We keep the binoculars handy around here, as there is always a spout or splash in the distance that needs to be investigated! The diversity and abundance of wild life on land and in the sea is always emphasized when reading about the Sea of Cortez and we can unequivocally attest that it’s true!
After leaving Santa Rosalia we passed latitude 28 degrees north, which put us in Baja California Norte, and back into the Pacific Time zone. We set our clocks back an hour, though since we never look at the clock it really doesn’t matter much! Our next stop was Bahia San Francisquito, a large rectangular shaped bay that is also called Ensenada las Palomas (bay of the doves), but we renamed it Trifecta Bay. We didn’t see any doves while we were there and we felt like we’d won the Trifecta with all the amazing sea life we enjoyed.
We backed Humphrey Humpback in the first race and he came through with flying colors. During our 4-day stay in Bahia San Francisquito we were the only boat in the anchorage and Humphrey, a lone humpback whale, stayed in the bay with us the entire time. He roamed around from one side of the bay to the other, letting us know where he was with the sound of his blows, as he spent his days feeding, gracefully surfacing and diving. Sometimes he would come visit close to us so we would just sit on deck listening to his blows, and enjoying his company. One day we went out to see him in the dinghy and after he had done a deep dive a little way away from us, we just sat floating waiting for him to reappear. Marty said “where’d he go?” and right then…spppoooooshhhh! A big smelly whale blow as he surfaced about 30 feet from the dinghy. Now that will get your attention! He kept surfacing close by, blowing as he appeared and then slowly submerging as he sank back into the dark water. We went out a couple times in the dinghy just to float nearby as he swam around. While not as active as the whales we’ve seen in Hawaii or Banderas Bay during mating season, it was perfect to experience this lone whale day after day. When he finally left the bay one night at sunset, we decided that we’d leave in the morning too. Somehow the place just wasn’t the same without Humphrey!
The Dolphinator was our choice in the second race as a school of about 10 or 12 dolphins leapt and slapped their way to the finish line. We came across them when they were feeding off the point that leads into a small shallow bay called Cala San Francisquito. I decided to go play with them in the kayak and paddled over to get close. Each one is about as big as my kayak so it was a little intimidating as they circled around me. It was wild to see them work together as a team with one or two slapping their tails, jumping and calling to each other as they seemed to direct the pod to circle around a school of fish. What a treat to be so close to these extraordinary animals.
We were on a trifecta roll and for the last race we picked the clowns of the bay. The Seal-Biscuits were a riot to watch and took the race a nose (or six)! The seals sleep on the surface side by side, floating in “rafts” of 6 or 8, or in huge rafts with 50 or more animals all packed together. They float along, each with one flipper out of the water, and their heads back so their noses are out of the water to breathe. Too funny. I of course had to kayak over to check it out and when I came close, one seal would wake up, sound the alarm, and then they would all dive at once, and poof, they’re gone! In a minute or two they’d all start poking their heads out of the water to look at me, swimming around and under the kayak, and jumping frantically out of the water as they check out the intruder.
We loved our stay in Bahia San Francisquito, but with the changing wind patterns it was soon time to leave and head further north. On our way up the Canal de Salsipuedes (Leave if You Can Channel), we planned our trek to travel with the current so we made good time and saw yet more wildlife! The largest group of dolphins that we’ve seen so far was spread out in a thick line parallel with the boat and stretched out for at least a mile. A few of them broke off and came over to see us, but they seemed to be pretty focused on their course. It was mind boggling to see hundreds upon hundreds of dolphins leaping and blowing as they hurriedly made their way north. We also saw our first pod of Orcas since leaving the northwest. There were about a dozen or so traveling fast and only showing us their tall dorsal fins.
Our next stop was a quintessential Baja cove, called Animas Slot. The straight in entrance to this one boat cove lies between two reefs, making it a bit unsettling when entering in a sudden afternoon blow, following charts that are notoriously inaccurate. The track of our actual course showed us traveling right through the rocky islet that stands just off shore on the north edge of the bay. We made it in without any problems and anchored in about 28 feet of water mid-way between two reefs and a set of rocks just off the beach. The tide changes are increasing as we go north and as the full moon approaches, so when we woke up in the morning it was surprising to see both reefs and the rocks all exposed. Not to worry though, we had set the anchor to allow for the right amount of swing between the obstacles and were still lying in 22 feet, with a perfect view of the rays swimming along the sand beneath the boat.
After enjoying the sunrise java show put on by the resident pelicans, boobies, cormorants and herons, we had a yummy breakfast of cruiser’s ham (Spam) and French toast, then got out the kayaks and cameras for a paddle around and a hike on the beach. There were lots of coyote tracks from the lonely coyote we’d seen on the beach the night before, and a few campfire pits left over from the last humans to visit. We hiked up the side of the rocky hills, and found that going up is mucho easier than coming down with all the loose rocks and slippery sand. We persevered though and managed to take a couple of great photos of Happy Dance floating peacefully in our very own private paradise.
We spent two delightful days and nights in our little slice of paradise, watching the moon rise over the cliffs and the shadows lengthen up the rock faces as the sun rose and set, enjoying the entertaining activity all around us. Unfortunately the east winds became more prevalent and a persistent swarm of bees decided to make Happy Dance their home, so we weighed anchor and moved around the corner to another bay in Bahia de Las Animas. The translation for Las Animas refers to church bells tolled at sunset to summon “lost souls”. I’m not sure how that applies here, but this area is definitely drawing us in. We feel like we’ve found another side of the Sea of Cortez that we’ve hoped to see, the one that is so full of life that it just slaps you in the face constantly! It’s unbelievable.