Mexico's Highway 1 slips past a golf course
at Nopolo, just south of Loreto.
A finch on our stern rail sings
us a welcome song.
The Tripuli RV park feels like it is set in Arizona.
Flowers bloom on a
A few homes have a spot for an RV too.
Headin' on down the road.
A lean, mean carbon fiber sailing machine.
Bridge to a broken dream.
A developer's hopes dashed.
Loreto's panga harbor.
A fishing panga on Loreto's shore.
This guy was fishing on the
beach every morning we
Loreto has many charming walking streets.
The Loreto town center.
There are lots of outdoor eateries
At a taco stand I meet a little
girl who shares my name.
Trees carved into an arch over one of Loreto's
Misión de Nuestra Señora de
An inviting hotel gate...
Chacho Damianee sings
Mark gets a haircut.
I get a cavity filled.
Loreto's Sunday farmer's market.
Vendors sell produce of all kinds.
Veggies are not hard to find in the Sea of Cortez.
Mark rebuilds a solenoid for a head.
Little tykes in sailor suits head out for a boat ride on Día de la Marina (Navy Day).
Puerto Escondido & Loreto, Mexico
May, 2011 - We left Ensenada Blanca reluctantly, but we were getting low on
provisions so it was time to hit a big town. Puerto Escondido ("Hidden Port") is
just a few miles up the coast, and it offers both a well protected outer harbor
and a fully enclosed inner (or "hidden") harbor. John Steinbeck and his crew
stayed in the outer harbor when he did his six week tour of the Sea of Cortez in
1940. Cruisers now affectionately call that
outer harbor area "The Waiting Room." We
traversed the shallow entrance to the inner
harbor and found a spot to anchor near the
After anchoring, we got a surprise welcome
serenade from a little finch who landed on our
rail and sang his heart out for us.
Puerto Escondido doesn't have
much besides a small
government run marina and a
little "Modelorama" convenience
store half a mile down the road. Modelo brews Corona and
Negra Modelo among many other beers, and their convenience
stores are great places to buy many things. However rival
Tecate can't be found there.
There is an RV park near the
Modelorama, and we wandered
through, hoping to meet some
RVers. Fifteen years ago a
devastating fire raged through the park
and most owners now have homes built
on their sites instead of RVs. Several
homes had outdoor kitchens and bars
which looked very inviting.
There is one parking area available for
transient RVers, and we watched with a
funny feeling of nostalgia as two big fifth
wheel rigs pulled out and headed up the
road. The boating life is fulfilling, but
lately we have been missing the
trailer, especially as summer
Back on the water, we got chatting with the captain of a 65 foot catamaran on a mooring
next to us. This stunning yacht, built entirely of carbon fiber with a Kevlar overlay on the
hulls, boasts a navigation station reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise. It had completed
its maiden voyage from California to Cabo San Lucas last year. That was to be the first
leg of a circumnavigation, but the thrill of crashing down the coast at 25 knots was a little
more than the owner had bargained for, and when he got off the boat he had just two
words for the captain: "sell it."
This is hardly the first boat that
we've come across where the
owner's plans changed once
the real cruising began. But at
just under $4 million, it is
definitely the most expensive.
Cruising is a challenging way to travel, much more so than any
other way we've tried. The difficulties are rarely discussed in the
magazines and books that drive the boating industry, as they prefer
to paint vivid pictures of an idealized life instead.
For most people a boat represents an aspect of a dream, and as one
boat broker once said to me, "I sell dreams." But for many, including
ourselves, the dream can be elusive. Defining exactly what the dream is
before setting out can often spell the difference between happiness and
unhappiness in the cruising life.
Resorts are dreams of another kind, and we had just spent several
dreamy days anchored in front of the spectacular Villa del Palmar resort
at Ensenada Blanca which is being constructed by a firm with immensely
deep pockets. Here in Puerto Escondido we discovered a different
developer's dream-turned-nightmare. Next to the dinghy dock there is
an intriguing canal that runs under a bridge. We jumped in the dink one
morning to see what was beyond the bridge. We found a maze of
canals that wander off in a spider web of possibilities, scooting under
several bridges and fanning out into a subdivision of lots and roads.
This was intended to be a cluster of lovely waterfront homes
and shops, all built along the edges of the canals. The first
group of buildings was partially constructed some years ago.
We could easily imagine colorful little shops in these buildings,
full of life and tourists. Instead they are half-built and
abandoned. Beyond the vacant buildings there are large two-
lane streets with big street lamps hanging over slowly
crumbling sidewalks. It could be such an awesome place if the
developer's dream had come true, but now it is disintegrating.
Cruisers use Puerto Escondido as a jumping off point to visit and
provision at Loreto some 15 miles north. Getting to Loreto is not
all that easy, however, as the bus service is infrequent and taxis
and rental cars are expensive. So we simply took the boat to
Loreto and anchored in front of the town. It is not a protected
anchorage, but at this season it was fine.
According to his Log of the Sea of Cortez, when Steinbeck
anchored in front of Loreto in the spring of 1940, his arrival was
a special occasion for the town because so few boats ever
stopped in. He and his crew entertained the port officials on
their boat for hours and gave them cigarettes and matches to
smooth the clearing in process.
When we dropped our anchor we
were one of four boats in front of
Loreto on that at particular afternoon,
and no one paid any attention to us
except our friends on the other boats.
After being in Mexico with a boat for
so long, we have had many
encounters with government and
Navy officials. We are used to the
crisp uniforms, unfailingly polite
demeanor and the automatic
weapons that can accompany
meeting them on our boat. We have also grown accustomed to the
long waits that can typify visits to their offices ashore.
So we laughed aloud at Steinbeck's description of the Mexican port
officials as "well dressed men...armed with the .45 caliber automatics
which everywhere in Mexico designate officials. And they were armed
also with the courtesy which is unique in official Mexico... One fine
thing about Mexican officials is that they greet a fishing boat with the
same serious ceremony they would afford the Queen Mary, and the
Queen Mary would have to wait just as long."
One of our missions in Loreto
was to renew our FM3 travel
visas. These visas allow tourists
to stay in Mexico for a year
rather than six months, and you
can renew the visa without
having to leave Mexico.
Obtaining an FM3 and renewing
it involves a delicate dance and
shuffle lead by the courteous,
uniformed officials at the
immigration office. You are
asked to do a lot of fancy
footwork, and once they are
satisfied you are granted a small
laminated ID card. One of the
more unusual parts of the
process this year was that we
were asked to buy manila
folders so our paperwork could be filed, and at the last
minute our cards were delayed by a day because the
laminating machine had run out of plastic.
The town of Loreto is utterly charming, and impressed us
immediately with its pretty layout, its casual walking
streets and its inviting town center.
It would be easy to laze away many days simply strolling
the streets and sipping morning coffees and afternoon
beers at the outdoor bistros. There is a friendliness and
relaxed air here that made us smile.
Starbucks hasn't quite
arrived, but a good
imitation has set up shop.
founded in 1697
Salvatierra, and is
birthplace of all the missions in both
Baja California and the state of
California. The mission church has a
quiet presence at one end of the town
center, having withstood many
hurricanes over the centuries.
Out on the waterfront a new resort, as
yet untested by hurricanes, sports an
ornate gate. We couldn't resist passing
through the gate, and inside we found
a large pool bar where we listened to
Chacho Damianee playing classic rock
n' roll favorites one afternoon.
We always enjoy getting haircuts in small towns, and at
the edge of Loreto we found a wonderful little shop where
two haircuts and some lively conversation in Spanish cost
us a grand total of 140 pesos, or about $12.
Dental work in Mexico is carried out with an efficiency and
simplicity to match a barber's, and we stopped at a
"dentista" for a quickie consultation. A pain-free filling by
the most gentle and sympathetic dentist's hands I've ever
experienced cost me 450 pesos, or about $40.
The last thing on our agenda for the "big city" of Loreto
was a trip to the Farmer's Market. Held every Sunday, this
is both a swap meet and a vegetable market.
Many of the veggies are imported
from the US, and the variety and
quality are excellent
This is a big weekly event for
everyone that lives in Loreto, both
Mexicans and gringos, because it
is the best place to stock up on
produce. The vendors start setting
up their stalls the night before, and
families come right at daybreak to get the best selection. Meats, goat
cheese, jewelry, clothing, electronics and DVDs can all be found along
with peppers and broccoli.
A toddler eating an apple caught Mark's eye and I snapped a photo of
him. His older brother noticed and wanted to be in the picture too.
But first he ran over to another stall to drag his other brother back with
him so all three could be in the picture. They laughed and pointed
when I showed them the photo in the back of the camera.
Before cruising the Sea of Cortez
we had heard that finding fresh
veggies would be very difficult.
Not so. Now I'm wondering what I
will ever do with all those cans of
veggies I stuffed into the bilge!
There are always little things that
need fixing or tweaking on a
boat, and Mark sat down one
afternoon to rebuild the solenoid
from one of the heads when the
head started running continually.
Little did he know as he smiled
for this photo that in a fit of
"repair me too!" jealousy the
other head would suddenly
refuse to flush two days later. He
wasn't smiling then!
One day we awoke to Mexico's "Día de la Marina" or "Navy Day" festivities. Last year we
were in Ensenada for this event and the Navy put on a huge show with tours of their ships,
a parade and lots of fanfare. Loreto is a much smaller town, and here the day was
celebrated by bringing all the school kids down to the docks for boat rides on the bay.
They were a happy, noisy bunch as they stood excitedly in their school uniforms on the
pier waiting for the boats to pick them up. And what a gleeful crew they were as they left
to go out into the bay.
That was our last morning in Loreto. We
had been in the area for three weeks,
and getting ready to leave felt like we
were starting a new chapter. After
waving off the kids in the pangas we
readied Groovy for our next destination:
Find Puerto Escondido and Loreto on