Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Isla Isabela

Landing on south end of Isla Isabela
Off our stern quarter was a submerged rock the size of a football field and the surge was creating huge whirlpools of cascading water, a very scary item so close to the boat.  On the other quarter was another reef field, quiet for now.  We managed to squeeze Traveler into this marginal southern anchorage and after testing the safety of the location for a couple of hours we decided to head to shore to see the sights.

Blue Footed Boobies
Isla Isabela is called the Galapagos of Mexico.  About 20 miles off the coast, this island is so isolated that the local bird population has no predators and no fear of humans.  The island is a breeding ground for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.  Iguanas sun themselves along with the lizards.  We had to watch our step to keep from crunching these little crocs under our Keens.   Hiking up the sparse trail we soon found ourselves in a low bush land where each little tree was full of nesting frigate birds.  The males were puffing out their bright red throats, the females protecting their little fuzzy babies.  Further uphill we came to the Booby hatchery.  These cute little guys with their bright blue or yellow feet were marching around doing their mating dance or sitting on a ground nest keeping their eggs warm.  The trail went right through the crowd of birds and we did our best to stay out of everyone’s way.  Too close and we’d get a squawk.  But everyone stayed put.  There was no panic. They had no fear of us.  

Any other place like this would have restrictions, hours, guides, and lots of rules and regulations.  Here, you are free to wander so wander we did.  We heard that the government cut the budget for management of this island and there was some volunteer activity but mostly what we saw were fishermen and a few workers clearing foliage.  Eventually the trail petered out and we did a little bush whacking.  But everywhere, everywhere you looked there were nesting birds, mostly boobies and frigates. 
Roosting Frigate birds with Traveler anchored offshore

Pelicans mobbed the local fishermen who have a camp there and gulls and terns were massed in great numbers.  The white-tailed tropic bird sailed around the steep cliff sides with that wonderful long tail.  We made our way down a cliff to the western beach of pumice and coral and watched the waves crashing in from the west, then we bashed our way back to the anchorage.
Dad Frigate (note red inflatable throat) protecting the nest.

Being so close to all that wildlife and having them show no fear was an amazing experience.  We came away pretty elated about what he had experienced.  Back aboard Traveler, the reef looked even closer and our anchor chain had started wrapping itself around some rocks so we decided to up anchor and move around to a more comfortable place.  We had tied a big red float to the head of the anchor and thought we’d have to use it to get the anchor up but we messed with it for a little while and it came up free and we were on our way.  Around the corner, to the east side of the island next to Mona Mayor and Mona Menor we found a good spot and dropped the hook with a safety float and settled in to watch the sun set.  In the shadow of the boat, schools of fish gathered.  The smell of guano permeated the air.  
Birds, birds, everywhere!

On the back deck, wine in hand, we watched humpback whales splashing about.  One big guy kept smacking his huge tail on the water over and over.  We’d see the tail strike the water, see the spray, then hear the loud crack.  I counted 20 in a row for this one big male.  Nice.

Early to bed, we slept well and got up at 4:00 AM for our run back to the mainland.  Standing on the back deck in darkness we could hear a whale breathing in and out with a loud scratching sound like rubber on rock.  It was so very close.  

The anchor came up easily and we stole out of the anchorage and pointed the bow southeast steering by the stars.   Red sun at sunrise greeted us as birds fought for perch rights on the bow pulpit.  Wind built finally and we sailed for a while then finished off the day with the engine again as we found our anchorage in the beautiful quiet town of Chacala.   We’ve got three days to get to La Cruz where Mary and Ezrah will meet us at the Marina Riviera Nayarit dinghy dock.  Our trip these last days has been wonderful, just what we had been hoping for in this stage of our journey.  We are both healthy and in great spirits, enjoying the wonderful coast of Pacific Mexico.
The lovely bay at Chacala. Can you spot Traveler with her green hull?

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