Curious Eel?

Anyone who has done SCUBA or snorkeling knows what an exciting world it is under the sea. I love to see and be amazed by all the creatures and colors and scenes that you don’t see above the water. On any dive or snorkel I may see something I’ve never seen or even heard of before. So while off on another hunting trip hoping to find fresh fish for dinner I experienced something I have never experienced before. The visibility on this particular day was not the greatest. The water was murky so I could only see about 15 feet, but anything past 6 or 7 got blurry. Rocks and fish were shadows and hard to differentiate.

On one of my descents to find fish, a four foot long moray eel swam from between some rocks on the ocean floor. He didn’t swim towards me, but to see something that large and close caught me off guard and startled me. I’m always a little nervous when I’m hunting because I know the blood and sounds an injured fish make can attract a larger predator. Especially one larger than me.

Anyone who has seen a moray eel knows how ferocious they look. Snake like body, large jaws and visible teeth. It can be intimidating. Call me a wimp if you like, but I’m still intimidated.

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Photo borrowed from TCS Keys Field Guide

I have seen many moray on dives and snorkels and marveled at their size and graceful movement. I’ve even followed them around and watched their behavior as they interact with their environment.

I watched this eel continue to swim away as long as I could as I floated back to the surface for another breath. Thinking that would be the last I would see of him, I was glad to have the opportunity to enjoy him, even if it did startle me.

Meanwhile I had spotted a small alcove with an overhang in the rocks along the wall. Fish tend to hang out in these little alcoves, so it definitely required further investigation. I dove down again and came up slowly on the spot. As I was focused intently on whether there were any hunt-able fish in there, this eel popped up in front of me and swam across my field of vision. It startled me again, so I yelled at the eel and told him to leave me alone. He swam off unfazed by my gesture.

On my next descent I was again approaching the alcove focused on possible dinner when I felt something bump the back of my arm. Irritated by the distraction, I turned face to face with that same eel swimming around me and checking me out. Okay I admit it, I screamed like a child, swam backwards and towards the surface and poked my spear gun at the eel to scare him away. Which it did. He swam away in a hurry, but not before he had convinced me that I need to leave the area.

I swam around the corner to a spot about thirty yards away and continued to hunt for fish. The visibility was still lousy, so I still needed to dive down to get any kind of look at the wildlife below. As I did one descent, I was swimming along the bottom and spotted a shadow up ahead. At this point I couldn’t tell if it was a rock or a fish, so I watched it as I swam closer. When I got close enough to see it clearly, well you guessed it, the eel. This curious creature had followed me. I yelled at it again and swam to the surface and straight back to the dinghy where I loaded up and left the area.

I dinghy to the other side of the bay, about a mile away, dive down, and within 3 minutes, guess what? an eel swims towards me. Luckily this was not the same one, and was not so curious. After I yelled at it and shook my spear gun at it, it left and that was the last I saw of it. I continued on and successfully brought home dinner.

New Years Eve

Moving down the east side of the Baja coast, our next stop was San Juanico. Not much to do here except beach comb, fish, dive, hike and visit the cruiser shrine, but other than that. We wanted to spend only two nights, but then came New Years Eve, so it turned into three. With nine boats in the bay and it being New Years Eve and all, we had to do something. A potluck and bonfire on the beach of course.

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By 6:00 that evening every boat had arrived, and the celebration ensued. Mostly just swapping boat tails and advice. Then at cruisers midnight, (9pm) we uncorked the champagne and wished everyone a happy new year. By 9:30 the fire was put out and everyone was safely back on their boat.

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There is a tree in San Juanico that cruisers have left mementos of their visit. We on Stray Catz were no different. We found a shell on the beach that weighed about 4 pounds (no exaggeration) so it wouldn’t blow away. We then wrote a poem on it in indelible ink before depositing it among the many other reminders of boats who have passed this way.

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One day I went fishing with Jack and Bill from the boats Sea Fern and Tigger. Between the three of us we brought back four fish. Bill taking the prize.

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On New Years Day we awoke to a beautiful sunrise and a slight breeze, so up went the sails and away we went.

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Christmas 2016 on Stray Catz

A strong downwind sail for Stray Catz the next day made for a quick 10 mile trip. We stopped off just south of Punta Chuvato at a little village called… Chuvato. When we rounded the corner at the point it became obvious how bad the sea conditions were. There were six commercial shrimp boats in the protected anchorage. If the commercial guys aren’t going out, you know it can’t be good. Just ask Scuba Ninjas who had two sails tear on the trip.

Chuvato is a fly in village. Most all of the residents arrive in their on private planes and the taxiway is the main street. There is a closed down resort there and golf course if you don’t mind the dusty greens.

We met a super nice guy who goes by the name of Steel. He owns the casa next to the boat ramp and plans on opening a cruiser hangout in the near future. I can’t wait.

We stayed only one night, because we really wanted to get out of the wind and waves. The next stop was cove in Bahia Conception called Playa Santispac. We finally found a place that was protected from the strong northerly winds and waves. On the way down, we hooked a fish, but in the high winds and an upcoming gibe (downwind change of direction), we took a picture and released him. If I had known it was a Spanish mackerel and really good eating, I would have tried harder to keep it.

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Before that a seagull had spotted our lure and spent some time trying to figure out how to go about capturing it for dinner.

He did finally swoop down and pick it up, but by that time, I had gotten tired of holding the camera on him. He didn’t get hooked and released it.

Playa Santispac is a popular place for campers, and the beach is lined with motor-homes and tents. Some who stay for months at a time. It’s located right next to Mexico Highway 1 at the bottom of a hill, so trucks are coming from both directions using compression brakes making it a bit noisy at times.

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It is very pretty there with lots of good snorkeling. The problem was the water was still to cold. There are two restaurants and many entrepreneurs selling water, veggies and meats every morning at the campground. Also located there is a hot spring. Diva must have really enjoyed it, because she didn’t hesitate to jump right in. Anna and I did step in, but it was a little silty/muddy for us to sit and enjoy.

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There is easy hitch-hiking into the closest town of Mulege just 13 miles north where there was phone service and internet.

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After an all night rain, we got up early to give Stray Catz a bath. People who had spotted us were very impressed at our drive, but mostly it was something we should have done in Guaymas, but didn’t want to use our water.

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With weather not improving it became clear we were going to spend Christmas there. The good thing was we had met all eight other boats that were stuck there too prior to here, so it was like being with old friends. We had a bonfire on the beach on Christmas eve, eve.

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Then on Christmas Day, all the other cruisers came to Stray Catz for a potluck dinner. Seventeen people from five countries all gathered to celebrate. At a Christmas time when we were missing all our family, it was great to be able to still gather and celebrate this special day.

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A special bonus for both of us, but especially Anna. Whale sharks came and visited the bay. These gentle giants are sharks and grow up to forty feet long. Luckily they are not meat eaters and swim slowly along with their mouths open wide enough to swallow a person, but only eating plankton and tiny stuff that live in the water. One of Anna and mine’s bucket list items is to swim with these giants, and Anna was able to do just that. This was just a juvenile and only about twenty feet long, but still quite impressive.

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