After the speedy haul-in, we were looking forward to a little time at anchor before dedicating ourselves to a few projects in the Marina Fonatur in Guaymas. But once again, everything turned out a little differently than planned. We experienced and learned all kinds of things, celebrated David’s birthday, met great people and had to say goodbye to Claudia again.
The morning after the successful haul-in, we got Milagros ready to sail. In our case, that meant working through our departure checklist. Is everything safely stowed? Are all the hatches closed? Is the mainsail ready to hoist? Has everyone put on sunscreen and had breakfast? What is the oil level of the engine? When all points were ticked off, we weighed anchor and set off for Bahia Catalina, about 3 hours away. There we wanted to hide from the strong north-westerly winds that were forecast for the coming week.
In our imagination, all anchorages are always vacant and we can anchor exactly where we planned. Of course, this is rarely the case, and Bahia Catalina was no exception. There was a sailboat in the bay, anchored exactly where we wanted to go. That was not surprising, because the same aspects are always taken into account when choosing an anchorage: Substrate, depth, and expected wind direction and thus protection. So, we chose what we thought was the second-best spot.
Bahia Catalina could have been a beautiful 5-star bay in Sea of Cortez style with all sorts of rock formations in various shades of brownish reds, scattered cacti and beautiful views. There was only one small problem. Depending on the prevailing wind direction, an acrid stench wafted through the bay. As we found out later, the culprit was a factory behind the hill that produced fish meal from sardines for fish farming feed. This immediately led to a deduction of 2 stars in the overall rating.
When the air around us stopped smelling bad, we turned our attention to our dinghy. Over the course of the last season, the glue had given way in many places. So, by the end of the season our dinghy had only one rudder bracket left, two of four lifting handles were missing, the keel was losing air and so on. In sailor-speak, this is called dinghy leprosy. Armed with vinyl glue, methylated spirits, sandpaper and fasteners, we (mainly Claudia) patched up our dinghy piece by piece – over several days!
Otherwise, we indulged in the sailor’s life. Reading, relaxing, playing games, listening to music, cooking, repairing the boat. David and Claudia also unpacked the kayak to explore the bay. The dinghy could obviously not be used. The conclusion of various explorations on foot and underwater was that it was certainly beautiful once, but man has destroyed everything. There were tons of rubbish lying around and the reefs were extinct. On the beach were the remains of filleted and way too tiny triggerfish and a curiosity. Part of a marina dock lay across the stony shore. We wondered where it came from?
It is cool
The north wind came as predicted and made life a little uncomfortable for us at times. The freezing cold wind tugged at the boat – especially at night, of course – and everything on the boat creaked. Warm socks and thick blankets had to be unpacked. Besides, the sea cooled down to 18°C, which didn’t exactly invite David and me to swim. Claudia didn’t let that stop her and even jumped into the cool water after sunset to see bioluminescence with her own eyes.
One evening, shortly before sunset, we witnessed a spectacle we would rather not have experienced. A Mexican man was walking along the shore, swearing loudly, and we guessed from the word “gringo” that he probably meant us. Suddenly, dressed only in shorts, he began to climb up the steep rock face. Stones kept coming loose, thundering onto the rocky shore. On his way up the cliff, his shorts kept slipping down to his ankles. We felt more and more uneasy, because if he fell, there was nothing we could do for him from the boat. But he seemed sure of himself and kept climbing up, cursing loudly, pausing behind a large cactus and, once at the top, climbing back down. We were relieved when the spooky bouldering show was finally over and the swearing Mexican left into the night.
We move on
After five days in the bay, we took advantage of a quiet day to move to a small marina around the corner. According to hearsay, the docks were in poor condition but very cheap. David had met a sailor from Iceland a week earlier who was there with his boat, and he said it wasn’t that bad. So, we wanted to have a look at it, and on Google Maps it looked quite ok. But when we wanted to leave the anchorage, our engine wouldn’t start. We only heard the starter whining, but Burrito wouldn’t budge. After the tenth attempt, the engine did start and we knew that we definitely had to take a closer look at this problem, because the same thing had already happened when we put the boat in the water.
As we approached the ‘Muelle El Mero’, we noticed that it no longer looked the same as on Google Maps, and now we also knew where this washed-up dock in the last bay had come from. The hurricane that summer had caused quite a bit of destruction. Of the original five long docks, only three were left, and one of them was extremely shortened. At one of the two longer docks, other sailors were already waiting to show us where we could moor. David docked Milagros without any problems and we were greeted warmly. As soon as we had moored the boat, we took a closer look at the state of the docks. We immediately looked away again.
We didn’t particularly like what we saw. Protruding bolts and broken struts were only the most obvious defects. There was also no electricity, no water, no sanitation and no mobile phone reception. We would give a 1-star rating, but for the reasonable price of $ 3.50 per day, we add half a star and another star for the nice people, which leads to a generous 2.5 star-rating. Well, we wanted to move on soon anyway to Marina Fonatur in Guaymas, which is a few kilometres further north but had no slips available at the moment.
A gloomy outlook
We were here for three reasons: a delivery of various boat parts, David’s birthday and Claudia’s departure – in exactly that order. So that we could pick up our ordered spare parts, Tyr, our Icelandic viking friend, gave us the number of César, his trusted taxi driver. On the way to the pick-up point, we learned from César that he used to work for the marine protection agency in Guaymas. But he lost his job when the office was moved to La Paz.
He told us about the problems of the fishermen and the state of the sea. In the past, you could catch 10 kg of crabs with one trap. Ttoday you need 100 traps for the same result. That the shrimping industry destroyed everything with their trawl nets and wiped-out whole generations of fish when they trawled their spawning grounds. And that the catch of the sardine fishermen is processed into fish meal, which in turn is used as feed in the fish farms. The whole system is f*****.
As we drove through the streets of Guaymas towards San Carlos, there were pools of water on the ground in an entire neighbourhood. César explained to us that it was water day there on Saturday. On all other days of the week, the main water tap was turned off. There were too many leaks in the water pipes and generally too little water. In his neighbourhood, there was always running water on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The rest of the time, the water came from big tanks on the roofs of the houses. It was a very exciting taxi ride.
Tyr, a gifted guitarist (also left-handed like David), played a few songs with a band every Sunday at the ‘Hair of the Dog’ in San Carlos. We spontaneously decided to celebrate David’s birthday there. Together with other sailors, we spent a great evening with many highlights. Among other things, David was allowed to play drums for two songs with the talented musicians of the cover band ‘The Dudes’.
Time to say goodbye
Two days later, we unfortunately had to say goodbye to Claudia. The time with her flew by. With her help, we were able to cross many maintenance tasks off our to-do list. Aamong other things, she had installed an urgently needed spare part in our windlass. We asked Claudia about her personal highlights and lowlights. She said she could get used to boat life. She especially liked the great people we met and the relaxed, spontaneous and varied life. Besides washing dishes by hand, which somehow nobody really likes, she didn’t like the fact that she had to get back on the plane home after almost 3 weeks on the boat. It was nice to be able to share the sailing life live with someone from home. Glad you were there!
Things are changing again
Actually, we wanted to leave the ‘El Mero’ quickly. But when we looked into the problem of the starter motor and analysed the various sources of error with the help of Lucas, a Polish sailor, resident of ‘El Mero’, owner of the sailboat ‘Meine Schatze’ and electrical expert, it turned out that the problem was not the solenoid coil and not the cables, but the starter motor itself. This meant that the part had to be removed and refurbished. So, we were without an engine for an indefinite period of time and inevitably had to stay longer at ‘El Mero’…
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