Dinghy Lust, Whale Aversion, and Turtle Love

We’re still here in the anchorage in La Cruz (Banderas Bay) and, in spite of this being a VERY rolly anchorage, we are really in no hurry to move along. We’re having a great time here meeting new friends, catching up with old friends, and taking it slow; getting a few little boat projects done and trying to stay out of trouble. Our goal for the season is to make it south to Bahia de Zihuatanejo. Or not. After that we have no clue. Maybe we’ll come back north into the Sea of Cortez, maybe not. We don’t know what we’re doing for hurricane season; i.e. the season of hellacious heat. We don’t know if we plan to cross the Pacific next year, or at least get to the Galapagos Islands. We don’t know a whole lot of things lately. But all that will fall into place.

From the anchorage in La Cruz. People just go sailing here.

What we do know is that this is the first anchorage we’ve been in, ever, where we’ve begun to develop Dinghy Lust. It’s funny how other people always love our little Portland Pudgy and in return how much we love their big inflatables. Goes to show there is no perfect boat, but still, we are at a point where we are considering trading up to a different model to fill the bill as the family truckster. Maybe it’s time for us to move along. After all, there are a lot of dinghies here to lust after. That probably isn’t helping.

We thought long and hard about our choice of dinghy before we bought one. We also talked to a lot of experienced cruisers. Of course, most of them have inflatables. But the ones who have the Portland Pudgies love them and stand by them. We see more and more Pudgies out here cruising. So what gives?

Our Portand Pudgy, the boating equivalent to our old Mazda pickup truck. A real workhorse. But small and lacking in power.

Frankly, it’s the power. We don’t have enough of it. I can already hear the ‘I told you so’s coming’. However, we have used small, hard dinghies for the last 15 years and have been happy with them. We have been cruising now since June 2016, full time, with this little dink and it’s been fine. We have never owned an inflatable dinghy. The reasons we chose this little boat, the fact that it’s indestructable, will never sink, is rated as a life raft, is fun and easy to row, can withstand the tropical sun, and is very unlikely to get stolen; are all still true. It may be slow, but it gets us there. If I keep going, I might talk myself into just keeping it.

Here’s what it doesn’t do: go fast and far, land safely in surf, pull up on the beach with ease, allow wheels to be fitted to it. Now you’d think none of these things are that important. In fact, the pudgy-owner cruisers we talked to before we bought swore that they would choose one again even with all these shortcomings. Then we got a screaming deal on ours and the deed was done. We paid $1000 for this dinghy, less than $2000 for the whole dinghy/engine combination. So we’ve had good value for the money so far and as cheap cruisers, that’s sometimes a deciding factor.

But now we are in an anchorage that is pretty far from the dinghy dock. It takes us a long time to get there and we’re likely to make that trip only once in a day because of that. In a nutshell, we could travel faster and further with a different dinghy. We could go to beaches that are out of reach of our dinghy, but not anchorable with our Galapagos. So we lust. We do nothing about it at this point, but we lust in our hearts. If we decide to go further than the coast of Mexico and Central America, another dinghy will be at the top of the list of equipment we’ll want to buy.

Something else we have a lot of here in Banderas Bay is Humpback Whales. We see them all the time just outside the shallow water of the anchorage and lucky Mike, he can hear them singing through the hull. Of all the times my hearing loss has made me sad, this is one of the worst. Not to hear the whales sing? Damn it.

Because at this point I’d rather hear them than see them, especially up close and personal. It’s not that I don’t like whales, because I do. I’ve always been one of those whale-loving-tree-hugging-crystal-wearing touchy feely types when it comes to animals of all kinds but especially whales. It used to be that I would get very excited to have them near the boat, running for the camera, talking to them in cooing tones. “Who’s a big whale, then? Are we a big, sweet barnacle-encrusted whalums? Show me your precious fluke! Bless me with your special fishy smelling breath! “. No more.

This whale isn’t even particularly big by whale standards.

I believe my recalibration of whale love began with our encounter with Grey Whales in Bahia Ballena on the west coast of the Baja. Having a whale breach clear out of the water just to port, then being hit broadside by his friend as he log rolled under the boat, was a one-two punch that takes awhile to process. We both recovered from the shock of it as we stood in the cockpit, taking stock or ourselves and checking our pants for dampness in our personal areas. We laughed about it, exclaimed, expressed gratitude that the frolicking whale had not actually fallen on our boat, ruining both our days if not killing us outright. For at least an entire day one or both of us would, without warning, break out with a ‘SHIT! DID YOU SEE HOW CLOSE HE WAS?’ or  ‘DANG! I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE HOW LUCKY WE WERE!’. Yes, I do actually say ‘dang’. I make no apology for this.

As time went on it became one of those stories you tell new friends over dinner in the cockpit. But entertainment value was not the only lingering gift from that experience. The darker gift is that, once more, the separation between the conscious mind and the body’s experience is put into high relief. The conscious mind realizes we had an exciting experience that turned out OK and a story we enjoy telling. The body still sees whales as a threat to our safety. I just hate that. Where I used to be very excited, I am now only mildly amused. Where I used to run get my camera at the first sign of whales, now my first thought is how far away from the boat they are and which direction they are traveling. It kind of sucks, but it’s getting better. Every time I see a whale and it doesn’t jump on my boat, I take a moment to register this fact. These things take time and lately I am jealous of the time I have left in this world to enjoy the things I want to enjoy. Like jumping whales.

To have an experience that casts a shade on a child-like wonder in witnessing our natural world is another small leaving of the Garden of Eden; to have forced upon us the knowledge that not only is our life decidedly finite, that end could come at a moment’s notice; dealt us by a hand we assumed to be benevolent.

An appropriate distance from my boat, a whale jumping for joy? Maybe. Or maybe he’s just a show off.

I don’t want to case aspersions on whales. Unlike our daughter, the whale hater,  I do not believe they are malevolent creatures who are out to sink my boat with malice and forethought. Rather I have come to believe I have given them too much credit. I wonder if they even know we are there and if so, if they actually care. I know that people can have what they describe as spiritual experiences with whales. It’s all over the You Tube. But I begin to wonder if that’s saying more about them than it is about the whales. I’m willing to be wrong about that, and part of me hopes dreadfully that I am completely mistaken. I would love to have a spiritual experience with a whale encounter, as long as that doesn’t lead to my untimely death. Until then,  let’s just say I have a, probably healthy, desire for them to stay in their lane out here on the sea; a healthy respect for their power. I like to turn on the engine when I see whales around. I figure they can hear us better that way. I’d like to have the innocent joy back, but alas, once that road has been traveled there is no going back.

Still, I do long to hear them sing.

This juvenile Humpback Whale may or may not be lunging at a panga, who is, by the way, entirely too close. Enlarge this and see if you can make out the expression on the face of that passenger. That’s the same whale as in the first whale photo, and he was feeling mighty frisky that day. Lots of tale slapping, spy hopping, and general trouble making. This panga driver was insane to be that close. Taken right here in the bay at Punta Mita as we went sailing by. It was a good show.

You know who DOESN’T jump out of the water and land on boats? Sea turtles, that’s who. So I’m pretty sure I can continue to be excited when they’re around, which is often! Anchored off Isla Espiritu Santo there were dozens of sea turtles in the cove. We had a cool experience in Puerto Vallarta last week where we got to go and release baby Olive Ridley Sea Turtles onto the beach and watch them find their way to the water. Less than 24 hours old, they looked like claymation animals; hardly even real.

Baby Olive Ridley turtles. So precious! All of these are boy turtles because their gender is determined by nest temperature.

Holding this tiny, perfect little sea turtle was a highlight of our crusing time so far. The turtle rescue operates all year long and they release thousands of babies onto the sand each year. Before the rescue efforts only one in a thousand babies made it and returned back to the beach to lay more eggs. According to the biologist at the site, now one in a hundred returns to lay more eggs. That’s pretty great!

I named him Wally. I hope he is out there eating and growing into a big, strong turtle.

If you are still reading, congratulations on your attention span in today’s sound-bite world. Your reward today is a few photos from our three hour tour through the mangroves at San Blas. It was pretty fun and we saw some birds we had never seen before. Also a lot of crocodiles. Absolutely no animals jumped into our panga on this tour.

Don’t worry, he’s just regulating his temperature.

Lovely Green Heron

Not even a little bit worried this toothy guy is going to jump on my boat. See how friendly he looks?

Boat Billed Heron

Wood Stork, migratory bird from Canada

Common Nighthawk

I spied this iguana as we zoomed passed and asked the panga driver to go back. Worth it.

This fresh water pool was irresistible. It was the perfect temperature and the beauty of cruising clothes is that this is a good way to give them a wash.

What the river fish look like. Those catfish are kind of weird.

Until we feel the urge to post again, S/V Galapagos standing by on channel 22.



17 thoughts on “Dinghy Lust, Whale Aversion, and Turtle Love

    • I once had a humpback whale come up behind me in my kayak on the west coast of Vancouver Island. What a shocker. He was really big! But he didn’t scare me like that grey whale did.

  1. Great post as always. I love the humor and honestly . The crocodile looked scary. So happy you are enjoying a great life on your boat. You worked hard to get there and deserve it!!

  2. What a great, enjoyable treat it is to read about and see your adventures! I look forward to your posts and photos so much! Love your “voice” in the entries.

  3. Sorry for the delayed comment.

    You wishes, your fears, your joy all had me up to ‘channel 22’.

    I too would rather see the turtles than the whales, but mind you, getting to hear then would be, ever-so-exciting.

    • We love comments, delayed and otherwise! IN the end, I actually HAVE HEARD THE WHALES! I heard them while I was swimming in the anchorage and they were fairly close to the boat. It was fantastic!

  4. Mellisa and Mike,
    We just viewed your website to check your progress. We left La Paz at the beginning of March and circled around the Lagoon on our last day, to see if we could see Galapagos but no luck. We were then in Mazatlan for a week and have since been in Marina Vallarta. We decided that we were not going to make Costa Rica this season, so instead are taking out time and doing a few upgrades (new 12V main panel went into today). We may or may not get down to Bahia Navidad in the next month but are sure we will meet up eventually.
    Anita and Stephen, Moonrise

    • Hello hello!! We are currently in the La Paz anchorage and due in at Paradise Village Marina on April 29 for a week of visiting with our daughter and son in law. We went as far south as Ensenada Carrizal but, not feeling the love, decided to go back north a bit earlier than we thought. It sounds like you are going to be in Marina Vallarta for awhile, perhaps still there at when we pull in on the 29th? We would love to see you and Moonrise!

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