Sunday, April 2, 2017

Topolobampo: A Night of Bashing, Exploring Town, Beginning Where Steinbeck Ended

Well, I guess King Neptune didn’t want me to get too soft and lazy from fine sailing conditions, so he punished me last night with 12 hours of strong headwinds and steep, square waves.  It was a very uncomfortable bash the rest of the way to Topolobampo.

The swells coming from directly ahead had a period of about six seconds. I reckon that Intemezzo’s natural rotational pitching period to also be about six seconds, resulting in a harmonic motion where the boat’s pitching movements increase in amplitude until the harmonic cycle is interrupted somehow.  I estimate that Intermezzo’s bows pitched upwards  and then fell downwards as much as five to six feet.

In non-mathematical terms, what this means is three to four times every couple of minutes the boat’s bows would be launched up out of the water and then slam down with a mighty loud crash that made the whole boat shudder. Sometimes these loud, violent events would coincide a wave crest impacting the underside of the bridgedeck (the part of a catamaran that spans and connects the two hulls) with another mighty boom. It’s not dangerous, just really noisy, uncomfortable and tiring.  We had a couple hours of really loud slamming, six hours of moderately loud slamming, and four hours of “quiet” slamming. Not pleasant at all.

By the time we reached the sea buoy marking the entrance to the channel into the Bahia de Topolobampo, the wind and waves had quieted down. We made our way into the bay with a bright sun shining between the mountains on shore and sparkling on the water. The bay is very pretty, bordered by mangroves along the shore and surrounded by arid, cactus studded mountains, with fingers of little estuaries poking from the main bay deep into the mountains, like little fjords.  There is a large commercial port, a oil marine terminal and an oil-fired power plant located here which are the only detractions from the bay’s natural beauty.

We got Intermezzo settled and sorted out at a slip in Marina Palmira and then caught up on sleep after our night of pounding seas.

Topolobampo is a pleasant enough little town with a nice waterfront malecon for strolling, a few small restaurants and lots of street food featuring mariscos (seafood), ceviche (vinegar-cured fish), cocos helados (iced coconut) and other fresh local food.  There is a very fancy bar-restaurant, Stanley’s Bar and Grill, at the top of a tall hill offers fine views of town and bay from which we enjoyed sunset cocktails and a nice dinner afterwards.

The next bay north from Topolobampo is Agiabampo, which was last tidal pool marine life collection stop of Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez expedition. He describes a mangrove-lined bay similar to Topolobampo where they found the first extensive growth of eel grass, but not the great variety of animal life, yet admitting as their expeditions was drawing near to its end , “…undoubtedly there were many things we did not see. Perhaps our eyes were tired with too much looking.”

There is a melancholy, introspective tone to Steinbeck’s narrative in this next-to-last chapter of the book. He inquires, “Why do we dread to think of our species as a species? Can it be that we are afraid of what we might find? That human self-love would suffer too much and that the image of God might prove to be a mask? This could only be partly true, for if we could cease to wear the image of a kindly, bearded, interstellar dictator, we might find ourselves to be true images of his kingdom, our eyes the nebulae, and universes in our cells.”  The book is a intricate weaving of travelogue, scientific observation and philosophy that becomes a familiar yet mentally winding pattern.

The weather is pleasantly cool, sunny and breezy, and I note that Intermezzo’s depth transducer is reporting a water temperature of around 70 degrees F, much lower than the mid-80’s that I’ve grown accustomed to swimming in Central America and southern Mexico. Time to dust off my wet suit.

We’ve see what there is to see in Topolobampo, so we’ll push off tomorrow morning and head west to cross the Sea and anchor in Caleta Lobos, close to La Paz, which we enjoyed a lot when we visited in November 2015. It will take us about 24 hours and will be the last long, overnight passage we’ll make for a while.

Coincidentally, the helmsmen of Steinbeck’s  Western Flyer drifted off their compass course after they departed Agiabampo to sail across the Sea and unintentionally ended up in the morning at Isla Espirutu Santo which is just to the north of Caleta Lobos.  We’ll be steering by GPS with the autopilot, so we’ll end up where we want to be, though.

Sunrise approaching Topolobampo

Entering Bahia Topolobampo

Birds on a buoy

Bahia Topolobampo in the morning 
The Topolobampo malecon

Bahia Topolobampo in the evening

Topolobampo sunset

Topolobampo debutante