Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bahia Santa Maria

The gorgeous and unpopulated beach at Bahia Santa Maria:
An old fishing camp, currently deserted.
There’s no village here in Bahia Santa Maria. Some fishing camps are established along the beaches, but they are only occupied some parts of the year. We stayed here two days and on the second day “Mag Bay Outfitters,” from nearby Bahia de Magdelena, trucked supplies over and put on a catered lunch for us. They erected shade awnings, utilized a few small buildings built for just this type of event, put up some tables and chairs, and even brought in a local band. It was all very nicely done. Lunch was a foil-wrapped & steamed combination of fish, lobster, and shrimp served with rice. Everyone agreed it was delicious and it was, especially so, to Mike and I since it was our first hot meal in several days. Mike and I spent most of the day walking the beaches & shallow pools, exploring the deserted fishing camps, and taking photos. We came across lots of blue crabs and boy, were they ready to put up a fight when threatened! Here’s a photo of Mike offering one a beer – he didn’t want it!

We also found a whole herd of fiddler crabs. These guys are only about a couple inches across and have only one claw – hence their name. I enjoyed watching them scuttle in and out of their tiny holes, and engage in battles with each other; seems they are very territorial.
The tricky part of Santa Maria was the variable (and often treacherous) surf, and a sand-bar a little ways out from shore, that made it often very exciting (or terrifying) to go to shore. We were advised not to try it in a non-planing dinghy (that is, a dinghy without a motor strong enough to get the dinghy’s bow up and over a breaking wave); in fact, we were told it was best to use the pangas. Well, we don’t have a motor at all on our dinghy, so we hopped into the first panga that came by and had no trouble getting to shore for the lunch. The surf wasn’t too bad early in the day and everyone got to shore just fine; only one or two dinghy’s tipped over and the worse that happened was people got a bit wet.

Later in the day, though, when it was time to go back to our boats, surf conditions had changed. The pangas were taking as many people at a time back to their boats in order to have everyone shuttled back by dark. One couple attempted the return in their dinghy; it flipped in the surf, they’d forgotten to attach their kill-switch, so they were swimming while their dinghy circled around and around like a crazed demon. Other people went out to help them get back to shore and retrieve the dinghy. Meanwhile it was getting darker and darker and the line for the pangas was still long.
Mike and I were lucky. We got in the last panga that made it out. After ours, the panga drivers said it was just too dangerous to continue taking people to their boats. The chances were too high that a panga would flip and people would be swimming in the dark. The result was that around 72 of our people were stranded on the beach overnight! One person had a portable VHF radio so our fleet-leader, Richard, was able to do a roll-call to determine who was left on the beach, who had made it back to their boats, and to make sure no one had gone missing. The stranded people ended up spending a rather uncomfortable night on the floors of the few buildings without much in the way of blankets or pillows. But it would be a story to tell!

Before we knew it our stay in Bahia Santa Maria was over and we were preparing to head out again. We’d made our decision – we were going to turn back and head north, toward home. During the first two legs of the Baja Ha-Ha race, San Diego to Bahia Tortugas, and then Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria, we were on the race’s schedule, and had blown by a dozen small bays that we’d like to have explored if we hadn’t been in such a southward rush. We wished for more control over where we went, when, and how long we stayed. So instead of continuing further south, around Cabo (where the race would end), and into the Sea of Cortez (which would leave us with a pretty tight schedule for the return trip) we decided to turn back north and stop at some of those little harbors while making a much more leisurely trip home.
Enjoying the sun, waves, and a kind of sailing!

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