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.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: