There are no real harbors, literally no docks to tie up to, in the 800 nm between Ensenada at the northern end of the Baja peninsula and Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip. For that matter there are only two protected bays that provide refuge from heavy conditions and from all directions of wind and swell. Turtle Bay (or San Bartolome as the locals call it) is one of these refuges. Magdalena Bay is the other. There are many a sailor that only stop and anchor in theses two locations on their jaunts up or down the coast. Others choose to slowly “gunk-hole” down the coast, stopping every 30-100 nm in the lee of a variety of smaller points that provide fairly good protection from the northwest, little to none from the south, and in big swell would likely be extremely rolly. Our last anchorage in the Islas San Benitos felt pretty wild. There were very strong winds in the afternoons and Orion bucked and rolled quite a bit. So it was a treat to nestle into Turtle Bay, which almost has the feeling of being anchored in a calm and glassy marina.
Nearly every coastal boat stops in Turtle Bay and you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into each of the skippers at Maria’s. Maria’s home is the first building on the left as you walk onto the beach off the pier that everyone ties their dinghies to. She has turned her kitchen and porch into a little restaurant the overlooks the bay. Maria has wifi and most folks go there to look at weather forecasts and catch up on emails while sipping beers on the porch. She and her son Victor are the perfect ambassadors of Turtle Bay. They love having folks to chat with and to practice their English, which is quite good. After we got past the small talk Maria filled our ears with stories of the town and the buried treasure she is trying to find (if you have metal detector, she’d like to borrow it). Victor walked with us all over town showing us the good tienda for buying veggies, the best tacos, the only place to get cash (via credit card at one of the tiendas) while reflecting on his time living in the bustling city of Cabo. I guess there’s not a whole lot going on in Turtle Bay.
Our stay overlapped with the beginning of Easter week or Semana Santa. Maria invited us to church on Palm Sunday where they were having a special celebration and she was to sing in the choir. The service began with the youth parading up to the church singing mightily and dancing to guitar music and the service went on in the same vein: joyful and full of music. It was nice to take part in the happy event.
We were stoked to find that there were some pretty fun, small waves at a spot in the NE corner of the bay, a short dinghy ride from the anchorage. We got in a few days of surf alongside a small crowd of giggling local kids on all manner of floating apparati. Apparently the surf outside the bay was giant at that time. A young Israeli couple on a neighboring boat got a ride in a truck out to an exposed surf spot and came back saying “it was scary heavy and cold, man!” So we were perfectly happy to have some fun, clean, longboarding waves in the bay.
A huge treat during our stay was a visit from our good friend Chris from Santa Cruz. We met Chris the day we bought Orion and we had been close ever since. An experienced captain and sailing instructor he taught us a ton while joining us on nearly every longer sail we did on Orion before we left… and as a bonus he always has a bottle of Kraken in tow. We were delighted that his delivery of a sailboat from Guaymas to Santa Cruz lead him to Turtle Bay while we were there. Not only is this guy loads of fun but if you mention a project that needs doing he is quick to jump up into the rigging and help to get’er done. We love Chris.
Turtle Bay is not only a safe refuge but is the only place to get fuel dockside (ie brought to the boat) between Ensenada and Cabo. Anywhere else you’d have to hitch a ride with your jerry cans to a gas station along the road. They have fuel on a long rickety pier and from that reservoir they fill a big plastic tank on a panga. You tell them how much fuel you want, they measure it out using a grid on the clear tank as the fuel sloshes around (fairly imprecise) and they bring it out and pump into your tank. This service is essential for boaters, particularly those heading north against the wind, and it’s obvious the town relies heavily on the yachts and fishing vessels that stop in to fuel and provision.
Turtle Bay was a perfect stopping and regrouping point. We ran into the catamaran Gypsy Wind from San Diego and made friends with new boats Shakedown and Nomad who we know we’ll see more of as we head down the coast. We spent over a week relaxing, surfing, doing some maintenance on Orion and work on the outboard motor, restocking the stores, catching up on emails and slowly (we don’t do anything quickly these days) got ready to move on south.