Friday, May 30, 2014

Muertos to Ensenada

Muertos to Los Cabos.
Or the FUBAR backwards..
As we leave La Paz and the Sea of Cortez heading back to California and with plans to go north to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) I find it hard to believe we have traveled over 2000 miles, 28 WEEKS, been in a dozen or more locations and met dozens of like minded people.  The cruisers we have encountered have all been (with one small exception) friendly, warm and inviting.  The only thing more welcoming has been the Mexican nationals we encounter at each stop.  Actually, I am a bit sad to be leaving Mexico but confident we will return.  Have picked up just enough Spanish to exchange pleasantries,  order comfortably in most restaurants, take a cab or bus wherever we need and at least be able to ask for help. 

The return trip will be about 800 miles and we plan to go in shorter runs than the FUBAR.  Beginning the trip is the trip from Muertos to Las Cabos.  That is the spot where this picture was taken as we headed north last November.

With no interest in repeating this we picked a very peaceful weather window, wind forecast to be in the single digits all the way.  The 11 hour run included fishing on some of the best banks in the Sea of Cortez.  We hooked up on the largest Dorado WORKNOT has ever seen and after a solid 30 minutes managed to get him to the boat.  However, I missed the first attempt to gaff him and there would be no second chance.  Kagi will not be pleased with this performance.  (I owe most of my saltwater fishing gear and knowledge to Kagi and look forward to another lesson when we get back to San Diego).  Our friends on Jannabanna managed to boat a 30# Dorado in the same area.   I’m sure mine was bigger…..

We arrived at Los Cabos late in the afternoon as planned and entered the harbor in daylight.  This man made luxury resort destination is full of sport fishing boats and features a “swim with the Dolphins” attraction. 

We got on an end tie and this stunning Viking 62’ was on the next dock.  Wonder what the real cost of fish by the pound is for this investment? 
Just above and to the left of the tuna tower you can see the cross that is the landmark for Los Cabos marina development.  Its visible from offshore and most the city as well.

We rented a car for the drive to Todo Santos the next day.  Its located on the west coast of  Baja and is reported to be a very artistic location.  Lots of jewelry and high end shops.  Most famously the “Hotel California” made famous in the Eagles song is located there.  It was a good diversion, enjoyed a great brunch at a small family spot but overall a bit too touristy for me.  Would have been just as happy in La Cuz or any other smaller Mexican town. 

Our trip included driving thru Cabo and the expected getting lost getting across town.  The downtown area of Cabo has grown more dense and crowded since we were there a few years ago and the area around the harbor has so many high rise developments you can’t see the boats from the street.   Much different than the Cabo I first visited in 1997 while working for the Cat dealer.  I was sent there to solve some problems on a yacht belonging to the dealership owners surgeon.  My instructions were to not come back until it was fixed.  On that trip the hotel was a small 20 room affairb where the key was held at the front desk and given to you by the clerk when you came and went.  Cash only and English was hard to come by.  Today near that location is a Ruth Chris and a Harley-Davidson dealer.  

Our trip from Los Cabos to Magdalena Bay, about 170 miles, was planned for 24 hours.  Other than Cabo, only a couple of hours away, there is no place to seek shelter on this leg of the trip.  The weather window looked very promising and we left Los Cabos at 6:15AM in order to round the most southern tip of the Baja before the winds picked up.  Our planning and weather routing worked well and we saw only about 15 kts of wind at the peak of Cabo Falso.  Later in the day the expectation was 25 kts plus. 


Continuing north by northwest we enjoyed low winds and long period swells all the way to Mag Bay.   Along with way the fishing picked up and we were able to land 7 Yellow Tail and released half a dozen Benito.   The freezer is well stocked again!

Arrival at Mag Bay was uneventful, just like we want it at 8:15AM (26 hours due to current)  We anchored in Man of War Cove and had a peaceful night of rest. 

Forecast for the next day was only fair so we decided to stay and head into the town of San Carlos.   As we were getting our dinghy ready a panga approached us with an official PORT CAPTAIN logo.  The gentleman asked to come on-board, cleaned his fishing boots and presented himself as the Port Captain.  He was very polite and wanted us to sign his log book.  No additional papers were checked, he simply wanted a record of who we were, where we were headed and how many people on board.  San Carlos is a commercial port and not really much of a yacht destination.  When asked he recommended we not take our dinghy the 5 miles or so further up Mag Bay and there were many “Banditos”.  He asked if we needed fuel, he had about 60 gallons he would sell us on board and offered to take us there in his boat for a fee.  We quickly decided we did not need to go.  Befoe leaving he told us his wife was having some shoulder pain.  Mary quickly assembled a care package for him along with some gifts for kids.    A very friendly encounter but surprised to be warned of  theft by the Port Captain.  Thankful  he was honest and in fact he seemed a bit embarrassed to tell us about the “Banditos”.

That afternoon we moved to Santa Maria, a cove just opposite of our location inside Mag Bay but on the outside.  Its about 10 miles to get out of Mag Bay going south and then back north to Santa Maria.  This well protected bay  is a popular stop and a good alternative to Mag Bay, saving a few hours travel time  as compared to Man of War Cove.

Leaving Santa Maria at 4:15am in order to make it to San Janico in the daylight some 13 hours and 90miles away we enjoyed another day of fair seas and low winds.  Our weather forecast was delivered by satphone from OCENS weather service.  I’m gaining confidence in the GRIB and Spotcast tables which we can get anywhere the satphone works.  Coverage is available almost around the globe with the exception being the poles.  Since we don’t like ice not much chance of going there!  Even on the satphone which is slower than a 256K modem the downloads only take about a minute to 2 minutes.   Data compression is incredible when you realize how much information is downloaded in such a short burst.

 (Turtle Bay is in the lower right corner of this sample report and Ensenada is by the arrow)

Arrived San Juanico (26.15.59 N x 112.28.132 w) as planned,  was on the hook by 5:20PM.   13 hours, 51 gallons of fuel and an average of 7.5 kts.   Hooked a few Bonito but no Dorado or Yellow Tail.  Did not go ashore here, not much of a commercial village but the guides say it’s a good surfing camp location in the summer and has a few restaurants.  

 (5/16/14) From San Juanico to Turtle Bay (27.41.218N x 114.53.199W) is 22 hours or about  170  miles.  We originally planned to stop at Abreojos only about 65 miles north but Mary and I were both up and ready to go at 1AM so we pulled anchor and got going.  Weather was very good and we continued on to Turtle Bay with our early start.

Our plan was to stay a night or two in Bahia de Tortuga/Turtle Bay ( 27.41.21N X 114.53.17W).  Plans on a small cruising boat are really just a guess and ours turned out to be wrong by a long shot.

Our next passage from Turtle Bay north has only a few good anchorages available and few of them offer much other than a safe place to rest.   On the FUBAR the first leg of the trip was the run from Ensenada to Turtle Bay.  With favorable southbound current the trip took 36 hours.   Going north, against the current, sometimes up to 1.5 kts the trip around 40 hours. 

Weather north of Turtle Bay was forecast to be winds in the high teens on average with up to double that speed on the capes due to wind compression.  This means short, choppy wind waves and they would be coming from the NW against a southern swell.  Not much fun for a long trip. 

So we waited.  A few other boats joined us including FUBAR friends Jannabanna and then Daybreak N60 from the FUBAR came in to avoid the weather.  Half a dozen sailboats, an interesting catamaran and some sport fishing boats.  We were beginning to have a community as we waited, talked about the weather, downloaded the weather, watched a few leave only to return and waited. 

Turtle Bay is a very dusty, sleepy village that was once a thriving fishing village.  There was a cannery and an active fleet fishing some of the best banks on the Baja for commercial catch.  Today there were only two active commercial fishing boats larger than pangas in the entire bay.   The streets are a mix of paved and dirt with only a few restaurants and some local tiendas for supplies. 
Fuel is available for those who must from a very rough dock requiring a med moor (Stern to the pier with bow tied to a float or anchor).  The purveyor has a questionable reputation but he is the only game in town.  WORKNOT’s nearly 3,000 mile range allows us to pick our location for fueling and this would be near the bottom of the list.

We did not however avoid the dock completely.  After more than 5 days waiting we were running out of small projects and things to watch, read or arrange.  Mary and I headed to the shore to get an internet fix and visit the restaurant we found a little off the beaten path.  It really is a house with the front room converted to a serving area.   Simple, immaculately clean and run by a lady who served us (the only customer in the room and perhaps that day) as if it were a 4 star location. 

We never made it to the restaurant for a second try…

Our visit to shore was just before lunch time and it was already beginning to get windy.  Mary justly was nervous about the rickety dock.  She fell backwards and then into the water with the dinghy line in her hand.  She was on the windward side of the dock and the dinghy, Keela and I were on the leeward side.   Was able to hold the dinghy with one foot, lay across the dock and get her by the arms.  She lost her sunglasses but was holding onto the dock and making her way to the ladder to get out of the water.  One of the dock guys came to our aid and we got her out of the water.  So far so good.

Mary was wet, embarrassed and rattled but insisted she wanted to go to town, dry off and “not make a big deal of this”.  We made if off the dock, down the long pier and she was OK but felt “anxious”.  Tried to go to a restaurant a little closer but they would not let Keela join us (first time for this). 

As I turned to leave saw Mary fall backwards out of the corner of my eye.  She went down hard a few feet from me.  She was having a seizure and had stopped breathing, unconscious.  I was able to get her head up and she began to breath but was still out.  Within a few seconds an English speaking local was by my side, announced he was a paramedic and helped me get an ink pen between here teeth with greatly improved her breathing, she came to but was unresponsive to my voice.  He had called an ambulance and it was there within 3-5 minutes.  Off to the local public medical clinic we went.  Within 10 minutes Mary was being seen by a Dr. and four nurses.  Another nurse had taken Keela and was holding her just outside the hospital.  The Dr. spoke English and started an IV and provided some meds.  Mary was beginning to respond but still very disorientated.  Diagnosis was concussion from the fall.  The decision was made to transport here to the nearest hospital  for additional examination.   There is an air ambulance available but it had already been committed to another town.  The next option was an 3 hour ambulance ride to Guerrero  Negro, 126 miles away.   With the help of David, Jan and Kevin from Jannabanna, secured WORKNOT and asked them to watch Keela and take me back to shore with some items for Mary.   

Ambulance driver did not speak English but had his instructions and after I agreed to pay upfront for a tank of fuel we were on our way.  The ride took closer to 3.5 hours as about 10-15 miles of the road was under construction.  This section was a wash boarded dirt road.  A motor grader would have been very useful…

Arrived at the public hospital in Guerrero Negro and again Mary was seen by an English speaking Dr.  She had improved continuously on the trip and other than a major headache was doing pretty well.   She was examined including full blood work, EKG etc very quickly.  Results were encouraging and she continued to improve.  When the nurses found out she was also a nurse the level of care just got better.   Here we were in a public hospital, a few dozen beds, equipped with hardware mostly from the 1970’s and very happy to be there.   They kept her for about 6 hours and finally discharged her at about 9 PM. 

Did not expect to find a way back to Turtle Bay that late so went outside the hospital to see if a cab would take us to a motel and help arrange transit the next morning.  To my surprise and shock the ambulance driver from Turtle Bay was WAITING by the emergency room entrance.  He asked how my spouse was if we would be going home tonight or should he get a hotel room!

Bought another tank of fuel, some snacks and off we went to Turtle Bay.   The ride was just a long, and the driver had a friend riding with him.  About an hour into the trip we stopped and his friend bid us goodnight and left.  Where he got out of the ambulance there was not a light to be seen in any direction.  It was just on the side of road in the middle of the desert.  No idea what the plan was but it was a bit erry to be stopped, late at night, can’t understand the conversation and one guy just starts walking.  Best I could understand his friend was being picked up by a girlfriend and this was the place she was supposed to be.  

We arrived at Turtle Bay about 1:30Am and stopped at the police station to sign off on the ambulance service.  The young officer on watch was completing his daily report on a manual type writer complete with White Out®.   Got a ride to the beach and David and Kevin brought our dinghy to the shore to pick up Mary.  She was not having any part of walking back down that dock!!!

Not sure who was happier, Keela to see Mary or me to see WORKNOT.  6 hours on the jump seat of the ambulance along with the 6 hours in ER had whipped me.   Mary had rested well on the ride back and she too was happy to be home and safe.

The above story is long because wanted to give some additional perspective:

We were never asked for any formal identification, never asked if we lived in Mexico or visitors or just how we got there. 

We were asked if we could affort the fuel for the ambulance more to expedite than get us to pay.  He would have to have found the police chief to get the key to fuel the ambulance.

Every person we came in contact with tried their best to explain things to us even with the language barrier. 

The hospital equipment was old, outdated but clean and serviceable.  Mary was fed and cared for by professionals the entire time.

The clinic in Turtle Bay did not charge us for emergency services and refused a donation on principle.  I was able to give the nurses some chocolates and bought the young Dr. a beer. 

Ambulance fees in total were 1,800 Pesos or about $140US.  This includes the fuel expense.

The hospital in Gerraa Negro charged 1,605 Pesos or about $125US.  The administrator was very careful to ask if  I could pay anything before she even told me how much.  Remember this included full blood work, EKG, shots, meds and ER service for 6 hours. 

We are grateful for the chain of events, had we gone back to the boat she may have had the seizure on anchor with additional complications to get help, the paramedic just appeared, English speaking Doctors on duty at both locations and most importantly Mary seems to be fine.  We will be going to Las Vegas this week to get an MRI and checked out by her regualar Doctor but don’t expect any issues remain from the fall.

After waiting for 3 more days we made the decision to head straight for Ensenda in order to clear out of Mexico and get to San Diego where medical support was readily available.   It was a difficult choice as we would be underway for 40 hours with no medical support available.  The alternative was to wait longer in Turtle Bay with its limited support. 

Since Mary was doing well we headed north at 4 Am on 5/24/14.   Jannabanna  followed us and soon left us as they are a full 1.5 kts faster.  The winds were higher than expected and we got the real Baja Bash experience as we rounded Cedros Island.  After about 4 hours things settled down as we turned more to the north as we cleared Cedros.   The improved seas lasted about 4 or five hours but as the afternoon approached the  “bash” returned.  3-5’ seas, better spaced than earlier but still aggressive stayed with for about 10-15 hours.   

We could sleep in these seas and eat but it is too rough to fish or read for me.  About 6 hours south of Ensenda the forecasted calm seas and little wind finally arrived to provide us a very comfortable end to the trip.  Strong currents had slowed us down and we arrived 5PM on the 25th.    

Checked into CruisePort Marina, docked next to Jannabanna and enjoyed another peaceful night.  Jonathon, the marina manager was welcoming as always.  We spent the next day getting our exit documents from the Port Captain and had a good Italian dinner downtown.  I even got a latte at the Ensenada Starbucks to ease my entry back into the American lifestyle.

The 60 miles from Ensenada to San Diego was foggy and calm, a welcome relief to the Baja Bash.  We entered the US at 2:12Pm on 5/27/14.   Seven months since we started the FUBAR in November of 2013. 

Coming into SD harbor we were greeted by a US Submarine and its escorts.  A fine welcome home as we waited for the sub to pass at the ‘Suggestion” of the patrol boat.

We are back at Cabrillo Isle Marina for a few weeks including our trip to Las Vegas.  Some folks have left the marina but the large boat slips are nearly full and the activity level looks better than when we left.  

We traveled well over 2,000 miles and visited a 10 marinas and even more anchorages.  Met many likeminded people and discovered we are indeed among the “young” cruisers.  

Can’t wait to get underway for the next journey…………. 

No comments:

Post a Comment