Sea kayaking trips and courses in the Gulf of California
  • From The Field

Keep on PaddlingSeptember 4, 2020

Everyone has something that makes them feel deeply alive. For SKBM’s owner Ginni Callahan, this is, not surprisingly, kayaking. The combination of a dream to cross the Sea of Cortez and the closure of the Loreto Park beaches have inspired some marathon paddling days. Thankfully the water is a delightful temperature for jumping in to stretch and cool off (the heat index has been in the 110’s).

A good paddling weekend might look like this. Ginni wheels the kayak 2 blocks to the beach in the dark of morning, often accompanied by an encouraging Izaura on her tricycle with the cargo basket laden with water bags, snacks, and minimal camping equipment. Ginni loads the kayak, Izaura helps launch it, and Ginni paddles away. Last weekend, a rain shower opened up just as they got to the beach, offering refreshment from the heat, which is oppressive even at night.

She headed north along the coast, towards the blinking navigation lights of Isla Coronados and its little island. Two hours later, after the sun had risen into a welcome bank of clouds, a little seabird almost flew into the kayak. It commenced to stick its head in the water in the wake of the kayak and paddle along with its feet, eating tiny creatures as it went. The black-vented shearwater repeated the process several times, once landing in front of the kayak and getting as close as possible to the passing hull.

About 5 hours into the paddle, Ginni came to a reef about 2nm offshore that she’d heard about as a navigational hazard and spotted the previous week because of the odd currents it generated and the breaking of occasional waves over its shallowest rocks. This week the wind was picking up, adding to the swell. She jumped in with mask and snorkel and tow belt clipped to the kayak to have a look. The water was murky from the movement, but active with life. The upwelling current here always seems to bring up tiny stinging jellies too small to see. It was a short-lived but exciting snorkel.

Another hour and a half brought her to San Basilio, a cove 22nm north of Loreto and well outside the Park, where she pulled the kayak up and enjoyed the refreshing breeze to go explore the unoccupied beach for lizards, desert flowers, and other life forms.

That night, unwelcome wildlife found her. Mozquitoes made it impossible to sleep and she almost paddled back against the wind and waves in the night. She eventually got a couple hours of heat-, humidity-, and mosquito-tortured dreams before launching at 4m. The plan was a 42nm day, crossing 25nm to Isla del Carmen’s NE tip, Punto Lobos, before returning to Loreto.

Inexplicably, a cliff-lined coast in the dark offers some form of comfort though no token of safety. It was a tough decision to angle away from that dark silhouette towards the memory of an island invisible in the moonless pre-dawn. Just as she started to bend her path towards the east, a pod of dolphins splashed by, lighting up the bioluminescence. That was all the encouragement necessary.

When the sun rose to silhouette distant cumulonimbus clouds, she was well on her way. The volcano outline of Isla Coronados slid slowly across the sea, then up the mountainous coast. Tiny least storm petrels flitted about over the gentle swells. The wind had died in the night, as predicted. Shortly after noon, Punta Lobos arrived at the kayak.

Ginni paddled around the final rock off the point, then slipped into the clear blue water with mask and snorkel for a swim, towing the kayak. This is a welcome change of scenery as well as a refreshing change of movement and a good reset before the final 16nm push.

She arrived at the Loreto beach at 6pm, after a 14 hours and 42.5nm. Together with Saturday, it made a 65nm weekend, and one tired, hungry, but immensely satisfied paddler.



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