Reflections by Kirk - August 13, 2015
03 November 2015
(photo: Whale Shark up close and personal next to boat)
We left La Paz in early July heading north into the Sea of Cortez to spend the summer. As I may have described previously, there was some anxiety involved with this next phase of our continuing adventure. Weather was the main cause of anxiety with the potential for being in the path of a hurricane and some local weather phenomena involving sudden high winds. Heat was also a cause for concern. That was now about six weeks ago. We have experienced a few thunderstorm cells with much rain and high winds and the actual experience was not nearly as bad as the anxiety that preceded said events. We still have not experienced riding out a hurricane while at anchor and that is just fine.
It is possible that my concerns about the potential problems overshadowed the benefits of spending a summer up here in the Sea. Nobody really quite knows why, but there are an unusually small number of cruising boats doing the same as us. I used to think of the one percenters as those motorcyclists who decided to join Hells Angels or the Banditos or some other outlaw biker gang. Well, we are now part of the less than one percent gang. During the winter and spring past there were hundreds of boats, cruising around Mexico. Some have holed up in marinas in the major cities like La Paz, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, but most have "summerized" their boats and left for cooler climates. Based on radio traffic, which is now our only form of communication other than face to face, we believe that maybe only ten or so boats will be traveling the northern Sea of Cortez this summer. Ever since we started to spend days and nights away from the dock, at anchor, we have been delighted in having an anchorage all to ourselves. I think that may be something that most people enjoy, the idea that you have a significant piece of the natural world all to yourself. I spent many nights camped on a marvelously beautiful and spiritual section of the Washington coast, most often in the winter months, in the knowledge that I would have miles of coastline all to myself. Even though we know that there are other boats around, we have been in numerous anchorages with no other people, boats, structures or anything but nature surrounding us. Many of the places here are accessible only by boat. Since there are so few cruising boats up here, many of the places we stop at are really pristine. We can walk beaches and see only the tracks of birds, crabs, lizards and coyotes, no human footprints. As any other beach we have ever walked on, there is some amount of trash, mostly plastic, that washes up from wherever it was dumped or washed into the sea. Plastic just refuses to die. Sometimes we see the remains of campfires. No beach fires for us yet. The idea of a hot fire probably will not have much appeal until evening temperatures drop ten or twenty degrees in the fall and winter. One of the really nice things about having an anchorage all to ourselves is skinny-dipping. There is something special about just stripping down and jumping in the water. Besides, who needs the bother of rinsing and then hanging the dripping swimsuits in the cockpit to dry. I want to try snorkeling that way, but am a little concerned about sunburn on my butt. No jellyfish issues yet. If or when they show up, we have full body Lycra suits for protection.
We have been traveling up the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula and have stopped at a number of places: San Evaristo, Aqua Verde, Candeleros Chica, Puerto Escondido, San Juanico, Santa Domingo, Punta Chivato, Isla San Marcos, Santa Rosalia, San Francisquito, Las Animas, both the north and south sides of Punta Pescador, Puerto Don Juan and now in front of the village in Bahia de Los Angeles. Every place has good things to showcase. In Aqua Verde, it was the beachside palapa "restaurant" where we were the only customers, but still had to let them know in advance that we would be showing up for a meal of ceviche. In Candeleros Chica it was the beautiful, intimate anchorage all to ourselves, with excellent snorkeling. In Puerto Escondido it was the fellow cruisers who met every afternoon in what they called the "Circle of Knowledge." San Juanico was as nice a place to be as I can imagine. It had a number of great places to anchor, beautiful scenery and lots of interesting beaches to walk. We did a small bit of hiking through the desert and found "Apache Tears," small pieces of jet-black obsidian rock. Santa Rosalia is a really fine very small town whose economy is based on copper mining. It is very hot there, but a charming place nonetheless. San Francisquito has a very long sandy beach, but lots of bees. A little side bar on the bees up here. Some places do and some don't have a bee problem. We usually know as we are entering the anchorage as a few scouts will come out to check us over. If there is any sign of fresh water available to them, the signal goes out and soon the will be many bees. Just a layer of dew on the decks in the morning is enough to entice them to fly over a few hundred yards of water to get to us. They can be very irritating and will sting if you inadvertently touch them or try to brush them off your body. We try to be respectful of the fact that they are only trying to get some water, which can be a real challenge in the desert, but sometimes they seem to get a bit too aggressive and we resort to the electronic flyswatter.
Continuing on, both sides of Punta Pescador, which is the doorstep to Bahia de Los Angeles, are now also among our favorites. The south side has really special views over water to the south and east, islands in one direction and rocky shoreline in the other. To the west is a beach with the remains of a beach resort. Apparently, this place was started maybe ten years ago and then left to sit. It was then worked on some more and had the makings of a fine remote destination until Hurricane Odile did some damage in September of 2014. When we got to shore, we were able to just walk into a very large and very well appointed building. The roof was a work of art expertly constructed of thatch. The floors were of concrete with intricate designs of inset stones throughout. The posts that supported the roof were huge logs that appeared to have been encircled by some type of woody vine. This "vine" looked to have been woven by nature around the tree trunk and all of the vine wood was at least four inches in diameter. There were probably 20 of these posts in the building, supporting the cone shaped thatch roof, which was at least 30 feet above the floor at its highest point. The most incredible thing about this building was that it was completely furnished with teak tables and chairs, overstuffed recliners and several sofas. In the back was a full commercial type kitchen. We figure that this was intended to be the communal eating area for the resort. There was no working electricity or running water at the time we were there, but elegant light fixtures and stainless steel sinks would seem to indicate that these things could be restored. A walk down the beach revealed several empty concrete pads and a few with simple structures. One such pad had what must have been the model for what might be to come in the future. It was lovely. Hardwood floors, high-end furnishings, a beautiful bathroom with inlaid stone shower and satellite dish led us to believe that this was intended to be a very exclusive high-end resort. And everything was open for us to explore with no guards or fences. Almost strange. We have been told that a fellow by the name of Carlos Slim has purchased many thousands of acres in the Bahia de Los Angeles area and this is his project. We were also told that Senor Slim is a telecommunications mogul that for a time was the richest person in the world.
Bahia de Los Angeles (BLA) is the primary destination for cruisers intending to spend the summer in the Sea of Cortez. The village is small, but does have stores and restaurants. The likelihood of hurricanes reaching up here is much less than down around the southern tip of the Baja. Just in case one does work its way this far north, Puerto Don Juan, a natural harbor almost completely enclosed by land, is right here and considered to be an excellent hurricane "hole." There are maybe a dozen nice anchorages in the area, within ten miles and a few more a scant 15 miles further away. So if a hurricane does approach, we will have plenty of time to get safely hunkered down in Puerto Don Juan.
The air and water temperatures seem to be a little bit more comfortable than anywhere else that we have been so far this summer. The scenery is awesome - mountains immediately to the west, islands from the southeast through to the north, and the rest of the bay to the south. Even I have been able to catch fish up here. Over the past several weeks, we have eaten fresh out-of-the-water seafood every day, from Dorado (Mahi Mahi) to Sea Bass to Triggerfish to shellfish. To top it all off, just as we finished setting our anchor in front the small village, a whale shark and a huge sea turtle started swimming around right in the vicinity of our boat. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. The one swimming around was at least half as long as our boat, which is 43 feet long. These big fish are filter feeders, meaning they are the fish world's equivalent to Vegans in the human world. You can swim right along next to them and they don't seem to care or even be aware of your presence.
Another of the special treats up in the northern Sea of Cortez is the light show at night. So far there has been significant phosphorescence in the water every night. The water is full of little colorful sparkles as far down as you can see. When fish swim through, they leave a brilliant trail of light. When rays jump or porpoises surface to breath off in the distance there will be a sudden fountain of light. There are only about 70 or 80 miles separating us from mainland Mexico on the other side of the northern Sea. During many nights, convection storms (thunderstorms is what they were called where I grew up) brew over on the mainland. So we get a nice light show from that. The nights are usually very clear with no sources of light "pollution," so we see lots of stars. The Milky Way appears to be a gauzy band that stretches from horizon to horizon. There is a guy on one of the morning radio nets that gives reports on what we may expect to see in the sky for the next few nights. We saw the Persiod meteor shower with as many as one hundred "shooting stars" per hour. We are now waiting to see some giant Japanese cargo ship circle around and dock with the International Space Station. Nights are balmy and pleasant to sit in the cockpit with a nice beverage, maybe a cigar, clad in as little clothing as possible and just look at all of the different light shows going on in the water, on the horizon, and up in the sky.
We will probably be in this general area, careful to stay within a day of Puerto Don Juan, for the next six to eight weeks, until the threat of hurricanes diminishes. I think that we are going to like it here.
S/V Linger Longer
PS - You will be reading this long after it was written as there is no Internet access up here. This will be a real experience for us to be so "out of touch" for so long.