May 1, 2021 5:29 pm

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By Kate Neal - Photo credits: Carlos Juvera

It was once said that a cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition, a parable-like sentiment infused with truth. Still, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps more than nine months a year wasn’t spent in gloomy weather when the statement was made. I’ve dropped my anchor for most of my life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where rain and overcast is a mainstay for the better part of the year. Shameless optimist that I am, in accord with the previous statement, my sunny disposition typically sees the silver about the omnipresent clouds. But when that big ball of fire in the sky makes a show- even just a cursory peek, my disposition can be positively luminous. So, in the midst of a wet Oregon spring, I went in search of a break from the grey skies, taking a solo trip to one of my favorite sunny destinations: Cabo San Lucas. And after a day spent in the sun, lackadaisical playing in the clear waters of the Sea of Cortez, that disposition of mine is absolutely shining. And I have a certain ‘Cat’ to thank for it.

My previous visits to Cabo found me - perhaps not surprisingly, in the water as often as possible. I dipped my toes into sports fishing, Scuba diving, and surfing. And swimming with the whale shark - the biggest fish in the ocean, was a meaningful experience that I urge everyone to try at least once. Being in the water just feet away from a fish as large as a school bus as it fed on plankton with a mouth the size of a car, cannot be overstated. It was spiritual almost. And the same 69’ Catamaran that helped me cross that off my bucket list was to be a part of my next adventure to the remote, paradisiacal beaches of the Sea of Cortez in La Paz.

A spacious and comfortable 18-person shuttle picked me up at my door, driven by Juan, aptly nicknamed “Juantastic”, our driver to and from La Paz about an hour and a half away. As we stopped to pick up each guest, Juan helped them into the back and offered them water, giving the immediate impression that service to customers is first and foremost - something I’d surely experienced in my previous outings with this crew. As it seems to be with each trip I’ve taken, the drive became a time of getting to know one another, and by the time our party of nine landed at the dock, we were laughing together as old friends. Captain Scott met us there, introducing himself and welcoming us before we walked down the ramp to the Island Cat, the beautiful catamaran waiting for us.

A breakfast spread, fresh coffee, and open bar were waiting for us, and after a brief visit with the Captain, we were underway, motoring out of the harbor as we happily chatted and settled in. I found a spot on the bow of the boat, where the crew had laid a row of lounging cushions up against the angled windows, offering guests both a comfortable space to lie in the sun and a perfect view as we sailed. I closed my eyes and swallowed it all - the sun on my face, the light wind blowing through my hair, the pure relaxation I felt.

After less than an hour of cruising the briny Sea of Cortez, we came to a shallow cove and dropped anchor at Isla Espiritu Santo, a protected eco-tourism destination that has been declared part of a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The color shifted from the dark blue of a deep sea to strikingly clear water with a bright turquoise hue. The white sands beneath led to a small, crescent-shaped beach, vacant of any visitors at all - our very own playground for the day, and the scene in front of me seemed to be pulled directly from a travel magazine.

Leo offered to take us snorkeling and swimming with a small colony of sea lions a few minutes’ ride away, and along with a few others, I jumped on board the 22’ dive boat dragged by the Cat. After all, considering the sea lion is known to be the “dog of the sea” in their playfulness and affability, who was I to say no? I love dogs!

As all the crew members have been during my previous times on the Catamaran, Leo knew his stuff, offering information and answering questions as we puttered around a small rock that jutted from the sea, home to a colony of more than 100 sea lions. Soon we were in the water, tooling around the base of the rock, observing the abundant and colorful fish life below us. Leo surprised us all by freediving about 45 feet to the bottom of the rock to retrieve a bright red starfish for a quick show and tell. He did this several times, with each pass bringing something new and unique, offering us an up-close view of a world we otherwise would not see. A few of the younger sea puppies, playful and excitable, engaged with us, expertly twisting and rolling in the waters around us as we hilariously mimicked them.

After about an hour of playtime, we started back to the boat, where a pristine beach, water activities, and a delicious tortilla soup made by the boat’s chef waited for us. The next two hours were spent kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming in the warm, transparent water, sunning on the boat or beach, and being waited on mercilessly by the Crew before heading back to port. As we sailed, a school of dolphins happily journeyed with us, a final farewell to the beautiful day we had shared.

From the moment I was picked up until the moment I was dropped at my door, I was treated like royalty by any and all Island Cat Crew - ask and ye shall receive and so on. And I won’t deny that I could probably get used to being waited on (and of course, I was grateful, smiled wide, and tipped appropriately). But, while the service wasn’t to give me a day-in-life that I was somehow missing by being on the wrong end of the 1%, it was indeed intended to offer me a day of freedom. From the moment Juantastic held the door open for me with a bottled water and a smile, I felt it; I was free to let go of whatever happened to be pecking about my brain incessantly, free to connect with incredibly vibrant and colorful natural surroundings- pure and unblemished, free to observe footloose and fancy-free animals in their own habitat rather than through 12 inches of glass. And, yes, free to lounge about while others catered to my every need. And this sense of freedom and subsequent happiness is derived from, in the end, a good dose of play-therapy. And, hey, couldn’t we all use a bit of therapy from time- to-time? *