Setting: It is Thanksgiving day, the water is so clear we could see our chain all the way down to the anchor in 22 feet of water. There are eight boats anchored in this large bay, which leaves more than ample room for many more. It feels remote. This is where the desert meets the sea. Together, the pure white sand dunes and cactus- strewn hills create a dichotomy, or subdivision of the local terrestrial sphere. There is a beautiful resort, but it is completely empty. The secluded resort’s restaurant is 500 feet up a ravine from the sea. There is a widower, a kiss and it all takes place in Ensenada de Los Muertos (The Cove of the Dead).
Bill and I lower the dinghy to go explore this barren piece of beach. On the left of the bay is a thatched roof resort surrounded by a coral reef with turquoise water. On the right of this wide mouthed bay is a solo palapa-style cantina, and a boat launch where the local fishermen load an unload their pangas (small fishing boats). Today we choose to go left. We hear about the resort bar that puts on an amazing, traditional, American Thanksgiving dinner which seems hard to believe because of the remote feeling here. We go over to check it out.
As we approach the beach we notice there are big rocks under the water. The water is so clear it is difficult to determine the depth, so it feels like we are going to hit them with our propeller. We avoid them this time. A must known fact in the cruising world is that landing your dinghy on shore can be dangerous. First of all, there are the rollers to contend with. If a wave crashing onto the beach happens to hit you from the side this can flip your dinghy on top of you. Also, its a good idea to keep the emergency shut off cord to your motor on your wrist, again, in case of a flip your propeller will stop spinning. We successfully land the dinghy, and pull it high up the beach so it does not get plucked out to sea by the rising tide.
There is no one on the beach. We see signs of civilization though. There are a few snorkeling fins and masks, a couple lawn chairs, and a couple kayaks with paddles. There is a beautiful house to the right, and the resort is to our left. We walk up a large set of beach steps into the swimming pool area of the resort and there is not a soul around. It feels exclusive, like whoever comes here doesn’t want anyone to know where they are. We don’t even see any staff. There was music on in the distance, but other than that it was eerily silent. We keep winding our way towards the music, still not seeing a soul. The music leads us to what we think is the entrance to the resort, but realize it is an entrance to one of the suites. This suite looks like a house you would see on the ocean in Malibu California. There are statues, waterfalls, an infinity pool, large floor to ceiling windows and it seems that it is all for just one unit. We follow a path lined with pink cactus flowers into the desert that finally looks like it will lead us to the bar. It does, and up ahead we finally find the place where our Thanksgiving dinner will take place.
This ends up being our home away from home for almost a week. The managers, Christian and Freddy, are so warm and welcoming. They greet you every day by saying, “Welcome home.” The servers try their best at their English, as do we with our Spanish.
Looking out from the bar, your eyes follow the palm tree lined ravine out to the sea. I could see our lone dinghy. There is a quaint dipping pool with seats under the water to cool off with your cocktail in hand when the sun gets too hot. A water slide wraps around it to a lower pool for more lounging and dipping. They want you to stay for however long your heart desires, and make it so comfortable that on average we loll there for at least a half a day each visit. It is a large Mexican style clay building with a collection of toy trains on the upper level and a track that goes around the ceiling. This whole setting is lovely, unique and a bit unimaginable. We tell Christian and Freddy that we are coming for Thanksgiving dinner, and with excitement and enthusiasm they invite us to come at 2:00pm and dinner will be served at 6:00pm.
The eight boats in the bay all decide to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner together. We communicate by VHF hailing one another to develop a plan. The boats in the bay are Jersey Girl, Agatha, Cat’s Paw, Monsoon, Cravn Wind, Redeemed, Boomerrang and of course Epiphany. We all met on Jersey Girl which is a 70’ sailboat that has figured out a way to do boat charters in Mexico. This enables them to make enough money to carry on the lifestyle of cruising that they have grown accustomed to. We get a tour of the boat, have pumpkin pie that Victoria on Agatha creatively made using rice Krispies and pancake mix for the crust. We have a sweet conversation, then work our way towards the beach.
Most of us arrive at the restaurant around 2:30pm and begin the festivities with a Pina Colada. All 20 of us sit around a big table right next to the dipping pool. The restaurant is full of locals on this day, but most of them finish their lunch and start trickling out as the afternoon carries on. After the Pina Coladas, we order a margarita. I think to myself, “Now I know why Christian and Freddy wanted us here so early.” It was only 3:30 and we still had 2 and 1/2 more hours of cocktails until dinner. We all start feeling our first drinks, we move around, switch chairs, and get up to play shuffle board and pool.
Bill and I play a game of shuffle board together. I sense the weight of someone staring at us. It is a man of the tall, dark nature sitting at a table with 3 children that constantly come and go. He intensifies his stare on me as I push the shuffleboard weight across the table, I feel obligated to say something. I say, “You have a lovely family.” He thanks me and proceeds to say he is a widower, and he is from Las Vegas. In my 30 second interaction with him he also informs me that he owns a resort, and he just received the permits he needs to build a marina. I quickly say,”Hopefully not in this bay.” I think to myself that Ensenada de Los Muertos, the quaintness and vast beauty has been one of my favorite anchorages thus far. I could not imagine a whole marina here. He informs me that his marina will be out around the corner of the bay, and that part of keeping his permit is that he protects the turtle eggs during the building process. The Sea of Cortez and Baja California peninsula are home to five species of sea turtles; Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green Turtle and Olive Ridley – all of which are endangered. Thankfully there are many grassroots organizations that have formed to help protect them. Anxious to get back to our game, I say, “Nice to meet you.” And return to Bill.
My imagination begins to run wild with a few key words on the forefront of my mind, dead wife, Las Vegas, money, the Cove of the Dead (Ensenada de Los Muertos). Maybe I’ve spent a bit too much time on the boat, but all of this to me starts sounding like a murder mystery. I snap back to reality and finish beating Bill at shuffleboard. The lights start to dim. At last, the turkey is ready. We were all so hungry. Besides the little slice of pumpkin pie we shared on Jersey Girl, all that most of us had consumed is the sugar and alcohol in our Pina coladas and margaritas. The whole staff of the restaurant line up behind Christian who is carrying the turkey. They bang pots and pans and celebrate the turkey they are about to serve. The staff parade around the restaurant and just as we thought they were going to put the turkey down for all of us to dish up, they set the Turkey down on the widower’s table. They clap and take pictures, and once they were satisfied with the attention they gave him, they loaded our buffet with turkey and we all got in line.
The turkey was smoked perfectly, and the unique gravies and mashed hominy made for a delicious, unique Thanksgiving meal. Having been my first Thanksgiving away from my children, I thought of them, and how thankful I was that they were all together with their Dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles. It was dark already, and we still had a dinghy ride back to Epiphany so I went to find Christian and Freddy to say thank you and good bye. They were both busy behind the bar. I waved and they came over. I told them they do such an amazing job being so welcoming all the time, and I know it is not always easy from experience. They said, “It is people like you that make their job easy.” I gave them each a hug and started to leave. As I spun around, the widower stood directly in front of me. He grabs me, gives me a hug, and a kisses me smack on the lips before I even knew what was happening. The plot thickens……
My boat bound brain was churning with mystery, plots, settings, dead wife…… Las Vegas, marina, kiss, dead wife….. I quickly found Bill, and we wrapped up the good byes. The widower passed us on his way out. I embarrassingly looked the other way, but in my peripheral vision I saw him stop and look Bill up and down. Bill noticed it as well. I grab Bill’s hand and pulled him out the door. We quickly stumbled back to the dinghy, and had a stimulating ride back to Epiphany in the dark, minds full of intrigue. I told Bill what had happened, he had also met the widower. Together, we stare up into the millions of stars and with our full, cloudy minds conjure up details to our first murder mystery… set in the magical, mysterious Ensenada de Los Muertos.