Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FUBAR: Bahia de Tortugas aka Turtle Bay

Date: November 11, 2007
Time: 09:45 (Pacific Standard Time)
Position: North 27 41.08, West 114 53.12
Anchored in Bahia de Tortugas (Turtle Bay, Baja Sur, Mexico)
Visibility: Several miles under a clear sky

Big Mama has a problem: Having arrived in Turtle Bay yesterday, today is a layover day for the FUBAR fleet. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a day of rest for the crew of Pacific Escort. First thing this morning, Jim and sons launch the tender and head out to deal with the fleet’s various problems: Ron Smothers on Big Mama, a Uniflite 55 sport fisher, has discovered that one of the boat’s two freshwater tanks has mysteriously drained during the night. Jim has failed to find the source of the leak, so he has disconnected the crossover between the two tanks to ensure that the remaining tank doesn’t drain, leaving them without freshwater. Big Mama has a watermaker (indispensable in this arid region), but Jim offers to fill Big Mama’s water tanks from Pacific Escort’s water tanks once the leak is fixed. Meanwhile, James is over on Sans Souci, tracking down another plumbing problem, and the sport fisher Fishing Game Warden, needs a fuel filter. Back on board Pacific Escort, Jay is talking to a local fisherman—looking for lobsters for tonight’s dinner.

About 09:00 Jim, James and Eric return from their repair efforts. They get cleaned up and we all take the tender into the town of Turtle Bay. It turns out to be a sleepy, dusty little Baja town. Other than the cruising boats that stop in transiting to up and down the coast, the only industry appears to be the local fishing fleet. It’s Sunday and no one is about. Everybody is home, cooking Sunday dinner. A few, one-room markets and the small restaurant, next to the run-down pier, are all that is open. No doubt the town will be busier tomorrow, but we will be gone. The nicest building in town is the simple, clean church that occupies a picturesque spot overlooking the bay. We walk around a bit and then return to Pacific Escort. Jim has decided to move our boat further into the bay, where it’s calmer, in anticipation of transferring water to Big Mama.

This is a large, beautiful bay, ringed by stark buff-colored hills: Roughly three miles across and two miles deep, it averages about 35-feet in depth, with a good sandy bottom. It easily accommodates the 52 boats of the fleet and could probably hold four times that many. James, Eric, Jay, Sue, Jeff and I all pile into the dingy for a ride to the far side of the bay, where there is supposed be a graveyard of whale bones, left from the days when it was a stop for whaling ships. The tender is a 12-foot rigid inflatable with a steering station and a strong 40-horsepower Honda. Highly maneuverable and stable, it accommodates the five us surprisingly well; however, the 10-knot wind blowing across the two-mile fetch of the bay has kicked up a short, vicious chop at the far end. Thirty yards off the beach it’s already too shallow and Jeff, at the helm, has to raise the prop. We decide that it will be too difficult to get back out, so we abandon our plan of exploring the beach, but now the surf and wind are pushing us toward the shore. Jay and Eric, wary of stingrays, jump out to turn the tender around and push us out into deeper water where we can use the motor. If a tough slog and they report that several rays have brushed up against their legs as they walk along kicking up sand. It’s a good thing we didn’t try to wade to shore. After a heroic effort, working against the surf and wind, they get us out to where Jeff can lower the outboard and they jump back in. But it’s not over yet! We have to cross the bay straight into the wind and chop. It’s a rough, bumpy, cold, wet ride. By the time we reach Pacific Escort, we are all soaked. We all thought it was great fun. We’re also very glad, Pacific Escort is equipped with a washer, dryer and hot showers.

Back on board Jim informs us that that Big Mama is indeed going to raft up along side and take on water. We break out the hose and rig the starboard side with fenders and dock lines in anticipation of their arrival. At 15:36 they come along side and tie up. We pass the hose over to them and begin transferring 200 gallons of water from our 500-gallon freshwater tank. Meanwhile, Jim and Jeff go below and continue their hunt for the mysterious water leak. Finally, it’s located. A split anchor wash-down hose in the chain locker. The spigot has been left open and the water pressure eventually split the hose. Coiled against on top of the piled-up anchor rhode it was impossible to see, but when it was uncoiled, the fine spray was immediately apparent. It also solved the mystery of why none of the leaking water ended up in the bilge.

Good news, James has gone ashore and managed to buy about a dozen fresh lobsters, they’ll go well with the steak and baked potatoes Sue is cooking for dinner. After dinner, the evening’s entertainment, for me, is watching a perfect crescent moon, hanging just above the hills to the west, which are themselves silhouetted by the pink light of the setting sun behind them. Venus hangs a hands breadth above in a cobalt sky that shades to velvet black directly overhead. Tomorrow, we will escort the fleet on its 228-mile run to Santa Maria.

--James Kirby, aboard Pacific Escort in Bahia de Tortugas

Some of the crew of Pacific Escort, from the left: Jay Leishman, brother Jim, his wife Sue and sons Eric and James.

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