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The Two Captains


Volume 80
Bahia Concepcion

The morning of our passage up the coast from La Ramada to Bahia Concepcion, we woke to thick overcast skies and lightning with a wind that had swung around to the north and was now blowing right into our anchorage. The prevailing summer winds in the Sea of Cortez are usually southeasterly, so we deduced that were about to experience our first chubasco. “Chubasco” is another example of making something scarier by giving it an exotic sounding name. This one goes for anything between a thunderstorm and a hurricane…in other words, weather with wind and rain! Lowering black clouds were whipping up a breeze that stiffened as we watched into 25+ knots from the direction we were intending to go! So, now what? We waited for the squall line to pass (it delivered about 28 drops of rain), picked up the anchor, set a reefed sail and motored out into the whitecaps.

About eight miles up the coast, Punta Pulpito, one of those long headlands that is nearly an island in itself, stuck out eastwards into the Sea. Its south side had a great rating as a wintertime anchorage (when the winds are regularly form the north), so we decided to head for it and shelter in its lee. Well, the wind may have been northerly, but the swell was still southeasterly, leaving the cove churning like a washing machine. No shelter here, but the sky was still ugly and unstable, so here we faced the dilemma of this kind of coastline. The anchorages are few and far between with none offering protection from both quadrants at the same time.

So, in spite of the rough seas and the wind in our face we went on. With reefed sails up and T2’s heavy hull, it wasn’t all that bad, and, bless her, Mother Nature rewarded our tenacity. Only a few miles to the north, the wind suddenly died, by noon the clouds began to break up, by two the wind filled in from the quarter, and we were sailing fast making 6-7 knots! By three o’clock we had made up so much time that we decided to continue all the way up and around into Conception Bay proper.

Conception Bay is a 40-mile long slot that that doubles back to the south. Barely four miles wide, it creates, in effect, a long enclosed lake with very flat seas and very warm air and water temperatures. Once we’d zipped around Point Conception (best sailing we've had in ages) we doubled back southwards ten miles into the Santispac anchorage. Santispac is one cove of a half dozen in Bahia Coyote. Mexican Highway #1 skirts the shores of the bay here, making the whole area a mecca for campers. Even though it was excruciatingly hot, the beaches were lined with palapas, RVs and tents and the waters hummed with jet skis. It was, of course, a Sunday!

In Santispac we found five boats already at anchor. As we rounded into the anchorage neatly behind the last boat in line, the engine died and wouldn't restart! The anchor splashed down and we drifted back for one of those “natural sets.” Later, after things cooled down, Don managed to bleed the engine and we got it running long enough to properly set the anchor, but Don was fit to be tied. There’d been no alarms of any kind, just the same kind of failure we had in April in Puerto Vallarta before the expensive and lengthy injector pump rebuild. In the heat of the afternoon, he was imagining the worst, foreseeing a long bus trip to La Paz for an injector pump rebuild, with his birthday just a day or so away! However, the gods were kind. A little chat by radio with a mechanic friend sent Don to bed with a more optimistic possibility to try the next day, and, to make a long story short, the engine is running like a top. Seems we had a leak in one of the return lines, which we had not thought could let air into the system and cause the problem. We were wrong. How nice to be wrong, sometimes.

Most of the anchorages of Bahia Concepcion are clustered up in its northwest corner throughout a collection of coves and rocky islets. One of the furthest away from the noise of the jet skis and the highway is the lovely Playa Santa Barbara, and we moved there the next afternoon as soon we were sure of the engine. Beautiful as it is, it is HOT, HOT, HOT. The temperatures in the cockpit and the water were a matched set at 94 degrees, and the wind coming briskly from the SE, felt like a pizza oven. The poor refrigeration units were laboring nearly full-time!

We spent most of Don’s birthday in the water! We swam before coffee…a first. After coffee, we spent an hour or so circum-swimming a tiny island called “clay Pot.” This was a sweet treat as in barely four feet of water we saw a busy reef made of living mussel clumps, decorated with beige anemones and lilac algae, and zillions of juvenile snappers and lots of Cortez angelfish. Mid morning, Donna and Rich of Aries hosted us to a champagne & eggs benedict birthday brunch, making us feel like pampered charter guests. Shortly after that, they all went snorkeling around another island while I ran the air-conditioning to bake a cake! Mid afternoon saw Donna & Rich and Kevin and Mona of Dreamcatcher over for cake and noodling, and Don and I capped the day off with a very late dinner of steak w/ mushrooms and onions, baked potatoes and Don’s favorite lima beans!

That was about all we could take of Bahia Concepcion. I am sure that earlier in the year, when the winds and water are chillier everywhere else, this would be a delightful refuge. But in the height of summer, it is just HOT. We moved up to Bahia Santo Domingo, a beach poised up at the mouth of the bay, and early the next morning set sail for Santa Rosalia.

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Published at Burlington, VT