Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Day In Turtle Bay

Tuesday we decided to go ashore to walk around and get some supplies. Turtle Bay has a water taxi service to shuttle cruisers in and out from the old pier, a left over from the fishing industry that used to exist here some 50 years ago, so we called Enrique who runs the taxi on the VHF. No answer so we tried again in an hour. No answer. We tried calling for the rest of Tuesday with no luck. Our dinghy was stored on our top deck, packed full of equipment, and we didn't feel like going to all of the trouble of getting it down so we just waited.

Wednesday morning we called Enrique again and got a weak reply. He said he could come out and get us in a few minutes. Great, we hurried to get dressed and ready. After getting ready we came back up to the pilothouse to discover a small sailboat that had been anchored in the bay with two young people on board was drifting just feet off our bow. They had decided to move closer to shore and were having trouble sailing in the lite winds, apparently having no motor, and had drifted into us. As the young man fended their boat off I ran up to our top deck to pull in the starboard paravane so their mast would not get entangled in it as they drifted past us. They said that they had encountered 50' seas two days before and had broken their boom and ripped out some of their lifeline stanchions. The young woman at the helm said she wanted off the boat, NOW! He said that they wanted to find a place to rent in town while they sorted out what to do. I'm not sure they had been to town yet, there are not a lot of rental properties available in Turtle Bay. They regained control their boat and managed to sail closer to shore and re-anchor.

After our close encounter with the sailboat, we settled down and waited for the water taxi to arrive. One and a half hours later we saw Enrique drive down the pier, get in his panga and head out for us. As Enrique took us ashore we asked him if he could take us back in 2 hours and he said “si senor, no problem”.

The pier is located in front of the empty shell of the old fish processing plant. The plant was abandoned decades ago and stripped of all it's equipment and most of the exterior walls. The pier appears not to have been maintained since the plant closed. There is a float tied to the end of the pier with rusted steps leading up 20' feet to the pier above. The steps looked like they were ripped out of the old plant and tacked to the side of the pier deck and the float needs to be pulled close enough so you could stretch your leg out to reach the bottom step. Once on the pier you walk 100' feet or so down the deck past a flock of seagulls. The stench from the years of bird poop is gagging, it's the type of smell that you can taste even that night as you lay in bed. Unlike the fishing piers up North that get washed regularly from the rains, here the bird shit just dries, layer on layer, year after year, decade after decade, never getting washed off.

Once off the pier, you are in the town with it's small cottage like houses packed close to each other and facing right on the dirt streets. What is striking is the amount of car traffic. TB is located 20 miles via a dirt road to highway 1 and then it's another 30 miles or so to the next small town. You can walk from one end of TB to the other in 20 minutes. Where are all these people going in their cars?

We walked to the far end of town to an auto parts store to get some fuses and then stopped at a nice tienda and bought some milk, bread, tomatoes, and chips. We were hoping to find a restaurant to have lunch but the only two places we saw were closed so we walked back to the hotel near the water and had lunch there. We were here 4 years ago and are familiar with the town. The hotel is nice but not fancy and they were only serving breakfast at that time so we had some eggs.

Leaving the hotel we ran into the young couple from the sailboat that we had the close encounter with earlier. They were looking to get a room at the hotel. They said that they had left Ensenada 6 days before with their 2 dogs and 2 cats and were blown out to Guadalupe Islands some 200 KM NW of Turtle Bay where there were high winds and 50' seas and they lost their boom and ripped out at least one stanchion leaving a hole in the deck that let the seas into the interior getting everything wet. They jerry-rigged the main sail so they could sail into TB and she wanted to catch a bus back to San Diego, (NOW!) and he was talking about sailing the boat back north. TB is not a good place to be stranded with a broken boat, there are no marina services here, the nearest help is 300 KM north in Ensenada which is an upwind sail all the way. A difficult sail for an experienced crew in a good boat in the winter but nearly impossible in a small boat with no boom or engine. Going down wind to La Paz would be more practical but that's 600 KM. We wished them luck and headed to the pier.

Returning early to the head of the pier at 1:30 there was no sign of Enrique so we walked down the beach and rested on a stone wall surrounding the town square. People waved from every car that went by but we still had no idea where they were all going. Many of the cars had mom and the kids in them so maybe they were just going to and from the schools. Anyhow, around 2 we walked back to the pier hoping to see Enrique but no luck. A young man walked by on the beach and asked if we were waiting for Enrique and offered to call him and disappeared between two buildings. After a couple of minutes I followed after him finding him talking to a person working on a car. He said something about not finding Enrique and I should call him on my radio, "maybe he was asleep somewhere" he said. He then walked down the beach about 100', talked briefly to a man in a parked truck and laid down on the sand and went to sleep himself.

So we called Enrique on our portable VHF radio, no answer. Called again, nothing. We thought we'd walk out to the end of the pier, Linda thought there was a radio out there that might be stronger than ours. So out we walked through the shit fields, trying to hold our breaths but not succeeding, gagging in the process. Yes, there is a radio on the end of the pier, you can see it through the window in the locked shed. So we stood out there for awhile, time seemed to be slowing down, we didn't have a watch with us and we didn't have a lot of confidence in the time on our iPod. So we tried to relax, enjoy the Mexican culture, their lax sense of time and deadlines while we tried to figure out what we would do if Enrique never showed up and it started to get dark. The hotel was only 3 blocks away and it didn't look too bad. We decided to return to the beach and try to find a place in the shade to sit. Back past the gulls, gag, gag, and down the rickety planks. As we walked down the beach a young man wearing an old green t-shirt and a baseball cap on backwards asked if we needed a water taxi. We said yes and that Enrique was supposed to be there. The young man said Enrique called him and that he would take us back to our boat. Back down the pier, past the gulls, I'm sure that our cloths will smell of this until they are washed, and down the metal steps to the float and the panga.

It was great to be back home on the boat. We had waited 1 1/2 hours for Enrique to pick us up and 1 1/2 hours for our return ride. It looks like the weather may improve so we can get out of here Sunday so we're staying on the boat until then.

In Mexico just going to town can be an adventure.


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