Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bahia Tortugas and My Spanish is Broken (at best)

Heading south from Ensenada, Mexico.
With the plan of spending Christmas in La Paz, Richard and I soon realized that we would have to get moving if we wanted to make it there in time.  This was what motivated us to plan for several overnight passages down the Baja California coast with minimal stopovers in order to round Cabo San Lucas as soon as possible and then head north into the Sea of Cortez on our way to La Paz.  

With this in mind, we left Ensenada on December 6th around 8:30 am heading towards Bahia Tortugas.  By 1:30 pm that same day we had turned off the engine and were sailing nicely downwind in a brisk 15-20 knots of wind from the northwest.  The swells were manageable as they were spaced rather far apart at about 10-15 seconds.  We sailed through the night with consistent winds and a moonless sky.  During one of Richard’s watches, he woke me to watch the dolphins chasing their prey in the heavily phosphorescent water; it was truly spectacular to see the glowing jets as the dolphins rounded up the fish and the intricate paths of the smaller prey as they tried to escape.

Dawn on our way to Bahia Tortugas.
At daylight on the 7th, we found ourselves 6 nautical miles east of the northern tip of Isla Cedros.  The early Spanish explorers mistook the indigenous trees for cedars and despite this misnomer, the name has stuck.  We continued on our way down the length of Isla Cedros and passed Punta Eugenia on the mainland and the southern tip of Isla Cedros.  Soon after this, and still sailing, we found the entrance to Bahia Tortugas, sailed in and dropped anchor.  By this time it had been a long 30+ hours of passage making and we were both tired.  I put together dinner, we both showered and it was an early night for both of us.

The palapa at Bahia Tortugas.
The next morning after breakfast, we discussed the possibility of leaving in the afternoon rather than staying a day longer in order to make some headway south.  I offered to row to show and see if I could entice “Enrique Jr.”, the owner of the panga fuel service in the bay, to come out to Osprey and fill up her tank.  It was great exercise rowing to the dinghy dock which also serves as the filling station for Enrique Jr.’s thriving fuel service.  Once at the dinghy dock I attempted to ask the woman standing there if I could tie up my dinghy.  She indicated that it was okay to tie up and then introduced herself as Dolores.  It took me a while to figure out that she was not asking for dólars but was simply introducing herself as Dolores.  

View of the playa at Bahia Tortugas.
After informing Dolores “no habla español”, I was actually able to tell her my name and managed to get out, “Donde esta la tienda?”, which was the closest I was going to get to asking where the nearest store could be found.  Dolores told me to walk to the end of the pier, turn left onto the playa (beach), head towards the palapa (thatched-roofed beach-front restaurant), turn right up the path and the tienda would be on my right.  How I was able to understand this is beyond me and proof that years of playing charades coupled with a decent Spanish/English dictionary and my compulsion to be understood would always win out in the end.  

At the tienda, I was able to purchase some good looking vegetables, including a white onion, poblano pepper, cilantro and a tomato.  After paying for these items (which by the way totaled a mere 18 pesos or $1.44 USD), I asked about restaurants in town.  My limited Spanish was aided by using the words for open and closed in Spanish (abierto and cerrado) which I spied on the sign on the door when I entered the tienda, and pointing to my watch and uttering “¿Qué hora?”  I am convinced that with a little effort understandable communication will happen!  We didn’t end up eating at any of the restaurants in Bahia Tortugas but I am glad that I had the opportunity to engage in “conversation” with the locals and work on my Spang-Lish.

Enrique Jr.'s fuel panga.
Back at the dock I found Enrique Jr., sporting some snazzy bright red pants.  I quickly called Richard on my TelCel (newly purchased Mexican cell phone) and asked how much diesel we needed.  With this information in hand, and Enrique Jr. patiently waiting for me to look up a few words in my Spanish/English dictionary, I told Enrique Jr. that we probably needed about 80 liters of diesel and asked how much the diesel costs per liter.  Enrique Jr, whipped out his calculator and showed me the cost in both US dollars and Mexican pesos.  I rowed back to the boat while Enrique Jr. and his co-worker got the fuel panga ready to come out to our boat.  They pulled up to our boat and off-loaded 74 liters of diesel.  Enrique Jr.’s co-worker noted that the pump was quite slow and seemed content to simply wait for the pump to finish by lounging in the back of the panga.  Richard paid for our fuel, we had lunch and then readied the boat for our afternoon departure from Bahia Tortugas.


  1. Don & Pris BournivalDecember 19, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    It was great talking to you. Hope we can talk or skype Christmas. Safe sailing to you & Richard.

    Love Mom & Dad

  2. don & pris bournivalDecember 24, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    Hi Brian;

    Christmas is near & although you are far away you are in our hearts, dad & i wish you a very Merry Christmas & a blessed, healthy, happy New Year with lots of beautiful sunrises & sunsets. Safe travels.

    Love Mom & Dad