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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sayonara Squid Stink

22 July 2007

[I hope that's how you spell "sayonara." I guess it really should say "adios" but my niece, Mackenzie, is on a student exchange in Japan at the moment, and besides, it's alliterative!]

With every food locker and the fridge packed to capacity we are currently underway to San Francisquito, 75 miles north of Santa Rosalia. We spent the past week at the Singlar marina in Santa Rosalia and the week before that at Isla San Marcos where the water was too green for snorkeling. But we managed to get two good hikes in, and a visit to the caves where the day tripper garbage wasn't quite as bad as it was last year. The two fish camps were still just as full of trash though, so no beach walking this visit.

We made what turned out to be a day sail to Punta Chivato norte on July 11. The previous two days had been calm so we thought we had a good window for a night or two there. The water visibility was poor but we swam ashore for a walk on one of my favorite beaches. It's unique in that it has small pieces of shells polished to a glossy smooth shine - very pretty to look at and wonderful to the touch as well. We were prepared to stay the night until we heard chubascos were forecast to come into the Sea. The anchorage is fully exposed to the east, so we made the prudent decision to beat a hasty retreat back to Isla San Marcos.

When it began to sound as though the first wave of northbound migrating boats was about to overtake us we moved to Santa Rosalia while we could still get a slip in a marina. The old marina was already full of boats on extended stays - either for the entire hurricane season; for trips by bus back to the States; or waiting for parts or repairs. We anchored out for a night and then decided to move to the new Singlar marina where it would be easier to take on fuel and water, wash the boat, provision, etc., without the squid panga fleet roaring by us every night.

The Singlar daily rate is still unreasonably high ($1/foot for our 33' documented length) but their weekly and monthly rates were much better so we opted to buy a week. Carlos, Ivan and the rest of the staff went out of their way to provide services that made it well worth the slightly higher cost, and I would highly recommend their marina for anyone needing a week or more in Santa Rosalia. We wouldn't normally choose to spend so long there but John used the extra time to replace the rudder bearing, which turned out to be a two day job (thanks again, Leslie and Tom, for bringing the part down with you in February!) Interestingly, John learned that all the new Singlar marinas are up for sale to private owners. Apparently it was never the Mexican government's intent to run them after they were built.

Unfortunately July is not the best time for a stay in Santa Rosalia's harbor. It's squid season and the small harbor is full of pangas which race out before sunset and roar back in after midnight. They clean their catch just outside the harbor entrance where there's a beach littered with plastic soda bottles, and packed with kids swimming during the day. Inside the harbor they unload their catch into waiting trucks and to the north is the canning factory. With the right breeze we were occasionally awakened by a squid stench so bad that we had to cover our noses. In one corner of the harbor the surface of the water is covered with plastic gallon water jugs which the fishermen discard after a night's work.

This is all such a shame because the city itself is absolutely delightful. The French copper mining history makes its architecture unique among Baja cities and many of the wooden houses (very unusual for Mexico) are truly charming. There are several tiendas, all of them selling different, must-have grocery items, so that the serious shopper has to visit them all. There's the famous "French" bakery, the Eiffel church, Chuyita bacon wrapped hot dogs on soft flavorful buns loaded with the works, Thrifty ice cream, Splash paletas, and enough restaurants to give the ship's cook several nights off. The city is very easy to navigate, and everything is within easy walking distance of both marinas.

We worked hard to take advantage of this last stop in "civilization," but we also had a lot of fun socializing at end of the day pool/jacuzzi parties, a BBQ potluck dinner, and dock side happy hours while we were there (thanks to Doug and Jo of S/V Jenny for organizing things with the marina for many of these). Now, with a clean boat full of supplies (including a small dorado John caught this afternoon!), it's time to move north for the rest of hurricane season.

Linda and John