Swimmers take your mark!

The last 1/4 mile …..

The second annual swim race from Picazone to Isla Coronado took place yesterday, 13 October 2012 just north of Loreto. One hundred forty four (144) people from as far as Mexico City and Ashland, Oregon, signed up to swim. The day before the race, the winds picked up and blew through the day and into the night, and were unabated in the morning. 20/25mph constant with gusts in the plus 30 range whipped the sea into a frothy stew of whitecaps breaking on top of 5′ ground swells. Perfect conditions (NOT) for a 5.5 km swim between the peninsula and the tiny islet (oldest volcano in Baja) where currents and tides make for a difficult passage even on a glassy day.

The race co-ordinator did his best to discourage swimmers who were not in extremely great condition, trained for the race and confident in their ability to make the crossing. In spite of his warnings, 122 men, women and teens jumped into the warm turbulent sea and began the journey across.

Pangas, sports boats and kayaks offered support and encouragement and pulled swimmers who became overwhelmed by the conditions onto their boats.

I had earlier decided to SUP (stand up paddle) and registered accordingly. There were three others set to paddle – but either did not show up because of conditions or did not enter the water. Maybe smarter than me 🙂

My initial goal was the first flag. Once I managed that I thought, well, the second flag. This all the while with a backup plan of turning around and heading back to shore (as my girlfriend had requested that I do). But once I passed the second flag I was, okay .. now to the third flag. Of course, by the third marker, the seas had kicked up in the 5’/6′ range, and while standing up on my board I’d find myself in the trough of these large groundswells with no clear view of the horizon.

When the second 6 footer tossed me into the sea, I switched from SUP to SDP (sit down paddle). Even with a reduced face to the blasting wind, I was being pushed south (had to go north to make the island) faster than I could paddle. I also found it near impossible to keep the nose of the board into the wind — finally, I put my left leg into the water – an extra rudder, and while paddling with my leg created drag and slowed me down (more), at least I was heading in the right direction. Several adjustments, like pulling up leg and using foot only as a directional rudder until the wind took the nose again, allowed for forward motion. Every muscle in my body was screaming at me – and I just dug down and found more to pull from.

I encountered a young woman swimming alone. She looked up in a 360 motion – like where is everybody? I paddled toward here and paddled near her while she made her way past the rocks into the cove and onto the beach.

When I reached the sand, it was almost anti-climactic. Like – where’s the battle now? I rang the victory bell – signed in – and photographed other swimmers making their way.

To each and everyone who completed yesterday’s difficult crossing – Congratulations! And even for those who were turned back, congratulations on your efforts!

Can’t wait for next year!

Morning Count …

Sunrise : Sea of Cortez

Glassy seas. Sultry temps. SUP morning.

Heron studies baby fish from his long-legged perch, while the osprey hovers mid-air before diving to grasp a tiny sardine in his talons.

Overhead, Magnificent frigate bird chases down a gull that has stolen its fish.

An ‘army’ of baby puffer fish gathers together in the shallows near a point to the north, and beyond them, baby stingrays – round, cortez, and bullseye. It feels as if I’m paddling through a nursery.
A trumpet fish, then a coronet. Tiny yellowtail.

Pelicans glide inches above the water, splitting their formation to pass on both sides of me.

On my return, the morning’s gift : A giant sea turtle, his back covered with barnacles, escorts me as I paddle home.

Island Living

Loreto is surrounded by seven islands, which lend themselves to abundant snorkeling, diving, fishing, whale/dolphin/manta watching, sailing, SUP. and beaching opportunities. It’s a water paradise with sea temps in the 80s in July, August and September.

The peninsula itself is a long finger of land surrounded wrapped by the Sea of Cortez on the east coast and the Pacific on the west. A day’s drive and a traveler can experience two vastly different environmental climates. The middle of the Baja can be more like an inferno mid-summer, with temps not unusual in the 110+ range.

“On the Island”

It is the sea that draws me, holds me, keeps me waking next to water and all her power to soothe, to invigorate and to heal. My new neighbor, Dave, took this photo this morning of my Casa de Catalina using an iPhone ap : http://www.photosynth.net.

It certainly appears from this image that I live on an island. What a whoop! Better get the paddles out!

beauty where we find it …..

Baja : Pacific Morning

For the uninitiated, there is little that can be said to fully express the beauty of Baja California Sur.  From the moment one leaves the populations of Colonet & San Quintin, makes a requisite gas stop in El Rosario, and heads into the heart of undeveloped land of cardon, bojum, cholla, poloverde, cirrius and more …  the heart slows, the shoulders drop, and the mind begins to embrace again that primal space of undeveloped land.

Mex One zigzags across the peninsula in undulating rhythms, following for the greater part, the easiest passage through rough terrain.  That translates to switchbacks, mountain climbs and descents, and arroyo crossings.  Wide plains, dry lakes and craggy rock piles – the spewn evidence of long-ago volcanoes litter the landscape.  I’ve stopped counting the trips. I never fail to be inspired.  I am always stunned by her beauty.

For those who are afraid to travel, I am sorry.  So much the greater landscape and less crowded roads for me.  While the horrors of the drug cartels are not to be ignored, the city streets of any major metropolitan area has its own body and assault count.  I feel safer in my home in Loreto than I ever did in the states.

The Pacific side teases with waves that follow distant swells.  Spots like the Wall, Shipwrecks, the local spots of Ensenada .. and of course, Pescadero, Todos Santos and Cabo San Lucas beckon surfers from across the globe.

The east coast, the beautiful bountiful Sea of Cortez, is filled with dolphin, sea turtles, fish of every color and size, rays and whales – blue, pilot, fin and orca.  Sunrises, sunsets .. kayaking, paddling, surfing, hiking, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling .. exploring ..  magic.  To be with and surrounded by such beauty is to me – pure magic.
And then there are the people – beautiful kind warm family loving folks.

Food!  Beverages!  Music!  Dancing!  Camping under stars and/or a full moon. Yes : Baja : I love and dream of you always.

sup morning sup …

Sea of Cortez : Morning

morning paddle toward the island and back .. glassy seas and then winds and then swells and then glassy seas again ..

sting rays floating, then diving : brown boobies & blue footed boobies foraging, along side arctic terns : pelicans in formation with cormorants snug in their midst : tiny fish being chased by bigger fish : early divers out clamming : all around beauty, the mountains running down to kiss the sea ….

into the aquarium …

There are seven islands off the coast from Loreto.  The closest reach is Isla Coronado, with beautiful white sandy beaches and warm turquoise water.  The backside of the island has several great spots for shallow scuba diving along with a colony of sea lions.  In the shelter of the bay, a rocky shoreline rings the white sand beach, and in the shallows, small numbers and ‘small’ versions of most of the reef fish can be found.

While snorkeling yesterday, I spotted these (that I could identify) and more:

Gafftopsail : Needlefish : Sargent Major : Cortez Rainbow Wrasse : Rainbow Basslet : Spotted Sandbass : Rainbow Runner : Golden Snapper : Threebanded Butterflyfish : Cortez Angelfish : Cortez Damselfish : Indigo Wrasse : Bumphead Parrotfish : Convict Tang : Stone Scorpionish : Spotted Cabrilla

Here’s a short unedited clip of a few underwater moments with tiny GoPro camera … Enjoy!

beach days are some of the best :-)

Pelican swoops into Isla Coronado Bay

Jeanne had this great idea – “Let’s take the boat over to Coronado for the day.  Picnic.  Swim.”  And so we did.  She barbecued chicken, tossed up a couple of salads, loaded the cooler with beer and a bottle of champagne and invited her friends.  That would include me :-), Norma, Tom, and next door neighbor Bill.  We put the boat in at the Marina in Loreto, Mark drove to the island with calm seas and clear skies.  Magic- a perfect day!

Morning SUP – Loreto

National Geographic Photo : Manta Ray

The waters around Loreto are usually pefect for SUPing – Stand Up Paddling. This morning was no exception. I took off on my fish – a 9’6″ Waterman – and headed up the coast toward Coronado Island. Winds were light and building, with lots of opportunities to refine my balance as wind driven waves crashed over the nose of the board.

Each stroke, a moment of zen.  A moving water meditation.


Morning delights:

Baby yellowtail chased by baby dorado.
Leaping spinning manta rays.
Translucent blue flying fish chased by baby yellowtail.
Magnificent frigate birds gliding overhead.
A floating crab. What was he doing so far from shore and/or on the surface?
Clam divers dragging innertubes – with seagull hitchhikers on board.
Bluefoot and brown boobies diving and gliding in search of fish.
Vultures on-shore, finishing off discarded fish carcasses.
Children on the beach, playing in the the shallows.
Horseback riders out for an early ride.
Dogs running and chasing sticks.
Boats speeding to and from Coronado and fishing spots.

A great two hour paddle floating on turquoise/cerulean waters, surrounded by offshore islands and the ridgeline of the Sierra Gigantica.  A perfect morning ……..