Monday, December 14, 2009

Some highlights of our 11 day exploration of the islands around La Paz

Before I forget, I wanted to capture some highlights of our 11 days at various anchorages in and around the islands close to La Paz, heading further north into the Sea of Cortez. When we are back with internet access, I'll edit this post to include some photos, so stay tuned for those additions.

Our first stop was Isla Espiritu Santo, where we anchored for three nights at Bahia San Gabriel (24 degrees 25.7 minutes N, 110 degrees 21.57 minutes W). There was only one other boat anchored in this vast stretch of beach, with gorgeous stratified cliffs in the background. It was from this location that we did our 'school desert field trip' to the other side of the island, ending up at Playa Bonanza, another gorgeous stretch of beach. Both kids blogged about what we saw along the way, including plenty of mud on the way back. We also visited the ruins of what used to be a pearl fishery. We learned about tides in a big way - the beach at San Gabriel has a sand shelf that is the same depth for at least a quarter of mile. When we brought our dinghy in to shore, we had to anchor it way out in high tide, and lucky that we did: When we returned at low tide, we had to walk out the quarter mile as it was on sand. (photo)

Next stop: Isla Partida, where we anchored for the next three nights at Ensanada Grande (24 degrees 33.631 minutes N, 110 degrees 13.771 minutes W). By this time our friends on Gypsy Wind and on Meshach caught up to us, so we hung out with them here. Highlights included a bonfire on the beach one night, the kids building a teepee on the beach, cutting Michael's hair, and skurfing (being pulled behind a dinghy on a surfboard with a waterski rope; it looks like wake boarding). (photos)

From Isla Partida, we visited Los Islotes (24 degrees, 35.79 minutes N, 110 degrees, 24.24 minutes W) to swim with the sea lions - definitely a highlight as Danielle has already written about. And yes, I was scared. Much preferred to stay on the kayak - the sea lion pups would play with the kayak by bumping up against its underside and chewing on the rubber ring at the end of the kayak. That was certainly enough excitement for me! We had heard that just a day or two earlier, a woman was swimming in the water and got between a mother and her pups so the mother grabbed her arm and pulled her away. That's all I kept thinking about in the water, so I opted for the kayak. Our friend Tanya on Meshach had a seal pup jump into her lap on her kayak a couple of days later when they returned for a second time - she loved it but I would have screamed for sure! (photos)

There is no place to anchor at Los Islotes, so we continued on to Isla San Francisco (24 degrees, 49.12 minutes N, 110 degrees, 34 minutes W), possibly my favorite anchorage so far. We stayed here for two nights. Great hike along the ridge, from where we had an incredible view of 5 separate pods of whales heading south. Utterly wonderous. From there the hike continued on to sea level where we passed through some salt ponds, then to the other side of the islands where we searched for agotes (crystals) and seashells. Just gorgeous. (photos)

Next, we anchored at Isla Coyote (24 degrees, 51.04 minutes N, 110 degrees, 34.86 minutes W), a rather strange place. The island covers maybe 2-3 acres, and is inhabited by a family that has been there for 150+ years. Currently there are 10 people living there. They have a small structure that serves as their church, and they have solar panels on each of the approx. 5 or 6 homes. Everyone has a VHF radio. They make a living by fishing, salting their fish, and jewelry making for sale to the gringos like us (Danielle and I were happy to oblige with a pair of earrings each). Believe it or not, they have a Whale Museum, which consists of the whale carcass that wraps around the island and a large sign that says Museo de Ballena. We spent a couple of hours there and moved on to our next anchorage. (photo)

Our next anchorage was at the north end of Isla San Jose at Mangele Solo (25 degrees, 01.77 minutes N, 110 degrees, 42.36 minutes W), our point furthest north. This was the only anchorage we stayed at without other boats. Incredibly peaceful, with a cactus forest on the hills surrounding the beach, until a panga with 4 men motored toward us in high speeds. We freaked out a bit - Michael sent the kids inside, told Danielle to get us our satellite phone, and we waited for them to arrive. They actually appeared to be wanting to tie onto our boat so Michael kept our motors running and spun in circles. It was really scary until we figured out that they just wanted to sell us chocolate clams. This experience prompted us to have a safety review with the kids, from what's in a ditch bag and how to deploy our liferaft, to putting out a fire and using the Single Side Band radio and/or the EPIRB (an emergency device that, when deployed, sends a signal with our position to the US Coast Guard who then sends someone out to rescue us - if you remember the story of the boat that sank due to being hit by a whale, it was the EPIRB that saved them by notifying the Coast Guard of their distress). In any case, the reason for anchoring in this spot was because you supposedly can see many whales and dolphins, but unfortunately we didn't book ahead with them so they never showed up. In the morning, we discovered two dozen eggs had gone moldy so the kids had a hysterical time throwing rotten eggs one by one off the side of the boat. (photo)

After one night at Mangele Solo, we continued on to the mainland of the Baja Peninsula to a small town called San Evaristo (24 degrees, 54.64 minutes N, 110 degrees, 42.38 minutes W). Apparently this is a fishing village of about 20 families and a general store that opens only when they feel like it (it was closed when we were there). We passed the town elementary school - basically two rooms with a basketball court - and a desalination plant (that seemed to consist of a hole in the ground with a really old motor and some tubing connected here and there). Three horses roamed the town freely. On our way back to fetch our dinghy to get back to the boat, a fisherman offered us some free fish - a very tasty yellowtail. The fisherman fileted it and made a little hole in the filet tails so that Michael could carry it back to the boat. One thing about the Mexicans that's definite - they are very resourceful! (photo)

We spent one night at anchor in San Evaristo and we woke up at 6 a.m. to begin our sail back to La Paz. Which reminds me: I have been getting up by 7 or 7:15 every morning since I posted that I would. Homeschooling has definitely improved, and I'm better for it.

Signing off from the Sea of Cortez 39 miles offshore,
23 degrees 56.394 minutes N, 109 degrees 06.283 minutes west,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this update. The scenery and activities on those islands that you described sound amazing...what about the people you meet; do you or the kids ever get to talking with them?...I'll bet you miss not being able to communicate in Spanish.
    I'm glad to hear about your safety lesson with the kids - they must have almost freaked out. Have you guys considered hiring another crew, for safety reasons...sounds like something I would definitely consider...
    Glad to hear about your early rising...
    Hope your sailing across is going smoothly...
    Love you all...