We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.
In the deep waters around the San Lorenzo group in the Northern Gulf of California we have had a couple of fascinating encounters with pilot whales. Some of them swimming upside down checking out Narama's bottom and others vocalising. The clip attached has the vocals of a group slowly travelling, the second sound bite is a different occasion when two groups met with far more excited calls. The pictures are a mix of Pilot whales, Long-beaked common dolphin, Bottlenose dolphin, Whale Shark, Sperm whale and Bryde's whale.
Baja is dry! In fact in 7 months we've only seen a few drops of rain! We ponder how the austere looking big horn sheep copes and have marvelled at the myriad of cactii that thrive here. But what about us? As we don't have a water maker, we liken the boat to a camel, some friends term it "camping", we call it home. On the longer 2- 3 week jumps away from the supply of liquid gold, we have to be careful. Especially when there is more than two of us aboard, but we can live quite happily on 50L/person/week. So what do you get for that? ...... you get: a daily fresh water rinse under the solar shower; to do dishes in a bucket of salt water (mexican dish soap handles this well) and rinse with some fresh; exercise from using the hand pump as we don't have a pressurized system (that can be vulnerable to leaks and requires electricity); as much drinking and cooking water as you need and finally to wash clothes in salt water with a little rinse in fresh, but then, we aren't wearing to many layers these days and most washing waits till we are closer to a supply. For sea passages we cut the showers to a sponge down and cook with a little more seawater. This then lasts about 5 weeks for the two of us at 5L/person/day. Keep in mind the head (toilet) uses salt water and we get to swim at least once a day when anchoring.
Where do we get water? In La Paz the highly chlorinated water available at the marina must have cleaned us and our tanks nicely, in San Everisto there was a desalination plant for the village where we had our jerry cans fillled, in Puerto Escondido they had sweet spring water from the mountain range that rises abruptly behind it, and then on three occasions we have been genourously given a jerry can or two from cruisers with watermakers that enabled us to stay out a few extra days. All small towns will have a purifacador, "the local government subsidised watering hole" who will fill your jerry cans with reverse osmosis treated water and whose facilities are always spotless. 10 – 15 pesos gets you 20L. (about $1CAD). Or as in Guaymas and San Felipe, you call a water truck and lug the 20L containers up and down the dock to fill 300 odd L if we are empty.
So thats how water works here, we do enjoy the odd day at a marina to rinse the layers of salt that accumulates after spray dries and sticks over the weeks of sailing. Recently we arrived in Santa Rosalia on the day the water came back after a 3 day drought for the entire city.... apparantly due to internal politics, the city had not paid the water bill.....where did the money go is the question...??
So next time you turn on that tap..... be thankful :).
10 Nov: “We anchored in the little cove on the north side of Puerto Refugio. The water was so clear that we could watch the anchor hit the sandy bottom. Fresh caught dorado for lunch – what a treat after an overnight passage!”
12 Nov: “Oh how it blew through the night. We were glad that we took the time to rig the stern anchor and shoreline yesterday (over two hours!) It meant that we had a much more comfortable night, although we were both up to check and adjust lines during the night.
We spent two weeks anchored inside the breakwater of San Felipe. A lot of that time was spent wandering the beautiful beach at low tide (looking at shorebirds of course) and ticking little projects off the perpetual “to do” list on Narama. But our main goal was to try and sight Vaquita marina (“little sea cow” in Spanish; Phocoena sinus is its scientific name). This tiny cetacean has the dubious distinction of being the world’s most endangered marine mammal and it only lives here in the very far north of the Sea of Cortez.
To learn more about Vaquita follow these two links:
We weren’t very optimistic about glimpsing it due to these dwindling numbers (current estimate is 250 animals left) and it’s incredibly shy behaviour (most sightings are from the deck of a ship using 20x binoculars), but the weather certainly didn’t help either. We really only had 2 and a half days of good conditions for sighting. How much time should we spend without another decent anchorage for over 100 miles? When the next northerly was forecast we took it and ran south. Our only sighting was the bronze statue on the San Felipe malecon.
This was a significant decision as we won’t likely head north again until we arrive in Australia, which is another year at least. The Sea of Cortez has been a beautiful, year-long detour on our voyage, one that we don’t regret. It will still take us a few months on our southern course to leave the sea, but as the latitude in our logbook slowly dwindles towards the equator we get more excited about sailing on to new places. We wish the Vaquita well, it’s going to need some luck to survive.