Another Fine Fall in the Sea of Cortez

September-December 2008

Whale shark approaches our boat in Bahia L.A.

This whale shark approached our boat in Bahía de Los Angeles, about 400 miles north of Cabo San Lucas. This guy is only about 20 feet long, but they can grow to up to 40 feet. Whale sharks are the largest living fish species, but since they are filter feeders like whales, they pose no threat to swimmers. But you have to watch out, or you might get smacked by the large tail fin!

At Bahía L.A., we continued having a good time with Shannon and Tony on Sweetie. At Isla Ventana we "scurfed" on a surfboard towed by their dinghy. Shannon and I took their pedal kayaks to Islas Cerraja and Llave and snorkeled there, and later they tried diving with our hookah. We feasted on Shannon's prize-winning and artistic sushi, and made ceviche and egg rolls.

In Puerto Don Juan, Paul had a grumpy birthday. We were stuck there at the same time last year for the same reason: seeking protection from the first "norther" of the season. Winds screaming out of the north for days on end are a part of winter in the Sea of Cortez. I got bored and experimented with making a poppyseed cake in the pressure cooker; it turned out like a rubber turd glazed with vomit. It's also very heavy, so we're keeping it around as a spare anchor. Paul's birthday Kahlua-glazed brownies turned out much better. Musicians Bobbie Jo and Roger and their son Robin on Hipnautical kept all the cruising boats in the anchorage entertained by performing original songs on the VHF radio.

One of the highlights of the last few months was listening to Bobbie Jo play her harp and sing aboard their boat, and hearing her weave magic with her Mayan flute under a full moon on a warm night in October.

On election night at anchor in Ramada Cove, Sally on Hopalong broke off the top of a bottle of champagne using a special "champagne saber". Everyone present was a Democrat, so Obama was cheered into his new status of prez-elect.

During a snorkel session at Punta Pulpito right next to the boat, I swam on the surface following a manta ray fifteen feet below until it glided away from me, gracefully pivoting its “wings” to descend into the murky depths beyond the reef.

In the local history section of a museum in Loreto, a plaque stated briefly, “It took some years for the ‘neophytes’ to become calm.” A more realistic description might read: “It took decades of beatings, torture, overwork, destruction of religion and culture, and death by disease before the surviving natives descended into abject hopelessness deep enough to overcome all resistance.” Funny how this story is repeated throughout the world, from the Caribbean to French Polynesia to the U.S.

My Spanish still sucks, but I usually only catch my errors after they've escaped my mouth. In Loreto, I asked, “What price has that can of chocolate?” "Box" always comes to mind for "can", and vice versa. “When starts the hour of contentment?” brought a smile and the response that happy hour in that bar wasn't all that happy.

While sailing from Loreto to Islas Coronados, a pelican took such a liking to us that it followed us for two hours, splashing down in the water to watch us go by, watching us from astern until we were almost out of sight, and then flying back to land in the water near us and repeat the entire maneuver. After doing this dozens of times, it got brave and landed on our solar panels and started pecking at our GPS receiver. We shooed him off before he could open his sphincter on our boat.

At Isla Coronados, I launched the kayak in 20 knots of wind and, imagining myself the intrepid cruiser explorer Meriwether Moore, paddled furiously for the beach a half-mile away. Ignoring the hundreds of sneaker footprints in the sand, I searched for broken twigs and scat to indicate the faint animal trail ahead. A red plastic bag was an exotic and unidentifiable land animal, which I named, “Animus Plasticus”. The decrepit beach palapa indicated the presence of primitive and possibly dangerous hominids. I hid in the cacti from the sounds of other hikers, in case the lyrics of the Mexican ballad they were singing were “Kill the hiker and broil her for an empanada snack.” I returned fatigued from my battles with low-hung spider webs and calf-tearing thorns to find that seagulls had shit all over my kayak. Did Lewis and Clark have to deal with this?

Despite U.S. government bailouts of various industries, skyrocketing unemployment, and the threat of deflation, our tight budget hasn't gotten any tighter, thanks to our rock-steady CD's. We missed out on the ups of the market, and now we're very fortunate to miss out on the downs.

We had a great Christmas eve dinner aboard Meerkat. We provided mulled wine and green bean salad. They provided their boat and oven for the rest of us to trash. Alex and Sue on Maitairoa provided Triple Sec-injected turkey and ham. Bill and Jamie on Amiga provided a scrumptious dessert. Fun was had by all, even the turkey (must have been the Triple Sec). We were still hungry the next day, so Paul cooked a delicious duck dinner. I think I'll be full until next Christmas...

We're in a slip in Marina de la Paz until mid-January. Located 720 miles south of San Diego on the Baja Peninsula, La Paz (Spanish for "The Peace") is the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. Including surrounding areas, the population is about 200,000. Average wages here are about $30 USD per day, which, incredibly, makes the standard of living here one of the highest in Mexico. (Average wages in the country as a whole are closer to $4.00 USD per day.) Tourism is the major source of income in La Paz, both eco-tourism and sports fishing. Islands Espiritu Santos and Partida are a few hours’ sail away. Many ex-pats have settled here, both with and without boats.

We'll be leaving La Paz in mid-January, bound for Zijuatenejo, and then the Galapagos Islands and French Polynesia. At least, that's the plan...but as always, it's written in sand at the high-tide line.

Erin and Shannon from Sweetie diving with the hookah (photograph taken by famous free-diver Paul Moore)

Hanging loose at Isla Ventana

Tony on Sweetie takes Erin on a surfboard-skiing session

Paul chases away uninvited pelican guest

Spotted Parrotfish

Dolphins off the port bow

Fin whale off the starboard bow

Damselfish adult and juveniles

King Angelfish and Porcupine Fish

Heron prowling the dock in La Paz

Crown of Thorns Starfish

Erin "rock-sitting" at Candelero Anchorage on Espiritu Santos

Trail at Isla San Francisco

"The Hook" anchorage at Isla San Francisco

Lurking lizard

Desert bloom

Anchored at Espiritu Santos

Sue of Maitairoa serving up the mulled wine

Heather of Meerkat having fun with oven mitts

Jim of Meerkat and Alex of Maitairoa playing caveman with their turkey legs

Paul grunting over his leg of duck (because turkey wasn't enough)
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