Dec 8, 2012

Many Small Coves in Sea of Cortez – Where Butterflies Pass Us By

The problem with the world is that the intelligent 
People are full of doubts while the stupid ones 
Are full of confidence.
Charles Bukowski 

Caleta Candeleros Chico sunrise
Honeymoon Cove Revisited, Caleta Candeleros Chico, Bahia St Marte, Mangle Solo, Bahia Amortajada, etc

We simply had to spend a few more days in beautiful Honeymoon Cove on our way south, this time in the middle cove rather than one further to the northwest. This cozier bay has a nicer beach even though it is smaller, and hence, tighter to anchor.

Déjàlà in Agua Verde - foreground of flowery vines
From inside the cabin below, it sounds like we are part of the popcorn popping in a very heavy large kettle. It comes from all sides and grows progressively faster and louder. Heading out to see what is going on; we see hundreds of fish jumping in the air furiously chased by all types of birds in a feeding frenzy. There are so many of them that the pale blue-green of the sand below instantly turns black to then flicker back to blue-green as they head another way, then black again so on and so forth. Near the shore we hear what sounds like waves crashing but the sound emanates from the fish having suddenly nowhere to go but back when they near the shore. There is a frantic jump to return to sea and they seem to dash over each other in their desperate attempt to do so.

Bleached out stump under boulder - Bahia St Marte
The fish don’t seem to willingly be jumping in the air to catch insects or air but rather act as bars of wet soap squeezed tightly by hand. I don’t have a clue why they behave this way but in this trance/dance a multitude of these 4-6 inch fish end up on the boat and in the kayaks while others thump the hull. Nikki is startled by the sounds and rapid movements but swiftly loses interest after she sniffs the few specimens that do not want to ‘play’ with her.

That many fish attract cormorants by the hundreds tightly huddled together in two groups bobbing around the bay grunting as they pass by. Black, rather than white, bellied pelicans join in and perch on the nearby rocks.

North of Caleta Candeleros Chico - craggly range
The unexpected show lasts only 10-15 intense minutes. The birds calm down. The sunset reddens and we are, again, enjoying a calm evening with a million dollar view to ourselves.

It is time to enjoy a kayaking tour of the bay. The winds are non-existent. It is calm. My mind flows and wanders as the current and my paddles let the kayak flow and meander over the clear waters. It is very Zen-like and thoughts just pour through, unencumbered, and unprocessed, just there.

Hundreds of bright red crabs and some steely blue-gray ones are slightly above the waterline attending to what looks like ‘grooming’ of the rocks they are perched on. They are diligently picking at very tiny things (animal or vegetal I do not know) they quickly put in their mouths.

Agua Verde - pangas and humble home
With pride, the owner of the home called it his 'palace'
Many starfish are easy to see but a new one catches my interest. It is a shade darker than baby blue with yellow spines – beautiful.

Dozens of urchins the size of grapefruits embellish the rocks. They seem so fuzzy rather than spiny, deceivingly soft rather than prickly, when seen from above water.

My attention is then drawn to what looks like white snakes in the water and the more I search for them the more they escape for I move the water too much in my hurried state to see. I repeat the process several times to finally find out the snakes are mere reflections of bright jet contrails in the darkening purple sky. I was fooled by a quick illusion broken up by the flight of a pelican close above.

The beatitude of it all is a great prelude to a wonderful dinner and evening with my love.

The following day, moving to another small cove further south with spinnaker only as there is practically no wind. We amble so slowly that even butterflies pass us by… On another one day sail, our depth meter sounded an alarm that we were in only 5-7 feet of water. That gave us a start but we knew there were no rocks around so it had to be a large swimming critter below the surface. Indeed a whale as big as our boat swam along for 30-35 minutes, at times crossing at our bow, at times spraying the boat, at times meandering behind. It is events like these that remind you that time has no importance.

Mike entering sea cave in Bahia Ballena
Marie-France in sea cave
Mike exiting sea cave
Another beach offers sight of large bleached out and worn out whale bones. An hour away by kayak we enter a sea cave about 60 feet long by 12 feet wide. It is quite eerie to enter as the surge pushes you in and you wonder if you are strong enough to fight it back coming out.

Of the many wildlife tracks we have seen in Baja and the many islands in the Sea of Cortez, we can now add: raccoon, hermit crabs, some type of cat (bobcat, puma?), snakes and scorpions. The greening of the desert as well as the colder weather has brought some of these critters to lower altitudes.

Greenery at bottom of lagoon
Thanksgiving is spent on s/v Pura Vida with the folks from s/v Manta – enjoying a typical dinner of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and pumpkin pie but under a starlit sky floating in aquamarine water so clear you can see everything going on below. No snow or cold here, no traffic jams, and no rushing, just simple good time with likeminded folks.

Mike taking picture of boat's shadow in clear waters of Mangle Solo
Nikki has finally gotten the hang of catching crabs. Unfortunately for us, they are not large enough to be edible but it is fun to watch her dig furiously the sand until she reaches to a protective claw or two brandishing at her. She eventually catches the backside of the larger claw and swings the crab out of its hole to then chase it down to the water line. At low tide, it can become quite a race where at high tide she doesn’t stand a chance; these critters are too quick to disappear underwater into the sand. It gives her a new purpose in life whenever we are on beaches with crab holes near the high tide line. It also keeps the crabs on their toes. I don’t understand how she chooses which crab hole to dig for there are hundreds but she seems to hit the jackpot each time. What seems to be a busy hole with many tracks to and fro is not necessarily what she goes after… Go figure.

Bonsai-like mangrove tree inside Amortajada lagoon
Cardon cactus in background
We have seen more sailboats in one anchorage in the last week than we have all summer. The ‘commuter cruisers’ (those who spend 6 months or so at home, the rest back here sailing) are back for the season. Marinas are full; it’s a good time for us to head south where it will be quieter again. We see our very first Quebecois sailboat (Grace) with Robert and Lucie onboard. This is a rare sighting – sailors in these necks of the water are usually from the western regions of Canada and the US.

Many more days and evenings are spent thus quietly followed by reading of great books and sharing of good conversations.

Beach within Amortajada lagoon
Our sailboat way in the background past lagoon's natural retaining rock wall
Our last night on this side of the Sea of Cortez is spent alone at anchor near a two mile long by ½ mile wide lagoon, the largest we have seen to date and on an island nevertheless. Of course this means ‘jejenes’ (no-see-um bugs at dusk and dawn) hence the lack of other cruisers nearby. Many stay away from places with bugs but one can learn to work with them. We kayaked for 2.5 hours surrounded by beautiful wildlife. It is a great way to say goodbye to the Baja side and hello to the mainland and the jungle.

Amortajada Lagoon looking over San Jose Channel

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