My hermit crab cavalry had retreated during the night and all that was left were the crisscrossing zipper patterns of their tracks in the sand. The morning sun was shrouded in a bank of clouds and fog over Isla Catalina and Isla Montserrat to our south. It was a rare sunrise with clouds and a beautiful way to start the day.
Our camp was on the white sand arrayed in front of a remnant of limestone reef. To the north, our own bank of fog lay over the sea under the mountains on Carmen. It slowly moved toward the land, rising and swirling in the valleys between the peaks. Soon an actual fog bank approached the shore and we were enveloped in the soft grey of the fog. We packed up camp and waited to see if the fog would burn off. We knew that the fog was thin and just a little wind would dissipate it, but it remained, so we began following the shore back to the southern tip of Carmen, retracing our path from the previous day. It was an unexpected experience to be paddling in fog in Baja, a hot and dry climate. I enjoyed it tremendously.
Landfall back on Danzante was exactly where we had left from on the previous day. Upon getting close to the shore we turned south and paddled along the steep cliffs of the east side of the island. Soon we came to an arch with a small bay on the other side. The bay contained a nice small beach of rounded rocks. We landed there for a break and to investigate the arch.
The fog did not last long and by the time we reached the pretty little beach campsite on the tip of Carmen, it was completely gone, replaced by the bright blue cloudless sky that is more typical of Baja. We stopped for a brief break before making the crossing to Isla Danzante in the glass smooth water. This beach was littered with sand dollars and sea urchin skeletons. It was a beautiful little spot to camp.
Back on the water we turned south and paddled back down to the reef rocks on the southern end of the island. From there we headed just about due south to a small island where we hit another rocky beach for a break. Back in the boats we continued on until we came to the horseshoe shaped Candelero Chico.
The southeast side of this small bay has an almost closed passage between two cliffs. The northern approach is more open. In the center of the horseshoe is a long very wide beach of smoothed pebbles. There is some sand above the rock beach. A dry wash comes into the bay on the east end of the beach. Below the low tide mark the bottom is a nice white sand.
After setting up camp, Rick got back in his kayak and paddled south some more. While he was gone I put on my fins, backed into the water and started snorkeling under the cliffs in the interior of the bay. The water in the top meter of water was much warmer than what lay below. Trapped in the nearly closed bay, the water was heated by the strong sun. It was also much saltier from the surface evaporation. You could see a distinct density layer as the warm salty water lay overtop the cold fresher water. Salt fingers hung from the bottom of the halocline. These protrusions of more dense water are formed when the warm salty water on top is cooled by contact with the layer below faster than the salt it contains can diffuse into the lower layer, forming a three inch long "finger". The strong temperature layering can also be deceptive for paddlers in the open Sea of Cortez as one might be fooled by the warm solar heated top layer of a calm day, only to have the water get significantly colder when the wind comes up and the waves mix the surface water with the much cooler water underneath. If you are dressed for the temperature of the top 3 inches of water, you might be in some trouble under difficult conditions when the water returns to the temperature of the water several feet down.
Since it was only two o'clock, this was a great opportunity to use the goggles, snorkel and dive fins I had been carrying in the kayak for the past nine days. With the cold temperatures and long paddling days, there had not been much opportunity or desire to use them.
As I swam over the smooth white sand bottom of the bay, small schools of pan sized fish darted away toward the rocks ahead. In the rocks, myriads of fish awaited me. I had seen many of them as I paddled over them in the kayak, but I had actually seen only a small portion of what was actually down there. The fish retreated to nearby cracks and under boulders as I approached and it was easy to see that they had hidden themselves as the kayak approached. I saw many small fish that I had not seen at all from the surface. Corrals and gorgonians were scattered here and there but this was not a prolific reef system such as in the warmer waters of the Caribbean or Pacific. An occasional starfish grazed the close seaweed that grew on the large boulders. Some were hard with armored bodies and some were soft like wet leather.
I swam out to where the cliffs ended and descended into deep dark blue water. I always found it unsettling to be swimming along on the edge of our world, wondering what big and possibly menacing thing might be out in the blue haze beyond my very poor senses. And in this sea, there are some very big and menacing things around. But all I saw were a few decent sized fish that might have been an interesting catch on a fishing line.
I had been in the water for about an hour and a half and I was headed back to shore. The cold was starting to penetrate my 3 mil wet suit. I was startled by someone yelling. I looked up out of the water to sea kayaker in a white Tesla with a straw hat and white cotton shirt keeping station just three feet from me. I had not seen or heard his approach which spoke volumes about the likelihood of seeing anything truly dangerous sneaking up on me.
He said he was the first of a large group of San Diego based kayakers headed down the coast from Ensenada Blanca to La Paz. He wanted to know if it was alright with me is he camped on the beach. This seemed like a strange thing to request. Then I realized he probably did not have a permit for this beach as we did not as we were suppose to have stopped on Danzante for our preselected campsite. I learned later that indeed he did not have a reservation for this camp, so he was being polite about what he thought might have been an invasion of our reserved spot. However, I would not have cared even if we did have a permit for this site. He paddled on to the beach and began to make camp on the other end of the big beach.
I finished snorkeling the rocks and came back up onto the beach, pulled off my goggles, snorkel and fins and struggled out of my wet suit. The hot sun felt good after the cooling water.
We sat on the warm stones and ate our camp stove cooked meals and watched the frigate birds use the uplift from the cliffs to glide up and down the shore, circling in tight circles to gain altitude and then striking out in a long glide to the next cliff. How exquisite it must be to be able to effortlessly soar like that.
The shore underneath the cliffs was a broad bench of nearly flat rock with boulders sprinkled on top. Most of the boulders were a composite rock of large stones or cobbles in a sandy concrete. The soft stone was easily eroded by the wave action and there were several mushroom shaped rocks along the shore. As I got to the end of the bench, Rick appeared returning from his paddle farther down the coast. He played in the tiny surge amongst the rocks, practicing control strokes. Then we both went back to camp and started on dinner.
After the sun had gone down and the sky had gone dark, we could once again see bioluminescence in the warm quiet water of Candelero Chico, just as we had seen in Bahia Conception. There was less of it here, but it was still an interesting show. Later, in the middle of the night, we were awakened by the rhythmic breathing of dolphins as they came into the bay, possibly hunting some of the fish I had seen flitting over the open white sand of the bay bottom. We could hear them for about 5 minutes and then they moved out of the bay and we could not hear them once they had passed the point.
On to Day 11....................
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Loreto - Day 08 ||The Sierra Giganta of the Baja peninsula form a spectacular backdrop to the azure Sea of Cortez from Danzante Island. We continue our trip with a day paddle for Julio and Bob and the start of the second part of our Mexican adventure for Rick and Hank. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Bahia Conception to Loreto - Day 04 ||Our kayak trip continues from San Nicolas, past El Pulpito to the beautiful bay at San Juanico. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Loreto - Day 10 ||Another calm day for our paddle back to Isla Danzante and then down to Candelero Chico where we spend the afternoon relaxing with snorkeling and playing in the shore rocks. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Bahia Conception to Loreto - Day 06 ||Leaving our wind refuge at Boca San Bruno, a strong west wind keeps us tight against the shore as we paddle back to Loreto. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Loreto - Day 09 ||From Isla Danzante, a short crossing brings us to Isla Carmen where we play tag with fin whales, 80 foot monsters of the Canal de Ballenas. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Bahia Conception to Loreto - Day 01 - 18 miles ||Launching from Playa Freson, we paddle up Bahia Conception, stopping at Isla Blanca. We arrive just short of our intended destination, Punta Conception. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Loreto - Day 07 ||A rest day between trip legs allows a land trip to Mission San Xavier in the mountains west of Loreto. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Bahia Conception to Loreto - Day 02 ||Leaving the shallow waters of Bahia Conception, we round Punta Conception, paddle into the Sea of Cortez and head south along the coast . |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Bahia Conception to Loreto - Day 03 ||Fair winds provide and opportunity to try out my sail. We end the windy day high atop a sand dune. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Loreto - Day 11 ||From Candelero Chico we paddled 24 miles back to Loreto. The first half of the trip was flat calm. In the second half, a little tail wind makes the long mileage bearable. |
|MX - Sea of Cortez - 2006/03/15 to 2006/03/30 - Bahia Conception to Loreto - Day 05 ||Leaving San Juanico, the wind picks up to 20 to 25 knots ( Force 5) and we have a roller coaster ride down to San Bruno where problems with our chart leads to some interesting developments. |