Saturday, September 10, 2016

More whale sharks, more hurricanes

A whale sharks glides underneath Espiritu's stern

Summer in the northern Sea of Cortez is winding down, but it's certainly been eventful! Our friends Jeff and DeeAnne of s/v Stryder actually had a rattlesnake swim out to their anchored boat and enter the cockpit through the scuppers!

Wait -- rattlesnakes can swim? 

Evidently, the answer is yes. Good Lord -- another thing to worry about!

Jeff actually wrangled the thing with his boat hook and hurled it back out to sea, at which point it promptly turned around and swam right back again, trying to swim up through the scuppers! After several tosses back out to sea by Jeff the Rattlesnake Wrangler, the scaled amphibian finally gave up and swam back to land.

I was hoping he'd machete the guy in the cockpit and let us know if they really do taste like chicken. Well, I'll guess we'll have to wait to find out the answer to that one...

Jeff and DeeAnne of s/v Stryder -- the rattlesnake wranglers

Other than that minor drama, we've mostly spent the last couple of weeks dialing down from the stress of dealing with Hurricane Javier, which blew threw only a couple of weeks ago and fortunately broke apart as it flew over.

Chris on Guillermo's beach in the Bay of LA

One morning anchored here in BLA, as Chris and I sat in the cockpit enjoying the sunrise and sipping our coffee,  we were greeted with the sight of this just off the starboard side:

The water was so clear and still that he seemed to be flying 
as he silently glided through the crystal blue water

Chris and I looked at each other and mouthed a silent "Wow..."

Note the little fish suckers behind his dorsal fin

Well. How cool was that, huh? 

Terry and Dawn of s/v Manta are avid SCUBA divers and invited us to dive with them at Punto Don Juan. I was excited but a bit nervous. We are SCUBA certified and have dove hundreds of times, but the last time was four years ago in Roatan, Honduras.

But since Manta has their own air compressor on board and fill their own tanks, how could we say no? We sailed the 6 miles over to Don Juan and dropped the hook with Manta.

Inside the protected Puerto Don Juan

We enjoyed the lovely sunset on the gigantic deck 
of Terry and Dawn's trimaran Manta 

Our SCUBA gear, which we hadn't used in four years.
Note the red bow which tells you which one is mine. :-) 

I was a tad bit nervous as the dive approached. I didn't know how I'd feel once I was down there, or how my temperamental ears would tolerate the depth.

(Deep breath). EEEEEEasy does it.    

Happily -- I felt fine! We fed puffer fish and an octopus at about 40 feet, and a seal swam over to check us out.  I had a moment of terror when I watched this giant black thing that looked like an aquatic death star slowly rise from the depths before me...I held still and tried to slow my breathing, staying calm...soon it came closer and I was relieved to see it was merely a giant sea turtle! Whew!

 Terry teased me during the dive, though, because I always dive holding my depth gauge ever at the ready in my hand, and I check my depth about every 60 seconds. I don't want any surprises. 

You hear those cautionary tales of guys diving and then "suddenly" finding that they're at 150 feet with no air left in their tanks. #whelp 

That, my friend, will NEVER be me. 

Jerry Seinfeld does a hilarious stand-up bit on his SCUBA diving experience, saying essentially:

"SCUBA diving is an amazing thing to do, but when you're down there, your basic goal is to not die. You're swimming along, singing to yourself in happy-go-lucky fashion: 'Don't die...don't die...don't die, don't die, don't die...there's a rock, there's a fish, don't die...'"

Yep. That's me!   But it's all good, and I was happy and proud that the dive went well.

The next day we returned to BLA village to provision and do basic maintenance aboard. We were also making plans to haul out Espiritu this fall at Fonatur Marina Guaymas, across the Sea of Cortez. 

A couple of days later we were all stunned to see that another hurricane was heading our way. This one was named Hurricane Newton.

Oh, noes. Bay of LA (our current location) was well within 
Hurricane Newton's  projected path. Damn. 

So, once again, we all hightailed it over to our favorite hurricane hole, Don Juan.

We had about 36 hours until she would arrive, so we had plenty of time 
to prepare Espiritu for the storm.  There were 16 boats crammed in Don Juan 
before we were through.

Chris looked and looked for our chafe guards for the anchor bridle, but he couldn't find them. s/v Linger Longer had acquired some donated firehose somewhere along the line and 
shared some with us. 

Firehose is the perfect chafe guard -- you just thread the bridle rope through it, and it protects the line from severing completely (which is prone to happen during long, severe storms), and it basically keeps the anchor attached to the boat.

The donated firehose for our chafeguard was from the McClellan Fire Department. 
I did some research online, and it's a little town in California near Sacramento.

Thanks, McClellan!

We took down both headsails, note the chafeguard firehose, and Chris dug out 
the storm anchor, armed it, and lashed it to the deck, ready to deploy in an emergency.  

We felt good, knowing we had done basically everything we could to prepare.

This shot shows the extreme outer bands of Hurricane Newton

As we waited for the storm to hit, I took a quick swim.

Swimming in a hurricane!

Not really -- it was only 25 knots when I took my quick little dip.

Menacing and beautiful sunset storm clouds  

Right around sunset we received a NOAA report which told us that the eye of Hurricane Newton had veered to the east, and was now predicted to head across the Sea of Cortez well south of us.

Another bullet dodged. All we ended up getting was 25 knot winds and a bit of rain.

Like a good first mate, I did a "Hurricane Newton" chart entry, and updated it hourly

The reason we're all up here in Bay of LA for the summer is this: the odds are good that any hurricanes coming up from the south will either turn off to the east or disperse by the time they get this far north.

Sadly, we've heard that the Marina Fonutur at Guaymas, where we were planning on hauling out next month, was a direct hit from Newton -- the marina was destroyed and several boats were sunk. So -- we'll have to research a plan B for Espiritu.

Well, look at it this way: if it weren't for hurricanes, then the tropics would be PERECT, and everyone, from around the world, would move here! 

But there ARE hurricanes. And they are terrible, scary things. We're grateful we've had brushes with two of them now, and all is well, so far.

Gracias a Dios!


  1. Love your BLA posts! Hurricanes & whale sharks. Glad to see you're enjoying it all!��

  2. We sure were thinking about you guys during Newton. Your whale shark pictures sure make us wish we hadn't had to leave so soon! I love your account of the scuba dive. Hi to all! Elizabeth and Alan