Chilling in Baja
A cold, raw April was nearing its end here in New England, and on this Monday morning, I came to work with just one thing on my mind: Tie up loose ends and book it to the airport. First stop, L.A. Second stop, Loreto, Mexico. That's Loreto, as in Baja California Loreto. Home to splendid seaside restaurants, an airport, enough bustling shops and sights to attract tourists, and a location that's just 14 miles north of the nearly perfectly protected harbor at sleepy Puerto Escondido, where I'd meet up with those participating in an about-to-depart Seawind Catamarans sailing rendezvous.
Was I eager to get going? Oh, just a bit. Weather.com forecast nothing but blue sky and sun, with highs in the 80s F and lows in the 70s F. I'd read in the cruising guides about the string of barren islands just outside the harbor. I'd looked at pictures of the jagged, rocky mountains that tumble into the sea and the deserted white beaches lined with cactus. And Seawind U.S.A.'s Kurt Jerman, organizer of this little gringos' getaway, had been e-mailing me for weeks about the sailing, tacos, and margaritas that awaited us-us being me; Kurt, and his wife, Lori; and their fellow San Diegans Roy and Debi Adcock. Once there, we'd be joining the crews aboard three other Seawinds that had been cruising in Baja waters for quite some time.
And then there was the plan: Head out upon arrival and gunkhole our way up and down the coast until Saturday, when we'd gather back at the harbor for the closing night's festivities at Loreto Fest, an end-of-the-season cruisers party that's grown over the last 13 years to four days and about 300 participants.
I met Lori and Debi on the Alaska Airlines plane as we winged southward from L.A. Their husbands had gone ahead to pick up a fourth catamaran and would meet us at the harbor. On our way there, we'd been bombarded by breaking news of the swine flu epidemic-a pandemic by the time CNN stopped flogging it. Seemingly everyone was talking about it.
"Swine what?" Kurt and Roy asked when we finally found the harbor and them, fresh in from their sail from Cabo San Lucas. When I looked around at the deserted shoreline, the few boats in the harbor, and the mostly empty waterfront buildings, it finally sunk in that in this part of the world, news-and most everything else-slows way, way down.
As we headed to the dock, I was introduced to John and Patsy Peterson, who invited me to be an overnight guest on their boat, SeaEsta. John had been in the printing business in Los Angeles, and though he'd once owned a Catalina 27, he was, by his own admission, more of a powerboater at heart. He'd had a Maxum Express Cruiser for a number of years, but then, during a Seawind demo day in San Diego about nine years ago, he fell for a Seawind 1000. He took to life on two hulls in short order, and four years ago, he upgraded to an 1160. In 2006, they sold the house, and he and Patsy lived in his 20- by 20-foot office for about a year-sleeping on a couch and her massage table-until he sold his business and they left for Baja in 2007.