Out to the Islands
19 December 2011 | Isla Ispiritu Santo
WooHoo .....out of the slip! The weather reports finally agreed that the Northers would let up on Friday and Saturday, so we thought we'd take a quick trip up to the islands. It takes about 3 hours to get from our marina to the bottom of the islands, and about 3 hours more to go to the top. It was a little windy, but on the nose, so no sailing.
After a slow start from the leftovers of the party on Mimiya the night before, it feels really good to be out of La Paz and the monotony of the La Paz happenings. Fresh air, patchy clouds, blue water again - Ahhhhhh. No one else was out, and we were wondering if they all didn't hear the revised forecast, but it is nice to have the place to ourselves.
Isla Ispiritu Santo is a Natural Marine Park purchased by the Mexican government to preserve and protect the zillions of species native to this area. To be more correct, the book says that "The sea of Cortez is the second most diverse marine body in the world. It is home to 31 species of whales and dolphins...one third of the world's total. It serves as breeding ground for sea lions and marine turtles, and is a migratory corridor for 210 bird species. Some 500 fish species, 4848 known species of marine macro-invertebrates and 626 forms of algae live here." So, we headed off with high hopes of seeing zillions of species of things during our travels. The beaches and bays are all very similar in that this area was volcanic, and one edge of the island was thrust up from the sea floor exhibiting the striations of eons of bedrock and sea floor. There are remains of oyster farming for pearls, mostly and fish camps in a few places, however fishing isn't allowed in the preserve, they must go farther out.
Our first stop was in Puerto Ballena (Whale Port), which has three bays of turquoise sandy bottom and striated cliff sides around each bay. Since there was a sailed boat in each of two bays, we chose the third and had it all to ourselves for the night. Unusual East winds picked up overnight, but died by morning and we had another placid day of motor-exploring. We poked our nose into all of the bays, coves, all with names like Ensenada Del Candelero (Candlestick Cove), Ensenada Grande (Big Cove) and Carleta Partida, which we chose. It has a small passage to the other side of the island, at high tide, with your dinghy. Well it wasn't high tide, and we had to drag our dinghy for a ways, so we just parked it on the beach and walked around to the other side. There are some fish camp buildings, but no fishermen today.
We managed to get in the middle of a herd of about a dozen dolphins feeding in the bay! Some were even as big as our 10' dinghy! We slowed down so as not to get them with the propeller, but they were all around us anyway, turning on their sides and looking at us, popping up and down to breathe and feed. Very Cool!
We anchored in about 12 ft of clear turquoise water. There were 3 other boats anchored in this huge narrow bay with us. The pictures should give you some scale of the height of the cliffs in most of these bays....you'll see Wind Spirit's mast is dwarfed at 67' off the water! As the sun set, you could see that the trawler also had his Christmas lights on, which is a weird reminder that Christmas is just around the corner and where are we??
Sitting on the boat in the evening (which is really only 4 - 6 pm here) it is sooooo quiet!We kept hearing his big "whoosh" of an exhale around the boat and found we were adopted by a sea turtle circling us. We must have been over his favorite feeding ground...sorry! Earlier in the day, we had toured all the way up to the top of Ispiritu Santo to the little island of Los Islotes, where the sea lion rookery is located. Because of the depth, we were able to get real close to the island that was loaded with sea lions, some big, some little. There were divers, in wetsuits, but no snorkeling for us, its too cold this time of year! For islands that are to be teeming with wildlife, we saw very little. A smattering of pelicans, terns, blue footed boobies ( although they were hiding their blue feet), sea gulls, dolphins, seals, starfish and a few fish were all we were able to muster this time of year. I think they've gone to warmer spots for the holidays! Still, it's pretty incredible to be right in the middle of it.
We're headed back to La Paz on Sunday, pick up the car for Monday, Tuesday land cruising and fly back on Wednesday for 3 weeks or thereabouts in the states. When we come back, we'll have a few more days of sailing (downwind I hope!!) to get to Cabo San Lucas and the end of my part of the adventure. Then Paul's tales will have to be added after he gets in to San Diego. We look forward to seeing you all again, hard to believe we've been gone since September!