Rock Formations on Guadalupe
A lovely NW breeze meant that we could set sail inside the breakwater in Ensenada. We tacked among the freighters anchored in Bahia Todos Santos and headed west into the setting sun. We thought that we would likely spend the night at the nearby islands of Todos Santos, but found all the anchorages full of aquaculture nets. While we approached a fellow came out in a panga to let us tie up to a mooring for a “propina” or tip for el Jefe. We stayed long enough to prepare dinner and watch a huge pod of dolphins in the last of the setting sun. It would take us two nights to reach Guadaupe Island in light winds, which had us frequently changing sails and occasionally give up and run the engine. We approached the north end of the island just after sunrise and spent the better part of the day heading south. We saw stark and stunning volcanic geology and occasional pods of dolphins throughout the day. Some friendly fishermen told us that the village on the west side had a large swell running right now and was therefore unsuitable. They were happy to give us a couple Jurel or Yellowtail for our dinner.
Guadalupe Island has enough endemic plants and birds to make Darwin giggle, so we were anxious to explore onshore the next morning. However with steep shores and the swell running and wrapping around, we had to satisfy ourselves with a kayak cruise. We had wonderful looks at Guadalupe Fur Seals, which are endemic breeders here and were declared extinct not once but twice and have managed to recover from the brink to healthy numbers. Females and nursing pups were among the boulders along the rocky shoreline and we were impressed at the pups’ agility compared to Steller Sealions which we have worked with at home in BC.
Guadalupe Fur Seals
With no sheltered place to land, a few more rolly nights likely and a perfect sailing breeze filling in, we made the decision to set sail again. Frustrating to be so close to a village of friendly people, an island full of natural wonders and the permit which took half a day; but once again the conditions at sea rule! Just before leaving we traded some fresh fruit for lobster so I could have a good lunch underway. Then we proceeded to catch a tuna later that afternoon for dinner. With a great breeze and shorter crossing we arrived at San Benitos Islands the next day. This is also a small outpost with interesting wildlife and a tiny village of about a dozen houses for fishermen and their families. We gave one fisherman some club soda to drink while in his panga and later while we were ashore he invited us to his house. He answered our constant questions about island life, fishing and wild animals. He built a picket fence around his dusty yard, complete with a gate to protect his small boy from breeding Elephant Seals. I looked at that fence and thought it might keep his three-year-old inside, but I’m not sure it would stop a bull Elephant Seal if he wanted through! We sat on his porch and chatted until well after dark as his wife fed me lobster (Stephen just had to watch as he’s allergic!) and gave us spices and recipes for our next catch. It was a great evening, even with our language challenges. Our anchorage here seemed to have all the non-breeding Guadalupe Fur Seals and as we lay in bed that night we listened to their funny sounds.