It’s A Small Sea After All

“Do you think they see us?” I ask Josh. It’s past twilight, and a panga with no lights veers from its course and heads straight for our dinghy. It kicks up a wake that reflects the wisps of pink lingering in the sky. At first I change my course and start to row away, then I stop rowing altogether, bewildered and ready to jump up and wave frantically if they don’t slow down.

We are an anomaly in many ways at this moment. Since we left La Paz a week ago, we haven’t seen another sailboat. We are also not the typical sailboat “cruising” couple: we are young (at least compared to the mean age of cruisers,) we sail our sailboat (I give Josh most of the credit for motivating on this one, because it’s much easier to motor,) we have a dog, and we row or paddleboard everywhere to get to shore. The last transportation detail is in sharp contrast to most sailors, who have a (highly practical) inflatable dinghy with a motor that can zip them around from boat to beach.

Josh rowing the dinghy around in the evening.

Josh rowing the dinghy around in the evening.


We're in San Evaristo. The only road access is one dirt road extending south to La Paz, with no roads any other direction. The sea is the main mode of travel here.

We’re in San Evaristo. The only road access is one dirt road extending south to La Paz, with no roads any other direction. The sea is the main mode of travel here.


As the panga approaches, it slows down, and we now realize that it was intentionally aimed for us. As the driver pulls alongside, as smooth and deliberate as a skier sliding the exact perfect distance on a groomed slope, I yell to him, joking, that WE need a motor.

“Well, we will give you a lift!” he says, smiling. Both Josh and I grab onto the fiberglass rail of his boat, and he gently picks up speed and aims for our sailboat.

The boat holds three demure women, and one little girl who can’t stop smiling and chattering at us. I ask them if they know the organization Niparajá, and one of the women in the boat works for them. Niparajá is a non-profit foundation deeply embedded in and committed to these coastal communities in the southern Sea of Cortez. It’s hard to hear anyone over the motor, but the driver says that they were in town visiting his sister.

“We heard about you,” the driver says. I look up at him, confused.

“How?” I ask.

“From Pablo,” he says with a sly grin, as if I should have known. It takes me a moment to put it together: Pablo was one of the fishermen with whom we chatted on Isla Pardito—and who came down to the beach there and admired our dinghy.

This is the moment, being shuttled out to our boat by a fisherman, that I realized how connected these supposedly ‘isolated’ communities are. In less than a day, word had traveled from a tiny island to the outlying community ashore about two people and a dog rowing around in a dinghy who knew their friends at Niparajá. Pablo and this driver could have met out on the sea, but they were probably talking over the VHF radio, as we have heard all sorts of casual conversations on the airwaves. Or it may have just generally been chatted about on the radio, but either way, it felt good to know we were mentioned in a positive way in small-town conversation. It made me proud of our unusual dinghy — and grateful for the strong bonds Niparajá had created with the fishermen.

“It’s getting dark, do you want a light?” I ask as they drop us off at our boat.

“No, we’re just around the point,” he says, gesturing to the land that protects San Evaristo from the northern swell. We thank them, and without ever touching his eighteen foot boat to ours, he glides out into the night.

Oleada at Isla San Francisco, the Sierra de la Giganta in the background.

Anchored near San Evaristo, with the Sierra de la Giganta bringing the summer storms.


One Response to It’s A Small Sea After All

  1. Dan Kammen September 7, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    Among the many interesting non-climate and coastal livelihood aspects of this story that is so fun to follow is the process of watching you and Josh put people and names and places on a map that for most people is one simple sand dune between Tijuana and Cabo. Real people, real places. Very nicely done!

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