Like good little sailors we hung out in Mazatlan for several days after the Super Bowl waiting for a calm weather window to visit the famous Isla Isabel. We knew from first hand accounts and our trusty guidebook that the holding here on the island is marginal at best and now are really happy we heeded the warning. We’re also really happy to be here, this place is fabulous.
We dropped the hook a couple days ago in 25′ of clearish water on a bottom of thin sand mixed with rock. Within a handful of boat lengths in any direction is either jumbled rock bottom, reef, a steep to island, breaking waves, or crazy deep water. Not the most relaxing spot in a blow. To up the anxiety level, we had to put out minimal chain and couldn’t dig the anchor into the bottom like we normally do for fear of hooking it (permanently) on a craggy rock. Needless to say, we are counting on the forecast calling on mild swell and wind to be correct.
The island has been well worth the anxiety inducing anchoring location. We’ve walked the beach where the friendly blue footed boobies are nesting, snorkeled the reef, and watched the daily sunset show of thousands of frigates coming home to roost at night.
According to the very nice researcher on the beach, they have upwards of 600 marked boobie nests on the island and expect to see babies in the next couple of weeks. It’s amazing how little fear the boobies have of humans, the photos below are barely zoomed. The nests are hardly more than scraped indentations in the sand, but that doesnt seem to bother the birds, they just droop their ample bodies over the eggs and sit like there’s nothing better in the world.
The frigates make a stark contrast to the calm, peaceful boobies. They’re huge, fast, and aggressive. It’s become a regular source of entertainment to watch three or four frigates team up on a pelican or some other non-frigate bird. They seem to select a victim to hassle at random and will all swoop around and peck at their chosen target until the bird lands in the water and remains down. The poor thing then has to remain in the water until either the frigates leave or another of their own species comes to lend a hand. It’s fascinating to watch and utterly incomprehensible to us.
The big black and white frigates are amazing to watch hunt. Like pelicans they fly dozens of feet above the surface looking for fish. When they spy one they tuck their wings and plummet like torpedoes into the water. Most times their speed is rewarded with the flash of a silvery fish in their beaks as they emerge from the water and take to the sky again.
The real treat of this island is sunset. As the sky dips towards the horizon all the birds hear the silent call to come home. At first the shift of flocks in the sky from random motion to directed travel is subtle, but as the sky reddens it’s unmistakable. All flights point home to the island as thousands and thousands of squaking, shreiking birds fly in from all directions. The birds vie for prime roosting spots, often with a sucession of individuals being booted from a choice perch before the winner settles onto a chosen craig. By the time the sun is down almost everyone has found an acceptable spot and the island goes eerily silent. I could watch this show for years.
Unfortunately, the weather gods (AKA NOAA) are predicting 20+ knot winds in the next couple of days so most likely we will pull the hook (hopefully without hooking a rock pile in the process) tomorrow en route for our next planned stop, Matachan!
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