Tuesday: The morning catches fire and blooms all kinds of blue and pink on the white sands of the crescent beach. It’s 6 a.m. My head is a jubilee. I’m remembering all the nights that I spent in Bangkok. When I was a feather and anywhere was an oyster. When I could hang the moon while calling the hogs. When my vigor was fresh and quartz was my bedrock. Now I’m a sea cowgirl, staring at the shore of San Francisco Island beneath a southern sky. Mooning over it like a lovebug. Some places on earth should be savored for as long as your eyes can stand.
I gather the gang and we go to sand. We walk east. We cross an old salt pond. Salt crystals stick. We sink. The mush is mush and it smells like mush too. Fish skeletons hang from sticks, marking something sacred. We hunt for agates on the windward side. We find more than we knew we were looking for. Translucent stones, green and bottle glass brown- polished by the sea. I find the most when I sit still. When I dig in one place, inspecting it like I would the wings of little insect things. Stillness till the last drop. That’s where you find all the gemstones. In that spot right there… that still spot.
Back on the boat, we eat eggs and hoist anchor. When I start the engines, one of the robots gives me a transmission error. I squeeze my pulse until it pops. I take the risk. Throttle up. Sail onwards. I don’t trust the robots anymore.
Stop 1– COYOTE ISLAND- It’s not far and it’s hardly even there. Just spits of land in a half-moon circle. It’s the only permanently inhabited island in the Sea of Cortez. We anchor in the middle of the moon. There are more birds than people. More birds than rocks. More birds than fish and crabs and sharks. The men are made of salt. Fish scales fly like confetti. I watch as they sharpen knifes, drink beer, and gut sharks. We buy crabs that are red, half-dead, and bigger than my head. Women make seashell necklaces on the hilltop and gaze down at us from above. A painted whale winks at me from a graffitied wall beneath them. The village has a whale bone and all I want is to see it, but we aren’t allowed to travel further than the shore. I wonder which of the fisherman’s’ ancestors came here first. I wonder why they picked this pile of rocks in the middle of the sea to build their village upon? Did it call to them in a dream?
The day is balmy and we are washed in sun. The witches do flips off the top deck of the cat and fall loose from the sky. I think about how lobsters pee out of their faces and how when it rains, it pours.
Stop 2– SOUTH ISLA SAN JOSE- This place is both barren and fertile. I anchor near the mouth of a river. We eat lunch. Alida’s food is pure ambrosia. We drop the dinghy and drift into a forest of mangroves. The current is strong and the river is shallow but everything is beautiful. The tall witches pull the dinghy until the shallows dissolve into depths. We relish the green. The spiraled roots. Loops. The canopy of speckled sun. The cactus forest lizard song. The wail of insect sex. The forest cracks open. On the other side, we walk along a ridge covered in smooth round stones and build sculptures and talk without saying anything.
The sun is almost gone. We move on. Into the sea breeze. Towards a village on the Baja peninsula. There are pelicans on the water, gulping fish and dreaming about eating ladies heads. A grey whale breeches. Then another. Then another. Then another. I fall off and follow. Everyone screams. We are a gaggle. This is the dream delight.
Stop 3– SAN EVARISTO – No roads go to this town, you need a boat, or a dune buggy, or a car that you don’t care about, to get there. There’s one restaurant on shore. It’s a yellow shack decorated with sea stars. Their sign is a surfboard, “Restaurante Lupe Sierra’s & Maggi Mae.” The menu is hand-written and the walls are a photo collage. I drop the gang to eat there. On my way back, the dinghy outboard stops working. At least I have oars.
I make water and dig in the dirt to get to the root of that transmission alarm. The starboard engine has lower levels than it should, but I can’t find any tranny fluid onboard. I could take some fluid out of the port-side engine and stick it into the one on starboard, but that seems like a lot of work for a boat that doesn’t belong to me.
The moon is liquid. I hear a fog signal. My sky breaks open. The fog is sour. I have a tiny meltdown. What? That’s the human in me. Don’t let your own thoughts destroy your beauty.
Wednesday: We wake up in San Evaristo. The sun is gold and nothing’s taboo. We go fishing with a local fisherman and his boy. The water is star spangled. We see more whales. An hour goes by and we catch nothing but seagrass. Then I sing “When I say catch, you say fish.” “Catch. FISH. Catch. FISH.” And we catch a lot of fish right after that. We fall in love with the boy. He’s a rascal and he likes to play with octopus. There is some miscommunication and we think that the boy catches octopus by squirting bleach at them and that the village has wild deer that swim for pleasure. But the bleach is salt and the deer are mountain goats.
The fisherman drops us on the other side of the village. The shore is all salt chunks. There’s a salt evaporation pond. It’s as big as the sky and rose colored. A man is mining it. He’s too far away to see me be a bad girl. I bend down and lick sea salt straight from the earth. It tastes as if the entire ocean is in one single drop of salt. My tongue is drenched in thirst. I see a cactus that looks like a peace sign. I get left behind. Here, where phones don’t work, we leave messages for each other in the dirt. Every split in the path has an arrow with my name on it.
The fisherman fixes the dinghy outboard. Says it’s flooded. Says it’s the carburetor. Says it’s gone bad. And I’m all, that ain’t no big deal, cause this ain’t my boat. We depart around 4 pm. The wind has hot lips and I’m making a tight circle trying to get out of the anchorage. I feel a jolt. I’m clashing with the earth. Only my stern is afloat. I’m eating crow now, plucking feathers out of my teeth. It’s all happening fast and nobody else knows that anything is even happening. I’m sweating bullets and my head is a choo choo train. I’m calling myself every bad name in the book. “**** beep, the Pacific Islanders navigated by the stars and memorized maps made out of sticks and shells. Beep **** beep **** beep. And the Inca performed brain surgery for beep **** beep sake, and **** look at you, running aground on this robot boat, beep ****beep. You’re no good for nothin!” I hit the electrical throttle hard into reverse and I don’t even care if it breaks and I end up on Mars. I’m reversing and praying and reversing. Then a bunch of flowers bloom out of my landscape and birds are singing and we start floating again. It’s like it never even happened, but it did and now it’s our secret. SHHHHHHH, don’t you dare say boo turkey about it. Mistakes are a part of the quest, the journey, they’re the bones of life and I sure do feel sorry for you if you’ve never made one.
Stop 1– ISLA SAN FRANCISCO- We watch the sunset and stay the night here again because it’s so gosh darn luscious to look at. I could fall off the face of earth here. I really could. Our friends from Coyote Island come with more crabs for sale, but we can’t eat them cause we still haven’t eaten the ones that we’ve got.
Thursday: We leave Isla San Francisco. It’s early. My eyeballs are heavy. Everyone sleeps.
Stop 1-LOS ISLOTES- To see the sea lions, again, but this time much closer. Everyone in Baja and half of California is out there in the water with them. I want to swim with them too, but nobody else is feeling it and I have set my hankerings aside cause I can’t hold anybody’s feet to the fire.
Stop 2– CALETA PARTIDA – This would be the second postcard that I would send to you. The water is turquoise and the cliffs are ruby, and there are temporary fishing camps scattered about. The whole scene is as pretty as a wild strawberry. The wind sounds like a tornado and I know of boats that have dragged over 50 ft. in this anchorage. We play cards. Uno. Nobody actually remembers the rules and the game goes on so long that we get more bored by it. Some of us paddleboard around. Some of us take a dinghy journey into the spit of water that runs between Isla Espiritu and Isla Partida. We pass a fishing camp. We go to the eastern shore. We head south. We float into a sea cave.
Friday: It’s 9 a.m. We leave Caleta Partida.
Stop 1– Playa Balandra- It’right next to Punta Diablo (Devil Point) but don’t let that name fool you, this place is made for goddesses. We are surrounded by sand and sand dunes and rock structures that have been hollowed into hearts. I swam and stared at fish here for a long time.
Stop 2– The marina. We arrive at 5 p.m. and have the deepest COVID test of our lives. Right there on the boat. The nurse stuck the swab so far into my nose that it came out of my mouth. Then we eat at Rustico- an Italian restaurant in La Paz.
Saturday: Everybody flies their own way. I go to swim with the sea lions. They do backflips for me. Then I sleep in a treehouse in the middle of a jungle oasis. I make friends with a few peacocks and crash a wedding.
Sunbeams, I am trying to write to you in real time, but right now it is difficult. I have so many balls in the air. I’m back in Tahiti now, where quarantine is a luxury hotel. I get to step back aboard Juniper on the 16th. More on all of this soon.
I wrote, directed, and edited a video for National Geographic. It came out yesterday. It’s about how vital coral reefs are to planet earth and how the Allen Coral Atlas is creating a map that will allow us to monitor reefs, around the world, in real time. You can watch it here!