Dearest Reader:

During the “big” trips I keep a diary for the entire group – what we did, what we saw, the jokes, the things that went wrong, the things that went right. I refuse to pretend that everything always goes smoothly on all of my trips, but we always learn and we always have a good time. Skim through this synopsis – blemishes and all – it isn’t sanitized but I think it will give you a flavor of my trips and the wonderful people who go on them.
Michael Ellis

WEST COAST BAJA
February 15 27, 1993
with Naturalist Michael the Tree Hugger Ellis

On the Royal Star with Captain Timmy the Hyper Ekstrom, Chris the Cool Garcia, Marcus the Kid Medak, Ben the Harley Zanin, Kevin the Storyteller Shelley, Gino the One-liner Hill and Glenn the Jokester House.

Feb. 15. Boat arrives early in day, they reload, crew has quick conjugal visits and then gets back on board. Safety talk at 11:35 PM, some are awakened from their bunks. Thus begins the incredibly cruel sleep deprivation experiment on Barbara and Bonnie. The psychological effects of galley sleeping will be apparent before the trip is over. Boat leaves 11:40 and has brief stop at bait tank for some bird and sea lion watching.

Feb. 16. Important note for Mexican Authorities: we do not arrive at Todos Santos (which means the saintly toads in Spanish) at 6 AM and we do not do all this stuff. We have our first skiff ride on island at 7:20. Success! See our first Elephant Seals, harbor seals, Ca. sea lions, 10 + gray whales heading north and our first Tenebriod beetle (yawn). Island is very lush and overgrown hard to follow the trail so we make one. Plants: cheese mallow, velvet cactus, opuntia, desert tomato (also spelled tomatoe if you are Dan Quaile), Artemisia (sage), erodium, blue dicks (azure richards, please). Argiope spider hanging upside down with zig zags (aka stable lamentum). Our first member of the dead list: the todo santos white footed mouse.

Surprise need to visit Ensenada and officially enter Mexico. Left a bit after noon and soon saw our first Common Dolphins. After lunch we had our official introduction to each other. Went well, nobody except me droned on and on……We soon stopped and watched some gray whales and right about sunset we picked up some pelagic crabs out of the water. And now presenting The Scarlet Lobsterettes (sounds like a singing group from Detroit). 200 billion individuals in one group found by Russians. Evening Program on the day’s events and the upcoming West San Benitos Island adventure. Susannah sleeps through it. Travel all night through very smooth seas.

Feb. 17. 2 groups common dolphins bowride before breakfast. Flying fish, pomerine jaeger, sunny with high clouds. Arrive W. San Benitos. Only 3 fishermen on isl. Great male elephant seal fights and we witness several copulations (between e. seals that is). Ospreys galore. Bottlenose dolphins seen. Debris spider aka Oscar. Mammillaria (nipple, fishhook, etc right Rita?), mallow, tarweed, ice plant, atriplex. Great walk around north side of island up to the lighthouse. Side-blotched lizards abound. Chris, Susannah and Carol climb the peak. We head to tidepools and then back to boat at 3ish. Others dally and enjoy themselves at a different pace.

Quote of the day by Carol: I can’t speak for the rest of you but that’s the most sex I’ve seen in a long time.” Will she continue to feel that way this trip? At sunset dolphins and black-vented shearwaters and a few more gray whales. Evening program on San Ignacio Lagoon and gray whales. Susannah sleeps through it. Craveri Murrelet comes on board to see Dave. Smooth seas.

Feb. 18. Up early off SI Lagoon, whales everywhere. Entered at 7 AM anchored at 7:40 off Rocky Pt. 65.7 degrees. Immediately our Mexican Skiff operators (Cuckko, Norman and No-way) come out and we went whale-watching until noon. Great looks for most of the boats…alot of spy hopping, fluke shots, even pink floyds, breaching…Saw large flocks of Brant geese, a few bottle nose dolphins and Ca. Sea lions. Back for lunch and then immediately back in water. Some of us went for a walk into the mangroves and another group visited the old truck on the beach. Mangrove warblers and lotsa egrets and herons. Another great dinner. Evening program: sung my mother Happy Birthday, reviewed the day, more gray whale questions and answers.

Feb. 19. Tim overboard to rescue camera. We all load into the skiffs for a jungle cruise into the Mangroves. Fantastic light show on Sand Hill, is it real or is it water???????? Peregrine falcon just barely misses godwit right in front of our skiff. Wow, even better than public TV. Coyote seen by one group. We see tracks. Crab spider, darkling beetle, evening primrose, sand verbenas, DYC, Jatropa….

Went back out into lagoon for more superb whale watching right around the Royal Star, most convenient. One whale bumped boat hard, Markus flies. More lunch —- float em and bloat em. One group went back whale watching right after lunch. Rocky Pt. visit from 2 to 4:30 with Ron of Pacific Discoveries. Marcus and Carol go for long walk/talk. We see eel grass, palo adan, sesuvium, allenrolfea, mangrove, lined shore crab, sea cucumber, moon snail + egg cases, unicorn snail, jingle, horn snails, sea pen. Jaegers chasing terns. Evening program: mangroves, Nature Jeopardy Quiz. Susannah sleeps through it. Rain !!! at night.

Feb. 20. Totally miserable frigatebird sitting on the stick. Moved RS at 6;40 and (BIG EXCITEMENT) lost skiff, retrieved, hoisted and engine dried. Omen of things to come. Whale-watching was very poor so we opted for sand island or Isla Anna. Great beach walk..pismo clams, dead dolphin, strawberry cockle, pilsbury piddock, Belchers Chorus Shell, sea biscuit, pearly monia. Great looks at BP’s, elegant terns (please note, Dave), gulls, sanderlings, Cicindela latesignata. Sky cleared, wind began to blow, Royal Star moved through lagoon entrance, skiffs came to get us…..Waves high, Mexicans use their skills to get us safely to mother boat through exhilarating ride (E ticket) on the breakers. That excitement me and my butt could do without. Safe and sound return for LUNCH. Heading south all afternoon. I pass out the gray whale quiz. You can look at books, each others papers, discuss it, cheating is fair. Green flash at sunset 5:30. Evening program: we go over the quiz, not bad. You guys were paying attention.

Feb. 21. Boat slows at 6:45. I’m up in a flash for not whales but fishing. I smell fried potatoes so we must be at Potato Bank. 63 fathoms, 28 miles offshore. Barbara hooks a yellow-fin tuna (ahi) which weighs 15 lbs! Some of us who do not fear internal parasites will eat it later in great sushi dish. Then we encounter a large spot of Pacific Mackerel and 200+ common dolphins, thousands of black-vented shearwaters, a few sooties and pink-footed mixed in. Great concentration of life. Then found 2 humpback whales nearby that we got great looks at…All of this before 9:15! Call from Glenn and Gino went out…..hot bagels! Jeez life is good. At 10:15 slowed for hammerhead and more common dolphins. Great beautiful white flocks of Bonaparte Gulls. Wind blowing pretty well from NW. Meet the Excel heading north and we get some tomatoes, while our tomatoes pose on the upper deck. YMMM. 5 Ca. Sea lions at sea. A mystery whale seen by Tim, prob. a bottlenose whale type. 1 marlin, 1 manta ray. Head toward the town of Todos Santos. At sunset here we are right off remote Baja and Tim has got us right near an RV park…great. Common dolphins come to bowride just at sunset. Another green flash. Attendance spotty at the Evening Program (Susannah already asleep) on Las Friales, screen has to be held still. A bit Bouncy seas this evening. Southern Cross is visible at 11 PM, Rita gets up to see it.

Feb. 22. Rounded Cabo San Lucas in early morning anchored near Punta Gorda around 1:30 AM. Early breakfast call. I smelled French toast so we must be in ……Head out to Gorda Bank at 6:40, home for about 100 humpback whales. Clear blue skies, wind blowing from the north. Incredible looks at a group of 5 Humpies. Including one we named Whitey, kind of a klutz at diving. Saw somewhere between 23 and 50 Megaptera novaengliae. Leaping Manta Ray. Bonnie thought it was a piece of cardboard (you can take the girl out of New Jersey but you can’t take the New Jersey……).
Around noon pulled into leeward side of Las Friales, a big, hunk of white granite, that is protecting about 6 sailboats. Barbara rode the stick through those seas. Her drugs work. Our first snorkeling, water a bit murky but Nancy and Jerry enjoy themselves. Walk up canyon is also great…scorpions, tailed skippers, gila woodpeckers, vermillion flycatcher, desert sparrows, stilts, eared grebes, cactus wren, cardinal, cinnamon teals, yellowlegs.

Heliotrope, elephant tree, mangle dulce, tomentilla, opuntia, mesquite, pitaya agria, lycium, tronador, devils claw, Euphobia, Hyotis, palo blanco, palo verde, etc…….

Bats around boat at dusk. Dinner followed by slides on Dolphins and Humpies and then we watched a video on Alaska’s Wildlife. Susannah sleeps through it. Then the best show of all, biolumniensce all around the boat. Schools of fish exploding in all directions as we cruise around in circles. WOW, WOW, WOW

Feb. 23. Boucy ride heading north into the El Norte. Betty wonders if boat needs to be inspected after the wave shocks. Light rain again, it’s very special when…..shut up Michael. On south end Espiritu Santo from 7:30 to 11:30. Best attendance yet at Nature Walk. Most people just happy to be off the boat. Beautiful flowers…agave, coralvine, mistletoe, mimosa, Krameria, cardon, desert lavender, morning glory, passionflower, indigo bush, weird wild cucumber with fat root. Also saw velvet ant, side-blotched, antelope ground squirrel, pack rat nests, ringtailed cat tracks, desert spiny lizard, queen butterfly, ermine moth.
Fantastic birds too…gnatcatchers, mockingbirds, desert sparrows, costa hummerbird displaying, gila and ladder-backed woodpeckers…
Some of us went snorkeling, good visibility and alot of fish.

Then moved north during lunch to Los Isolotes at the north end of Isla Partida. From 1:20 to 3:50 we went swimming with sea lions and/or viewed them from the skiffs. Jerry and Nancy stay in water the entire time!!!!! 3 people nipped by the frolicking youngsters. Sea lion with gill net…bummer. Marcus catches a “Manta Ray” by hand and some of us by hook, line and sinker. Moved down to Ensenada Grande for great hike up canyon and dinner. Canyon wrens singing, great horned owls, ficus, weird volcanic formations. Evening program on Isla Carmen and wildflowers that we have been seeing. Susannah sleeps through it. Decide to make long run up to Carmen this evening to get the seas over with……but seas have calmed down and as we head north we get bowriding dolphins in bioluminscese. Calm seas all night! Lucky us.

Feb. 24. Arrived Bahia Salinas, Isla Carmen at 5:40. Rain, amazing..it’s so special to …On island at 7:15. see what happens when you forget to do routine maintenance on your property. Oldest salt works in the new world. Cat, dog, fisherman, and salt in old volcanic caldera. Few birds (osprey, house finch, ravens, least sandpipers, TV’s are waiting for us, kingfisher) but many blooming plants…. phacelia, apricot mallow, birds foot trefoil, algodon, sandpaper plant, whatever-you-want-to-call-it daisy, hey bebbia. We go to church and pass by the school.
Off island at 9:35 and then out for some whale watching. Doesn’t take long. 5-7 Fin whales are spotted and one of them flukes while I am downstairs! Not supposed to do that. Great looks at them. Kevin sights a group of Killer whales but soon they turn into short-finned pilot whales, and then into long-finned pilot whales, and then into false killer whales, then into pygmy killer whales (watch for white lips) finally the chameleons become bottlenose dolphins. Whoops our mistake. Lucky I am not one of those insecure naturalist types. Around noon we see 2 humpback whales. Can see the remoras and penellas (parasitic copepods) on their flukes. At 12:15 a large group of common dolphins came to bowride, surfer boys. Rounded Carmen and went in canal east of Isla Danzante and then headed right toward the distant burning dump of Loreto. Sighted Blue Whales!!!!! Spent the rest of the afternoon watching them, including one that rolled right near the boat. There were also some fins and a Sei whale.
Went ashore on west side of Carmen for brief hike through the wash. A glorious sunset. Evening program on Blue/Fin/Sei/Brydes ID at sea and Isla Santa Catalina. Susannah sleeps through it. Afterwards we gathered some marine invertebrates and looked at them through my little microscope- crab larvae, comb jellies, weird worms. FUN.

Feb. 25. At 3:10 AM left Carmen and arrived at south side of Isla Santa Catalina around 6. On beach by 7:30. Sunny and blue Baja kind of day. Full of singing birds. great looks at Costa’s hummingbird nest, verdins, shrike, gnatcatchers, desert sparrows, hooded oriole. Great barrel cactus and cardon. The wash was full of flowers including numerous lupines. *** Rama Parda, Parda, Parda, Rama, Rama, Parda, Parda ***** Land snails, side-blotched, leaf-toed gecko but no rattleless rattlesnakes. Hindu Bonnie goes swimming in her clothes again. Some of us went snorkeling through the rocks, great light, lotsa fish. Jannette goes snorkeling!
After lunch we decided to head over to Isla Santa Cruz for a visit to a new island. On the way the skipper encounters two large groups of fish he sees on the sonar but he cannot catch any of them and he reflects on Plato’s quote “fishes are senseless beings which have received the most remote habitations as a punishment for their extreme ignorance.” What does that make him?
Cruising along Santa Cruz we see at Byrdes type whale at 2:40. Arrive at SW end for shore party and some snorkeling. Horned lizard, jasmine, mala mujer (bad women). Whales in the distance. Venus next to crescent moon, it’s the Turkish flag. Evening program: seabird adaptations and Isla San Jose. Susannah asleep. After slide show we go out on the darkened deck and learn a few stars.

Feb. 26. Left Santa Cruz at 4 arrived Pt. Colorado, Isla San Jose at 5:30. Went ashore just south of lighthouse. So pretty. Great hike up canyon and scrambling over hills. Caught desert spiny lizard on dental floss, skeptics convinced. Lotsa fast Zebra-tailed lizards. Hang out at beach. Beauty of this Pliocene marine deposits is striking. Back on boat at 11:15. Start heading south when we see a very big group (shoal) of common dolphins. Estimated at 650. Kodak and Fuji stock goes up. The word “play” was invented for these guys. At lunch brief talk on Oceanic Society and Norway whaling problem, please do your part.
At 1:15 we arrive at west side of mangroves. Head out in skiffs against strong current into mangroves. Not too many birds, a few no-see-ums and one great sea slug. One boat gets stuck in the mud, low adventure with Chris. The rest of us take very peaceful beach strolls, alot of shells. Crew gets ready for our beach party.
Hydrocarbon torches, memorial to fishermen, moon shining bright, great bonfire, special night. No slide show so Susannah is awake. Closing circle was real fine. I appreciated all of your honest comments. Clearly the best part of this trip was the people. As the skipper Tim so succinctly put it, “There were no a–holes on the boat.” Some guitar playing and singing but the tide soon lapped at our fire and we retreat to the boat and some of us attempt to make order out of our rooms.

Feb. 27. While coming into La Paz a small group of Pacific White-sided dolphins decide to bowride and two whales – one gray and a humpback fluke goodbye to us. We clear customs and we head off into several different directions. This particular combination of folks never to recur. It was fun. Bye, bye.

Dead List:
Todos Santos White footed Deer Mouse, northern elephant seal, Ca. sea lion, western gull, gray whale, long-billed curlew, trigger fish, coronet fish, parrot fish, puffer fish, cormorant sp., bottle nose dolphin.

Reptiles:
Side blotched Lizard, Zebra tailed Lizard, Whiptail, Desert Spiny Lizard, Chuckawalla, Desert Horned Lizard, Leaf-toed Gecko.

Marine Mammals:
California Sea lion, Harbor Seal, Northern Elephant Seal, Bottlenose Dolphins, Common Dolphin, Pacific White-sided dolphins, California Gray whale, Blue whale, Sei whale, Brydes Whale (probable), Fin whales, unidentified toothed whale probably bottlenose type.

Land Mammals:
Lobster fishermen, burro, goats, dog, cattle, feral cat (Baja lynx), Black tailed Jack Rabbit, Audubons Cottontail, Antelope Ground Squirrel, White footed mouse and Kangaroo rat (tracks), White-footed Pack rat nest, Coyote, Ring tailed Cat tracks, Pallid bat, other bat sp.

Insects and Allies:
Ermine moth, Tailed skipper, Queen Butterfly, Sulphur Butterfly, Monarch Butterfly, White lined Sphinx Moth, Dragonfly, Antlions, no-see-ums, Bumble bee, Tarantula Hawk, kelp flies, darkling beetle, blister beetle (Spanish fly), Tenebriods, tiger beetles, Argiope spider, turret spider, debris spider, crab spider, scorpion 2 species, centipede, sow bugs, land snails.

Marine Invertebrates:
Anemones, sea pens, sea slug, sponge, pencil urchin, purple urchin, crowned urchin, pelagic crabs, Whale lice, whale barnacles, annelids, comb jelly, bryozoans, gorgonian coral, isopods, Blue spiny lobster, tan star, purple star, feather duster worms, Porcelain Crabs, fidler crab, limpet, chiton, hermit crabs, Acanthina, tube worm, rock louse, sea cucumber, sally lightfoot, Tetraclita barnacles, tube snail, tunicates, brittle stars, horn snails, Purple clam, Pismo, Mole crab, pearly monia, Belcher’s chorus shell, sea biscuit, paper nautilus, little bean clam, Noctilucas galore.

Fish:
Blue, hammerhead shark, flying fish, king angelfish, yellow fin tuna, marlin, manta ray, Cortez damselfish, sheepshead, beaubrummel Panamic sargent major, mullet, scissortail damselfish, skate sp., wounded Wrasse, Cortez rainbow wrasse, sunset wrasse, yellowtail, bicolor parrotfish, azure parrotfish, redside blenny, convict tang trumpet fish, yellow surgeonfish, blue and gold snapper, guineafowl puffer and more.

Lo Preste Sportfishing
Fisherman’s Landing
2838 Garrison St
San Diego, CA 92106

Bird List:

Pacific Loon Red Phalarope
Pied billed Grebe Pomerine Jaeger
Horned Grebe Laughing Gull
Western Grebe Bonapartes Gull
Laysan Albatross Heermanns Gull
Petrel sp. (least?) Ring billed Gull
Magnificent Frigatebird California Gull
Red billed Tropicbird Western Gull
Brown Pelican Yellow footed Gull
Brown Booby Forsters Tern
Masked Booby Elegant Tern
Blue footed Booby Royal Tern
Pink footed Shearwater Caspian Tern
Sooty Shearwater Cassins Auklet
Black vented Shearwater Rhinocerous Auklet
Townsends Shearwater Xanthus Murrelet
Double crested Cormorant Craveri’s Murrelet
Brandt’s Cormorant White winged Dove
American Bittern Morning Dove
Great Blue Heron White throated Swift
Great Egret Costa’s Hummingbird
Snowy Egret Black fronted Hummingbird
Little Blue Heron Belted Kingfisher
Tricolored Heron Gilded Flicker
Reddish Egret Gila Woodpecker
Green backed Heron Ash Throated Flycatcher
Black crowned Night Heron Horned Lark
White Ibis Tree Swallow
Brandt Goose Violet Green Swallow
Surf Scoter Common Raven
Red breasted Merganser Scrub Jay
Northern Harrier Verdin
Osprey Canyon Wren
Red tailed Hawk Rock Wren
Virginia Rail Northern Mockingbird
Willet Black Tailed Gnatcatcher
Black bellied Plover Loggerhead Shrike
Least Sandpiper Orange Crowned Warbler
Spotted Sandpiper Audubon Warbler
Greater Yellowlegs Mangrove Warbler
Yellowlegs sp. Northern Oriole
Wandering Tattler House Finch
Long billed Curlew Northern Cardinal
Whimbrel Green tailed Towhee
Semipalmated Plover Savannah Sparrow
American Oystercatcher Black throated Sparrow
Ruddy Turnstone Song Sparrow
Sanderling House Sparrow
Marbled Godwit Rock Dove

Now, not all of us saw all of these all of the time did we?

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August 22, 2009