Since leaving La Paz, every day we contemplated how long our good fortune would hold. But with the weather so cantankerous this year, our 10-day run of good weather was a downright miracle. So I’ll gladly take 2 full days of hunkering down for moderately high 20-25kt winds as payment for our thus far pleasant trip. It’s WAY better than 7 days of wind for only 2 good days like our southbound trip late last year. Are things back to normal? We’ll see…
So, we high-tailed it out of Bahia Cobre for better shelter just 5 miles away at Bahia Salinas. Not to be confused with Punta Salinas (Saltworks Point) which we had just visited a week earlier on Isla San Jose, much further south…this is Bahia Salinas, or Saltworks Bay, on Isla Carmen.
No Letting Up
As soon as we arrive, the wind starts and doesn’t turn off for 48-hours. So we sit tight and wait it out. We read, write, watch TV shows and movies. I bake peach crisp. We don’t leave the boat until the 3rd morning. By then I am itching to get to solid land.
Bahia Salinas – a Natural Wind Tunnel
Turns out this bay is notorious for funneling wind though the long, low plain of salt flats, cutting a swath across the island with high mountains on either side…another “chute” of sorts; so winds are often higher here than anywhere else. We didn’t realize this until we listened to our VHF radio. The same day we were experiencing 20 kts, boats over at Isla Coronados only 10 miles due north, were reporting calm! What? Hmmm. Maybe we just need to leave and get out of this natural wind tunnel.
Miles and Miles of Salty Plains
On the 3rd morning, we finally ventured to shore to visit the defunct saltworks. Yes, another one. But this was a pretty large operation, with miles of crunchy, salty fields sprinkled with rusty equipment, a huge salt “lake” in the middle, several decaying buildings, a water tower and a small church that was surprisingly (yet, not surprisingly) still properly maintained and ready for service. There are even remnants of a pier and train track system used to haul the product from inland to the beach where it could be loaded onto boats and whisked away to the Peninsula to sell (remember we are on an island 30-some miles away from the nearest town of Loreto).
Several years ago, someone built a ranch house here that is now used as a hunting lodge for high-rollers pursuing bighorn sheep, like the one we saw on the mountaintop in my last blog. Since this island is one big craggy mountain with sheer cliffs and no roads, hunting these animals must be quite the challenging expedition.
Isla Carmen is a protected island and no one is allowed to walk inland any further than the beach areas, other than the few hunters. In the case of Bahia Salinas, a couple lives here to watch over the crumbling hamlet and maintain the lodge. You must request permission to walk their property. Our caretaker indicated that we could mosey wherever we desired; but he also said that other caretakers do mind and won’t let you any further than the beach, just like the rest of the island. So I guess your luck depends on shift change. Only the current custodian knows whether hunters are roving the island on any given day, plus we found target practice ranges near the salt ponds … so unless you are “gunning” for a Dick Cheney moment …ask before wandering very far inland.
Like Moths to a Flame
Every cruiser here has Heather Bansmer and Shawn Breeding’s “Cruiser’s Guide to the Sea of Cortez”. In this essential book are precise coordinates for good anchoring spots. Usually one, sometimes two per anchorage, they are indicated on the charts with a tiny little anchor icon. We have noticed over our two seasons of cruising here, that people tend towards those points, dropping their anchor as close as boatingly possible with little precaution for their neighbors. Drawn in like moths to a flame, they don’t poke around for other spots, they don’t look to explore the depths farther away, or even make sure of the surrounding swing room; they ride up to the spot and drop the hook, no matter who else is 100 feet away. This has happened to us on several occasions.
Bahia Salinas is wide open… huge. There must be at least one mile of perfectly good anchorable beach length, plus shallow depths at least a half mile into the bay. When we arrived, there was one other boat in all of this space. We are not immune to the draw of the anchor icon… we’ll drive to that spot first if it’s not taken, and then do outward circles looking for swing room on our plotter. We may or may not stop in that spot if no one else is nearby. But if there is lots of room in the bay, we’ll usually look for a place a bit farther away, just in case of this happening…
Table for Two?
This time, we happened to have plopped our anchor close to but not on top of the book’s icon. Well, we were there first. Then another sailboat (yep, those darn Canadians;) came in and proceeded to anchor right next to us, right on top of the preferred anchor point. Now, he wasn’t dangerously close, but definitely within calm talking distance. The point is, with ALL this room, a MILE of space… you can go ANYWHERE and you gotta anchor right next to me? Really? Are we dating? Should I make dinner reservations? You couldn’t even go another hundred feet to the other side of the anchor point, just to give you better swing room? Your spacing might make sense in a very small anchorage. But, here? It’s like a giant, empty Walmart parking lot, and the next arriving vehicle pulls in right beside your car, rather than a comfortable, one spot over. Inconceivable. (I don’t think that word means what you think it means…)
We left. But that’s because we were leaving anyway. The next morning at our sleepy little anchorage of Punta Colorada where we had the place to ourselves, we noticed our best friend rounding the corner. Stalker! We watched him intently as he proceeded to do the exact same thing, anchoring right beside us! Seriously. We left soon after he arrived. We were headed for Puerto Escondido anyway…but I secretly hoped he thought we were leaving because of him.
For a really great anchoring-on-top-of-me story, go to SCOOTS sailblog...scroll down to read the portion: How Not to Anchor 1/19/2016