We left La Paz a little before noon on Thursday, January 14, having completed food provisioning the day before at Chedraui, a large grocery and housewares store in La Paz not too far from the marina. We walked to the store carrying empty bags and took a taxi back to the marina after filling all our bags, and more.
We wanted to visit Isla Espiritu Santo, about 19 miles north of La Paz in Bahia de La Paz. We planned to nook up into one of the several bays and coves on the western side of the island. The winds were light and mostly from the west and was forecast to stay that way for a couple of days. After that, we expect a return of strong north winds by Sunday, possibly as early as Saturday. Strong north winds were to become the dominant theme of this trip.
Isla Espiritu Santo and its neighbor, Isla Partida just to the north, offer several anchorages that are reported to be secure and reasonably comfortable in north winds. We chose Puerto Ballena, about halfway up the west side of Espiritu Santo. Puerto Ballena has three coves, or ensenadas, that are good for anchoring and offer varying levels of protection from the north wind. We anchored in the middle cove – Ensenada el Gallo – and spent a comfortable and quiet night, the only sailboat in the anchorage. A couple of fishing pangas visited the cove but didn’t stay.
Espiritu Santo Natural Marine Park includes the two main islands and all of the surrounding islets and reefs. The waters surrounding the islands are rich with diverse marine life – mammals, fish, marine invertebrates and algae, not to mention migratory birds and small mammals that inhabit the islands. Visitors are required to purchase a permit – good for a year – and this revenue helps to fund preservation and restoration activities supporting the park.
After breakfast the next day, we decided to move to the next bay north in Puerto Ballena, Ensenada de la Raza, which we thought might offer even better protection from the anticipated north wind.
Velic is on the hook below a cliff face that is striated with sedimentary levels, shades of red, brown and ochre. Sparse shrubs and several cactus grow on the dry slopes around us. At the head of the cove is a small white sand beach and above the waterline thick green vegetation grows back into an arroyo, where there must be water available at least some of the time. The water around us varied from light turquoise to deep green, depending on depth and what’s on the bottom. If the water had been a bit warmer, we might have gone for a swim …
We did go for a row to the beach, though.
After a little exploration of the salt water marshy area behind the mangroves, we walked along the short beach a ways, then sat for a bit in the shade, just looking at the water and watching the birds. I spotted a belted kingfisher in one of the mangrove trees. We saw great blue heron hunting on the rocky shoreline below the cliffs as we approached in the dinghy. A larger, soaring bird that we think may have been a buzzard. And numerous terns and gulls. I think I also saw a blue-footed booby flying overhead. These islands are known as habitat for blue-footed boobies.
We saw lots of different kinds of shells on the beach – clams, both oval and razor-shaped, cockles, scallops, and others I couldn’t identify, as well as bits of broken-off coral. On the black rocks below the cliffs, we could see remnants of white oyster shells, hundreds of them still stuck to the rocks at what would have been water level and below (it was low tide at the time). I think I recall reading that there used to be oyster beds in the bay, long ago. We saw no whole, live oysters; just the remaining bits of shells.