The Cardon Coast

San Felipe to La Paz

Baja Sea-Kayaking Adventure #9

33 days with Jenny, 680 miles, Nov 1989

Ray Jardine

Cruising The Cardon Coast page 4 of 36


We rose at 4:15 am and re-ignited our campfire. The surf was again only 6 inches, the wind was calm, and the early morning temperature was comfortably warm enough for our wearing only shorts and t-shirts. The stars were out in all their resplendence; the Big Dipper's handle was just past straight down - our celestial clock.

This clock incidentally runs 4 minutes fast each day, but the constellation's positions in the sky are the same on any given night of the year, in any year. I have learned to rise several hours before dawn in order to take best advantage of the relatively calm sea conditions. And as I have made this journey in the month of November several times previously, in part or in whole, I've learned to tell time at night by the position of the stars.

While sipping the morning's brew and making Sourdough pancakes on the campfire, we admired a pre-dawn pillar of luminescence jutting from the eastern horizon (zodiacal light). Then after breakfast we carried the boat - at bow and stern - to the water's edge and loaded it with our gear.

Setting off at 5:45 am, in silence we paddled a benign ocean, holding fairly close to shore rather than cutting point to point, this as a matter of general mistrust for our rig with its untested modifications.

After the first few hours we became chilled, particularly the bare feet. So we fitted the spray cover to help block the chilling draft. However, once the sun had climbed above the haze, it began radiating unmercifully and soon had us sweltering from our paddling exertions. Within an hour after sunrise Jenny had gone by the board for a refreshing swim.

Flying the main and headsail. In the next few days we would conclude that the boat sails just as well the headsail alone, so we would quit using the mainsail.

A light breeze began wafting from the ESE, so we stepped the mast, rigged the shrouds and backstay, and hoisted the genoa. Sailing close hauled with just the big headsail, the boat moved fairly well. So we handed the mainsail and sailed as close into the eye of the wind as possible for perhaps half an hour, sometimes moving faster than we could have paddled, and sometimes not. When the coast blocked further progress, rather than come about on what would have been a 90 degree tack - for we were not using a daggerboard - we doused the canvas and paddled into the increasing headwinds. Soon the vessel's windage dictated that we unship the mast altogether and chock it in its fore and aft deck tabs. For such an occasion we had designed the rig so that we could pull the mast down while at sea.

The morning was replete with a great variety of seabirds. Brown pelicans were represented in their hundreds, attesting not only to the good fishing hereabouts but also to their comeback from near demise due to DDT poisoning, which a decade ago had threatened the survival of the entire species. Sea gulls of many varieties congregated with the pelicans at the rocky points and in the air, and we saw a few osprey, one winging its way overhead clutching a fish in it's talons. We saw one frigate, and one tern, and ...of all things, several loons. Never before had I seen loons in the Sea of Cortez, but their cries were unmistakable.

Yesterday and today we saw numerous small jellyfish, most bluish-green in color, but some a lackluster brown. We also saw porpoise leaping free of the water, for frolic presumably, and uncountable small schools of fish doing the same, vaulting in height in accordance with their size, for survival from the maws of larger predators.

The afternoon proved an ongoing test of patience and fortitude. The wind piped up to 15 knots from the ESE, fine on our port bow, and as if adding non-aesthetics to adversity, the coast was lined practically eave to eave with houses. These were a new addition to the Baja landscape since my last trip 8 years previously.

As the seas roughened the boat began leaking in earnest. Time after time the incoming seawater compelled me to leave Jenny struggling against the headwinds and seas, so that I could sop the bilge using a pair of cellulose sponges. Jenny couldn't get at the bilge because of the combers sweeping the foredeck and necessitating a tight spray skirt. And I couldn't tighten my spray skirt, out of necessity to get at the bilge. We did not feel all that nautically adroit.

On we went, grinding our way doggedly along the coastline and keeping well offshore to avoid the seas breaking menacingly over the ubiquitous shoals. Had a suitable landing presented itself, we would have taken advantage of it; I knew the seas would increase throughout the afternoon, making a landing through the ever growing surf all the more precarious. Comfort and safety aside, though, reason suggested that if we landed in front of inhabited dwellings, the camping may not be so private, and the growing seas might force us to remain there for another day.

Eventually, on the distant horizon we discerned the end of the long row of houses and finally reached this point by mid-afternoon. The last hour we had paddled quite hard, so we were glad to close the coast. And just here we found a place to land where the surf was not so great. Nearing shore we emerged from our cockpits and straddled the deck as if riding a killer whale, then we closed the spray skirts beneath us and paddled hard ashore, landing safely and sustaining only a minor drenching in the surf.

Away to the southeast, as far as the eye could see, the coast was rocky. We had not quite reached the end of the houses; but from offshore these few dwellings had appeared uninhabited, and such proved the case. We did find a complete lack of firewood, so we dined on granola, bread and peanut butter, this after effecting a round of boat maintenance designed to reduce some of the leaks.

In the previous few months we had done a tremendous amount of work on the Tub, so much so that we had decided to re-christen it. But during the course of today's interminable bailing, the kayak had more than re-earned its former name. Along the coast of British Columbia, two years previously, this same kayak had shown a disturbing propensity for continually taking on ridiculous amounts of water, requiring our continual bailing and leaving us feeling as though indulging in frigid, protracted and decidedly untimely ablutions. For a time we considered suggesting to the manufacturer that he supply little rubber bilge ducks. The name "Seagoing Bathtub" was a bit windy, so we abbreviated it to "The Sea Tub," or more simply "The Tub." And not having the ability to test our newly made deck back in Salt Lake City, we were unaware of how badly it still leaked.

Just after sunset the wind slackened then switched to light offshore, bringing with it piquant aromas of the desert. Such fragrances seemed to stir something within, something that spoke of man's primeval dwelling upon a timeless and pristine earth.

We spread the old rubberized nylon poncho on the sand, and Jenny withdrew her sleeping bag from its the waterproof sack, only to make the disconcerting discovery that the sack had leaked at the closure. We were glad for the bag's synthetic fill insulation that would still provide sufficient warmth.

Day's mileage: 22, in 9 hours - without a shore break.

We had stowed 15 gallons of drinking water on board. This included four gallons of store-bought bottled water, to carry us through a few days until we could organize filtering the remainder, obtained at the RV trailer park in San Felipe.

The story has 36 pages. This is page 4.
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