Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Isla Isabela's incredible beauty, shark finning, plastic water bottles and whales.

February 8, 2012
Anchorage Position: 21°50.898N 105°52.764W
Isla Isabella East anchorage

Eighty six nautical miles from Mazatlan to Isla Isabella is a little short for an overnight sail and too long for a day sail. With light winds forecast we were loath to motor the entire way so we decided to just make the trip into two day sails. About forty nautical miles from Mazatlan we noticed a Mansion along the otherwise deserted beach and dropped the anchor in thirty feet of water outside the breaking waves along this beautiful beach. Why stop and anchor in front of this extreme representation of conspicuous consumption when surround by unadulterated natural beauty? Simple, we were hoping for an open wifi access point so we could upload some photos and surf the web. To tell you the truth we often base our anchorage location on the availability of wifi and this seemed a good bet. Anchor down I looked toward shore and noticed two men on the beach with puffed out chests, arms crossed staring at us. These two looked sort of para-military and not the least bit friendly and one was walking down to the waters edge to get a closer look. Seeing how we were in the state of Sinaloa which has a pretty serious cartel and were just now in front this mansion with mean looking dudes, the lure of internet access quickly lost its luster. Time to raise anchor and move along a few more miles to a deserted stretch of beach while our heads were still attached to our shoulders. Dropped the anchor off a deserted beach. We spent the night in what's known as a roadstead anchorage with no protection from wind or seas. Roadsteads are a bit of a gamble aside from cartel underlings, as deteriorating weather may force getting underway in the middle of the night, but the catamaran is pretty comfortable even in pretty sloppy seas. The wind picked overnight with plenty of pitching and later some rolling as the wind shifted to offshore. I slept great, Kathy not as well. The trade-off for not having to go overnight was worth it in my mind. Another option for shoal draft boats would be a potential stop at Teacapan if the tides were right and one could find a panga to guide one through the dangerous breaking shoals. We would have given this a thought if we had more daylight to work with.

Off the next morning for a leisurely forty mile low carbon impact sail to Isla Isabela. We fished all day in an attempt to harvest one sustainable meal, but not a single bite. Isla Isabela is an important rookery for Frigates and Boobies and as we approached the island you could see hundreds if not thousands of birds aloft and many more settled in makeshift nests in the low scrub trees or rocky outcrops. Dropped anchor on the East side of Isabela just a bit south of the pinnacle and a bit toward the beach in four meters over sand and rubble (21°50.8981N 105°52.7636W).

The next morning we set out on an adventure and landed the dinghy at the fish camp on the south end of the island. Many pangas were anchored stern to the beach just off where the fishermen shacks line the small beach. The off-loading of a catch of small hammerhead sharks was underway. The fish were gutted on the beach to the delight of over fifty frantic birds who noisily swarmed around the fishermen fighting mightily for the viscera and scraps. The immature hammerheads less than three feet in length were decapitated then each of the fins sliced from the body. I'm not sure who eats shark fin soup, but if you do please consider the meaningless waste you incentivize through the commercialization of shark finning. It's not uncommon for us to come across shark finning operations in our travels here in Mexico and in every Central American country we've visited. It really is sad to see these beautiful creatures wasted for a bowl of shark fin soup. 

We all have the opportunity to make small choices every day to minimize our impact or at least try to make less bad choices. Walking over driving, consolidating trips if we must drive, buying local, reusing and my favorite soap box item; choosing unbottled water. We see millions of empty water bottles polluting the beaches and sea and slowly breaking down into smaller chunks of plastic to be ingested and poison ever yet smaller creatures.
With the bad taste of shark finning fresh in our mouths we trip on empty water bottles and stubble into the low brush of the island. Here the perseverance of nature cries out with the sound of freshly hatched Frigate chicks and the clucking of Boobies warming their eggs on rocky outcrops. These birds, having no natural predators, are mostly indifferent to our intrusion as we tread as lightly as possible. Each footstep is carefully chosen to avoid the unattended Boobie eggs as their camouflage coloring blends perfectly with rocky soil and dry tufts of grass.

Back in the dinghy we headed offshore a bit to observe some Humpback whales with young calfs, could these be some of the same whales we'd seen in Alaska last summer? Off in the distance a whale breached sending up a geyser of white water followed up with several resounding fin slaps.
We took a break from nature and spent a few hours cleaning the interior wood work of the boat with a mild vinegar and water solution, no flashy overpriced commercial cleaners that damage the environment needed. We are passionate about continuously finding ways to minimize our impact as we travel striving to leave a cleaner wake each day.