Island Orientation

Kayaking the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax

Espmritu Santo is a large, topographically unusual island, and there is no one way to see it. Flat, sandy shores make up the southern extremity, tall cliffs predominate along the eastern side, the Isla Partida sits like a tophat to the north, extending the perimeter of the combined islands by a third, and sheltered coves lure sailboats and kayaks on the western side. Obviously, to see it all — to contrast the stark, looming profile of the east with the tranquil, pocketed shoreline of the west — one must do a circumnavigation of Espmritu Santo and Partida. The route below is designed for just that.

Just as enjoyable, however, would be a more leisurely exploration of the western sides of both islands. The waters to the west are calmer, and there are more camping sites and more places to land quickly if winds spring up or fatigue threatens.

A third option would be to circumnavigate Espmritu Santo without including Isla Partida, the island just to the north that is essentially an extension of Espmritu Santo. In other words, paddle north along the east side, but cross over about two-thirds of the way via the Caleta Partida, a cove that actually divides Espmritu Santo from Isla Partida, and continue south along the west side back to your starting point.

In any case, consider the route below as merely a way of describing the island, not as an itinerary. Exploring one small part of the island fully might be just as rewarding as zipping all the way around it. Total mileage on this trip will vary extremely, even if you follow the route described, based on whether you investigate every cove, how close you keep to shore, and so on. The trip miles in the route are estimates only.

Finally, in addition to being flexible about your mileage, stay flexible about your direction. I describe Espmritu Santo and Partida in a counterclockwise direction, the best (in my mind) if winds are blowing regularly from the southeast or southwest. When winds are from the northwest, on the other hand (usually NovemberMay), the reverse direction may be preferable. In any case, if doing a full circumnavigation, keep in mind that the eastern side is the more challenging, and plot your direction with the current season's prevailing winds in mind.


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