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Visiting the ‘Galapagos of the North’ – a sailing adventure

By on March 1, 2018 in Travel with 2 Comments

Top Cider and Second Wind crews relax after a hard day playing in paradise. Left to right are: crewmember Cathy Lyon Berk, Sharon Podlich and Chuck Podlich (owners of Top Cider), crewmember Candace Cannon and Laurin Dodd, owner of Second Wind.

By Sharon Podlich

After 35 years of growing apples and raising a family in Orondo, Chuck and I retired last year and purchased Top Cider, a 44-foot Kelly Peterson sailboat.

We spent several winter months sailing, exploring and living “on the hook” off the Baja Peninsula in the Gulf of California.

We were ready for an open water adventure when Chuck suggested Socorro Island, a beautiful place called the “Galapagos of the North.” Socorro Island is part of the Revillagigedo Archipelago, made up of four islands — Socorro, San Benedicto, Roca Partida and Clarion (formerly Santa Rosa).

The archipelago starts about 240 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

We invited our sailing friend, Laurin Dodd (once of the Tri-Cities but now a liveaboard) with his boat, Second Wind to join us. Both captains extended invitations to friends and family to beef up the crews. It would take us in the neighborhood of 50 hours to get there. That means sailing through the night, which works a lot better with more folks on board.

And just in case you think we retirees found some young folks to crew for us — the youngest was 61, the others are 70. None of us act our age.

 After two days and nights of sailing, we approached San Benedicto in the early morning light — it looked like someone made a large sand cone and ran a comb down the sides.

Seeing San Benedicto in full daylight revealed it is indeed, a large rock cone with ridges scored by erosion from water and weather. San Benedicto is a volcano, there was only one little spot of green on the level spot we could see. There were a few birds hanging out there. I could tell because I used the binoculars. The rocks around the shore did not offer an inviting dinghy landing.

After anchoring and a rest, the snorkel gear and kayaks came out. Chuck was the first snorkeler and reported being greeted by a pair of pretty blue fish who seemed very curious by his presence.

He said he saw a few fish as he went along exploring the reef but nothing exceptional, until he looked behind him and saw hundreds following him. Eventually, we all had some version of this experience. Perhaps, the fish are not used to many snorkelers in these waters.

On the morning of our third day, we pulled up anchor and headed for Socorro Island, about 30 miles further south.

Socorro is also a volcanic island, but it is green. Once it came into view from 10-12 miles out, it looked like we were coming upon Ireland.

We arrived late afternoon in a little bay with room for one boat to anchor comfortably due to the rocky shore. So we decided to raft up — we were able to bring Second Wind alongside Top Cider and position her so our mast spreaders did not become entangled and we did not bang into each other as we were tied together.

We paddled, or swam into the rocky shore and portaged the kayaks over a narrow beach to “the Blue Lagoon” — a beautiful bay with a lovely beach and a reef that gave us some great snorkeling. We saw yellow, blue, polka dotted, striped and florescent fish in the coral gardens.

Exploring with the kayak, I kept trying to get over what I thought were coral outcroppings. After they kept moving, I realized we had at least six very large turtles in the bay with us.

Yet, even as remote and pristine as the lagoon was, we found lots of plastic trash washed up on the beach.

Our time at Socorro continued like this, sailing a little to the next good anchorage and staying a day or two.

One of our stops had lots of palm trees just beyond a steep shore full of round rocks that rolled up and down with the tide. The coconuts were three feet deep in that grove, having rarely, if ever, been harvested.

Chuck brought back a collection representing various stages of maturity and we enjoyed them all.

Again, another coral reef, with lots of pretty fish — as though we were swimming in a large aquarium. This one had a small white-tipped reef shark — approximately four to five feet in length. Fortunately, he was not interested in us.

Another fact about these reefs is, you can hear them underwater. The creatures of these formations make sounds as they grow, eat and do whatever else they do. We have learned firsthand, if these creatures happen to attach to your boat, you will also hear their sounds vibrating through your hull.

Another day we all loaded up on Top Cider, leaving Second Wind anchored in our bay de jour and motored out a couple of miles to a rock outcropping.

The braver ones of us snorkeled this area, seeing sea turtles, fish, and even a 12-foot manta ray. From the boat we saw a manta ray in the 18-20 foot range. Indeed the giant manta has made these islands famous. Rumor has it they enjoy the bubbles from divers’ air tanks; and a few swimmers have reported riding on the backs of these giants.

As our time on Socorro came to an end, we anchored on the Northeast end. How did we spend our last day? Snorkeling, kayaking and relaxing.

After a spaghetti dinner on Second Wind, we needed to stow our dinghy aboard in preparation for a sunrise departure. Turning on the spreader lights, revealed why we had seen so many turtles — both boats were surrounded by just-hatched baby turtles. Little three inch replicas of the adults — all on their own and heading for the great big ocean.

I have never imagined cuddling a turtle, but in that moment I wanted to scoop them all up and hold them close. What a wonderful ending to our paradise island visit.

We sailed and the wind was great for three days and two nights back to the mainland.

I am glad my husband thought up this adventure, that our friends joined us, that the seas were fair and all had a wonderful visit to paradise.

Though our daughter thought it strange it took us so long to get around “that little island,” I think the comment from one of our pre-trip consultants — “What? Only two weeks? You’ll just be getting a taste!” is truer.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Eric Schmieman says:

    Well written!

  2. Darlene Terry says:

    Oh my we enjoyed reading your blog so much!! I can’t wait for next blog!
    Thanks for sharing and hope to see you on the seas some day soon😊

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