We sampled the cevicheras in tiny fishing villages, mining ports, and the occasional stinky fishmeal-processing town. Most ports are just north-facing bights that offer fair protection from the prevailing southerly wind and swell and also, usually, a good surf break. Our first stop was at Baha Tortugas, a keyhole bay far from any smell except that of the salt air. As the only cruisers, we shared the bay with a few vacation houses, small hotels, and cevicheras, where as always we ate like kings. At night we cranked up the diesel heater and Jimena took to knitting in front of the hearth.
On an essentially uncruised coast, everything is there for the discovering. We sailed 20 miles north from Baha Tortugas and found an uncharted notch in the sea cliffs. We gingerly poked our way in and found a perfect natural cove, deep and steep-sided, that we christened Caleta (cove) Jimena. We were startled to see a black-robed shaman on the beach, waving his arms and obviously cursing us. Closer examination revealed it was a scarecrow, with fabric arms flapping in the breeze. The next day Jimena, with knitting in hand, declared mid-passage: “I think I finally understand this cruising business. Don’t laugh, but cruising is like knitting.
There are two kinds of knitters, process knitters and product knitters. Product knitters are interested only in the final product, where process knitters are more interested in the act of knitting. Cruising is like being a process knitter.”
North of Chimbote we had to find what protection we could behind headlands. One of these was home to the legendary Chicama, a world-class surfing beach said to have the longest left-breaking wave in the world. I donned my wetsuit, grabbed my board, and paddled in. The wave is so long nobody ever paddles back out. After surfing one wave for a minute or so, you get out, walk half a mile up the beach, paddle back out, and start over…and then climb up the berm for a plate of ceviche.
We finally made our way around Punta Parias and Cabo Blanco, the westernmost points in South America, and everything—I do mean everything—changed. In less than an hour we went from wool hats and sea boots to bathing suits. My diesel heater was officially retired for the season. This is where the Humboldt Current spins out to sea and the warm equatorial current takes its place. The water temperature rose 20 degrees in as many minutes, and we were suddenly in a balmy paradise.
We spent the next month bouncing between Organos, Punta Sal, and Mancora, some of the hippest beaches in South America, at the height of the summer season. Travelers from all over the world appeared with surfboards and backpacks. Benedicte and Edulia, two French girls, moved into Condesa’s aft cabin and Jimena’s friends started arriving on Christmas holiday from Lima.
As the only cruiser around, I was always the center of attention whenever I went ashore and four bikini-clad women in their early twenties sprang out of my dinghy. I called them the Bond Girls, after the beautiful, but deadly women in James Bond movies. Jimena was with me, the other Peruvian girls had boyfriends, and the two French girls were a gay couple, so in fact there wasn’t much hope for the guys on the beach.