After a quiet day of reading, puzzles, movies, paddle boarding, snorkeling and lots and lots of sitting and watching the small pod of dolphins that became our temporary neighbours while we were in San Evaristo, we decided it was time to move on in the morning. We awoke to the clanking and jingling of the goats in the hills above us, chasing the decreasing shadows as the sun rose overhead.
The seas were relatively calm, and the wind wasn’t predicted to fill in until later in the day, so we decided to take the opportunity to make a pit stop at a place called Isla Coyote, which sits between Isla San Jose and Isla San Francisco. As we made the crossing, we saw about a dozen different turtles, peeking their heads out of the water with curiosity, and then diving back down unimpressed. This is the most turtles we’ve seen in one place, and I can’t get enough of them.
On Isla Coyote, which rises a mere 40m above sea level, and appears to be about the size of a football field, sits a small fishing village. Just off the small island is a reef extending west, surrounded by azure blue water and abundant with coral, urchins and loads of different species of fish.
We dropped the anchor in about 30 feet of water and prepared ourselves for a little explore (sunscreen on the girls: check; hats on everyone: check; snacks in the bag for hangry crew: check). As Stu dropped the dinghy we noticed tiny, coin-sized transparent jelly fish floating by with long, trailing tentacles. From time to time a larger one would pulse by, more the size of a baseball or fist. These are the first jellyfish we’ve seen so far in the Sea of Cortez, and they were mesmerizing to watch float along in the current. As we don’t currently have a book for identifying them, I wasn’t sure whether they’d be stinging or not, so thought it was best to warn the girls against dangling their feet in the water off the transom the way they like to.
We putted about the rocks, piled high with sea gull and pelican guano, peering into the water as we went. We identified the usuals: sergeant majors, angelfish, groupers, coral, urchins and lots of trigger fish. We also saw some bigger fish who were a bit too far away to identify, as well as our fist parrotfish of this adventure. Their bright turquoise scales were so pretty to watch as they swam confidently among the rocks. We also saw red crabs about the size of an avocado scurrying up and down the intertidal area on the reef, and the gulls sitting above them eyeing up their next meal.
After a toodle around the island, we pulled up to the shore where there were several fisherman cleaning their daily catch. We had read in Sean and Heather’s cruising guide that it might be possible to arrange a tour of the island, and to buy fresh seafood from the locals. As we approached the shore, a wizened old fellow with white whiskers all over his face approached the water’s edge with two massive crabs in his hands. They looked like Alaskan King Crab, or something like it, but alas my local species guide only described tiny reef crabs, so I couldn’t properly identify it. One kind man came down, and between our broken Spanish, and his patience, we were able to determine that they weren’t currently doing tours of the tiny island because of COVID precautions, which we completely understood and respected. We did purchase one of the big crabs, with a wingspan of probably 2.5-3 feet, as well as several fillets of fish. On completing the exchange of pesos for the fresh fare, the man we’d been talking to passed over two tiny, delicate pieces of coral for the girls to keep, which he said came from very deep down in the water. (Of course, on getting back to the boat we asked Lily where her coral was and she happily stated ‘in the water’ – nothing is precious in the hands of that little girl, which is probably good to be reminded of from time to time).
From Isla Coyote we headed over to another reef barely peeking out of the water known as Rocas de Los Flocas, which is a known sea lion rookery. The wind had started to pick up from the east (and the sea lions were west of us), but as we passed on the west side of the rocks the pungent smell was undeniable. Several of the sea lions were floating in the water around the rocks, just at the surface, with their fins stick straight up like sails. A large sealion hauled his massive body out of the water and started expressing, what I can only assume was his protest to our presence, with his deep honking noises. Then, those in the water and surrounding rocks joined the choir, which Lily took as an invitation to join in. Hooting and hollering we enjoyed the concert before moving on.
We had originally discussed heading further south to Isla Partida, for an anchorage known as Bahia Grande, but as the sea state from the south was picking up and we were banging more into the waves, we decided to detour and head into Isla San Francisco. We originally had planned to avoid Isla San Francisco, despite it boasting one of the prettiest beaches in the area, as it is known to be frequented by charter boats out of La Paz, including those fancy ones we’ve all seen on ‘Below Deck’. But, we decided it was worth the risk of party central to have a more peaceful afternoon with some beach time for the kids. All told, if it weren’t for the insane amount of boats that worm their way in there (we counted 16 by the time we went to bed), this would likely be a favourite anchorage with its pretty white sand, it’s cerulean blue water dotted with green sea grasses, and the numerous turtles that swam around our boat through the evening.
Looking at the forecast for the following days, we decided it made the most sense to make our hop to La Paz the next day, skipping Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu this time around. We will take stock once we get to La Paz, so we can get a status update on some of our intended boat upgrades, provisions, shopping etc…, get back online, check out the various marinas and the location of our friends that are heading down from the northern end of the Sea, and make a plan for the next few months.