We moved over to El Burro Cove for a change of scenery for a day. The wind was set to die down a bit, so we motored out after a leisurely breakfast around 9am. It’s a LOOONG trek of 2 miles. So we were already there at like 9:30. My kind of day trip! Technically, we had the bay all to ourselves…the other trawler nearby was moored and unoccupied.
Before exploring El Burro though, we got the yak in the water to paddle next door to Playa Coyote, about a mile away. This was the larger, more common anchorage, but again, no other boats.
In our coveted cruising guidebook “The Sea of Cortez”, written by Heather Bansmer and Shawn Breeding, they indicated a NOLS facility in Playa Coyote. We wanted to check it out. NOLS stands for National Outdoor Leadership School and is renowned worldwide for its expedition courses in darn near everything from wilderness medicine in the Rocky Mountains to mountaineering in India. After parking the yak on their beach, we were greeted by its administrator who happily gave us a short tour of the place.
”Compound” more accurately describes this multi-building, multi-employee campus where they specialize in extended courses on sea-kayaking, hiking in the mountains and open-boat sailing. In fact, an sailing course was currently out on the water. They use 22-ft open sailboats (Drascombe Longboats). When I say "open", that means no cabin/no protection. We had heard their group earlier on the radio net asking about weather conditions… they were taking on wind of 30kts and seas of 5ft at 5 seconds, surfing down waves and loving it…wow. Bad. Asses.!! This is something we readily avoid in our much larger and heavily outfitted 34ft cruising sailboat. We were veritable sissies compared to these guys.
We ended up at their “store” which is more like a mini-REI. They were stocked with Nalgene bottles, Patagonia swim suits, shirts and fleeces, small Pelican cases, carabiners, packable toiletries… all kinds of back-packing goodies. Typically there only for student outfitting, I was able to buy 10 candy bars at $1/bar from the store. Snickers, Milky Way! You can’t always find that stuff. Plus, I needed treats: my large jar of mini M-n-M’s had transformed to cocoa dust after 2 months in the heat!
After kayaking back to El Burro, we headed to the beach to do some more exploring. We ended up walking, or more like bouldering, the “trail” up above the anchorage. We were rewarded with a spectacular view of the cove and our boat. Starved by then… this all before 1pm, mind you… the local restaurant wasn’t open yet. What to do?
Geary the Weatherman
El Burro Cove is famous for one thing – Geary of the Sonrisa net. Every morning around 7:30am, we listen in on his weather broadcast for the Sea of Cortez, which he transmits from his palapa home steps off the beach in El Burro Cove. Geary is known to every cruiser who plies the Sea because his is the most reliable weather info available without internet or sat phone service. So, while we waited for the local restaurant to open, we walked the beach and just so happened to casually walk by his house (it’s pretty obvious – he has more satellite antennae than any other house). Well, Geary also just so happened to be on his porch and invited us in for a chat. Great guy. We were surprised to find out he had arrived here over 20 years ago and was the only house on the entire beach (in this cove, houses are completely off-grid: solar panels, composing toilets, personal generators, trucked in water…). We thanked him for his service to all cruisers and went on our way to lunch.
We spent a mildly rocky night in El Burro as the wind switched to the NE for which this cove is not protected. While we were watching another episode of “The Shield”, it started to sprinkle and then… lightning. Thunderstorms? A shock of horizontal white light illuminated the black night outside our cabin. So bright it beckoned to be seen…and heard. And oh my, did we hear it. We sat outside, half-mesmerized by the scene… and also a touch uneasy since our tall, pointy stick of a mast makes a perfect lightning rod.
I had heard thunder thousands of times. Never like this. Thunder cracked so loudly and so vehemently, I felt it in my bones. Centered within the half-moon bowl of steep-to mountains, our little boat was, in effect, inside a colossal amphitheater. We received, in full resonance, a thunderous roar reverberating off the surrounding peaks. With no trees to absorb the sound, only mile upon mile of bare rock towering above, each crack devolved into an earth-shattering, God-fearing, gut-wrenching, rumbling that continued for what seemed like an eternity. The thunder didn’t just emanate from the sky, but from deep within the mountains… like the bowels of the earth just opened up and was preparing to swallow us whole. The words “Ho…ly…Sh#$” and “Coooool” at the same time, come to mind. Awe-inspiring.
The storm wandered off after a half hour to wreak its wrath on some other unsuspecting neighbor and we barely got any rain to wash our windows down. Too bad. But I am thankful we didn’t get the kind of rain and windstorm that probably SHOULD come with thunder that powerful. Count ourselves lucky.