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OVER ON THE ISLAND

12 Aug

When I worked as a fishing guide in Campbell River, I got asked a lot of questions about a lot of things. Many of them were about the area and the island itself. Now, as I’ve been known to say over the years, my brain is full of useless trivia, (I’m a wiz at Trivial Pursuits) and I always loved history, so I made sure I had as much of the information available to offer up as possible.

She is one of the best reasons for visiting the island

“How big is it?” “Well, it’s 460 kilometres (290 mi) long and 80 kilometres (50 mi)wide at its widest point.

“Where did the names come from?” “Most  of the places around here are named after the original Spanish explorers and the members of the crews of 3 English ships. George Vancouver’s HMS Discovery and HMS Chatham which explored the waters of Vancouver Island from 1791 to 1794. Then in 1859, the cartography ship  HMS Plumper arrived to chart the Island.

Since the Spanish had been on the island since 1774, part of Vancouver’s job was negotiating with the Spanish Commander of the Nootka Sound settlement, Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. They got on well and Vancouver decided to honour a request from him to commemorate their friendly meetings by giving the island the name of Quadra and Vancouver Island, though as you can tell, over the years the name has been shortened and Quadra’s name was given to another island.”

“What’s the tallest mountain?” “The Golden Hinde; it’s the highest peak in the Vancouver Island Range, (Stupid name, right?) They run down the centre of the island like a backbone.”

“Golden Hind, isn’t that a deer?” No, that was the name of Sir Francis Drake’s ship.” “Oh”.

Kid and grandkid walking on Sidney Pier

“Sure is pretty. Does it rain much?” “Depending on where you are the amount of rainfall can be as high as 260 inches per year, the highest in North America, or as low as 24 inches in Victoria, the largest city and capital of British Columbia.This is after all a Temperate Rain forest”

“260 INCHES!!” “Yep, but we generally only get about 100 inches per year here.” (meaning Campbell River)That’s why it’s so green here.”

“What are real estate prices like here?”   “Whoa, if you want to buy property here, you need to come back in February.”

“February, why February? Is that some sort of weird Canadian thing? Are you only allowed to buy land in February?”

“No, you can buy land here anytime, but you need to come in February to see if you really want to buy!”     “What’s so special about February then?”

“Well, you know we were talking about the rain and how pretty and green things are around here?”     “Yeah.”

“February is when it rains the worst. Not necessarily the most, but the worst.” “Waddaya mean?”

“February is the grey month, when the wind is blowing a South easter at about 50 miles per hour and the rain is coming down in sheets sideways and it’s been doing that for 2 straight weeks! The sky is grey, the land is grey and the people are grey. So if you can stand living here in February, then you can stand it during the good months!”

“My Wife hates the rain, but it sure is pretty!”

Does this look like somewhere you'd like to visit?

And it is. In most months it’s green, verdant, lush and down around the bottom of the island, with it’s Mediterranean  climate, during Summer and Fall, it’s full to the brim with gardens; flower, fruit and vegetable. Everywhere, there are street markets, outdoor entertainment, food vendors, and produce stands. In some ways it reminds me of a scene out of  Medieval times, just sans costume.

Finally, I get to view the island from another angle. No longer a resident, but a visitor. To be sure, a knowledgable visitor, but now a visitor none the less. From this view, the place fairly vibrates with energy. (Nice segue, don’t you think?)

We came to visit our friends and family, and it’s been fun. We’re staying with our youngest and her family. My daughter is a food blogger and a chef. She develops recipes and believes in organic, whole, raw foods. She’s also a calorie counter, so we eat low calorie, healthy, great tasting food, most of which they grow themselves. They even raise their own meat and egg chickens. Some of which just went to the butcher yesterday. Mmmm, real free range chicken!

The survivors. These are the egg layers, the meat birds went into the freezer on Tuesday!

One cannot live on chicken alone, however. My son-in-law loves to fish but since they moved to Saanich he hasn’t been able to take their little lake boat out, so they came up with a brand new plan.

The town of Sidney, is about 20 miles north of Victoria, on the Saanich peninsula. At one time this sleepy little village was on the verge of decrepitude, but over the last 20 years has been reborn into a vibrant and interesting tourist destination. One of the things the town did to reinvent itself was to build a fishing pier. Now this is nothing new, Campbell River built the worlds first saltwater fishing pier many years ago and you really can catch all of the different species of salmon from it.

The Sidney pier doesn’t cut it as a “fishing” pier, as there are no big salmon runs nearby and except for a few small bullheads, nothing much in the way of piscatorial action happens there. Though, as a crabbing pier it’s perfect! It sits out over protected, shallow waters that have low tidal action. The bottom under the pier is perfect for the wandering, feeding crabs and it’s easy to put crab pots in and retrieve them. It’s also rather pretty.

All ready for crabbing

This was the new plan and armed with a crab trap, rope, bucket, bait, regulations and license, not to mention spouse and kids, off they went to catch crab from the pier and damned if they weren’t successful. Mostly they catch Red Rock crab, but once in a while they luck out and get a Dungeness. We’ve been off doing it together and I can see that it’s going to become habit forming for them, at least as long as the weather allows.

So here we are, eating fresh vegetables and chickens they raised themselves, fresh crab we caught and surrounded by fruit just waiting to be picked. (Blackberry, Salmonberry, Thimbleberry, Apples, Plums, Pears, Figs, even Walnuts)

Success! Mmmmm tasty!

Good friends, loving family, reasonable weather and great food, it doesn’t get much better than this!

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HOCKEY MADNESS AND THE BEST JAMBALAYA OUTSIDE OF NEW ORLEANS!

17 Jun

When we arrived home in Penticton, it was right in the middle of the hockey playoffs. Now, when I was a kid, my parents were sports mad, they watched and listened to just about every sport there was, even golf and bowling. I can remember one night sitting in the living room with my parents watching a hockey game on TV, while my father had the radio in the big stereo console  beside his seat tuned to an at home Lions game, and on top of that he had a transistor radio up to his ear, listening to a boxing match.

A future Canucks fan?

My parents were also very vocal when they watched sports, especially football and hockey. I was sitting on the front stoop one day, when the next door neighbour approached me and asked if everything was OK, were my Mom and Dad fighting? It took me a moment, but then I laughed when I realized he could hear them yelling at the TV from the house next door, and this was from inside a very well built, sturdy old farm house. I never realized just how loud my parents could be.

I’m one of millions of kids who grew up watching the original 6 teams of the old league. I’d have to admit that I wasn’t that interested until 1970 when the Vancouver Canucks became part of the league. I have always believed in supporting my home town so regularly attended Canucks hockey and Whitecaps soccer whenever I could scrape the money together. The league was strong with 8 teams and provided  hours of entertainment, I mean when one is poor, watching a game with a room full of friends is almost as good as being there.

Then the expansions started. By 1993 there were 24 teams, including the Disney owned, Anaheim Mighty Ducks. I watched the 1994 playoffs, and cheered mightily for the Canucks, but my heart really wasn’t in it. Richard was not a sports fan and still isn’t, so I watched less and less and as the teams multiplied, I could no longer keep track of all the teams and their players. With so many teams including the Disney one named after a kids movie, I gave up. Like many hard core fans I couldn’t believe how diluted the play had become . It had simply, in my mind, become a money making scheme for Gary Bettman’s wealthy American friends, so I stopped watching.

Over the ensuing years I kept track of the Canucks through my daughters and other friends, but until coming home this spring, I had never been drawn back into the craziness. This year it was impossible to ignore. I mean we live with our kids when we come home and not having a TV of our own, we end up watching what they want and what they wanted this year was HOCKEY! So I watched and I got drawn back in. I believed, just like I did in 1994 only once again, it wasn’t to be. As a true fan my reaction was, “Oh, well, there’s always next year!” Then, all hell broke loose.

The game wasn’t even totally over and the morons had taken over the downtown of my beautiful home town! I watched in horror as these brain dead excuses for human beings rampaged and destroyed everything they could get their hands on. At the same time I saw ordinary heros stand up for Vancouver and try to stop the stupidity, only to become victims of the violence. I hope the city recognizes these folks and the ones who turned up in the immediate aftermath, to try to fix and clean up the mess, trying to repair our cities reputation. These are the real heros and they show the true face of Vancouver.

As to those who participated in this wanton destruction, Let’s hope that the Judiciary finds some really creative ways to make them pay. I think having their faces posted on the front page of the Newspapers with a $10,000.00 fine, 2 years in jail so they end up in a Federal Penitentiary, and at least 1000 hours community time with a large sign around their necks while doing it that reads, “I AM A TOTAL MORON”. Sign not to be removed until all 1000 hours are completed,  a complete prohibition on consumption of alcohol and a mandatory  alcohol treatment program, paid for of course by the idiots themselves.  Oh, and with all photos and information sent to their families and employers.

Vindictive? No, I don’t think so! This type of stupidity needs to be stamped down on hard, just like you do when confronted by a cockroach. I could speak about why this attitude exists amongst some of our young adults, but as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. Whatever is the root cause of this malaise, is something that can be looked at, at leisure by the experts, but in the meantime, those who think they can behave any way they like and were responsible for this, must be smacked upside the head just as hard as possible. Is this what we get when we teach our children they can do no wrong, are THE most important person on the planet, there is no such thing as failure, and there are no consequences for their actions? Does giving our children a steady stream of ultra violent movies, TV shows and video games warp some of them? I don’t know the answers, though like everyone else I can speculate.

Just a few minutes more cooking time and it's thick and ready to eat!

Now this is going to sound really odd, but my first thought at seeing the burning cars was “Mmmm, Jambalaya” It was only a passing thought and vanished almost as fast as it arrived, but as I started to write I realized I wanted to include my recipe for it. It’s really tasty and I have the assurance of a man who has travelled extensively through the southern United States that mine is as good as it gets. Give it a try. It might not defuse your anger, but it will make you feel just a little  bit better.

Here’s to the Canucks team and to the REAL Vancouver Hockey  fans!

All the proteins.

3 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 red pepper
3 or 4 dried Spanish Chorizo
300 grams fresh or frozen prawns, cleaned and deveined
1 whole (both sides) chicken breast, cubed and browned
2 - 14 oz(398ml) cans, diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons Cajun spice
What can I say? I like my Jambalaya hot and spicy!
Saute bacon until just crisp, add onion, celery, and pepper. 
Cook until onion edges are browned. Add spices, chicken broth, 
canned tomatoes, chorizo and chicken.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer stirring frequently. 
Cook until desired thickness is achieved.

Add prawns, cook until pink and curled, serve over rice.
Enjoy and keep your fingers crossed, maybe next year
the Stanley Cup will come to stay in Vancouver for a while!

Oh baby, it’s cold and wet here!

26 Apr

So here we are, back on Vancouver Island, which isn’t really home anymore, but we’re a lot closer than we were. The trip home took us 10 days, and once again, just like the proverbial horses headed to the barn, the closer to Canada we got the quicker we moved. I have to apologize for the lack of photos, since I just didn’t see anything interesting enough to take pictures of. This is the problem with taking the same route home more than once, everything becomes familiar and after a few more times, uninteresting.

We spent 2 lovely nights at our favourite Baja campsite, in San Quintin, though this time around it was anything but quiet. Since the weather was sunny, warm and sultry, and it was the start of the Easter holidays, the beach was filled everyday with picnicking and partying locals. Lots of good food, people and  music. Not to mention the beach itself being used as a freeway, plus a full scale clam fishery underway. It was fun, lively, entertaining and interesting. It’s such a neat place at any time and we know we’re always going to enjoy our stays. Plus you can’t beat the price $120 pesos a night. With the Canadian dollar doing so well these days that’s a grand total of  $10.00. Now I have to qualify a bit as they don’t have potable water for drinking available, but they do provide a sanitary dump  and have hot showers using brackish water. The view is great and depending on the  season, a variety of absolutely fresh seafood is available right out of the  Fishermen’s boats.

Now, I have a dirty secret…I looooove BEEF!!!! Most especially steak and roasts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat just about any type of seafood until it’s coming out my ears and you’ll never hear me complain, but every once in a while I need to eat  a thick, rare, tender steak, which are damned hard to come by in Baja. The beef cows there are free range as I’ve mentioned before but they are also in survivor mode, so there’s no such thing as a fat cow. Beef is definitely available but it’s best cut up fine, shredded or stewed, and if you do get a steak you’d better have good teeth.

Is all this leading somewhere you ask? Well, yes it is. I’m not fond of chain restaurants, but a few years ago we discovered a place called The Golden Corral in a small southern California town named El Centro. It’s a steak and seafood buffet where for $8.00 each before 4PM or $13.00 after, I can indulge my need for BEEF! Richard really just indulges me, but I notice he’s no slouch in the number of plates he goes through. Richard is a firm follower of the SeeFood Diet, you know, see food, eat food!

Anyways, I make him go this way every time we leave Baja, just so I can indulge my need to sink my teeth into a nice piece of rare steak. It causes interesting travel plans since whichever route we use to get home always starts at El Centro. This time was pretty pedestrian, we drove around the west side of the Salton Sea, a route we hadn’t been on before, then just took secondary roads west until we hit the I5. For once, our mechanical problems were simple, a torn fan belt, and replacement of a couple of wheel lug bolts. Both times when need appeared so did salvation. The belt was replaced with an old one we had with us, then a Napa Auto Parts store on the side of the road sent us to a diesel parts shop just a couple of blocks from the Mojave Airport.

We got the belt and a chance to visit the historic airport where Burt Rutan built his SpaceShipOne which was the first civilian aircraft in space. He maintains his company Scaled Composites here which is considered the most creative company working in the aviation industry today.

The bolts were even easier. We stopped for coffee in a road side rest stop in Lake Shasta, when a gentleman walking by looking at the van noticed a bolt missing and informed us. About 20 miles down the road was a Les Schwab Tire store. They replaced 4 of them when it became apparent that the missing one wasn’t the only problem and we were on our way again in a couple of hours. So, for once no catastrophic mechanical failures and the trip home was pretty uneventful. It was even warm and sunny right up to until we boarded the Black Ball Ferry to come home.

We’re back on the island now and it’s raining and cold and the forecast is for more of the same until at least this weekend. We were gone for 5 months, the temperature during the day averaged 65F to 75F and during that entire time we probably had less than 20 cloudy days and 1 hour of rain.

People ask us why we go to Baja in the winter? Well, duh!

EXODUS

15 Apr

It’s that time again. Time to go home, hit the road, and vamoose. Time to say our goodbyes. Not just for us, but for a large majority of the Anglo population down here. Sure there are those who live here year round, but probably more than half of us, spend only the winter on the warm shores of Baja.

Just after Christmas, there's no room left on the beach!

On Rattlesnake beach, us and 2 other couples were the last holdouts but after Saturday, we’ll all be gone. Sunday is Palm Sunday, an important start to the Catholic Easter, or Semanos Santos as it’s known down here. It’s the start of a 2-week holiday where the locals gather up their families, from the youngest to the oldest and move to the beach. And I do mean move. They bring beds, couches, tables, chairs; almost everything they live with in their homes comes with them to the beach. It only rains here during the height of Summer, so there are no worries about their belongings being damaged by the elements. They will fill this beach and every other accessible beach on the Sea of Cortez till one can hardly move and they will eat seafood, play and party hard, then they too will all go home and the beach will be empty once more until September when the Anglos will start our annual, southerly migration.

April 13th, pick a spot, any spot!

The summers here, as I said, are the start of the rainy season where temperatures can soar up to 45C and the threat of hurricanes is always present. Not a time Richard or I care to be here. We’re not sure we could stand the heat and much as I think I’d like to experience a hurricane, I know realistically neither of us would enjoy it very much!

We have come to know and care for some of the locals a great deal and we will miss them very much. They know we will be back again next fall and we know we can keep in touch with them while we’re away. Besides it gives us lots to talk about when we finally get together again. We’ll say out final Adios this evening.

Tomorrow morning after spending today doing a few chores, picking up some last minute items, getting a bit of welding done, (can’t leave with at least some mechanical work being done on Grummy. It just wouldn’t be the same!) writing this blog and uploading it, we’ll be turning North.

We plan on taking 2 weeks to get home and hope to visit a couple of friends on the way. Now Internet is an iffy proposition on the road, especially when you don’t know the area intimately, so I may or may not be talking to you until we cross the border and pull into our daughters backyard.

Wish us a safe trip home and when I do finally get back on the web, I’ll be sure to let you know all about our travel adventures, good and bad. Though I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be any bad!

PARTY ANIMALS

30 Mar

As I sit here trying to think of something to write about, it occurs to me that Richard and I have become “Party Animals”. We’ve been to more parties here, over the winter, than we probably attended during the past 10 years at home.

 
Folks have parties at the drop of a hat here, Birthdays, Full Moons, Blue Moons, relatives coming down to visit, friends leaving the beach and heading further down the peninsula, friends heading home, caught a big fish or lots of fish, Christmas, New Year, Valentines day, St. Patricks Day. Sometimes the parties are just because; because they got a new Paella pan and proper grill( the Paella was good, but needed some Dry Spanish Chorizo in my opinion), because it seemed like a good time to use up a bunch of seafood to make room in their fridge or freezer for more, or simply just because.

The Paella, and damn, it was good!

Now I have to qualify just what is meant by a “Party” down here. First be aware that the average age in this area is 65-70, so that kind of precludes raucous, rip snorting, foot stomping, pounding rock and roll, hell raisers! Mostly any music heard at parties down here is provided by someone with a guitar, (which always make me think of John Belushi in Animal House, and don’t I wish I could do the same!) and voice. Generally, neither of these would invite a recording contract from even the most desperate record label, though it can at times lead to some hilarity! Picture a large group of rather old folks singing Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, badly off key, led by a guitar player that only knows one chord, the wrong one, a tambourine and a harmonica. The only thing worse would be an accordion!

 
Most of these affairs are sedate, and follow a general pattern. Arrive at the requested time, usually between 4 and 5 PM, bringing something to share, since these gatherings are always “Pot Luck”.  One must also remember to bring a chair, a plate or bowl, cutlery and something to drink. The invitees will sit in some semblance of a circle, usually around a fire pit, that may or may not be lit yet. Drink and talk for up to 45 minutes than proceed to eat and continue talking.

As usual, sitting around stuffing our faces!

If it’s a Full Moon party then chances are the fire will already be lit and hot dogs will be cooking. Hot Dogs down here are all made from Turkey (ewww, yuk!) so folks have taken to bringing down with them packages of Beef Smokies and Bratwursts, which are cause for other parties where these treasures are shared amongst only the very best of friends.

 
When the Full Moon has been greeted and or all the guests are sated, the crowd will gather around the fire and proceed to discuss all the latest gossip heard regarding the inexplicable behaviour of various Mexican Ministries and Agencies, plus snippets of whatever is going on in the world at large. There is a large information gap here as Internet is available only to those who have their own satellite set ups or who seek out WiFi at the local marina, hotel or restaurant. A couple of campers have Sirius Radios, so more info is available now than in previous years. These learned folks share what information they have with those who wish to hear. Trust me, not everyone here wants to know anything about the outside world, that’s why they’re living in this little back water spot.

Sitting around the fire, digesting, gossiping, and having fun Rattlesnake Beach style.

There is a term used widely down here…… Baja Midnight. To all of you uninitiated, that’s about 8 PM, and that’s about what time almost all the parties break up. All it takes is for one person to start packing up to leave, when suddenly it becomes a mass exodus. For those of the more elderly persuasion it’s perfect, a party that lasts no more than 3 or 4 hours, with no clean up except the few dishes that you yourself contributed to the pot luck. All the so-called garbage, paper plates and napkins will have been tossed into the fire pit and  the fire can safely be allowed to burn down unattended, and happily in bed by 9 PM! Well at least for most, Richard and I have a tendency to get back to Grummy, have a decaf coffee and watch a movie. Since we’re considered to be youngsters here it’s understood that we’ll stay up late, (around 10) and get up late (about 7-7:30) tsk, tsk!

 
We were at a party last night, to say goodbye to a couple of longtimers who left this morning to start the long journey home. By the middle of April, there will be only 4 groups of us left, so there will be one more party. We will burn our last pieces of wood, cook our last shared dish and say our goodbyes for another season.

 
Come Easter, there will no room to move on this beach as it’s a Mexican Baja tradition to head to the beach, eat massive amounts of seafood and party for 2 weeks, and when I say party I mean loud music, dancing, drinking, feasting, staying up all night and doing their very best to live it up and have a good time!

 
Perhaps next year, we’ll host a party that’ll include loud rock music, and some dancing. If we can find some folks under the age of 60 we might even be able to keep it going until really late… maybe even 10 PM. Now, doesn’t that sound like a party?

TASTY BEEF VEGETABLE AND BARLEY SOUP

23 Mar

I know, I know! Didn’t I just finish telling you it was hot down there?
Well, yes it is, but sometimes hot food actually makes you feel cooler. I mean come on, we’re talking about a country where people eat Jalapeno, Serrano or Habenero Chilies with almost every meal.  Besides after eating seafood almost constantly for the last month, (Yeah, yeah, poor us) the idea of having some rich, meaty, thick beef soup just sounded to good to pass up!

Now, doesn't that look good?

1 lb. Beef bones, preferably with lots of meat and marrow.

6 cups of water.

 

Beef bones down here can be anything from pieces of rib to legs cut into rounds, and are very cheap, the pound I bought cost $1.25. (Just to give you an idea as to the difference in costs down here, except for the barley, and Montreal Steak Spice which I brought with me from Canada, this whole meal cost less than $3.00)

 

I guess you could call the beef cattle down here, “Free Range, Organic” as the cows roam loose in the desert until it’s round up time, surviving as fortune dictates. The beef is very low in fat, a bit tough if you over cook it and probably the most “Beef” tasting meat I’ve ever had.

 

Now since most of you won’t be able to get hold of beef bones that have as much flavour as the ones down here, some enhancement might be needed. The best product I’ve found for this is called “Better Than Bouillon”, by Superior Touch. It’s available in chicken, beef and vegetable and you only need a couple of teaspoons to give your soups or stews a really full, rich flavour.

Best bouillon I've ever found!

Hopefully, you’ll be able to find really tasty bones and won’t need to add anything else. You know, it also never hurts to cultivate a good relationship with your local butcher!

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch Oven, bring the bones and water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook until the meat starts to fall off the bones, 2 to 3 hours. Keep the lid on.Remove from heat, strain meat and bones out of stock. Pull meat off bones, return to pot. If there is marrow, remove from the bones and return to pot as well. Discard the bones and any gristle.

 
Add to stock:

1 carrot cut into rounds

1 potato cut into cubes

3 stocks of celery heart, including leaves, chopped

1 small onion, slivered

1 1/2 tablespoons Montreal Steak Spice

1 chayote, cubed

1/4 cup pearl barley

4-6 more cups water.

A Chayote is a type of small squash and should be available in the Vegetable section of any large grocery store. If you can’t find one don’t worry, a small zucchini can be substituted. These small squash add a delicate flavour to soups and stews as well as acting as a thickener. The chayote can also be eaten raw in salads

A Chayote and some of the other ingredients.

Add everything but the barley to your pot, put the lid on, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and let it cook for another couple of hours. If the soup starts to get too thick add more water. Add salt only if you think it needs some. 45 minutes before serving, add barley.

Serve with bread.If you’re really looking to impress someone, look up the Hearty Garlic and Herb Beer Bread recipe on Guilty Kitchen.com, it goes very well indeed with this soup!

Divertirse!

On the Sea of Cortez

21 Dec

I’ve told you about our kayak. One of the great things about it, is it allows us to go further, faster. That means we can decide we want to head out for a leisurely paddle over to Danzante Island, stopping here and there to explore the many coves and beaches that abound on it’s shores, and still get home in time for Happy Hour!
The water here this year, due to a slightly lower than normal temperature, is crystal clear and even in depths of 20 feet the bottom is clearly visible and so are all it’s inhabitants.
Over the years, we’ve had problems with dust getting into our cameras, so last year we purchased a couple of small, digital cameras capable of underwater shots and movies. This not only does away with dirt and sand getting inside them, it also offers us a new perspective when out on the water.
We headed out last week to explore the coast of Danzante, cameras in hand, hopping for a few sightings of fish and fowl to record for posterity, and to get a little exercise. As we headed out past Coyote Point we could see a great deal of splashing ahead of us, so we aimed for it, then stopped paddling to wait and see what it was. What it was was Manta rays, hundreds of them! They were doing an intricate dance around one another that included leaping clear of the water, moving back and forth around and under us, in a fabulous mating display. It was like watching a carefully choreographed ballet and continued for as long as we wanted to watch.

Manta Rays mating dance

While I was shooting in every direction I could think of and getting quite a few good photos, I inadvertently got a shot of this fellow. They’re called Needlefish, they run about 2 feet long, and are a major predator in the waters here. The name describes both it’s body shape and the multiple needle sharp teeth in it’s jaw. They are also a very pretty blue colour as are it’s flesh and bones.

Needlefish investigating us

Coasting around a bay towards a sandy spit which we intended to land on, we became aware of a California Sea Lion, feeding in the deep drop off at the end of the spit. We watched him for a while enjoying his antics, then noticed a pod of Dolphins, either Roughtoothed or Bottlenosed, on the other side of the split, playing. They had quite a few young ones with them and seemed to be doing nothing more than having fun, leaping and splashing about.
Both animals remained in the cove, seemingly keeping us company as we explored the beach and surrounding area. Just as we decided to hit the water the dolphins disappeared, but we realized that the Sea Lion hadn’t. As a matter of fact it had gone to sleep on the surface about a 100 yards off shore, so we snuck up on it. We got quite close before it noticed us and simply slipped below the surface with barely a ripple to show where it had been.

Wakey, wakey!

We turned our boat back towards the shore we live on, but a fair ways further south, intending to work our way up the coast and check out a few of the small Islets on the way. The weather held, warm and calm, just another beautiful day here on the Baja!
There was unexplained slashing going on just ahead of us, in close to shore, so we paddled over to see what it was. Imagine our surprise when the head of this came out of the water. It was a 20 foot long Whale Shark, a plankton feeder, sieving through the huge volumes of Krill that had appeared in the Sea over the last week or so. It swam with it’s top jaw above the surface, pushing massive amounts of water through it’s gills, turning constantly to keep within the waves of Krill. This was a once in a lifetime happening! Most never experience the thrill of seeing one of these massive creatures. It swam so close beside us we could touch it and a couple of times it went under the kayak and it’s dorsal bumped us as it went past. We sat with it for a good 20 minutes just enjoying seeing one of the oceans largest and gentlest creatures. When we returned home and told our neighbours about our exploits, they told us we were very lucky, they had sailed the world’s oceans for 25 years and had never seen one nor did they know of anyone else who had had a similar experience. We felt extremely privileged to have been witness to one of natures rarer displays!

Heading under the kayak

The next day we were invited to go out on a friends motor boat to see more of the coast than we can reach with our kayak. They were also planning to take us to one of the numerous hot springs in an area we have difficulty accessing in our vehicles. We headed out early, tossed the lines overboard just for fun and started to learn more about this beautiful and rugged area.
Rounding a point south of Ensenada Blanca (White Cove) we spotted a net pen in the bay. Our hostess explained that the women of the small village in the cove had a business Cooperative, diving for Angelfish and selling them into the Aquarium Market in the US. They didn’t take many fish, just enough to make a little money. The business was successful enough to buy clothes and school supplies for the children of the village as well as a few other necessities.

Cortez and Queen Angelfish

Over the next hour both our host and Richard caught, fought and released small Roosterfish, both under 10 pounds and lots of fun, both for those doing the fighting and those who watched. We had just released one when another pod of Dolphins appeared off our bows and played around and under us as we made bow and stern waves. Eventually they grew bored with us and went on their way as did we.

 

Dolphins toying with us

We rounded a point into a crescent bay with a spit of rocks leading to a small island. During high tide the spit is underwater. We anchored in the middle of this rocky spit and both of our friends made comments about hoping we had made it here during the right part of the tide. Richard and I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about until we got off the boat and up onto the spit. Right there in front of us, in the middle of this rocky finger was a pool. a hot springs! The only time it can be accessed is during low tide and it’s obviously been in use a long time as patrons over the years have pulled more and more rocks out of it to make the pool larger. It reminds us that the Sea of Cortez is just an extension of the San Andreas fault and that volcanic activity isn’t very far below the surface. It was a most welcome respite and we were loath to exit it, but there were others who had shown up to use it and we vacated to let them enjoy the warm waters as well.

It's nice and warm!

Heading into the last bay, a place called Agua Verde, (which mean Green water and it’s a very apt name as the water has an almost emerald colour to it) our host noticed fishing activity and dropped the gear, almost instantly we were into a large fish and the rod was handed to me. I fought it for a good 10 minutes before we even sighted it and even then we couldn’t figure out what it was. We’ve come to realize that even those who fish this sea all the time are often surprised what appears on the end of their rods. Another 10 minutes went by before we caught enough of a glimpse to identify it as a big Roosterfish. Finally after another 10 minutes I managed to wear it out enough to get it to the side of the boat for assessment and photos, where it was promptly released. From past experience I figured it to be between 25 and 30 pounds and it was one hell of a fun fight!

A great fight then a quick release.

We headed back home after that, thanking our hosts for another memorable day on the Sea of Cortez and wondering what more it holds in store for us the next time we venture out on it! Sights and experiences never to be forgotten!