I wanted to write this post as I want to make note of it so it doesn’t become ‘common’. There are such spectacular days back to back here in the Sea of Cortez, it can become all too easy to let them pass by without remark.
We awoke back in one of our favourite places, Agua Verde, after the failed attempt to head south from Puerto Los Gatos in short, steep waves that had us slamming into them at 3.5 knots per hour, despite engines running at 2500 Rpms (which would have us moving forward at close to 7 knots per hour otherwise). The morning was an unusual one, as we were used to waking to the sun coming up and warming the boat quite early. Instead, we awoke to very low-hanging cloud that better resembled the fog we see near the ocean back in British Columbia, which envelops the mountains and kisses the sea. Everything on the outside of the boat was damp with dew, and there was a chill to the air we hadn’t felt in a few weeks. It was beautiful, albeit a touch eerie.
Over our near-daily oatmeal we watched several boats leave the anchorage, taking note through the binoculars whether they were bouncing on waves or not once they hit less sheltered water outside of where were anchored. Determining that the waters looked calmer than the day before we decided to take the chance that the sea state had calmed and we could try to head south again that day. Shortly after our morning coffee we were visited by neighbours who had dropped anchor the prior evening; sitting in their dinghy and holding on to the side of our boat while we crouched down at the edge to chat. This kind of visit is very common these days, where we all want to meet each other, but don’t want to impose, and are also still mindful of giving wide berth due to COVID. We had the pleasure of a brief visit with Nicole, Larry and their beautiful daughter, Ellie, from SV Milou. We bore witness to the other side of the equation, as they are heading south to sell their boat and take a break from cruising life so their near-teenage daughter can go back to regular school (her request), and attend to other land-based personal matters. This led to an extended conversation between Stu and I about how we’d been originally thinking about waiting until the girls were closer to 8 and 9 years old before contemplating an adventure like this one, and what it would be like to be an only child on this kind of journey. We wish the Milou family really well in this new transition, and are only sad that we met them this late in their season such that we can’t spend more time with them on the water.
We pulled the anchor shortly after the visit, waved goodbye to our new friends Angie, Gary and their lovely dog Reggie aboard SV Nivasi, and headed out to test out the sea state. Not long after we exited the anchorage we were back in swells of close proximity, but decided to push further out to deeper water to see if it wouldn’t have the same fetch-like impact of shallow waters. Thankfully, this was the right choice and not much later we were rolling comfortably over the swells and heading south.
Before we knew it, two blue whales made their appearance in the distance, their VERY long slick blue backs arcing through the waves. Before long, it felt as though whatever direction we looked, every 20 minutes or so, we’d see a spout of water shoot from the surface of the sea or on the horizon, and then the dark back of more whales glide by. I am fairly certain we mostly saw blue whales, fin whales and some humpbacks, who would dive deep and flip their tails up right before descending. At times we were close enough to make out the barnacles on their backs.
The sea state was choppier than the day we transited to Puerto Los Gatos, but regardless once in a while we could make out the unique disturbance in the water of manta rays floating on the surface. From time to time one would jump right clear out of the water, flip upside down and dive back in with a huge smack. My research tells me there isn’t much certainty about the reason they do this, but one theory is that they do it to alleviate themselves of parasites growing on their skin (the speed of the jump, the inability of the parasites to breathe outside the water and the force of the smack as they drop). There’s really no warning of their jump, so catching it was a matter of luck, and we spent more time responding to the slap of their fall and the white bubbles left in their wake than we did actually seeing their jumps.
About 6 nautical miles from our intended destination the wind finally shifted to the north and was in a position behind us that we could raise a sail. As Stu was entertaining the girls (who have done SO well entertaining themselves for the most part in the last three days of sailing, but needed a little attention), and I’m not strong enough yet to raise the mainsail on my own, I decided to just unfurl the genoa and motor sail the last stretch. Feeling the surge from 6 knots and hour to 8 knots an hour, just under the one sail was so fun. Then, as I stood on the side deck enjoying the lowering sun, the warm wind and the waves, I saw another strange disturbance in the water immediately next to me. It was another manta ray, this time quite a bit smaller, and it was lying upside down with its white belly to the sky. As we came close we must have startled it, and it flipped around and sped past the boat and down to the deep.
We arrived at San Evaristo, a small fishing village (but the largest community we’ve seen outside actual towns) near sunset, and dropped anchor in a little bight set away from the main part of the community, but well-sheltered from the now 20 knots of wind coming from the north. There were several large sailboats in the larger part of the anchorage and two other smaller boats tucked in with us. As we prepared our leftovers for dinner, we were witness to pangueros zipping their pangas in and out of the bay. Shortly thereafter a panga came right by us, dropping their anchor in the 200 feet between us and the shoreline. They dropped a net in the water, and then huddled down into the gunnels of the boat. They were still there when we went to bed, and later in the night when I was up for my middle of the night ablutions. This is not the first time we’ve had sleeping fishermen anchored next to us, and it does make one reflect on all the comforts we have tucked into our big boat here, as they sit with no light, no blankets or pillows, awaiting the right time to head back out fishing.
As I sit here writing this I can hear goats high on the hillside above us, bleating like small children; their bells ringing constantly as they teeter back and forth on the precarious rocks that dot the ground. Next to me the girls jump up and down in excitement, gripping the lifeline and watching as a small pod of dolphins bobs up and down seeking out their breakfast on the reef that surrounds us, sounding like a steam engine with their huffing and puffing in the water just next to the boat. If this isn’t pure magic, I don’t know what is.
Postcript: The dolphins continued their pattern of swimming back and forth through the shallows, sometime no more than 25m from the boat, for at least another 12 hours (they were still there when we went to bed, but not when we woke up the next morning). I noticed about half way through the day that there was a tiny little dorsal fin dipping up and down next to one of the larger ones. Part of me wonders whether this was a newborn, and they were teaching it, and making sure it was ready before heading back into open water. Dolphins have also been known to show behaviour we exhibited while sleeping, as they can turn off half their brain at a time, and move languidly around while letting it rest (but still ascending and descending for air). Those may have been some very tired dolphins!