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Baja-Haha Part 2: Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

To read the previous entry, Baja-Haha Part 1: San Diego to Bahia Tortugas, CLICK HERE.

Day 4 - Thursday, November 7th - Turtle Bay:

There was a lot of cloud cover over us while making our way to Turtle Bay, but a welcome committee of dolphins and finback whales swam along with us as we approached our next anchorage. The rest of the fleet was already anchored and settled in as we came in late, missing the Baja-Haha annual baseball game against the locals. To get to town boaters had to dinghy to shore, then jump out as a few kids came to pull the dinghy in through the tide in exchange for a few bucks. The town was very small, with mostly dirt roads. Abandoned dogs walked the little alleys but they seemed well socialized and somewhat cared for. Many of the little businesses or restaurants were run out of houses, yet quite a few seemed abandoned. There seemed to be one restaurant that wasn't part of a house, a few little bars on the beach to buy beer from, and one real grocery market. It definitely had the small-town feel where everyone knew each other.

We walked through town to the baseball diamond to see if the game was still going, but the field was mostly empty. We were all excited for fresh food and cold beer, and Tom and my dad were set on finding a small restaurant on a hill they had gone to in the past. We followed signs for the only restaurant in the area, but it took us to a small, dark house with some women sitting outside. It was sunset, and I swear it was the brightest most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. It was neon pink like a Lisa Frank picture, and I couldn't take my eyes off of it. As we approached the restaurant we weren't really planning on going to, the woman sitting outside seemed equally as excited as she was noticeably unprepared to serve us. We really wanted to meet more of the other boaters and hang out next to the ocean, but we felt it would be rude to make this woman excited and then just turn around and take off on her. We went inside and ordered a round of beer and chips, salsa, and guacamole. After, we went down to the big restaurant on the beach with a DJ set up for the 'Haha fleet.

Me and a local beer drinking jack-o-lantern man

As we walked up to the restaurant, the first boaters we recognized were our friends Catherine E, so we joined them at a table. We were brought another round of beer and everyone started ordering the lobster plate. Shrimp and lobster seemed to be the in-season go-to dish for the area. Being the vegan one, I honestly don't remember what I ate. I had a lot of food on the boat so I usually ended up just eating that, and then snacking on tortillas and chips while in town. The sky was now pitch black as we sat on the large outdoor balcony which was the entirety of the seating area for the restaurant. In the bay was a whole show of white lights in the darkness. These were all the Baja-Haha boats. Their anchor lights filling the bay like white Christmas lights, or stars spreading across the sky. The beer and food in Turtle Bay was cheap, even with the prices inflated for all of us boat people. This restaurant caught everyone off guard though. The little styrofoam plates of lobster with white rice most of our table purchased ended up being slightly over $30 a plate! Imagine the surprise when the bill came for hundreds of US dollars. No one was mad though, it just became another thing to joke about. The time everyone ate a small $30 lobster tail across the room from an overflowing toilet.

Day 5 - Friday, November 8th - Turtle Bay:

First on the agenda for the day was showers and fresh breakfast. While wandering the town the night before, we found another restaurant in a house that was covered in pictures, whale bones, and memorabilia of all types. It seemed like a unique little place, and they confirmed they sold breakfast, so everyone on the boat wanted to go there first thing. The woman in the house was also who you paid for a shower at $4 a person. We got our breakfast then showers, which were in the small hotel across the dirt road. After showers we split up to run errands across town, Tom at the Internet cafe, us at the grocery store, and my dad took a panga back to the boat to nap.

Restaurant Photo by Tom Luneau

Tim and I sat at a little bar tent on the beach waiting for Tom. The Baja-Haha Turtle Bay beach party was starting soon, and the plan was to drop our groceries off at the boat then head straight there. We were told to bring candy, toys, and school supplies for the kids, and had a few more bags to ditch before heading back out to sea in the morning. We drank beer while a young boy came up to introduce himself, it seemed he was trying to practice his English and he was doing a great job. We used the little Spanish words we knew to help break the language barrier and he told us our Spanish was good, which was very false, but sweet of him. He was excited about the candy and small toys, and eventually a few of his friends came over to take some as well. We joked around with the kids and talked to them about dogs until Tom came. One of the candy bags had a fake mustache in it, so we all had fun taking turns sticking it to each other or wearing it as a unibrow. As Tim and Tom got up to use the bathroom, another boater came and sat down at the table to greet me. His name was Donald and he was looking for a ride to the party, which was on a neighboring beach that wasn't exactly accessible by foot. We told him we had to go to our boat first, so he then asked if he could get a ride to his boat too, which was no problem. Our boat was closer, so we headed there first.

As we motored, Tom told tales of the "captain" who was napping on the boat. In reality, since Tom and my dad are both owners of Good Times, they take turns being captain depending on if it's an odd or even day. This doesn't really mean much, since the big decisions are usually still made together. But one of them gets to pretend to be more demanding for the day about when beers are had or when fish should be caught; or whether Code Blue should make an appearance. As we got closer to the boat you could see where fish blood dried after running down the side over one of the Good Times logos. "That's the blood of the last crew member who upset the captain," Tom explained. "He's so strict. We will probably be in deep shit for even bringing you aboard." I held back laughter as Tom went on. "You know, he won't even let us drink. He sits there drinking whiskey first thing in the morning, taking shots and making us just sit there and watch." By this time I was really laughing. We boarded Good Times and my dad came out and shook Donald's hand, having no clue about the stories Tom was telling. We grabbed our things and all got into the dinghy together to head to the party, after first dropping Donald off at his boat. I'm pretty sure he wanted to go to the party, and not to his boat, but he never spoke up and none of us ever asked for clarification.

The party was on a beach, with a few children playing in the water and a shit-ton of retired white men chatting together over beer and hotdogs. There was a booth selling beer and money was being raised for the town's school. Tim and my dad went to climb a hill overlooking the party, while I stayed on the beach since I wasn't wearing shoes. I went to get another beer and ended up in the line with Donald, who had made it after all. He talked to me for a bit about some drama happening on his boat, then I left to wander by myself. I met a few other young people, mostly from San Francisco, and talked to them for a while before finding the rest of Good Times again. Every person I talked to throughout the day, either at the party or while wandering the town, would ask how we decided to spend our day off. "We got showers!" I would say with a big smile. "You don't have a shower on your boat??" they would always respond back. "We do!" I would laugh, "It's just mostly used for beer storage." This would get me weird looks, which was kind of embarrassing because I could tell most of these people valued showers over beer, but where is the fun in that??

The captains were over the party, so we decided to head back to the boat for snacks, drinks, and a movie. The sun set as Tim cleaned a fish the guys caught a day or two prior, throwing the carcass out to a seal who we didn't realize was waiting under the water. As the sky went dark, many of the drunken sailors returned to their boats from the party and continued to call each other over the radio. Some invited others over to party, or others just asked general questions. One woman called out for "Tiny Dick" for at least ten minutes. I'm not sure if she was pranked or it was a dare, or what, but it kept us entertained. We spent the night watching Bridesmaids while eating popcorn dusted with nutritional yeast, or professional yeast, as Tom decided to call it.

"Good Times, Good Times. Absolute calling Good Times" we heard over the radio. Tom ran to answer, excited. Absolute was a boat of young San Diegans Tom met at the harbor before pushing off on day one. Every day he had been calling them in an attempt to make a buddy we could check in with from time to time, but we never heard back. We honestly imagined they probably thought we were stalker weirdos at this point, so this call came as a surprise. "We have been calling you every day with no response, we thought maybe something happened to you guys," Absolute said over the radio. "We have been doing the same thing!" Tom responded. We agreed to meet with Absolute at the next beach party in a few days at Bahia Santa Maria, and promised to keep checking in.

Day 6 - Saturday, November 9th - At Sea:

It was time for us to go back to sea, but not after first returning to the restaurant for breakfast. Most of the boats were setting off, but we went back to the empty town and walked the dusty roads followed by curious dogs. Tom had for some reason decided I was captain for the day, and was already asking me important questions regarding our upcoming sail, like if we would be having beers with breakfast. A skinny brown dog with its ribs showing followed us around town as if it was our new best bud. We gave it a few pets, and I figured if it was still outside of the restaurant when we left I would sneak him a few tortillas.

He was still there as we were leaving, so after walking a block or so away from the restaurant's door, I pulled some tortillas and pancake pieces out of my pocket wrapped in a napkin. This solidified our friendship and he was inseparable from the four of us for the rest of the morning. We collectively named him Camarónito de Panqueques.

Our last stop in town after breakfast was to grab a few last-minute supplies from the grocery store. As we paid for our items, Tom went outside and arranged for a local to give us a ride back to shore in the back of his truck in exchange for a few bucks. As we climbed into the back of the truck with our beer, ice, and food, Camarónito started to whine and circle the truck. He ran alongside for a block or two, then slowly faded into the distance, not able to keep up. It was heartbreaking, but what were we supposed to do? He wouldn't have been cut out for rough sailing, and didn't have too bad of a life as a small town beach dog, besides his obvious health issues. Plus if we took him with we would have had to somehow fly with him at the end of the trip. Just as Camarónito was out of our sight, a hawk carrying a snake few overhead, like on the Mexican coat of arms.

At shore the kids helped to push our dinghy out into the bay, and just as we started the motor Camarónito came running into the water after us whining. He had caught up after all. A little girl who had helped push us out gave him a big hug as we drifted off toward our boat.

We boarded Good Times then motor sailed about fifty miles off the coast, sipping on beer and taking turns napping in the sun. Tom asked if I, the captain, was on board with deploying Code Blue. Since it went fine days prior, the sun was shining, and the sea was calm, I said why not. I was lounging on the top of the boat with a beer while Tom put out Code Blue and my dad went inside to nap. The motor was turned off and Tom joined me in lounging in the sun as Tim took watch over the helm. The wind picked up fast, catching Code Blue and jerking the boat to one side. This confused the autopilot, causing it to overcorrect, jerk again, and send us flying off course. Tim panicked, yelling up to Tom for advice about what to do. "Take it off autopilot and steer manually" Tom yelled back, inching his way back to Tim to help. Tim did what he was told as Code Blue went wild. The boat leaned hard to one side as the sail whipped out of control overhead. Tim was literally having a panic attack as Tom helped get the boat under control and my dad ran up to see what was going on. Since the boat was on its side, I stayed put by laying my entire body down against the top of the boat with my feet on the gas cans which were strapped to the side railing. So I was pretty much standing on the gas cans with my back against the boat. I still had a beer in my hand and was extending it out in an upward position to not spill. "Bridget, you need to hold on," they yelled up to me. From this day forward, Tim was adamantly against Code Blue. He had joined Team Miles.

The later it got in the day, the bigger the swells grew, tossing the boat back and forth for hours. The wind picked up and it started to sprinkle. Boats ahead of us warned of a small storm, so we all put on our life jackets and strapped in to brace ourselves for whatever situation could occur. By this time Code Blue had been put away for the rest of the day and we were back to motor sailing. The boat was wet from mist, and the sea was tossing us so hard I was having a hard time holding on. Any time I relaxed I would have to abruptly catch myself before getting thrown. I was honestly worried that being caught off guard like this would put me at risk of slipping and breaking something while trying to stop myself from sliding off the boat. Because of this, I decided it was a good time for me to take my nap. I fell asleep as the boat tossed from side to side, throwing my body into pillows instead of the sea. I slept well, pretending I was in a swinging hammock. I woke an hour or two later to the sea settling, the sun setting, and a double rainbow showing itself across the beet red sky. The eerie yet beautiful post-storm sky was a daunting welcome to the start of our night shifts.

Days were spent lounging and drinking beer to music, while night shifts were dark and quiet. We concentrated on not falling asleep under the moonlight in silence, sometimes having one beer but often choosing tea or Gatorade instead. Everyone had a different way they liked to do it, for me it was concentrating on music in my headphones to keep me awake, but all of us knew the hour by hour routine where you start off all gung-ho, then end up feeling crazy by hour four. Once my dad passed the halfway point of his shift, he would sometimes become convinced the barbeque on the side railing was trying to fight him, or that there was a man spying on him behind the mast (which ended up being a rope). We very rarely ever saw other boats at night, they were miles away. It was just us, the moon, and the stowaway behind the mast.

Day 7 - Sunday, November 10th - At Sea:

The next morning the radio was full of chatter about the storm. Multiple boats were damaged. Nothing too serious, but one boat's gennaker became out of control, ripped apart, and then ended up under the boat where it got caught in the propeller. The sun was coming out and the storm was well behind us, yet the swells remained higher than previous days. The inside of the boat looked like there had been a poltergeist. There was no use going down to clean up or even make yourself food some of the time since it would put you at risk of becoming seasick. We had one more night at sea, then by morning we would arrive in Bahia Santa Maria.

The chicken that for some reason became the boat's mascot

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