Saturday, May 28, 2011

La Paz northbound

Our first stop north of La Paz was the rugged and beautiful island of Isla Partida. The largest bay, and most popular anchorage on the island, Caleta Partida, was formed by the erosion of a portion of the walls of a volcanic crater. The beach at the head of the bay features a small fish camp where local fisherman live for days in tiny, crude huts and speed off each morning in search of fish. Often, the sound of their outboard motor powered pangas can be heard as they returned well after dark.

We spent several enjoyable days there snorkeling and exploring by dinghy and on foot. One morning, we joined friends Karen and Larry aboard their boat “Phanta Rei” and traveled a short distance to the island of Ispiritu Santo. Our guide book told us of two ship wrecks there and we were anxious to explore them using SCUBA gear. Another friend, Dave from the vessel “ Taking Flight” came along to tend to the boat while the four of us dived. The wrecks were medium size cargo ships intentionally sunk to create artificial reefs after being confiscated by the Mexican government while attempting to smuggle illegal Chinese immigrants into the US.

After anchoring at the GPS position of the first wreck, Mark and Larry jumped into the water with snorkeling gear in hopes of finding the wreck and marking its position with a buoy. Mark made numerous free dives to over 50 feet in depth but unfortunately, due to limited visibility in the water, was unable to located the wreck. We all soon agreed that the reported position might be off a bit so we motored a short distance to the coordinates of the other one. This time with Dave’s guidance from a hand held GPS receiver, Mark was able to locate the wreck on his first dive. Soon after, he had secured one of our dinghy’s anchor lines to a piece of the wreckage about 35 feet below the surface. Along with Larry and Karen, we quickly donned our SCUBA gear and spent an enjoyable 45 minutes exploring the wreck. The sunken ship had become home to a large variety of fish and we occasionally parted huge schools of them as we swan through the structure.

After another day in beautiful Caleta Partida, we motor-sailed 6 miles north along the island’s rocky shore and anchored alone in a delightful cove barely large enough for 2 boats. Our plan was to leave “Blue Rodeo” in the cove and travel by dinghy to nearby Isla Islotes, a couple of small, rocky islands where we were told we’d find a sizable seal lion colony. When we reached the island, we were greeted by scores of the cute and inquisitive animals and we quickly jumped into the water to swim amongst them. What a thrill! The sea lions treated us to quite a show as they performed their acrobatics around us. Most of the young ones seemed friendly, but a few of the 800 pound males made it known that we weren’t entirely welcome with high speed passes just a few feet from us and by barking, grunting and displaying their teeth as they surfaced. We kept a respectable distance and, when we started to feel the chill of the water, climbed back aboard our dinghy and zipped back to our floating home. As we continued the short distance to Isla San Francisco, our intended anchorage for the night, we reflected back on what and extraordinary day it had been. The Sea of Cortez is world famous for its rich and diverse marine life and we knew that the weeks to come would provide more opportunities to interact with its inhabitants. Ah, if only we had gills!

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