Sunday, May 29, 2011

Living in the Pages of National Geographic

Isla Santa Catalina, Sea of Cortez, a muted, but vibrant sunset.
This past year, cruising the waters from the west coast of Baja to the Sea of Cortez and down the Mexican Riviera and back again, has been like living in the pages of National Geographic. Each stop along the way offered monumental beauty, an abundance of sea life, and smiling friendly faces. Our lives were often ruled by the forces of nature; weather played a major role in where we sailed, when we sailed, and how long we stayed. Sometimes we complained it was too hot, it was too windy, there wasn't enough wind, or the wind was just right, but from the wrong direction. Whatever the circumstances we always marveled at our good fortune and felt blessed for our adventure in Mexico. Everyday her natural beauty, her rich history and culture, and her ingenious, hardworking, full of life people overwhelmed us. The cruising people, especially the families, were an important part of our experience. The one regret we both share is that we did not venture inland deep into Mexico. Another chapter, perhaps, lies ahead. 
In the meantime, we have memories and photographs, and new friendships to last a lifetime.  
Conception Bay, Sea of Cortez, where desert mets sea.
A proud & hungry Captain D
The abounding sea life found in the coastal waters and in the Sea of Cortez reminded us of how interconnected all life is, and our moral duty to help preserve it. Sea turtles, manta rays, sea lions, pods of dolphins joining together in schools of over 100, the blue footed booby, herons and frigates, jumping marlin, dorado, yellowfin tuna, funny flying fish, sharks and whales; all at risk in our fragile environment. Our first rule, take only what you can eat.
A large school of dolphins frolic in the Sea 
On the day we sighted these dolphins in the above photo - actually they found us first - our depth meter suddenly went from 425 feet to 19 feet, signaling to us that "something big" as under our keel. Sometimes it's whales, but on this day it was several pods of dolphins who had come together to form a school to fish. Within seconds, a dozen large grey spotted dolphins were gliding and leaping in the wake of our bow. For nearly a half mile we could see the rest of the school aiming towards us for play. Spark loves watching the dolphins play this game. A bird dog by nature, on the Sea he has become a hunter of flying fish, leaping dolphins, and spouting whales. He stands on the bow with his ears cocked and his tail pointing fascinated by life at sea.
Dolphins know how to have fun!
Everyday experiences at sea are seldom routine; the simplest event can become a profound once in a lifetime experience. One evening while anchored in Los Gatos, Darrell, Spark and I shared one moment in time that can only be described as transcendent. 
As the sun dropped lower on the horizon and the Sea flattened into stillness, we took the dinghy out amidst dozens of dolphins to watch a small pod of Sperm Whales travel north. We sat in silence as these gentle giants lumbered along slowly and gracefully. We could hear them breathing and moving through the water, we held our breath in reverence. In that space between distance and time we heard their first song. Staring at one another in disbelief, we heard a second song. Overwhelmed by beauty, filled with joy, tears in our eyes, wonder in our souls, a deep gratitude filled our hearts. We sat for another moment or two in silence, then fired up the dinghy to return to El Tib, when loud slapping and popping noises surrounded us. Manta Rays in flight skimmed the surface of the water, many mating, swirling wings beating fast. Others leaping in, what we believed was, ecstasy, nearly 2 feet out of the water and slamming down with loud pops as their wings hit the water.
A heron stands watch in Chamela, Mexico
Such moments inspire certainty of the Devine, but the Beauty almost becomes unbearable. The fear is, if you stay too long in the moment, you might dissolve in that pool of grace, never to re-emerge. A glimpse of perfection can only last so long, and then one has to reenter the world. It's back to Chop Wood, Carry Water. There isn't a day that I don't savor that perfect moment in time, and the months of Living in the Pages of National Geographic. 

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