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Michael & Edi have headed out on a slow, thorough exploration of the globe.
Into Bahia Conception
18 January 2010 | Playa Santispac
After another very peaceful night at anchor in Caleta San Juanico, we had a leisurely breakfast and then weighed anchor at 0930. Our course to clear Punta San Basilio took us directly through the two largest islands in the bay, at least according to the data from the official Mexican nautical charts. We have long heard of the inaccuracy of the charts here, and Caleta San Juanico is an excellent demonstration.

Many of the charts here are based on hydrographical surveys done over a century ago, and often the details that exist on them are rather sketchy. It appears to me that in smaller bays, particularly those with no commercial activity, there was no reason for the government to expend funds on detailed charting. Soundings are sparse and details such as islets, prominent exposed rocks and shoals may not be charted. If they are charted, they are often in the wrong place, of the wrong size or shape, or they may not actually exist. This is why our exit track took us directly through the two islands; the charted islands were not misplaced, they didn't even exist.

Compare the data from the previous official chart with that on this unofficial chartlet from "A Cruisers Guidebook to the Sea of Cortez" by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer, both showing the same area of Caleta San Juanico. On the official chart there are three soundings in the entire bay and there is a random sprinkling of islets and rocks, which do not actually exist. On the unofficial chartlet, there are very useful lines of soundings, bottom contours and accurately placed islets, shoals and rocks. Our anchorage was the one marked BCS 444 on the chartlet.

Once we had bumped our way across the non-existent islands and turned Punta San Basilio, we set our course due north to clear Punta Pulpito. There wasn't a breath of wind, the seas were glassy, and the skies were clear except for a fog bank dipped far over the northeastern horizon. We motored at 2250 rpm making 7.7 knots, doing a load of laundry, making 68 litres of water per hour and adding electricity to the batteries. An hour-and-a-quarter later, as we were turning northeast around Punta Pulpito, a slight ripple came up and the anemometer bounced around in the southeast sector at 2 to 3 knots. By early afternoon the winds astern were in the 5 to 6 knot range, still not enough to fill the sails on a run.

We motored into Bahia Concepcion and worked our way southward in still airs and glassy seas. We headed down the centre of the two mile wide narrows, watching the depth sounder show extensive uncharted 5 metre shoals in areas of 10 and 20 metre contours.

Before we entered Bahia Coyote, I had placed five waypoints from the Guidebook onto the chartplotter. Three of these were anchorages, one was an uncharted patch of rocks and one was an entry waypoint. On the chartplotter display above, the entry waypoint is the red diamond in lower right, and the Guidebook shows good water from it to the red diamond marking the anchorage in the lower left. On the chartplotter, which is based on the Mexican charts, there are two islands in the way.

Comparing this unofficial chartlet from the Guidebook to the official chart was very confusing, and to add to the discomfort, the sun was low and directly in our intended approach, its glare reflected from the calm water. I turned on the radar and did a split screen; one with radar alone and the other an overlay. The radar picture gave a very reassuring indication of the lay of the land, and confirmed the accuracy of the Guidebook.

Isla Sin Nombre, which is shown on the official chart, is likely without name because it doesn't exist. We proved this by motoring directly over it, while being careful to avoid the very obvious uncharted rocky patch, which I had indicated with skull and crossbones. At 1648 we came to 30 metres on the Rocna in 7.5 metres of water in Playa Santispac in Bahia Coyote, in Bahia Concepcion. Our view was of Dogpatch.

We were overlooking RV and trailer-park slums. The entire beach immediately to the north of us was lined wall-to-wall with all size and quality of mobile gear: mega-rigs with pop-out sides, converted buses both modern and ancient, pick-up campers, semi-permanent lean-tos, tents, and as we later found-out, the barren and dusty ground was littered with dog droppings.

One of the reasons we had decided to anchor here was that the Guidebook had reference to Ana's Restaurant serving fresh seafood dishes. The restaurant was on the beach, and after we anchored, we could just pick it out through the screen of RVs, camper rigs and trailers that nearly blocked it from view.

While the sun was setting, we took the dinghy the two cables or so to the beach, and hauled it up the beach to the dog droppings marking high water. We picked our way through the row of campers and walked across the dusty parking lot to the restaurant. The exterior of the restaurant blended well with its environment, while on the inside, the plastic lawn furniture was appropriately draped with plastic tablecloths, and fit-in with the rest of the interior decor. The fake brickwork and mirrored posts added to the effect.

The place was rather empty when we arrived, so we picked a table next to the windows. However, when we sat down and saw the view out on the RVs, we changed sides to face into the room. On the recommendation of the waiter, we ordered the garlic fish, which he said was very fresh.

Shortly after we had ordered, the restaurant began filling with what seemed to us to be desperately lonely couples looking once again for entertainment and seeking solace in their newly encountered fellow campers. As they waddled in (there were very few fit ones), they cobbled together random tables in groups of ten or a dozen or more and made lots of noise shouting greetings across the room in poor renditions of Spanish.

Our fish arrived as stiff and hard as salt cod. We tried to imagine how it would have been prepared to render it like this. Possibilities were that it had been fried until it was depleted of its moisture, or it may have been deep-fried, then stored and then later zapped in the microwave just for us. However it was done, it was the worst prepared fish either of could remember having had. A ball-capped fellow fielded our complaint. He was obviously from the US and appeared to be a new owner; we suspect that Ana sold her restaurant to him.

We returned onboard and relaxed in the stillness as Sequitur lay gently at her anchor. The quietness of the night; however, was punctuated by the sounds of the truck drivers using their Jake brakes to slow for the curves along Mexico 1, which winds its way past the western edge of the anchorage. We decided to move on in the morning.
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