Thursday, May 9, 2013

Islas San Benito



 

The leg from San Martin Island to the San Benito Islands was the best sailing so far. The winds were 14-16 knots from the northwest with an occasional gust as high as 23. As always, at night we put one reef in the main sail, rolled up the genoa and put up the solent. The seas were choppy and I suffered from seasickness again, but overall my body seems to be adjusting and I’m learning some coping skills that minimize both the severity and duration.

Benito del Oeste, Benito del Centro, and Benito del Este are located about 15 miles west of Cedros Island and together form a well-protected U-shaped anchorage. There are kelp beds at the entrance which were easily avoided but the size of them varies from year to year depending on water temperature. Oeste has a fish camp but the other two islands are unoccupied. The panga fishermen of Baja are amazing. The panga is an open skiff, large enough to hold a tote bin and 2 or 3 fishermen. We have seen them as far as 38 miles from the shore, fishing usually with hand lines, and frequently through the night.
On our first evening at San Benito we were approached by a fisherman in his panga who asked if we had tequila or beer to trade for lobster. No tequila I told him, but yes, we had beer that we would trade for 3 lobsters. He told us to wait while he went to get them and was back in 10 minutes, just as the sun was setting. He gave us the 3 lobsters and when we gave him the 9 Coors Lights that we had on board he gave us 2 more. He started to leave and then turned back to ask if we had any candy so we then traded 3 Hershey bars for a nice live Calico Sea Bass. We ate like royalty for days.


For 2 days we rested, relaxed, and tidied the boat. On the third day we took the dinghy ashore for some exploration. We were welcomed to the village by Jonathan, a biologist stationed on the island for 2 months of temporary duty. He speaks excellent English and explained some of the biology of the islands, pointed out the hiking trails, assured me that I would not run into any rattlesnakes, and answered our questions about the village which was mostly unoccupied while we were there. The islands look dead and desolate from afar but are home to all sorts of birds, lizards, sea lions, and elephant seals. The sea lions and elephant seals were impossible to avoid. They lie not only on the beaches but on the paths as well. We had read that we should be careful not to disturb them but they were completely disinterested in our presence. Most didn’t even open their eyes when we walked by.

We had only planned to anchor overnight but, cruising, as always,s at a snail’s pace, we enjoy a peaceful 3 nights at San Benito before heading out with Turtle Bay as our next destination.

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