Los Frailes is famous among sailors of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez for the shelter it offers from both the wind and the world. Close enough to the tip of Baja, it provides shelter from the northerly winds when you are running up the coast towards La Paz. It is also close enough to allow you to pass up the garish nights of Cabo San Lucas. Instead, you can shelter in a quiet part of Mexico that is only being discovered by the people with enough money to ruin it.
For cruisers heading down the coast of Baja, it also serves as a jumping off place for the passage across the Sea of Cortez to either Mazatlan (closest) or La Cruz. From either of those destinations, you can start to explore the West Coast of Mexico, the Mexican Riviera or further south to where the cruise ships don’t stop, or where the roads don’t go.
We are headed to La Cruz and Banderas Bay. Should take us between 36 and 48 hours depending on the winds.
But for now and the last two days. we have been anchored in the small bay at Los Frailes. Oddly, there have been no other sailboats here. This surprised us.
We began talking to La Cruz sailors on the Picante Net this morning. Letting them know we are starting out and seeking out our old friend Senta II.
This part will be a small photo essay about Frailes and, to some extent, Mexico from the deck of a cruising sailboat. It is not sociology but more of a personal photo commentary about what I see. I believe, and you need to know this–as you read this blog– that you and I, the cruising sailors, bring a lot of our own personal experiences and mindsets to Mexico and that, to some extent, much of what we see is projection.
With that said, I find Frailes a stunning commentary on the Mexico that is and the Mexico that is soon to be. The following set pf pictures–taken from the deck of Spiritus–shows a vague image of what is.
The beach is a kind of Microcosm. I will work from right to left in the pics, looking at each closely. First, and to the south, we see large expensive homes. Here in the middle of nowhere with dirt- road access and the nearest town four miles away, it is wonder of the modern world that someone can own such homes in the most primitive and undeveloped parts of the world. But, for the dollars or pesos, what a view when you are here.
Left of that–on a small hill– is what is apparently the original land holdings. Less expensive, less white, less developed, and more closely packed are several homes from an era already fading.
Down the hill, just north of them– in an arroyo or bluffed gully– is what I can only describe as RV heaven: trailers, camp trailers, RVs, pick up trucks with trailers, and god knows what else. The people here appear to be mostly American. It is what it looks like. It is not KOA, and apparently has few to no amenities. It is packed to the gills full of campers.
Sustenance fishing and poverty at its most obvious.
Next to them clockwise, to the north are motor campsites for campers on the beach. These are actual sites.
And finally–all the way to the north clockwise– are the tents of young students from foreign countries and Mexico’s universities who come here to work with environmental scientists or outdoor specialists in Mexico’s growing Eco Tourism.
This word Eco Tourism is strange to me. It seems an oxymoron at first until you look closer. Then you see its meaning more clearly. By observation, it offers whale and reef tours in ecologically fragile areas. Protected so that we can go there and play. Or so we can go there and study. It offers real jobs to the educated young people of Mexico who have taken it up as a vocation and for the foreign students who use it as a resume-building vacation. And, school credit is available.
I am torn as to the end result of popularizing destinations for such studies. How do we change the environment as we play in and protect or study it?
Finally, sitting out in the bay, are the cruisers, in this case, us and a whale-study boat. It is the 3-5 days in the class where they get hands on observational experience to go along with the classroom studies of whales in the Sea of Cortez. This group is based out of La Paz.
And us, why are we here? We are on the way somewhere else. We are trying to see Mexico as we go. We try to have a minimum impact on anyone and any place we are. We make water, have our own resources, leave no real trace when we pass. How does that help in a place where jobs, wages, and the need for work are at a premium? Are cruisers a force for good or something more selfish?
Don’t know the answer to that yet.
Like the Eco Tourists or researchers, we provide– in writings and experiences– a kind of awareness of remote places we pass thru. But, mostly we just ‘pass thru’. Is that enough?
Frailes will be no different when we leave it. It will be no worse. But, it also will be no better. To a certain extent, that is an accomplishment in today’s world. But, it feels kind of hollow.
I would hate to take a look at the whole of my life and simply have to say, “Well, I didn’t do any harm, but then, I didn’t really do any good either. The world is neither a better place or a worse place because I have been in it.”