29 October 2015

29 December 2014

Sea Paddler Training December 2014

Alba, Mario, Monica, and Morgan joined us from various parts of Baja and New York City for a Sea Paddler Training a couple weeks ago. Maddie, Yuri, and Patty all came to observe and help coach, and Marcos and I ran the show. A great fiesta it was!

Like most of our Sea Paddler Trainings, we started in the Sea of Cortez with some safety training, and playing with various different paddlecraft. Then we migrated to the Pacific to play with some surf. As usual, this was the most popular day.  We also had a successful afternoon of one-on-one roll coaching.

Happy holidays to all!!

San Javier Festival

The first weekend in December, San Javier celebrates. It's the village surrounding the second oldest mission in the Californias. Built in the late 1700s, Mission San Jaview is the best preserved original mission. The community consists of about 300 people who mostly make a living directly or indirectly from ranching in this tough landscape. They celebrate with their horses, with their music. They sell things they make of leather, of wood, and of the fruits of their orchards. They catch up with distant family. They visit the mission with offerings and prayers. 

The village's population expands many times with vaqueros who ride in from days away and spend the weekend. A parade of trucks and trailers haul in more people and horses. Every field is packed with tents, trucks, trailers, tethered horses.

My parents came to visit on the last day of the festival and we drove the hurricane-torn road up into the mountains to see San Javier in its party garb. We were the only tourists, but folks were friendly as we wandered around. I've been enjoying the mango jam ever since, and the handmade rolling pin has formed its first Christmas cookies.

01 December 2014

Norte Primer

When the kayaking gets tough, the tough kayakers:
a)    Go hiking
b)   Get a hotel room
c)    Paddle in the pool
d)   All of the above

It was a windy week. A sailboat heading south reported north winds of 30-40 knots. Palm trees at the hotel did a lot of lopsided yoga. Gusts of blowing dirt found us even in the pool.

Day one, we drove up the Sierra La Giganta mountains to California’s second mission, and best preserved. San Javier. The nearby canyon, Las Parras, has flowing water, along which we hiked. Fruit trees line its banks on Francisco’s rancho, and then it flows wild through rocks and groves of palm trees.

I’ve never checked in on the morning Puerto Escondido net from the shores of the Tripui Hotel pool, but I did this week. “Kayak Baja—Party of 8 at the Tripui Pool. Today we’re going for a circumnavigation.” Actually we practiced rescues, rolls, and tight maneuvering techniques.

We were ready for some action on day 4. Swells of 3-4 feet rolled by Punta Coyote where we practiced maneuvering and rescues. Nervous faces opened into smiles as folks got comfortable in the waves and wind.

Jim spotted some strange fish and watched as 2 oarfish beached themselves on the rocks and died. Coming from 600-3000 feet deep, they are usually expiring when they’re seen near the surface. These were small, at about 8 feet long, but they can grow to 50 feet. Iridescent blue spots faded to gray as they died. Red dorsal fins waved, then rested.  Gulls and turkey vultures fed. A starfish climbed aboard. Tiny red-legged hermit crabs feasted on scraps.

Better late than never, the wind relaxed and we crossed an undulating sea to Danzante Island for a delicious 2-day circumnavigation.

Baja trips start again in February with the Islands Builder plus Whales. Meanwhile, best of the holidays to you!

24 November 2014

Kayak Sailing on the Sea of Cortez

I was blown away by our first official kayak-sailing trip, in a wonderful way. A custom group came from Washington state, organized by Jim & Mary who’ve paddled with us almost annually since our very first trip in 2007.  The wind actually cooperated often, for a gentle introduction to kayak sailing for the first-timers, and then gave us some exciting action later in the week.

Stars punctuated our nights.  Fresh fish flavored our dinners, thanks to Ramon’s dedicated efforts. Music inspired our spirits.  Harmonica and flute duets were often heard on local, very low wattage “stations” of KARM Carmen and KDNZ Danzante.  Morning and evening “broadcasts” included weather forecasts and wildlife reports, messages from sponsors, and of course a fine blend of music and humor.

The weather began to cool off, and snorkeling was followed by lounging around on warm rocks. Our route took us around Carmen Island, a little more quickly than planned, inspired by the forecast of strong wind. When the wind hit, we were in a prime location to enjoy a relaxed basecamp experience for a few days, with playtime in the waves in unloaded kayaks.

On Danzante Island we were treated to the show of a rattlesnake eating an improbably large rat. After a couple of hours, the hind feet and tail were yet to be ingested.

A windy forecast greets the next trip, which will give us some fine opportunities for skill-building, as well as hiking in the mountains.  Tune in next week for a report!

10 November 2014

Loreto Islands 21-day Challenge - part two

We made it to Isla Monserrate, the first commercial sea kayaking outfitters to do so, that I know of. Hot, calm weather turned quickly to the first Norte of the season, and we scooted back to the shelter of Danzante Island. There we played and practiced rescues in 20-knot wind. We also explored the beaches for plants and were rewarded with the sight of the elusive Inside-Out Flower, and predatory green spiders lurking on its blossoms. And the even rarer Cholla Beach Dragon and Ring-Necked Blue Goose.

On our final day, we launched into the setting full moon at sunrise. Lovely!

Check our calendar for upcoming trips!  

29 October 2014

Loreto Islands 21-day Challenge - part one

The biggest challenge of the Loreto Islands Challenge, Part 1, was keeping cool.

We snorkeled a lot! Seargent Majors are everywhere, but this is the first I've seen a cormorant under water.

Calm weather also gave us opportunity to explore Coronados, Carmen, and Danzante Islands in intimate detail including caves, arches, and graceful rockhopping.

Dynamic geology reminded us that we ride on a living planet. In this case, the dynamic was primarily erosion, but the colorful and unique formations tell a tale of volcanoes past, and of ancient sea floors raised up. Personally, I'm happy to be a close witness to the occasional erosion instead of the other options. In Ballandra, a cove, this used to be a beach backed by a sandy dry arroyo. The rains blasted out a channel that we could paddle for half a kilometer.

Where the dark water line stops, a section of this wall has fallen into the sea.

For the final segment of our 21-day Loreto Islands Challenge, we're heading out to the more remote islands of Monserrate and Santa Catalina, weather permitting. Looking forward to the simple camp life for another 10 days!

12 October 2014

Sea Paddler Training in Baja

Tropical Storm Simon brought excitement to the Sea Paddler Training this year.
From the thunderstorms of Loreto to the Pacific surf outside Isla Magdelena, we felt its distant presence.

“Flexibility is the key to greater air power,” says my fighter pilot brother-in-law.  It’s true of kayak courses as well. The conditions were always good for something.

Venues got creative enough to include the pool and meeting room at Tripui Resort, and more standard fare such as: a hot calm morning off Rattlesnake Beach for paddling a variety of craft, refreshing rain by Punta Coyote through which to refine slicing strokes, 12-knot winds crossing Bahia Magdelena where we got to use navigation skills to see whether the wind or the current was drifting us more, 7ft Pacific swells and using other paddlers to measure the height, and 1-3’ surf on a long sandy beach where there wasn’t much we didn’t do.

Jill from Seattle, Kate from the Yukon, and Matt from Georgia joined Maddie, Marcos, Ramon, and me. We could brag that there was not a drysuit to be seen.  Not even a wetsuit!  Even in the rain and surf we were comfy in single layers.

People will do dramatic things to get to good surf. All we had to do was load the kayaks on Marcos’ panga, launch it in front of our hotel--Mar y Arena in San Carlos, motor across the bay, drive it up onto Delia’s waiting trailer, get hauled across a sandy strip of Isla Magdelena (by a valiant Ford pickup), and arrive at a deserted surf beach with a panga-full of surf toys on a trailer! And then play until we were utterly exhausted and ride panga-trailer-Ford back again to the steps of our hotel.