Two Baja days

– A non-circumnavigation of Isla Carmen –

It’s 6 o’clock when we start paddling. The morning is glowing over Danzante. The sea is sleeping. In 1½ hours we are under the lava cliffs of Carmen and head north. Cove after cove slowly wanders by, how much we enjoy this steady self-propelled motion.

By 10.30, some 25 miles later we reach Isla Cholla and turn for the northern tip of Carmen. We have seen the wind approaching for a while; the dark blue stripe at the horizon is a very familiar signal. After 5 hours of strong paddling I still feel great and suggest to keep going all around and return on the other side the next day. Parvin doesn’t see much attraction in the idea and I don’t want to persuade her anymore.

There were times when I found it important to convince her of my ideas. Today I might be even better at convincing, but I am less and less certain about my ideas or rather about the importance of my ideas. I always hated conflict in my whole life. For most of the time I tried to solve conflicts by convincing, by finding and presenting the “best” arguments. Today it seems not to work this way anymore. In order to convince you have to be certain about your own view, about your opinion. But once you have looked at opinions themselves, not just this opinion as opposed to that opinion, once you have seen the quite impersonal phenomenon of opinionism – mind clinging to an idea – they lose their power. And as I discovered opinions to be really more empty fleeting phenomena than reliable material to build a case on I must have lost the urge, the conviction, to convince.

Not that I find the option to turn around the better idea, but both, to turn around and to carry on, are just ideas, mind stuff. Life happens, this way or that way.

When we point the boat south the imaginary circumnavigation on the map in my head has disappeared. Instead the wind comes from behind, the sailing umbrella gets rigged, feet out on deck, hands lazy behind the neck. The “new” idea seems completely convincing, now, when we zoom along the coast without moving a muscle.

We stop for lunch in a great sea cave. Out of the wind, with a million-dollar view, we warm up our prepared three-course gourmet-dinner and take a nap – another pleasure, only discovered in advanced age. On a long walk along the beach in the afternoon we check out Ballandra Bay where we had seen two lonely sailboats anchored when we paddled by in the morning. To our great surprise we discover them to be Erie and Om Shanti – the boats of two twin-brothers and their wives we had met a little while ago on another paddle trip. We pitch our tent on the beach and have a wonderful evening with new friends on a world-cruising sailboat. And all this far away on a wind-swept desert island.

Next morning we are on the water by 5 AM. For two hours we paddle in the moonlight. The sea is like a black mirror. An occasional spooky long swell lifts us up and reminds us that we are on the ocean and not on a mysterious lake. The stars reflect on the sea. The few lights of Loreto gleam in the distance; otherwise there are no lights what so ever, no boats – this is indeed still a remote part of this planet. We hear whales in the dark.

Together we talk and reflect on my favorite subject: cosmology. No scenario could be more fitting than this. In cadence with our paddle strokes, speaking softly as if not to disturb the gigantic silence, we talk about the latest state of this field that excites me more than anything else.

When the day slowly awakens the mountains along the coast, 10 miles away, glow in the early light. To the east, very close, the rocks of Carmen are still black and featureless. A big white cruise ship travels by, strange and noisy, more than 12 miles away.

At 10 o’clock we have covered about 20 miles and stop for breakfast at Punta Arena. It’s not too warm yet in the sun and we do a short Yoga session on the sand. We both feel the wonderful refreshing and re-centering effect of it. We go very slowly now and stop again and again to swim and watch the under-water world. The water feels like silk on the skin.

No wind in sight yet. Soon we get to Punta Baja, the southern tip of Carmen. A place out of this world: vast blue sea, two lonely palm trees, a small 100 yard snow-white beach, not made up of sand but of fragments of rotolyth (tiny cauliflower shaped coral-like organisms that are not attached to the ground). We are 1½ hours away from home. We kind of wait for the wind, but the horizon stays clear.

At 11.30 we start the crossing toward Danzante. It’s hot and still unbelievably calm. The umbrella comes out again, this time as sun protection when Parvin lies down for a snooze in her cockpit while I go off into a paddling meditation.

Shoo-slap-slap, shoo-slap-slap – I listen to the paddling strokes and keep the horizon in a peripheral view. Danzante is the destination, but I am only here now – shoo-slap-slap, shoo-slap-slap… With every paddle stroke I make a little bit of time. I hear whales from behind but do not turn to look. My arms move by themselves, shoo-slap-slap, shoo-slap-slap, I feel the sun on my skin. Nothing is missing, no need to wish for anything more.

We reach Danzante where we know a beautiful shady cove with a big natural rock-arch. We sit naked in the shade and cook dinner – freeze-dried food this time, but not bad at all.

Unconsciously we keep an eye on the horizon all the time – it becomes second nature – and sure enough, there it finally comes. Big whitecaps – from the south, which is a little bit unusual. We pack up, and when we head out to round the southern cape of Danzante it gets really rough. Crazy waves from all directions, the boat feels like a bronco. Parvin gets soaked again and again and I get really awake. Around the tip we fly before the wind along the west coast of the island. Again we know a little hidden cove where we are sure to find shelter. Huge waves make us surf 100 feet parallel to the shore.

Then we sit under a rock and take our afternoon tea. It’s really howling outside, time to wait things out. I look at Parvin in her salt-stained shorts, tired but content. In less than two weeks is her birthday. I see my own salt crusted skin on my arms, my shorts feel like paper, and my glasses are salt covered too. We lie on our life vests on the gravel beach, it’s not the most comfortable place in the world, we don’t know if we can get home today, but we wouldn’t really want to be any other place now.

I climb up on a cliff and watch the raging sea. 4 miles across is our motor home. It feels as if it’s dying down already. At 6 o’clock, the sun is just about to disappear behind the Sierra Giganta, we get ready, set up for a rough crossing. The wind is a lot less, but the sea is still wild. We dig in and dance. This boat is at its best when it is rough. I built it myself, years ago, and always enjoy the image to see it rather as an extension of myself than a tool or a vehicle.

It’s pretty dark when we approach our beach. The surf is wild and it takes a last act of skillful coordination to get the boat safely ashore.

An hour later we lie on our recliners under the mesquite tree, the wind is completely gone. I get an extra strong Margarita and put on my favorite Tango-music. We try a few moves in the dark. Sure, we are a little tired, but who says that it’s bad to be tired?

             Klaus  written and revised between the 1990s and Dec. 2010

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