Saturday, February 27, 2010

How do you describe Awesome?

February 25, 2010

N21 59.6 W106 04.3
I touched it. The creature's ginourmous undulating tail brushed my hand as I barely kept its pace and with a powerful burst of speed, the wash from its tail sent my body fumbling backwards like leaves tossed by a strong fall wind. We spent an hour in the water spinning, following and being circled by two gentle giants. So vast are they are an entire school of smaller fish call them home, an immense living reef, Rhincodon typus.
In truth I have felt guilty about not writing about these past two weeks adventures: carnivals and fishing; line and spear, coral reefs, new and newer friends laughing around food and warmth. The Tropic of Cancer has been criss-crossed and re-crossed. And IO, oh IO, bobbing gently in azure waters. How do you describe awesome? Not to worry I have lots of footage and pictures that I'll post when I can.
It is currently the morning of day 4 out to sea, after having left the Islands near La Paz. We have been through yet another gale two nights ago and are now crawling along with all the sail we can carry piled on, in the light tropical air. We are approaching Isla Isabella, sorta?! This small island in the southern end of the Sea of Cortez is apparently not where it is supposed to be. That is it has been miss-placed on the nautical charts and being small and of low height, it is hard to find. We are currently about 15 miles from where it supposedly is and I still see nothing. However it is supposedly worth the search as it is home to much sea life including blue and yellow footed boobies and marine iguanas. Even Jacques Cousteau dedicated an entire show to this island alone. We shall see.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cove of the Dead

February 13, 2010 (N23 59.3 W109 49.6)


Should we go to Mazatlan for the famous carnival? Nope, nasty downpour expected in a few days and we'll be heading right into that system. Should we go up to La Paz? 150nm of headwinds, yuck! When you're dithering like an idiot, the weather decides the destination for you. Let's face it, even when you're dead set on one itinerary, the weather still decides it for you. We left Magdalena bay on the 6th, rounded the southern tip of the baja peninsula, and are slowly working our way up to La Paz. In Los Frailes, we hiked up a hill made of granite boulders and finally spotted tropical fishes while snorkelling. Mike caught his first Mahi mahi - what an amazingly beautiful creature! Here we are, two days into waiting out the windy mess. We even convinced ourselves that snorkelling can still be good on overcast and very windy days. It has been productive, I tell you, scrubbing, sewing, and burning through books. But we are longing for socializing with friends and some fried food. Mmmmmmm.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Magdalena Bay Beach Time

A few shots from our beach time at Magdalena Bay. We found some awesome places that actually make it feel like we are in the tropics.

Magdalena Bay

We have hiked beaches that are covered in incredible seashells and dolphin skulls. The top two photos are of local harvesting the Humboldt squid that have been washing ashore all week and I am holding and eye. The bottom: a horn shark and a turtle shell that we found also washed up on the beach. For dinner tonight we had sliced Humboldt squid battered in egg and flour after a long marinade in lemon juice and battered mackerel. Nice.

Here are a few images from a trip ashore in Bahia de San Quintin the day before the storm arrived. The sand eventually covers everything, like this old boat and below the Grey Whale bones (in the forefront, you can see the ribs and in the back the skull and vertebra).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hyo’s Birthday Tomorrow

February 2, 2010
Hyo's Birthday, Please Call!
We have moved on up the inlet to San Carlos, a small port village, where it is easier to get water and diesel and to wait for the fresca fruita market on Wednesday. We have been away from civilization for over three weeks and have run low on supplies and completely out of any fresh vegetables. Tomorrow is also Hyo's birthday and I think it would be really fun if any of you who have the time might give her a call. We have a cell phone now and I'll have it on all day.
To call us from Canada dial: 011-521-646-947-1635. I'm sure if you use skype or some other internet phone company it would be far cheaper. Hope to hear from you.
P.S. We have now sailed so far east that we are now back on mountain standard time (Alberta time).

A Day with the Cephalopods

January 30, 2010

We hiked over to the sand flats and the nearby mangrove estuary and were witnesses to some amazing biological sights. We saw stingrays and blue sand crabs in the tidal mangrove estuary. Then we found that some huge Humboldt squid that had washed ashore or were trapped on the shallow sand flats. Hyo-jung also spotted what I think might be a blue-ringed octopus (though I'm lacking a proper invertebrate key of this region).

The Humbolt squid (Dosidicus gigas) or known locally as Diablo rojo (the red devil) is a very large super predator of the semitropical waters typically ranging from California to South America, but has been seen (by us earlier this year, and others) as far North as the BC coast during warm El-Nino years. Typically only found in deeper waters, these animals have been demonstrated to be particularly aggressive during feeding frenzies and when they occasionally coincide with recreational or commercial divers have resulted in several 'attacks'. Like all cephalopods, these squid have sucking discs on the ventral surface of their (in the case of squids, 10, not 8) tentacles that are used for prey capture and manipulation. However, unlike related species, and in tune with their aggressive nature, these animals have a serious lunate sclerotised structure covered in sharp teeth along the inner surface of each sucker. These are especially well developed on the two longer feeding tentacles. As you can see from the pictures, (will post asap) these structures are not trivial. And the fact that these beasties were about the same size as Hyo's torso, eeesh! I would not want to mess with one, never mind when they are typically found in schools of up to 1200.

The (blue-ringed?) octopus, while not aggressive and stunningly beautiful, is currently recognized as one of the worlds most venomous animals. This pan-tropical animal ranges from here to Australia and is one of the few dangerous venomous creatures that we may encounter while pursuing (hopefully) numerous tide-pooling activities. Of the genus Hapalochlaena, this beastie feeds on small invertebrates and utilizes a venom called tetrodotoxin that is a sodium channel blocker, that causes general muscle paralysis and, in humans, can lead to respiratory failure and suffocation. That's not good! Of course, they are not aggressive and would only attack for defensive purposes, but one wrong step and this adventure is over!

Note: please believe that with the preceding information that I am in no way attempting to promote any biological sensationalism regarding so called "dangerous animals". With respect to the Squid, these beasties are particularly nasty and due to their increased geographical range which, has also been associated with the affects of global warming, have been speculated to have major current and future impacts on fish crops and other aspects of marine ecosystem stability in their expending range. I was just particularly stoked to be up close and personal in a relatively safe (for me!) environment with a creature that I have read lots about and to admire their size and efficient, if not lethal, feeding adaptations.

The day concluded by me catching 3 Mexican Barracuda (Sphyraena lucasana) while spin casting off the back deck. We did not keep any because we still had some yellowtail left, which, incidentally we have prepared in three different ways now, with the third being as sashimi (aged 1 day and chilled to perfection in our fridge). Turns out, having it as sashimi really brought out the subtle flavor of this fish and was just fantastic.