Sep 13, 2013

Island of the Souls

If you want to increase your success rate,
Double your failure rate.
Thomas J. Watson 

View of our little home from interesting cliff
From the doves and frogs of San Ignacio’s oasis back to the lizards and crabs of the Baja desert; I am sitting under the nearly flat wind-scoop at the front of the boat; there has been nearly no breeze all day.  I watch a huge thunderhead cloud build truly up high on the other side of the Sea about 70 miles away while I update this blog, missing the company and peaceful sounds of the doves and frogs. 

The miracles of erosion
At this time of year, most storms come from the east side of the Sea:  monsoon season in northern Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico influencing our weather, dramatically at times.  Drifting way upwards are pure white clouds against a stunning blue backdrop broken up only by the low skyline of Isla de las Animas (Island of the Souls) where we are at anchor in Caleta Blanca (White Cove).

A couple of nights prior, we felt the effects of one such storm while in San Francisquito Bay.  Lightning and clouds far enough away we escaped its rain but not its winds.  For about an hour we had 25-35 knots of wind as the edge of the storm blew by.  This was predicted so nothing to worry about; we were prepared.  Only a few miles away across the San Lorenzo channel, the clouds were low and hiding a nine mile long island, seemingly giving it much needed rain while we were basking in the sun. 

Who needs people-made sculptures when nature can do this!
The lack of wind makes sounds carry even further than normal over the water.  A seal on another nearby island a few miles away is heard barking, grunting, pleading, snorting or bellowing.  It is sometimes answered by others but most times others stay quiet in return.

As the name implies, Caleta Blanca (White Cove) has a nice white sandy beach but it is also surrounded by a type of cement or light putty colored rock that can appear whitish therefore not sure to which the name applies, if either.  There are a few small sea caves and most rocks are topped with filigree like coverings of the same color.  They are hard to describe but should you take small stones of various shapes and sizes and bind them together with mortar then make all of them disappear leaving only the intricate network of the mortar, you’d have an idea what these beautiful natural sculptures look like.

Mike kayaking near caves once again
Our cruisers’ guide said there is no anchorage or access (meaning usually no place to land) on this island yet this little anchorage is lovely.  Most people access the next island, Salsipuedes, making it a crowded anchorage at times.  We prefer this space.  It is so seldom visited even the seagulls and pelicans are not used to human interaction.  They quickly fly away carrying a veil of tiny water droplets along their large wings when they take off the water as we land our kayaks for a walk, and do not return to the island until a long time after we are gone.  One even tried to chase me away wings fully extended squawking as he was bearing down on me.  I was surprised for I had never seen this behavior in a pelican before.

This general area is known more for its reefs and diving activities but we find it very nice to hike and kayak as well.  With little breeze we spend more time in the water.  As temperature is hovering between 83F and 88F you can float around for a long while and never get cold, just pruned.  Nikki is in heaven hunting both crabs by the beach or lizards further up the hills, the best of each world, sea and desert.

Our ways up to San Francisquito have been influenced by strong tidal currents.  They are a force to reckon with when sailing the waters of the Midriff Islands.  They are somewhat like small unexpected rivers meandering within the Sea.  They loosely follow tides so one has to be watchful when they occur and how high/low they are to avoid possible mishaps.  Even at anchor, tidal currents can affect the way your boat points with the current rather than the wind, sometimes making things a little uncomfortable.  A motor vessel following us into San Francisquito Bay but traveling much closer to land was suddenly pushed by a current so strong it made his boat do a 360° loop at 11 knots.  He thought that was quite a ride and his eyes were still big with excitement/fear as he anchored nearby!  I’m not sure I would’ve liked it.  As usual since we don’t have a motor, we stayed further from shore and did not feel the effect of that strong current rounding the same point. 

Can't describe the color of these cliffs
The channel we came up is one of the deepest in the Sea.  I am awed and feeling somewhat insecure knowing we are sailing over 4,000 feet of water!  This deep channel brings water temperatures down to 72F in places (during the summer) and lots of nutrients for whales and other sea creatures, therefore a great place to see whales, dolphins, seals, rays, etc.  A large fin whale followed us for a short while then dove for food and we didn’t see it again. 

Our last morning in San Francisquito, we noticed new tracks on the beach.  A turtle had landed during the night to bury her eggs then left. Throughout that same night, a coyote dug up the eggs and ate them all up, leaving only empty or nearly empty soft shells behind.  One hundred or so little lives gone to feed one animal!  We had noticed the coyote pacing the beach the prior morning and wondering if their biological instinct tells them to hunt for this delicacy during this season.  It saddens us to see the carnage, so few turtles hatch and make it to maturity.  Nikki tasted one of the half eaten eggs left behind, seeming to like the treat.

Past the beach, we head into the driest desert we have seen since our time in Mexico.  Cacti are dead or dying all around.  This area must not have been blessed with the rains hurricane Paul brought to Baja last year in October.  There are several caves and interesting formations made of yellow limestone.  The rocks are so fragile that piles of fluffy yellow dust lie along the bottom of each similarly colored rock walls.  This ochre-yellow powder comes cascading down with just the touch of a finger to ‘rock’.  Many bubbles of various sizes marble the surface of these rocks.  It resembles damage adobe-wall paint suffers due to high humidity.  Not sure what causes them but they add a very interesting, yet extremely delicate, dimension to these rocks.

We kayak to a nearby anchorage called Las Mujeres (The Women) and along the beach are tall mounds of shiny pearlescent shells.  The area was full of pearl oysters in the days.  These are remnants of the trade.  We met a woman who dove for pearls for nearly 12 years in that area – a long while back.  The sad thing with Mexico is that they do not understand/follow preservation/conservation so we are doubtful there are any pearl oysters left.

Back under the wind-scoop where I see we are still surrounded by a watery mirror.  Thanks to a non-existent breeze there are no ripples on the sea.  As sound carries farther in calm, so things seem to appear larger.  Birds floating nearby look as if twice as big, an illusion of course.  Dimensions and distances always a challenge to approximate in open waters. It is so calm, even the birds are taking the day off, just floating around or nesting in the shade.

I am wondering where the name Island of the Souls came from.  As we walk through the pelican nesting areas and see how many yearlings didn’t make it this season, maybe hundreds, I am wondering if the natives who possibly named this island may have had them in mind.  Another sad but real representation of nature’s true nature with its ebbs and flows, gains and losses, highs and lows, hits and misses, unsightliness and beauty, and life and death.
Small valley within this tiny island
We crisscross the island enjoying the remoteness and solitude.  We are surprised at the easy gradient and access to all areas.  We wonder at how crowded and noisy it would be during nesting season (roughly from Feb through May).  Each ridge with its corresponding valley is lined with empty pelican’s nests.  Guano cascades over any and all available high rock.  Nearly all accessible plant material is used up by the nest builders.  Only things not affected by the nesting crowd are the cacti and smaller rocks…

Hurricane season is well underway but we have been spared so far.  Maybe we’ll luck out and not have to hide away from one this year.  Only time will tell but so far we are safe and there is nothing ominous in the forecast.  We heard on the radio net that no one else is getting a breeze today – the whole Sea appears to be quiet and therefore quite hot.

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