On this blog, I try not to write about unhappy experiences or have negative opinions, as these are not the things I want to remember when I look back on my own entries in the future. But we should not ignore the elephant in the room.
In March 2019, Monsoon got into a wreck in Puerto Escondido when a freak 70 knot wind funneled thru the mountain ranges and blew us off our mooring ball, making us crash into another boat and end up grounded in a marsh. As the last time such an event had happened in Puerto Escondido was in 1998, naturally it was our luck to be there right on time. While our crew sustained no physical injury, Monsoon lost her entire bowsprit, and with it our anchoring system and jib furling system. In the next 3 months, we learned first hand why you should never trust locals to work on your boat, both in terms of technical skill and timeliness. As a rule of thumb, you should remember that nobody will work as diligently on your own boat as yourself, especially in a community that does not receive enough demand for the needed service to maintain well trained professionals. If you are interested in finding out how the event unfolded, Travis has written about the whole incident in the January 2020 edition of Good Old Boat. On the flip side, our extended amount of time in the harbor gave us the opportunity to meet a great many other cruisers, many who have helped us immensely thru our difficult time, and with whom we will forever remain great friends.
With a sour taste in our mouth and no small measure of PTSD, we finally made our sea trial sail to Isla Danzante, an island right at the entrance of Puerto Escondido, anchoring for our first night in the water in the past 3 months. We were not entirely trusting of the new bowsprit that had been made, but nevertheless thankful for our regained freedom. Finally we could be rocked to sleep by the ocean and hear the fish swimming and birds diving around our boat, and see the turquoise water reflected in the white of our mast and sails.
Eager to stretch our sailing legs further, we proceeded the next day to nearby Isla Coronado, a small volcanic island northwest of us. Approaching the anchorage, we had our first notable encounter with a reef. Slowing Monsoon to a crawl, we edged our way around the island, looking in the shallow water, not quite understanding what we were seeing. In our past experience of sailing the Sea of Cortez, dark water represents deep water, while turquoise represents shallow water. However, as we sailed across patches of black, our depth meter returned shockingly shallow readings; we were sailing over black volcanic rocks! We had heard of many boats ending up on the rocks when they were either blown off their anchor, or neglected to watch for rocks on their way in or out of the anchorage. So, watching our depth meter and the water around us like a hawk, we inched our way into the anchorage, dropping hook in 15 feet of pristine turquoise water.
In the daytime, tour boats from the nearby town of Loreto bring pangas full of visitors to this island National Park, with their accompanying raucousness, but leaving at sunset to provide cruisers with nighttime tranquility. On this rare occasion, the island is close enough to a town to receive internet services, ticking all the boxes for a perfect anchorage: beauty, protection and internet.
At sunrise, we rowed to shore to attempt one of the hiking trails around the island. Although the weather was getting hotter, it was not yet the height of summer, and hikes in the early morning could still be done. From the white sand of the beach, the trail winded thru shrubbery, marked by fossilized chunks of rock studded with shells, which gave way to red volcanic rock, and finally black shale. By that time, the trail had increased in pitch to a point where we were fairly climbing up knee high steps, not ideal considering we were carrying a baby in a backpack and running out of water, with the sun gradually rising in the sky. So, we decided to turn back and go snorkeling in the reef instead. We tried to encourage Rowan to walk as much as he could, and hoped that he would grow up loving hiking.
Coming up the Sea of Cortez, we had noticed a gradual increase in the amount of wildlife living around us. We were greeted by rays and turtles coming into the anchorage, and had heard about a sea lion rookery on the other side of the island. Colorful fish teamed in the reef around us, so we knew we were off to a good start in terms of animal spotting. One afternoon, we heard a great splashing commotion surrounding us and poked our heads out of our boat, to see a gigantic pod of bottlenose dolphins swimming right past and around us, hundreds of individuals, and even a few baby dolphins. It was probably a conglomeration of several pods feeding together in a rich patch of sea water, what an uplifting sight to see! Who needs Sea World with their depressed, neurotic animals, performing degrading tricks for refrigerated fish, when here we were surrounded by the majesty of nature, dolphins fulfilling their role in life, to be free, social and participants of the natural food chain. In a flurry, tour pangas raced out to chase the dolphins, full of rabid tourists swinging cameras, but they were having a hard time keeping up with the pod that of course swam away and dispersed in different directions. What a ruckus those engines must have sounded like underwater, to sensitive dolphin ears. The tour boats could only keep up for so long, but for us 4 cruiser boats anchored here for the week, the pod returned day after day to feed, putting on a show for us as we tried to be as innocuous as we could. When the pod came to feed right by our boat, I took the opportunity to get in the water and swim silently around, while our friends on Eos got in their kayak to drift gently by the pod. In the clear water, I saw the ghostly and elegant figures of dolphins swimming in effortless arcs along the seabed, whistling and clicking to one another like you hear in nature documentaries. They swam so quickly that the moment did not last very long, but for a moment I felt like I was part of their world. In the next few weeks, Totem caught this footage of rays swimming by the anchorage. These are the kinds of places that I love to be in. Although others may feel intimidated and uncomfortable in an environment where man is not the most overpowering element, I find a greater connection to the universe around me in moments when I am reminded of how small humans are, how we are only one of so many other living beings that are just as entitled to the earth as we are, and how weak we are in comparison to the forces of nature.
The next day was 4th of July. Although we aren’t particularly patriotic, it nevertheless provides an excuse to have a party. Last year, in our first year as cruisers, we celebrated the day anchored in the Channel Islands, watching fireworks from the comfort of our cockpit. This year, we organized a beach potluck with the other boats around us; Eos, who we met in Puerto Escondido, and Totem and Utopia 2, who have circumnavigated the world over the past 10 years. With the whole island to ourselves, it was a great treat to exchange home cooked food and talk about sailing adventures and parenthood with families who identify with our shared experience.