Sep 13, 2013

From Bones to Paper Nautilus (Argonauts)

It takes nothing to join a crowd.  
It takes everything to stand alone.
Hans F Hansen 
Mike and whale jaw bone - boat in background
Moving up north into the Sea this second season, we consciously try to locate places no one or few visit or have explored.  Sometimes by default... there is no wind and this looks like a good place to rest, other times by looking at charts, reading older less known cruising guides, or talking with old timers be they local fishermen or cruisers.  We like to find tranquil little paradises rather than dealing with crowded anchorages. 

Beautiful lines of nature
We still sail without a motor, another not so common occurrence, although we heard of one other motor-less vessel we have yet to meet, a 60 foot wooden schooner (Sara M) built by its owner over 12 years!  We have seen him sail by from a distance but have yet to meet in person.

It takes a lot of self-questioning and overcoming of doubts before embarking on such adventures.  Most books we read, opinions we heard, advice we received say we shouldn’t be attempting this impractical idea, making it difficult to stand alone but the rewards of finding gems on our own or overcoming the odds feel incredibly rewarding. 

Lagoon, kayaks, our home in La Mona
I believe it is human nature to look for similarities or commonalities even when standing ‘alone’ – even if only to confirm that you are not that crazy… So we would like to meet the owner of that 60 foot boat…  We will see how this turns out.

After leaving the island we visited Animas Slot and the bays of Animas and Quemado (a lot of places named after souls around this area)… Many coyotes howl or yap in the night, we see them roaming in the day or cooling off in the sea of under the shade of small desert trees.  We cannot understand how they can survive in such a harsh environment but they all seem healthy.   We have to watch that Nikki stays nearby for she would be a quick and easy target to these sly animals. 

On one of the beaches we visited, we spot what at first we thought were parts of a sunken boat.  Upon closer inspection however, we found it was the skull and jaw of a whale.  It is very large and we cannot move it.  It rests at the highest level of tide and we cannot tell if it floated there or if the animal beached itself in that location.  If it floated there it explains why there are no other whale bones nearby.  If the animal beached itself there, the rest of the skeleton is missing, probably from people bringing bony trophy homes…
Speaking of tides, as we approach the northern part of the Sea of Cortez, tides get up to about 23 feet…  A little research showed that this area provides the third largest tides in the world; the largest ones being in the Bay of Fundy in Canada and seconds in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.  When in Animas Slot anchored in a ‘safe’ 15-18 feet water as our previous time there; we woke up to find only 6 inches of water under the keel…  That was a little too close for comfort so we re-anchored a little further out…  We cannot let our guards down near full moon’s and new moon’s tides.

Four paper nautilus - so delicate and wonderful
On the next beach we anchored at, not our planned destination but due to high winds, we find the ephemeral and rare Argonaut or paper nautilus shells.  Argonaut: small floating octopus, the female of which has webbed arms like sails and secretes a thin, coiled, papery shell in which the eggs are laid, also called paper nautilus.  As per its description, you can understand why it is so difficult to find such shells for they nearly disintegrate upon contact.  Reading someone’s blog who had found one, we knew that the highest full-moon tide are the best times to find them for they float higher and have less chance of getting banged around rocks, kelp, shells, and other flotsam or destroyed by birds looking for food.  In the sand, bushes, or dry kelp, we found 18 good specimens and dozens of broken pieces.  It was the day of the full-moon.  On a beach where the prior season delighted us with dozens of starfish, this year brought us Argonauts.  Each season can be so vastly different. 

Sea biscuit and paper nautilus (Argonauts)
The winds from a nearby storm (possible hurricane Ivo) are finally here so we are safely tucked away in the Bay of Mona where last year we had upwards of 46 knots and barely felt the storm.  This is a safe place and 10 other boats had the same idea.  We are no longer alone at anchor but not much visiting is done due to the high winds.  Good time to bake and update the blog.

While we wait for the winds to blow over we hiked the area and for the first time in her desert life, Nikki met face on with a cholla cactus, one of its small branches attached to the side of her nose.  Thankfully it hadn’t quite dug in yet and was quickly removed.  Not sure the little girl even remembered it happening for she went digging for lizards near chollas right after she was cactus-free.  

And yes, this tree is alive
The little village of Rincon (nook/corner) in La Mona is deserted at this time of the year for these are vacation homes but we see improvements.  A small communal park has been built and you have a choice of horseshoes, checkers, mini-golf, eating in the shade or barbecuing food – propane included!!! It’s nice to encounter places where people come from a place of sharing. 

But this one is
We encountered a large whale shark the first day back in the Bay of LA (La Mona is at the south end of the Bay of LA).  It was about 30-35 feet long and seemed to have a little one in tow but it was hard to see.  Last year we saw 3 whale sharks but they were much smaller than this one. 

We have days of very little breeze between the cloudy skies brought on by hurricanes Ivo and Juliette which are thankfully passing quickly on the outside of the Baja Peninsula and away from us.  We go kayaking to create a small breeze to help us cool off and spend more and more time in the water. 

Then we were surrounded by 12 whale sharks
This big!
For hours!
Ospreys hunt overhead while cicadas are grinding away their loud it’s-going-to-be-a-hot-day songs. Small rays are skittering away from their sandy nests when we glide above their heads, some with many small fish in tow.  Several rainbow sightings cheer up the cloudy days. 

At night we are enjoying meteorite showers between the clouds while listening to the many howls of the coyotes often accompanied by the yips of their little ones. 
Quick before the tide come in...
We don’t remember having so many cloudy days in the Sea last year but at least it keeps the days much cooler so we cannot complain.  It’s only a little harder to make enough power via our solar panels when it’s this dark during the day.

We are nearing the end of our second season in the Sea with a return to the US for a small break. We enjoy everything a little more intimately and thoroughly.  The end of an era seems to bring that out in people.

After the rains.. cactus in bloom.
We are enjoying small victories like not getting wet at all while kayaking, treasuring the colors of the desert mountains at sunset, sharing great meals in the cockpit together, meeting old and new friends, while trying not to delve into the near future of return to rushed civilization.

From the sturdy bones of the largest animals on earth to the extremely fragile and fleeting paper thin nautilus, from the stoicism of sentinel-like pelicans to the flutter of hummingbirds, from the calm and silence of the sea to the forces of hurricane winds, thunder and rain traveling nearby, from no man-made lights seen anywhere around to extra-modern satellites floating amongst the stars miles overhead, from the scorching sands to the cooling water of the sea, from nearly dessicated desert cacti to mangroves and jungles, from soaring majestic ospreys to silently gliding manta rays, from hundreds of pounds of anchor chains securing us to the tiniest puffs of breezes guiding our way, from the daily rhythms of nature back to a city we no longer honestly know.    

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