Puerto Escondido

Posted by John

Puerto Escondido Bay on a calm day.

Puerto Escondido somehow became what we were aiming for after leaving La Paz. We knew it was a large and almost landlocked bay capable of holding many boats. We knew that it was near Lareto, the second largest city in south Baja after La Paz, and home to many retired Americans. We heard that a marina was being built, or had already been built. There was a fuel dock. There was a boatyard for repairs and bottom painting. We also heard that recently, anchoring had been banned inside the bay and permanent moorings with a charged fee had been installed to be used instead. And we heard a rumor that taxis into Lareto from the marina were prohibitively expensive.

What we actually found when we finally got to Puerto Escondido was all of that. And a round-trip taxi to Lareto and back, twelve miles away, was 1,200 pesos, or about $60 U.S. In Mexico, you can buy a lot of groceries for $60, but not so much if you have to double that each time you go into town to shop.

There is a marina, with nice offices and friendly, helpful staff, and dock space for a few boats (I really do mean a few). The “marina” really is more than a hundred mooring balls which have been installed in the bay. It is a hurricane hole. There is a fuel dock, free showers, free self-serve laundry and a few garbage cans for boat trash. However, there is not even one snack or drink machine. There is a restaurant, open in the evenings, but no café or bar & grill or snack shop like you’d expect. There are a couple of new glass and steel buildings, and nice landscaping, but the buildings have lots of empty space. Several nearby buildings are still empty shells. What has been built has obviously been built with big plans in mind. It just hasn’t reached its potential, maybe. There is also a solid cruiser community with a local morning radio net.

Although we were technically not off-grid anymore, the public Wi-Fi for the marina was not operating most of the time. Even our Mexican cell phone had trouble holding a connection. Cell towers (tower?) appeared to be some distance away.

We hired a couple of young guys to come out to our boat to dive it and clean the bottom. Afterwards, their boat wouldn’t start and we towed them back to the marina dock with our dinghy and its little 2 HP motor. Their boat greatly outweighed us and I wasn’t sure it was going to work until we gained some momentum. A few days later we saw the same two guys using their boat to tow a 40-foot sailboat. One guy was towing, the other guy was steering the sailboat. They saw us, and you could tell they were making sure we saw them.

We had an odd experience in a grocery store in Lareto. Sometimes I’ll go into a store and feel like I’m in another country. This was true in a Costco we used to go to in south Seattle where it seemed like most customers were speaking Chinese or Vietnamese, and it was especially true of a Costco we went to in Chula Vista, California which even had a Mexican currency exchange window. But at the Pescadora in Loreto it was the opposite: we were in a Mexican store, yet it seemed like nearly every customer was an American speaking English.

I think there might be some kind of deal between the local taxi company and the rental car companies. It can actually be cheaper to rent a car for a day than to take a taxi to town and back. So we rented a car—twice. We made two shopping trips to Lareto, and shared a car with Joe and Cathy from Slainte for a sightseeing trip.

The plan was to go to a 300 year-old mission built in the mountains. That sounded okay, but who knew it was 25 miles up a narrow, winding mountain road, over a pass, and part way down the other side? For a while, we thought maybe we’d gone so far that we’d soon catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, but we didn’t. We met some friends of Joe and Cathy’s there for lunch. It was a fun trip, and nice to get off the boat and above sea level for the day.

San Javier Mission, built 300 years ago, somewhere in Sierra de La Giganta.

We had a tour guide, and Joe’s friend’s wife spoke Spanish, so we got the story, pretty much. Apparently, the mission failed because they couldn’t make it self-sufficient, but not for lack of trying. There is still an original 300 year-old olive tree on the grounds.

The natural spring water and lush vegetation gives the place an oasis feel.
Back at Puerto Escondido, teaching Robyn how to relax and contemplate the future.
The entrance to the bay is through the low gap on the left, to the right of that is the marina and buildings. This was a very calm day. We also endured a couple of days of winds gusting over 30 kts and whitecaps in the bay. This is the farthest we’ve regularly dinghied to shore yet. It’s nice not having a leaky dinghy anymore.
Fuel dock, with boat yard behind.
What we really wanted was a holding tank pump out. We waited over an hour for the pump to be brought, the hose primed and the connection to the sewer made. We also topped off the fuel tank. It was a nice day to just sit there for a while. They could make some money if they put in a little store with cold drinks and ice cream.

Way back in April last year (seems a lot longer ago) we bought a wind generator to sit on the bracket that came already mounted on our mizzen mast. The idea was that it would provide some battery charging current when the wind was blowing, whether the solar panels were getting sun or not. At the time, we were thinking simple things, like radar and GPS and lights. Now we have a water maker (battery killer), rudimentary refrigeration, electronic toys that constantly need charging, and other things that use far more power than we needed a year ago.

We had identified from Google image searches the particular model of wind generator that the bracket had been made for. Unfortunately, the company had gone out of business but we found a generator available in a warehouse near Seattle. We bought it, and it has been taking up space in the aft cabin since Day 1 of our trip. We’ve since heard that it is back in production again, as was expected, by a different company after it bought the tooling and manufacturing rights from the original maker.

I had envisioned installing the wind generator on the mast some sunny, unhurried day, maybe while anchored in a calm bay in Mexico surrounded by dry hills and a gentle breeze. That time and place turned out to be now, in Puerto Escondido. It was becoming a running joke that we needed to spend a few days to work on our wind generator, but something always interrupted us. So, already staying longer in Puerto Escondido than we had originally planned, and with the joke getting old, we dug it out, assembled it into its very awkward and heavy shape, and went about getting it up the mast.

We had had months to come up with a plan—I’ve spent oh, so many lazy afternoons lying in the cockpit gazing up at that bracket and imagining how we were going to get that thing up there. We executed the plan nearly flawlessly, except for one minor problem. The generator has a pin that fits down into the vertical pipe on the end of the bracket. It didn’t fit. The inside diameter of the pipe is 2 mm smaller than the outside diameter of the pin. That’s just one silly millimeter all the way around the hole, but there was no way it was going in.

When we had the masts and rigging off the boat two years ago I had measured the bracket. My measurements were in inches. The inside diameter of the pipe was measured at 1.5 inches. When we figured out that we were looking for an Ampair 100 wind turbine, made in England, the published dimensions we found were in millimeters. I converted all my measurements. Everything was right on to the published specs, except the pipe diameter. But I had measured that with a tape measure, probably rounding to an even 1.5 inches, or so I assumed. Perhaps there was some room for error there. But no, it is actually a 1.5 inch pipe, and 1.5 inches comes out to 38.1 mm. The 40 mm pin is actually 40 mm. It must be a metric standard pipe size. My measurement was surprisingly accurate the first time. A 40 mm pin does not fit in a 38.1 mm hole.

We lowered the wind generator back down to the deck. Then I went back up the mast and removed the bracket and brought it down for a closer look. Sadly, the inside diameter of the pipe was, really, truly, 1.9 mm smaller than the outside diameter of the Ampair pivot. How could this be?

I spent a long, mostly sleepless night going over all the possible solutions in my head, and rejecting most of them. One of the most intriguing to me, in the pre-dawn hours, was to disassemble the wind generator and remove what I had convinced myself was simply a chunk of anodized aluminum which was the pivot that fit into the pipe, find a machine shop in town, and have the guy skinny it up by 2 mm.

But then, as the sun came up on another day, one of the fundamental differences between me and Julie came into play. While I had spent all night fuming over it, even considering cutting our losses and putting the whole thing up for swap & trade on the morning net, she looked it up and found that there was an adapter available at the same warehouse near Seattle where we had bought it. The adapter is specifically for mounting a post-2001 Ampair onto a pre-2001 Ampair mizzen mast bracket. What do you know? Just like that, problem apparently solved—if we can get one sent to us here in Mexico.

In the meantime, after being here for two weeks, we’ve decided to leave Puerto Escondido and soon will be going our separate way from Slainte. They are heading farther north, eventually storing their boat and going home for the summer, while we will be turning back south and crossing to the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez. After coming so close, completion of the wind generator installation will have to wait until we can get the adapter.

The Ampair wind turbine all rigged up for hoisting and nowhere to go. The black pin on the bottom with the wire sticking out has to fit into the pipe that’s welded through the bracket.
The bracket after it was disappointingly removed for closer inspection.

Eventually we expect to be in Mazatlan for a while. We should have consistent internet access there.