Jan 22, 2012

Mazatlán – Reaching Mainland Mexico with Flying Devil’s Rays

Our Nature lies in movement;
Complete calm is death.
Blaise Pascal 

So cool, calm, and collected
Spending my first night watch after a month at dock, I am reminded of the night’s beauty, stars (shooting, or sparkling kinds), wedding veils of phosphorescent luminescence, accompanied only by the sound of Déjàlà in the water, the slight familiar hum of the running equipment (sails, radar, etc), the odd whale or dolphin swimming nearby, and my random thoughts.

Though the seas are high and the wind is in the mid teens to 20 knots Déjàlà is sailing like a young boat at 6 to 6.5 knots. We were sprayed by an odd wave as high as the solar panels located on the dodger once (with only 5 dead squids on deck to show for in morning) while Mike who was sleeping below experienced being “airborne/weightless” for a split moment. Nikki who was with me managed to stay dry. She inhabits the best dry spot in the cockpit – wouldn’t have it any other way.

Back to more time to think and write, letting the thoughts flow as freely as the water along the boat. Time to rebuild calluses on the hands, working the upper body muscles from pulling halyards, ropes, and sheets and just the usual moving about in three dimensions rather than two. Time for broken nails, some bruises, easy hairdo, uncomplicated meals, more time to say “Je t’aime” and show it, etc. Time to sleep apart at different times (the hardest part of sailing for us)…

Mike finally got to see a shooting star or two on this third month of sailing. I was starting to feel bad that I would see them every clear night and he hadn’t had the chance yet. I think shooting stars are a little like lost words; the more you look for them the less you succeed, the moment you stop thinking or looking, they suddenly pop up. I would rather steer by stars than instruments so my mind focuses on a particular set of stars, zoning out and that is usually when the show of shooting stars begins.

Speaking with several other bloggers I hear many see writing as a chore or homework. Although at times I feel like that too when it has been a very long time between ‘reports’ what I like the most about blogging is that it allows me to relive and recount the GOOD deeds and things that happened to/around us. Too often, if not all the time now, we are bombarded with negative and meaningless information. It’s nice to take the time to zero-in on the good things rather than dwelling on the bad…

Speaking of bad things (did you see that quick turnabout?), coming towards us on starboard was what seemed like a large piece of an old dock made of what looked like ancient tires. Since we didn’t want to hit it, not knowing what else could be attached below (wood, metal, nets, etc) we swerved to avoid it only to discover it was a bunch of seals floating together on their backs, sunning/warming themselves up. The way they fold their flippers together in a circle motionless and high above their chests made them look like used tires… We were at least 60-70 miles from land at the time so I guess there are not too many buoys, docks, boats, or rocks to sleep and warm up on so you revert to rafting with your peers.

Since the winds slowed down during the day, we had a chance to experiment with a new whisker pole technique taught to us by David on Bluefin (thank you Dave)… We still need to do some tweaking here and there but it was much more efficient and safe than what we had been doing.

In the last hour or two of our trip here, we were suddenly surrounded by Flying Devil Rays. See more about them here. This blog also includes a great BBC short video of both pelicans and rays by Edw Lynch (you can go to it directly here)  – exactly what we have been seeing around the Sea of Cortez (was taken in this area in Dec 2011).

Picture from Roland and Julia Seitre: These creatures, which look similar to Stealth bomber drone planes, were spotted leaping 10ft in the air. Once airborne, the rays flapped their fins in what looked like an attempt to glide. And, if they were feeling particularly playful, some even managed a somersault before plummeting back into the water with an impressive splash (or belly flop).

One theory is that the males flapped their wings during the few seconds of flight, before hitting the surface with a loud banging noise. Some think it is a way to attract female attention as we saw pairs close by. The bangs are so loud it’s like you’re close to a hunting party with guns. Another is that they scare food up towards another ray by flapping in the water so loudly.

Rays can grow up to 25ft across (there are several species in the Sea of Cortez) and reach two tons. They live in tropical waters and feed mostly on plankton, which are filtered through their gills.

Clever Boat Name: Londolozi which in Zulu means protector of all living things

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