Espiritu Santo, the crown jewel of the Sea of Cortez, this beautiful wonderful land casts a dreamy veil over those who visit her crystal clear waters. Underneath the deep azul lurks a colorful array of life. According the Mexican Nature Conservancy, the Sea of Cortez is the second most diverse body of water in the world. These warm waters are home to 31 species of whale and dolphin, — which is roughly one third of the world’s total number of species. Moreover, the area also serves as a breeding ground for sea lions and big ass see turtles (just a hint, don’t try to ride them. They don’t like that. Mom, I didn’t do it…). For our friends in the sky, the islands falls on the rum line in regards to the migratory pattern of over 210 aviary species. I’m talking gargantuan vultures, cute little blue footed boobies with really sharp beaks, sleek birds with oiled feather that plummet from obscene heights deep into the water to catch their dinner (and I thought going to the market was a lot of work).
One morning, I woke up on the beautiful Kinipōpō, Dan’s boat. Took a big stretch and jumped into the perfect pool. The warm salty water clung to my skin as I soared (hyperbole, I know, but please go with it) through the water. I swam over to some rocks nearby the boat. Up ahead, I saw only a cloud in the water. However, this cloud was glinting silver and more importantly moving toward me. Soon I was surrounded by thousands of tiny little fish swimming encapsulating my body in a silver cocoon.
The next morning, Dan and I decided to go on an adventure. We decided to go swimming with the sea lions at the Los Islotes in the northwest corner of the island. It was a four mile trip via ten foot dingy. Not exactly the most comfortable adventure, but then again, it is an adventure. We arrived at the jagged rocky formation. It sprouted from the water as though it had fallen from the sky. Basking in the sun, dozens of sea lions laid out upon the jagged edges of the rocks. Just so we’re clear, I would not normally recommend just jumping in the water with a colony of California sea lion. These are wild animals and are unpredictable, especially during mating season, from May to July. However, years of tourism has brought so many boats to Los Islotes that these sea lions have grown somewhat accustomed to sharing their waters.
Male sea lions can grow up to eight feet long, amassing a weight of nearly 800 pounds. Males also grow a large crest bone on their forehead, which makes them easily distinguishable from the females. Male sea lions are also very territorial, so I wouldn’t recommend approaching one… ever. In fact, my rule was not to approach any sea lion. If you approach the pups, the mothers would attack you. If you get to close to their real estate, the bulls would attack you. Sheer terror engrossed my being as the cute and curious critter drew near. A little pup darted towards me. “Holy shit!” I thought, “I’m going to be killed by a baby sea lion.” But I wasn’t.
Instead, it came darting towards me only to stop right in my face. His teeny tiny beady eyes just stared at me, as if in wonder. I myself felt as though my eyes were about to pop out of my head. Once we had made our salutations, the little critter began to swim in graceful circles around me. A dance began. Others joined in the fun. And every time a different sea lion swam towards me, I wondered if I was going to die. If always been something of a worry wart. Soon, three sleek creatures danced before me. As they whirled in elegant arcs, their brownish grey pelts appeared as a moveable masterpiece, a master’s brush strokes through the water. No other experience has been more terrifying, more awe inspiring, or more magical.
In between these two encounters of the wild kind. I met more wild creatures. Far more wild than the beasts at Los Islotes, I met (or really got to know) Dan and Michelle from our compatriot vessel, Moon Na Men Nah. I had already met these fine folks at the party I had encouraged Dan to bring me along. However, we had all been thoroughly intoxicated at that event, so I never got to really get to know them. I find the best way to break the ice with new but fun and young fellows is to start up a game of Cards Against Humanity. It’s basically like Apples to Apples, except its more like the x-rated version. A fit of wicked cackles with two hands on the belly quickly ensued. Michelle won the game.
For dinner, we continued our sinful indulgences. Pork belly. I hate to admit it, but this succulent cut of pig remains my favorite protein to work with. The perfect layers of fat and meat provide a perfect canvas for novice chefs. It is nearly impossible to ruin the meat. Not even my mother could turn these little morsels into hockey pucks (just kidding Mom!). This dish is equally perfect for sailors. I’d strongly recommend keeping these ingredients handy for offshore passages. Many of the ingredients can keep for a long time. Except the brussel sprouts need to be kept frozen if not used right away. The vegetable has a bad enough reputation without serving them all slimy. The greatest facet of this dish is its simplicity. You put the ingredients in a roast pan, you stick it in the oven, you serve it. Done. No mess, no fuss. As a result, you have the perfect succulent well balanced to serve up during a squall.
Roast Pork Belly and Vegetables
2 lbs Pork Belly
1 head of garlic, peeled and cloves separated
2 onions, quartered
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
3 cups of brussel sprout, stems removed and halved
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place all vegetables in roasting tray. Place the pork belly on top of the vegetables. Throw in the oven and cook for one hour. This slowly extracts all of the fat from the pork, which then drips over the vegetables. After the vegetables are coated in pork fat, stir everything about a bit in the pan to prevent burning. Increase heat to 350 degrees. Continue to roast for another hour, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. If you feel like being frisky, you can add green apples to the vegetable mix. Bon appétit!