Flying Trips into Mexico

    Once I had my own airplane I was free to explore the many airports there were in SoCal at that time in the middle 50's.  I was no longer limited by the restraints of having to have a rental airplane back within a specified time, and I could land wherever I pleased.  The Sectional charts of that era had the map portion printed on one side only.  On the other side were the many explanations of aeronautical trivia such as meaning of light signals, use of the Adcock range, etc.  To me the most important part of that side was a complete listing of all airports shown on the map, with notes about the special features.  I cut that portion out of a LA and San Diego Sectional and pinned them on my bedroom wall.  My goal was to try and find every airport listed and make a landing there.  That was the routine challenge for every flight: to play the game of "find the airport".  That may seem like an easy thing to do, but with the poor performing Aeronca sans any navigational equipment (in fact; no electrical system) it was a challenge.  It took so much time to climb to a few thousand feet that I rarely got much of a "birds eye" view.  To attest to how really sick the airplane was: on the first leg of a cross-country flight to San Francisco I had to climb all the way from El Monte to Santa Barbara to attain the minimum altitude to cross the hills going north.  Through the years, and a half dozen airplanes, I had made it through much of the airport list, checking off each field I had visited with a red pencil at the end of the day.  The shorter the strip and the harder to find made for the most satisfying challenge.  Flying into major airports was never much of a thrill to me, although later on when I did get a well equipped airplane I did pick up a habit of flying into San Diego or Los Angeles airports late at night, and "people watch" at the terminal.  Up through the early 70's one could fly a light plane right up to a major terminal, park and walk inside.  I even used to drop off passengers that way; fly them right up to their terminal.  The smaller airports (or strips) were rapidly disappearing under the developers plow.  Between my 1950 LA Sectional and the 1954 Sectional, I recall that there were some 50 less airports listed on the map.  Eventually my interest was drawn to the many airports right across the border in Mexico.  This was like turning the clock backwards; now I had an entirely new list of airports to explore, and all were either short or in some other way an adventure.

    I had read several  stories in Flying magazine about strips in Baja and it seemed adventurous to me.  One such article influenced my flying for my entire career.   It was a story about a Mexican pilot named Pancho Munoz.  He was famous for being able to fly big airplanes into really short strips.  I read about his technique and tried it myself.  It worked perfectly.  On downwind, bring the airplane slowly up to a stall and note the airspeed indication, then add a safe margin of 10 mph and that is your approach speed already calibrated for density altitude, instrument error, load factor, and everything else.  An interesting website about Pauncho:  Pauncho Munoz 

    Then I read the most exciting dissertation about Baja in Ray Cannon's "Sea of Cortez".  It sounded unbelievably fantastic.  I had to go there and see for myself, and that I did for the next 25 years.  A very interesting thumbnail about Ray Cannon's life and Baja experiences can be found at Gene Kira's website: 

Baja Destinations

    I also highly recommend Gene's own book "The Unforgettable Sea of Cortez".  In it the history of the development of Baja, mainly through the adventures of Ray Cannon, is laid out in interesting text and pictures.

    My first trips across the border were short ones to Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito Beach, Ensenada.  The fun of flying into these airports was that they were located right in the middle of the towns, especially Mexicali.  Literally park the airplane and walk across the street to the shops. I've always loved that practicality of using the airplane.

    My first trip deep into Baja was made on the 5th of May 1967.  I flew my father and a couple of his fishing buddies into the dusty little strip at Bahia de Los Angeles, or Bay of L.A.  Ironically although I had been licensed for over ten years, this was the first time my father had ever been in an airplane.  I once asked him "why?" and he replied "because I watched you build so many model airplanes and then go out and crash them.  I don't have any confidence in you".  This trip was so picture perfect that he agreed to go on another flight with me, and ironically, that ended up in one of my major crashes; so two trips in an airplane was it for him.

    Since I had this preoccupation with flying into unusual strips, it is only fair to include one of my favorite ones here in the U.S.: Lake Wohlford.  I first flew in there in my Aeronca (the "Knocker") in 56'.  I continued to fly in there with every airplane I ever owned until the time that I left CA for OR.  Not an easy strip to find from a low altitude as I usually flew the Knocker.  Without any navigational equipment, other than a map and a compass the hills and valleys all look alike.   The strip is very short with no over-run area for sure, but the reward was a great breakfast at the fishing resort that hosted the local campers (after a 1/2 mile walk down to the lake).

(note:  you may supersize the pictures by re-clicking the first enlargement)

                                    

             For those who are interested in other unusual or abandoned airports, a good site to see is Paul Freeman's:   Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: California - Northern San Diego area

Bahia de Los Angeles  1970 Map    1985 Map

        

Old Tijuana             Old Mexicali              Old Bay of L.A.

    The fishing was every bit of good as Ray Cannon had said it would be.  We arrived a little late because one of my passengers did not heed my admonition and bring his birth certificate with him, and we had to wait while he went back across the border and got some sort of documentation.  Fortunately, with the airport (Mexicali) being right in town (and not some 15 miles out of town as the new airport is) we still made the trip in time for some fishing from the little jetty at Bay of LA.  The fishing the next day was every bit as good as Ray Cannon had said it would be.  My arms ached on the trip home the next day.

                    

      An unfortunate thing happened right after the second picture was taken.  The pilot who owned the twin Beech in the picture was pushing his airplane back when the truck shown in the picture ran into the left aileron and did some substantial damage.  Such swear words have never been heard again.  One of the unusual aspects of the Bay of LA was that it was a Turtle "whaling station".  Harvesting of the large turtles was legal back then, and turtle steak was on Mama Diaz' menu.

            A good tee shirt with "bite" misspelled.

    Here is a very odd coincidence of things to happen some 20 years later.  On my first trip I had rented a Cessna 205 from a guy at El Monte by the name of Tiny Burton.  Tiny was not a pilot but loved airplanes and the 205 was about the only airplane he could get his large frame into.  Tiny had a friend of mine, Neal VanDerWindt, check me out in the airplane.  I don't know if the tales of my trip had anything to do with it or not, but Neal subsequently made the Bay of LA his second home, complete with a cabin, boat, dunebuggy, etc.  Sometime around 1987 I flew a group of fishermen into the Bay of LA for a weekend of fishing.  The once small place was now a small city made possible by a new road into the place.  The old strip was completely enclosed by cabins, motorhomes and the like.  When I flew in, I didn't know that the strip had been officially closed, as it wasn't X's off or anything, but that weekend the Commandante of Airports flew in and told me that I would have to use the "new" strip some 3 miles out of town to take my passengers out.  So technically, I flew that last airplane out of the old strip; definitely the last Twin Beech.  The very next day after I had left, Neal flew in with his Mooney, and while landing allegedly struck a 12 year old kid on a motorcycle (who allegedly had been drinking) and killing him. The "town" now had a bakery, two motels, an electrical system, and so many more improvements that came with the "touristas".  The word that it was a great place had gotten around.  If you compare the last pictures taken in 87' to the first ones taken in 67' you can see the growth.  Jim Bracamonte of Jim's Air had built a luxurious house on the shore (seen in the background of the second picture).  My old flying buddy Jim Minear is seen by the sign of the new strip when I picked up the passengers for the trip home.

               

Rosarito Beach:   One of the most beautiful places to drop into was Rosarito Beach, only a short distance from Tijuana (Tijuana Bull ring shown).  This made it a very nice place for a one day trip for a nice lunch or breakfast.  The strip was right next to the hotel, so park the airplane and walk right into the bar or restaurant.  The original beach was very shallow and at low tide the sand almost extended out to the reef shown in the first pictures.  I spent several nice afternoons just sitting on the beach and sipping from the $1 a bottle of Tequila and Kahlua that could be purchased just across the street.  Unfortunately Mother Nature created a storm that essentially washed away most of the beach, and the strip was abandoned to make room for the touristas. 

                          

    

    So over the years I made many memorable trips both by air and by car to Rosarito Beach; the stories I could tell!  But another easy place to fly to, sometimes with a stop at Rosarito, was

 Ensenada:    The second picture is from a 1987 map.  Note that even in Mexico that small strips were disappearing.  On this trip I was strafing all of the Russian freighters in the harbor when I struck a seagull right in the right side engine air intake.  It knocked off the generator which caused not much of a problem, but had it hit on the other side and knocked off the aircooler, it would have been a much different story.  The funny thing about it was that in flight the seagulls head appeared above the cowling like a hood ornament!

                      

          Flying with me on this trip was my friend Pat Patton and his Comanche 260.  I made many trips to Ensenada just for a good lunch or a snack off of the street vendors.   The following are pictures from trips made with different airplanes such as the Twin Beech and the Cessna 411.   I flew many different light airplanes into Mexico: Cessna 170, 172, 182, 205, 411; Piper Cherokee, Comanche, Apache, Aztec, and even the Tripacer; and the Twin Beech D18.

           

Mulege:  Another one of the more interesting places in Baja is the town of Mulege (mool-a-hay) which is quite tropical in appearance with it's palm trees along the river running to the sea.  The first pictures are from (1) a lunch stop at San Felipe when the airport was a short walk to the closest restaurant.  (2) Small villages on the way down.  The first map picture shows the three airstrips that accommodated visitors to Mulege (Senterfitt 1970 map).  The Municipal strip required taking a taxi to a hotel.  The Hotel Mulege had it's own strip and that is where we stayed on one trip.  The most famous resort was Serenidad.  The resort featured individual cottages with fireplaces; quite romantic.  The 1985 map does not show the Municipal strip, nor the Hotel Mulege strip.  My first stay in Mulege was at the Hotel Mulege where a stirring thing happened in the middle of the night.  The rooms were pretty much like any motel, small, twin beds, etc., but a sound awakened me.  I sat up and saw what appeared to be an Indian standing between the beds.  I challenged him with the usual "what the hell do you want", and he made no sound and slowly turned and walked out of the room.  That is the only time in all of my trips to Baja that I can suggest of anything off-base occurring.

                      

           

                                                                                                                                                 all 3 runways     Serenidad         Hotel Mulege    Mulege Muni    Hotel Mulege

    Pat and I hopped over to Serenidad in the airplane for refueling, and left it there for the night.  We had dinner at the Hotel Serenidad and then took a taxi into town.  To our surprise, the town was completely dark.  We stopped into a small bar only to find that it was eerily lit with candles.

    The next day we flew across the bay to Punta Chivato (goat point).  There were no persons there and only the shell of what had once been a most spectacular Hotel complete with swimming pool.  But every appliance, wash basin and door knob had been removed from the structure.   From there we retraced our path back to Mulege and departed for the Pacific side of Baja.  The last picture is of the prison at Mulege where the prisoners only come back to stay at night.

            

Serenidad gas pit    night at Serenidad      Old hotel Punta Chivato    Mulege prison

    A peculiar thing happened on the trip down with Pat in his Comanche.  Pat was an older guy who consumed 1.75 liter bottles of whiskey per day, and although he liked flying, never progressed much further than getting his Private licence.  On this trip down in the Comanche while at 3,000 feet altitude, the engine suddenly shuttered and almost stopped.  "Not now" I said! and then after a few more sputters, we were back to normal; no explanation for that glitch.  The rest of the trip was made with no further suggestion of a problem.  My guess was that some water had gotten into the gasoline.  At some time later on when Pat had been flying the Comanche solo, he had been getting some of the same shuddering.  He had planned at trip to Las Vegas and had a couple of friendly passengers to go with him, but he put the airplane in Harvey Kellersburger's shop to find the problem.  I heard that the girls were made complacent with several bottles of cold duck while Harvey did his work.  Harvey couldn't find any problem at all and Pat finally departed late in the afternoon.  Shortly after breaking ground the engine quit and a safe but otherwise disastrous landing was made totaling the airplane.  It was found that the noise baffles in the muffler had came loose and blocked the exhaust outlet.  A piece of that baffle was probably what we felt on the way down to Mulege.  Since that time I have taken the precaution to open up the muffler on every Piper I have owned and have the baffles removed.  Coincidentally, Robinson does this exact same thing on their helicopters.

Punta Chivato:   That previous trip with Pat was made in 1970, but I made many more stops at Mulege throughout the years, both coming and going.  I always stayed at Serenidad as it was the most splendid resort in Baja to my liking.  Casually, on one flight, I made a landing at Punta Chivato, as it appeared that a lot of activity was going on.  No longer just a deserted hotel.  The hotel looked to me as if it had been remodeled at some time after my first visit, and then put into failure again.  But now there was a large hacienda for guests, an improved dirt runway, and many new elegant houses being built along the waters edge.  The first picture is a map of 1985 which does not show any of other the airstrips at Mulege other than Serenidad.

           

1985 map          Punta Chivato deserted hotel      final approach   the great room

    Jim Minear and I were privileged to obtain a room right in the hacienda, and just a few steps from the "Great Room".  From the porch I hit golf balls out into the sea.  Not a problem as we could swim out and retrieve them.  Lunch of cammarones on the patio with a cold Cerveza; how can you beat that?  Especially after having huevos rancheros for breakfast 4 hours earlier.   In between breakfast and lunch was a time to do some sight seeing.  Punta Chivato is (maybe I should use the word "was"?) one of the most pristine places in Baja, at least when I was there.  The ocean was as clear as a swimming pool.

           

    It is not my intent to hopefully not bore the reader here with endless pictures, but to me, the beauty I found there was so great that I have included quite a few of the pictures I took on this trip.  

                      

             

    There were quite a few new houses under construction.

             

    But all good things must come to an end, and with a beautiful sunset to go to sleep on, we were off the next morning.  All of our new friends were out and waving to us.  They were the lucky ones, the ones still staying there for another day or so.  But as much as I loved the being there (or anywhere else) I was always ready to hop into the airplane and fly again, for as much as I loved the beauty and tranquility of wherever I was, the excitement of flying the airplane over-trumped all of that.

         

Loreto:  A trip to Baja that I will never forget was one where I did not fly (although I had planned to).  Ed Tabor was running local TV ADs with a special deal to provide air transportation to his Flying Sportsmen Lodge with his DC-3.  I was flying my Stearman's at the time and thought this would be a cool trip, and the price was right.  With my friends Morrie and Jane Cain and my son Steve, I drove to San Diego to meet with the others who had booked the trip.  It was still dark when Ed Tabor stuck his head in the car window and told us "He had good news and bad news".  The bad news was that he had found metal in one of the new engines that had just been installed, and that the airplane wasn't available.  But the good news was that he would give us the option of taking a comfortable trip by executive bus to Loreto; it was our choice.  We elected to go with the bus, and a nice Greyhound took us across the border.  While at the bus station at Tijuana we found that our "executive bus" was a converted school bus provided by Tres Estrellas.  We made a stop at Ensenada where some of us wisely bought a cooler and some food and drinks.  Ed had told us that our "executive bus" would be fully equipped.  The equipment consisted of a small toilet in the rear.  Our next stop was at Guerrero Negro.  Our driver had spared no time as we literally slid around many of the twisting turns on the narrow road.  It was dark when we arrived but the sight of the new El Presidente hotel gave us hope that some relief would be coming.  We were the only patrons at the hotel and I suspect that they were not officially open yet.  Our cocktails were served rapidly and our orders from the menu were taken, and then we waited for the next hour while we heard the sounds from the kitchen of frozen foodstuff being pounded.  Eventually we got some food, but that was after the power generator failed and the place went into total darkness.

    Our bus had been supplied with two drivers and one slept somehow in the baggage storage under the bus while the other drove.  It was a very scary ride, all 700 miles of it, even more so at night as the bus would slide around turns sometimes.  Picture driving from L.A. to San Francisco in a school bus on Highway 1 with essentially one stop, and with poorer road conditions.  That might come close to equating what our trip was like.  Somehow I had dozed off.  The next thing I knew was that the bus was stopped and the driver yelled out "LOW-RAY-TOW" at the top of his voice.  It was 3AM in the morning and we were in the village square.  We stumbled around the bus gathering our bags when eventually someone from the Lodge met us and took us to our rooms there. 

    Our trip was supposed to be a four day event but day by day the airplane was not getting fixed.  I could walk from the Lodge to the airstrip and see that no one was working on it, although Ed assured us all that it would be ready soon.  I was there for 10 days as Ed's guest and at no extra charge for the stay.  Fortunately my schedule was such that I could afford the time away.  Some others couldn't and had to take a taxi to La Paz to catch an airplane home.  Our trip home was again by bus, and it was even more miserable than the trip down.  It was cold outside at night and some of our fellow travelers smoked, making the environment even more disagreeable.

1970 Map:    1985 Map:     In the 1970 map picture the abandoned strip for the Lodge is shown.  I walked to that strip and saw a nice B-25 bomber laying there crippled in the sand.  I took the care to pull the props through thinking that someone would surely be saving these valuable airplanes (there were two).  In 1985 when I flew some fishermen into Loreto I walked to where the strip was and found instead of the airplanes, a new El Presidente Hotel.  I asked one of the locals as to what happened to the airplanes and got the sign language of the use being made with a chainsaw.  I cried!

            Ed was generous with his facilities, and I got a three day trip to the other side of the peninsula where Ed had a fishing camp at Magdalena Bay.  It was outfitted with some comfortable cabanas (last picture above).  A very interesting event happened while I was there.  We were having dinner in the main building when two fishermen rushed in pleading for help.  Their truck was stuck in the sand and the tide was coming in.  There must have been some 20 of us who went to the truck which was now up to the hubcaps in water.  We tugged and did the best as we could, but the tide was coming in faster than we could handle; it eventually almost covered the truck.  The next day the truck was high and dry again!  The tidal change was great enough that the fishing boats had to be anchored quite a ways offshore in order to have enough draft to float at low tide.  The drive over and back was in one of Ed's nice vans, and all in all, I got to see a part of Baja up close that I would have never seen otherwise.

    Back at Loreto there was the remnants of an old concrete pier.  The walkway to the end was partially missing, so one had to carefully avoid the big gaps that opened up directly to the ocean.  I made my way to the end to watch the fishing that was going on.  Close to shore little kids were tossing out shiny hooks and catching some kind of small fish.  They would hand these to larger kids who took them to the end of the pier and fished in a way I had never seen before.  They wrapped monofilament line around a beverage can and swung the baited hook over their head and then tossed the bait out to the ocean.  The line around the can acted like a spinning reel.   From there on it was a hand pulling event as they had no poles (and didn't need them).  Then the most outlandish sight I have ever seen occurred.  A barefoot adult was walking around the outer edge of the pier and staring down at the ocean.  He had a spear in his hand.  I frankly could not guess what he was up to, that is until he tossed the spear just one time.  He pulled in the rope and what I saw impaled on the spear was a 4' Rooster fish.  On later trips to Loreto I don't recall seeing that old pier, nor was the fishing that abundant.

    On November 15th, 1979 I departed Long Beach in a Piper PA-28 bound for La Paz to pace the first (and only) all women's air race that was supposed to replace the Powder Puff Derby.  N779LK belonged to Jack Carroll who had graciously loaned it to me for the event.  The LK stood for Libby Kirk who was the first owner of the airplane when it was on the rental line at El Monte Aviation in the middle 60's.  The first stop was Mexicali where we had dinner with the Governor of Baja Norte. 

    Upon taxiing in at Mexicali, I was directed to a tie-down space by a older gentleman whose face  I thought I recognized.  It stumped me as to where I had seen this fellow before, so I got to talking to the older gentleman who then introduced himself as Bob Douhitt.  His wife Faye was with the San Diego 99's and was helping out with handling of the female race traffic.  Bob offered me a ride back into Mexicali in his motorhome where we had time to discover some history.  He told me that he lived in the El Centro area, and I asked him if he had ever known of a strip in that area that had a power line crossing it mid-field.  I told him I had landed there in 56' and had found a barn which contained several unusual airplanes.  One was a low wing open cockpit with a Ford V8 engine in it.  The other was some antique that was sitting on steel farm wheels.  There was a 3rd airplane also similar to a small Stinson.  Bob laughed and told me that it was his strip.  The biplane was a 1929 Parks he had purchased new, and the other one was a 1936 Aerosport he had bought for his wife on her 18th birthday (ref: Aerosport ).  With WWII coming on, he didn't want those airplanes to be taken over by the government, so he disassembled them and stored them in the barn for the next 25 years.  That explained the 12" of sand on the seats.  In 1978 I had flown my Stearman to Casa Grande to give rides at an EAA-Antique Fly-In, and that is where I had seen Bob Douhitt land his biplane off of the runway in the dirt.  He still was running it in the original configuration with a tail skid.

    It turned out that Bob and Faye had a cabin at Alfonsina's and were going to be there for Thanksgiving.  I was invited to pay a visit.  Back to the air race; the next morning saw the race leave for La Paz with a refuel stop at Bahia de Los Angeles.  It had now been some 12 years since my first visit, but not much had changed; just a few more cabanas along the shore.  Another refuel stop was made at Loreto and now the airport had been expanded.  Total flight time from Mexicali to La Paz was 5.4 hours for me.  Again another scrumptious dinner with the Governor of Baja Sur.  This was truly a grandiose affair with food and drink galore, and with Mariachi music to set the mood.  We were wined and dined royally. 

    My ex-wife was a participant in the race.  We stayed in La Paz for a day then made a low flying trip around the tip to Cabo San Lucas with a stop at Las Palmas,  This is where another one of those hard to explain coincidences occurred.  Before leaving Meadowlark I had decided to stop using the 7' tall banner letters I had inherited when I bought the business.  I told my ground crew to inventory all 7 footers and bundle them up, as I intended to sell them.  My crew asked me where I thought I could sell them, and I replied for them not to worry about it; I would take care of it.  I landed at the old strip in Cabo and found that there was only one other person at the airport, and he was sitting in his Twin Beech D18.  I had recently been flying a D18 and loved them as much as I did my Stearman's.  I was only being courteous in trying to talk to this fellow but he was clearly turning down any chance of conversation, let alone me seeing the inside of his airplane.  I was very put off by his behavior, there was no call for it, and I decided to insult him in my own way.  I pulled out one of my business cards and in the most syrupy way I could manage told him how pleased I was to have met him, and if he was ever up my way, to be sure and stop in.  He looked at my card and said:  "Are you Bob Cannon?  I have been calling you all week.  I want to learn to banner tow!"  I made a deal to sell him the 7' banner stock right there at Cabo.  What are the odds on that?

    We stayed at Cabo for two days and went sport fishing with a gentleman from Pasadena that was staying at the same place we were.  He kept his own boat at Cabo.  Two days later were back to Loreto with a stop at La Paz.  The next day we stopped at Mulege and stayed at the Hotel Serenidad.  Cary Grant was staying in one of the small cabana's next to ours.  The fellow with the white hair and unmistakable accent denied that he was Cary Grant.  Fooled me!  The next day we returned to Loreto showing only 1/2 hour logged.  The previous day it had taken 1.1 hours from Loreto to Mulege.  The following day we made it north to Alfonsina's (with a stop at Bahia de Los Angeles) and spent the night with the Douhitt's at their cabin.  They had flown down in their Navion.  The strip at Alfonsina's doubles as the main road and goes slightly under water at high tide.  The cabins are on a spit of ground that is only slightly higher than the runway, so the trick is to taxi up the driveway and off of the runway.  The next day we returned to Long Beach.  It was a fun filled ten day excursion with 20 hours of flying logged.

    With all of the roving around Baja I did, from one end to the other, from one side to the other, I finally got sort of lazy and made San Felipe my second home.  San Felipe was reasonably close to my home airport of Meadowlark, but yet it wasn't the large busy city like Tijuana, Mexicali, and Ensenada.  It was just the right distance; not too far away, but far enough to make it feel like a trip. It is the first city to be near the start of the Sea of Cortez and has just enough refinements to make the stay comfortable, and yet still be "Baja".  I would have to guess I made around 50 trips there.  It is a small enough town that I got to know many people.  This 1970 map shows the original airport as it was, right on the edge of town; within walking distance.  Also it shows the old Mexicali airport as it was, right in town.  I have marked the approximate sites of the new airports.  New Mexicali is 15 miles out of town, and new San Felipe is 7 miles out of town.  This was a new program set up by the Mexican Government to relocate strips in Baja.  In some cases like Punta Chivato, it made no sense at all to have an airport so far from anything to be useful, but it made work for the local taxis.  In the first picture, the map shows that San Felipe is at the end of the paved road into Baja.

San Felipe:         The first map is a 1970 map, and the 2nd map picture is from a 1985 map. Getting into town from the new airport was always a hassle as, although it was a very nice large strip big enough for small jets, and with a terminal building, it provided no services such as fueling or a telephone.  It was necessary to buzz the town, go to the airport and wait, sometimes having to repeat the process.  I tried bringing a CB radio, but that didn't work because everyone in town heard me and tried to reply.  Once while in a banner tow Tripacer I circled the town honking the compressed air horn I had installed, and puffing smoke from the smoke system.  I knew that would get the attention of some Cabbie. I landed at the airport and waited, but was surprised to see that what came was a fire truck.  The firemen were so miffed that they wouldn't offer us a ride into town.  Revving the engines on one of the twins usually did get some attention.

    I always stayed at the El Cortez motel where a nice room on the beach was only $20.  They had a large bar right on the beach with a swimming pool.  One could sit in the bar, sit by the pool, or walk a few steps to the beach and enjoy a Cerveza.  The mornings were pretty; the afternoons were great, and the sunsets spectacular. Right across the street was Georges restaurant where without exception I always had breakfast.  A little further down the road was the El Nido restaurant where the best steaks anywhere could be had.  Flame broiled over an open mesquite fire right in the dining area.  The restaurant was closed on Wednesdays, so I always had to time my trips accordingly.  Further into downtown were several other restaurants I frequented.  La Perla was one of my favorites.  I actually built a banner advertising the restaurant, and had a picture taken of it where it hangs on the wall in San Felipe.  Jesus was the owner and chef, and dinners were made to order directly by him.

                 

    One of the interesting features at San Felipe is the incredibly large tide changes.  Being at the upper end of the Sea of Cortez, or Golfo de California, the tidal change is accentuated to where daily changes can be as much as 12 feet.  There is a natural small inlet in town that allows boats to come in, and then with the outgoing tide, be completely on solid land to where work can be done.  Also where the surf may come up practically to the door of the bar at El Cortez, in a few hours it  may be possible to walk 1/4 mile offshore.

                    

             The small harbor at the end of town provided no end of interest in that it was a graveyard of old boats, most of them ex-shrimpers.  Every year I would watch the abandoned hulks gradually disappear in the sand.  Each seemed to have something to say to me.  I was fascinated by these artifacts for some reason and took hundreds of pictures of them.  This first one is just a small cutter that moved around the harbor with the tide until it eventually died.

              It appears that besides the normal deterioration, that the boats are being salvaged for whatever remains.  Note the disappearance of masts, rigging, etc.

                

    A few of the boats seemed to be having a resurrection, such as the Tampico, but I never saw it finished.  The same could be said about the concrete building shown in the first set of pictures, and likewise in the set of pictures following.  Someone had gotten a good start on three giant steel boats but the job was put on hold for some reason.  Seeing half completed structures was completely normal in Baja.

                      

        

    Visiting the little harbor on every trip was a must.  Some of the oldest boats seemed to stay in the same place, while some of the others drifted with the tide to different positions.  There didn't seem to be anyone in charge of anything relative to the harbor.  If you have an old boat you want to dispose of, you bring it the boat graveyard in San Felipe.

                      

      

   The layout of the little harbor was peculiar in that at the entrance there was a small hill poking out.  It was a steep climb to the top where a small Chapel had been built.  The Chapel shows in the background of the last pictures above.  Standing at the top of the hill gave one a nice panoramic view of the town and beach.

           

    In the first picture here the boat Tampico does not have the cabin completed, and the boat Matt in the foreground is a recent arrival.  The next picture shows the cabin of Tampico nearly completed, while Matt has drifted closer to Tampico, and appears fully buried in the sand.  One boom has broken off and some rigging over the cabin has been removed.  The salvaging of parts has begun.   In the middle 50's I had bought what was then an open water rated boat, only 18' in length but with a proportional beam.  I sold the boat to two Mexicans who told me they ran a fishing business at San Felipe and were going to use the boat for charter fishing.  I was hoping to find some evidence of my "Ena S" at San Felipe, but never did.

         

    I hope you found this site interesting.  I surely do miss being able to make the trip to Baja conveniently as I did pre-1990 when I moved to Oregon.  And I miss the tacos and the sunny skies.  Please visit my other sites linked here:

Meadowlark Airport (L16)

 The Night the Engine almost Quit

The Sky Ad Story

 Airplanes I have owned

Oregon Beaches  

The Flying M Ranch

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Target Coupon Code

(published12/22/03)

(revised 4/27/04 add Slick 50)

(revised 9/30/05: new counter)

(revised 1/20/06: new host)

                  

   

 


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