Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Looking for baby whales in Mag Bay

Espiritu all alone in gigantic, calm Magdalena Bay

After a wonderful Christmas in little Turtle Bay, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends and head south to our next destination: Magdalena Bay.

This map shows the 800-something mile voyage down the rugged Baja coast

Me in the most elegant -- and only -- beach palapa in Turtle Bay

Our last sunrise in Turtle Bay, painted across the sky

Crystal clear water just offshore from Maria's Restaurant

I had a tear in my eye saying goodbye to the Castro family. 6 daughters and 5 sons, they rule the roost in Turtle Bay. It was such a pleasure swimming in their warmth and welcoming spirit. 

Quiz: Which one is the hapless gringo? 

The Castro women -- on day one -- greeted me with a big hug and kiss and brought me lovingly into their daily chat sessions. They usually spoke too quickly for me to know exactly what was going on, but boy, did I feel welcome. And loved. They will forever be an example for me of the gracious, warm woman I aim to be.

On our last morning, a northbound sailboat arrived in Turtle Bay. They had come from Magdalena Bay in the south (our next destination) and told great stories of baby and mama whales leaping out of Magdalena Bay -- dozens of them, in fact! 

I have heard stories of the gray whale nurseries of Baja, where pregnant greys come south during winter, give birth to their babies in these calm, warm waters and stay for weeks while the babies suckle and grow. People who have visited them describe their experiences petting and rubbing the whales in their natural habitat as life changing and spiritual.

Since the northbound boat told great stories of so many whales and babies, we wanted to hightail it on down there. They even said a whale smashed against their boat and damaged their rudder while they were there. 

Our two night passage to Mag Bay went relatively well, although the GPS/chart plotter went on the fritz again. We pulled out the hand-held (again!) which did it's job. Still, it was stressful.

We passed a couple of dozen breaching and diving whales during our passage. 

A grey whale blew a big bubble and dove under the boat. If you look at the water surface in this photo you can see the bubble -- the giant flat spot -- only 10 feet from Espiritu. 

Master and Commander keeping watch. Note that we are STILL wearing long underwear during the nighttime passages. Where, oh where, are the tropics? We know they're down here somewhere...

We passed a humorous duo of dolphins who jumped, swam and played in exact tandem. They were either escapees from Sea World, or in love...or maybe both.   :-) 

Finally we entered Mag Bay and motored the 5 miles to the tiny village (way tinier than Turtle Bay) of Bahia Magdalena -- looking for the breaching mamma and baby whales. None seen. 

Our first glimpse of the village of Bahia Magdalena

It was December 31st. New Years Eve. The Port Captain Gregorio invited us ashore to the "big" village New Years Eve party they would have, right on the beach. Although we were exhausted from dealing with the electrical malfunctions on the passage, how could we resist such an invitation?

There was a band, and everyone in town was there -- men, women, and dozens of children running and playing everywhere. We danced under the stars, hardly believe we were really there. 

Before heading back to Espiritu, we popped into the tiny church on the beach.

The altar at the church, still lovingly decorated for Christmas

It's so weird to even say the words "2016." It sounds so strange -- so futuristic, doesn't it?

I remember having the exact same conversation back in the day with my teacher Mr. Stekol at Tewinkle Jr. High -- in 1974. We thought "1974" sounded so strange, weird and futuristic (gentle smile). 

The next morning we woke up to a cloudy, sleepy New Years Day. We played a monster "Rose Bowl" version of Mexican Train Dominoes (the skipper won -- so what else is new).

On January 2nd we headed out to find the baby greys the northbound sailboat had told us so much about. 

A giant pile of gray whale bones sit in town. The live ones can't be too far away...

Look! A "Magdalena Bay Whales" tour boat. 
Where are the baby whales? None seen...

We climbed the hill over town to get a wide view of the bay to find the baby whales.

Looking down on the village and the bay. Espiritu rests to the right, 
and Bahia Santa Maria is in the far left.  No whales.

It was clear that there was not a single whale, baby or otherwise in the bay. What was up with those northbound cruisers, who told such stories? Where they drunk? Looks like we're a bit early. The locals confirmed most of the mama whales come to give birth in late January. Ah, well...

Since there were no baby whales to be found, we decided to explore the village.

We tripped upon these dazzingly blooming cacti coming down the hill 
into the village. As the sun shone directly upon them, they seemed to be lit from within.

Typical Mag Bay home with the roof tethered to the ground with ropes, as a few hurricanes have skirted this village in recent years. Note the roaming dog coming over to greet us...

As it was still the New Years holiday, some villagers took the kids out for a wakeboard tow. I love how there's a dozen family members on the boat looking back...cute. :-) 

QUIZ: Why do you find overturned junk cars all over Mexico?

Chris examines overturned junk car on beach

ANSWER: (from Captain Chris, who figured it out) Because it's easier
 to pick out all of the spare parts that way. 

Welcome to Mexico! 

Chris peruses the whole produce section in the only tienda in town

We were lucky to find that a giant haul of fresh lobster and shrimp had just been brought in by the local fisherman, and the town was having a big lobster feast -- and we were invited!

Our host Chino and Chris enjoying the lobster bounty

3 bucks US each for a giant plate of fresh lobster and shrimp. How lucky were we?

Espiritu from Mag Bay palapa

As always, the Mexican people have been incredibly generous and welcoming to us all along Baja. We were talking about this recently with a gringo friend who has traveled alot to third world countries.

"Oh, yes," she agreed with a nod of her head. "They think we're royalty."



That's not true, is it? They don't think of us gringos as royalty! They're just nice people!

When we were in Ensenada I bought some coloring books, sticker books and crayons to wrap and give to the children of Turtle Bay at Christmas.

I literally had to go to SEVERAL STORES to find Children's books that didn't feature white skinned princesses with blonde hair.

Adorable Mag Bay girl with her "Frozen" t-shirt, complete with 
blonde princess emblazoned with rhinestones 

Why would I want to give impoverished Mexican children gifts which feature gringo royalty?

Finally, in the last store I found books to give the kids about regular stuff -- animals, kids, airplanes, the ocean, bicycles...the usual things. 

So, why would anybody want to be royalty anyway?

Apparently many in western society aspire to it. Check out this ad I recently saw in a magazine:

Marie Antoinette in the Air France First Class Section sez to the
 people in coach: "Let them eat pretzels...a tiny, tiny bag."

I would never want to be royalty. I mean, they're mostly a bunch of inbred hemophiliacs, aren't they?

Want proof? Take a look at the faces of the kings and queens in a Bicycle deck:

What grim expressions. Note the bags under the eyes, 
and the King's pudgy little hand

"To be without some of the things you want is an 
indispensable part of happiness."-- Bertrand Russell

Some people hate that quote. They want to believe that once they win the lottery all of their problems will instantly disappear and they'll become deliriously happy forever!

Well, some of your problems might disappear if you win the lottery, but a whole slew of new ones will take their place.

Having to do without many of modern life's comforts is one of the things I love about cruising. I love the challenge and simplicity of choosing to live with less.

While I'm enchanted by the beautiful spirit of the Mexican people, I'm also not a fool. I realize that in these small towns, a gringo arrival can mean a flush of cash into the town. 

We're not millionaires. But I guess we ARE thousandaires. 

So they're not stupid. If they're smart they wash us in hospitality, just as anyone in the tourism trade would anywhere in the world. 

So there's that.

But I hope and pray it's not true that they "think we're royalty." (grimace)

I just want to be a human being, meeting other human beings.

And Prince William, if you read this, I didn't mean YOU. 


  1. Great blog, great ending. Makes me wonder what "they" are really like. Maybe they laugh at it as a blessing/curse and are at heart normal people. Probably not . . . but I hope so.

    1. Thanks for the nice note, Art! Yes, I would never want to be royalty. Middle/upper middle class (where you and I are) have the best shot at a happy life. We're all lucky. :-) Thanks for keeping in touch! Enjoy the snow! XO Liz (and Chris)

  2. Liz and Chris

    I am enjoying your blog. Hope to follow your path next fall. Great fotos too.

    Chris, we met at Shelter Island boat yard. I have N 41 summer wind. I wanted to email you about the staysl setup but lost your card. If you have time perhaps we can e

    Enjoy your travels!

    Steve Brodbeck
    Brodbeckfamily@ cox.net