Dolphins and Mantas and Whales, Oh My!!

Posted by Admiral
May 10 2010

We spent nearly a week at Puerto Escondido after LoretoFest, and we did many things.  Some interesting, some not so much.  So about the interesting stuff –

Muggs is fascinated by birds, and she caught this one up in the rigging.  If anyone can identify this bird from a North American Field Guide, she would much appreciate it.  I have a Mexico Bird Guide, but it does not include pictures of birds that are already pictured in the North American books:

from P Escondido 026

He has a sparrow-like shape.  The color starts red at the head and fades gradually to lime-green-yellow below.  Thanks for your help – there are lots of these birds around here in the anchorage.

The most fun things that happened this week were both with our new friends, Larry and Dianne of Sea Toy.  On Wednesday, we tried to change the oil in the engine.  Larry discovered the previously mysterious source of the oily bilge water – a leak in one of his plastic oil jugs!  So we dinghied over to the dinghy dock just as Larry and Dianne were coming out to find us!  Long story short, we got a free ride into town (sure beats a $35 cab ride) AND special service straight to the oil store first, then the liquor store.  We stocked up on the most important fluids on the boat and then went for a drive up a dusty beach road to a beautiful waterfront palapa-style restaurant with amazing, wonderful food!  It just got better after that as the food arrived and we swooned.  Larry ate shrimp quesadillas, and I had to make sure he didn’t take more than his share!  Larry is not a big seafood eater – these were just the world’s greatest quesadillas, that’s all.  All this for us because Larry and Dianne wanted to move their boat, which they didn’t manage to do that day!

The next day we had a planned outing with them to Mission San Javier.  You will find this in Baja guidebooks where it is written up as the most important outing to be made from Loreto.  What a beautiful place!  After first taking us into Loreto for cash and paper towels (sometimes boaters’ needs are very basic!), we went up a paved road that quickly lost its paving.  Then we bounced along on the hard-packed dirt and rocks (mostly small) for about 45 minutes.  Along the way, we made a stop at a creek with some cave paintings nearby:

from P Escondido 038 Cave painting

from P Escondido 042 R to L, Larry, Dianne, and his other brother Larry!

from P Escondido 046 I know I promised you a waterfall in my last posting, but this is as close as I got.  Not bad for just by the road – no hiking involved.  It’s too hot for hiking right now.

Then we completed the trip to the mission with great views along the way:

from P Escondido 041 from P Escondido 044 The cactus may not seem impressive in these photos, but it is very impressive up close and personal.  The cardon cactus grows for over a century, maybe two centuries.  The base becomes very large, and the woody structure becomes exposed as the green outer skin thrives on the upper branches.  And there are other types that are also fascinating – cholla, agave, and elephant come to mind (I am forgetting the complete name of the elephant bush – maybe Dianne will let us know).

Then the mission church comes into view with two domes:

from P Escondido 053 I think Dianne said that the Spanish brought in the palm trees to these canyons.  Many of the Baja canyons have palm trees that were imported by the Spanish.  Imagine that, so long ago!

The architectural details of the church were many and all fascinating.  This one is special – a metal-sculpture wind vane:

from P Escondido 076

The plaza leading into town and the church are beautiful with lots of special stone paving and flowers everywhere:

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from P Escondido 062

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The town here is relatively prosperous with many agricultural products and artisan work being sold in Loreto and distributed from there to other areas.  The agricultural all thrives because of the water, naturally.  But for many years (decades), the town’s electricity has all come from this generator:

from P Escondido 067 But there are signs of the future all along the road.  Electrical utility lines are installed from Loreto to about two-thirds of the way up the road, and many of the rest of the poles are delivered in stacks at various spots along the way as you drive up the mountain.  The town itself is READY:

from P Escondido 069 Meter boxes!

Then we had a great drive back.  The light was fading fast, but early I caught a few good shots:

from P Escondido 065 Flower of the agave cactus.

from P Escondido 088 Larry and Dianne

from P Escondido 090 Agriculture — green things growing in the desert!  And finally, dinner back in Loreto:

from P Escondido 098 Our friends on Aquadesiac, Ubuntu, and Blue Dolphin may recognize this restaurant.  It is the same one us four couples wandered into when we stopped for lunch on our trip to Loreto several days before.  We wandered into one of the best restaurants in Loreto according to Larry and Dianne!

Aquadesiac –

from P Escondido 149 had already left Puerto Escondido a couple of days before.  Finally, after our big day with Larry and Dianne, we left along with Ubuntu and Blue Dolphin:

from P Escondido 101 That’s Peregrine rafted up to Blue Dolphin at the water dock.  Ubuntu’s barbecue shows in the lower right corner of the picture.  All three boats are visible here through the tangle of rigging:

from P Escondido 102 We gave our boats a thorough fresh-water bath as this is a luxury we had paid for with our mooring fees, and we weren’t going to pass it up.

When we set out, we headed for a cove called Puerto Ballandra where Aquadesiac had been playing already for a couple of days.  Here, we got our first REAL manta ray sighting.  Not just one or two or three or four, but dozens.  I don’t know what you call these large groups of animals, but there were about a zillion at our last count.  They jump out of the water for no obvious reason.  Some guess that they are slapping off parasites, others think it is a feeding technique.  I think it looks like they are just playing and having fun.  I took about thirty unsuccessful photos of this action, but my friend Susie Crabtree of SV Catch the Wind got a picture of one while she was cruising:

Jumping Ray - from susie Sometimes, they are jumping straight at you so you see the big mouths and white bellies.  They sometimes jump two, three, or four at the same time.  We have figured out that they travel in these large groups almost all the time, but only some of the animals will be jumping at any given time.  I DID get a really good shot using the camera as a video camera, so Patrick will be posting that soon.

Aquadesiac (middle) and Blue Dolphin (left) at anchor:

from P Escondido 124 (Sorry about the smudges – these are the lens cap which stopped fully retracting all the time.  It took me a few shots to figure out how to fix this.)

The sunset at Ballandra was one of our most spectacular so far:

from P Escondido 127 We almost missed this because we were so busy yakking and drinking in the cockpit.  Then someone yelled, “Hey, look at the sunset!”  and here you are.  Next day, we played in dinghies and kayaks.  Some of us saw a bright red starfish.  He was the color of a ripe strawberry and clinging to brown-gray rocks.  Pretty amazing sight.  Lots of fish (look up the King Angelfish) and occasional rays jumping at random for fun.

Next day, we motor-sailed to Isla Coronados by way of Bahia Salinas.  This actually makes no sense if you look it up on a map, but that’s the way the plans are around here – changeable on a moment’s notice.  Doug of Aquadesiac has named us the Ballandra Fleet for purposes of radio hailing.  As our flat calm sea turned into a blustery SE wind and seas, he called the fleet and suggested we change destinations from the east-facing Salinas to the west-facing Isla Coronados.  We all readily agreed, and four boats turned 180 degrees to reverse course.  The admirals set the new waypoints, and off we went.  During this passage, we had a short visit from dolphins, and I got another fair picture of two:

from P Escondido 128

I also got a shot of the pod as they glided along in front of us:

from P Escondido 132

The “fleet”:

from P Escondido 151 About 30 minutes before this picture, we were all beating into 4’ seas (at 2 seconds on center – imagine it.  No fun!) with 18 knots of wind.  The wind waves in the Sea of Cortez are short but very close together.  They create a not-so-nice ride with lots of bow crashing and splashing.  You can see the wisdom of Doug’s idea to change course in this picture.  That’s Isla Coronados, our new destination, on the left.

Along the way, we passed this islet with light:

from P Escondido 158

Isla Coronados is another beautiful cove with good protection from all sides but west.  We are currently riding out the end of a short norther.  Earlier this afternoon, we had 18 knots of breeze here in the anchorage, but now it’s only 10-12 and the difference is bigger than it sounds.  Because we always start our days late (remember, we are cruisers, not fishermen), and then the breeze came up, there has been very little off-boat activity today.  But Kathy of Blue Dolphin came over to show Larry and me how to use our new sewing machine:

from P Escondido 171 Larry was going solo very quickly:

from P Escondido 172 What do you think, Annie – a new career.  His first project was a cargo net to hold back some of the stuff that keeps falling out of cupboards around here (one more reason to stay away from splashing and crashing.)

But the BIG highlight of the day was WHALES!!  Two of them right here in our anchorage, and they were jumping and carrying on something fierce:

from P Escondido 174

from P Escondido 175

from P Escondido 209 There are two animals in this picture.

from P Escondido 204 The end of a jump – big splash.  I got another decent video, so watch for that from Patrick soon, too.  These whales (there were two) traveled around our anchorage for about thirty minutes before they left.  While they were playing off this beach, they spy-hopped – straight-up jumps one showing about 10 feet of his body – and they tail flapped.  You will see a good one in the video.  Again, at least ten feet of the body comes clearly out of the water in the tail flapping.  I don’t understand how they can do that.

Later, there were a few more rays jumping.  Then the wind came up more, and now it is dying (around 7:15 pm).  Larry has just served meatloaf, and I think this day is just about done.

Hoping all is well with y’all.  Until next time, this is Admiral Muggs off the sailing vessel Peregrine:

from P Escondido 125


Patrick’s Edits:

Muggs sent me the following three movies to add to this post.  Please note that the movies have to download fully before they’ll play, so you will likely get a bit of a delay where it looks like nothing is happening.  Please give it a minute or five – they’re pretty big!

The Whale:

And the Mantas:

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