Welcome to our mid-life crisis! These are the chronicles of Laura and Patrick, their young son Jack, and their goofball Labrador Retriever named Evinrude (Rudy), as they travelled the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico in their catamaran. We went cruising in search of a change of pace, a closer knit family, and peace of mind. We found all three and more. The fun all started in October, 2008 and nearly four years later the Mexican adventure came to an end August 3rd, 2012. With our mid-life crisis cured in Mexico, we are excited to start a new adventure - life back in America.

Candeleros Chico

Candeleros Chico
Just another beautiful day at anchor on the Baja. 2010

Dolphins at play in the bow wake 2011

Dolphins at play in the bow wake  2011

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Story #1 Thar She Blows! - Encounters of the Whale Kind

We are finally back in civilization - okay it's just Santa Rosalia, but we are tied to a dock, we have all the hot running water on the boat we need, all the electricity we can use, cell phone service, and INTERNET on the boat! We are in heaven. Internet was so spotty up in LA Bay and beyond that I never got a chance to share some of the pictures and stories of the summer. So over the next week while we are enjoying civilization again, I'll be posting some of the better stories, and this one was an amazing experience.

On our way south from LA Bay, we decided to visit Isla Salsipuedes (Leave if You Can Island). Who wouldn't want to visit a place by that name? We had to see it. It is said to have very jagged, detached, submerged, pinnacle rocks around the shore; very strong currents; and an extensive reef. The island was lovely and we had no trouble leaving, but getting there was a different story!

You have to cross a very deep channel to get to the island which is about 14 miles off shore. As we were crossing, directly in our path to the island we could see the blow spouts of dozens of whales, covering about a mile. In the distance, a few whales were breaching completely out of the water, and all around in front of us we could see their tails lifting up out of the water as they dove. We angled our boat off to the side, to avoid them, but it didn't work. The pod was too big, the area they covered was too large. Soon we found ourselves encompassed in a vast pod of sperm whales - about 100 or so.

Sperm whales are a very different looking whale. They look a little like a rectangular-headed submarine - they have very dark, sleek and shiny skin, and a sort of knobby knuckle on their back instead of a dorsal fin. They have tiny eyes that are hard to distinguish and very thick, stubby tails. They average about 50 feet long, so they are pretty big. Sperm whales are known to be aggressive toward boats that get too close, especially during mating season. Not being a whale, I don't know when mating season is - I just know sperm whales have rammed boats.

The whales would come up from feeding with an explosive breath of air and then stay on the surface for up to 20 minutes or so just breathing and then dive again, lifting their stubby tails straight in the air. We slowed our boat down to 3 knots by letting most of the wind dump out of our mainsail, we rolled up the jib, and then we turned on an engine and left it in idle just to make noise so we wouldn't sneak up on anyone. The wind was blowing pretty good, so the waves were worked up and the white caps and swell were making it hard to see the whales as they lollygagged on the surface. We all got on deck, scanning the water. For an hour, we threaded our way slowly though the huge pod, turning left and then right by 30 or 40 degrees - always trying to get to the outside of the herd, but then more whales would surface and we would be surrounded again.

At one point we found ourselves with a mom and a baby about 70 feet to starboard and a big bull about 70 feet to port. We turned hard to port, trying to bring our boat around the back of the bull in order to give the mom and baby more room. This, of course, brought us closer to the big one. We were within 40 feet of him and moving parallel alongside him. Still the whale was showing no sign of noticing us, or moving. We continued slowly along, trying to get behind him.

Suddenly, dolphins showed up out of nowhere. We hadn't seen them before this. They came up to our boat and instantly we had a phalanx of about 10 dolphins around us. At the same time, the whale started and came to life in an agitated manner. He lifted his massive head up out of the water to fix us with his eye. Then two of the dolphins did a very brave thing. They swam over to the head of the bull and got within feet of his snout. The whale reared his head higher, and then gave a mighty lunge toward the dolphins and away from our boat. With a huge splash, he dove.

That is the second time in Mexico that I have seen dolphins come from out of nowhere to help us when we were in potential danger. There is something very special about dolphins, and I will be forever grateful.

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