Archive | November, 2011


21 Nov


You’ve seen the photos I’ve posted of all the sailboats moored near us. Every one of them is someone’s dream.


I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known over the years who’ve professed to want to sail away to some South Pacific Isle when they retired. I’ve even known those who’ve built various types of sailboats in their backyards, expecting that some time in the near future they were going to launch them and sail away. Sad to say that most of these boats never made it to the water, they spent their existence languishing in the weeds, until broken up or sold off to someone else with a dream.


Of those who expressed the desire to sail away into the sunset, suffice it to say that most were aware that it was a pleasant pipe dream, never to be actually realized.


A very few, get their wish.

Footprint, hard aground on Juncalito Beach


Some do it cheaply, some do it lavishly, some boats are purchased, some are hand built, and some are passed down, parent to child.


A few of these folks have vast amounts of sailing experience, but many believe they can learn as they go and all discover in one way or another that the seas are not forgiving and even the smallest error can cause infinite grief.



The Sea of Cortez is a vast sailboat graveyard. There is hardly anywhere that we’ve been, that there isn’t a wreck or rusting hulk hard up on the beach.


Many new sailors, coming from the west coast of Canada and the United States, look upon the trip down the coast, around the tip of Baja and into the Sea as an easy sail. A great many of them never finish the trip, and if they do, once here, they never want to attempt to leave again. Thus we end up with what’s known as the Pelican Fleet. A large number of sailboats either anchored in places like “The Waiting Room” here, beside us, or hauled out onto the hard and then launched again to be used as floating apartments for up to six months every year. Their owners going back home by car or plane every spring and reappearing the next fall.


Tortuga, up on the rocks in the Waiting Room

Now to be fair, many sailors in these waters are extremely capable and venture far and wide, while others realizing their limitations hire Captains to return their boats back up the coast on what’s known as “The Pound”. That’s motoring straight up the coast rather that the usual route of sailing to Hawaii, then turning and sailing to the coast.


Some who live here year round look after many of the boats that are anchored out. They check the moorings and dive the hulls every couple of weeks making sure that everything is secure and watertight. The cost is minimal and it ensures a small but steady income for those who do the work. Even with this, problems can still arise. Hurricanes and Chewbascas blow here from time to time and even without dramatic wind events, anchor lines can part and hull planking can open with no prior warning or indication.


Those that do choose to sail the sea regularly, coming into port occasionally, can also run the risk of sinking. There are all sorts of underwater rocks, pinnacles and reefs here and charts are scarce, not to mention that many of these boats are crewed by a single person, some of whom are attempting to escape their own demons.


All that's left above water of Albatross is one of her masts


There is always some drama that unfolds here every year. In just this area alone over the last 2 years we’ve seen “Tortuga” pushed up on the rocks in the “Waiting Room” during a hurricane, when her anchor lines parted. Last year it was “Footprint” beaching herself on Juncalito Beach, just north of Puerto Escondido, when her rudderpost snapped.


A week doesn’t seem to go by that there isn’t a “Pan, Pan” or “Mayday” call on the VHF radio, sometimes from someone in perceived trouble due to inexperience, other times from someone in real need. This is hard to deal with as there is no Coast Guard here and only those members of the public with radios and boats are able to come to the aid of a vessel in distress. If the conditions are really bad, there is often no one with a boat big enough to weather the rough waters and lend assistance.


 This year in just the last 3 weeks there has been one sailboat sinking at her moorings in Puerto Escondido, (you’d think anyone in their right minds would know enough not to name their boat, “Albatross”) and the “Valkyrie” going up hard aground on a pinnacle a couple of miles south of us.


Valkyrie, hard aground on the pinnacle

Albatross” is still sitting on the bottom of the harbour and I doubt she’ll be raised since this is the second time in 2 years she’s gone down. Her owner was away when she sank and we doubt he’ll return since not only will he have to pay to raise her, he’ll also be subject to fairly hefty environmental fines. The harbour managers won’t do it either as they have neither the legal authority nor the specialized equipment necessary to do so. She will simply sit on the bottom, with her oil boom around her and rot away, just as “Tortuga” is doing, sitting up on the rocks.


A gentleman of indomitable spirit, who believed she could be rescued, adopted “Valkyrie” as his cause. The owner was ready to walk away from her, but this man, a very new acquaintance to the owner, worked very hard, putting together a volunteer repair group, fending off pillagers, devising a rescue operation, repairing the hole in her side, pleading for help from the big boats to pull her off the rocks and actually paying for everything necessary to fix her and put her back into the water.


Valkyrie” did not become just another wreck, thanks to a man and a boating community with a very big heart, but she is one of the very lucky ones.

Valkyrie, sound and dry and ready to be relaunched,

Far, far too many have become a lost dream, due to inexperience, neglect, negligence or simple error, slowly being consumed by the ravages of sand, water, time and tide.





…And what did you do today?

8 Nov

One of the things we get asked a lot when we get home is, “What do you do all day?” We usually get cute and respond with, “Well, we’re not really sure but it takes all day to do it!” Actually we find our days are full of things to do.


Our day generally starts at 6:30 AM. That’s when the sky starts to lighten in the morning and since it’s been so warm we’ve not bothered to cover any of the windows to allow as much breeze as possible to flow through the van, so we get up as morning twilight breaks. It’s my favourite time of day ever since I worked as a fishing guide. I loved getting to work early enough to enjoy my morning coffee while watching the sun come up. So we sit with our coffee and our Kindles and watch the sun rise over Danzante Island. Every day it comes up just a tiny bit further south.


One of the views from the top of Hart's Trail

Once coffee is over, I put on running shoes and head up Hart’s Trail, just a little to the north of us on the beach. It’s a ½ mile trail that meanders up the side of the hill up to 800 feet from sea level. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Trust me this is a cardiac killer and I do it as fast as my feet can carry me. Nothing like sweating so hard it feels like I just stepped out of the shower. Then it’s back down without slipping on the rocks and into the van for breakfast, a quick wash and then we sit and listen to the daily VHF net. A program that fills everyone in on the weather, comings and goings of friends, local announcements, jokes and various other information that helps all of us with the daily grind here. I’m still Sandy Beach on the radio and rather famous for my jokes, so I’m told. There are some friends on the beach who won’t go out fishing until they’ve heard my latest offering. So I’m finally famous! Who knew?

Richard's Dorado

On other days we head out kayaking or fishing as early as possible. The kayaking because we travel long distances and the fishing because most of the fish we’re after don’t bite once the sun is up. I’m proud to tell you, both Richard and I caught a Dorado this past week. Him in our our kayak, by himself, and me with one of the campers on the beach, while piloting a little 15 foot tin boat that she and her husband have put at our disposal. This really is quite the friendly, loving community and we all look after one another. A day doesn’t go by that someone isn’t offering us a piece of fish, fresh or smoked, or inviting us to a beach dinner or restaurant special. Yesterday, for example, we went for lunch with some friends from Victoria. They’re here helping her brother with the grand opening of a new restaurant. Best damn burger I’ve had down here! Then for dinner we headed to the south end of the beach where another couple we’ve become very close to, fed us Elk steaks and smoked Dorado.  Our life is just one great big social whirl!

My Dorado. I should mention that both these fish were caught on very light tackle. What a great fight!


As the day advances, and the temperature rises, we find ourselves relaxing for a while in the shade, with me in my hammock, Kindle in hand. By 2 or 3 it’s time for a swim or maybe a bit of snorkeling, to cool off, then back on shore for a warm shower and an ice cold Dos Equis.


Oh, and I should mention the birds. We’ve become as our British friends call us, Twitters. It’s hard not to watch the birds when the variety’s are so many and so varied. They are everywhere and you just can’t help yourself, eventually you have to know what they are. All of us have at least 1, if not 2 or 3 bird identification books and we talk about rare sightings as if we were all Ornithologists. It even gets announced on the net, once in a while.


Male and female Hooded Orioles. A very common bird here.

Depending on the night we might find ourselves, like last night, at a beach dinner with a few of the other campers, or a full beach party, or simply at home having a quiet dinner together. The sun sets at about 6:30 PM and many nights we take our coffees and sit out on the beach to watch the stars or the full moon. The sky here is so dark when the moon is not up, that shooting stars are seen every night, and the Milky Way is always visible Then it’s a couple of hours of reading or maybe a movie, then bed around 10


Yeah I know, you hate me, but hey, you too could be doing this. All it takes is giving up everything you’ve got. Quit your job, sell everything you own and move into a 26 ft, motorhome. You could be living right here beside me on the beach. All it takes is being a little crazy and not afraid to take big risks.


 A week doesn’t go by that’s not filled with something exciting, the whales are starting to arrive, pods of hundreds of dolphins are moving around, the waters are full of more green turtles than anyone has seen in 30 years and the Dorado are running.


Life is hard, but hey, someone has to do it!