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Sailing Mexico, day 6, 7, & 8: remote Mexican towns of Turtle Bay and Cedros Island

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Anchoring in Cedros Island, a remote island with a population of 4,000 people.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Day 6

Captain Graham awoke Alex and I at 3:30am. It was time to leave Magdalena Bay. We departed this early to make up for the lost time from the night of terror. We were on our way to Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortugas in Spanish), a 36-hour sailing sprint.

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We raised the anchors, raised the sails, and went back to sleep.

I woke up around 6:30am just in time to catch the sunrise — I owe accurate timestamps to the camera photos.

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By noon, the winds were in our favor. We turned off the engine motor and raised the jib (the sail at the front of the boat). For the first time, the roar of the engine was gone and we heard nothing but the wind and waves. So this is what the explorers of the new world did…

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Other than spending the day catching fish (to no avail), ocean sailing is very quiet. I spent a lot of time reflecting, being existential and all.

Day 7

Alex made Pizza for he and myself. On the other hand, Captain Graham made himself a fried burrito with butter. I recall stressing to him the importance of healthier dieting options. He replied with a witty remark that I can no longer recall; I only remember thinking “Shit, I have no good retort. I will say no more.”

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At 8:30pm, we approached the entrance of Turtle Bay. Refer to Google Maps: we avoided the rocks on the right side of the entrance, and thick kelp forests on the left side. Dolphins greeted us as we sailed into the bay. Quite a warm, picturesque welcome. We anchored a couple hundred feet away from the dock at 9pm.

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Alex made us diced potatoes and fajitas, with barbecue ribs. We joyfully ate and slept.

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Day 8

We worked on some more boat repairs on the morning of July 13, 2010. We found and fixed a water leak underneath the Captain’s bathroom. We also investigated some more engine issues.

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The engine is supposed to be flawlessly red, but we could see the remnants of the steam left from the radiator from the night of terror.

With the boat repaired, it was time to eat lunch on land. A few other boats were anchored in the bay, but a couple of them looked to have been long abandoned. I wonder who would call it quits and leave their boat behind like this?

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This is where we were on Google Maps. Click on the map, zoom out, and take a moment to appreciate how bizarre of a place we docked at. Take another moment to admire how Google is able to take satellite images of this exact place, even to the blue paint that we stepped foot on.

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Alex pulling one floating dock to the stairs of another, while Captain Graham climbs up the stairs. Very run-down, incredibly fascinating.

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We walked off the harbor, and into the small town of 2,000 people.

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I recall comparing this town to what I imagined Iraq to be like. Unpaved roads, dust everywhere, concrete fences, and very foreign. Without Captain Graham’s navigating and language abilities, we would have surely been lost in no time.

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We entered a restaurant called “Restaurante Moroco Bar.” Seafood was readily available and very cheap here, and I ate a fish fillet with refried beans, french fries, and a salad. I recall it being quite salty, but necessary to help with replenishing our electrolytes. Captain Graham ate a cheeseburger with the thinnest beef paddy I had ever seen. It was almost as thin as the cheese. Beef is expensive and not readily available in such a small, remote town.

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I felt nauseous; turns out I was suffering from landsickness. By being out on sea too long, my body had grown accustomed to the rocking. By stepping foot on land, and being indoors, my brain and body were confused. Fascinating concept, right? I closed my eyes and put my head down until the food arrived.

Afterwards, we walked around the city for some errands. Captain Graham went to a local store to make a phone call to his wife. “It’s to let her know that we are still alive,” he said.

We walked by an elementary school, the only one in town. Could you imagine attending this school as a child?

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We also walked by a home with fresh paint and a clean car. I recall thinking about the Mexican Mafia, and whether the homeowners were connected.

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Another interesting thing to note: half of the vehicles had California license plates. In such a remote town 610 miles south of San Diego, I believed that these cars had been stolen, brought to Mexico, and resold to the locals.

We did some more grocery shopping in an almost-empty store. The scarcity reminded me of the atoll scene in Waterworld, where Kevin Costner bartered for the tomato plant with Jeanna Tripplehorn.

Alas, by 2pm, it was time to leave Turtle Bay. We sailed five more hours to the nearby Cedros Island. The goal was to explore the city, grab dinner, and call it a night.

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Bahia Tortuga, the little town I never imagined seeing.

On the way, we ran into a kelp forest. It clogged the propellers a bit, but nothing permanent.

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Fog settled upon Cedros Island. Most of the island’s population of 4,000 worked at the sea-salt factory. We were able to make out the factory through the fog.

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At 7:30pm, we anchored in the tiny harbor of Cedros Island. Refer to this map here to see exactly where we were on the island. This docking point was strategic for our journey — the island naturally protected us from the rough currents that swept inland. We could get a good nights rest here.

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Look at the light shining above that church! I had many proud moments playing photographer with a severely dated P&S camera.

After the dockmaster gave us permission to step foot on land, we spent no more than an hour exploring the city.

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The main road that leads to and from the docks.

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The church on top of a hill. The dramatic cross picture from earlier is situated behind this church.

Captain Graham was tired. He headed to the restaurant while Alex and I walked around a bit further. There was a graveyard on top of a hill that he and I wanted to explore. Along the way, two little girls walked by us. They giggled and ran away. We were puzzled.

When we were near the graveyard, a black cat crossed our paths. I’m not superstitious, but the dark road ahead along with the lack of Spanish-speaking abilities was enough to scare me from venturing further. We stopped here and made a U-turn, but not before I was able to capture this scary image.

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I will never know what lies beyond this path.

For dinner, we had more fish with incredibly hot salsa. The owner of the home-restaurant kept laughing from behind the counter as I gasped for air and requested more water.

I asked Captain Graham about the girls. He said that they probably wanted to practice English with us, but became shy and ran away. The locals here hardly see foreigners, let alone two Asian guys. We probably came across as celebrities.

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Captain Graham the Stanford alum wearing one of his son’s college sweaters.

We joyfully ate, and headed back to the Pacifico to sleep. The next day through the Sea of Vizcaina was supposed to be as rough as the first night on the Los Cabos Faults. Alex was not looking forward to it; I felt excited. Bring it on!

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sailing Mexico, day 9 & 10: The Sea of Vizcaina & Ensenada. | Andy Cheng

  2. Pingback: Sailing Mexico, day 11 & 12: home sweet home in San Diego and Long Beach. | Andy Cheng

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