“Whoa! Look behind you!”, I yelled at Mike, who was at the helm of our little Portland Pudgy dinghy. “We’ve got company and they’re here to party!”
Snugly anchored at the base of the big cliffs of Isla San Pedro Martir, smack in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, we finally feel like Crusing Season 2020 has begun. It seems like it took forever to reach escape velocity from San Carlos. Sure, we were having grand fun with friends who currently live there. We will miss our friends. But, I mean, we are here to cruise by boat. We had to go. The weather offered us just enough time to thread the needle between north wind blows and we chose to take the opportunity. Destination: this wild island of birds and sea lions in the middle of nowhere, close to nothing. Just the way we like it.
We took a chance coming to visit this island this time of year. Being this far from anywhere between predicted north wind blows is always risky. You have to be prepared to take weather that is worse than predicted. And to be clear, had the blows been predicted to be much higher, we would not have come. We had a ‘plan B’ if we had to bail if the weather reports didn’t hold up and our next destination, Santa Rosalia, is downwind from here. If conditions at this island were untenable or completely unsafe, we’d just have a really fast downwind sail.
Weather patterns during the winter here are, in a word, dynamic. They change rapidly and predictions more than a day in advance may not hold true. That happens on the regular in the winter in the Sea of Cortez and it’s almost a certainty that winds that develop will be higher than predicted, with the accompanying higher-than-predicted seas. That’s happened so often that we just count on it now and if it doesn’t come to pass, well good then. Two years ago you couldn’t have paid me to take this chance. I would have felt like it was too risky; the potential pay off not worth what I was sure was going to be hours of “I hate this why am I here what is wrong with me that I would agree to this?”. Two and a half years into this cruising thing and my tolerance for discomfort has gone way up. It was a no brainer this year. Yeah, the last two hours were not that much fun, but it was a small price to pay. So here we are.
Dinghy splashed and engined-up, we set out to explore the shoreline in the lee of the island. You are not allowed to go ashore on this protected island, but no one says you cannot explore by dinghy. The winds were building as expected, but we had enough protection on this southeast side to get off the boat and have a visit up close and personal with the local wildlife. Honestly, for us, it doesn’t get much better than this. And in this place, the residents are as curious about us as we were about them. As soon as we dropped anchor a curious little sea lion came over to say howdy.
Soon we had a following as we motored around. First a few sea lions came along side, spy hopping and splashing as they checked us out. Then more and more joined the party until we had an entire congregation jumping and diving, showing off their watery skills as they raced the dinghy from one area to the next. Honestly, I think they were just playing with us. When Mike turned the engine off, they completely lost interest. But once we started moving again, there they were torpedoing through the clear water, splashing us with their leaps, eyeballing us with those big, watery eyes. The last time we had been surrounded by playful sea lions was at San Miguel Island in California, still a highlight of this trip.
We got two days of soul filling sea lions, Blue Footed and Brown Boobies, Tropic Birds, thousands of little Grebes and stunning scenery. Now we are primed and ready for more.
Here are more photos. Honestly, we have so many it’s hard to choose which ones to post. Be sure to scroll to the end for a special treat.
And now, for your edification, the soothing renditions of a pre-dawn Sea Lions and assorted birds meditation.
And here’s one that shows the anchorage and why their voices are so very loud!