Circumnavigating Isla Danzante, April 26th 2008.

For two of us, namely Doug Hamilton and I, this was a layover day. Everyone else paddled three miles across to Rattlesnake Beach to buy more water and pick up some supplies they left in the cars. Doug had left half his food in his truck but Don Fleming offered to pick it up when he was buying water. Rather than laze about on the beach on Isla Danzante all day Doug and I planned to circumnavigate the island. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving all the tents and gear unsupervised, so we took turns going paddling. Isla Danzante is a small island, only four miles from north to south, and not a long arduous trip.

I did my circumnavigation early in the morning to avoid the noon time sun. As I launched a panga came by and dropped a diver off in a wetsuit. I almost ran into the diver when I did a seal-launch off the beach but he did not notice me. The wind was blowing from the north so I headed south first and went counter clockwise around Isla Danzante. This meant I was paddling into the wind on the east shore but I would have the wind at my back as I made the home stretch into camp. I brought Kate DesLauriers’ “WindPaddle” kayak sail with me and tried it out on this downwind section. The wind was mild for me and the sail could not pull the kayak faster than two miles an hour. I became impatient, took the sail down and paddled myself home.

Doug did his circumnavigation of the island late in the day, to avoid the noon time sun. By late afternoon the wind was much stronger. On the home stretch into camp his “Pacific Action” kayak sail pulled his boat at seven miles an hour! He timed his trip to return close to when dinner would be ready. During dinner it was discovered that Don got the instructions wrong and didn’t bring back the larger bag of Doug’s food. We figured the rest of us had enough extra food to make up the difference. However, Don insisted on “fixing” his mistake and planned to paddle back to shore again after dinner. I volunteered to come along and keep him company and then Doug decided to come as well. The three of us raced across in record time. Then I sat on the beach reading a book while the other two walked through the desert to get back to the cars. The sun had set while we were paddling and it soon became too dark to read.

When Don and Doug came back it was full dark. As we started paddling we discovered that there was bioluminescence in the water! Each time we dipped a paddle in the water it became a bright green torch leaving a trail of green sparks in the water. I stuck half of my Greenland paddle in the water while gliding along and this produced a spectacular display. We could see fish panicking and zooming away from us by the meteoric trails they left in the water. Every once in a while all the water under my boat seemed to light up yellow. I think this was caused by large schools of smaller fish all moving away at once. The bow wake of our kayaks lit up as a green “v” in front of us and we left a thin line of light behind us in our wake. The most impressive effect was a vortex of spinning water left behind by each paddle stroke. These would continue spinning and setting of the bioluminescence for some time, leaving an alternating trail of glowing footprints behind each kayak.

Before we were half way back to camp we saw a bright light winking on and off on the island. This turned out to be Kate sitting on the beach reading a book by the light of her headlamp. She chose to sit facing the water in the hopes that her light would help guide us home. It worked perfectly but a few hundred yards offshore Don gruffly shouted “Lights Out”, giving Kate the impression that we didn’t appreciate her efforts.

All text and images Copyright © 2008 by Mike Higgins / contact