Isla IsabellaÉ Twice Denied
06 December 2014 | 21 50.48'N:105 52.93'W, Isla Isabella, Mexico
Three times we have tried to reach this island, and twice before mother nature's indifferent hand has pushed us aside.
Nine years ago, during our first cruise of Mexico, we planned to stop at the island on our way from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta. As dawn broke, the weather was uncharacteristically grey and blustery. Heavy, low clouds almost touched the sea as the wind covered the water with whitecaps. As we approached the island, the first thing we saw were the guano covered lava stacks rising out of the sea with huge waves breaking on them. The dark, black, volcanic island appeared behind the stacks and further enhanced the prehistoric look of the place. It was impressed, but very unwelcoming at the same time due to the weather conditions. We decided to pass on by and have regretted it ever since.
Last month, on our way from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta, we once again set our sights on Isla Isabella. Once again, mother nature said "no way." This time, she placed a tropical depression in our path, forcing us alter our plans and seek shelter in Puerto Vallarta as fast as we could.
Earlier this week, we decided to spend another week in La Cruz so that we could be in town for an upcoming regatta, the "Banderas Bay Blast." The only problem was that it was a week away. Of course, if you know Dee and I at all, you know that we really didn't want to sit around for another week. So, we decided to take advantage of the settled weather and try to make the long trip North to the island. It's about 100 miles from La Cruz to Isla Isabella which is one overnighter, or two long day trips on a sailboat.
We left LaCruz early yesterday morning with the goal of reaching San Blas by nightfall. There was no wind, and what little wind there was, was directly on our nose so we motored the whole sixty miles. On our cat this is pretty pleasant, so other than having to drive for ten hours, it was a good day. We had some great humpback whale shows along the way, including a couple of them swimming on their back slapping their flippers on the water. Great to see!
Early this morning we left San Blas on our final forty five mile leg to the island. We didn't want to verbalize it, but we were wondering what would happen this time to prevent us from reaching our destination. I did have to dodge several unmarked fishing nets, and avoid a huge rock that was over a mile off its position on the charts, but when cruising Mexico that is child's play.
Yes, we finally dropped the hook at Isla Isabella today!
As a bit of background, this is an old volcano that reaches a couple hundred feet out of the sea, about 20 miles offshore Mexico. Because it is volcanic, it has a very irregular shape, with what looks like part of the caldera forming a bay. To the east are a pair of vertical lava stacks that jut out of the sea, nearly completely covered with generations of guano from the abundant birds. Many tide pools can be found in the bay in the decaying lava flow, just don't trip and fall as the lava would cut you to threads.
On shore, there is a rustic fish camp where poor fisherman base for weeks at a time. Besides that, there are thousands and thousands of birds. I can't understate this! On the South end of the island every square inch of every tree is filled with huge frigate birds who exhibit little fear, or regard, for humans. You can walk within a couple feet of them, close enough that they could easily reach out with their hooked seven inch beak and take your eye! On the North East side of the island this is repeated with blue footed boobies, and on the cliffs around the bay thousands of sea birds, like terns, make their homes. On the ground, the excitement continues with a large lizard population, including good sized iguanas, that once again exhibit no fear. I almost stepped on a few accidentally! Oh yeah, snakes too. We saw one read snake with black and yellow bands every four inches, that I have not been able to identify yet. Luckily, it got of my way faster than I got out of its way.
We have only been here a few hours so far, but this is likely to be one of the highlights of our trip. I guess it should be, based on how hard we had to work to get here, no help from mother nature. She did, interestingly enough, have one more trick up her sleeve. Shortly after we anchored, an elbow in our pressure water system spontaneously cracked and started spewing water at a great rate. If I hadn't caught it in time, it would have emptied our water tank, forcing us to head home. It's a strange part to break with no moving parts involved. It makes me wonder, and definitely ensures that I will be on guard while we are here.