Friday, December 19, 2008

Isla Isabela: Love, awe, sickness, tragedy and blue footed boobies

We departed Chacala around 6:30am Friday morning. After some minor difficulties of the groggy anchor wench (me) we got underway and enroute to Isabela. It was a nice journey to Isabela with meager winds, but the sunshine was much appreciated. We saw some big black dolphins that were at least 9 feet long and very robust. After snapping a few photos (that didn't seem to help much in the identification) we narrowed it down to either the Melon-headed Whale or Pygmy Killer Whale both of which are dolphins even though the word "whale" graces their names. All Blackfish are dolphins actually including Orcas and Pilot Whales. The use of the word "Whale" in their names indicates size rather than zoological affinity...or so I have read. Hey you just got your marine mammal lesson of the day! Some people pay good money for that *hint hint*. After all that excitement we noticed a dorado swimming around our boat. Normally we would try to catch said fish, but she was small and so neat to watch with her electric blue pectoral fins.

Isla Isabela, for those of you who have not heard or seen the beauty itself, let me try to explain. The trees are green speckled with black, white and red of the frigate birds. The fine white sand beach lined with nesting Boobies, hatchlings and even Marine Iguanas. The constant chatter of the birds soon become easily identifiable from frigates, boobies, gulls and the beautiful, but screechy, tropic birds. The water surrounding the island is aquamarine only changing color where the rocky or coral reefs inhabit the waters. The fish are so plentiful and colorful that it is truly amazing to watch just from the boat. At any given time of day I pop out of the companion way and am almost guaranteed to see at least one humpback. A place that even National Geographic thinks is worth seeing. My words still cant do it justice.

When we did arrive the sun was going down, a humpback was breaching in the distance and the birds were, as expected, everywhere. There were no other boats not even pangas. It was our island. We anchored off a shoal on the eastern part of the island. Earlier David had mentioned feeling a bit under the weather, but we figured it would pass after a nights sleep.

Morning came and mi pobrecito is doing worse than before. He is now running a fever (feeling cold in 85 degree weather) and has an upset tummy. I cleaned the boat and checked on my love every few minutes which I think annoyed him since he told me he needed sleep and I should go kayak. So I did. I paddled over to the closest beach for a nice and dry landing. I found my heaven on earth...again. There were hundreds maybe even thousands of birds on this sliver of a beach. My personal favorite is the display of the male blue footed booby. First he will fly to/saunter up to the female booby that tends to be bigger and have huge pupils I noticed, though otherwise identical. He will then make sure he has her attention by lifting one webbed blue foot and alternating to the other a few times. Once she is enrapt with him, he pulls out all the stops. He points his tail perpendicular to the sand, wings go out then face flat towards her and he squeals with booby joy. She then looks on as he repeats said courtship dance if she is interested. If she is not she saunters or flies away. Do not fret for the rejected boy booby, he goes up to the next female and repeats his courtship display endlessly until he his paired up to make an egg or three.

A boat had come in and anchored by us earlier and they were now coming ashore with their dinghy. We recognized the name "Calou" as a Ha-Ha boat, but we'd never met. There was two boys, two adult men and one woman. I spoke to the woman and she asked about overnight anchoring. I let her know we have anchored here many-a-time with no problems, but it can get rolly and be exposed. Our conversation was halted by one of her boys demanding she come check out the dead thing with hermit crabs all over it. Ah yes, the job of mom and dad.

I paddled back out to our boat and made sure my love was alright. Alright might not be the proper term, but he was still in one piece. After watching him sleep I decided another kayak exploration was in order. The last time we were at Isabela we were anchored at the southern shore by Bahia Tiburoneros. We had discovered the iguana house and more frigates than we knew what to do with. I decided to revisit those places, but damn I didn't know how far of a paddle it was! I paddled in and rested on the beach for a moment before stuffing my feet into shoes (blech) and heading into birdland. I was greeted by some iguanas that I think spit at me, though we quickly made amends and they posed for my camera. They seriously look like little dinosaurs!

I trotted on and made my way past the basketball/volleyball court and back to the hill that overlooks a large portion of the southern shores. I was quite happy with all of my pictures so I decided not to climb on up to the lighthouse that tops the ridge. That and it seemed dangerous doing it all on my lonesome with over three quarters of a mile to our boat and no people on the rest of the island (the other boat left soon after their beach visit and experienced quite a bit of anchor lifting difficulties). So I descended and made my way back to the beach. I decided to hike one more portion and was rewarded with the sight of a downy baby booby just getting some real feathers. I didn't want to bother the chick so I turned and made my way back to the beach. After a good bit of sweat and paddling I made it back home. Turns out that I paddled about 2 wonder I was pooped out. I made sure my love was not cooking his brain and thankfully the fever had gone down. I napped as did David for the remainder of the day. We went to official bed by 7pm that night.

Morning comes after a restless night. David was in and out of bed getting water and trying to feel better. I woke up sore from all the rocking the boat had been doing. David was standing in the companion way with the binoculars out. I stumbled out of the v-berth and mumbled a groggy good morning. "The dinghy is on the beach," was David's reply. Huh? Apparently all the wear and rocking broke the painter and the dinghy was on the beach. I figured I get to be macho woman and save the day. I hopped in my yak and landed ashore. The waves aren't big but they were forceful and coming fast with very little rest between constant sets. I landed fine and hauled the yak ashore and hauled ass to the dink. It was filled to the brim with water making it ridiculously heavy. I pulled out the paddles, seat, and spinnaker stays'l before trying to get a grip on the unwieldy bouncing boat. Two things realized: 1) I am not starting the motor and rescuing it easy-peasy as thought 2) I am not strong enough to do this on my own. Wow how is that for putting myself in check before coffee?! I did manage to get it ashore a bit with the aid of a few big waves. I got most of the water out by rocking the bow up and down, but a wave would come and fill it back up again. I looked at the drain hole thing, but I remembered hearing about a one way plug or something or other so I continued on my quest without giving it a second thought. There was no good place to anchor the boat so I tried to bury the anchor in the sand and cover it with logs. I knew it wouldn't last long. I hopped back in the kayak and paddled back to the boat. I relayed the circumstances and David asks,"Did you open the drain plug?" Gah!!! Frustrating to the effing maximum! He tried to calm me down with talk of breakfast and coffee. I told him the boat can go at any moment since it isn't really anchored. David remained calm and said he will go in with me and help. So he donned shoes over his scabby foot and got some shorts on and we got moving. The boat had refilled with water and was barely hanging on by the anchor that caught on a rocky part of the shore. We managed to get right back to where it was water wise and hey, that drain thing did work quite well. We were able to wade the dink out past the exposed rocks and breaking waves and I gave David a push and he rowed on his way. I made my way back to the kayaks, tied David's yak to my stern, waded out and paddled like the dickens. Success. We did it. Tragedy narrowly avoided. That seemed to take it out of us since the rest of the day we cat napped with occasional stirrings. A big thank you to Capricorn Cat for parting with the anchor that in turn helped save our dinghy. We put it to the test and boy did it ever pass with flying colors!

Later that afternoon I did leave the boat for one more paddle. I saw fins slicing through the water. First I thought rays, but that changed once I saw they were undulating sideways...SHARKS! There had to be at least 10 of them. So what do I do? I go take my INFLATABLE kayak out to the fins. I was curious and so were they. As soon as I neared the fins changed direction and headed towards me. I backed off but they still followed. With camera ready and adrenalin pumping I was ready to see some sharks! There were closer to 40 each two and a half feet long circling my kayak, but they weren't sharks. They were Jack Crevalles. I hate those damn deceitful jacks! Though I have to say I was slightly relieved...don't tell David though. He still thinks I was brave...dumb, but brave.

The night was calm and smooth...well, except I have taken David's sickness on and now we are both up twenty times a night doing things you don't need to know about. I assume our boat smelled as good as a dead whale. Speaking of whales, that was a great way to wake up on or last morning at Isabela. Though my brain felt shrunken and seemed to rattle in my skull I still got giddy at the sight of five humpbacks about 200 yards from the boat. I decided to paddle out closer. David declined saying that"Those are man-eating humpbacks." If that was the case I knew I'd be safe since I am all woman. The five humpbacks were moving quickly so I turned my focus to two that were closer, but they seemed too far away. Later as we were both on the boat, we saw the pod of seven or more passing by at a good clip about 50 yards from the boat. There were a few whales lingering so the total amount seen was about 11. What amazing place!

David is now feeling much better so we decided to visit the little beach. We kayaked in and walked around. David set a new standard for having our own island...naked hiking. It seems there would be a possibility of scratches and scuffs, but taken at a nice crusierly pace, everything works out just fine. We walked the beach and watched the boobies do their dance and the iguanas that were in "invisible mode" that swore we couldn't see them even though they were on white rock with orange bodies. I think it was too blissed out to care. The good life. We kayaked back after a while to escape the sun. We lazed around and discussed leaving at sunset. I wondered, "Why not now?" So we did. I wanted the chance to see wildlife in the daylight this trip.


AH said...

I see you have a hard time relaxing, keeping busy, and entertaining yourselves without me! Awesome pictures and storytelling Heather! Glad you are feeling better David.

Paul Lauher said...

Ah yes: "did you pull the drain plug?" must have been just what you wanted to hear! That's what we get for trying to function before coffee...

Loved the pics and narration: you should really do a tour guide... maybe "Naked Babe Explains Boobies"?

I am reading this in snowy, frozen Seattle, so it should go without saying that I would love to be there!!!

Love to you both,

Heather said...

Yay comments on our blog again! Too bad you arent here with us. I am sure we will see you all soon. Much love from us.

241Captain said...

I am catching up on some past posts here. Spokane has had the most snow ever - tales from Mexico are just the thing! Paul - how long are you in Seattle? I'm on my way over there tomarrow (1/5/09) - let me know if you are going to be in town ( / 509-954-2668)