If we were to describe the last ten months in a couple of words, they would have to be “carefree” and “relaxed”. In fact, from the time we purchased the new “Daydream” in late 2004 right up until February of 2006 we seem to have been under constant time pressures to be somewhere else and to be there quickly. Since March, we’ve finally felt that we truly had “nothing but time” as one of our favourite sayings goes. We’ve only covered about 1700 nautical miles since returning to the boat in February and all of those miles have been in the Sea of Cortez. Our only time pressure was to be well north in the Sea during hurricane season in the summer and fall.
We escaped from chilly Canada in late February and spent the rest of 2006 enjoying one of our favourite places; the Sea of Cortez. There were many lazy, hot days in the summer, great sailing, snorkelling, desert hiking, beachcombing, and, of course, plenty of socializing. We enjoyed some fantastic encounters with nature’s wonder including whales galore, pods of dolphins, enormous sea lions, high-diving pelicans, low-diving grebes, a large, hairy tarantula and most exciting of all, whale sharks! Of course, it wasn’t all whales and sunsets. There was the usual amount of equipment breakage, routine maintenance and snotty weather to contend with which is all part of life on a boat.
During the summer and fall we enjoyed retracing our path made in old “Daydream” in the far northern part of the Sea of Cortez. We made that journey in 1997 and found ourselves retracing it almost exactly 10 years later; seeing all of the old places along with many new ones. The further north we went, the less changes we could see.
One cool spot that we returned to is a little island called Isla Estanque. We had visited here with our friends Albert and Terry and their boat “Northern Summit” back in 1997 and had sketched the entrance to the anchorage then. Naturally we assumed that we knew all about how to get into it, but when we arrived we promptly went aground. One of us (no names need be mentioned) said “Give it a little more gas and we’ll bump over it!”. The other one said “No, let’s back up!”. Naturally we gave it a little more gas, got stuck even more, then tried that crazy backing up idea. Backing up works as it turns out so we carefully tucked our tails between our legs and slunk away.
We even made it as far north as Puerto Penasco way up on the mainland coast again. The tides in Penasco are still just as impressive at over 20 feet. That’s a lot of water to move in and out of that very small harbour every 6 hours! Which may have contributed to our inadvertently (as our friend Shelley would say) taking a piece of the dock with us when we left. There will be no more disussion on that particular subject so as not to make ourselves look silly. The new fuel dock in the harbour has to have a really, really long hose to accommodate the rise and fall of the boat being fuelled which makes for a couple of interesting photos at high and low tide.
Susan & Wayne
It was a good summer in terms of hurricanes in the Northeast Pacific; meaning very few. This resulted in only one hurricane that was of concern to us called Henriette in mid-September. Luckily Henriette stayed well clear of our hideout in Bahia Gonzaga. We had decided to try something new this year so when Henriette was getting close, we found a tiny little cove, which we named Twiggy Cove and backed the boat into it. We put two anchors out in front and six lines to shore. It was such a comfortable arrangement that we spent several weeks enjoying our private little spot. This bay is one of the nicest in the Sea with clear water and abundant sea life.
While we were in Gonzaga Bay our friends Jim and Shelley on the boat “Ebeneezer” came to the bay to do a little work. “Ebeneezer” is a 40-foot catamaran and they wanted to paint the bottom with anti-fouling. Most boats have to find a ship yard and be lifted out of the water for this job, but because catamarans have two hulls they don’t tip over the way a monohull does if you try to set them down on the bottom.
Jim and Shelley carefully took “Ebeneezer” into a very well-protected bay with a nice flat sand beach that dries out at low tide. After removing the rudders which hang down below the bottom of the boat they anchored in a few inches of water then waited for the 15 foot tide to recede. After a few hours “Ebeneezer” was high and dry and perfectly flat. Over the next couple of tide cycles the painting was completed
The whole thing went smoothly except for Grover. Grover is the dog that adopted them when they lived in T’aiwan and he just happens to look exactly like a smallish coyote. Gonzaga Bay is full of coyotes all of whom would get together and sing to us most nights. These coyotes seemed to find Grover fascinating, possibly as Chinese food, and they came out to circle the boat every night to visit and/or sauté him when the tide was out. Fortunately Grover is too smart to date coyote ladies so he escaped intact.
Susan & Wayne
Whale sharks are giant sharks, in fact they are the largest fish in the oceans. They have no teeth, are covered in large white spots and are extremely docile. The Sea of Cortez is famous for them but we have never seen one before this summer when we had occasion to see four of them! Our best sighting took place as we were sitting on deck trying to stay cool one afternoon. Susan thought that she spotted a shark swimming toward us with it’s long lazy swing of the tail fin. Seeing a shark in this area is pretty unusual so it got our attention. As it approached the boat, we were able to clearly see the unique white spots all over its body. It turned out to be a fairly small whale shark; only about 20 feet long. They can get up to 50 feet long! It swam right up to our boat and then on past, lazily scooping up lunch with that giant mouth. We jumped in the dinghy and headed out in front of its projected path. We shut off the outboard and watched as it swam towards us and passed within a few feet totally ignoring our presence. Knowing they are harmless and not wanting to miss out on a rare opportunity, Wayne decided to jump in and see if he could swim alongside or maybe even catch a short ride. Whale sharks have enormous mouths which look like they could at least gum you rather severely if not swallow you whole by accident. Anyway Wayne worked up his courage and hopped in and got within about six inches before it decided that it had had enough and disappeared into the depths.
My favourite whale encounter this year was with a pod of humpbacks. There were probably 20 of them doing a lot of whale-type business and going generally in the same direction as us one afternoon. These guys are always fun to watch as they spout and lift their tails out of the water, all the while moving at a pretty similar rate to ours. Normally whales ignore us and we try not to bother them either but on this day there was one that found us particularily fascinating and decided to play with us a little. It surfaced first on our right side maybe 25 feet away and blew loudly . This is a sound a little bit like a truck makes when it puts on its brakes so out in the middle of the ocean it is cause for heart palpitations. Then it turned toward us and dived. Twenty seconds later it surfaced on the other side and blew again, scaring us once more. This went on for five minutes or so and while we grew accustomed to the noise we couldn’t get used to the idea that a 40-foot long, 20,000 pound animal was maybe playing tag with the keel of our boat.
One other whale encounter happened just at dusk one afternoon. We were sailing when we realized that there was something on the surface of the water just a 20 feet or so off one side. It was already dark enough to have trouble figuring out what it was but when it blew and dived we realized that we had scared a sleepy whale. Just a few minutes later we spotted another one right in front of us and so close that we had no time to turn. As we braced for impact, it woke up with a start. Because it was pointed toward us, when it started moving, it came even closer to the bow of the boat. Somehow it missed us but only by inches when it dived out of sight.
This last year featured visits from my sister Barb and also from our nephew, Algernon. Both of them visited while we were in the lovely city of La Paz. It was fun to see La Paz through Barb’s eyes as someone who had never been there before. It really is a wonderful place. We also enjoyed a close encounter of the sea lion type in the dinghy with Barb along. As for Algernon, he got the four star arrival treatment when the dinghy was approached by a couple of large, interested dolphins as Wayne was bringing him out to the boat for the first time.
We are currently enjoying our time in and around La Paz. We are looking forward to a visit from my folks along with my sister in mid-January and also a visit from Wayne’s sister and various members of her family, including our first great-niece later in January. Further plans this year consist of leaving the boat on the hard in June in San Carlos while returning home for a four month visit to Canada. When we return to the boat in October, it will be for our last taste of Mexico. The plan is to sail south and west to the South Pacific islands early in 2009 if all goes according to plan.
To see more photos from the Sea of Cortez taken in 2007 click here.
To see our Photo Album click here.