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  • Capt. Eric

Cabo Pulmo. The Aquarium of the World

I had planned the short leg from San Jose to Cabo Pulmo to arrive mid afternoon, in time for Princess' second walk of the day.

Windy was showing NW winds, quite frequent at the moment in the area, and that our route would be sheltered by the nearby shore for the most part. Forecast was for 25 knots of wind, gusting 30 knots, but only 4 feet seas close to shore.

Unfortunately, Windy for once got it wrong, and didn't seem to take into consideration the mountains paralleling the shore all the way. The wind simply lined up with them and the coast, so rather than being sheltered by the shore we had the wind straight on the nose, with the whole length of the Sea of Cortez for the sea to build.

Soon it meant we were heading into 6 to 8 feet steep waves, some even curling up and breaking. A strong current was pushing us, making the waves even steeper and shorter.

Not an easy ride on Enfin.

The boat behaved very well, as usual, the big propeller never once coming close to coming out of the water, and just pushing us steadily. Up a big wave we'd go, and before we had time to come fully down, we'd run into the next steep wave. We'd take a big speed hit, but Enfin just kept chugging along, nothing on board feeling like being stressed or bothered. No creaking, no shivering.

There wasn't much I could do: Bearing away and going further offshore might be more comfortable, but inevitably the seas would be bigger and we'd miss our day time arrival at Cabo Frailes anchorage.

Bearing away towards the shore wasn't feasible since my charts all showed a big void paralleling the shore up to about 3 miles out. Scarily, 2 charts showed a marked wreck about 2 miles offshore, so there had to be shallows, but I had no idea where and no idea of the bottom's topography.

It was worth it. Beautiful reef.

So we stayed on our planned route, safety being a lot more important than comfort, and soon enough we started getting some protection from Cabo Frailes.

Slowly, we got a comfortable ride back, gaining speed as we approached the anchorage.

Arriving with an hour to spare before sunset, we hid from the wind behind the tall rocky shore, and dropped a lot of chain. Enfin carries 400 feet of heavy solid chain, so we don't have to skimp when anchoring in heavier winds. Offshore we could see the waves and white caps. Anchored we still had strong gusts, but the calms seas felt like heaven.

Safely tucked behind Cabo Frailes.

We launched the kayak and Princess was oh so happy to get back on Terra firma!

The charts all vary. This one had us cruising squarely on land!

Back from Princess' walk, the wind dropped with the sun, and soon we were enjoying a magnificent sunset in the cockpit.

Peaceful as things get.

All onboard Enfin went to sleep early after what felt like a long day. I was sleeping very soundly when just after midnight, my always vigilant brain woke me up when it heard a noise it couldn't identify.

I listened intensely. At first I thought maybe there was a line chaffing somewhere? The noise was certainly rhythmic enough, but that just wasn't it. Then it hit me: I'd heard this sound before. In documentaries on whales we'd watched with Di. She'd often said how much she'd love to have a hydrophone to listen to whales underwater.

Well, there we had it: Enfin's hull -especially from my cabin, sitting underwater- was acting like our own big hydrophone and we could hear whales singing in the distance.

I woke Di up. She could barely hear anything from her cabin, so she squeezed in my bunk and we spent the next hour listening to this incredible feat of nature.

The recording is faint, so you may have to push the volume up, but here it is:

What an incredible welcome to Cabo Pulmo National Park!

The park is a UN heritage site, and is known for having one of the only 3 reefs on the east side of the Pacific ocean.

It is home to more species of dolphins and whales than anywhere else in the world.

The next day was spent going ashore and exploring the area. There is a fresh water lagoon just behind the tall dunes, where wild horses come to drink, chasing away pelicans, egrets and herons.

A magnificent place for sure, with a huge long sandy beach framed by mountains on one side and in the distance.

Exploring the beach, dunes and lagoon.

Soon enough I went diving and snorkeling, followed by Di.

We both enjoyed it tremendously. It reminded me of Southern France when I was a kid: Lots and lots of fish, in huge schools that just aren't afraid of you. Plus tropical fish of course to add to the variety.

Using the hookah to dive under the boat.

I grew up where Jacques Cousteau invented his "aqua-lung", the first SCUBA diving, and the island I spent a lot of my childhood on had some of the best waters and wrecks around. A rocky island sitting for millennia on some of the busiest merchant shipping routes in the med will obviously end up full of wrecks from all periods.

I remember diving only 100 feet down to see Roman amphorae, a sunk German freighter, and so many more. Of course Cousteau had wanted to explore all this and needed to find a way to do it easily.

Di snorkeling.

His name is considered very highly in the region, with an island even being named after him. He loved the area, and I can see why. More recently, his grand-son following in his footstep came back to see the incredible progress made by conservation efforts in the park. He was very impressed and touted it as an example for the world.

Indeed, the park is often cited as an example of successful transition from over fishing to wild life restoration, and peeking your head underwater for a short while will explain it all: Fish galore.

Stay above water and you'll see flying fish skimming the water to escape larger predators, only to be gobbled up by waiting pelicans or ospreys. Big rays and whales breach the water regularly, giving you a never-ending spectacle.

We got lucky most evenings, seeing whales and their babies: It is the season when new mothers raise their calves in the warm, rich, friendly waters of the Sea of Cortez. We sat in the cockpit, or on the top deck, watching it all. Sometimes far away, sometimes incredibly close.

Coming back from Princess' second walk of the day, we were in the kayak when we saw mother and baby surface not far from us. Approaching slowly, we had them surface very close to us. Again, one of those memories that'll last a life time when we had no camera handy.

It feels like we're finally getting to the magic of the sea now. We are told they'll be plenty more wildlife as we head towards La Paz, Jacques Cousteau Island and so many more. We want to take our time enjoying all this.

We're currently trying to arrange a marina for my checkup trip back to France later this year, and to use as our next logistical and provisioning base. Not easy as the marinas are rare and not all that big, while at the same time it seems post COVID a lot of the cruising world has found its way back here.

The couple hurricanes that came through the region didn't help either. I'm convinced we'll find a way and we won't have to leave the region. We certainly want to continue enjoying incredible places like this.

To be continued...

We'd often end the day in the cockpit watching the sunset, and the whales.

The wind dies at sunset and whales can be seen easier than during the day.
Extract of a video I took! This whale and her pod gave us a great and long spectacle.
Celebrating our arrival at Cabo Pulmo.

Our first taste of the full array of sea life this sea has to offer and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Next stop: Ensenada de los Muertos. (I'm sure it's a lot friendlier than the name entails!)

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