Baja, Isla Alcatraz Thursday April 16th 1998.


We arose at dawn and made a reasonably early start by 10:00 AM. One reason it took so long was because we still had lots of good food so we took the time to have hash browned potatoes with corned beef for breakfast. The small sandy beach we landed on had become a very wide beach at low tide. We had to drag the boats 100 meters or more to the edge of the water and then carry all our stuff down to pack. Penny marked the water’s edge with a rock and discovered that the tide was still going out.

We launched into our windiest day on the water. The wind came up early in the morning but it was already blowing from the north. This was approximately blowing us in the direction we were going. As we came around the point and started south, my boat would weathercock to a wide angle despite my attempt to put heavy material (water) in the stern. The angle pointed me almost directly at Isla Alcatraz, an island I wanted to see anyway, so I relaxed and let the boat go there.

Everyone else headed more or less straight for the next point, so they got farther and farther from me. I saw Penny looking at me and turned towards her for a while to demonstrate that I could paddle down wind if I wanted to, then I pointed back at the island. I remembered talk of exploring the island, so I figured they would meet me there. They did, but only because Penny didn’t get my message and lead everyone over to ask me if I was having trouble steering my boat. I had planned on going around the east side of the island but had to change course when they called me for a meeting on the west side.

I asked about plans, and “we” were not going to circumnavigate the island. I stated that I was going to do so anyway and asked if anyone else would like to join me. Joe and Mary-Marcia said yes. Well, Joe said yes and he was the one in control of the rudder of their double kayak. Later Mary-Marcia said that she was in fact interested in coming along as well. We started back into the wind and paddled back about the north point I had already been to. When I looked back, Bob and Jean were also coming, so over half of the group went on my little side trip! As we turned around the corner of the island and started across the wind, a bunch of pelicans launched and sailed up and down in the wind blowing over the island. By the way they swirled around in front of the steep cliff of the island I could actually see the rotor: The spinning cylinder of air crated by the wind blowing over the island. On the top most ridge of the island a small light colored heron posed and presented a classic silhouette to us. I turned and went behind the offshore rocks and right up against the island. The wind blown waves reflected off the steep north shore of the island and created the wildest water we had for the whole trip. Not wild enough to get in very much trouble, but a bit of fun.

When we finished rounding the island we paddled hard to catch up with the group ahead of us. This was pretty easy with the wind and waves following us along the shore. Bob and Jean both have very fast kayaks and were able to catch surfing rides on the wind waves. Jean told me that it takes a pretty fast boat to do this and mine was probably not up to it. Bob’s boat would catch the waves and move so fast that the water would spray up off his rudder in a rooster tail! My boat does not have a rudder, and I was able to paddle with following wind and waves as I had assured everyone. However, it was a a lot more work than all the calm water paddling we had done the last week and a half. My hands became sore for the first time on this trip. I experimented and discovered that I could paddle right up against the shore where the surf and confused reflections allowed me to keep my boat pointing forward more easily. So for most of the day I lagged behind. Back here I saw things that everyone else must have missed.

One blue heron after another flew out from behind one ridge as I passed it. Ospreys flew close to the water over my head. I stopped paddling to admire them and got even farther behind. One of the ospreys swooped down onto the beach and came back up with a huge fish in its talons! Did it drop the fish there earlier and just come back to get it? Or did that fish wash ashore and the osprey was taking advantage of the bounty from the sea? Terns came out from the cliff and dove into the water behind the other kayakers who didn’t seem to notice the show. Penny suggested later that they probably all had “return to the barn” fever and were pushing to get back to civilization. When I see the end of a trip in sight, I slow down to enjoy the surroundings just a little more before it ends.

Soon we could see our final destination, Punta La Gringa, a rock connected to the shore by a long gravel spit. We saw a VW Eurovan parked near the shore and turned in to see if it was Edgar. It was not, but the people there directed us to another Eurovan parked around a corner. There we found Edgar in his van camped out waiting for us. We landed the boats one last time and the trip was over. Over but for unloading the boats, loading the cars, and two days of driving to get home again. Because Edgar had run the last leg of the shuttle, the trip back was a day shorter than the day out.


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All text and images Copyright © 1998 by Mike Higgins / contact