Saturday, January 3, 2015

Isla Isabella

The small island of Isabella with its small anchorage on the southern part of the island was hailed as The Galapagos of the Mexican Riviera in some of the guide books so expectations were running high of seeing some unusual wildlife.

We departed El Cid Marina at 1pm so that we would sail through the night and arrive in the morning. Winds were light when we left but they picked up at about 2am to around 7 knots on the beam so I raised the sails and we made slow progress but that was OK as we still had plenty of time. Then out of nowhere the winds increased to 15knots then 20 then 25 gusting to 30, all within a couple of minutes. I still had all my sail out so there was a mad panic to reef the sails. We were soon making 8 knots towards our destination which would ensure that we arrived in the dark so I reduced sail further so we were only doing 4-5 knots which would mean that we would arrive at dawn. Given the earlier light winds the seas were small but they soon built to over 6 feet and short intervals with white caps but they were coming from behind us, thank goodness, so the ride was comfortable.

Dawn broke as we rounded the island headland to see that there were two boats in the anchorage. We scouted out a potential area to drop the hook but we thought we would wait until it was a bit lighter given that there are a number of hidden rocks and reefs. All the guide books warn of a rocky bottom and the need for an anchor trip line. Some fellow cruisers reported that they had to dive on their anchor in order to retrieve it when the visited here.

One of the boats in the anchorage advised us that they were leaving in about an hour so we decided to wait until they left and drop the hook where they were. Sure enough they departed and we went in and dropped the anchor where we thought they were. I put on my snorkeling gear and went over the side to have a look at the anchor and sure enough it was wrapped around a big boulder on the sea floor. If I had dropped it about 30 feet further north it would have been in sand. Any way I decided to leave it where it was. It was certainly secure and heaving it out now would not necessarily guarantee a better set. Scot and Cindy on Velvet sky had come into the anchorage and had the same problem with their anchor getting wrapped around a rock. They decided that they would raise the anchor and carry on to San Blas, another 40 miles. The rest of the day we relaxed and caught up on sleep as we did not get much the previous night with all the excitement with the change of winds. We did however go snorkeling in the amazingly clear waters and saw an abundance of wildlife including a spotted eagle ray, whose body does in fact look like a bird’s body if not an eagle. More boats came into the anchorage and we tried to give them some advice as to where to anchor. One of these boats was The Red Thread, a young couple who we met last year in Effingham bay on the west coast of Vancouver Island whilst on their honeymoon. They left Seattle at the end of September and are ultimately headed for Australia.

The following day we too Little George, our dinghy, ashore to see what flora and fauna treasures awaited is in the pseudo Galapagos paradise. We landed Little George near the fishermen in their pangas who were sorting and cleaning their catch whilst being watched by ever hopeful pelicans and frigate birds. We walked along the beach towards a rocky headland and saw a large number of birds with young fluffy chicks. None of the birds seem to mind our presence and you could get within a few feet without the birds getting in the least agitated. Quite amazing. We walked back along the beach and under some low hanging trees which were full of courting frigate birds, the males with their bright red inflated throat sack (what is that called?) and the females either nonchalantly looking away or actively participating in aerial courtship routines. The ground was alive with a host of iguanas of all sizes and colours from bright green and orange to dull grey. We were truly amazed at this place.

Our walk continued up a small hill the top of which was home to the fabled Blue footed boobie along the lesser known yellow footed boobie I presume, or was it a change in fashion?.

We met up with the crew from Andante who had come down from Seattle in their motor boat. I think they were as excited as we were to be there. One of their crew members was an Englishman called Jamie who was in the middle of an adventure: running from Vancouver, Canada to Buenos Aries. Yes, running. He had already completed over 4000 kms and still looked very upbeat and energetic. See

Other than the 4 boats in the small harbor and a handful of panga fishermen we were the only people on the island so it did not at all feel like a tourist trap. That is one of the wonderful things about cruising in a boat: you can get to some remote and unspoiled places.

Anchor wrapped around a rock
The following morning we prepared for departure and I put on my snorkeling gear and checked that the anchor was still wrapped around the rock. I slowly heaved on the anchor trip line to try and lift the anchor out from under the rock and sure enough it came free. Jude took in the anchor line and we set off for San Blas.

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