As we entered the two and a half mile wide mouth of "Mag Bay", Steve and I had never more appreciated the feeling of flat seas. Although the wind was blowing hard off the bow, and we were sailing a close haul at 7 - 7.5 knots, it was as if we were stood on solid ground. No waves, no swell; just smooth ocean, inside the bay where the whales travel thousands of miles from the Arctic to give birth to their young. We were heading for a small fishing village just inside of Mag Bay, called "Man o War Cove", where we knew we'd be anchoring for the evening. Our eyes were peeled for whales, and we were thrilled when we saw a baby whale breech. We dropped anchor, and were looking forward to landing our dinghy on the shore of the little village. It would be the first time we set foot on land since Ensenada.
We went to the port captain's office, but it was too late to check in, so we wandered down the hill toward the market and the only restaurant in the village. Initially it was a shock to see how unkempt and unsanitary the conditions were here. We've often heard it said that at first you can be put off by the "dirt" in Mexico, and we were quite taken aback. The town was strewn with rusted out old vehicles, miscellaneous piles of old garbage, inadequate sewage and the strangest looking barking dogs running about. We were trying to keep an open mind, and realized we'd need to be more accepting of other country's ways and lifestyles, which can sometimes seem a far cry from the good ol U.S.
We quickly found the only restaurant, which was open (later we realized this was a rare occurrence) and serving dinner to about 10 gringos from a research vessel in the bay. When we saw what was being served our tongues hit the floor. Huge overflowing plates of lobsters and giant clams, along with cold Tecate (Mexican beer). At that moment, the rusty cars and the dirt meant nothing; all that mattered was ALMEJAS (Mexican for clams). We decided after four days at sea and nothing but Dinty Moore Beef Stew and saltine crackers, it was time for a treat. We ordered 12 clams each and sat back sat and enjoyed a beer overlooking Sojourner peacefully at anchor a few hundred yards away. When our cheerful waiter/fisherman/restaurant owner brought out the clams, I thought he had misunderstood and given us each 24 clams, but he assured me that they were split in two. With 24 shells on our plates, I looked at the beautiful amber and red color of the clams, wondering how they might be cooked. I squeezed on the lime and, just as I stuck my fork in my very first Mexican Almeja, IT MOVED!. "You mean.......these clams are....RAW"? Well of course they would be; what was I expecting, Clams Casino in Man o War Cove? So, I closed my eyes, Steve laughed, and we ate some of the most incredible tasting clams we ever had! They were a cross between oysters, conch and lobster, and about 3" across.
As usual, the weather turned as a front moved in over California, and the winds picked up to 27 knots. Our oversized 44lb CQR anchor wasn't going anywhere, so it was a fine excuse to hang out longer in Mag Bay and enjoy the serenity. So I called the port captain in my broken Spanish to request an extension. As expected the reply came back "no problema, I get weather report for you". About an hour later a huge panga roared alongside and Gregorio, the "Capitania de Puerto" tied alongside. We invited him aboard and swapped stories in pigeon Spanish with the help of dictionaries, pictures and gestures. I rustled up a few cans of Stagg Chili, and broke out a bottle of wine. He was intrigued with the underwater photography, the boat and our proposed route, and he told us about his house, family and trip to America. After about 3/4 of a bottle later, he staggered onto his panga with a huge smile from ear to ear, opened up the 120 HP motor full throttle and zoomed back to his "officina". We don't think there are any rules about drinking at work!
By far, the most magical part of being in Magdalena Bay is the Whales. One night we spent hours just sitting in the darkness on the bow of the boat listening to the whales blow. There must have been dozens in the bay. You couldn't see them without the moon, but you could tell by the loudness of the blow that they were very close by; especially when we could hear them inhale!
One day Steve went out to do some fishing and came back with one Spanish Mackerel, 10 bass, and one barracuda; all in the space of 2 hours. As quick as he could get his Rapalla lure in the water, he would get a bite and haul in yet another. He returned in the dingy with his beaming fishing smile, and took most of the catch into the village and gave it to a very grateful Mexican family. We marinated the rest and tossed it on the barbecue at sunset as the wind dropped. The aroma of barbecuing fish, the deep orange sky and the sight of whales a few hundred feet from the boat was truly special.