[031130, 2315 UTC, Islas San Benito, BCN, Mexico; 28º18.1'N/115º 34' W]
After two days and nights at sea, we have finally arrived at Islas San Benito. With daylight now limited from 0530 to 1630, and a boat that averages 5 knots (if there is wind), there is often not enough time to travel between distant anchorages before we run out of light. Being cautious, we don't want to try to approach and anchor in sometimes dangerous areas that are totally new to us despite the fact we are equipped with radar and a GPS or global positioning system.
We're tired, of course, but excited to be in this remote and beautiful anchorage. We chose a good weather window for our passage - clear skies, warm temperatures and absolutely stunning sunsets. The problem was that the winds have been nearly absent and - with our limited supply of diesel and still over 440 miles to Cabo San Lucas - we are reluctant to use our motor. Puerto San Bartolome (also called Bahia Tortugas or Turtle Bay, roughly 50 miles south) offers diesel but we still don't want to drain our resources. Our only gear failures to date have been a bent pin in our whisker pole (a pole that guys out the head sail in order to keep it full and at the best angle to the wind), and a shredded alternator belt (this belt connects the water cooler on the engine and also generates electricity and charges the batteries). The belt we replaced while bobbing around between islands but the whisker pole will need a specialized part to in order to fix it. We will likely send to San Diego for this part and seek out a person with a rivet gun when we reach La Paz.
One benefit of ghosting along in light winds is that we saw much sea life: a pod of pilot whales, many dolphins, a sea lion that floated along side us on his back for hours overnight (perhaps he thought we were a big handsome buddy who he'd like to meet!) and an amazing creature that we believe was a sunfish. This latter beast was about four feet long and three feet wide but only about six inches thick except at its weird-looking head. It had large dorsal and ventral fins that sat 3/4 of the way back on its body and round pectoral fins that looked like big scallop shells. It didn't have a tail fin though; its "tail" was merely rounded and scalloped along its edges and its rick-rack edge fluttered as it slowly swam and flopped over near the boat. Its head was the most prominent feature and was about the size and shape of a calf's head with big lips that it pursed as it swam, presumably to scoop up tiny sea life. It was light grey with what appeared to be many scars and moved very slowly around and under our boat before perhaps seeing enough and slowly moving away. We'll publish photos on our website in the next DISPATCH that will be published once we reach a land-connection in Cabo or La Paz.
Islas San Benito consist of three islands that encompass a marine preserve. The middle island (appropriately called Benito Del Centro) is a haven for elephant seals that even from 1/2 mile away appear enormous as they lay on the beach. The clear waters around the islands are alive with sea life and the visibility is amazing. While inching our way into the anchorage, we realized we could see the bottom in more than 70 feet of water!
As we approached the passage into the group (the Canal de Peck according to our vintage 1860s small scale chart), a panguero approached and we traded two beers for four lobster! There is a small village of 15 people right near the preferred anchorage on Benito del Oeste. After getting our anchor set in a veritable forest of amazing kelp, we were visited by Jose Luis and his 5 year old daughter, Julia Alejandra. Jose Luis is a lighthouse keeper who was taking his daughter out to visit boats and practice a little English. We invited them aboard and we spent a wonderful hour with them despite the fact they did not speak English and our Spanish "es muy mal". Alejandra posed for photos which we printed and sent with them along with a pad of paper, pencils, gum and silly putty. Jose Luis was quite curious about the boat and our voyage. We parted company with a promise to visit their "casito en ventana" and to meet Julia Elena, his wife who is pregnant. Alejandra was quick to tell us she also had "dos hermanos" who, as it turns out, live on nearby Cedros Island because (we believe) there is no school here at Islas San Benito.
We haven't decided yet, but we may spend two nights here to catch up on our sleep, clean the boat, visit the village and perhaps hike Benito del Oeste (or the west island) that appears dry and covered with strange cactuses.
Ah, esta bien!
Leslie, Philip and Jake the cat