Quick Getaway

Category: Ships Log


Time period: Wednesday, 12/18/13 – Thursday, 12/19/13

For the entire time we’ve been in La Paz, the daytime temperatures have been in the upper-60s to mid-70s and the north wind has been blowing fairly hard.

 

This means if you have any desire to venture into La Paz Bay or beyond, you are facing a decent swell and some steep wind waves; not fun conditions to be on a boat in.  For two days this week, Wednesday and Thursday, the north wind was projected to die down and the temperatures were forecast to skyrocket to the mid-80s. We decided to take advantage of this break in the wind and explore the Bay and surrounding area.  Just north of La Paz are several islands which are supposed to be amazingly beautiful and full of wildlife, both in the water and on land.  Our original plan was to head to a protected anchorage on the north end of the first island, Espiritu Santo, about 30 miles from La Paz.

 

Well, after we got all the tools and boat projects stowed away Wednesday, it was already noon. And we also wanted to see if we couldn’t find the whale sharks which are rumored to hang out about 5 miles away from us, off a large sand spit called El Mogote.  We motored towards El Mogote for about an hour and could see a group of pangas and dive boats about a mile or so ahead of us, which is how you find the whale sharks. At about the same time, we spotted a sailboat coming towards us, which turned out to have our friends from Sound Discovery on it. They told us some people in official looking uniforms with badges told them they could not be there and needed to have a whale shark permit for the boat to be in the vicinity of the animals, and each person needed to have a swimming permit to get in the water with the whale sharks. The officials told our friends if they didn’t leave, their vessel would be impounded. We had researched the rules earlier, and all we could find was that you needed to maintain a distance of 20 m from the whale sharks. It was news to us that you needed special permits for both your private vessel and each individual on board. Incidentally, our friends told us the tour boat operators were motoring to within a couple feet of the whale sharks and dropping people off almost directly on top of the sharks for swimming, ignoring the 20 m rule. Anyway, we decided to postpone our whale shark trip and ask around about the whale shark permits.  Not to mention it didn’t sound like fun to be out there with all the tour boats. We changed course and headed north.

 

By this time we only had 3 hours of daylight left, so we anchored in a cove at the north end of La Paz Bay called Puerto Balandra. This is a beautiful little cove completely surrounded by shallow sand shoals on all three sides and aquamarine water. We could see people standing in waist-high water about 50 feet from shore! Since the sun was setting and it was already cooling down, we decided to wait until the next day to explore the cove and turned in early. However about 9:30pm we were awakened by a howling wind making a racket with our halyards. The Coromuels were blowing, which are southwest winds from the mainland. We were protected from the swell, but still got a lot of the wind in our cove.  It was a loud night. The wind finally died down about noon on Thursday, and we took advantage of the calm to jump in the water.  We swam about 500 ft to the nearest sand shoal and spent the day walking around the entire cove and exploring the soft white sand beaches.  We swam back towards the boat from the opposite side of the cove we started from, and passed by a small rock island guarded by pelicans in about 20ft of water. The rocks turned out to house a small coral reef! There was quite a bit of life on this mini reef including schools of jacks and seargent majors, colorful damselfish and wrasses, porcupinefish, parrotfish, Christmas tree tube worms, starfish, crinoids, several species of coral, etc.  It was a wonderful unexpected surprise. We explored the reef for about an hour until we were both so chilled (the water has cooled down to a chilly 71F) we knew we should return to the boat.  A half hour later we climbed up our swimladder and had a warm solar shower. Shortly after, we hoisted our anchor and enjoyed a lovely evening motorsail back to the marina.  

The famous Mushroom rock at Puerto Balandra. Apparently the rock has fallen over several times, and the city keeps repairing it with cement! Luckily it didn't fall over on us...

 

The lovely sand shoals and aquamarine water at Puerto Balandra.

 

Exploring the white sand beaches.

 

Preparing to swim back to our boat. Well first walk a bit until it is deep enough to swim...

 

The mini coral reef we found.

 

Finally some porcupinefish in their rocky crevices where they belong! (As opposed to the open sand bottom where we saw them at Muertos)

 

A sharper close up of a porcupinefish, which we were unable to get at Muertos.

 

A lovely blue Christmas tree worm.

 

Some crinoids on the reef.

 

A well camouflaged stingray we spotted on our way back to the boat.

 

View of the shore as we motorsailed back to La Paz.

 

The winds are back now and so we are returning to boat projects for the next couple days, as well as starting some Christmas baking. We'll wait for a longer weather window to go and explore the islands. This short window was great for providing us an excuse to explore a cove closer to our homebase though, which we otherwise would have overlooked!

 

P.S.: In case you are interested, we asked around about the whale shark permits and got a copy of the regulations regarding whale sharks from the marina office. There is no whale shark permit. You just need to keep a 20 m distance from the whale sharks. Other cruisers in our marina told us the whale shark permits are a common scam by the tour boat operators to keep people from seeing the whale sharks from their private vessels.

 

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