06 December 2012 | Sea of Cortez
It's the day after thanksgiving and boy do we have a lot to be thankful for.
Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, we were able to head out of the marina to Isla Espiritu Santo, a national park about 20 miles from La Paz, for a few days. For some reason, every time I say the name of the park it conjures up something Latin I sang in choir once. :-). Insert Gregorian Chant. Amen.
We had a lot of errands to run and a jib to put up, so we didn't leave the marina until 1:30. As if like clockwork, the typical wind awakening had already begun and it was ready to push us downwind into our neighbor behind us if we weren't careful. I asked a couple of neighbors to help send us off the dock, as we prefer to keep our departure as predictable and safe as possible. The goal was to have our neighbor walk the bow line up to the end of the dock and swing us around so we would be in good position in the fairway to just head out. That was the goal. That didn't go exactly as planned. Mike took us out and backed toward dock 2 because the "swinger" just handed us back the dock line mid dock instead of giving us a nudge. So...the help was really not helpful. Cathy and her partner, both very nice and knowledgeable commented that we should have had him swing us out, seeing us in a less than desirable situation. The only person not aware of how helpful that would have been was the new neighbor assigned to the task. We were quickly getting blown right back where we started and had to push ourselves off the corner of the dock to save poor Pangaea. Task accomplished. Phew! We owe our boat to Cathy and her partner. Thank you!
Then we were on our way. Tails a bit between our legs and heads down knowing it wasn't the prettiest departure.
Out in the channel we could see chop and white caps signaling a fun sail toward the islands. We put up the sails and we were off, doing about 6 knots at a close haul without much attention to sail trim. Sometimes Pangaea sails herself better if we aren't so race-minded in our trim to the sails. We, or should I say she sailed the distance to Bahia San Gabriel and we motored into the bay. We anchored in about 20 feet of beautiful, turquoise water surrounded by tall, red cliffs and a bird sanctuary on the south end filled with frigatebirds in full mating attire.
We made macadamia nut/coconut crusted fresh fish filets with steamed carrots and zucchini with a little bit of onion and brown rice. A very satisfying day. We toasted the day and all/whom for which we are grateful with Mike's special margarita recipe (per glass)
1 part tequilla
1/2 part Grand Marnier
3 Freshly squeezed key limes juice
I/2 packet of stevia
Served over ice.
Me gusta mucho!!
We slept well in a calm anchorage and awoke to a choir of seabirds , a calm bay and beautiful colors all around us.
Breakfast consisted of natural yogurt, strawberries and kiwi topped with a little cinnamon granola and a french press of coffee we somehow remembered to leave on board. I made a latte with condensed milk from a can. Who knew? I heated it up and frothed it and was it tasty!
We (Mike) pumped up the SUPs (stand up paddleboards) and we were set for a morning of adventure with snorkel gear in tow on top.
Our first stop was the bird sanctuary. There has been non-stop activity there since we arrived and I in particular wanted to check things out.
What we observed was a flurry of activity including impressive orange balloon-like mating puffs from some type of Frigatebird. Hundreds of them. Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Elegant Gulls, Brown Boobys, Laughing Gulls blended in among the large orange balls. And I thought I had an impressive sighting yesterday when I spotted an American Oystercatcher!
Snorkeling around the rocks west of the sanctuary proved fruitful of purple tubular coral, brown and white coral and brain coral, the usual suspects of fish swimming among them. On our way back to the boat we spied a sea turtle playing at the surface just flapping his arms and legs, diving under and then just popping up his head, seemingly really enjoying himself. This playful observation ended abruptly when his last sight was Mike's red paddleboard heading his way. He quickly dove into the waves and was gone in a flash. Who says turtles move slowly?
After a lite lunch of bean/cheese tostada with guacamole and salsa and veggies I decided to write this blog. Hope you enjoy it.
We left our fantastic anchorage, Bahia San Gabriel only to be greeted by a humpback whale calf. When I called out "whale" Mike gave me a doubtful glance until I provided more evidence. When he verified my claim, he promptly upped the RPMs from 1000 to 2000. I guess it was Guido the killer humped back whale calf following us behind, as if we were mama. I later had a conversation with Mike about how much the marine life means to me and how sticking the tranny in neutral and enjoying the sight would be another option. That being said, I do acknowledge the danger whales can pose and respect his decision.
We had great wind again once out in the channel, so up with the sails we went. We were sailing at about 6 knots when my hat decided to do a little sailing of its own. My gut reaction was, "Shit! Lost that one!" but Mike was quick to suggest a rescue. So, off I went to retrieve the boat pole and we commenced our man-overboard task. Under sail. Just like I learned in the Victoria Sailing School. Well...sort of. We were calm and informed but a little short-handed. I had to be spotter and tack while Mike handled the boat pole. We found out we can hove-to pretty easily. I forgot to release the jib on the tack. Which is part of the task...just premature. So...we lost momentum but the hat floated on, playing in the waves with the whale calf. A tack or two later we were on course for the hat overboard and successfully saved her. Again...not so pretty, but task accomplished and we felt good about that.
We sailed all the way to Isla Partida into a little anchorage called Cardinal (go Cards!). One of our favorite anchorages, Caleta Partida is right next door, but it was full of boats and we had an opportunity to be alone in Cardinal. Naked and alone. We opted for bathing suits for the SUPs and headed out after safely anchoring. Mike and I switched roles and I was at the helm. There is an art to anchoring and it is a lot harder than it looks. Perspective is always nice. So is being in reverse when you set the anchor...not forward. I drove right over that damn anchor. Crap. Humility is golden. Anchor attempt #2 went as planned.
We explored the area paddling to the shoreline and back to the boat in time for sunset. Mike and I made coconut shrimp for dinner. In hindsight, that would have been a better idea the night before, as the shrimp made a strong statement going down.
A margarita, a little reading and the day was done.
The next day was delightfully spontaneous and chill. We paddled to the old pearl fishery and took a hike to the other side of the island, forgetting that it was marsh and mosquito rich. Blood was begrudgingly given plentifully by both of us. Smack! But not without protest. Happy for malaria-free mossies. I took some photos and we were headed back to the boat for lunch and a nap. Life is good.
The afternoon adventure included paddling out to the channel opening of the anchorage to snorkel. It was a lot father than it seemed downwind, and I was distracted by the clear water and lack of fish sightings. So...I kept going. We found a protected area to stash our boards and off we went. We were pleasantly surprised at how good the snorkeling was! We saw a lot of new fish and coral and the water was really clear. Except for little strings of pearl and jellyfish- related creatures in every cubic inch of water. I decided then and there to be done with my phobia of all things jellyfish related. They are ubiquitous in the sea and it was just getting in the way of my enjoyment factor.
For once I was the one suggesting we head back. We stripped off the gear, jumped on our boards, and realized we were head to wind with a foot chop in the anchorage. Miles from our boat (seemingly). A good mile into the wind, but no complaints. Just one stroke at a time.
That night after dinner we showered on the deck thanks to thoughtful placement of the solar shower. I then realized that lifting my right arm was challenging. Guess I overdid it a bit with the paddleboard.
The next morning was windy and we were off to Bahia Ballena for a last night of play in an anchorage before heading back to the marina and home.
The sea was choppy with increasing rolls. We motored a bit and then put up the sails. Until the wind died. Literally. O on the wind meter. Then we recalled the 17 knots of wind we had leaving the marina and thought it would be nice to have a peaceful homecoming. So, we aborted plans to stay overnight and headed back to Marina Palmira.
Things stayed calm until we approached the channel. The wind found its second wind so-to-speak and we were seeing 7-8-9--13 knots! So much for our peaceful arrival.
We decided to use the fuel dock as our practice run, since we needed to refuel and empty the holding tank.
That went well. We walked to dock 3 to scope out potential helpers for coming back into the slip. Wouldn't you know it but the only person around was our not-so-helpful neighbor. I, being the consummate communicator, asked him for his assistance and desired closure from the miscommunication before. Turned out the lesson I was hoping to teach turned out to be a lesson of my own. Don't piss off the only person available to help you dock.
That was a situation of "yes" means "no". No help as we are coming in. We did well. But I saw a couple of folks nearby and shouted for a little hand. That proved wise, as no one else was there to assist.
All secure and safe, I actually decided to let it go. With the neighbor. A big fat CLEAR energetically. Instead, I focused my energy on our other new neighbor, who I'd met briefly before we left.
Bill was his name, and his little min-pin Mini. He had shared with me that his dad was ill, so I wandered over to see if he was ok.
Bill is a tanned, older version of Ken...brown hair, blue eyes, about a fathom tall. He has a strange innocence to him, and a sweetness. His dad was in town with his girlfriend Medi, who was getting some dental work done. Shortly into our conversation I realized that Bill wasn't happy with the outcome of the election. He commented on sparring with liberals and asked where I stood. I voted for Obama but honestly am not very political so I told him we weren't very political. In the world of sailing it is always better to be neutral when meeting new neighbors. A margarita or two later is a better time to discuss sensitive topics. Mike emerged from the boat and joined in the conversation. Bill had mentioned he was from Gunnison and I excitedly chimed in that we were from Denver when we first met. That conversation was revisited and he added that he grew up in Denver, which piqued Mike's interest. He redirected the conversation to his belly, which was a little puffy...but not pot-status. Apparently his father was giving him crap about it and it was a sensitive topic as "no Marshall he knew had a pot belly". Bill thought better of pointing out his father's belly. No point in arguing with a dying man. At this point, Mike is recognizing something familiar in Bill when he asked him where he went to high school. Seeing the possibility of a connection as he uttered "Columbine" and the two of them putting things together, I asked what year he graduated. "82," he said. Bingo. Graduated together. Then, like a small child realizing he got everything he wanted for Christmas, Bill lit up and said "Mike Gordon!?. You're Mike Gordon? You're the funniest person I know!" He turned to me and said "You married my favorite person in high school!"
Best moment ever! They exchanged memories and smiles got bigger and brighter as they became 15 again. Bill realized he had to go but invited us to have dinner with his dad and Medi later. We accepted.
We had a feverish afternoon of boat cleaning and packing. I worked my way into a heat rash that hadn't appeared until then. We jumped on our SUPs for the last time and toured the docks. On our way back we saw Bill and Madie on their boat and they wanted to go to dinner. So, a quick brush of the hair, deodorant and off we went.
Turns out Bill, Sr. is a hoot! He is a grey-haired, spunky sailor with great energy and stubbornness. He is dying, but no actual power was given to the c-word. He merely asked us questions, told us stories and later, after dinner gave me a glimpse into his illness. He asked me if I knew what a PSA test was. I did. My dad had a couple increasingly elevated levels and a biopsy that was benign. I think his number was an 8 or 9. Bill's was 160. He said, "When they told me that I knew I was fucked!". It was all over. His shin, his liver, lungs, even his facial bones. He told me all this as he enjoyed his evening cigar. He wants to sail to the Galapagos with Bill, Medi and Mini on their 28' sloop named "Un Bel Di," a famous soprano aria from Madama Butterfly. How perfect.