Bahia Santa Maria

Noon Position: 24 46.82 N 112 15.20 W
At anchor Bahia Santa Maria
Wind: light and variable
Sea: slight Swell: south 0.5 meters
Weather: sunny, mild
Day's run: 22 nm

We rounded Punta Hughes, the northern headland protecting Bahia Santa Maria,
just on sunset, the wind died a short while later, and as it was getting
dark I handed sail, flashed up the BRM and motored slowly, monitoring the
echo sounder closely, as we felt our way to the anchorage in the dark.
Unfortunately Mexican charts are not all that reliable, not having been
resurveyed for many years and often the GPS datum differs significantly from
the charts, I am told sometimes by a couple of miles or so. Nonetheless, we
encountered no problems and at 18.50 we dropped anchor in 7.5 meters of
water. I could see a couple of shore lights to the west, presumably from a
fishing settlement, and I could hear the surf crashing on the beach, what
sounded like only a very short distance away. I had made up a pot of vegie
curry as we were coming in, and this was well stewed and ready for eating by
the time Sylph was settled.

I enjoyed a very peaceful night and the next morning awoke to a clear blue
sky and calm seas. I think I made a good decision to come here to anchor
for the night rather than drift around outside going nowhere. I allowed
myself a bit of a sleep in, so this morning was a bit of a late start, and
after breakfast I eased myself into the Sylph's capacious outdoor swimming
pool. The water temperature is still a little on the cool side but once in
it is very refreshing. I took the opportunity to scrub the waterline of
some slime, and inspected the hull. There were a couple of small patches of
growth and the propeller is just starting to grow a few small barnacles, but
overall the antifouling paint appears to have held up quite well.

Next item in the day's itinerary was to go ashore to explore. The surf on
the beach didn't look too bad so initially I rowed straight in towards the
beach. As I got closer I stopped rowing, turned the dinghy around so I
could inspect the surf for a bit before committing to a landing. I watched
and a few large combers rolled in. If I had gone in on those the dinghy
would definitely have been completely swamped. I am sure we would have
managed to get in, even if very wet, but with the large waves breaking my
concern was whether we would be able to get off again. I decided to try
crossing the surf closer to the fishing village. Here I found a calmer
patch leading into a lagoon where the fishermen store their boats, twenty
foot fibreglass open craft, with flared bows, and typically an Evinrude or
Yamaha 110 horsepower outboard on the back. Initially I dragged Sylph up
the beach a fair way, but after a quick look around the small village I
decided to go for a hike up the mountainside for a bit of exercise and to
get a better view. The tide was coming in so I went back to the dinghy
dragged it further across the beach then waded it across the shallow mouth
of the lagoon and tied it off to a rock so that it would not float away
while I was on my hike.

Once the dinghy was secured I walked back through the village, which
consisted of about twenty or so shacks, very rough and rudimentary, one or
two roomed affairs made up of mostly unpainted ply and corrugated island.
Drying racks of rough timber and rope lay in between the shacks, and stashes
of fishing gear and other paraphernalia lay piled in erratic heaps. On some
of the racks lay shark fins drying in the sun, only a few flies buzzed
around.

Despite the presence of the village, the area was solitary, dramatic and
beautiful. The beach of wide creamy sand, spread away to the east and
wrapped around to the south for several miles. To the west the bay was
protected by two rocky barren mountains, Monte San Lazaro and Pico Smart,
and at their feet in the north-west corner of the bay a lagoon stretched
north feeding a small but relatively lush green wetland. Beyond the wetland
lay miles and miles of sand dunes.

It took me much of the afternoon to climb Monte San Lazaro, and I did not
quite make it to its 389 meter peak, but I got high enough to look down on
its smaller neighbour, Pico Smart's 265 meters. With the tide coming in,
and the sun getting lower, and my legs getting more tired, I took lots of
photos of the impressive scenery and commenced the descent. The dry loose
scree made the descent a little more difficult then the climb, and, as usual
with my mountain climbing forays, I managed to follow a different ridge down
and got myself tangled up in unexpected little valleys and difficult patches
of rock and shrubs. But I got down safely just as the dinghy was
threatening to float away. The surf appeared to have picked up a bit as
well. I studied it looking for the best way out and to see whether there
was a pattern in the breaks. I picked my exit line from the lagoon, and
then rowed like mad in what appeared to be a lull. A couple of small waves
broke as I was rowing out, but I dug the oars in deep and pulled hard with
each one and the trusty little Walker Bay 8 rose to them, with only a little
splash of water splashing coming inboard and wetting my back. We were soon
through them into calmer deeper water. As I rowed back to Sylph I watched a
little horrified to see a whole batch of larger swells roll in, curling and
breaking heavily. Perhaps they would be considered pretty puny by the
average surfer, but they would definitely have swamped my little dinghy and
made life a little wet and difficult. I contemplated how I would have
negotiated the surf with the dinghy and a second person and decided that
really the only effective way would have been for me to have rowed out by
myself and for the second person to have swum through the surf and then
clambered aboard the dinghy once it was outside the surf line. Yes, that
would have worked, if the other person was game. (Now why, I wonder, did I
worry about that after all this time single handing.)

Back on board I went for a second dip, this time a little more gamely,
diving in off the coach house. As I was drying myself off I noticed one of
the fishing boats approaching. I wrapped the towel around my nakedness and
awaited their approach. It turned out that they wanted a couple of 'AA'
batteries for a camera. I normally use rechargeable batteries but
fortunately I had recently bought some conventional alkaline batteries so I
was pleased to be able to satisfy their very modest request.

The wind remains calm and I believe is likely to do so for the next couple
of days. However, I think I have pretty much exhausted the attractions of
Bahia Santa Maria and have therefore lashed the dinghy back on deck with a
view to getting under way in the morning. I will study the forecasts this
evening when I get them in and make a plan for the morrow then.

All is well.