First Takes on Baja, Some Expectations, My First Swim In The Ocean
12/09/2010 78 °F
My first views of the Baja California peninsula was from about 14 miles out at sea. From there, it looked like a jagged, desert like environment, full of smallish coastal mountains leading down to the water. Along the shoreline, I could see occasional bands of sand with pale mounds piling into dunes. What dominated most of my views, was the extremely bright shimmer of the glaring sun. It was constant, overpowering golden-white, and impossible to ignore. I’m going to have to get used to being in the sun.
I’m from the north, from a place where the sun rarely shines in the winter. A place where on the sunniest days in the winter, if you ran around outside naked all day, you still wouldn’t get your necessary dose of Vitamin D. In contrast, I think I’ll be getting all the Vitamin D I need, and way more, in a single morning here in Baja. I proved that today. I woke up at 7 am, and got dressed, opting for shorts and a tee shirt. By 4 pm, I was tan on all exposed flesh. I was a little bit sunburned on the back of my neck, where I didn’t apply sun block in time, but over all tanned. It was a record for me, a one-day suntan.
We are positioning from San Francisco, California to La Paz, Baja California in Mexico. It’s our fifth day of travel, and we expect to land in La Paz, sometime tomorrow evening. I’m very excited to get back to land again. Mostly, because it will be in a brand new environment, I’ve never seen before. Baja is where the desert meets the ocean, and several people have described it to me as “the most beautiful place, they’ve ever seen.” Time will tell, and I’ll make my own judgment on the matter.
The trip so far has been very good; we were blessed with good weather, and calm seas. It’s been sunny every day, and quite balmy. High temperatures are in the upper seventies, and quite comfortable to work in shorts and sandals all day. We’ve been busy getting the final projects completed after the hectic shipyard session we recently completed in Alameda, Ca. It’s been a lot of hard work, and ten-hour days, but it’s enjoyable to work along side of like-minded people. On this boat, we are all travellers, and we enjoy comparing stories, and destinations. Most of us don’t have homes. Instead, we talk of where we store our stuff.
One of the great benefits of this job is being able to drop whatever it is you are doing at any time and head out to the deck to watch wildlife as we pass it by. Every couple of hours, the call will come over the radio that dolphins, whales, or sunsets have been spotted. Everyone filters out to the decks to watch the beautiful sea creatures play around in the water. Today, about 12 of us, sat up in the sunshine watching dolphins jump through the deep blue water, while the majestic Frigate birds soared just overhead. Life is pretty damn good at times.
I’m excited about this journey for many reasons, but I’ll try to highlight a few:
The wildlife. I’m going to see a diverse amount of wildlife I’ve never seen before. Several different types of whales, some of which I might be fortunate enough to touch.I’m also looking forward to learning more about the varieties of birds, fish, and sea life that call this peninsula home.
I can’t wait to start exploring the cities and villages we’ll be stopping at. My Spanish is terrible. I plan to communicate by exaggerated animated gestures, and what little Spanish I know. What fun! Completely out of my element, and dropped into foreign territory. This is what I live for.
I’m from the Midwest. My superiors have told me that I will be expected to swim a lot. “If I have to…” This is cool by me, as I want to become a better swimmer, and I want to go snorkeling. Where I’m from, the lake is only warm enough to swim 2 months of the year, so I haven’t spent much time snorkeling.
I let out the big anchor for the first time tonight. We arrived at Bonanza Beach just after sunset, and a peanut gallery of crew showed up to document, and tease me while I went about learning the process of setting the hook. I did all right for the first time, and all went smoothly. The captain let us go swimming until dark, to let us blow off some steam, and relax and have fun after our long voyage from San Francisco.
We were like kids in school on the last day of class before Christmas break, buzzing and hyper waiting impatiently while the Bo’ sun and other deckhand got the swim ladder into position. Then we got the go ahead to jump in.
Picture the following scene: The sky is the dark indigo of early night. To the west, a first quarter waxing crescent moon is rising slowly above the distant black hills still visible behind the last glow of the sunset. Stars are starting to twinkle far above us. The wind is warm and blowing steadily across the upper deck of our ship. Our floodlights light up the aqua blue-green water, and 15 of us are ready to jump. We all go off in a line, like the penguins of Antarctica, jumping one after another of our “iceberg.” The difference is, everyone chooses his or her favorite thing to yell out, and launch style. Some choose a shriek, and a dive. Others do flips, and straight jumps. I do what I do best. I bellow out, “Viva Baja Mexico!“ and cannon ball from 15 feet off of the water. “KER-SPLASH” and I’m in the dark water of an ocean for the first time.
My first reaction is being aware of the dull underwater sounds of rushing bubbles. I taste the salt on my lips, and in my nasal cavity, and it’s not altogether pleasant, but I don’t care. These moments are what I live for. I surface, and make four more trips up the swim ladder to the upper deck, bantering away with my friends and fellow crewmembers. A strong ocean current rips by, and though I try to swim, it’s hard to make any headway. As I tire, we hang onto the ladder and enjoy the water. It’s not cold, not at all, at least by my standards. It was the equivalent of swimming in Lake Superior in July, and it was beautiful.
This was the first time I’ve ever swam in the ocean. For a first experience, I don’t think you can do much better than that.
So begins my latest journey. I’ll be spending five more months in a warm desert marine environment working, playing, and living to the best of my ability. I can only take things one day at a time, and try to make the best of them. From what I’ve seen so far, I’m betting my odds are good for an enjoyable winter.