After a day full of fog, fish, falls, and flippers; here we sit in the morning sun in Bahia San Francisquito, listening to the waves breaking onshore, the blue-footed boobies diving for their breakfast (pffumpfff!), and the occasional tail slap or breach by a pair of whales at the other side of the bay. There is a fog bank hiding the nearby Midriff Islands, but the sun is shining on Happy Dance and there is a breeze keeping us cool. We are now far removed from Highway 1, which is on the other side of the peninsula, and we’re the only boat in this grand bahia. The stars last night were crystal clear, with the Milky Way lighting up the water. Perfect.
Yesterday’s 80 mile, 12-hour trek from Santa Rosalia to Bahia San Francisquito was definitely one for the books!
Fog – For the first time since leaving California, we had to use radar to travel though a fairly thick fog bank. As we left Santa Rosalia, it was a bit hazy/fazy in the distance, but once we got up to the edge of the fog, it was like a wave; low and compressed against the land, with a definite edge. Having the radar on in Mexico is actually a good thing, given that the chart plotter is often as much as half mile off. When navigating around here we usually use latitude/longitude, line of sight, and of course the depth sounder. There are enough uncharted reefs that we’ve been surprised a couple of times when the depth has changed from 200 feet to less than 20 in a very, very short distance. It’s a bit intimidating to say the least! But I’m getting off topic here a bit. I’d forgotten how much I hate fog. At least here it was short-lived and burned off around noon, not like the 24/7 hour variety that we experienced on our trip from Alaska to California.
Fish – It was a banner day for the Happy Dance fisher people! We had both lines streaming from the back of the boat as we motored along at 7-8 knots, when suddenly, “fish on”! Thinking that we probably had another skip jack since we were trolling rather fast, we were very happy to see flashes of yellow and green as Marty pulled the fish into the cockpit. We had hooked our first Dorado! At about 27″ tip to tail, it was on the smaller side, but he was sure active, flipping and flopping all over the cockpit for a few minutes. I finally just held the bucket on top of the dang thing in order to get a knife on him to put him out of his misery. We pulled in the lines thinking that since we now had dinner we didn’t need to be greedy.
Dorado are dazzling. Green and yellow sides with blue and black spots, they flash brightly in the sun when they jump out of the water chasing their prey. As we were traveling along, we kept seeing huge Dorado leaping in forward low arcs 6, 7, 8 times in a row, with a school of smaller fish flashing silver on the surface in front of them. It’s an amazing sight! After watching the show for a while we decided that the freezer had some extra room, so out went the lines again. And poof, another one hooked! Marty pulled him in, and this time we had a 32″ beautiful Dorado. The colors are stunning. So we now have dinner for 4 or 5 nights, yum!
Falls – It’s official, I’m the lead contender for the 2014 MOISA (Moment of Incredible Stupidity Award). I’m embarrassed to even admit how stupid this is, but here goes. I fell off the boat while we were under way doing 7 knots! There, I said it. Arrrgh! Thankfully Marty was in the cockpit and heard the loud thud, thump and splash as I bounced off the swim step into the water (and yes, it did leave a mark-multiple!). So here’s the story of how everything went really right when it all went wrong.
It was hot. There wasn’t any wind to speak of, and Marty was at the helm which was now in the direct sun. He decided to rig a sun shade, which meant standing on the back railing and tying the shade to the arch which extends over the stern of the boat. Being the perfectionist that I am, (this is where the stupid comes in) I of course had to improve his already workable design. I stood up on the top of the railing to lean across to the arch to attach a corner of the shade. While not substantial, it was a bit rough from the swell that was hitting us on the aft quarter, so I was crazy to be perched by my toes on the thin metal bar on the back of the boat (more stupid). You can figure out the next move; slip, bash, thump, splash!
It’s amazing how fast a boat seems to go when it’s traveling away from you at 7 knots and you’re in the water! Plus we had two fishing lines out, so I was now treading water between the lines thinking, Oh S**T! Luckily the body parts that hit the deck as I fell in did not include my hard head, (did I mention that it DID leave a mark?), so I was still conscious. However the feeling of floating in water over 1,000 feet deep, with your boat sailing away from you is a little unnerving to say the least. Marty had his eye on me though and was on his way back going full throttle, so it wasn’t nearly as scary as it might have been, but still it was a very bizarre feeling. In my mind I flashed on the hammerhead shark we’d seen swim by the boat a few days before, and I think I may have heard the theme from Jaws playing somewhere!
As the boat came back toward me with the bow throwing a big white wave, it was another moment of “this is not good”. With Happy Dance’s high hull it’s hard to see anything close to the boat in the water when you’re at the helm, and now that something in the water was me! Marty did a great job though, lining the boat up for me, and then hollering to let me know that he was in neutral, so I started swimming toward the stern of the boat. He put the ladder down and I grabbed it as the boat came close. Phew! It felt good to be back on deck.
So there you have it. Girls 2, Boys 0. Unfortunately in the falling overboard count, zero is absolutely the best score! When you read in the magazines about things cruisers survive to tell about they always have a section of things done right, and things done wrong. Well, I did nothing right on this maneuver. Perching with sweaty, slippery bare feet on a narrow tube at the stern while reaching over the water in rough conditions, without a life jacket on, is just plain stupid! Marty on the other hand, did everything right. He dealt with the sudden man overboard (MOB) drill perfectly, keeping his eye on me and making the sharp turn back to me AFTER the fishing hooks had passed me. The entire episode took about 4-5 minutes I would guess. Lessons learned? DON’T FALL OVERBOARD!
A crazy addition to our WOB (woman overboard) day, is that we had a BOB drill later! This time we had a bucket overboard. Same drill, only this time we had to use a hook to retrieve it. Bizarre day to say the least.
Flippers – After the fishes, fog, and falling, we started seeing flippers! Another pod of dolphins buzzed us, we saw huge manta rays flipping, dorado flashing, and turtles floating. At one point we even had to engage the “TAS”, turtle avoidance system, to avoid running over a sleeping Tortuga! The final bonus was that when we arrived into Bahia San Francisquito, we were greeted by a pair of whales slapping their tails.
Remote Bahia San Francisquito feels a bit different from what we’ve become accustomed to in the Sea of Cortez. The fog is a new event here, as is the cooler water temperature (only 78 degrees!). This far north in the Sea there are 10-12 foot tides, consequently when anchoring we now include tide changes when choosing a spot. Further north we’re told the tides can be 20′, so it’s kind of like being back in Alaska! The sun is still hot though and the brown hills are rocky, rugged and barren, covered in low scrub bushes and cacti. There are lots of blue footed boobies, pelicans, Heermann’s gulls, and even an osprey that is perched on the tall cactus on the rocky point nearby. We continue to see the flashes of whales and seals nearby, and even had a whale do about 8 or 9 full body breaches in the bay this morning. The beach is white sand, backed by a layer of yellow-gold rock at the base of the hills. It’s another side of Baja for us to get to know. Life is bueno!