Offshore

Kayaking Day 4, November 1, 2018

Prior to going on the blacklight scorpion hunt, I had considered sleeping at least once in the open during the trip like Mario had been doing, nestled between the kayaks, or like Lino in the panga. But, the existence of scorpions now deterred me. We had found quite a few the night before, lurking in the underbrush above the tideline. Maybe they don’t come out onto the sand at night, but I had been stung by one in Florida as a teenager and it hurt like hell. So, I decided to stick with the tent.

In his book, Kayaking the Vermilion Sea: Eight Hundred Miles Down the Baja (1995), the adventurer/writer, Jonathan Waterman, asserts that:

No place on earth hosts as many as Baja California’s 61 scorpion species. The western United States has 58 species, Italy has 5, and Florida has 4. Biologists have found the greatest diversity of scorpions – 13 different species – right here in [the] mid-lower peninsula,…

Waterman got a number of other things wrong in his book, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Although the daytime temperature on the peninsula averages around 80°F this time of year, it drops markedly once the sun sets, dipping into the 60s. The reason? The absence of moisture in the air (water vapor is by far the most significant greenhouse gas) allows the desert to radiate its heat unimpeded into the depths of space at night.

So we dress appropriately in the morning chill, awaiting our morning coffee, followed by a steaming quesadilla breakfast, by which time our top layers had come off.

Mario warned us that he had heard on the radio a weather system was approaching from the west, so it would be best for us to push as far south along the coast as possible over the next two days in order to get to the protected waters of the Canal San José, the channel separating the baja coast from Isla San José. His concern was well-founded. I had noticed the falling barometric pressure (a feature on my watch) which would likely soon bring stiffening winds and, therefor, building seas.

But, for now, the wind was out of the north and under 10 knots and the waves were less than a foot with no whitecaps, so we broke camp and pushed off.

It wasn’t long, however, before the wind picked up and swells began to build from the north. Lino moved the panga closer to us in order to provide assistance, if needed.

In the top half of the photo, below, from left: Scott, Barb, Lino in the Panga, and Dale with Isla Santa Cruz in the background to the west; Mario was near me. In the bottom half, taken just seconds later as I dropped into a trough between swells, I could no longer see Scott or Barb and could just make out the top of Lino’s head, Dale’s upraised paddle and the parapet of Isla Santa Cruz. We were about a mile offshore, behind me to the east.

It’s difficult to get a sense of the size of the seas from these photographs. Suffice it to say that these would likely be classified as 2- to 3-foot swells, with some 4-footers; big enough to necessitate us clipping our skirts (normally worn loosely around our waists) around our cockpit coamings to make our boats water-tight.

As the day wore on, the wind freshened to between 10-15 knots from the north, pushing the rising swells south at a speed slightly faster than we paddled. The waves would overtake and lift us, allowing us to occasionally surf down their faces. It was exhilarating and the most fun I have had in a kayak, although I’m sure it made Mario a nervous wreck as he tried to keep us herded together for safety in case anyone was to capsize.

We averaged about 3 knots, 50% faster than our normal speed, a result of the strong tailwind. By early afternoon, we had covered 12 miles, rounded Punta Montalva, and approached the beach at Ensenada la Laguna, Isla la Habana offshore.

We were not the first to arrive. A group of about 20 kayakers was already camping here. Together with their 5 guides and 2 pangas, they had created a little village at the north end of the beach, complete with a large community dining tent. They came down to the beach en masse to help us land in the surf, full of questions. Their guides had made today a lay-day for them due to the wind and waves and they wanted to know how it had been for us kayaking from Timbabichi.

We told them it wasn’t bad, but we were relieved to be on shore. With everyone’s help, we had the panga unloaded and the kayaks dragged up above the high tide mark in no time at all (by the way, that’s the unassembled latrine to the right of Dale, below).

 As we caught our breath on shore, Lino noticed that one of the other group’s pangas was dragging anchor and drifting down on ours. The guides all sprang into action and soon had the errant boat reanchored further north.

In the photo, below, you can see our neighbors to the north. Once we were all settled on shore, they returned to their camp and we erected ours. Later in the afternoon, we napped as Lino and Mario visited the other camp, then for dinner we had our fill of Lino’s chicken soup, followed by tequila sunrises for sunset.

 Here’s a better view of Lino’s kitchen, our “bar” in the background with the cooler.

We were spoiled from sleeping on sandy beaches the first three nights. From here on, we would be picking our tent sites from among the rocks.

As I sat on the beach watching the day fade, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a single jet or contrail in the sky since leaving Loreto. And these were the first people we had encountered in four days, other than Lino’s cousin at his ranch and a single villager in Timbabichi.

It was easy to forget the world. I continued to gaze at the sky as the sun set and millions of stars began to appear.

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