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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Sea is never still

We were in Sweet Pea Cove near Santa Rosalia. It was after ten and the cove was quiet as I lay on the bed in the aft cabin completely absorbed in a good book when Bill tells me he thinks there are dolphins outside. I hold still, listening but can’t hear anything through the hull so I scramble out on deck.

Soon an almost full moon will reflect bright silver off the water and light up the little cove almost like daylight but now it’s pitch black dark. I stand still listening and realize the dark water is definitely not still or quiet. I can hear water lapping at the beach, a fish jumps, a bird cries. All around me a thick marine layer of low fog is already creeping in and soon will coat everything with dew. In the morning the bees will come, drawn to the fresh water. I hear the distinct splat splash of a leaping ray and then a breath.

My mind see’s whale but my eyes and ears are still searching for dolphin. No clicks or whistles and then the breath again: too big for a dolphin. The night feels soft and thick. My eyes keep searching but instead are drawn to the flash and twinkle in the dark the water. The night’s phosphorescence is unusual. Normally we see trails. Whenever a fish moves we catch the swish of a trail lit up with phosphorescence. Tonight instead there are thousands of tiny twinkling bits. The phosphorescence sparkles and shifts with every movement of sea life. Like fairytale snowflakes it sparkles and shifts below the surface.I hear the breath again. How far off is it? I move to the bow of the boat and stand alone and silent while my eyes adjust to the lack of lights. In the distance I can see the slight golden glow of Santa Rosalia. There is the breath again, closer, closer, then moving off again in the distance. The fog seems thicker now. The night is alive with sounds. I keep thinking about what it would feel like to hear all these sounds around me on a passage, then imagine what it would sound like if I had never been on the Sea before.
I hear the breath again. How far off is it? I move to the bow of the boat and stand alone and silent while my eyes adjust to the lack of lights. In the distance I can see the slight golden glow of Santa Rosalia. There is the breath again, closer, closer, then moving off again in the distance. The fog seems thicker now. The night is alive with sounds. I keep thinking about what it would feel like to hear all these sounds around me on a passage, then imagine what it would sound like if I had never been on the Sea before.

More breaths, I am sure now that it is a whale. Then, a sound like a gunshot -the whale is breaching somewhere out there in the dark- then again.

Three days ago as we moved from the marina at Santa Rosalia to Sweet Pea Cove we came upon a sight we had never seen before: ten or more sleeping Sperm whales. Spread out in two’s and threes we could see them off in the distance as the sun reflected off their backs. At first they looked like huge logs but I knew we were far from the land of logs. As we motored closer I could see a spout here then there. They weren’t reacting to our presence at all. Then as we got close enough to see them clearly they would slip backwards, great heads lifting up and then slipping beneath the surface before rolling forward and down into the depths. Each new group we neared stayed still until we were nearly upon them and then slip back, great head lifting, roll forward and down into the deep.

Tonight it sounded like just one. Was the whale I was hearing now a mighty Sperm whale? Another smash and a splash then one more breathe then nothing. I stood on the deck listening for a while but heard nothing more. As I moved below again I wondered what kind of a whale it had been. How many were there? Why do whales ? Why would a whale breach in the darkness? Did he know I was there?

Grabbing for my book I scrambled back onto the bed thinking about whales and life. Every new wildlife experience here in the Sea shows us a new piece of nature and every new cultural experience shows us another view of our world. This whole experience surely has been the chance of a lifetime and tonight I feel grateful.


The Sea is beggining to show herself

The Sea is starting to really show herself. Lots of new marine life. Have you ever seen a blue footed booby? They are of course striking for their bright blue feet but they are really beautiful birds. They are diving birds, very sleek with a long narrow beak that is the same shade of blue. The blue shows itself off against an amazingly brigth white breast.

At Sweet Pea cove every evening the birds come out in force to feed right at twilight. The many many birds hitting the water in sheer dives sounds like far off firecrackers…bang, bang, bang. The area is also thick with bat rays that jump with a bang. They jump all day but especially in the early am and the late pm. They are fun to watch for two reasons. First they just make you laugh the way they come barreling out of the water like wet bats. They are very wiggly and they often do complete flips before hitting the water. Sometimes they skip across the water like a skipping stone. Second you can watch them from quite a ways off and you see them fly out and smack back into the water and then hear the sound a second later. Growing up in Seattle during the SST and the era of sonic booms I think of those little rays breaking the speed of sound! Sitting in the cockpit in the evenings your surrounded by the sounds of the birds feeding and the rays jumping….bang bang, smack, bang, smack smack, smack.

The last three nights there has been a sperm whale feeding in the channel that runs between Santa Rosalia and Sweet Pea Cove. I think they are feeding on the squid that are here in abundance now. Three nights running now I caught the sound of a breath and so went up on deck. Mostly it has just been feeding but one night out in the darkness it was breaching. The sound of a creature the size of a sperm whale breaching in the darkness is awesome and a little bit earie.
Yesterday we went out on a dinghy ride and had a manta ray come up next to us. It was a very small manta –maybe two and a half feet across- not a huge ten footer but he took a look at us and sort of veered away then changed his mind and came back to check us out. They are known to be very inquisitive and seem to actually seek out people which is why it is possible to “ride” them while diving in some places in Mexico.
We have not been diving here yet but the clarity is of the water is getting better every day. The snorkeling is pretty good but it too depends on how hard the wind has been blowing and how much muck has been stirred up. The visibility at Sweet Pea had been really good then a southern blew in and the water murked up with tons of silt from the upwind gypsum mine. Oh well its getting clearer every day.
We’ve had two four foot+ mahi mahi on but lost both before we could get them aboard which really chaps Bills you know what. Especially the second one because he had said “next time I am going to drag it behind the boat and wear him out for half an hour before trying to get it on board” then dumped that game plan when it hit the line.
The good news is that the fishing is picking up. The big pelagic fish come into the Sea with the warmer waters and are beginning to arrive now. On our trip across the Sea from mainland (Guaymas) to Santa Rosalia we saw tons of big fish in the water. We saw a huge fish swimming under the boat, a sailfish breaking the water just aft of our stern as we flew by at 8knots and many sightings of big guys jumping off in the distance. Then we went fishing and could see big fish tearing across the surface leaving a sort of jet stream V as they streaked across the surface. None of them would hit our lures, oh well we'll keep trying.

One afternoon at anchor one of the other boats in the anchorage came over and offered us some squid. Seems Pat got talking with a panga full of fisherman and successfully traded a Hustler magazine for a bucket of squid. Pat was being generous in sharing which was lovely but what he really wanted was to find someone who knew how to cook and clean them. Bill was able to find a sight online that went through the cleaning process so knife and cutting board in hand we motored over to Pats boat. I was a bit surprised at first because I was expecting five or six inch squid but instead was faced with a water pail sized bucket full of three footers. It turns out too that he didn't really want to learn how to clean them and was happy to sit and watch as I made my way through the bucket full. It also turned out that Pat has no refrigeration aboard so he gave us a huge pile of fresh calamari. The next day some friends happened into the cove so I sautéed up a batch and served it with aoli -a big hit all around. When we make it back to Santa Rosalia we will try and find a squid jig and will try our own hands at filling a small bucket.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

6/6 Outbound Guaymas

This morning we head away from Guaymas to a clean quiet anchorage in San Carlos. The cabin temperature at 7:30 is already 93 degrees so we are leaving bright and early to beat the heat - as if that's possible. Our time in Guaymas has been productive which is great because I think the heat is going to slow down any ideas we might have on doing boat projects or much of anything really.

I finally finished our sunshade which other cruisers had told us would be essential for surviving a summer in the Sea. I started working on the sunshade way back in January while in La Cruz. The idea behind the sunshade is to have a awning of sorts over the whole boat to keep the beating sun from raising inside temperatures to intolerable levels.

You would think it would be simple. Maybe a big rectangle suspended from the rigging and your good to go. Except for two important problems. 1. we have four solar panels that can't be covered and 2. that rigging.

The rigging of a sailboat is a complicated thing. We have an eight shroud, two spreader rig with a back stay, the forstay and a stays'l stay. In addition we have a boom brake that attaches port to starboard midship and a set of moveable running rigging for heavy downwind passages. Then of course there are the three sheets and four halyards (sailors' names for all those lines.) Plus of course the mast itself and the boom all of which are in the way of anything one tries to suspend "above" the deck.

As for the four solar panels: with them we generate enough electricity to stay at anchor unplugged from civilization essentally indefinitly. With them covered we would be forced to run our engine daily to run the ship. Running the engine means heat and that is a kill joy.

In the end it required aproximatly 45 yards of hem, 50+ grommets, 25 bungy cords, a handful of snaps and 8 hemmed slits for rigging, sheets and stays to produce four seperate 6'x12' panels aloft and one 5'x5' foot panel that snaps off and on to provide side shade as the sun clocks around us. I already can feel a difference but I suspect in the end we will find out that either we love it and use it faithfully or it simply becomes too much of a bother. Did I mention that we will have to take it down every night or risk having it torn to smithereens in one of the Seas frequent night Coromuels or Elefantes -sudden night winds that blow in the Sea in the summer?

Bill was busy installing both our repalcement power inverter -so I can run my sewing machine at anchor and the new radar. The radar turned into a bit f a fiasco unfoartunatly. The chart ploter we purchased before we left Seattle was purchased partly because it was supposed to support running several different electronics all at the same time onthe same viewing screen. It already was wired with: chart plotter, GPS, VHF, Loud Hailer, AIS and Depth. The radar should have been a simple install and add on. Unfortunatly Standard Horizon doesn't supply enough ports to run a radar too. Eventually Bill wound one of his miracles by installing a set of switches in the cockpit so we can toggle from one application to the next without needing to go below to flip a switch. That going below by-the-way would have primarily been Kats job. Up, down, up, down -a one more trip and I will scream kind of job.

Yesterday was our first truly hot day -even with the new shade in place. I am not going to try complaining to all of you. It is just the way it is here. We came looking for Christmas in shorts and flipflops, tropical beaches and warm blue waters. Those things don't come without an off season. When it comes to the tropics the off season always brings either blasting heat or drenching rains from storms. Oh, and hurricanes or typhoons.

Today there is the first murmer of a "depression" off to the south. Not a hurricane, not even a tropical depression. Nothing for us to worry about, no need to run or prepare but it is the season and we check every day. When woke up I looked at our cabin thermometer, just to check because last night had felt hotter than any other so far. Sure enough the cabin was 90 degrees at 8:00am. By 3:00pm with every port, hatch and companionway wide open it was 99!

We worked a few hours in the morning and the afternoon was left to relax and do nothing. While doing the laundry I slipped into my swimsuit before hitting the marina laundry mat. Wash in, a dip in the pool. Move the laundry and another dip in the pool before doing the fold and fluff. This morning its a flurry of getting ready. A quick trip to the bank, sunshade down and stored, hatchboards away, everything stored and a quick check out with the marina. Swimming and hopefully a cooling breeze. I cant wait. Once back at anchor (and out of the poluted harbor) I can slip into the water as often as I like to stave off the heat. My only worry right now is how to arrange a reading pillow on my new water cooled airmattress. Kat