Saturday, September 6, 2014

Big Fish
By Michael

Our dinghy on an Isla Espiritu Santos
beach at sunset.
A couple months ago, motoring into La Paz from a trip up north, Windy pulled the throttle back. “What is that?”

I stared ahead, seeing what she was seeing, but unsure, “Rays?”

“I think so. I think those are mantas, big mantas. Oh my god.”

We see rays all the time in the Sea. We see round stingrays on the bottom while diving our anchor and spotted eagle rays sometimes swim by us while we snorkel. Underway, we see the larger mobula rays, black and white and the size of trash can lids. They are especially fun to watch as they leap and flip five feet out of the water, flapping furiously as if in a bid to join the birds above. But none of these rays we see are mantas, the giant, majestic rays of the Sea that can develop wingspans up to 18 feet across.

I took the helm and Windy ran forward to get a better view. “Girls! Come look!”

Then she yelled aft from the bow, “Whale sharks!”

And there were whale sharks too, the creature countless tour boats zip out to see and which we’d tried to do ourselves, but had failed in our anemic dinghy*. Now, they were here, all around us, at least four of them, swimming with mantas.

Eleanor was frantic. “PleasecanIjumpin! PleasePleasePlease!”

Though it usually takes the girl twenty minutes to put a life vest and her shoes on when we’re heading ashore, in about three seconds she’d stripped down, donned her suit and vest and was standing on the edge of the rail. “Now?! Now?!”

“It’s a shark you know, a big one.”


Whale sharks are sharks, but more like whales or mantas in that they filter feed. But they do have a shark profile and they’re big—the largest living fish (some grow to more than 40 feet long and weigh more than Del Viento).

Here, surrounding us and swimming close, were juvenile-sized rays and sharks. The rays had a wingspan that looked about 10 feet and the sharks were about 20- to 25-feet long. I was impressed that Eleanor was eager to jump in alone.

“Alright, now.”

And off she went, into the water less than ten feet from a shark that swam near. Windy jumped in after her and they delighted in watching the huge, gentle giants swimming at the surface near them. After about ten minutes, Frances was chomping at the bit and she and Eleanor traded places.

These are the episodes I love most about cruising, the encounters and situations that come out of the blue when we least expect them. It’s the same in a conventional life, but here the serendipitous events seem to happen with greater frequency and in ways they never could back home. Too, they’re not always positive (gales and rough seas and breakdowns come to mind), but no matter because in their whole, the good and the bad that happen out here invigorate our life with a dynamic richness that leaves all of us wanting it never to end.


* Don’t get me wrong, love our dinghy, wouldn’t trade the Portland Pudgy for another, but fast she will never be.
Sadly, this was the best picture I could get from this
episode. This is a whale shark with his mouth
parted, swimming towards us. They live to be
over 100 years old.
Frances standing eagerly at the bow while a shark
swims by. That's his dorsal fin sticking out of the
water and his tail smacked our hull a few seconds later.
Right after Eleanor jumped in. The shark is the dark
shadow, just in front of her, stretching from the
upper left corner of the picture towards her.
She and Frances and Windy all had much closer
encounters, but I never got a shot off.
So this is the best pic we have, hundreds of miles
north in Loreto, Frances standing next to a whale
shark sculpture.



  1. How utterly amazing! I love how fearless your girls are and how they truly appreciate the wonders of the natural world. That is due to great parenting. Well done!

  2. Your photos are much better than mine were the one time we saw them -- mine were just muck! I had to beg photos from our friends who got there first before the tide turned and the water got cloudy. So much fun -- brings back lots of great memories!

  3. Casey s/v Dawn TreaderSeptember 12, 2014 at 9:12 PM

    Del Viento on the cover of Good Old Boat magazine? I don't think so. Won't get fooled again. Not after the notorious Lady Gaga sighting, the mathematically challenged Basil hoo haw, and the always being late for get-togethers due to the Baja/Mainland time difference. No. Not this time.


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