Beach Combing on Isla Montserrat, How Puffer Fish Thwarted Death, The End of My Day, San Juanico
I made my first island landfall on south side of Isla Montserrat. It felt good to be one of the two humans standing on the large desert island in the balmy winter waters of the Sea of Cortez. I had never been to this particular beach on Montserrat, having made several landings on the north side of the island last year. See Time Management and the Modern Explorer
I jumped off the zodiac into knee-deep water and walked ashore letting my senses make the initial investigation. I was tired having worked all night from 7 pm to 7 am, but I find when I get tired, I am more in tune with the details of life. That is a good thing. The beach subsisted of hard packed compressed sand with lots of ancient seashells mixed in the particles. It created shelves of hard earth that I stepped onto like humongous stairs as I walked along the jutting shoreline I had no real intentions of walking far, I was tired, but happy to be ashore.
We walked northwest along the beach amidst the harsh protests of the gulls. I believe they had some eggs hidden amongst the rocks, and seeing their distress, I chose to give them a wide berth walking across the gravel desert plain covered in familiar desert plants. It was kind of like meeting acquaintances from your past, “Hey, I remember you, Mr. Sour Pitaya. And there is a Chain Link Cholla.“ I zigzagged my way around the desert garden, assuming the wandering path of a snake to lead me through.
What I Found On The Beach
Climbing down a rock shelf I found myself once again on the shore and surrounded by the white skeletons of sun dried lobster. I wonder why so many lobsters die here? The beach offered no clues, but the lobsters themselves, and they were not talking. I wandered back to my friend and looked at what she had found. She showed me quite a few vertebrae, shells, casings, invertebrate homes and the like. It was quite a feast for the eyes. It wasn’t long before I became totally absorbed into digging around the bone bits and fragments of shells that made up the top layer of beach. It was a fine way to spend a couple of hours of the morning.
How Puffer Fish Thwarted Death
I found a medium sized Puffer Fish fighting for its life, caught on the edge of sand that separates water from land. It was beached, and a fish on land just does not do very well for itself-- compared to a fish in water. I decided to document its struggles, rooting for the little guy to make his escape, and snub Death for another day. I pondered how came to be in such dire straits: I think it lost track of the receding tide, and one big wave pushed it onto the beach. The tide still in the early stages of flooding taking some time before more waves could reach the fish.
This puffer fish was lucky. It hung in there, conserving energy and making the best of it, waiting for a wave to reach it.
The fish was gulping for air, and to be honest, its odds didn’t look that good. It looked happy, but that was just the shape of its mouth, and not necessarily its disposition. After a few minutes of dry gulps, a single wave came far enough ashore to submerse the head of Puffer Fish, allowing for a few breaths at first, and then as a few more waves reached it, a few kicks of the tail (but still to no avail).
As the tide began to rise, more and more waves made it far enough ashore to reach the puffer fish, allowing for a few important breaths. I began to root aloud, and my friend looked at me quizzically, but said nothing, as she has been around me long enough to accept my eccentricities. Finally, a strong wave washed up and sucked the puffer fish back into the intertidal zone where it makes its home.
The End of the Day
I love the six o’clock hour. For one thing, it marks the end of my day and I can usually ease through the last hour of my workday with ease, having completed all of my chores and projects by that time. It also marks the start of the day for everyone else, and I enjoy the feeling of winding down while others are winding up. I’ve always enjoyed being a nonconformist.
I love watching the sunrise. It begins subtle, a slight lightening of the sky to the southeast. Clouds, islands become more distinct from the dark of night. The stars wink out, one by one, fading into the beautiful dark blue of high atmospheres (from my vantage). As the sun nears the horizon, it trumpets its arrival with an intensifying shade of gold appearing around the breaking point. Often this heralding also highlights the clouds far above the scene adding to the dynamics. The air is fresh and flowing. It immerses me with coolness before the coming of the heat of the day. It is kind of like wading slowly into 70-degree water. It is neither too hot nor cold, but refreshing all the same. It is comfortable to be in a tee shirt in the balmy weather of the region.
Finally, the sun breaks the surface, and for a few minutes, the encompassing golden glow holds all of us on deck entranced in its beauty.
I just realized it is only day two…
Morning Recess At Punta San Juanico
I was dragging ass all night. I was tired, weary, but functioning, and definitely not ambitious. The dawn came as it usually does, and I regained some energy catching a fourth wind. Then seven o’clock rolled around, and I checked out for the day. The sunlight had once again revived me from my nightly occupations; that of cleaning, fixing, and patrolling the ship I work on and call home.
I arranged a ride to shore with our bosun and soon I was once again standing on a sandy beach with my good lady in tow. It was good to be back at San Juanico, Last year I went for a long ridge walk high above the bay to a secluded little cove. I didn’t have the energy for that this year, and I wanted to explore some of the beaches on the north side of the bay.
We walked into the desert wanting to traverse around a high rock bluff which would’ve required us to rock climb, scramble and most likely fall down the other side. The desert was quiet. Deserts have a sublime silence to them, which I appreciate. I tried to be very quiet, and added no sound except that of our footsteps.
As we made it around the bluff, we found a small river banked in bright green bushes. What a contrast to the drab colors of the surrounding landscape. We disturbed the cormorants, herons, and ibis that were hanging out there, and they flew off with their warning squawks.
We passed into the bright sunshine once again, and I stripped off my tee shirt to feel the warmth of the sun that much better. I wanted to find a tide pool or at least a Sally Lightfoot, and so I hiked up onto a rocky point. Just beyond the rock shelf was another sandy beach perhaps a hundred yards long and arced beautifully to another jutting triangular point of rock. The beach was bordered by the large rock bluff that I had just walked around. The scene was inviting, and I knew I would soon be underwater.
I stripped down to my knickers, stepped out of my sandals and tested the water. It was perfect, not a trace of warmth to be found, and I commenced to sing my “frozen balls” song as I waded up to my knees, then my waist, and belly. I love wading into cold water, I really do. It’s very refreshing, and to do it slowly takes all the shock out of it, prolongs your suffering which in turn builds character. For some reason, I always hold my arms out of the water as long as possible. I’m beginning to think my armpits are actually calling the shots, and not my brain. Looking at the scene from there perspective, this seems logical. Anyway, I gave in and dunked myself under the clear, aquamarine tinged, salty tasting seawater.
Having no towel, I sun dried myself, and caught the next zodiac back to the ship. I ate a dinner of bacon and eggs, crepes, sausage and orange juice, took a long hot shower, and settled into my bunk for another “night” of slumber.