half a mile to where his boat was anchored.

There were about a dozen boats moored or at anchor in the “Waiting Room”. Most had been there long term and a few were transient; spending a few days or weeks before continuing their cruise up or down the Sea of Cortez. Based on their flags of origin, I would guess that about a third of the boats hailed from Canada and most of the rest were American. At other times, like Loretofest in early May, there can be upwards of 400 boats from near and far, enjoying a four day boater's festival of music and fun that draws the yachting community from all over the Sea of Cortez.

I mentioned that “No Problem” was a Motorsailor, which is a type of hybrid boat, as indicated by the name. To a casual observer, she looks much like the other sailboats anchored nearby, with a main mast and furled jib, except she has a substantial wheelhouse or cabin “amidships” with raised cabin roofs forward and aft. While she is fully equipped to sail, “No Problem” is designed to cruise extended passages under the power of her diesel engine, with the sailing capability as more of a fall-back alternative. Included in the design specifications is sufficient fuel capacity to travel from San Francisco Bay area down to the Sea of Cortez and back to San Francisco without refueling!

So it was with this experienced Skipper we set off for our day trip. After leaving the protected anchorage, we headed for Ilsa Carmen - the largest of several off-shore islands that protect the shore north and south of Loreto. It was a perfect day to be on the water; sunny with clear blue skies and a few wisps of clouds to give perspective. Light breezes meant that there were no sails visible on the few boats within sight. The water was almost glassy calm with gentle swells which must have travelled some great distance as there was no local conditions that could have caused them.

As we travelled NE at a comfortable 5+ knots, we could see Punta Nopolo in the distance, on the mainland shore, anchoring the colourful rim of homes that are the Villages of Loreto Bay. About mid-way to Carmen we encountered a small pod of dolphins. We saw up to four at a time, including a younger one. For about 10 or 15 minutes they played around the boat as we maintained our course and speed and were entertained by their grace and speed in the water.

Approaching the shores of Carmen we travelled north to Ballandra Bay, a small well protected bay open to the west, but surrounded on three sides by the hills of the island. There were two sailboats anchored in the calm water and a couple of open excursion boats, presumably from the Loreto Marina, that had carried over a group of about a dozen beachcomers who were exploring the beach. As we dropped anchor, a couple of fishers were leaving in their panga, hopefully with a succesful catch. We stayed on board and enjoyed a deck lunch of delicious roasted pork burritos and salad and watched the other boats and birds that we shared the anchorage with. One of the sailboats was taking advantage of the calm conditions to varnish the main mast while suspended from a bosun's chair - talk about hanging loose in the Baja!

The trip back to Puerto Escondido was aided by a light tail wind and so we arrived back in about two hours compared to three on the outbound trip - just in time to see the sun setting behind the La Giganta range. After another short dinghy ride back to the dock, we said farewell and many thanks for a perfect day to our Captain and host, and then we returned home to our Casablanca in Loreto Bay.

I have often heard it said by boat owners down here that at least half of the experience of Loreto is to be found out on the water - some might even say it's the best half! But what I know for sure is that being on the water on a perfect day like we had just experienced is certainly one of the best parts of Living Loreto.