Sep 9, 2012

Puerto Don Juan and Return to Bahia LA for a Great Whale-Shark Treat

The journey of a thousand nautical miles
Begins with raising the sails.

Wreck off beach in Puerto Don Juan
Because Puerto Don Juan is recognized as a hurricane hole; we thought we’d visit it upon our return to Bahia LA Village for a few more provisions before heading further north. There is not much to be said about this place and I’m not convinced it would offer the best hurricane protection. We much prefer La Mona, a few miles away.

Mike checking out the wreck
We therefore don’t spend much time here but at least we have a visual identification of the place should we need to anchor there in a pinch. We then spend only a day in the Village and try to head out north the next day but the winds do NOT cooperate in ANY way so we end up going back to La Mona. Once again, our sailing angels are with us for that night, there is a huge storm and we only experience 46-50 knot winds while folks barely ¼ miles further get 62 knot winds (Hurricanes start at 64 knots so they can’t brag they were in hurricane force winds!) and the place we were trying to get to also got 62 knot winds. Not that the boat couldn’t have handled it but it’s better to be in less significant winds for all the wear and tear.

The boat next to us lost its anchor and went sailing by as the storm was picking up speed. Thankfully he cleared the beach and all the other boats and he went to deeper sea to take time to install another anchor (his only remaining spare!). He was fully trained and knew what to do under such circumstances – having rehearsed that scenario in his head many times prior. Although you don’t wish this type of event on anyone, it’s nice to see and learn from well trained people like him.

As he’s retelling us what happened during the storm, we see rooster fish hunt nearby. They are quite the fierce predator of smaller fish and quite showy when in full action. His adventure make us recheck all anchoring equipment onboard to hopefully prevent such from happening (in his case a pin broke that he had just inspected 6 weeks prior!).

We get rain for about 24 hours and 2 days later the hills have already greened up quite a bit. Soon there will be desert flowers caressing the hillsides around the bay. We hear of flash floods further south where they got 10 inches of rain, we didn’t even get one. We also hear that Puerto Vallarta where we had contemplated (very shortly) spending the summer has receive in the vicinity of six FEET of rain this season so we’re happy we didn’t stay there.

We dig for clams and have them for dinner sharing them with Nikki who loves them. We watch dorados (mahi-mahi) chase behind large schools of fish, and keep waiting for a chance to see at least one whale-shark up close. We see many dorsal fins but they are too far away to reach them paddling.

We finally meet the other ‘electric’ sailboat we have heard so much about. A single hander with a much larger sailboat and lithium ion batteries but basically set up quite like us at a much higher cost… It was really nice to hear of his research and experiences. We (now that there are two of us crazies out here) can prove that this can be done!

We try, once again, to head north and go by the Village in hopes of meeting Herman Hill, the author of Baja’s Hidden Gold and finally get the opportunity. He is in his 90’s but still very active. Good, albeit very slanted, reading awaits us as we sail north.

Told you the water wasn't too clear
However here's a glimpse of mouth of whale shark
Whitish thing on top is a small remora
The afternoon we spent in front of the Village, we were finally rewarded with paddling among some whale sharks. We have them swim under our dinghy. We see a 12-15 foot specimen and two about 20 feet long. They can grow to be 45-50 feet so we saw some average size ones and they were large enough for me. They only eat plankton and other small stuff so they are no danger to us but it’s hard to convince your brain to react calmly when something that size is inches away from you. Their mouth can be as wide as five feet and the largest one we saw had a mouth about 2.5-3 feet wide. It was quite an experience. They were so close to us we could see the remoras catching a free ride on them, all their yellow dots, their eyes, etc even though the water wasn’t clear enough to get good pictures. One kept aiming for the front of our dinghy so we tried dodging it by paddling furiously to no avail, it kept on track. Thankfully at the very last minute and inches before it reached our dinghy, it turned away and dove down so we could breathe a little more easily again. Great experience… Kids in a sailboat nearby go swimming with them for 30-45 minutes. How great to have no fear of the waters!

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