Sunday, November 23, 2008

San Francisco to Isla San Francisco

There must be an unwritten rule that states that any place named "San Francisco" is, by definition, a really cool place. Check out the pics below, taken at Isla San Francisco, where we spent the past couple of days hiking, snorkeling, and relaxing (clicking on the image brings up a larger version)
So, to catch you up with the story thus far, we left La Paz under clear skies on the 18th of November, and cruised between the islands north of La Paz. Once again the Sea of Cortez continues to overwhelm with beauty and bountiful sea life.

Our first stop was Bahia San Gabriel on Espiritu Island, where we anchored for the night. While there, we tried to hike across the island but were stymied by the intense desert heat and millions of hostile little prickers covering the ground that painfully dug into our feet. (Note to Naomi's Mom: we were not wearing our Keens, otherwise we might have had better luck!)

The next day we had good wind and zipped up the channel to a beautiful crescent-shaped cove in Isla San Francisco, shown at the top of this blog entry. This is a small island 44 nautical miles from La Paz and surrounded by the dramatic Sierra de la Giganta mountain range that literally springs from the sea and creates dramatic sunrise/sunset photo opps. We hiked across the steep range overlooking the bay, and were circled by ravens, hawks and what appeared to be vultures, all riding the upwelling drafts.

Our next port of call was a small fishing village called San Evaristo (population: 20 Indian familes) where we intended to buy some fresh fish for the grill. En route, we caught a nice Bonito and based on this luck, decided to turn around and head south again.

(Note to Dad: we had been having no success fishing with a cedar plug on our new hand-line, until I decided to switch lures to the one we used on the coast of Baja...within ten minutes of this switch, we had the Bonito in the cockpit and proceeded to filet ourselves a nice dinner. We now call the plug you brought our "magic lure")!We used our new gaff-hook to bring the fish aboard, carved off a few tasty portions, and cleaned up the bloody mess, then pointed Hurulu back south and motored through exceedingly calm seas. The sky was overcast-- the first since entering Mexico-- and we welcomed the relief from the intense Baja sun.Shortly after, Naomi shouted out "WHALE" and we saw a pod of 6 to 8 just off the starboard bow. We slowed the motor and ran parallel to them for a bit, trying to capture them on film (Editors note: whales are hard to photograph as you never know when they will surface).

Just as we thought all the fun was done, we saw another pod of whales-- this time, at least 20 to 30-- heading straight for us. We killed the motor and watched as they cruised by on both sides of the boat within spitting distance. Once again, we grew alarmed they would hit us, as we were directly in the path of the entire pod. Check out the video titled "How NOT To Whale Watch" for a few of our more embarrassing moments (Warning to sensitive ears: yes, we seem to have developed a tendency to swear like sailors!)

NB's Blair-Witch-Style Whale Video:

Finally, when an estimated 40-60 whales had finally passed us by, we fired up the trusty Yanmar diesel and continued south back to Isla Espiritu. We dropped the anchor in a small cove that we had all to ourselves called Ensenada de la Raza, but after I dove on the anchor, I found it was not digging in to the bottom---we had to keep moving, back to the familiar Bahia San Gabriel.

Once stationary, anchored in about 18 feet of turqouise water, we opened a few Coronas and grilled up our Bonito at sunset, half with butter and garlic and the other half marinated in Soy Vey. Muy delicioso!

Which brings us back to the present, tied dockside once again in La Paz. While it's fun to have real showers then stroll the seaside malecon eating choco-crunch helado, I'd much rather be back at a remote anchorage where we have the silence and stars all to ourselves.

In short, the Sea of Cortez is truly a special is hostile, harsh, and mysterious, yet it is teeming with life both day and favorite activity while anchored is to simply sit on the bow under the quarter moon and just listen to the sea.

It's so much fun because the sea is very much alive...mammals are constantly surfacing and breathing around the boat, and fish are frequently jumping out of the water for reasons known only to them. Gulls are omnipresent with their dramatic dive-bombs in search of a meal, and even here in the marina there is a goose named Lucy who was apparently cast off from her gaggle in a storm and never left...she makes the rounds of the boat in search of a snack, and sqwaks loudly if you don't comply.

And despite the harsh, empty seas and islands, it's a healthy place to spend some time. We're both developing a nice glow (despite constant use of SPF 50+), and with days spent swimming, snorkeling, pulling up anchor by hand (a great upper body workout), a little fresh fish here and there, amazing sunset cocktail hours, and a lot of sleep in a gently rocking boat, we're both in the best shape of our lives.

The only downside? We miss our dog Finney (thanks again Ali, Cooper, and the Skaggs for taking care of him) and we miss our family and friends (but they all have an open invite-- come sail away with us!)

Ok, enough for now. Tomorrow we leave again for the islands and will join our new friends from the boat La Palapa for an island Thanksgiving. After that, we will make the rather long crossing over to Mazatlan and points further south. Asta luego!

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