Sunday, November 29, 2009

Where the Wild Things Find Us

We've made it to Nicaragua, to a small protected estuary and mangrove-lined bay near the town of Chinendega. In Escapade's quest to make it through the Panama Canal before Christmas, we've been running pretty hard for the last week or so, foregoing extended stays in the ports we have stopped in. To take advantage of a much-coveted weather window in the Gulf of Tehantepec, we cruised briskly through Acapulco, Puerto Angel, and Hualtuco on the Oaxacan coast. The Gulf is notorious for full-force gales when the weather gets rough, sometimes trapping yatistas North or South of it for days or even weeks at a time.

Thanksgiving landed right in the middle of our latest passage, a 3-night, 4-day trek from Hualtuco to here. We were underway the entire day, and it turned out to be a beautiful one: baths for the boat and for us, pleasant winds from behind, and a remarkably traditional meal that Debbie whipped up from the boat's larder (and, note from Ben, an incredible apple crisp baked by Emily - good for dessert that night and breakfast the next morning!).

As we sail through the salty waters, scramble around land when in port, snorkel off the back deck, and otherwise take advantage of our natural surroundings that our lifestyle affords us, it's become clear to both of us that our encounters with nature are some of the best parts of this journey. As such, we would like to dedicate the remainder of this post to fill you in on some of the wildlife that we've run into, or (as you'll see) that has run into us:

  • Dolphins, dolphins everywhere: While their playful, friendly visits are not infrequent, they never get old. In packs of five or six or more, they come cruising up to the side or the bow of the boat and stay with us for awhile, leaping and spinning and showing off in a grand fashing. We believe we've met a few different sorts: Pantropical Spotted, Striped, and Common Gray. Our favorite encounter occurred in the middle of the night-- Ben was on watch when a large family of dolphins found our bow and entered into some of their most formidable theatrics, highlighted - literally - by a surreal bioluminescents show, making them look like comets flying through the water all around us. Fortunately, they hung around long enough for Ben to wake up Emily to enjoy the 3 am performance.

  • Crabs galore, including those that climb trees and those that scale rocks, those that swim through water with fiercesome speed and those that scuttle over the sand at a neck-breaking pace.

  • As is generally the case in any glorious ecosystem, the wildlife we've found has been smart, adept, and well-adapted. But not Boobys. Not the smartest birds on the block, boobys visited the crew of Ohana often, balancing tenuously on mast while we tried unsuccessfully to knock it off with our primitive ammunition: giant marshmallows from the Puerto Vallarta Costco.

  • Yesterday while kayaking through the mangroves, our peaceful paddling was interrupted when not one, not two, but an entire school - 30+ little fish - leapt far out of the water, all at the same time, and then landed, as one. A school of jumping fish!

  • Giant child-head-sized toads, it turns out, are NOT just a thing of fantastical children's stories. They live right here in Nicaragua, at Marina Puesto Del Sol, where they hop through the clubhouse and seem even too warted and bloaty to move when we approached them for a photo.

  • And if that's not cool enough for you, Emily's reward for her hard work in the galley of Ohana was being pooped on by a passing bird through an open hatch while making lunch for the rest of the crew. Although the species identification of the dropping was not confirmed, it is possible that it was some sort of revenge for certain airborn marshmallows...who knows.

  • And finally, the capstone, the crown jewel, the piece de resistance in our cache of encounters with wild things, the one that shows, above all, that wildlife has literally been throwing itself at us: during an overnight run last week, we were awoken by a wet slimy stinky guest that apparently wanted to join us in bed - a flying fish had inadvertently, on its commonly several hundred yard cruise through the air, found the 'eye of the needle' and flew into our bunk by way of the porthole - yikes, what a surprise!

From here, it's on to Costa Rica, destination within unknown. But we hope to continue meeting wildlife along the way, and we hear that it's a good place to do it.

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