Jan 28, 2009

Down Baja and Whale Tales

Veteran Mexico crew members Doug Larson and Dennis Flick showed up in San Diego right on schedule, and we set off late in the afternoon of January 14th for what proved to be the easiest trip ever down the coast of Baja California. Unfortunately, because of the scarcity of wind, it turned out to be the trip with the least sailing as well.

Dawn was breaking on the 17th, when we entered Turtle Bay and dropped the hook just off the big pier jutting out from beach front of this dusty little town that lies nearly 130 miles from the nearest paved highway and close to the halfway point down the outside of Baja.

After refueling and a great fish taco dinner - courtesy of some of the other cruisers - we spent a calm night at anchor and headed out the next morning. We spent the next three and a half days mostly motoring and sometimes sailing the remaining 400 miles down Baja to the tip of the peninsula at Cabo San Lucas. It was along this stretch that we made a couple of the more interesting wildlife contacts on all the Sea Story trips to Mexico.

Late in the evening of our first day out of Turtle Bay, it was my watch and we were sailing slowly in the dark a few miles SW of Punta Abreojos. when the breathing sounds of several big sea mammals grew louder from behind and alongside the boat. Initially, this confused me because the blowing exhalations were louder and more frequent than you hear when dolphins are near. Yet they were not as loud, although even more frequent than the breathing sounds of grey or humpback whales.

It wasn't until one of the mystery critters passed casually within eight to ten feet of the starboard quarter and the beam of my flashlight that the realization hit me; we were being overtaken by a pod of pilot whales. Yep, they had come up alongside TO GIVE US THE ONCE OVER...! Even though there was no moonlight, we determined by the blowing and phosphorescence in the water that we had been overtaken by possibly as many as a dozen whales.

Within a few minutes the whole pod had passed by without so much a bump or nudge on the hull, and it wasn't until mid-afternoon of the next day that we sighted the whales again. This time we were motoring faster than we had been sailng in the light winds of the night before, and that let us do the overtaking- although they were not about to let us get nearly as close to them as they chosen to come by us. With the benefit of daylight we could also see that there were several individual pods of what appeared to be four to six individual whales each. They were arrayed roughly on an east-to-west line that was moving slowly to the south as were we. We estimated that there were likely as many as 50 - 60 of them in the whole group, and they seemed to spend most of their time cruising slowly on the surface as though foraging.

The rest of our trip south was less eventful and by early evening of the third day, we were rounding Cabo Falso and heading past Cabo San Lucas to a next-day anchorage at Bahia Muertos, just 8 hours short of la Paz on Baja's eastern coast. The weather had turned much warmer and Muertos gave us all a chance to clean up with a salt water swim and fresh water shower in the boat's cockpit. That evening we dinghied in to beer and dinner at an upscale beach-front cantina - a great respite after four days at sea....

The next day, we motored into Marina de la Paz, a temperature in the 70's and the beginning of another season in Mexico...

Dennis and Doug taking a swim off the stern of Sea Story in Ensenada de los Muertos (Bay of the Dead). After four days at sea, we're cleaning up before the final run into la Paz the next day. The place name doesn't mean there are dead people here, but refers to the anchoring system for the old barge docks located nearby.

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