We stayed in Isla San Francisco for 3 nights and 2 days: one day to enjoy and discover the place, a second day to prepare for our crossing of the Sea of Cortez that is coming next. As I'm sitting in the cockpit of Tire-Bouchon looking at the sun setting behind the mountains of Baja California, there is a feeling of end of vacation. Like the last day in the summer vacation place before you go home with the perspective of a new year about to start. Not that today felt like a vacation: Yalçın wired our SSB, repaired a lamp that has been out of service for as long as we can recall, we dove to finish cleaning Tire-Bouchon's bottom (hardwork but lesson of the day: wearing a wetsuit really helps) and finally tidied up the boat and cleaned ourselves (an actual shower in the shower - a first!)! But this past week in the islands of the Sea of Cortez have been full of wonders and the kind of exploration that we dreamed of when in need of motivation to keep working on preparing the boat for the adventure. We swam every day, most of the time with sea creatures we didn't even know existed or couldn't imagine swimming with, we discovered beautiful landscapes different from everything we were used to, and that also got us better accustomed to the cruising lifestyle. The French oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau used to say that the Sea of Cortez is the aquarium of the world and we understood why. As we had plans to sail away for this place, in a day trip back to Espiritu Santos first (where we'd get some internet for a last forecast hopefully) and then the couples of day it takes to cross the Sea of Cortez. Yalçın was excited for our next adventures (we had gotten a pilot book with tons of pictures that made destinations on the mainland really appealing too) but I couldn't help a sense of nostalgia as the last days, since Partida basically, had really made me realize how special this place was.
Last sunset in the "North"
San Francisco was no exception and it had treated us with a nice ridge hike with views of the half-crescent bay (we understood why this place is so iconic, it was gorgeous from the top!), but also of the other side to the open sea towards Espiritu Santos and Partida which ended by a rocky beach right down the cliff. We could also see the other anchorage of San Francisco island that formed another bay to the North and even see the larger island of San Jose past it. The snorkeling was one of the best in the area and I was able to identify a large bunch of new fish including some scary looking bottom dwellers that are usually too camouflaged for me to remark.
Sea turtles were still as curious as in Espiritu Santos and I finally managed to dive in time to swim with one! It wasn't at the surface anymore when I reached it, but I could distinguish its shape at the bottom. When diving a little to make sure, the shadow was actually the turtle and not some rock that I'd have mistaken for it, I could see it rest on the sand, sometimes moving its legs and arms like making the angel in the snow. It was cute. I waited patiently, diving regularly for my turtle to take off and hopefully resurface. I wanted to see it swim, one of my most memorable sight of snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (my only previous snorkeling). It took its time (I was hoping I wasn't scaring it waiting on top of it as I was) but eventually took off, almost to the surface. Its motion was beautiful, so peacefully gliding across the water. It had a white spot on the shell, I thought I could possibly recognized it if it visited the boat again later. Not quite at the surface, it swam under Tire-Bouchon until it resettled on the sand on the other side. I was amazed, I had managed to follow it, "swim with it". I had panicked a little bit due to the excitement and had to readjust my mask and snorkeling which had lost its watertightness in my pursuit. I was determined to wait again until it takes off once more. I encouraged Yalçın to join and share the experience, which he did. The bottom was deeper on that other side of Tirb, so the shape was even more tricky to identify. Yalçın dove deeper to check it out. That's the time it decided to take off and he was able to swim with it too. After that I lost its trace but the magic had happened already, it had made my morning.
Yalçın was swimming back to Tirb (I was still looking around for "my turtle") when the second encounter of the day happened. A couple of Americans staying on the beautiful green boat Joy at the anchorage had approached me this morning to ask what country was representing by the flag with the crescent and the star. We had put up all our flags hoping to make friends and it seemed to have worked. They were now discussing with the representative of the flag and were interested by the fact that we had a SSB radio. They did too and kindly gave us the frequencies of a net they were holding with their friend all along the coast. Jeff and Roxanne turned out to be very friendly and fun to hang out. That same evening we brought them two beers to replenish their stock that had run out and we shared our respective stories. They were sailing from Barra de Navidad on the South on their beautiful Passport 43 with a green and gold hull and spending some time around here until the summer. They helped us by connecting us to some of their friends along the way, some in Mazatlan, and even asked about the weather window we had selected for the crossing to a professional that they knew. He confirmed our windows, which was really encouraging. The next day before leaving Isla San Francisco, we would try to join their Early bird net on the SSB to see if our new set up was receiving anything. We still had a couple of other to do items to tackle and we would start the first leg of our journey across, bound to Playa La Bonanza on Isla Espiritu Santos.