Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bahia Salinas (Isla Carmen)

Sailboats traveling up and down the Baja Peninsula between Loreto and La Paz frequent a handful of popular anchorages distributed between these two cities.  These ports see several boats come and go on a daily basis.  Our trip included all the usual stops along the north bound milk run.  Suddenly, we had a hankering for a little time off the well beaten path, and a detour to Isla Carmen seemed like just the ticket.

Before we could get underway on June 7, we spent a fair amount of time studying the charts and guidebooks making certain that we knew how to make safe passage through the rocks and reefs that lay between Los Candeleros and Isla Carmen.  We pulled up the anchor and slowly made our way into open water.  After a little more than an hour, the hazards were well behind us and we were on our way to Bahia Salinas.

Bahia Salinas is a huge bay on the east side of Isla Carmen where a large salt mining operation ran until the early 1980’s.  As we approached the anchorage we could see many buildings on shore.  There were the industrial ruins of the salt operation, a little white chapel, and a couple of new lodges built for fishing and hunting (longhorn sheep) tours.  We dropped anchor about a quarter mile away from the only other vessel in the bay, a large charter boat.  There were several guests swimming off the stern and the crew was busy ferrying others to and from the beach in a couple of pangas.  By the time we got the sails tucked away, the boat tidied up, and opened a couple of beers, the charter boat had closed shop for the day and headed for home with the pangas in tow.  We had this giant bay with its beautiful long beach all to ourselves!

All alone in this big, beautiful bay!
The next morning we got an early start and headed off to see the dilapidated salt mining operation.  During the night we had seen a light burning in a cabin on shore so we expected that the caretaker was around.  The caretaker has been known to charge a small fee for exploring the grounds.  As we approached the buildings, we made it a point to say hello to the few men we saw and had a friendly exchange with the dog.  No one asked us for money or told us to go away, so we took our time touring the place.

Interabang at anchor in the background
Wandering along the salt flats
Abandoned machinery

On the second morning, the topic of food came up again.  We had some chicken on board, but we needed to get more protein for our meals if we wanted extend our stay on the island.  The unfortunate thing about being the male member of the team is that, by process of elimination, hunting and gathering falls on your shoulders.  After proving to be woefully inadequate in the line and hook department, I decided to try a new tactic.  Snorkel on my face and fins on my feet I started working the waters off the beach.  Rooting around in the sand, I suddenly came up with a butter clam a little bigger than the size of a quarter.  This was a breakthrough.  I worked the surf line for a little more than an hour and filled my pockets with about twenty-five clams, some bigger some a bit smaller.  I headed back to the boat with my catch.

Trisha was very excited to see that I had accomplished something, but was certain that I could do better.  She jumped in the dinghy with me and we headed back for more.  It took some time, but we managed to find another twenty or so clams. They spent the next couple of days hanging off the side of the boat in a mesh bag, purging themselves of sand. 

Moments before being added to butter, garlic, white wine...

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