Double Trouble

When we pulled into the marina in Topolobampo, there was a beautiful 68 foot motor yacht in the slip adjacent to us named Kya.  We saw the owners of Kya with their adorable dog Penny on the dock and introduced ourselves.  We found out they were from Australia and their names were… Mike and Katie.  Really.

We only briefly got to meet Kya, so we were pleasantly surprised when we pulled into Mazatlan and Kya was tied up at the end of our dock!  Mike & Katie had rented a car in Mazatlan and invited us to head into town to explore with them.

Mazatlan has some absolutely beautiful beaches and incredible views.

Although there are the usual resorts and tourist traps in Mazatlan, the Old Town area of Mazatlan is really cool.  There is some really unique old architecture and the traditional square with a beautiful iglesia (church) that you find in every Mexican town.  We really enjoyed Old Town and had a fantastic meal in the square.

The two Katies…

After lunch we headed to an amazing indoor market.  There were stalls with everything you could imagine from produce, nuts, jams, to chicken, beef and fish. It was like a hundred mini grocery and butcher shops, each with their own specialties.  We came across the fish market stalls and found smoked marlin!  We had heard from several people over the summer how great smoked marlin was and now we finally found it.  We got a huge chunk to share, and it was delicious.

The awesome market in Mazatlan…

After our fun time in Mazatlan, we headed to Isla Isabel.  But, first we had to get out of Mazatlan harbor!

So, the entrance to Mazatlan harbor is incredibly narrow and takes a sharp turn right inside the entrance.  It is also really shallow, so there is a dredger which is constantly dredging the entrance so that boats can actually get out.

When we exited our slip at the marina, the wind was blowing a good 15-20 knots, so our first challenge was getting out of the slip.  Adagio does not turn well in reverse.  So, in tight conditions with wind blowing, it sometimes is a 10 point turn to finally get the bow to come around as the wind is trying to blow it in the opposite direction. Thankfully, Mike is very competent and capable and always gets us out of those sticky situations, even if it does take a few tries and lots of stares from concerned boaters on the dock.

So, we made it out of the slip and headed for the harbor entrance.  We were told that the dredger stopped at 2pm and it was almost 4pm.  We saw a sailboat coming in right as we were about to get to the sharp turn and were barely able to get to the side to let it by.  Since they got through, we thought there would be no problems with the dredger.  Ugh.  We were wrong.

Right as we got to the sharp turn (where there was absolutely no turning around) we saw the dredger working RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHANNEL.  I was signaling to the guy that we had no choice and had to go through.  He looked unconcerned, unlike me.

We somehow squeeze between the dredger and the rocks with about 1 foot on each side.  At the same time, we were watching the depth sounder drop to about 1.5 feet under the keel.  I think I finally stopped holding my breath when I saw it jump back up over 3 feet.  But, then we looked ahead to the breaking waves just outside the breakwater and had now had about 30 knots of wind on our nose.  Mike pushed the engine hard to get past the breaking waves into the open ocean.  At this point, I was shaking with too much adrenaline.  Somehow we didn’t hit the dredger, the rocks, go aground or get pushed back from the breaking waves.  Whew!  I never want to do that again.

So, we were finally on our way for an overnight sail to Isla Isabel where we were going to meet up with Adios and Kya to explore the island that is known as the “Galapagos of Mexico.”  But, more on that next time…

~katie

Dia de Muertos

After our great trip to Copper Canyon, we were off again to Mazatlan.  Mazatlan is about 220 miles south of Topolobampo, so the passage took us 2 days.  We had light winds, but enough to let us sail most of the way.  It was a relaxing sail and we did quite well getting enough rest when each of us was off watch.  I have to say that discovering new podcasts to listen to has made long 3-4 hour night watches go by a lot quicker!

We arrived in Mazatlan at first light and made our way through the narrow channel to  Marina Mazatlan.  We were most excited to be in Mazatlan to experience Dia de Muertos (the Day of the Dead).  This is actually a multi-day holiday celebrated throughout Mexico.  It originated with the indigenous people in Mexico to celebrate their deceased relatives.  When the Spanish “conquerers” took over Mexico and imposed Catholicism on the native people, the holiday remained and was moved to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day on November 1st and 2nd.

Although Day of the Dead sounds morbid, it is actually a joyful holiday where families  celebrate friends and relatives who have passed on.  Many families gather at cemeteries and hold picnics.  In Mazatlan, on the night of November 1st, there is a parade and everyone gets in on the festivities.

So, we headed to Old Mazatlan to the central plaza where hundreds of people had gathered.  Some were in costume and many had their faces painted.  It was a mix of locals and tourists, but everyone seemed to have a good time.

With our friends on Adios…

The parade was not really what you think of as a parade in the States with lots of floats.  There were some people dressed in fantastic costumes, a few bands that marched through, people with fire hoola hoops, and the beer carts!  Everyone is encouraged to join the parade. So, as the parade moved on, more and more of the crowd just jumped in, everyone dancing and having a great time.  There were several beer carts where guys on the back of the trucks had kegs of beer and cups passing out free beer.  You can imagine the rush of people trying to get to the front of the trucks for the beer!

dia

After watching the parade for a few minutes, of course we decided to jump in!  We followed the parade for a while.  Mike and Richard (from Adios) decided they just had to make their way up to one of the beer trucks to get some beer, which was pretty hilarious to watch. Ultimately they got their free beer and felt pretty accomplished.  Ha!

As we were walking back to the plaza after our parade run, we stopped to take a picture.  On the wall was a plaque with a quote from Herman Melville while he was in Mazatlan…. “As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas and land on barbarous coasts.”  Fitting.

We’ll be leaving Mazatlan soon and headed toward Banderas Bay!

~katie

Copper Canyon

We left La Paz after a week of provisioning and catching up with friends and headed off to Topolobampo across the Sea of Cortez.  Unfortunately, the winds were not with us on our crossing, as we had 20 knots of wind right on the nose with 6-8 foot swells.  The boat handled it just fine, but the bashing into the swell made for a bumpy and uncomfortable ride.

We arrived in Topolobampo the next morning after a mostly sleepless night and pulled into the small marina.  Topolobampo doesn’t have much tourist traffic, as it is mostly a commercial port on the mainland but it did have some charm. After resting up a bit, we headed into town to check out the town and grab a bite to eat.

Our friends on Adios made the trip over as well, so we met them in marina and worked out our plan for the next day.  We arranged to have a taxi pick us up the next morning at 5:00 am to take us into Los Mochis where we boarded the El Chepe train to take us into the mountains to see the famous Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon)!

The train ride took us 8 hours, but the views along the way were spectacular.  The train passes over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels rising 7,900 feet above sea level. 

When we arrived at the train station in Los Mochis, we didn’t realize that the only train running that day was the first class train so we got the nicer train.  It wasn’t too crowded and we were able to hang out in the dining car and have a great breakfast.

The train stopped in Divisadero where there is an awesome overlook to get some great photos of the canyon.  Copper Canyon is actually a group of six canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental in the State of Chihuahua.  The canyon system is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon, but looks nothing like the Grand Canyon.  The top of the canyon system is a pine forest, and the greenery really changes the visual effect.

After Divisadero, we boarded the train again for Creel, which was our final stop.  Creel is a small mountain town that really has the feel of a small ski resort town.  To go from hot, humid Topolobampo on the coast to cool Creel surrounded by pine trees was almost a shock to the system.  The next morning we woke up to frost on the roofs!

We met our guide Jesus at the train station who took us on the first part of our tour that afternoon.  The area around Creel is home to the Tarahumara people, who are the indigenous people of the area.  The have park land equivalent to the Indian reservations in the US and live simple lives farming and selling artisansal crafts to the tourists.

We entered one of the Tarahumara parks and were able to tour the Valley of the Monks, which had completely unique and fascinating rock formations.  We got to see some other parts of the Tarahumara way of life including a church that was an early mission in the area.  Unfortunately, we got a flat tire in the park, but the guys helped Jesus get it changed before it got too dark.

We stayed in a small but nice hotel in Creel (seriously only cost us $30) and got up the next morning to see more of the sights.  We got to see some more beautiful canyon views and meet Catalina, a local Tarahumara woman who lives in a small home built into the side of a cave.  She was very welcoming and proud of her home.  She made sure we each got a picture with her!

We drove back to Divisadero and got to spend more time at the rim of the canyon walking along some impressive walkways and bridges.  There is a zip line and cable car at the top, but unfortunately they were not working when we were there.

Mike & Jesus goofing around on the rim of the canyon…

We planned to catch the train that afternoon from Divisadero back to Los Mochis, but we hit a bit of a snag.  There was no place to buy tickets at the train station!  Weird.  So, we assumed that we must just buy the tickets from the conductor.  When the train arrived and let everyone out to check out the views, we asked the conductor where we buy tickets.  That’s when he told us we couldn’t buy them here and had to buy them online.  What?  We thought for sure we were going to be stuck in Divisadero.

Several of us started to look around for other options, hoping to find a bus or some other service.  Thank god Mike is persistent.  He hopped on the train and hunted down the head conductor to beg him to let us buy tickets on the train.  Before we knew it, Mike was hollering at the rest of us to jump on the train, so away we went!  It all worked out in the end, but we had a few stressful moments!

We got back to Topolobampo about 9:00 pm and crashed.  Our plans were to depart Topolobampo the next morning for the two day passage to Mazatlan.

Overall, it was a great trip but way too short.  There were other excursions and sights we could have seen in the canyon if we’d had more time. So, I’d definitely recommend it, but spend a few more days than we did.

If you want to see more pictures of our trip to Copper Canyon, please check out our Facebook page and the album titled “Copper Canyon.” I took over 200 photos, not including all the video.  Someday I’ll finally get more video up, I promise.

We’re in Mazatlan now, and had a great time last night at the Dia de los Muertos festivities last night, but I’ll post about that next time.

~katie

Wahoo!

We made it back to La Paz!  After 3 1/2 months exploring the Sea of Cortez, we rolled into Marina Palmira in La Paz yesterday afternoon.  It was a bit of a strange feeling as we felt like we were coming back home.  We had only spent six weeks here earlier this summer, but we had made friends and fell a bit in love with this Mexican town.

When I last wrote, we were en route to Punta Pulpito.  From there, we went to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen, Caleta Candeleros Chico, Puerto Los Gatos, San Evaristo, Isla San Francisco, Caleta Partida and then La Paz. Whew!  It was a lot of miles to cover, but we averaged about 30 miles a day (about 6 hours sailing at 5 knots) and were able to stop each night in a beautiful anchorage.  We had to do quite a bit of motoring as there wasn’t a lot of wind, but we made it work.

You may recall that we had complained a bit that we hadn’t had much fishing luck in the southern part of the Sea earlier this summer.  It didn’t seem like the fishing got good until we got north of San Francisquito.  Now back down south, we weren’t too optimistic about our fishing prospects.  We had gotten a bit spoiled eating fresh fish every night up north and we were now reduced to eating frozen hamburger patties and questionable chicken I found at the bottom of the freezer!

Mike, ever the fisherman, always has the trolling lines out.  We had pulled in several skipjack over the previous few days that we threw back.  So, when we were just a couple of miles out of San Evaristo and the line started to zing, Mike was sure we had another feisty skipjack on the line.  We slowed the boat down and Mike started fighting the fish into the boat, but we couldn’t yet see him.

Suddenly, as the fish got closer and must have seen the boat, he took off like a bullet peeling out line and creating a huge splash at the surface.  Mike turned to me with a huge grin and said “that’s no skipjack!”  It was a few minutes later that Mike got him close enough to identify him, and it was a wahoo!  We were both shouting wahoo! and jumping up and down.  This was the first wahoo we had caught, and this was a big one!

We measured him at 50 inches, and Mike says he was at least 50 lbs.  He wouldn’t even fit on our filet table!  It took Mike a couple of hours to clean the fish and the mess left on the boat.  Thankfully, we got all the fish in the freezer right before we pulled into Isla San Francisco.  We shared a bunch of the fish with our friends on Adios who were also in the anchorage, and we’ve now given more fish to some friends here in La Paz.  Even eating wahoo for lunch and dinner everyday, it is a lot of fish for two people to eat!

We’re in La Paz for a week to do some serious cleaning of the boat and a couple of maintenance projects.  Next, we will be crossing the Sea of Cortez to Topolobampo on the mainland.  Our plan is to see the famous Copper Canyon there that is four times a big as the Grand Canyon!  I hope to have a lot of great pictures to share with all of you.

~katie

 

Yellow Butterflies

The locals say that when the yellow butterflies appear the hurricane season in Mexico is over. Well, let’s hope so! We are seeing the yellow butterflies everywhere. They just started appearing one day, and now they are everywhere you look.

We decided to begin the journey back south to La Paz where we will cross over to mainland Mexico. It was hard to make the decision to go, as we loved the northern part of the Sea and we were sad to leave friends behind. One of the great things we discovered about cruising was meeting all of the other boats. But, inevitably our paths will diverge and we have to say goodbye. We were especially sad to say goodbye to our friends on Kenta Anae. Merle, Allison and their two boys Shandro (14) and Matero (11) had been traveling with us for about the last month as we went up to Puerto Refugio, out to Isla Partida and all the stops in between. So many of the cruising boats are older retiree couples that it is fun to meet a younger boat. We all had so much fun snorkeling, diving, hiking, fishing, having fish feasts, making bonfires and just hanging out that we regretted leaving. But, we know that our paths will cross again, hopefully sooner rather than later!

We left Isla Partida and made the 30 mile journey to San Francisquito. We had a calm night’s sleep in the little cove called Cala San Francisquito and prepared to leave the next day for Santa Rosalia. Santa Rosalia is 77 miles south, so we would have to make an overnight trip in order to arrive in daylight. We left San Francisquito in the afternoon and turned south.

We had an interesting night sailing to Santa Rosalia, as the wind just couldn’t decide what it wanted to do! Initially we had some light winds, but enough that we could sail for a little while. But, the wind kept changing direction. So, we kept changing sail configurations. We’d put the pole out on the jib to sail wing and wing, but as soon as we got it up, the wind shifted. Then we put up our reacher asymmetrical spinnaker, but then the wind died down completely. Ugh.

The wind finally appeared to hold a steady 8-10 knots for a couple of hours. I was on watch just cruising along when I noticed the wind start to climb. Mike came up from resting downstairs and we decided to proactively put a couple of reefs in the main. We were approaching an area called Las Tres Virgenes, which is named after three prominent volcanos. The area is known for funneling wind from the west, so we were expecting it to pick up. Well, about a half hour after we had reduced sail the wind was up to about 28 knots! Good thing we reefed that main!

Mike was able to get some fun sailing in and see how the boat performed in the big winds (pretty well), but the winds had calmed down by the time I was back on watch. It was early morning and the wind was almost completely gone, so we made the decision to take down the sails and motor the last couple of hours to Santa Rosalia. Well, the wind didn’t listen to our decision because about an hour later the wind was back up to 25 knots. What??? Mike came back up to the helm just as we were about to round the corner to enter Santa Rosalia harbor when a huge wave swamped the cockpit and drenched him. Welcome to Santa Rosalia.

We spent a couple of days cleaning up the boat and reprovisioning in Santa Rosalia. And, we had to make several trips to our favorite ice cream shop Splash while we were there. Seriously, they have the best homemade ice cream! Then, we were off again headed to Punta Chivato.

We had a fantastic sail to Punta Chivato. The best part for me was the dolphins. I never get tired of seeing dolphins. Often they will come and swim in the bow wake of the boat, but usually it is just for a minute and then they head off. But, this time the dolphins hung around for almost an hour. Not only did they swim in our bow wake, but a couple of them jumped clear out of the water putting on a show. There was a bit of a swell and the dolphins just surfed the swell right next to the boat. So fun to watch. I was up at the bow at one point watching them when a mama and baby dolphin came to swim in the bow. The baby was only about two feet long and swam right above mama. So cool! I’ve never seen a dolphin so little!

Mike, always the fisherman, of course had the trolling lines out. First we pulled in a really big skipjack, so he went back. A few hours later the line started peeling away, so we knew we had something big. It took Mike a while to reel him in, but we had a 45 lb jack crevalle! Not an eating fish, but Mike had fun fighting him into the boat. We took a picture and let him go. But, third time is the charm. Just as we were about to get to Punta Chivato, we picked up a nice sierra! The sierra is by far my favorite fish we have caught in the Sea. Not only are they beautiful with their silver and blue skin with yellow dots, but they are delicious. We had some of it as sashimi and cooked the rest in just a little lemon butter and garlic. We’ve now hooked a couple sierra with our rapala lure, so we’re nicknaming it the sierra slayer.

Here is the Jack Crevalle…

We got to Punta Chivato just before dark and were the only boat in the anchorage. The next day we decided to drop the paddle boards in the water and go exploring. Right at the point behind which we were anchored was a hotel. We had been told by other boats that the hotel was closed and the property abandoned but that you could walk through the grounds. There is a private airstrip at Punta Chivato, and apparently the hotel was once popular with private aviators that flew in. We walked around the grounds and found what was once the outdoor bar overlooking the water that still had tables with benches set up. The view from that patio was fantastic.

While we were playing around a few other boats pulled into the anchorage. We had seen a couple of the boats before but didn’t really know them well. We decided to paddle over to say hello and suggested that we all get together for sundowners at the abandoned hotel bar. So, an hour before sunset we paddled back to hotel with a bottle of wine and the baba ganoush I had made earlier in the day. (I was excited to find eggplant in Santa Rosalia!) The other two boats also brought some wine, apples, cheese, crackers and smoked oysters. We seriously couldn’t have had a better happy hour with the most amazing sunset views. It’s always fun to make your own party, even if it is at an abandoned hotel!

We’re now off again sailing to Punta Pulpito. It is a gorgeous morning, and I’m watching the yellow butterflies come out to our boat from shore. I don’t know if they really are a sign regarding hurricane season, but they sure look like a good omen for something.

~katie

The Dark Side of the Moon?

The new moon was two days ago. Last night headed back to the boat in the dinghy we could see thousands of stars and the milky way in the dark night sky. The night was still and the water flat and calm. When you looked over the side of the boat into the water it looked as though the night stars were reflecting back at us. But, then the stars started to move like fireflies darting through the water. The phosphorescence was as bright as the stars and just as glorious to watch.

We left Puerto Refugio after an amazing 10 days and headed back south to Bahia de Los Angeles. After picking up a few supplies, we left again for a new anchorage, Punta Pescador. As many different beautiful bays and islands we have stopped at in the Sea of Cortez, we never stop gazing in wonder as we enter a new place. They are all beautiful, the same but different. Each place is unique but still has that magical Baja feeling where the desert meets the sea.

Our first morning in Pescador, Mike and I were out on deck blowing up our inflatable paddleboards to drop in the water when something caught the corner of my eye. I saw blows out in the distance right at the entrance to the anchorage. We’ve had dolphins come close to shore where we anchored, but we’ve never seen whales. I got out the binoculars and recognized the distinctive tall black dorsal fins that could only mean one thing – Orcas! They were coming into the anchorage and getting closer. Just as I was focusing my attention off the bow of the boat, I got a call on the radio from one of the other boats in the anchorage that there was another Orca behind our boat.

As I was watching them get closer to shore, and our boat, I could clearly see a grey dolphin just in front of the Orcas. My heart sank. I really didn’t want to see a dolphin kill. But, I kept watching and saw that the Orca that was behind our boat came around from the other side essentially corning the dolphin from both directions right by the shore. There was some splashing and the birds went a little nuts overhead so we knew they got the dolphin. We suspect that they had been chasing him for a while and just tired him out when he came into the anchorage, because he wasn’t moving all that fast. One of the other boats nearby told us that killer whales often kill dolphins and other whales for sport rather than food. I have no idea if that is true, but it made me a bit less excited for another Shamu sighting.

That night we had a squall come through that added a bit of excitement to our evening. The wind and rain weren’t too bad, but there was lightning and thunder all around us. Unfortunately, in a sailboat the mast acts as a big lightning rod, so we’re never thrilled about lightning. We were talking to one of our friends on another boat about the weather over the radio when he asked us how tall our mast was. We laughed and said “not as tall as yours!” His boat was bigger and does have a taller mast. If lightning is going to strike, it’s going to hit the tallest point around. We disconnected the radio and put our handheld electronics and other communication devices in the oven, which can act as a Faraday cage and protect them if we get hit. Mike and I went in our cabin and sat on the bed, as that was the best place to be away from anything metal. We had an hour or two of waiting out the storm as it finally passed and we could relax and get some sleep.

We had been looking at the weather forecast and it looked like we were going to have some calm and settled conditions for the next few days. Mike really wanted to get out to Isla Partida, about 20 miles away. This was the perfect time to go! We told several of the other boats in the anchorage about our plans, and three other boats decided to join us. We had an awesome sail in some pretty light winds, but I think the staysail we added before we left California really helps give us that extra lift in light conditions. We beat the other three boats to the anchorage – not that we were racing. Along the way, we saw a marlin, a fin whale and some dolphins. And, just a couple of miles outside of the island we hooked up on a nice dorado! Not a record breaker, but it was enough to share with the other boats for dinner.

Isla Partida has been fantastic. It is not a very large island, but it has a nice crescent shaped bay on one side that gives us a beautiful anchorage. Like most of the islands in the Sea, it has volcanic origins which are visible on shore as you can see where the molten rock hardened. We hiked up all along the ridgeline of the island which gave us 360 degree views of Baja, mainland Mexico and the other Midriff Islands. I simply can’t describe the views in adequate words. The bright blue water surrounding the boulders at the base of the island, the reefs clearly visible through the clear water, the ripples and waves on the water from the wind and current for miles in every direction – simply breathtaking.

Whale jaw bones we found on shore…

 

We also found a couple of fabulous reefs around the island to snorkel and dive. The abundance of sea life was almost shocking. We saw schools of yellowtail, grouper, snapper, moray eels, all the various reef fish, octopus and lobsters! It was fun to see those lobsters fly through the water to find a rock to hide under when you get close. Everywhere you looked there was life. The rocks were covered with sea anemones, sea urchins, scallops, sea stars, fans and all kinds of plant life.

Octopus!!

If you came to Baja and only stayed on land, you would think this a barren place. On shore we saw a few lizards and heard some squeaking bats, but that was about it. The minute you look under the water it is a whole different story. It is like a secret world waiting to be discovered. You just have to be adventurous enough to dive in!

We’ve had enormous fish feasts with the other boats here, as the fishing has been amazing. It has been so much fun getting to know the other cruisers who came out here with us and all sharing in the bounty that the Sea has given us. We’ve even had a few laughs. The other day some of the crew from three of the boats (including us) went out diving around one of the points. The fourth boat stayed behind because he said he had some boat chores to do including cleaning the bottom. When we were returning, we all decided to get together to cook the fish that were caught, so we headed over to boat #4 to extend the invitation.
As we approached boat #4 (not telling any names) we saw that the hookah was going and our friend was in the water to clean the bottom. We got a bit closer and saw him behind his boat about to exit the water up the swim ladder. He couldn’t hear us approaching with the loud hookah compressor and was faced away from us. But, as he started up the ladder we saw that he was wearing a mask, weight belt and nothing else! That was our second moon… We all busted out laughing. Not to disparage our friend, but it wasn’t exactly Brad Pitt’s derriere! He turned around, saw us and started laughing too. I guess you have to have a sense of humor if you clean the bottom of your boat in the buff!

The water has started to turn colder and so have the nights, which means that fall has arrived in Baja. We’ll be starting to make our way south soon to follow the sun. It may not be an endless summer, but we’re going to try…

~katie

 

Going Deeper

We’re still in Puerto Refugio and absolutely loving it. We have had the perfect weather window to be here. We’re pretty remote right now, so the weather is critical. This is no place to be if a norther blows through or a chubasco (a local fierce thunderstorm that can roll through at night). There are so many coves, islands and reefs to explore here, that we can see why a boat would choose to stay a month or more, or until the groceries run out!

The two other cruising boats who made the journey up here with us are Kenta Anae and Adios, both Canadian boats. We’ve gotten to know the folks on both boats pretty well and are having a really nice time hanging with them. It’s always fun to share the experience of exploring with more people.

Aside from the perfect weather, the visibility in the water has been fantastic. It is probably 60 feet of visibility, which is the best we have seen all summer. It certainly makes us want to take to the water every day. So far, we have found some amazing reefs and rocky outcroppings that have let us seen so many new species of fish and turtles, as well as all of the sea life which clings to the rocks of the reef. Sometimes you just have to stop and stare at the cracks in the rocks to see all the fish, starfish, sea urchins, crabs and other creatures I don’t have names for.

Two boats had recommended a book to us called Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves by James Nester. We both devoured the book, and I highly recommend it. The book is about a lot more than freediving, but I found what some of the experts said about freediving to really resonate and connected to it. The author really eschews competitive freediving, but he connects with scientists who are studying the oceans and sea life by free-diving.

If you started reading this blog before we left California, you might remember that I struggled with my Open Water certification for scuba diving. I’ve come a long way since then, and even dove with bull sharks in Cabo Pulmo 60 feet down! That is not something that I thought I would ever do. But, even though I’m more comfortable scuba diving than I was in the beginning, I don’t know that it will ever feel natural to BREATHE UNDERWATER. But, freediving is completely different.

In Deep, the author goes through the science and history of freediving, but one of the things we learned was that it is actually very natural and your body knows how to react. You’re first reaction to sticking your head underwater is going to be to hold your breath. You will do it involuntarily. Apparently if you put a baby underwater, they will naturally hold their breath without instruction. Interesting. And, we can hold our breath for much longer underwater than we think we can.

One of the things that I like about freediving, opposed to scuba, is that you don’t have all that gear strapped to you. If you’ve ever done scuba, you’ll know that the heavy tank and weights restrict your movement. If you free dive, you are just swimming with nothing holding you back. The scientists in the book that are studying whales by freediving explain that the animals are often scared off by the bubbles of scuba, but if you are just swimming, they are much more likely to let you approach. I think this is probably true of most of the sea life. When I dive down and don’t make too much movement, the fish and turtles don’t seem afraid of me.

So, how did we get here? When I first started snorkeling with Mike, he would always dive down 10 or 15 feet to check out something below, but I just couldn’t do it. I hadn’t learned to clear my ears at all, and so I was a bit nervous taking our scuba certification class that I wouldn’t be able to do it. But, I actually learned to do it quite easily with scuba, and that gave me a bit more confidence to do it freediving. The difference, of course, is that with scuba you have additional time and air with which to clear, but freediving you just have that one breath.

My only advice in learning to do this is practice. At first I could get 15 feet down, then 20, then 25, and today I was more than 40 feet down on a single breath! I didn’t even realize I was that far down until I started my ascent. I had been following a turtle around with my Go Pro and just followed him deeper and deeper until I was basically out of air. When I turned to go up, it took quite a while to kick to the surface. But, I did it! And, the more times I do it, the more confident I get that I can go down a bit deeper and stay down longer.

Diving down…

Mike likes to dive with a few pounds of weight on, but I’ve been choosing not to free dive with a weight belt. The water is about 84 degrees, and I can stay in for quite a while without a wetsuit. (I dive with a skin suit to keep off jellyfish.) It really is only the first 20 feet or so where that weight helps you get down. So, I just bend at the waist, point down, stick my fins straight up and start kicking. Once you get down far enough, there is a neutral buoyancy that happens to let you stay down without having to keep kicking to fight your way to stay at that depth. If I had a wetsuit on, I’d have to have weights to combat the buoyancy of the wetsuit. But without it, it seems completely natural. You can swim underwater and become part of the sea life!

One of Mike’s motivations for getting better at freediving is spearfishing. He doesn’t have a spear gun yet, but both of the other boats here have let him take some shots with theirs. In order to get those nice size grouper, you have to be able to dive the 30-40 feet down and wait them out for the perfect shot. Merle on Kenta Anae has been picking up some nice grouper every day with the spear gun.

Mike goofing off under water…

I’m not a hunter, so I’ll skip the spearfishing. But, I love to try and capture this experience on video. What I noticed is that when you are snorkeling at the surface, you are only seeing a small fraction of what is going on below you, even if it is only 15 or 20 feet deep. Once you dive down, everything seems to come to life. So, I’ve been on a diving quest for that great video footage. Right now I have so many snorkeling and diving videos that it will take me months to sort through and find the best clips to piece together. I’ll get it done eventually

The next time you are on vacation to some tropical island and someone suggests you go snorkeling, say yes and try that freediving! You will be amazed at what you will see. In Deep, the author meets with the ama, the ancient culture of Japanese diving women, who free dove for centuries to harvest sea life and whose techniques have been passed down. After he tries to dive with the ama, he asks them if they have any ancient freediving secrets to share. They laugh and say “You just dive. You just get in the water.” I like that.

Aside from the fabulous snorkeling and diving here in Puerto Refugio, we’ve been hiking around the hills looking at rocks and caves. Like so much of Baja, it is raw and beautiful. Last night was the full moon and the air was still. The three boats gathered on shore at sunset, and the kids on Kenta Anae searched for firewood. We built a great bonfire and cooked fresh caught grouper over the coals. We shared stories and were all grateful for the incredible opportunity to be somewhere that so few people get to visit. It was the perfect evening.

 

~katie

 

The Turning Point

We survived Hurricane Newton! Newton decided to take a right turn near Bahia Concepcion, about 150 miles from where we were, and cross over the Sea of Cortez to mainland Mexico letting us dodge the bullet of the fierce winds and rain. We just got the outer bands of mild wind and a little rain overnight. Unfortunately, other sailboats in La Paz, Puerto Escondido and San Carlos were not as lucky, as reports starting coming into us over the radio that boats were lost in the hurricane. We didn’t hear of anyone being injured, but like us, most of these boats were peoples’ homes. So, we feel for them.

The group of boats anchored at Puerto Don Juan decided to have a party on the beach the night after the hurricane to celebrate. It was fun to meet lots of new people. Some people brought snacks, some brought guitars, and some of the kids built a bonfire. Overall, good times.

One of the boats we met, Kenta Anae, another Canadian boat, invited us to go snorkeling with them the next day. Merle and his son Matero from Kenta Anae along with Chris and Liz aboard Espiritu all joined in on the fun. They brought a couple of spear guns which Mike was really excited to try out. Mike has talked about getting a spear gun, but having never tried it he didn’t really know what to look for. So, this was a great way to learn about it.

After Merle shot a nice size grouper, he let Mike have a go of it. The visibility was only about 15 feet or so, and the grouper were definitely hanging out at depths below that. Mike and I have both been working on trying to improve our freediving, but I’ll post about that another time. Anyway, Mike took the spear gun and headed head first down to find some grouper. Because of the poor visibility, at the surface Mike seemed to just disappear into the deep. Merle was watching from the surface and gave a shrug like “where did he go?”. But, a minute later Mike emerged from the depths with a fish! He was ecstatic. He nailed a really nice size grouper on his first shot. We estimated that he was probably about 35 feet down, so that freediving practice has been paying off. Now we really need to find Mike a spear gun.

We decided it was time to move on from Puerto Don Juan and headed over the village at Bahia de los Angeles (also known as BLA). BLA is one of the places that we had read that we might see whale sharks in the late summer. So, we were thrilled when we heard on the VHF from another boat that they had spotted whale sharks swimming around their boat where they were anchored just off the village.

Once we dropped the anchor at BLA our first task was seeing those whale sharks before they moved on. We didn’t want to scare them off with the outboard on the dinghy, so we blew up the paddleboards and splashed them in the water. The boat that saw the whale sharks was anchored about a mile away, so we started paddling as quickly as possible to get over there.

Whale sharks aren’t really a whale or a shark. They are the largest fish on the planet. They can grow to up 46 feet long and 15 tons. That’s huge! They are filter feeders that eat tons of krill and plankton each day. They have a very large, wide mouth that they open to filter the seawater through. So, they aren’t dangerous, other than their size. We knew that people had snorkeled with them, and it doesn’t seem to bother them at all. We were just told to watch out for their very large and powerful tail.

We paddled closer to the boat that told us they saw them swimming nearby. Mike was in front of me and kept asking me if I saw anything. Nothing. Then, suddenly, we saw a large mass on the top of the water closer to the anchored boat. We found the whale shark! We got close to it and saw that it was just hovering in one place not really moving, or moving really slowly. So, we both slowly got off the boards and put on our mask and snorkel.

The visibility wasn’t great, so you only saw the whale shark under water when you were within 5 feet of it. But, wow, this guy was massive. At least 20 feet long his wide mouth would open and close near the surface as he filtered the water through. Aside from the wide head and mouth, the rest of his body looked like a shark. A giant shark! Even though we knew they were not dangerous, it was still a bit intimidating to swim that close to a 20 ft long fish! He (or she, I have no idea) was sitting practically vertical. We were only in about 20 ft of water, so his tail was hitting the sandy bottom of the bay. He completely ignored us and let us get pretty close to him. He was beautiful with a brownish skin and white spots that the sun reflected off of.

Mike dove down to get a better look at the whale shark and because of that poor visibility didn’t see the second one that came from the other direction and startled him in turn startling the poor whale shark. It was pretty funny. So, we followed these two guys around when I saw a smaller fin on the surface coming toward us. I was hoping it was a baby whale shark and not another kind of shark. Sure enough, a baby whale shark about 6-7 feet long swam by us.

We got back on the paddle boards and hung out next to the whale sharks for a while, just observing. They would come up next to the boards and then stop. We watched them for about an hour, but I probably could have stayed there all day. They were awesome!

We got lucky and came into BLA the day that the tiny market (smaller than a 7-Eleven) got some fresh produce, which they only get once a week. So, we were able to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables. We also filled our dinghy gas can and started making plans to move on. Both Kenta Anae and Adios were also interested in heading up to Puerto Refugio on the northern tip of Isla Angel de la Guarda. Puerto Refugio was out designated turning point, the farthest north we planned to travel into the Sea of Cortez. From there, we plan to turn and head south, hopefully about the time that the winds in the Sea switch around from the north.

So, we made a plan with both Kenta Anae and Adios to travel together. We decided to break up the trip and first stop at Ensenada Alcatraz, about 15 miles north of BLA. From there, we would make the 30 mile journey to Puerto Refugio.

We had a nice sail to Ensenada Alcatraz arriving just before sunset. Mike and I were both pretty hot and sweaty by the time we dropped the anchor, so the first thing we did was put on our swimsuits and jump in. There is nothing more refreshing than jumping in the water when you are hot! We swam to shore and walked along the beach before heading back to the boat before dark.

The next morning we did a little snorkel in the morning and then headed out for Puerto Refugio. The winds were quite a bit more than were forecasted. We were seeing 20-25 knots pretty consistently, and there were pretty large seas with short, steep waves. We put two reefs in the main and just pulled out a piece of the staysail and were still doing 6.5 knots! When we were finally able to turn to sail more downwind, we set the sails wing and wing and were surfing down the swell. It was a fun time!

We navigated the narrow entrance around the reefs and islands to find a beautiful anchorage at Puerto Refugio and settled in for the night. The next day Mike, Merle, Matero and I headed out in the dinghy for some snorkeling and spearfishing for the boys. We found a large rock in the middle of the bay that had lots of sea life. And, we were thrilled with the visibility, which was probably the best we have seen yet at least 40 feet. Merle picked up two nice size grouper with the spear gun, so we decided to have a fish fry party on our boat. Good food and good company made for a fabulous evening.

We’re going to do some more exploring around Puerto Refugio until we see the right weather window to do our turn around and head back south. We’ve been heading up here for so many months that I feel pretty accomplished that we made it this far. But, the journey is not over yet!

~katie

It’s a Hurricane Party!

Last I wrote we were in Bahia San Francisquito getting ready to depart due to the prediction of a new tropical storm that was possibly going to make a track up the Baja peninsula in the Sea of Cortez. We discussed the plan with our buddy boat, Adios, and determined that the best place to wait out the storm was a protected bay up at Bahia de Los Angeles called Puerto Don Juan. We wanted to break up the trip and decided to first stop at Isla Salsipuedes before making our way to Don Juan.

I think Adios was ready to get out of San Francisquito as they were having quite a problem with the bees! I’ve mentioned the bees in the Sea of Cortez before. You never know if you are going to encounter them until you drop anchor. They are in search of fresh water difficult to find in the desert, so they come out to the boats en masse. If they find water, they will signal their buddies and you will have a problem. We’d had probably 15 or 20 at one time flying around outside Adagio. We were doing pretty good at keeping them out of the boat. Every once and a while one would make its way in and we would have to evict him. Mike and I each got stung once, but these were honeybees (not wasps) and the sting only lasts for a minute. I’m not sure how the bee got in Mike’s rash guard when he was trying to put it on, but it certainly surprised him!

Well, poor Adios on the morning we were going to leave somehow got hundreds of bees in their boat. They couldn’t think of any way to get them all out except to pull out the Shop Vac and start vacuuming up all the bees. It sounds pretty funny now, but I’m glad it wasn’t me trying to vacuum the bees.

We made our way up the Salsipuedes Channel to Isla Salsipuedes. Salsipuedes actually means “Get out if you can!” But, the channel wasn’t that bad. It can be a challenge at times due to the strong currents. This far north in the Sea of Cortez there is a large tidal swing, and narrow channels can funnel large amounts of water through very rapidly.

We came into the anchorage at Isla Salsipuedes about an hour before sunset. We had to carefully monitor our GPS as we entered the anchorage, as there is a large rock and reef about 3 feet under the water right in the middle of the entrance to the anchorage. Our boat drafts 6 feet, so the rock was a definite hazard.

As soon as we dropped anchor, Mike was anxious to put the dinghy in the water and do some fishing. Some local fishermen further south had given Mike a tip that the fishing was good at Salsipuedes, and he was ready to find out! We took the dinghy out for the last hour of daylight and did what Mike calls “catching” instead of fishing. We hooked up a dorado, 2 cabrilla, 2 triggerfish, and a needlefish. We let all the fish go, but it sure was fun to catch them.

We settled in for the night, but were jostled awake at 2 am by the wind and swell. We checked to make sure all was ok but only half slept as we kept checking on things. The current was strong and moving the boat around quite a bit. Around 3:30 Mike had gone up on deck to check out the surroundings and suddenly yelled at me to get dressed and up on deck. I scrambled upstairs as Mike was starting the engine. Then, I could see that Adios was only about 20 yards from our boat, not where he had anchored. Mike feared that Adios was dragging his anchor and coming way too close for comfort. Dale was up on deck of Adios trying to sort things out too with his engine on. We were prepared to haul anchor and move to avoid a collision.

But, then the boats suddenly swung apart. We were connected to Adios on the VHF radio and determined that Adios wasn’t dragging his anchor after all. Boats in an anchorage that are all anchored with a bow anchor will face bow into the wind with the anchor line pulled out in front of them. As the wind shifts, the boats should all swing the same direction. So, even though we may have 150 or 200 feet of anchor chain out, we should not be at risk for a collision.

What we noticed, however, was that Adagio was stern into the wind with the anchor chain pinned against the bow and under the boat! The current was running in the opposite direction as the wind and keeping Adagio from swinging into the wind. Adios was closer to shore where the current was swirling around instead of directly opposite the wind making his boat swing back in forth in opposite directions about every 10 or 15 minutes. In the middle of this swing, his bow was coming right toward Adagio. In the black of night, this was the frightening sight that Mike saw.

We realized neither boat was in danger, but it was not a comfortable position to be in. So, each boat had someone up on deck all night watching things. Mike and I took turns, but neither of us really got any sleep. When there started to be a little daylight, Dale pulled anchor and moved Adios further away in the anchorage. Of course, by this time the current and wind both died down anyway. Why do these things always happen in the middle of the night?

The next morning (after catching up on sleep for a couple of hours) we downloaded a new weather forecast. The news was not good. The tropical storm was now named Newton and was projected to become a hurricane and head right up the Sea of Cortez quicker than we expected. So, instead of exploring Salsipuedes for the day, we were going to need to head to Don Juan that afternoon.

Since we had not kept any of the fish we caught the day before, thinking we would have time to catch more, Mike wanted one last shot at fishing. So, we hurried out and caught a nice cabrilla. They are locally called cabrilla, but I think they are some sort of grouper or sandbass. Anyway, they are delicious.

We then took off for Don Juan, which was about a 30 mile trip and would take us 6 hours. There wasn’t any wind, so we had to motor. But, we did see some pilot whales and caught a nice dorado trolling on our way.

We pulled into Puerto Don Juan about 6 pm. Don Juan is a large bay that is surrounded on three sides by land with a narrow entrance, making it nearly landlocked. This is what makes it a natural hurricane hole and protected from wind and waves. We came in to find 15 boats already anchored at Don Juan, which is the largest number of boats we have seen since leaving La Paz. Everybody looked to already be preparing for the storm.

Today was prep day for hurricane Newton, which should weaken to a tropical storm by the time it gets this far north. The other boats in the anchorage established a net on the VHF for everyone to monitor. We had boats calling us to welcome us in and offer any assistance that they could give. The boats decided to do a group call every three hours to share the latest weather forecasts, as we all have access to different weather download and radio sources.

Not a bad sunset waiting for the storm…

Mike and I got to work trying to bring into the boat or tie down any loose items. Although the forecasts were saying that we may only get winds of 25-30, further south they were getting gusts up to 85 mph! So, we wanted to prepare for the worst. If the storm track changed even a few degrees, it could hit us much worse. So, here’s a list of our preparations: 1. Chafe protection on the anchor snubber rode
2. Bring below all cockpit cushions, sails and other items that were stored on deck or in the cockpit 3. Take off canvas covers that could possibly catch the wind and blow off 4. Lash the mainsail and cover down over the boom
5. Move the scuba tanks, gas cans and other items onto the cockpit floor 6. Take down the dodger
7. Move all extra lines into the cockpit or lazarettes

As you can see, we had our work cut out for us. The wind started blowing 20-25 around 1:00 and hasn’t let up. There are dark clouds looming but no rain yet. We’re certainly hoping that the storm will follow the projected path and cross over to mainland Mexico before it gets this far north, but we’re prepared! The storm should move over our area sometime tonight, so I don’t expect we’ll be sleeping much.

Waiting for hurricane Newton…

Whenever we have some sort of challenge and I am tired and cranky, Mike always just grins and says, “It’s all part of the adventure!” And, he’s right. There might be a lot of hard work involved in what we are doing, but we both agree that it is the most rewarding work we have done. It is giving us the adventure of a lifetime!

~katie

Discovering Steinbeck

We left Isla San Marcos Saturday afternoon for the 90 mile passage to Bahia San Francisquito back on the Baja peninsula, a trip that would take us 18 hours. We had a beautiful day and night to sail. The wind let us sail comfortably for 14 of those 18 hours. The other four, in the dead of night, we had to motor as the wind died out completely and the sails were flogging unmercifully. But, we were pretty pleased with the conditions and glad that we had waited a few days at Isla San Marcos for the wind to allow us to sail.

We also reattached the Hydrovane rudder and vane that we had used to make the passage down to Baja from California. The Hydrovane is a self-steering system, but it differs from our electric autopilot. It doesn’t use any power and steers based on the wind direction instead of a compass heading. It is so nice to use, as it is silent, unlike our noisy electric autopilot. And, on long passages it really is essential to have self-steering rather than hand steering for so many hours.

It was a peaceful night and we were blessed with a dark sky full of stars, as the moon was still absent. On overnight passages Mike and I take three hour watches so that each of us can get some sleep. On watch we have to make sure that we are staying on course, watch out for any other boat traffic, and make changes to the sails if the wind shifts. (If a significant sail change is needed, we wake the other person up to help.)

But, that also leaves quite a bit of time alone to enjoy the experience and do some reading. Every time we get into a port with internet access we both download more books onto our tablets. (We can certainly carry more books aboard this way!) So, one of the books that I had been reading was The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck.

I hadn’t read Steinbeck since I read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath in school, which was a couple of decades ago. But, we had discovered that Steinbeck and his good friend, biologist Ed Ricketts, had traveled to the Sea of Cortez in 1940 and written a book about their experience. I thought it would be fun to see how similar, and how different, his experience was from ours, so I downloaded the book and started plowing through it, finishing it on our overnight passage to Bahia San Francisquito.

Steinbeck and Ricketts charted a fishing trawler out of Monterrey with a captain and small crew and headed down the California and Baja coasts into the Sea of Cortez. The purpose of their expedition was to collect samples of flora and fauna in the tide pools at different stations throughout the Sea. Although Steinbeck was a writer, he was very interested in biology and Ricketts’ research.

The book is interesting in that it goes back and forth between three main themes or topics: (1) a sometimes humorous travel log of their journey; (2) a description of all of the sea life they find; and (3) Steinbeck and Ricketts’ thoughts and philosophies on man and life, the latter of which I suspect was often their musings over many bottles of whiskey, which is inferred in the book.

Besides being entertaining, it was fascinating to see what life was like on the Baja peninsula 75 years ago. There were no tourist destinations like Cabo San Lucas, and the small towns and villages that existed were populated with the local Yaqui people (who Steinbeck refers to as “Indians” throughout the book) that lived primitively without modern electricity, running water, etc. and mainly lived off the sea. Contrast that to our own experience where even the more primitive fishing villages we have encountered have satellite TV dishes!

What I love about reading writing done in another period or about another period is when you find those things that you can completely relate to. And, there were several passages that Steinbeck wrote that really resonated with me. At the time that Steinbeck and Ricketts took their expedition, the US had recently come out of the great depression, the world was at war, and the US was about to get pulled into that war. While a different set of circumstances currently plague our country and news cycle, we related to this quote:

“One thing had impressed us deep on this little voyage: the great world dropped away very quickly. We lost the fear and fierceness and contagion of war and economic uncertainty. The matters of great importance we had left were not important. There must be an infective quality in these things. We had lost the virus, or it had been eaten by the anti-bodies of quiet. Our pace had slowed greatly; the hundred thousand small reactions of our daily world were reduced to very few. When the boat was moving we sat by the hour watching the pale, burned mountains slope by. A playful swordfish, jumping and spinning absorbed us completely. There was time to observe the tremendous minutiae of the sea…

“The world and the war had become remote to us; all the immediacies of our usual lives had slowed up. Far from welcoming a return, we rather resented going back to newspapers and telegrams and business. We had been drifting in some kind of dual world – a parallel realistic world; and the preoccupations of the world we came from, which are considered realistic, were to us filled with mental mirage. Modern economies; war drives, party affiliations and lines; hatreds, political, and social and racial, cannot survive in dignity the perspective of distance. We could understand, because we could feel, how the Indians of the Gulf, hearing about the great ant-doings of the north, might shake their heads sadly and say, ‘But it is crazy. It would be nice to have new Ford cars and running water, but not at the cost of insanity.'”

We feel a little like this when we arrive in a port that has internet access. We have become so accustomed to any bit of news and communication at the touch of a phone, that to be away from it for weeks at a time gives you a different perspective. And, when we do have that access again and read the headlines from terrorist attacks to our absolutely insane election nonsense, we can only shake our heads and are ready to leave port and be disconnected again.

Although I don’t have nearly enough knowledge or resources to examine and study the sea life as Steinbeck and Ricketts did, their exploration makes me want to take more time to turn over the rocks in the tide pools as they did. They certainly got more out of it than simply observing and counting the difference species, as Steinbeck mused:

“Our own interest lay in relationships of animal to animal. If one observes in this relational sense, it seems apparent that species are only commas in a sentence, that each species is at once the point and the base of a pyramid, that all life is relational to a point where an Einsteinian relativity seems to emerge. And then not only the meaning but the feeling about species grows misty. One merges into another, groups melt into ecological groups until the time when what we know as life meets and enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock, rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air. And the units nestle into the whole and are inseparable from it. Then one can come back to the microscope and the tide pool and the aquarium. But the little animals are found to be changed, no longer set apart and alone. And it is a strange thing most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical outcrying which is one of the most prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable. This is a simple thing to say, but the profound feeling made a Jesus, a St. Augustine, a St. Francis, a Roger Bacon, a Charles Darwin, and an Einstein. Each of them in his own tempo and with his own voice discovered and reaffirmed with astonishment the knowledge that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.”

But, most of all, I think the Sea of Cortez had an impact on Steinbeck and his crew, just as it has with us. The Sea has a magical quality to it. Sparsely populated, it is raw and natural. You can’t help but have a connection to nature and the Sea as a living thing. Even though we plan to see other oceans and ports of call, I hope that we will always be able to return to the Sea. As they were approaching the end of their journey, Steinbeck’s crew had similar feelings:

“Now, approaching Guaymas, we were approaching an end. We planned only two or three collection stations beyond, and the time of charter-end would be crowding us, and we would have to run for it to be back when the paper said we would. The charter at least fixed our place in time. And already our crew was trying to think of ways to come back to the Gulf. This trip had been like a dreaming sleep, a rest from immediacies…What was the shape and size and color and tone of this little expedition? We slipped into a new frame and grew to be a part of it, related in some subtle way to the reefs and beaches, related to the little animals, to the stirring waters and the warm brackish lagoon. This trip had dimension and tone. It was a thing whose boundaries seeped through itself and beyond into some time and space that was more than all the Gulf and more than all our lives. Our fingers turned over the stones and we saw life that was like our life.”

I certainly cannot begin to describe our own journey as eloquently as Steinbeck did, but hopefully I’m giving you all a picture of what our experience is like. Steinbeck summed up his expedition as: “The real picture of how it had been there or how we had been there was in our minds, bright with sun and wet with sea water and blue or burned, and the whole crusted over with exploring thought. Here was no service to science, no naming of unknown animals, but rather – we simply liked it. We liked it very much. The brown Indians and the gardens of the sea, and the beer and the work, they were all one thing and we were that one thing too.” Well, we like it too!

We’ve really enjoyed our time here in Bahia San Francisquito. The beach is beautiful, the fishing has been excellent and we snorkeled in an aquarium of fish. We’d like to stay here longer, but the forecast has a possibility of the next tropical storm making its way into the northern Sea later this week. So, we’re going to make the decision to start heading toward Puerto Don Juan at Bahia de Los Angeles, which is a natural hurricane hole with significant protection from wind and storms. Hopefully the storm will not materialize, but we always feel it is better to be safe than sorry. We’ll keep you all updated of our location.

~katie