Life in the Water

End of the beach
Originally uploaded by apes_abroad.

The tides are really extreme just now. We were out surfing a couple of days ago at the zenith of the tide and the waves changed completely. They were choppy and steep and a total mess. We didn’t catch anything.

What _was_ amazing on that day though was the setting. The skies where ominously greyed over (a rare occurence here in January) which made the already tumultous ocean feel restless and stormy.

While I bobbed alone through the troughs of the sea (Sarah was practicing farther in) a flock of pelicans started diving right next to me. My San Francisco friends are totaly unimpressed with Pelicans but I still find them mesmerising. They lumbered through the air around me and splashed into the surface of the waves like they were trying hopeslessly to learn to swim. As I was craning my neck after pelicans I caught another flight out of the corner of my eye, and again, it was a small ray! It looked as if it was trying to learn to fly. It would fly out of the water with its wings beating, fly half-meter into the air and then splash down a half-meter further on. He repeated the trick three times. I have read it might be to smash off parasites, or to evade prey.

It was not a great day surfing but it was a great day to be out in the water.

Today the tide was at its lowest for the month at 11:00am so today was a day of snorkling! We set out to the rocky headland at one end of the bay with snorkle masks in-hand. Hopefully we’d see more rays!

The difference between tides is 3 1/2 meters right now and it’s a completely different place at low and high tide. Today the beach stretched out impressively. I had been using landmarks to triangulate our position in the water while surfing so this-morning we could stand, totaly dry, on the same spot we had been surfing yesterday where it was over our heads. I dug an “X” into the sand for next time we come surfing.

We got to the rocks, dropped our stuff on the crowded beach without a worry of petty theft (I like Costa Rica) and wandered into the ocean.

The Snorkling was pretty good. We were inside the bay away from the big breakers smashing on the out-shore reef but there was a wall of rock and corral stretching away to the mouth of the bay. I was delighted to find plenty of sea-weed. Other tropical seas we have been in are all coral and no sea-weed. Which, growing up in the Gorgia Strait, makes a place feel somehow dead no matter how many fish and crabs you stuff it with. The sea-weed and coral were totaly different to species I’d seen elsewhere so it was pleasent to chase mostly-familiar tropical fish in and out of the crannies (no Lion Fish yet). Sarah and I puttered around and found some neat starfish and big hermit crabs to show off to eachother but eventually we sort of split off as I ended up questing for the breakers and the mouth of the bay. I couldn’t really stop myself. If there’s a quest going, I’ll quest it.

Trying to get outside the bay was a fun game. It was kind of like hiking or rock climbing with the direction of gravity swapping every minute or so. The rock would clump up into shallow flats and deep troughs. The flats would rush in and out depending on the waves so you could wait for a wave to break and then let the water sweep you through into the deeper pools. In the pools the prevailing into-shore current took over though and I just had to slog my way through (no fins) until the next flat. Eventually I got to a kind of funnel between shallower flats where the berakers where comming into the bay. I didn’t want to be in the flats because it looked like a bad place to weather the breakers so I just swam hard against the green swells and current. I would manage to swim hard and find a handhold somewhere to hold on to which the next wave would sweep me off. I worked harder and harder to get through the current and the waves to get to open water but eventually my arms just gave out. Quite tired I turned around and leaped two meters into the air and flew along the smooth rocks. This was amazing! The same swells and current I was fighting were now working with me. I’d grab a rock until a swell came and then the ground would recede away and I’d be soaring through the water. For all the world like I had learned to leap like a flying squirrel. So getting back to Sarah was pretty fun. And worth all the work even though I didn’t make it outside the reef.

On the way back to Sarah I agitated a little eel and I followed around some puffer fish. I tried to coax a crab with sun-ray like arms out of his hole and saw just a trio of shy parrot-fish. But Sarah and a much better find than those.

Just before I arrived next to her she had been in the sandy flats. She was in water about a meter and a half deep and spotted a stick. Like a meter-and-a-half long thin spear of bamboo or something. She went to grab it with her toes to get a look at it and the big-ass ray that was attached quite firmly to the tail she was trying to pick up lifted himeslf off the ground and glided away from her curious toes.

She followed it and tried to steer it to me (which we did with some success to Spotted Eagle Rays in Honduras) but it flew off. I really wanted to see a big ray so we hunted around for another one.

I found one, It was a thin piece of bamboo floating in the water leading to a big lump of sand. But when I tried to get Sarah’s attention it flew off without my noticing. We hunted some more and I came across another. Sarah was right near-by so there was no need to spook him. He was sitting half in the sand and half out with his big tail prceeding out behind him. He was only in about 2 meters of water and Sarah swam down to try to get a measure of his size. We figure he was about a meter across and two or more long including his big tail. We eyed him and he eyed us and we were generally quite pleased to get such a chill up close and personal look at this big ray. Eventually he got sick of us and with an elegent motion belying his size he accelerated into the murky depths. What a find though! So great to see a big ray up close!

There was no topping that so we retreated to the beach, picked up our clothes and shoes and wandered home.

No pictures again. All this being in the water whenever we go out is not conducive to photography :/

Anyway, I hope to get a little work done this afternoon (I’m doing some work!) eat some fish and then go surfing tomorrow!


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