On The Road Again in the Sea of Cortez - Part 2
The little town in Bahia Agua Verde hosts a busy fishing fleet, goat dairies, a small tienda (store) and a couple restaurants. The village has about 500 people so they do operate a small school with just a few classrooms. The younger kids attend school in the morning and the older children in the afternoon. We met one of the teachers, Leonardo, in the village and he invited us to come and speak to his class which were boys and girls from 9-11 years old.
This is one of our favorite things to do so we showed up bright and early the next morning. We came prepared with an inflatable globe that we’ve marked our track around the world and samples of currency from different countries.
We always have a great time visiting with the children and this classroom was no exception. In fact, these kids were very attentive, responsive and extremely well-behaved and polite. We had a great time and they joined Margie for a group picture at the end of our presentation.
One of our favorite towns on the SoC is Loreto, considered to be the oldest human settlement on the Baja Peninsula. Jesuit Juan Maria Salvatierra established the peninsula’s first permanent mission in Loreto in 1697. From here, Salvatierra and his Jesuit brothers founded missions up and down the Baja Peninsula and throughout what is now the State of California. We made a day trip to Mission San Francisco high up in the mountains above Loreto. The mission still holds Sunday services and remains pretty much unchanged from its appearance over three hundred years ago.
Moving on to Isla Danzante and a lovely little anchorage called Honeymoon Cove, we realized that we were on a course to intersect with a northbound yacht that we had not seen since 2013 in Borneo! (Happy, happy, joy, joy!!!) I have to say that one of the greatest benefits of membership in the “circumnavigator’s club” is the likelihood that someone from your sailing past will arrive at the same anchorage – sometimes half way around the world from where you last saw them!
In this case, the cruising family aboard S/V TOTEM (Parents, Behan and Jamie Gifford and very kool kids, Mairen, Siobhan and Niall) were neighbors at a marina in Miri, Borneo WAY BACK in 2013 and it was a special delight to find them approaching Honeymoon Cove just as we were about to set down our anchor.
TOTEM has made a name for themselves in the sailing world with their book, Voyaging with Kids, as well as providing sail-making and rigging services, coaching prospective liveaboard families, maintaining a popular website, “SailingTotem.com” and helping to administer the ground-breaking FB group page known as Women Who Sail. It was such a treat to meet up with them again and to see how the children had grown and thrived aboard their ocean home over the past ten years. I can now add an updated photo to my blog which is very special since Niall will be heading to college this fall in Oregon and the family (minus one) will be off, once again, crossing the Pacific.
I should also mention that the TOTEM crew take much better photos than Peter or I do! So, I am stealing a couple of their best shots for you to get a better idea of how beautiful the cruising grounds are here in the Sea of Cortez. The drone shot of the dolphins is just astounding! This happened just a few minutes after we set our anchors less than a football field away from our boats!
Soon it was time to bid fair winds and following seas, TOTEM! “Til we meet again…
Our next stop along the way was a beautiful anchorage at Isla San Jose called Bahia Amortajada. This bay was so lovely, we almost ran aground as we were oooing and aahhing and didn’t see how fast the crystal-clear water shoaled up. Before we knew it, we had 6 inches under the keel! WHOOPS!
Crisis averted, we anchored and took a dinghy trip to Punta San Ysidro which was the site of an old salt mining operation that now resembles a ghost town with trucks and equipment rusting on the beach and buildings crumbling under the sun.
The salt flats still produce tons of halite, better known as rock salt. The plots appear to be maintained to some degree so perhaps the locals still collect the salt for their own use. You might think this was snow I’m holding until you notice the bathing suit. Believe me, it is close to 100 degrees every day now! Snow would be a Godsend!
Our last stop before arriving in the city of La Paz was Ensenada Grande and a dinghy trip to Les Islotes to swim with the Sea Lions. Turns out, we had no idea but it was May 31st and the very last day that tourists would be allowed to swim/dive/snorkel with these majestic creatures for three months. It’s the end of mating season and the females are giving birth so it’s a time for them to have some privacy as the little ones get used to their new environment. Plus, the males apparently can be quite aggressive in protecting their young and, I can guarantee, you wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of an 800-pound Bull! They are HUGE! The males tend to stick to the rocky shore and just defend their territory and their families with loud barking and challenging behavior. We were told by one of the excursion boat drivers that we shouldn’t look a bull male directly in the eye and, not wanting to stir up any ill will, we happily complied.
They are quite used to divers and snorkelers and jump in to get a close look as you swim by. And, I mean close! They whiz by your side and swim right up to your face to get a good look. Sometimes they hang upside down or pass by on their backs and they almost seem to be smiling. Luckily, it’s mostly the females who come out to investigate. Still, they can weigh up to 200 pounds.
I have to say this was one of the best “National Geographic” days of our entire voyage around the world. If you ever get to La Paz, it’s a DON’T MISS activity. And, plan your trip during the winter and early spring so that you can also see the Whale Sharks that pass through La Paz. Unfortunately, we were a little late this year, so swimming with a whale shark, the largest fish in the ocean, is still on my bucket list.
According to the Nature Conservancy, 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! And over 500 species of fish! The region also serves as a breeding ground for sea lions and marine turtles and is a migratory corridor for over 200 bird species. We have really enjoyed our time here.
So, now we are in La Paz, a city of 250,000 people where we are doing some work on the boat, repairing our leaky dinghy and trying to resurrect our single side-band radio so that we are in tip top condition for rounding the bottom tip of the Baja Peninsula and doing the Baja Bash up the Pacific coast to California. They call it the Baja Bash because the wind and current are against you all the way and you just muscle through with your engine – no sailing on this leg of the trip! Once again, we will call upon Hercules to get us through.
We expect the trip to take be no longer than a week if we can get a good weather window but…
Did I mention Hurricane Bud???
Yes, uncharacteristically, we have a hurricane bearing down on the Baja Peninsula right now. It’s unusual for a hurricane to form in this area of the Pacific so early in the season and we are hoping that it will dissipate or veer off to the south before it reaches us but, for now, we are “hunkering down” as they say in Florida and watching the weather forecasts closely. Don’t worry! We won’t begin our journey until we are absolutely sure that we have a green light to go and the coast is clear.
So, next stop…Cabo San Lucas, vacation getaway for the rich and famous!
Hopefully, they will let us in!