I, and 100 other cruising boats, attended LoretoFest 2004 which was held in Puerto Escondido May 7 thru 9.  This is the first Loretofest I attended and I was impressed.  The Hidden Port Yacht Club put on a very professional event with all kinds of interesting activities and entertainment.

Puerto Escondido (Secluded Port or Hidden Port) is a land locked anchorage, about 3/4 mile long by 1/2 mile wide and is located about 18 miles SE of Loreto and 120 miles NW of La Paz.  Many years ago canals were dredged, sea walls installed, roads graded, curbs and lights put in place, and several buildings erected.  After a few years everything was abandoned and no new development occurred.  The harbor is the best hurricane anchorage in the central and south Sea of Cortez.  There are six islands within 40 miles of Escondido and there are dozens of wonderful anchorages on the islands and the Baja Peninsula. 

Some of the best sport fishing in Mexico can be found in the waters around Escondido.

Loreto is on Mexican Highway 1, just 500 miles from Southern California. Puerto Escondido is only 1.5 miles off the Highway.  Loreto has an international airport with jet service from the US.  So why hasn't the development continued?  No one knows!!

Check out some more pictures of Puerto Escondido at Aug_30_2003.htm - go to the bottom half of the update.

Hidden Port YC has it's headquarters in beautiful Puerto Escondido where the facilities are old and weather beaten.

This is the HPYC "club house" and patio.  The club house is the remains of the Moorings office which was abandoned several years ago when the Moorings Charter business moved their operations to La Paz.  The building and surrounding gardens were badly damaged by Hurricane Marty last fall.

Every night during LoretoFest this was the site for "Spinnaker Theater" which was a series of  double feature sailing movies projected onto the remains of a white spinnaker tacked to the wood  wall you can see behind the blue tent.

Some of the cruiser musicians also conducted clinics and seminars here each afternoon and then offered jam sessions in the evening.

During one of the jam sessions, shortly after dark, during a great trumpet solo by Fred playing "C Jam Blues"; a cow answered one of Tom's trumpet calls.  All 75 audience members spun their heads around to find that about 10 cattle were standing 15 feet behind the audience attentively watching and listening.   The whole area, including the HPYC clubhouse is open range for cattle.  More about that later when I describe volleyball in the "1st Annual Dusty Cowpie" tournament.

Each morning there were seminars, board games, card games, and horseshoes.  The afternoons were spent on over-the-line baseball, volleyball, and more horseshoes.  Every evening there was a happy hour followed by either a pot luck or dinner cooked by the club.  About 7 each evening the music started on one of two stages. 

I was astounded by the number of cruisers who are musicians and the quality of the jazz, blues, country, gospel, rock&roll, and show tune music they play.  I saw people on stage in front of hundreds of people performing  as well or better than in many clubs I have visited.  Liz from Isla Encanto, with whom I've shared many anchorages and played a lot of cribbage, appeared on stage several times and knocked the audience dead with her wonderful vocal jazz.  I had no idea she was a singer, let alone a great singer. 

Craig, a single hander, is a fantastic guitar player who performs mostly his own music.  He writes hilarious songs about cruising, life in Mexico, and the wonders of single handing.  He also includes some great comedy patter in between songs.  He does an amazing  variation of "Its hard to be humble" which includes many funny references to why single handers can't keep crew.

I suppose the audience was in a great mood all the time because of the near perfect weather and the 89 cent beer.  There was a permanent bar open from noon till 10 PM in front of the building you can see in this picture.

A hot dog grill, burrito, and tamale stands were also open all day. 

One of the stages was set up on the patio to the left (in the picture) of the doorway.  Rick from SV Tortuga, who is a good guitar player, provided a lot of nice electronics and speakers.

The weather really cooperated.  It was in the low 90s each day with a cooling sea breeze every afternoon.  The night time temperatures were in the low 70s range.  We never experienced the strong  and hot west winds that blow down out of the mountains that are only two miles west of Puerto Escondido.

The building above contains The Driftwood Internet Coffee House, El Fuerte fishing charters, and the supply business run by Jesus.  He makes the 36 mile round trip to Loreto at least once a day to get diesel, gasoline, food, and other cruiser requested items.  The tents you see were there for the games and dinners.  You do not want to be setting in the Baja sun this time of the year.

I was responsible for organizing the double elimination cribbage tournament, the over-the-line baseball, and the volleyball.

We had eight two person teams start the tournament.  I am sorry to say my team was eliminated in the 2nd round after winning only one of five games. 

We played volleyball and baseball in the semi-soft dirt fields just across the street from the marina.

Here is a picture of the "field" before we scratched out  the courts and lines for baseball.  The top inch of dirt gets soft after use but the underlying dirt is so hard we couldn't drive in the large plastic tent pegs  that we use for the lines to support the volleyball poles.

Each day, before playing, we had to clear the new cowpies that the range cattle left during the night.  A special rule was developed - if you hit the ball and it lands in a fresh cow pie - YOU clean it before the ball is returned to play.

We eventually had about 20 people playing volleyball and the same number playing over-the-line baseball.

We encountered several problems with the volleyball court that most players in other parts of the world don't have to contend with.  The first was that hard hit balls could end up in the bushes.  Two problems - first the bush has stickers and it is hard to get the ball out, and 2nd the stickers can puncture a ball.  We had two good leather balls develop air leaks after a visit to one of the bushes.

The 2nd problem was that a mis-hit ball that got past the back of the court could be carried by the wind across the road, over the seawall, and into the water.  No big deal, except the sea wall is eight feet high and the closest ladder was 200 yards away.

The HPYC puts on Loretofest so cruisers can get together before many leave for the summer.  But, they also try to make money off the sale of beer and food so they can help local charities in the Loreto area.  This year they were able to give $2,500 to a program that provides tuition for high school kids from the rural areas who have to stay in Loreto during the week if they want to attend school.  Many of the rancheros, fishing camps, and small communities are two or three hours, over very rough dirt roads, from the closest school - and there is no such thing as public school transportation.  If the kids can't find a place to stay in town during the school week they can't attend school.

The yacht club also donated over $4,000 to other charities as a result of the 2004 Loretofest.

One of the big concerns as cruisers gathered for the fiesta was the status of the 60 new mooring balls in Puerto Escondido.  On the one hand they were greatly appreciated since most of the anchorage is over 42' deep.  However, no one knew if Singlar, a new government agency, was going to start charging for usage of the moorings.  The rumor was that a $20/night charge was possible, another rumor was no charges until December.

As it turned out - all 60 moorings were used and on one was charged.

There was a bit of excitement the first couple of days the moorings were used.  The rings that come out of the top of the mooring ball were brand new and well made.  At least two boats found themselves unexpectedly adrift after being tied to the ball for several days.  It turned out that the galvinizing on the rings had settled to the inside of the ring when they were taken out of the tanks.  When that extra galvanizing material hardened it formed a sharp edge all the way around the inside of the ring.  The edge would slowly saw thru the mooring line.  I guess brand new is not always best.

Loretofest ended at about 11 PM Sunday night and by Tuesday noon 75 of the 100 boats that came to the party were gone.

This is the ninth festival that HPYC has put on.  The largest turnout was several years ago when 120 boats attended.