Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Change in Plans: Galapa-no-gos

We arrived in La Paz on February 20th, prepared to stay a couple days. We stayed at Marina de La Paz, surrounded by a multitude of other American cruisers – a fleet, shall we say. Many have made La Paz their permanent home, some purposefully, some accidentally. Everyone we met warned us that some magnetic force tends to draw one in, foiling any intentions to leave this happy town. I’m currently reading Steinbeck’s Log of the Sea of Cortez and he alludes to this force much more eloquently:

"And we wondered why so much of the Gulf was familiar to us, why this town had a 'home' feeling. We had never seen a town which even looked like La Paz, and yet coming to it was like returning rather than visiting. Some quality there is in the whole Gulf that trips a trigger of recognition so that in fantastic and exotic scenery one finds oneself nodding and saying inwardly, 'yes, I know.'"

And, what d’ya know, our “2-3 days” in La Paz turned into 5. We told ourselves it had to do with the internet access. Who knows?

Finally we set sail for the islands opposite La Paz harbor, for a few days of exploring. And, oops! We broke our backstay purchase. (Maybe, the force?) So, we took down our sails and motored on, but now had cause to return to La Paz (after visiting the islands) before heading further south.

The islands (Espiritu Santu and Partida) are stark, rocky veins on the southwestern fringe of the Sea of Cortez. They are designated sanctuaries so there is no human habitation, save for the occasional fisherman’s hut nestled in coves here and about.

Beachcombing has become my favorite pastime. We found little cowry snails having a convention of some kind, before digging themselves down into the sand at the water’s edge. The hermit crabs were characteristically unsociable, downright reclusive. We found “mummified” puffers littering one beach, and enjoyed watching a few of the live specimens trundle their way along the water’s surface. They’re poisonous so what they lack in maneuverability and grace of movement, they make up for in unpalatability. In other words, they’re not much of a target, so why bother getting out of the way? They do, however, make a good bath toy. We watched a seal use one as a rubber ducky, flipping him about in the waves.

The vegetation is of the tough, spiny and hardy sort, in this dry environment. But I’m often surprised to find stunning and ususual, dainty little gems clinging to the rocks or nestled into crevices. Pelicans continue to dominate the skies. But they share the catch with plenty of gulls, magnificent frigate birds and, finally, some brown boobies. Turkey vultures feast on whatever remains wash up on shore, including pelicans (though puffers remain untouched). I did find a couple goofy looking pelican beaks, bleached and picked clean. The water isn’t what you’d call warm, but it was perfectly comfortable at 63 degrees for my first snorkeling adventure. This particular site was a little murky, but I could still see flashes of color as tropical fish darted by, and some rounded coral heads attached to rocks along the shore.

In total we spent 3 nights visiting the islands, each morning moving to a new cove and dropping anchor. On the last day I rode the dinghy out to a couple islets (Los Islotes) just north of Isla Partida, to get a close-up of a known sea lion colony. Oh, the raucous ruckus. They certainly have something to say most of the time. In calmer weather some brave souls actually swim with these sea lions. I can blame the wind and the waves instead of my own cowardice for my failure to do so on this occasion. Who’d be the wiser?

On the 28th we motored back to La Paz, to repair our backstay purchase, with plans to learn how to splice. The splicing was a cinch, really, and kind of fun. So, mechanical problem solved. But, of course, we just had to check our email…. And there was, waiting for Ben, an urgent request to return to San Diego for some design work and trouble-shooting. So, here I am, spending our 17th anniversary (17!?) alone. Really I’m just being dramatic, as he’s due back this afternoon. In the meantime, I’ve finally utilized some of my veterinary skills, having just completed physical exams on Zeus the Doberman, and Henry the Lab. I also just made a donation of medical supplies to Baja Dogs Helpline of La Paz.

Anyway, assuming all’s well, we’ll be leaving La Paz again, tomorrow morning. This time we’re heading back south (once more across the Tropic of Cancer), bound ultimately for Puerto Vallarta. If weather allows, we’ll be making a stop at Isla Isabella en route. (More on this later….)

Oh, yes, and finally to our change of plans. The Ecuadorian government has been fickle of late, seemingly unable to decide whether it likes cruisers or not. Regulations for visiting yachts (to the Galapagos or to mainland Ecuador) seem to change on a dime and, unfortunately, the most recent trend has been a more hostile stance. We’d been waiting anxiously to hear reports of the first of this season’s yachts to visit the Galapagos, and the reports we have gotten have been quite unfavorable – increasingly expensive, increasing restrictive and open to any official’s interpretation. So, boaters are being charged whatever it is deemed they might be able to afford, and can no longer visit any other than their original port of entry. Well, long story short, we felt the additional 1200 miles we were prepared to sail to get there wasn’t worth the hassle. I was looking forward to this destination as a highlight of the trip so you can imagine the disappointment is real. But, perhaps in the future, by different means, we’ll get there one day… Instead we’ll be sailing to the Marquesas in French Polynesia directly from the Mexican coast. A lot less distance than our Galapagos detour, and more reliable winds…

Stay tuned!


doglady said...

Shawnie J. Leno reports that owning a cat reduces your chances of having a heart attack. Apparently being totally ignored relieves stress.


Penelope said...

It seems that Zelda, until now, was giving us her best behavior -- perhaps out of fear that we too would abandon her? But now, feeling secure that we'll keep her as long as needed, she has decided to make our lives more exciting... Like, stealing the new peanut butter jar (which was closed) from the counter and almost succeeding in opening it, chewing on Theo's dirty diapers, rolling herself in dog poo... And now, anytime I leave the house for too long (and too long could mean just 15 minutes!), she finds something to chew on like, a DVD box, a deck of cards... So she's become more needy, I think... but we still love her. And she especially loves Marcus. He's really her favorite. One theory about her neediness -- could she sense a baby is on the way? And if so, what does this mean will happen when the baby is born?
And we finally found another bowl for Speck to replace the one that broke, but this one is too big for the cat stand.
Anyway, that's a little update for you!

marianne said...

I just wrote a big note and it was lost... because I could not remember my pass word.
I try again!!! marianne

marianne said...

OK it worked!!
I was telling how nice it is to read Shawn's stories.
thank you!
So Ben returned from San Diego?
We just came from Briançon where we celebrated Caroline's 60th and next week-end we celebrate Brigitte's 60th! Getting there! Jonathan and co will be there too.
I also went to Geneva for a training and stayed with Nanette -we had really nice chats.

Fid said...

While you get to galavant around the globe I sit in Seattle nursing my knee back to health. I can walk (limp) around the block and ride the stationary bike at its easiest setting for 10 minutes. I could chew an arm off I am so stir crazy.
Amy has set sail on her own ocean adventure. They left yesterday and she is currently halfway up Vancouver Island. She still has cell phone coverage so I get updates as she stands watch and learns how to operate the boat and radios. They are headed to Sitka first to drop off a pickup truck and some other supplies. I am jealous of all of you but I had my Greenland sailing adventure not that long ago so don't really have cause for complaint.
Sorry to hear about the Galapagos. You will have (and are having) so many wildlife adventures even without going there but I am sure you are disappointed.
Missing you tons.