Loreto Area: La Ramada Cove, Isla Coronado & Puerto Escondido – Gifts From and To the Sea

Sea of Cortez islands, mountains and peninsulas blend into each other.

Bahía Concepción: the islands, mountains and peninsulas blend together.

Noting the accuracies and inaccuracies of modern electronic navigation in the Sea of Cortez.

Leaving Bahía Concepción the orange islands are inaccurately

charted.  The purple radar image shows the correct locations. 

The red triangles identify accurate GPS locations of the islands. 

Our boat is the size of a city block.

Dangerous pinnacle rocks near Puerto Escondido.

Dangerous pinnacle rocks.

Pinnacle rock near Puerto Escondido.

Pinnacles dot the Sea of Cortez landscape.

La Ramada Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

La Ramada Cove.

Strolling the beach at La Ramada Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Strolling the beach at La Ramada.

Clear water at La Ramada Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Perfectly clear water.

Groovy anchored at La Ramada Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Looking down at San Juanico, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Caleta San Juanico.

Looking down at San Juanico, Baja California Sur, Mexico

San Juanico

Groovy catches the wind and heads south.

Groovy catches the wind and

heads south.

Dolphin swims underwater next to Groovy.

Dolphin swims underwater next to Groovy.

Brightly colored cliffs near Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Brightly colored cliffs near Loreto.

Happy sailing on Groovy. Hidden beach at Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Hidden beach at Isla Coronado.

Vivid colors at our private beach on Isla Coronado, Sea of Cortez.

Vivid colors at our private beach.

Footprints in the sand at Isla Coronado, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

It's just us and the


Hidden beach at Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Isla Coronado.

Hidden beach at Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Private islando oasis at Isla Coronado.

Beachside villas outside Loreto, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Waterfront civilization just outside of Loreto.

Walking towards Loreto's town square, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Walking towards Loreto's town square.

Inside the atrium at the Hotel Posada de las Flores, Loreto, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Inside the Hotel Posada

Inside he atrium at Hotel Posada de las Flores, Loreto, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

Hotel Posada de las Flores.

Loreto Mission of Our Lady, Loreto Cathedral (Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Loreto's "Misión de Nuestra Señora."

Inside Loreto Mission of Our Lady, Loreto Cathedra (Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Inside the cathedral.

Capturing the Loreto Mission Church (cathedral) on an iPad, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Capturing the antique cathedral on

an iPad.

Marina Puerto Escondido, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Puerto Escondido's marina docks.

Puerto Escondido fuel dock, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Groovy waits at the fuel dock.

Los Candeleros, outside Puerto Escondido, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A boat is lost on a pinnacle rock.

Boat on the rocks at Los Candeleros, outside Puerto Escondido, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Shipwreck at Los Candeleros, outside Puerto Escondido, BCS, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Mark catches a Skip Jack Tuna.

Closeup of the Skip Jack Tuna.

La Ramada, Isla Coronado, Puerto Escondido, & Loreto

Late October, 2011 - It was hard to leave Bahía Concepción, but the time finally came and we headed out of the bay to

continue our trek south.  Looking back over our shoulders we were reminded once again what a miracle GPS and electronic

marine navigation systems are for sailors today.  In his Log of the Sea of Cortez, John Steinbeck talks about how hard it was to

navigate these waters in 1940 when the only tools the captain had were some sketchy charts and a coastal pilot book.  The

islands are often indistinguishable from the mainland mountains and peninsulas, and the rugged coast often becomes a

bewildering mirage.

A glance at our chartplotter shows just how confusing this

landscape can be even today, but for different reasons.

Unlike navigating in the US where electronic charts are

accurate down to individual slips within marinas, the

survey data used in Mexico's modern electronic charts

was collected not long after Steinbeck's voyage.  Although

it gives a general idea of the layout and depths, it is often

inaccurate by a half mile, mile, or more.  Islands that don't

exist feature prominently on the charts, and islands that

are a true threat in the water are nowhere to be found on

the charts.  Fortunately the boat's radar tells the story as it

really is, and the electronic chartplotter overlays the radar

image onto the chart.  You get used to sailing through

charted obstacles that aren't actually there.

The thing about the Sea of Cortez is that there are lots of pinnacle rocks

that stick up out of nowhere.  Most are fifty feet or more in height, making

them easy to spot with radar and with bare eyes.  But you still have to stay

on your toes, as many of them don't appear on the charts and can loom

up unexpectedly.

Fortunately, the guidebook Sea of Cortez by Bansmer/

Breeding lists the GPS coordinates of every danger and

destination in the Sea, so for a boat equipped with a GPS

chartplotter, navigation is actually an easy paint-by-

numbers affair.

The prevailing winds in the Sea of Cortez generally blow either from the north

or the south, and in autumn you get a few days of one direction alternating

with a few days from the other as the summer's predominant south winds give

way to winter's predominant north winds.  We caught a ride with a big north

wind that swept us south to our next destination, La Ramada Cove.

This picturesque

spot is protected

only on its southern

side, but we got

lucky and the winds

shifted to the south

for the next few


So we were able to enjoy the isolation, peace and quiet of this idyllic

anchorage while staying just out of reach of the south wind that howled

outside the cove.

The water was beautifully clear and warm,

and sitting on the edge of the cockpit we

could see fish of all kinds swimming under

our boat, flashing in the sun as they zipped

this way and that.

One night we came on deck to see the most unusual bioluminescence.  Brilliant little sparkling "eyes"

seemed to be looking up at us from the black depths all around the boat.  One at a time they would

wink a few times and then suddenly burst and fade away into the black depths.  As each light

exploded and dispersed it seemed to take on the shape of a jellyfish, but our flashlights revealed

nothing but ordinary fish around the boat.  After a while the glittering stars disappeared.  We still don't

know what they were.

One afternoon we hiked the

short distance from our beach

at La Ramada Cove to the

scenic cove of San Juanico on

the other side of a small hill.

We had spent several

languorous days at Caleta San

Juanico last spring, but now the

anchorage was deserted

because its mouth opens to the

south, which would have made

it very uncomfortable in the

current south wind.

However, the osprey were still

there, perfectly content with nature's unpredictability,

not worried in the least whether the wind was from

the north or south.

We caught the next north blow to carry us a little

further south to Isla Coronado outside of Loreto.

A pod of dolphins spotted us underway and came

leaping over to greet us.  The water was so clear we

could see them perfectly as they swam under the

water alongside the boat.

Our route followed the contour of the mountains that make up Baja's

shoreline, and in places they were dramatically striated in shades of

red, black, brown and grey.

This is the magic of the Sea of Cortez.  It is a rugged, remote, barren,

harsh land, but if you look beyond the surface it reveals a dramatic

beauty and is teeming with life.

Last spring Isla Coronado had been the scene of some of the

worst conditions we had experienced in seven months of cruising

Mexico when an unexpected post-season Norther blasted the little

north-facing anchorage.  Fortunately, when we arrived this time

the bay was tranquil and inviting.  We shared our island oasis with

just one other boat, Valkyrie, a small sloop captained by a friendly


There is a

private beach

away from the


and we took the

dinghy over to


Lush green

vegetation stood

out in sharp relief

against the

burgundy carpeted

rocks in the


We felt like we were standing on our own

private island, a world away from reality.

Our footprints joined those of

the herons that had been

walking on the sand earlier.

But there were hints of

civilization.  After several

days without contact, we

were now able to get internet

access via the cell phone

tower at Loreto just a few

miles away from our island.

Soon we were lured across

the water to visit the town in

person, and we anchored outside

Loreto's tiny harbor.

It was a great feeling to

return to a town we had

come to know and love

last spring.  We saw it

now with fresh eyes.

The town was celebrating

its 314th anniversary

when we arrived, and a

portion of the town

square was decked out

for the weekend's festivities.

We returned on the big night,

and the place was hopping

with music, fun, food, and stage events.  If that

is how Loreto celebrates turning 314, imagine

what will happen when they hit a round


The ornate Hotel Posada de las Flores and the Mission

of Our Lady Church dominate the town square.

In a wonderful juxtaposition of the modern and the

antique, I watched a man lining up a photo of the

historic cathedral on his iPad.  After he got his shot, a

group of us all stood around and admired his wonderfully backlit 8x10

photo.  It was beautifully accented by the iPad's white frame and

made me realize what a long way we've come since the days of


A few days of big north winds and accompanying steep waves sent

us into hiding nearby at Puerto Ballandra, one of the few truly

protected anchorages in the Sea.  Last spring it had been nicknamed

"Bee Landra" because of the abundance of fresh water seeking bees

that harassed all the boats.  We decided a few bees in a peaceful

anchorage would be better than rolling around in big seas and winds somewhere else.  As

it turned out, the bees were few and manageable, due, in part, to the really good fly

swatters we brought down with us this season!  With the Sea of Cortez bees we have

found that the best defense is an aggressive offense.  None of that pansy "leave the bee

alone and it won't bother you" stuff.  We go all out in our attacks, swatting the air, the boat

and each other to kill the scout bees.  They are slow moving and must be a bit delicate, as

they are easy (and very satisfying) to kill with a swatter. (I tried asking them nicely to

leave, but they refused).

While in Puerto Ballandra one

afternoon we were idly watching

a boat sailing towards the entrance when we noticed that by dusk it

still hadn't made it into the anchorage.  Mark hopped in a friend's

dinghy and they motored out to see if the boat needed help.  It turned

out that along with a broken engine and a sail that was stuck partially

raised, the fellow sailing the boat could not find the entrance to the bay

and had been drifting back and forth looking for it all afternoon.  He

was confused by the mirage of rocky peaks, and didn't have any

electronic navigation gear on board.  Darkness fell, and Mark and his

buddy guided the boat into the anchorage, nudging it forward with the

dink, and helped him find a place to drop the hook.

When the north wind diminished to a manageable scale we

continued moving south, making a quick fuel stop at Puerto

Escondido, the only place with fuel for a hundred miles or so

in either direction.

As we sailed towards Puerto Escondido there was a lot of

commotion on the radio about a boat that had gone up on the

rocks nearby.  There were no injuries, but the singlehanding

captain was rapidly unloading all his belongings onto the

rocks and examining a six inch wide hole in the bottom of the

boat to see if there was any way to salvage it.  We listened as

a group assembled to lend assistance and bring out sheets of

plywood, bilge pumps and moral support.

The next morning as we left Puerto Escondido we could

see something glinting in the sun on the horizon ahead of

us.  Soon it morphed into a sailboat on its side in front of

a towering pinnacle rock, and we realized this was the

boat we had heard about the day before.  This pinnacle

rock was one of several in the area called "Los

Candeleros" ("The Candlesticks").  We later sadly

discovered the boat was Valkyrie, the one we had

anchored with at Isla Coronado a few days earlier.

Tragically, the captain had driven straight into the

pinnacle rock and nailed it head on.  Ouch.  Thank

goodness the only loss was material.

Taking a deep breath and forging ahead, we made our way south

towards Agua Verde.  With no wind and nothing to do on board as

we motored along (just one pinnacle rock for 40 miles), Mark threw

out a fishing line.  Last year all the cruisers complained of bad fishing

up and down the entire west coast of Mexico.  So we were stunned

when within half an hour Mark had landed a fish.  Wow!  Yikes!!  What to do?  We were totally unprepared for a fish actually

biting the lure.  I ran around excitedly, trying to be helpful, "Are you going to stun it by pouring alcohol in its mouth like our

friends suggested?  What kind - rubbing alcohol?  Where do we keep that stuff?  Are you going to slit the gills to kills it?  Do you

need a knife?  A cutting board?  Gosh, you gotta do something with that flopping fish, and quick!"  I must have run up and down

the companionway stairs six times.  At least I didn't cry this time.

Mark was much more level headed.  He calmly threw some ice in a bucket and put the bucket and

the fish in the dinghy off the back while we continued on to Agua Verde.

One of the weird things about

fishing is figuring out what you

caught.  Fish don't come with

labels and a lot of species don't

taste good and need to be

thrown back.  Mark looked up his

catch in a book, and it was a Skip

Jack Tuna, rated as "good

eating."  Sure enough, once we

were anchored he filleted it like a

pro and barbecued it.  We

enjoyed it for three absolutely

yummy meals over the next few

days as we made our way south

towards the beauitful island anchorages near La Paz.

Read more about our adventures in the anchorages near Loreto during our previous visit in May, 2011, here and here.

Find La Ramada Cove, San Juanico, Isla Coronado, Loreto, Puerto Escondido and Agua Verde on Mexico Maps.

**While in Acapulco we read an article in their yacht club magazine about the salvage and recovery of the yacht Valkyrie!
































































































































Loreto: Isla Coronado & Villa del Palmar – Taming the Sea of Cortez

Roads Less Traveled

Villa del Palmar resort in Ensenada Blanca (Bahía Candeleros, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Villa del Palmar resort in Ensenada Blanca (Bahía Candeleros).

Isla Carmen's

Isla Carmen's "Painted Cliffs."

Isla Carmen's Punta Perico anchorage, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Carmen's Punta Perico.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Coronado.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Coronado.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The turquoise water reflects off

the seagulls.

Turkey vulture, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A turkey vulture looks for carion on the beach.

Cardon cactus and seagull, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A seagull perches on a

desert cactus.

Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico sv Groovy at anchor, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Bus parking lot for Villa Del Palmar workers, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Buses wait in a dirt lot to take the resort

workers home.

Liguii village church, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Village church.

Fresh catch - cabrilla (bass) Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jose holds up a cabrilla for us.

Panga fisherman fillets cabrilla, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jose fillets the cabrilla in his panga.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

View from a Villa del Palmar 7th floor balcony.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The resort pools are creatively laid out.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A golf course is going in behind the resort.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A spa and restaurant will grace one end of the resort.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The pool bar overlooks the bay.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Dining in the desert by an open fire -- reminiscent of

the finest resorts in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Groovy anchored in front of Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Groovy sits quietly at the resort's front door.

Isla Coronado & Ensenada Blanca, outside Loreto, Mexico

May, 2011 - At Agua Verde we really began to

relax.  All of a sudden the exertion of seven

months of cruising the Mexican coast had

caught up with us, and there in that little oasis

of tranquility we unwound until we became

blobs of jello.  We went to bed before sundown,

got up after sunrise, and stretched out for naps

in between.  For 17 days the Sea of Cortez

gave us a life without the distraction of the

internet.  The world beyond our immediate

surroundings on the sea seemed very far away.

As we sailed north and turned the corner to pass inside Isla Danzante

our eyes popped out of our heads when a massive resort suddenly

rose out of the mountains, overshadowing a cove and filling our view.

"Holy mackerel, what is that?"  Civilization.  Land of plush vacations.

We could almost hear the air conditioners throbbing, the fresh water

pumping, the workers scurrying.  We could almost see the elegant

meals being served by uniformed waiters on linen tablecloths while

patrons gazed at the expansive view of the Sea and its desert

islands.  Our guidebooks called the bay "Bahía Candeleros," and

mentioned only that a resort was under construction there.  Well, it's

open for business now!

We weren't ready for all that quite yet.  We pressed on, weaving between

the islands and taking a detour around the eastern side of Isla Carmen.

Here the colorful towering cliffs and crying gulls took over once again.  We

stopped at Punta Colorada, and again at a place the guidebook called

"Painted Cliffs" and finally at Punta Perico.  Besides one other sailboat and

the hum of cruisers talking on the radio, humanity disappeared once again.

A few days later we arrived at Isla

Coronado, an ideal little aquamarine

cove where the water is such a bright

turquoise that it reflects off the gulls'

wings as they fly overhead.  We relaxed

into jello once again.  Between swims

and kayak rides I began reading John

Steinbeck's Log of the Sea of Cortez while Mark played guitar.

Visiting the Sea in 1940 on a personal quest to study life in the

coastal tidepools, Steinbeck gives hilarious descriptions of life afloat

on a chartered California sardine boat.  Packed in with six other

guys, he took a six week voyage from California to Cabo, and then

along the inner coastline of the Sea of Cortez and back.  Endless

jars of pickled specimens that the crew collected from tidepools

filled every available space on the boat: crabs, worms, sea

cucumbers, and much more.

I laughed out loud at his wry tales.  They

were all the more poignant because

certain aspects of traveling the Mexican

coast by boat have not changed since

Steinbeck's time.  His skiff's cranky outboard engine, which he derisively nicknamed the "Sea-Cow,"

quickly became an eighth grumpy personality in the mix, running only when it wasn't needed and

leaving the men to row their dinghy in the most challenging conditions.  The crew bickered about

whose turn it was to wash dishes, harassing each other with practical jokes.  And they got caught by

surprise in the La Paz Coromuel winds which "sprang upon us" and "seemed to grow out of the

evening."  By the end of the trip they were all thickly encrusted in salt, as they had long since given up

using fresh water to wash their bodies or their clothes.  In fact, from the start they found the quality of

the fresh water they were able to get for their tanks so dubious for drinking that they endeavored to

consume as little water as possible and live on beer instead.

As I read Steinbeck's Log I found myself pondering the many changes, both

subtle and dramatic, that have taken place in the last 71 years in this remote

part of the world.  Cabo San Lucas, a raucous, pricey, resort-filled party

town today was, in Steinbeck's time, "a sad little town" whose road in from the

bay was "two wheel-ruts in the dust."  At La Paz he bemoaned a new

"expensive looking" hotel going up, as it spelled the end of the town's unique

character and isolation.  "Probably the airplanes will bring weekenders from

Los Angeles before long, and the beautiful bedraggled old town will bloom

with a Floridian ugliness."

In several different parts of the Sea he described seeing schools of leaping

swordfish.  Swarming the boat in thick schools, they "jumped clear out of the

water" and "seemed to play in pure joy."  In other places the schools were

tuna, and they too leaped around the boat with total abandon.  The tuna

would shimmer silver in the sun as they rocketed out of the blue depths and wriggled in the air.  On the Pacific side of Baja

between Magdalena Bay and Cabo San Lucas, he wrote: "We came upon hosts of...red rock-lobsters on the surface,

brilliant red and beautiful against the ultramarine of the water...The water seemed almost solid with the little red crustacea."

We haven't seen any of those things, and we haven't heard of anyone else seeing them either.  However, the leaping manta

rays Steinbeck describes are still here, doing somersaults and slapping the water in loud belly smacks.  We had first seen

them 500 miles south in Las Hadas in Manzanillo.  They cruised Isla Coronado's cove in huge schools, fooling us when we

first arrived into thinking we had accidentally anchored next to a rock.  Jumping in with masks and snorkels, we searched

everywhere for that rock only to realize it had been a school of rays floating past.

Steinbeck vividly describes

the Japanese shrimping factory ships that filled the Sea in 1940.

He and his crew spent time on one of these ships and watched in horror as the massive nets scraped

the bottom clean of all sea life.  Fish from every level of the sea came up in the nets: sharks, turtles,

pompano, sea horses, sea fans and more.  All were discarded overboard in a sea of death, except the

shrimp which were processed and packaged to be taken home to Japan.  He bitterly lamented the

waste of a massive food source that could feed the Mexican people indefinitely.  At the same time he

conceded that none of the dead fish were wasted, as the birds scooped up every morsel that had been

thrown over the side.

A Spanish speaking cruiser told us he had talked at length with some lobstermen on the Pacific side

of Baja as he sailed south from San Diego last January.  He learned that these men work in

cooperatives for Japanese ships that wait in Ensenada and sail once the holds are filled.  The

lobstermen have a quotas that the cooperative must meet -- some 20,000 tons of lobster

per month was a number he was given -- and all the lobstermen are paid equally if the

quota is met.

While Steinbeck and his crew got progressively grubbier, drinking warm beer and eating

spaghetti twice a week, they felt a stab of jealousy when a sleek black yacht sailed by.  The

passengers, dressed in white, relaxed in chairs on the shaded back deck sipping tall cool

drinks.  Today we see the enormous power megayachts and can only wonder what that life

is like.  The upper crust passengers are usually hidden behind large tinted windows, and

the sliding glass doors are usually closed to keep the air conditioning in.

Eventually our curiosity about the resort we had sailed by earlier overtook us and we

doubled back.  "Bahia Candeleros" seems to be the name that was assigned to this bay by

the earliest cruisers and nautical charts.  But we soon learned that everyone in the nearby

village -- and even Google Earth -- refers to this bay as "Ensenada Blanca."

Whatever the name, it is a fascinating convergence of the old Sea and the new.  At one end

of the cove stands a small fish camp where drying clothes hang out on clotheslines and

cisterns hold water on the roofs of rickety shacks that look like they would collapse in a

storm.  A tiny village half a mile inland has a small church and store, reminiscent of Agua

Verde a few miles south.  Pangas on the beach bring in small boatloads of fish.

A friendly fellow at this end of the beach named Jose sold us a

"cabrilla" (bass) that had been caught and laid on ice that morning.  He

filleted it expertly on the seat of his panga and rinsed the flesh in the

seawater at his feet.  The gulls and pelicans gathered in a noisy crowd

nearby and fought each other over scraps.

Jose explained to us

that the well built

fiberglass pangas we

have seen on every

part of the Mexican

coast are built in

Mexico using molds

made in the US.  These

rugged boats have replaced the common

fishing boats that Steinbeck described as "double-ended canoes carved out of a single log of

light wood, braced inside with struts...seaworthy and fast."  Today's pangas are driven by

powerful outboards whereas the canoes were "paddled by two men, one at either end."

The eldest Baja citizens, whom Steinbeck called "Indians," would have been small children

when he was here.  He wrote: "When we think of La Paz it is always of the small boys that we

think first."  They swarmed his boat, curious and eager to help him collect sea creatures when

he offered a few centavos per specimen.  Those boys would be old men now, and they may

still be telling tales to their grandkids of gathering clams and worms and crabs for some crazy

gringos in exchange for a few centavos each.  Not even a full lifetime has passed.

Wandering down to the other

end of the cove it seems like

centuries must have gone by.

The gargantuan resort is called

Villa del Palmar, and the guards

were happy to arrange a tour for

us.  What a place.  Only the

finest materials have been used,

the highest end appliances fill

each suite, and the layout of the pools and gardens, as viewed

from a seventh floor balcony, is an artful pattern in the shape of

a sea turtle.  It is Scottsdale, Arizona on the Sea.

We learned that this resort is just the first of three similar hotels

planned for this small bay.  "Villa de la Estancia" and "Villa del Arco"

will follow.  A golf course will line the base of the mountains and

condos will be built in all of the nooks and crannies in between.

We looked out over the construction in awe.  Backhoes clawed

the dirt while cement trucks flowed to and fro.  Uniformed men

with clipboards checked the progress while workers nodded

confidently at them, wiping their sweaty brows with dusty

hands.  The air was filled with purpose and excitement.

Our tour guide, Gabriel, lives in Loreto and he couldn't stop

smiling throughout the entire tour.  He is thrilled to have this

job, working in a beautiful place in handsome clothes and with

what he believes is a fine future ahead.  He told us the resort

employs 250 people.  About 50 guests were there during its

second month of operation.  We had seen the buses that the

company uses to bring the employees in from town.  The road

to the resort is not yet paved and the buses park behind the

fish camp in a large dirt lot.

In the afternoon Mauricio, the music electronics whiz who sets up

the karaoke machines at the pool bar, told us he transferred in

from Mexico city.  He is being housed in one of the beautiful

condos set back in the hillsides while he looks for a home so he

can transfer his family from the mainland.  He likes the school

system in Loreto and is pleased there is a university there.  His

wife, a bank manager, may find work at the hotel too, and he hopes

his kids will be able to continue the after-school activities they now

enjoy in Mexico City: horseback riding, swimming and soccer.

The entire resort pulsed with the feelings of opportunity, promise

and the future.  This is the new Sea of Cortez that Steinbeck

knew was coming, tamed and gentrified for well-heeled tourists.

Along with the classy resort came an internet signal, and what a

surprise it was after so long adrift from world news to find out that

Osama bin Laden had been captured and killed.  This mirrored

Steinbeck's experience too.  He discovered that while he was in

the Sea, "Hitler marched into Denmark and into Norway, France

had fallen, the Maginot line was lost -- we didn't know it but we

knew the daily catch of every boat within 400 miles."

We stayed for several days, enjoying

placid, clear water and lovely views as

Groovy slowly swung at anchor.  Finally a

need for provisions pushed us into the

busy ports of Puerto Escondido and


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