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Friday, May 27, 2011

5/22 50th Birthday

22nd Mulege` Yesterday was my fiftieth birthday, the second I have celebrated since becoming a full time cruiser. It seems impossible that it was only a year ago that I was celebrating in the rain and the cold of Prince Rupert BC. Still miles from Alaska we were stuck there desperately trying to fix the broken heater that threatened to end our Alaskan trip before it had even started. Prince Rupert was cold and wet, I was cold and wet and my gift from Bill was a pair of fancy flowered rubber boots that I begged for. Well, it’s a whole new world this year. For 2011 I spent my morning in my swimsuit paddling alone in my kayak around the anchorage in Playa Santispac with four!!! whale sharks. The previous day Bill and I were able to get in the water with them and then follow them around in our dinghy snapping pictures and watching their odd behavior. You may have picked up on the fact that seeing the whale sharks was high on my list of “hope it happens” in the Sea. I guess I thought it was a given that we would find them, eventually. Then I began hearing stories of cruisers who have spent years in the Sea and never happened upon them. It was an amazing experience and we were very lucky to have stumbled on them. I guess I assumed that it was a once in a lifetime chance. So I was stunned to see them again early the next morning. Bill was busy below with his Spanish lesson and I had been sitting in the cockpit drinking my tea and there they were, four whale sharks feeding quietly in the calm anchorage. There were four of them for goodness sake! I sat watching them, was going to just sit and observe but then thought what the heck I just couldn’t pass the chance by. In less than five minutes I had changed into my swimsuit, launched the kayak, grabbed a paddle and my camera and slid into the water. It was a very different experience than the previous day. Part of it was having a lower adrenalin level. Well a little at least - I had been so hyped and excited the previous day. Today the anchorage was quiet and calm. No boats buzzing around and no paddle boarders. My vantage point from the kayak –so close to the water- got me incredibly close to the fish as they fed. Very calmly and quietly I paddled into their midst and then just let myself float freely along . These great creatures are a marvel to watch. Their dark brown bodies are a dark brown with golden spots all over with faint stripes running vertically along their length. These four ranged in length from fifteen to over twenty feet and I can long only guess that they weigh over a 1000 pounds. Their silhouette looks roughly like a huge pollywog. They are very thick top to bottom, have a long sweeping tail and sport a large dorsal fin and a huge vertical tail fin shaped like the tail of an airplane. I am sure that their sheer size and the distinct shark shaped tail are what gave them their name. They are fish not mammals and they swim along the surface with dorsal and tail protruding as they “S” along through the water ala` “Jaws.” They have huge flat heads with great gills running along both sides about four feet back and they have the biggest mouth I think I have ever seen. They look scary but are incredibly docile creatures who spend their days swimming along the surface, huge mouths agape scooping up the thousands of gallons of water that they need to filter out the tiny bits of sea life that sustain them. From right on the surface of the water I could have simply reached and touched them. In spite of their size when they are not on the surface they move through the water barely causing a ripple. Trust me when I say that when one suddenly appears underneath you, gliding silently by with a swish of their tails it is a bit unnerving. They frequently came so close that I thought they were going to run into me only to veer off at the last moment. Three times I could feel the tip of a giant tail running the length of the bottom of my kayak. The first time we contacted I was sure it was going to upset a sleeping giant and that he would give a mighty swish and topple me into the bay but instead he made a tiny flinch and then sailed on past. What a way to start my birthday. Later we went in to Mulege` with Jerry and our friends from Sirena Connie and Ed. We met Jerry the night before at dinner, a local expat who moved here 11 years ago. His daughter Kelly was visiting him from California and he offered to take us into Mulege` to see the sights and to do some grocery shopping. What a treat. Jerry is one of the truly friendly in this world. He acted as tour guide and gave us a running history as we drove into town. He waited patiently as we did our tourist duty of walking all over town, ducking into stores and buying ice cream –it was my birthday after all. Then shared his local knowledge and took us to four stores so we could provision with the most choices and best prices in town. When we were all spent out and beginning to suffer from the mid day heat we drove to his favorite spot for lunch and a cool drink before finally dropping us on the sandy beach right next to our dinghies! Once we had unloaded about 15 bags of goodies from his SUV we all waved and he was off to meet friends for cocktail hour. Later that evening we went ashore to Anna’s with the crew from Sirena to celebrate my birthday dinner. Jerry had turned us onto Anna’s the designated gringo hangout for everyone south of town. The locals meet every Saturday night from roughly November till June and this was to be the last big hoorah of the season and the place to be to celebrate my birthday. Before our seats were warm we had invited another couple, Lynn and Clint from Taya to join us and then Jerry and his lovely daughter Kelly arrived. The music started up before we ordered and by the time chips and salsa were due the disco ball was spinning. Bill and I love to dance: swing, waltz, Lindy, salsa…disco not so much but who wouldn’t love to dance the night away in a Mexican cantina named Anna’s, owned and run by a woman named Lupe that plays primarily country music under the sparkle of a disco ball? All that and all the groceries I could fit into a dinghy!! Great day. Kat

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