SAILING WITH WHALES IN BAJA nearly to shore, where I found a sharp many if not more whales breeze running tight along the island, a than they approached pinch of wind that carried me at dusk while scooting this way directly in front of the whale camp and and that chasing misty then toward the sparkle of generator-run spouts. lights in Puerto Magdalena just as darkFor two nights I anness swallowed the shimmering bay. chored just inside the entrada, tucked within a tiny cove along a steep hese roundabout, some may say rocky beach, away from random, routes became more and more tidal currents but within expected the longer I spent in Mag Bay. casting range of barraBig tides, unmarked channels, and mecuda, croaker, cabrilla, andering esteros steered the small-boat and a host of other insailor into the unknown, the unusual, shore fish willing to grab the unforeseen. Weeks later, I came out a fly. Quarter -moon of Estero el Venado one morning after neap tides made it easy raising a bunch of dinner-sized grouto drift about with the per to a swinging surface fly, believing whales and scurrying I'd head north, farther up the narrow pangas and then, when the wind picked up, give Madrina a chance to show her stuff, her full-bodied lugsail swelling voluptuously as she sprang through chop on broad reaches between the towering headlands of Magdalena and Santa Margarita islands. Free of hurricane season, cruising sailboats passed almost There are adventures, and then there are open boat adventures. 'Maddaily into the bay, pausrina' braves the Paciﬁc off Cabo Lázaro, Isla Magdalena. ing to watch the whales wildlife-viewing opportunities along the before heading up the inland shore of shores of one of the most extensive esIsla Magdalena to anchor off Puerto tuarine ecosystems remaining anywhere Magdalena or continue up the marked in the world today. channel into Puerto San Carlos. EventuA foursome of sisters from Minneally I followed, although not without first sota, spread out in the island camp a finding myself trapped in a dead spot mile from Puerto Magdalena, the oldest off Punta Belcher, where the concrete settlement on the bay, take to calling remains of the last Eastern Pacific whalme the Whale Whisperer. I'm anchored ing station cast shadows evenings in front of the restaurant Mira along the shore. For Mar, owned and operated by my friend hours I stayed stuck, far Chejo, his wife, and sons; nothing better, inside the entrada, with in morning light, to row beyond town, currents from the north watching willets and curlews probe the and south reaches of the Isla rocky shore, then arrive by boat and bay conspiring to create Magdalena settle into coffee beneath the camp's a mix of funky dynamexquisite palapa, palm fronds woven ics that left me sailing and lashed to an elegant framework in circles — or making of native timbers, a celebration of trajust enough fitful headditional artisanal skills. The sisters, it way before meeting the turns out, have had their eyes on me. next switch in current Days ago, after easing my way out of or breeze that I ended stiff winds tumbling off the steep face up going nowhere. I re- Bahia Santa Magdalena Bay Maria of the Pacific side of Isla Magdalena, I minded myself that I had Puerto found myself suddenly becalmed in the plenty of water aboard, Chale entrada, surrounded by whales; the sisthat whales don't acters, riding with local captains in a pair cidentally collide with Isla Santa Margarita of pangas, watched and even waved as I small wooden boats. Fidrifted about in close proximity to just as nally, at sunset, I rowed
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November, 2018 •
• Page 69
The November 2018 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.