Monday, March 11, 2013

Espiritu Santo and Desert Hike

A brisk sail brought us to the first west side anchorage on Espiritu Santo, the closest and largest island north of La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Espiritu Santo is about 8 miles long and 2 miles wide, circumnavigated in 35 miles, with more than a dozen protected anchorages to explore.  Part of the Mexican National Protected areas it is completely undeveloped except for some trails that change with the seasonal rains. The beaches are pristine, the anchorages feel remote, with limited commercial activity, fishing, and sport use in the bays, it feels quite wild – all within 20 miles of La Paz. 
Lanham had made the trek to the government office in La Paz to purchase a park permit. For $25 US dollars per person per year we are happy to support the conservation of this beautiful island chain. Lanham's tangle with the Mexican bureaucracy involving being shuttled to two different offices, a separate trip to the bank, and multiple signing in with armed guards is a whole entertaining story in itself-- ask him about it sometime.
Solar Wind at rest -- yes, it's really that BLUE here! 

Closing another day
We have spent the last two days relaxing and exploring Bahia San Gabriel. The colors are vibrant -- from the red cliffs, dusty brown and yellow hills and shades of turquoise water. We took the dinghy in through the shallows. This large bay shoals for a long distance – it is only 3 feet deep a mile off shore. So we are anchored quite far out with a couple other boats coming or going each day. The wind is up – 10 to 20 knots through the day, but the swell is down, so it’s comfortable to cook, sleep, read and putter on the boat.
The water is much chillier than we’ve gotten used to – 65 degrees. Lanham swam with a wetsuit to replace the zincs, check the anchor and gaze through the crystal clear water. Melinda’s swim without wetsuit was shorter, but refreshing. What a great way to get clean!

Our wander through the arroyo -- all the way to the other side of Ispiritu Santo

We spent a full day hiking across a low sandy arroyo to the other side of the island. It included trail finding, bushwacking, and periodic stops to scrape the prickly burrs and thistle off the tops of our tennis shoes and socks. We took our time on the 8-mile round-trip, photographing the variety of fauna, rock formations, and ancient shells.

Old man of the desert
Bleached skeleton of a manta ray on the beach
Lots of green to contrast with the reds and golds
Tienes anos?

In addition to the striated cliffs, and the 15’ tall cacti, we found a frigate rookery teeming with fearless birds in the mangroves along shore.
We thought the flock might take flight when we got too close, but they were unthreatened --
except for the occasional show of red-throated bravado.
Let's pull it a little further up -- just to be safe.

We have had the experience of leaving the dinghy or kayaks up on the beach and then worrying that the tide would take them away while we were walking. This day we resolved not to worry by bringing the dink way up on the beach and tying a rock to the bowline. 

Upon our return, Tide's out -- a good quarter mile!

We had a good laugh, and workout, when we returned in the late afternoon and had at least a quarter mile of tide flats to drag the boat back to the low water line. Just that morning Lanham had removed the dinghy wheels, having heard they are just not needed in the Sea of Cortez.

We plan to continue our way slowly up the coast of Espiritu Santo, checking out more of the stops. We are talking daily by single side band to those friends back in the La Paz marina who are preparing to come north and we hope to meet up with soon.

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