Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mazatlan: Returning to the Sea of Cortez, Following the Western Flyer

Tomorrow morning we set off from Mazatlan for Topolobampo, a port about 222 nm up the coast located in an estuary. We will be entering and sailing in the Sea of Cortez again, the objective of this last leg of this two year sailing journey. 

We originally set out from San Francisco  in October 2015 planning to sail south along the Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central America, go through the Panama Canal and head up the East coast of the U.S. via the Western Caribbean and Bahamas. Well, as we sailed, life continued to go on in its mostly unpredictable ways, things happened to us, to others. We changed our plans to adjust to new realities, new circumstances and turned around when we got to Panama and have been moving with purpose to return to the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California.

We spent about a month in the Sea of Cortez in 2015, from November 10 until December 8. We have visited a lot of great places since, but nowhere else has held either of our interests as much as the Sea and both of us wanted to return. We even talked about taking Intermezzo back to the Sea from the East coast while we were still on our original plan. That’s a long trip back. That’s how strong the draw of the Sea of Cortez is.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m reading John Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez as we have been heading there. Apparently the strong draw of the Sea of Cortez, the Gulf, is not a feeling unique to us, as Steinbeck writes:

“And we wondered why so much of the Gulf was familiar to us…Some quality there is in the whole Gulf that trips a trigger of recognition so that in fantastic and exotic scenery one finds oneself nodding and saying inwardly, ‘Yes, I know.’…Trying to remember the Gulf is like trying to recreate a dream. This is by no means a sentimental thing, it has little to do with beauty or even conscious liking. But the Gulf draws one, and we have talked to rich men who own boats, who can go where they will. Regularly they find themselves sucked into the Gulf. And since we have returned, there always in the backs of our minds the positive drive to go back again. If it were lush and rich, one could undersatnd the pull, but it is fierce and hostile and sullen. The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water. But we know we must go back if we live and we don’t know why.”

Steinbeck pretty much captures the nature of the attraction, the draw of return for me.

I looked at the route taken by Steinbeck and company’s boat, the Western Flyer, and what a coincidence, they went north into the Sea from Cabo San Lucas and turned around at Angeles Bay, exactly where I planned on turning around this season, before laying the boat up for the summer. It occurred to me that we could follow Steinbeck’s route and observe what has changed over the 77 years since his voyage. To do so would provide some structure and purpose to our own expedition and perhaps raise the literary sophistication of my blog posts a bit.

So that’s the plan. We head west across the Sea from Topolobampo and pick up the Western Flyer’s route at Isla Espirtu Santos. Then we’ll head north in short hops until we reach Angeles Bay, and turn around to head south by rounding the north end of Isla Angel de la Guardia, crossing over to the East coast of the Sea at Isla Tiburon. We’ll ultimately cross the Sea again further south to get Intermezzo to Puerto Escondido (near Loreto) to layup for the summer.  That’s the plan right now, at least. Always subject and open to change.

Route of the Western Flyer, from Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck