Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Sea of Cortez

When we made our first plans for travelling in Mexico we looked at the Sea of Cortez and wondered if it was  a place we wanted to visit and to be honest it did not grab us. The pictures showed barren and arid landscapes, a far cry from the lush landscapes of the Pacific North West. There were few towns and people talked of hurricanes, strong local winds and debilitating heat that immobilizes you and destroys your boat. Sailing was reported to be poor and the prospect of motoring everywhere was not appealing.  So when we rounded Cape Cabo on our way south we only traveled a few miles before we decided to head across to the mainland with the promise of lush tropical palm lines beaches, interesting towns and better services.



After a couple of months on the mainland we had gathered other boaters opinions on where to go next, boaters whose opinions we respected with their experience and we decided that we would extend our time in Mexico to visit the sea of Cortez. To be honest we were a little disappointed by mainland Mexico from a cruising perspective the anchorages were few and far between and most often rolly and uncomfortable. Terrible smells came from town of burning plastics and other rubbish that ripped your throat and escaping the uncomfortable anchorages in marinas was an expensive proposition and ate rapidly into our budget.
Then in April we crossed back across the sea of Cortez from Mazatlan to La Paz and immediately loved the place. From the moment we left the mainland until the time we arrived back in San Carlos we sailed pretty much everywhere putting only 15 hours on the engine in 3 months. Yes some of it was at a snail’s-pace but that suited us just fine so long as we were not using the engine and it was comfortable.

Baja California is a peninsular about 800 miles long and about 30 miles wide at its narrowest, it is about 2/3rds the size of the UK but has a population of about 3 million most of which is along the border with the us and very little south. It is reported to have one of the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet and was a favorite place of Jacques Cousteau (if you are old enough to remember him) Named after Hernan Cortes, (I don’t know why it’s now Cortez) who sent Spanish expeditions to the region in the 1530’s and 1540s in search of the mythical Strait of Anian, gold and paradise he found a dry and dusty desert with little mideral wealth and poverty ridden American Indian civilizations in need of Christianity. Baja border forms the western border the Sea of Cortez with mainland Mexico on its western side and the Pacific ocean to the south.

The choice of anchorages is extensive and their comfort was excellent. No one-two meter swells rolling in off the Pacific at night, instead quiet places of seclusion with your own private white sandy beaches and warm water to swim in. Our expenditure shrank to almost nothing as we avoided the marinas with the exception of Puerto Escondido where we waiting out Hurricane Blanca on a $10 a day mooring buoy.

The sea of Cortez is indeed a special place. Yes it is baron and arid and looks void of life but it has its own natural desert beauty. The lack of vegetation exposes the wonderful rock formations that reveal wonderful patterns and colours and shades which are accentuated at dawn and dusk. Many evenings were spent watching the sun go down, the shadows extending, reaching across the landscape like a crawling animal covering rocks bushes and cactus trees. The colours first become more intense; the reds becoming deeper almost molten and the greens richer and vibrant and then turning darker once the sun goes below the horizon. The rays start to jump more frequently as dusk approaches performing their aerial acrobatics either in show or necessity. The sea breeze dies down and the land breeze takes over, cooling relief, often strong but with little or no wave movement. As the sun goes down the sea turns from a clear turquoise gradually turning to navy blue and then black and almost solid that it appears you could step upon it. As the light vanishes completely the phosphorescence takes over to provide a new light source. The sea truly twinkles like the milky way but it is clear that unlike the heavens there is life here, it teems with life from microscopic to macroscopic. Isopods in their billions darts about eating phytoplankton and fish of all sizes in turn eating them streaking under the water leaving large snaking iridescent trails meters long as they advance upon their prey. As I said in an earlier post the sea is more like a living soup more rich in life that I could ever have imagined. Many a night I awoke from the heat and humidity to sit on deck enjoying the cooling breeze and watch the sea with wonderment as a new world came into view thanks to the incredible phosphorescence.
We have only spent a few months in the Sea of Cortez but we are so pleased we changed our minds and our plans to see this spectacular part of the world, it has put a cherry on the top of our cruising time in Mexico and we look forward to seeing more of it when we return in October visiting some new places and revisiting some of the great places we have already been to.

No comments:

Post a Comment