We had anchored in Puerto Gato, a beautiful shallow bay that lies on the eastern shore of the Baja peninsula, about midway between the fishing villages of San Evaristo and Agua Verde. Northerly winds had been whipping up the Gulf for the past few days, and the resulting wind swell was wrapping around the point and rocking Westward as she lay at her anchor.
I had pulled as close into the small south facing cove as possible hoping to avoid most of the rolling, but we still needed to set our passive stabilizers to finish dampening the effects of the waves. The bottom was clearly visible about ten feet below our keel, but we were secure and were glad to be out of the larger waves that were visible just beyond the sheltering point.
Puerto Gato is a beautiful anchorage with its red sandstone bluff’s which are so rounded they look as though they have been extruded from a soft serve ice cream machine. The red cliffs flow into a turquoise sea, with a sugar-white beach as a dividing line. The desert rises gently from the shore before soaring skyward at the steep cliffs of the Sierra Gigante mountains, whose summits were our western horizon.
Toward sunset our gaze was drawn to dark gray cumulous clouds that were beginning to build just over the ridges to the west. They pushed against the serrated mountains, gaining a toe hold in the low passes and advanced toward us as the sun set. We went to bed at our usual time, and by nine O’clock Westward was quiet and at rest, rocking gently in the diminishing north swell.
I woke at two the next morning, at first not sure why, and then was startled by a flash of lightening that spanned the entire western ridge. Flash, pause, BOOM! The lightening was still about 10 miles away, but obviously the cell was moving toward us. I lay in my pilothouse bunk and considered the state of our lightening protection, and decided that although we had taken steps to shield ourselves from the effects of a strike, I hoped we didn’t need to put our lightening rod and ground wires to the test.
Then the squall was on us, a wall of wind and rain blocked out the nearby shore and almost instantly redirected the north swell to a west, a direction we were perfectly positioned to endure. The rain lasted only a few minutes, but I was still soaked to the skin after making the rounds of Westward, closing hatches and doors, and securing loose items on deck.
With the dawn the colors were even more vivid than they had been the night before. The rain had soaked into the sandstone making its red hues darker than I had ever seen them. Already the desert plants behind the beach were showing the effects of their watering, their greens dark and rich. It was a stunning and beautiful morning, but we needed to take advantage of the calm weather and move south toward Isla San Jose.
So we weighed the anchor and slowly worked our way through the outlying reefs and rock piles that hedge Puerto Gato and out into the deep blue water of the Gulf.
Just one night among hundreds aboard Westward, but one I’ll remember for many years.