2017-02-21~22 Clarion to Cabo, And Home

Red-Footed Booby - Sula sula

2017-02-21 Tuesday (Adios Clarion)
The weather predictions for our departure from Isla Clarion were for rough seas so I dosed myself with motion meds and braced for the worst. Though it was a little rough, I had expected more severity. The three-day patch for motion sickness fell off the back of my ear after one day, but I opted to not re-dose myself.

Red-Footed and Brown Boobys kept in close contact as we sailed away from the island, allowing me to capture closeup flight shots and providing some of the best booby images of the trip, (and who doesn’t like a good booby pic?). Amy and Jorge kept up their vigil on the upper foredeck as was their practice for the whole trip. Jorge has seen more than 1030 bird species in Mexico and was able to tie the ABA record for most such birds. His nearest competitor is an American tour company owner from Seattle Washington.

We lost sight of Clarion about noon. After four nearly creature-less hours we Bottlenose Dolphin - Tursiops truncatusencountered with a large pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. These were the most active athletes we’d seen on the trip. One of the dolphins leapt from the waters in front of the boat and reached eye-level on the upper bridge, a height of 15-18 feet. Now THAT will get your adrenalin pumping!

After the boobys finished playing with the boat, the seas went “bird stale” for most of the rest of the trip to Cabo. Amy and Jorge continued to sight the smallest of birds, but they were all at distances too far to yield usable images. Most of the tiny birds we saw along this route were storm petrels. The size of this group of birds is between 5 and 10 inches long. Aside from a single Cook’s Petrel, we saw only white-rumped types, probably Townsend’s Storm Petrels. The American Bird Association (or “ABA”) split the birds previously lumped as Leach’s Storm Petrels into three species in 2016; the Leach’s, the Townsend’s and the Ainley‘s. All these are 8” long and sufficiently difficult to distinguish in the field, that the ABA will only Short-Finned Pilot Whale - Globicephala macrorhynchusaccept a sighting record for this species is if a bird is in hand. I took pictures as best I could. I usually reject any bird image that does not occupy at least half of the frame in the RAW file. The best images I could gather of these birds would not cover 1/30th of the frame <sigh>. Given the tossing of the boat in rough water, the size and erratic flight of the birds, I was lucky to get these. While these images will not make into my “hall-of-fame”, in the spirit of the story, I’ll share here anyway.

2017-02-22 Wednesday
This is to be our last day at sea for this adventure as a group. Tomorrow we arrive in Cabo San Lucas where all but three of the 24 members depart to fly home. The day provided us all with a final farewell fanfare when we encountered a large group of Short-Finned Pilot Whales on our last afternoon at sea together. These small whales chased us like dolphin, racing from several hundred yards away to reach us and ride the bow wave.

2017-02-23~25 Cabo To San Diego
My friends and fellow adventurers disembarked this morning, leaving me and two more hearty travelers (Peter and John Henry) to ride the waves home. An hour out of Cabo the seas became VERY rough. At one point we hit a swell that caught the pilots off guard and lifted the 92 foot vessel from the water, only to crash with a loud boom on the next wave.  Our course early on for this leg kept us within sight of the Baja peninsula. While seated in the galley and hanging on to any stationary object within reach, we saw Humpback Whales breaching completely out of the water. During my absence from home, I’m told there have been some powerful storms in Southern California. I’m sure those storms have influenced to seas I now cross.

Saturday at 3pm, we still had 500 more miles (~24 hours) to cross before reaching the harbor in San Diego. During this part of the trip we could no longer see any of the Baja coastline. The seas offered all the adventure I signed up for… and more. While the waves tossed the boat like a tissue in a whirlwind, I found my bunk was my most comfortable oasis. I resisted taking any more meds for the motion, so I feel I can say with confidence I’m not prone to sea sickness.

We finally pulled into San Diego mid-afternoon on Sunday. All that remained for the journey was to gather all my gear (I may have brought more than anyone) and take it off the ship. My friend Russell was already on shore, as were most of my fellow passengers, waiting to collect the gear they’d left on board. I’d of enjoyed visiting with them at the dock, but I did not want to delay my ride. Russell and I gave a ride to Peter to the airport a short distance away and drove me home to collapse in happy exhaustion. These past 18 days will remain as the most unforgettable of my life. I doubt anyone of my fellow travellers on this journey feels differently.

One last word about the crew of the Shogun: they were a valiant bunch! Jim “Rambo” Hughes was at the helm as the primary captain and was responsible for our safety on and off the boat. Chris Garcia (also a captain) kept us entertained and was an important member of every landing. Jim and Chris left us in Cabo to fly back to San Diego and prepare Shogun’s sister ship for its next voyage. Jed and Karl did the hard work in the engine room and handled the skiffs, putting us on and off shore. Except for a brief moment at sea, when the crew decided to change an overheating fuel filter, the engines never missed a beat the entire 2+ weeks of the trip. Kenny and Tyler (also a captain) kept us fed in style while we all rode the floating roller coaster. Finally Renee (another captain) and Charlie also handled skiffs on landings. They had the honor of driving the boat home from Cabo San Lucas over the roughest seas we saw on the journey.

Images Below:

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