Sep 9, 2012

Isla Smith (Las Rocas and Laguna Rada) – Sparkling Milky Way in the Water

Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy, or stupid.
Those things are what happen when you don't have a plan.
Larry Winget 

Top left at back - 1,528 foot volcano
Our little home in the foreground
Two anchorages barely a mile from each other on the west side of an island flanked at its north end by a 1,528 foot volcano, the landscape is so bare it’s nearly lunar-like. Other than birds and a few lizards, we haven’t seen anything else crawl or walk on this island.

The rocks are extremely brittle and broken up in small pieces. Everything you walk on snaps, crackles, pops, and is quite unstable. I always thought you needed water and frost to break down rocks this way but that just shows you how little I know about geology – something else I have to research so I better understand when I’m back in civilization.

We watched our first thunderstorm from the boat, the dreaded lightning all sailors fear so much for a mast is like a lightning rod, it can easily attract it especially if alone and not surrounded by anything taller – thankfully we are surrounded by many tall cliffs and hills but there are no other masts around. We usually, when anchoring near other boats, pick the tallest mast to be next to in case of storms and for birds to land on (they also prefer the tallest masts!).

We put away all electronics that can fit in the oven and the microwave in hopes that if we get hit they will be spared thanks to the Faraday cage effect. The light and sound show lasts about 2 hours and is quite spectacular. The boat gets a very good drenching, the air is fresh but doesn’t smell of ozone like we are used to. We hear from other boats within a 10 mile radius the next morning and compared to them we fared extremely well. Some got hit with 45 knot winds and 4 food waves as well as thunder and lightning, we had calm seas and winds only to 22 knots… Luck! We are rewarded in the morning with a beautiful double rainbow.

Rainbow after the storm
It’s interesting to feel/hear the fish during the storm. Each time there is a very bright lightning, they all seem to stop moving at once, creating a sudden clear hush in the ocean. When there is loud thunder, they all seem to shudder at the same time as the rumble, everything shaking at once. All inter-related. In the deep dark, the raindrops bring out the bioluminescence when hitting the water. The sea looks like it is visited by hundreds of water-fireflies or shining like a wet Milky-Way. It is mesmerizing and very pretty.

A couple of seals are outsmarting a fisherman. He sets up his fishing net near the rocks at the shoreline and leaves it there for 24 hours. Around dinner time and partly during the night, seals feast on all the fish caught in the net. The fisherman comes around breakfast time to find a fishing net nearly empty of a good catch! Way to go seals – as long as you don’t get caught in the net!

Starfish bleached by the sun
High tide lines along the coast always seem to bring new treasures. Several sizes of perfectly preserved dead purple sea-urchins, bleached out star fish, white sand dollars, colorful crab shells, etc. I could walk the beach and look for treasures forever for there are always interesting things to view.

Lagoon's narrow entryway in background
Peaceful lagoon
We paddled the nearby lagoon for a long time this morning. So pleasant to be in ocean water yet be surrounded and protected by land all around except for a very small entryway. The water in one of the lagoons (more a mangrove type lagoon) is so shallow and the soil so black from the lava that previously formed it that it produces water about 105 degrees exiting the lagoon when the tide recedes… Bath water temperature! We are told the entry to these lagoons are where we may find whale sharks feeding when their water empties out into the sea, full of nutrients easy to grab if one is patient and well located!

Mangrove at low tide
105 degree water coming out of mangrove
That same dark sand is too much for Nikki to walk on however. We can only take her to the beach early in the morning, late in the evening, or where there is shade, which is not easy to find. Her walk time is now limited to very little unless we have cloudy days which have been very few and far between. Soon the weather will cool off and we’ll be able to cover more ground with her.

There was no wind the day we wanted to go from the one anchorage to the other so we motored to the next one – FIRST TIME we just MOTOR to our next destination (a whole mile!). It felt very odd to have so little to do – just turn the key, no sail to hoist, no cover to take down, no lines to pull, nothing to loosen or tighten, nothing! Thankfully there is a lot of sunshine (and no fridge at the moment) so the batteries are quickly recharged after a 34 minute ride to the dark side of motoring…

Today we watched in awe as a Mexican crew combs the whole coastline of the island and picks up garbage. Not sure who is sponsoring this for that is not the usual Mexican way but we are very happy to see that they are making efforts to keep these islands cleaner. There is hope.

As we prepare to leave for Puerto Don Juan, we watch 10-12 pilot whales go up the south end of Canal de Ballenas (Whale Channel). Their breathing can be heard 1 to 1.5 miles away. They move fast then backtrack and circle in one area for a while when feeding. We never seem to tire of watching these splendid creatures.

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