Sounds of Silence

Relaxing in the cockpit listening to the stillness of the tide going out, even the silence is full of sound. There is the flap of the flag and the breeze rippling across the water, the slap of a wave under the swim step, and an osprey calling to its mate. Pelicans fly by generating sound waves from the air being pushed by their wings, the anchorage version of a teenager driving by with the bass cranked up. The boobies lend a tune with their high dives and the sound of their less than graceful return to flight; you can almost hear them yelling yabba-dabba-do as they get their Freddie Flintstone feet in action. When the wind picks up a bit a halyard slaps against the mast, the downhaul hums a song, the boat turns and the anchor chain clicks as it turns over in the bow roller; then, just as quickly as it began, the gust dies, the sea becomes glass and silence returns.

We are anchored in a narrow anchorage between Isla Coronado to the east and Isla Mitlan to the west. Volcan Coronado, a 1500′ cone shaped volcano, lies immediately to the north hovering over us with its steep sloped, reddish sides. I seem to be feeling a bit poetic today after arriving in a perfect private anchorage. We’ve been skirting around Bahia de Los Angeles (Bay of LA) trying to find a calm anchorage for the past four or five days and as I told Marty today, I feel a bit battered!

The winds in the Bay of LA have been very squirrelly this week causing us to move daily, and Bahia de Los Angeles Village was a bit less than we’d hoped for. Our initial generalization of the village is that it’s too close to the border, a sad gringo version of a once vibrant Mexican town. There are lots of boarded up or falling down turista businesses, and a few empty restaurants on dusty streets. The idea of Americans and Canadians driving to Baja and camping or RV-ing in a dirt parking lot had really never occurred to us, so we are continually surprised to see the dusty campgrounds and ticky-tacky gringo beach houses. The architecture, or lack of it, is an absolute affront. Why not use local building methods with wide roof overhangs to provide shade, and adobe or block walls instead of plywood and glass? Argh!

We anchored off the boat ramp in front of Guillermo’s in the Village, and dinghy-ed to the steep beach in front of the restaurant. The shore was covered with dead 12-24″ Humboldt Squid that for some reason unbeknownst to us, had beached themselves. With an 8′ incoming tide Marty had to pull the dingy way up the beach where we thought it would be safe. Then we enjoyed a lunch treat of fish and shrimp tacos with a cold cerveza or two (that made us full for the day!), while yakking with some new fisherman arrivals from San Diego. A quick reconnoiter to the local mercado, then back to Guillermo’s to watch the USA beat Ghana in World Cup Soccer action. At half time I had an inkling to check on el dinghy-o, and it was almost floating on the rising tide. Oh Marty.please go pull up the dinghy!

As we watched all the pangas getting trailered out of the water that evening we should have come to understand that the nighttime westerly’s down the mountain are something to be reckoned with! They have a name for the katabatic winds that blow from the Pacific Ocean across the low elevations on the Baha peninsula into the Sea of Cortez, in this area they are called Elephantes. Thankfully we have yet to experience one as they are reported to blow in the 40’s all night, which would make for a dicey anchorage.

Our first night anchored outside the village we were getting winds in the low 20’s but without a local understanding of whether that was a portent for stronger winds we decided to weigh anchor before sunset and headed south from the village, deeper into the bay. We anchored again off a sandy beach where the mountain was higher and the west winds less intense. It was still a rolly night so we didn’t sleep well, but nothing to worry about. The next day we headed back to the village to re-provision and to watch Mexico play Brazil in World Cup soccer, which Mexico won 0-0! When we left the restaurant, the winds had again picked up out of the west, so we weighed anchor again and headed to another side of the bay, called La Mona. La Mona is another beach that is fronted by 40 or 50 gringo beach houses of horrible design. The view north was nice though, so we just ignored the ugliness on shore and looked across the bay to the mountains changing colors on the far shore.

In the morning we were treated to some new exhibitions. As I was standing on the swim step about to dive in for my morning ablutions, whooooooosh! A whale blew his nose right next to our (anchored) boat and casually continued on his way. Then, while the tide was out, the birds put on an amazing show. From a distance, a huge flock of boobies was invisible against the hillside until the flashing white of their wings as they made their kamikaze dives reminded us of the waterfalls in Princess Louisa Inlet. Hundreds of boobies (no Scooter this is not Las Vegas!) diving, resurfacing, and returning to the flight pattern, like Blue Angels in their F18’s doing touch and gos.jaw-dropping!

From La Mona (the monkey) we headed north to parts unknown. As we sailed along we ran across, and almost over, a vegetarian of the deep, a whale shark. This is one of the gentle creatures I’ve wanted to see and swim with, but unfortunately we were cooking along under sail at 7 knots and Captain Marty (the curmudgeon) wouldn’t turn the boat around! Maybe next time.

We had intended to anchor next to Isla Ventana, (named The Window for the window arch on the southern end of the island) but the west winds were blowing right down into the bay turning it into a lee shore, so we continued on to Bahia La Gringa. We knew we had arrived when we saw the white rocked salutation on the hillside saying “Welcome to La Gringa”. Who has that much time and that much white paint? The dead squid were prevalent here too, and welcomed us with their stench. There were a couple of campsites set up, both with fishing boats out front. So rather than walking the stinky beach we got out our snorkels and brushes and cleaned the bottom of the hull. Happy Dance loves the attention!

This morning we left La Gringa and headed 6 nautical miles north into a lovely bay next to Isla Mitlan. These are the spots we love. A quiet anchorage where we’re the only boat and only the birds to entertain us. There is a reef about 50′ off our stern, and the steep sides of the islands provide some wind protection and visual delight. I’m excited to paddle around and explore the nooks and crannies, and to hopefully get close to the ospreys in their nests.

As we find these incredible anchorages where the sound of a ray jumping is big news, we are starting to question why we would leave the Sea. There is so much life here. And there is still so much we have yet to see.

While I’ve been writing the wind has changed, so Happy Dance is now providing me with a different view. The vultures are circling over the point of Isla Mitlan, and the afternoon sun is sparkling out in the channel. I never would have believed that I would see these barren rock islands as beautiful, but they really are (I’m taking pictures of rocks!!!!).

I wish I could share the feelings, the senses, and the intensity of these places. I was out kayaking today, floating along next to a teensy tiny school of fish that flashed in the sun as it passed me. It’s silly I guess, but when I saw that minuscule crowd of color and life I was instantly and deeply thankful that we have the opportunity to slow down to such a mode of travel where we can take it all in, letting our senses become delicate and tender. We continue to treasure each place and are hugely satisfied that when we leave there is only a smooth spot on the water.

Respectfully submitted by Sue with simile and metaphor assistance provided by Marty.

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