Sea of Cortez in the time of coronavirus

Ocean Navigator|July/August 2020

Sea of Cortez in the time of coronavirus
We’d left the dinghy on the beach and hiked up to a isolated coastal rancho (family farm) to resupply our fresh vegetables. It was 25 miles north of Loreto, far from even any village. Cruisers on the VHF net said the rancho made excellent goat cheese.
Lucy Knape and Will Van Dorp

A young farmer and his son working there responded with a big smile and “buen dia” as we approached. “No queso. Pero tengo huevos y verduras,” he responded, and then led us past the chicken pens and to his garden. He washed his hands and picked some green onions, tomatoes, the only ripe beet, red and green lettuce, and radishes and washed them for us. For the vegetables and eggs, we paid him 100 pesos (about $4). We packed our bags and we made the “elbow bump” instead of shaking hands before walking down the path to the boat.

Our home for the past seven years has been our 45-foot ketch Maraki, slowly sailing from Lake Michigan via the Hudson River to the Western Caribbean, crossing at Panama and up the Central American coast to Mexico. We’ve been in the Sea of Cortez for a year now, a body of water that lived up to its reputation for diverse flora and fauna, stark rocky islands and shorelines, friendly people and carefree idyllic sailing. Especially stunning is Bahía de Loreto National Park, named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, almost 800 square miles of protected water and islands mostly barren except in spring, when flowers bloom, trees blossom and even the cactus comes to life.

The islands are uninhabited, except for the largest — Isla del Carmen — where desert bighorn sheep have been transplanted from the Baja mainland after habitat loss threatened to wipe them out, and a caretaker stays with them in a rustic camp, sometimes selling hunting permits to manage the population. The waters of the park teem with fish, and in March the gray, fin and even blue whales are most active. Manta and mobula rays sometimes leap from the water. Not that these waters are even crowded with cruisers, but spring is the busiest time with boats from Mexico and many other countries.

Instead, for the past month, we’ve witnessed what a virus can do even in the remote places of the world.

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July/August 2020