by John Dutton
A loud exhalation of air brings me back to the present. A gray whale surfaces beside us on the calm, slick sea under a blazing sun. It’s near enough that I see the blowhole close before it slips into the depths. There are more whales around us; their blowing has been a regular occurrence this afternoon as they lazily surface every several minutes. At first we were surprised and awed by the behemoths. Now, their breaths are just an annoying marker of the neverending hot and windless hours of a surprise triple-digit heat wave.
My friend Bob and I had great plans: sail a beach catamaran down the Sea of Cortez, camp in pristine sandy coves, catch fish to supplement our rice and beans, reach along at 15 knots while miles of coast fly by. It was to be a speed run from Bahia de los Angeles to Bahia Concepcíon.
Our plan was flawless. We had maps of the coast and planned our daily miles and the beaches we would camp on. We noted the danger zones where miles of cliffs stretched on with no escape route if bad weather hit. We talked to those who had gone before about weather and winds. We made special stuff bags to fit our gear through the small access hatches to the space inside the hulls. We carefully planned our water, the one thing we couldn’t do without, but also the heaviest of our supplies. Then nervous we would run out, added more. We lashed it down at the front of the tramp along with our other gear that wouldn’t fit through the hatches. A friend even hand-painted an “expedition flag” to fly from our masthead.