By Portia Leigh
Our time in Ensenada was brief, but delightful. We woke up Saturday morning and spent several hours cleaning the salt off Violeta as she had been thoroughly drenched from bow to stern the day prior by the rough seas. It was a major team effort to get the salt out of all the nooks and crannies, but the experience of working together to accomplish a task is both uniting and rewarding— a recurring theme any group of sailors inevitably encounters over the course of the journey, and one that makes life on a boat that much more fulfilling.
We made friends with several of our dock neighbors, and enjoyed some delicious local dishes at Muelle Tres on the marina boardwalk and La Jiba in town. Ella especially enjoyed playing with Bobocita and Barnacle, two of our neighbors’ dogs. She had fun running around the dock in her bathing suit hosing things down, including herself, and the dogs, and me! One of our neighbors even paid her to clean their dinghy. I’ve never met a kid who likes to clean as much as Ella, and she’s a pro!
On the journey to Ensenada we incurred a small rip in the jib sail. As our luck would have it, we stumbled across a couple old sailors hanging out in the marina pavilion on a Sunday afternoon using their Sailrite sewing machine. We hung out with them in the pavilion for a while, shared a few beers and stories, and they were kind enough to let us use their machine to patch the jib– a fateful coincidence that made the following days at sea that much smoother, and noticeably more beautiful as we cruised full sail with the Jib guiding the way.
After making it our home for four days, we departed the Ensenada Cruiseport Village marina the morning of January 31. It was a lovely Tuesday, and we were excited to be cruising again. Diego caught a fish right off the bat, our first one, a beautiful Bonito!
As we got further from the bay the moisture over the ocean began to thicken and we found ourselves immersed within a serious fog bank. We couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet in front of us so we all kept a careful watch. We didn’t know what else to do. We knew there was a small island about 10 miles from Ensenada bay, and while we mark our coordinates and have GPS, it’s still a little unsettling to not be able to see a thing. Eventually the sun came out and burned off the fog, bringing the island, and the breathtaking mountainous landscape surrounding Ensenada, into view.
The cruise was exceedingly pleasant, no puking this time (that is except for one of us, but that’s a story we’ll get into later, but no seasickness!). Ella and I spent hours playing board games, and cuddling up on the bowsprit listing to audio books. She’s recently discovered her passion for photography, and while it makes me a little nervous watching her run around the deck with my camera with the 75-300mm lens fully extended, her shots are phenomenal. She definitely has an eye for it.
It took us about three full days to get to Bahia Tortugas in Baja Sur and we saw nothing but ocean for two days. We passed the beautiful Isla Natividad late Thursday afternoon as we approached the bay of Tortugas. Tawnya spotted a few spouts of water shooting out of the ocean and screamed “Whales at 9 o’clock!”
We had been praying to see them since we left Marina Del Rey the week before, and now we finally had our chance. Everyone sat on deck, eyes glued to the ocean in search of more spouts, fingers crossed that one might breach. All in all we saw more than 20 or 30 spouts, and we were lucky enough to see a couple breach! Tawnya told us a litany of whale facts that she learned from our trusty sailor friend Captain Kerstin, who she’s been visiting in Maui every year since Kerstin relocated there after leaving Venice back in 2011. Some of the interesting facts we learned about whales include that they sleep half of their brain at a time (cool! Can I do that?), their skin is significantly more sensitive than ours, and their gestation period can range between 11 to 18 months depending on the type of whale.
We arrived in Bahia Tortugas around 6 p.m. with a neon pink sunset lighting up the sky behind us, but by the time we pulled the sails down, we found ourselves deep in the middle of a foreign cove surrounded by darkness. Just off the shore to our right was a line of lobster trap buoys, and a few boats anchored ahead in the bay, but our physical point of reference (as described in Charlie’s Charts)—a ragged steel pier jutting out from the center of the beach, was nearly invisible.
As we tried to find a suitable spot to anchor the depth meter started to go crazy oscillating back and forth between 20 ft down to as low as 2 ft! Perilous! Tawnya jumped to the helm and steered us to deeper waters, Diego and Francisco grounded themselves firmly at the bow, using their muscles to free the anchor chain as Ella held the flashlight over the water and I kept an eye out for rocks.
We spent the night on board and woke up bright and early Friday morning on a mission to restock supplies and hopefully find a shower. We lowered the dinghy into the ocean, hooked up the propane engine and set off to shore. It took two trips to deliver the five us safely to the pier. “Bienvenido Bahia Tortuga”- Welcome to Turtle Bay, and Baja Ha-Ha was painted in big block letters on the neighboring walls along the beach.
The town is small and everything is quite limited so if you’re on your way down the coast and looking to restock supplies there are probably better places to stop. It’s definitely a fisherman’s town, one that is probably best known as a stopping point for the famous cruisers rally that comes through every November.
Once ashore, we walked to Maria’s Restaurant, but there was no Maria in sight, we were greeted instead by Tom and Heather, an old sailing couple from Canada, who made the beachfront shack their home while in town working on their disheveled ketch sail boat, Magnolia. They ended up inviting us in and cooking us dinner later that evening and told us where to find a local hotel that offered hot showers for 60 pesos ($3 each), as well as directed us to the choice markets in town. Unfortunately for us the supplies at each market were quite limited, which meant we had to make several stops in order to get what we needed. Tawnya and I both had work to catch up on, so we stayed at Tortugas Restaurant, a small family run restaurant attached to the owner’s house. Alisa, the owner, had two beautiful grandchildren, who Ella spent hours playing with despite the fact that they didn’t speak the same language. As Tawnya and I worked on the computer they watched movies in English and Spanish, and braided each other’s hair.
Diego and Francisco made several trips back and forth between the markets, eventually loading everything into the dinghy and taking it back to the boat, before we all reconvened for dinner at Heather and Tom’s house. The meal was incredible, full of nourishing vegetables and greens, which was exactly what we needed.
Everyone was exhausted by this point, but we still needed to refill our water tanks—an interesting and tricky endeavor as the water had to be transported to our boat, which meant we couldn’t just put a hose right into the tank and fill her up as we would on land. Francisco and Diego found a local fisherman, Geronimo, who had a big water tank on his blue fishing boat, and they paid him to bring the water to Violeta, but the mission was not over. Diego spent the next hour using a hand pump to suction the water out of the big tank and transferring it into a small canister that Francisco and Geronimo walked back and forth emptying into Violeta’s massive water tanks. We were victorious, and beyond thankful to have water, but we all agreed that it would be better to start brushing our teeth with bottled water just the same.