Archive for June, 2010

El Regreso

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Like I said, conditions were fine for our rest stop, and as we slid back into the water to head for home the breeze seemed quite refreshing. The water had some texture now but was still quite clear and we were making fairly good time. Gradually the waves began to demand attention, and Alex remarked that she could see whitecaps. They never got to be the scary kind, with spray blown off the top, and they weren’t really numerous, either. It was more glistening than menacing, but the waves did get bigger and bigger and they weren’t coming from a very convenient direction, either. Then, as often seems to happen, near the mouth of the arroyo, the water seemed to calm a bit — I considered mentioning it. Then slowly, as often happens next, the waves got bigger again, the wind became quite strong, and we were struggling, not so much to keep upright, but certainly to keep pointed in the right direction. Skegs didn’t seem to help. I don’t think we ever saw waves as high as a meter, but they were close together and a bit confused. Alex, ahead and to my left, looked back to ask if I was okay. I said that I was but was thinking of veering a bit toward shore, in case there was some shelter afforded by the point — or in case I found it convenient at some point to swim. She in fact turned in behind me, and we persevered for a time. I remember at least once looking back and seeing her, but not her boat — this was no longer the day we had chosen.

Alex was the first to notice that we weren’t actually getting anywhere, and I saw her turn to get following waves to take her boat to shore. I was not disposed to leave her — or to keep paddling, for that matter — so I aimed for her spot on the beach. We were back to Loreto Bay now — just not to our end of it — and before us was a nice patch of sand that we sometimes walk along.

Neither of us made it all the way without capsizing. Alex at least had her feet out for landing before she was swamped. I got turned sideways in a couple feet of water and shortly was groping the sand. We were glad to stop paddling for a bit.

Reconnaissance assured us that just beyond the dunes lay the golf course. After some careful planning Alex began organizing our gear while I set off for home on foot. I was there in twenty minutes and quickly found the racks for the car top. It was only about three quarters of an hour after leaving her that I sighted Alex again, down at the end of the road that leads past the two new Homex model units. We got the cross-bars and then the boats themselves atop the car, and then spent a long time trying to remember the clever ways we had invented eight months earlier to fasten down our load. Our car has its own web page, by the way; see http://www.mwenda.com/Snowball .

We were soon back home, then showered and drying out. Sometime before sunset the wind died down a bit, suggesting that if we had waited long enough we could have completed our journey without the “auto” rescue. Sometimes we are equipped to risk an unexpected night out, but in this case it didn’t seem to make much sense. We are glad that our fairly urban surroundings make it possible to have adventures like this, especially considering the wildlife we met on our trip, without usually having too much at stake.

Los Tiburones

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The forecast was good for today and we had a nice early start. Walking down to the beach with our gear we saw Chaly talking to somebody and when we caught up to him he asked us if we could see the shark. Sure enough, there was something like a fin fifty meters off shore. Chaly said that he had already been out in the red canoe for a look.

It took half an hour for our boats to get freed up and down to the shore but we set off in what we guessed was the right direction, and it wasn’t long before I saw fins circling. The biggest fin seemed disappointingly rounded, but there were plenty of them. They seemed to be moving in opposite directions but I realized that there was only one fish circling, just a very long one. Alex had joined me by now and the shark, keeping some distance, swam in an arc across our bows and then headed back as to strike Alex amidships. I was starting to get a little concerned, and probably she was too. There was nothing threatening about the creature’s manner, but its length seemed to become more and more significant as the distance diminished. Nearing, it turned slightly to pass behind Alex’s kayak; light-colored spots and considerable width gave away its identity. We knew that it was a whale shark, an example of the world’s largest fish, and someone we had long wanted to meet.

We kept up for a while, admiring the scale of the creature’s grace, trying to stay out of the way without losing sight. Another kayak launched meanwhile, paused to say hello, and then went in for a closer look. We let the pair monopolize our new friend’s company until it remembered a prior engagement and headed back to deeper water.

But by then we had made another discovery. With everyone distracted, another set of smaller fins overtook Alex on her starboard side and turned in front of her. This one had wings! Just four feet wide by my guess, this was a devil ray, from both its expression and its feeding habits, not unlike those of the whale shark. We imagined it to be a manta ray, but they are mostly ocean-going and are much larger except when very young. Thurston’s, or bentfin devil ray is another guess. They breed in the Sea of Cortez in the spring.

Our day was complete, but we had just arrived. We thought we should pick a direction so we headed toward Loreto. We still have Isla Coronados in our sights and have been looking for stopping places along the way. As we passed the disused boat ramp a pair of the local security guards motioned us in to warn us of the shark danger, but we we able to tell them that we had seen the chracters in question and that they were not dangerous. While conversing with them there (taking slightly longer in Spanish) we noticed a dark colored heron standing calmly off to the left, with yellow around its eye but not readiily identifiable with my field guide.

We paddled up to our favorite palapas south of the airport. Our kayaks are now always equipped with camp stools, so we sat in the shade for quite a while and drank canned fruit juice. We thought that we would wait for it to laten up a bit so that we could tell for sure what it would be like to paddle in the heat of the day. By the time we got back into our boats again a breeze from the east had made itself felt. And thus begins the rest of the story of our day.

Wind Creatures

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

We may need to become wind creatures as well. We’ve scarcely been paddling since our practice camping trip, spending a lot of time on land instead, biking, puttering in the garden, testing out the hammocks. We have been waiting for the right string of days for an island trip, easy on the heat but light on the wind and waves. The accessibility of forecast information has helped us avoid some disappointments but it may also have kept us home on some days that would have been okay, watching the little red dot that is our current selves, riding up and down the graph of the daily tides, hoping for waves no more than two tenths of a meter, or at least periods greater than four seconds.

We swim anyway, though, feeling that there’s less at stake or that it’s easier to back out. We went down to the beach today, for instance, in 20 kph winds but a tide well above average. There were little gust marks on the surface, clearly audible from below as they moved past. We drifted easily away from the beach but had to work a little when it was time to come back. Water was cold in spots, with shimmering boundaries like heat waves. Didn’t see any new kinds of creatures, but I saw the tiniest pintanos I ever have, maybe an inch long but with all the detail of their larger brothers.

Our last trip out together was six days before, and it was a lot more eventful. We had waded in as usual with the intention of going out toward the point and then returning when tired or cold, but we ended up swimming all the way around and into the lagoon and emerging on the easy beach there. I saw lots of rays of two different kinds, and scissortail damselfish out by the point.. On recent trips we had for the first time met a beautiful zebra moray, and Alex had seen an octopus and a slate pencil urchin that impressed her a lot.

Today I received a reminder from Greenpeace that the International Whaling Commission is meeting in Morocco in coming weeks and considering lifting its ban on commercial whaling. I sent a donation. The next time I meet a whale I want to be able to look it in the eye.