Sunday, January 17, 2010

Physis: the way of the world

January 17, 2010

Today, we felt life.
Underway at dawn, we motored on a calm sea. As always, the race is on, 10 miles to cover before high tide, before the entrance is blocked, before the storm arrives and threatens our precious IO. This coast is unforgiving; there are not many all-weather anchorages. We will need to be tucked away safely as we are about to be faced with a great storm. Approaching us are three successive depressions, each deeper and stronger than the last. We have one day before the first arrives. Turtle bay, which is considered the next safe harbor is over 2 days away, not enough time. The plan, to enter Bahia San Quinten, which should afford adequate shelter provided we can get past the entrance which is blocked by an ever moving shallow sand bar that cannot be charted and only the local fisherman (in shallow draft boats) know the correct channel through.
We arrived at high tide and began the approach. When waves enter shallow water they begin to rise and eventually break in crashing surf. We could see breakers in what looks like normal, deep water that was well over 2 km to sea, far from any beach. These breakers indicated shoaling sandbars that we must ovoid.
As our depth sounder began loose digits rapidly, my blood pressure increased steadily. 15 feet, now 12 feet, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5 feet of water beneath our keel. The old chart indicates there should be a channel, if only we could find it! The clock is ticking, we are currently at high tide and soon it will begin to ebb and if we get caught here, we could lose IO. To make matters worse, there are gray whales everywhere! They surface only meters from the boat, and of course directly in our path, rolling slowly, carelessly waving their fins. We wonder how thick a grey whale could be, and reason that if it can completely disappear under water, then it must be at least be deep enough for the boat, right? Three feet, 2.6, 2.1, 1.8 feet of water under our keel, shit I can't believe this, we are in a bad way here! To make matters worse, a current is beginning to run out of the bay, meaning the ebb has started and we are losing water! I tell Hyo to drop the anchor, I jump in the dingy with the boat hook. It's 10 feet long; the bottom of the keel is 5 feet deep. The water is murky so you cannot see depth. I madly row around, probing for the channel. The current is getting stronger. I pull with all my might on the oars and frantically probe. I paddle directly towards a whale in hopes she knows where the channel is, but it only gets shallower towards it. I back track and try closer to shore. With each probe the handle of the hook is still way too far out of the water. As I approach within several boat lengths of shore the handle plunges under. I take several more test probes and then dash back to IO, up comes the anchor and we slowly skim are way towards shore. 1.8, 1.7, 1.7, . 1.9, 2.1, 2.5, 4, 6, 9-feet. Huge sigh of relief. Stupid whales, what the hell?
With a very comfortable 35 feet of water under us we drop 125' of chain and feel the anchor bite in solid.
After lunch we rowed the dingy to shore and walked 2 km barefoot down the deserted beach to Punta Entrada (entrance point). As the tide receded we found many invertebrates and fish trapped in the tide pools. The highlight, in some exposed sea grass, we found numerous giant sea hares, (seaslugs, Aplysia californica) which were actually about the size of a rabbit! I think they are particularly interesting because much of the neurobiology of learning and memory was demonstrated on this species.
As we rowed back to the boat we were approached by a gray whale. Now I mean a 40-45 foot whale swam within ten feet of us while we bobbed around in our 9-foot dingy! Unbelievable!
We ate super and have spent the evening listening to the whales, at least 3, swim around spouting within meters of our 30-foot IO.

Again, today we lived.

P.S. the sunset was beautiful and the toilet is working just fine.
P.P.S I was just out on deck taking a leak under the starry sky, and a whale spouted so close that I felt the spray! It scared the crap out me and consequently I think I got a few drops on deck. I'm actually quite worried that one might hit the anchor chain, which would suck for all kinds of reasons.



  1. We are having 45 kts in the marina tonight... I have been enjoying reading your blog. Take care you two.


  2. Hey guys,
    we are booking a flight for puerta vallarta on February 28th- March 9th!!!!
    Are you going to make it?
    Stop us by tomorrow if it looks like you wont make it.