I leave in a weeks time and need to make sure I have all my loose ends together. I have been out collecting what I will need for 4 weeks at sea, well not all the time but I don’t want to have to go running around La Paz searching for Bonine especially with my Spanish which consists of “Dos mas cerveza, por favor”. One item I did get a deal on is a “foul weather jacket” as the yachties call it.
I dropped into the local Boaters World and looked for their cheapest practical jacket. I find an ideal rubberised jacket & pants marked at $29.99. Not bad but I struggled to keep my mouth shut as the kid at the checkout scanned it at $14.99 and his buddy acknowledged that the jacket & pants go together. God, I’m cheap.
Goal is to get all the essentials into one bag and not miss too much. It’s not like going to Ireland where you can just say: “Don’t worry, bring the credit card and we can get it over there if we forget it at home”.
Lets get this posted and hopefully this blog will serve it’s purpose for the next 4 to 5 weeks.
LA to San Carlos
Southwest flight #693 was 30 minutes late departing (late coming in) and choc-o-block full. Other than that the 90 odd minute flight to Tucson was uneventful. Our bags arrived with us which was a blessing and Phil & I made a management decision to grab a taxi and head straight over to the TUFESA bus station and see if we can get tickets for the 10:30pm bus to Guaymas & beyond. My first surprise was when we were dropped off in front of a mini mall about 4 miles NW of TUC.
Bought 3 reserved tickets and we felt happy leaving our bags with them as it was not too busy and they seemed like good guys. They directed us to a nearby restaurant and we ate taco’s & fish washed down with Corona & Negro Molino -We had officially entered the “away from home” feeling.
Stan found us a little after 9 pm and we observed the local clientele come & go till we boarded our bus on time at 10:30pm. Loud Spanish movies blared away as we tried to sleep on the hop to the boarder crossing at Nogales. Then it was waiting time. There were about 3 buses in front of us and each one had to be processed which we found out to be unloading our bags and walking them through Mexican customs with the random green/red traffic light that you have to push the button for. If it shows green you grab your bag and head back to the bus, if it comes up red you have been selected for a random bag search – we got 3 greens and were spared the seemingly uninterested search. The bus proceeded to wait until we had been at the crossing for 1 ½ hours and we finally got under way at 1:20am.
6:20am we roll into the small, albeit modern, bus station with “Welcome to Guaymas” colorfully displayed on the wall. We opted for a taxi ride to San Carlos and crammed ourselves & gear into an economy sized vehicle for the 15 mile ride to Marina Real which is located all the way through the small tourist town of San Carlos and about at the end of the road.
Leaving San Carlos
10:30am we start the motor and prepare to cast off. Tom,
dock slip neighbor, is there to bid us Bon Voyage and we quickly motor out of the marina and into San Carlos bay. Once clear of all distractions we are quick to hoist the main and jib and get under sail.
Leaving the tits Stan Phil
The wind Gods are with us and we are immediately in the Baja jet stream with a steady 18 knots out of the NW and Elegante on a broad reach. The sea is white capped with a 6 to 8’ swell and 10 to 12’ peaks coming through every 30 seconds or so. This proves quite a challenge to the helmsman as no sooner that you are on course a set comes through and skews the boat one way or another. I found myself watching over my right shoulder, anticipating the swell and almost trying to surf it down otherwise the swell/wind would throw me 20 degrees off and it would take me 25 seconds to get back on course ready for the next cycle.
The skipper turned on the auto-helm, whom I named George so I could have someone to scream at. Unfortunately George could not (or was not programmed to) handle the above sequence so we belittled him and had to hang onto the wheel ourselves. What this gave us was a steady 7 to 8 knots with 9 knot bursts and by 5 pm we had covered around 45 nautical miles. We expected the wind and sea to calm as darkness fell but hell no, not this time.
First Night Out
Stan & Phil were top side as darkness fell and stayed on till 8 pm when I took over. Stan managed to cook scrambled eggs for dinner so the sea must have calmed a bit. After me it was Phil, Stan, Heather and me again, all doing 2 hr stints which brought us round to 6 am on Monday morning (Mexico Independence day!). It was time to wear lifejackets when doing solo watches and we had a yellow lifeline running down both sides of the deck to clip into. Were able to stay in the cockpit during the night so we did not get to use them.
Our preferred course put us on a heading of 150 ?? degrees but that was on a broad reach and if one steered too much downwind the sails complained by luffing and thereby letting everyone else know what was going on. When I took over from Phil he had the course in the GPS and as it was pitch black suggested that I pick a star pattern on each side and use it to confirm the heading. Stars move, from our perception anyway, so this technique needs constant realignment. I settled in and was pleasantly surprised to find Orion over on his side off the port side. While hiking at night in South Africa Orion was a common well-defined constellation for navigation and I have missed him while located up at the 23 deg north latitude of LA. Time went fast and as Jerry told me, you get a certain one-on-one peacefulness out there, just you, the sea & the boat.
After being relieved I caught patches of sleep interspersed by a thump and being thrown around the forward cabin I was in. Come 4 am I rub my eyes and clamber up into the cockpit to relieve Stan & Heather. Stan stays on and sleeps on deck as I get orientated and dial in my star positions. Our course has shifted closer to 170 taking us over to the Baja coast more quickly. Orion has rotated around and is now off the starboard side and off the port side I spot any navigators favorite, The Southern Cross, low on the horizon. It is also on its side making me initially doubt my memory but I convince myself I am right. The large swells have left us and George can do most of the steering getting thrown off course only every 30 minutes or so.
Come 5 am my eyes start to tell me there is a lump off the port bow. I strain to separate temporary mirages from constant reality and finally wake Stan at 5:30. “That’s Santa Catalina and we had better jibe back out into the gulf”. We do so in the uncertainty of darkness and I settle into the new heading as the sky lightens and the sun rises at 6:45 am.
After the 5:30 am jibe to avoid Santa Catalina we settled into a new course taking us away from the Baja mainland. The seas were much calmer and we were able to still maintain a speed of around 6-7 knots. Sunrise was at 6:48 am and soon after 7 am the rest started to appear on deck and we drifted into coffee & oats for breakfast.
Cruising Time ….
This was more what Baja cruising was envisioned to be and we started to discus how and when were going to reach La Paz, we wanted to arrive during the day but not too late. There was a neat, well-protected anchorage at Evaristo on Baja and flanked by Isla San Jose which we could easily reach to day and then with an early start we would be in La Paz Tuesday afternoon. Another course change to head for the ?? channel and we let George do the steering and settled back.
Closer to the mainland the winds died and we started the engine and maintained an 1800 rpm, 6 knot speed.
“Are those whales out there?” Heather asked and we all scrambled to look. About a mile off the port bow was a pod of about a dozen whales. We could not see them too well but saw their spouts and occasional tail fin as they cycled their bodies up for air. About the same time we collected a couple of dolphins to surf our bow wave. I get such a thrill from watching wild life in their natural habitat and these guys were doing it for the pure fun of it.
Dolphins Surfing our Bow Wave
Stan was in one of his “appear to be sleeping but mentally tuned to the rhythm boat” dozes when he perks up and announces: “Did you hear that?”. It was the engine heartbeat having an arrhythmia and when the throttle was pushed forward it spluttered & died. Phil scrambles around setting us up for a wing on wing to harness the light wing and we open the engine compartment to try a few alternatives. No visible damage so we try switching to the other fuel tank – same result. There are redundant fuel filters so we try the other one, same result. One or two other options still yield no change, time to huddle & discus.
Phil had the rigging sorted out, “Good Man”, so I took the helm while Stan & Phil grabbed manuals and read out trouble shooting flow diagrams to each other. They then disappeared below and what 20 odd minutes later came the call: “Andre, can you try the engine now”. Cranked I over, it idled OK so we pushed the revs a bit and it continued to sound smooth. Engaged “forward” and brought the revs up to 1800 with all ears on abnormalities.
Firstly, after much discussion as to what to do, Stan & Phil had decided to first try the “we have a spare filter” decision and replaced one of the input fuel filters. This is what we were running on but why did both fuel filters show the same symptoms? Could they both be clogged? At that point we blamed the situation not on George but Jerry who was the previous owned and might have let both filters get clogged without due maintenance.
Whatever, we now had to make good time to the anchorage else we would be stuck in the channel faced with a night anchoring. Around 5 pm we followed a fellow stick in, “choose a line mid-center of the two head lands as each one has shallow waters”, and Stan & Heather made a perfect anchorage in 40’ between two other yachts. We had a quick swim, two Tecate’s for Phil & I, a salad, steak & potatoes dinner and I served Phil a Dr Pepper in place of a Tecate, they both have red cans was my excuse.
Getting to La Paz
Got awoken by the diesel at 4:30 am and scurried on deck to see if I could help. Stan had it pretty much under control and we motored out into the ?? channel and headed south to the exit which we crossed within the hour. From there we set a heading for La Paz and settled back and had coffee & pancakes for breakfast. Can’t remember what time it was but, you guessed it, the engine started spluttering again and we killed it and pondered the plan of attack. While Stan & Phil started diagnosing the fuel line, primary & auxiliary tanks, duel filter systems, etc we started doing a broad tack down towards La Paz. We finally decided the engine was not reliable enough as it would splutter whenever we put load on it. So we set a tack out into the bay for a close reach and some speed, then it was a tack and a course to Pichilingue that is the main shipping terminal for La Paz that is about 10 odd miles to the south.
We had to come into an anchorage under sail so we chose this protected bay (name ??) just above Pichilingue. We were coming in at a nice 4-5 knot clip ?? with about 2-3 miles to go when we noticed this humongous Baja Ferries closing from the south and another ferry type from the north. Judging speed is always difficult but we persuaded Stan to hold course and you can see in the photo that the Humongous guy passed behind us and as far away as it looks I would not want it to be any closer. We dropped the main, came in on the jib, did a few tacks for experience and anchored in 40’ ?? of aqua green Cortez water. Well done Stan & Phil!
Destination Bound – – Baja Ferries
It was then after we realized we were safe & sound for the night that I powered on the laptop and was surprised to find an open WiFi connection courtesy of Baja Ferries. Email & web pages were OK but I could not upload any file of substance and finally gave up trying to update the blog. We attributed the limitation to the WiFi being on board the ferry itself and it being serviced via a satellite link which has long delays causing protocol timeouts to fire all over the place.
Hotspot Hunting – – – Good Night“ X” Settled in to his Preferred Spot of the Moment
Phil & I had a $3.50 shower at the Cantamar ?? Marina and disappeared to find a brunch while Stan & Heather tracked down diesel mechanics and have another go at the fuel line.
Brunch – – – – – Cantamar Marina ?? Bay – – – – Cats on a Whale Bone
Will it get us there? Dingy Ride
One of our neighbors was this rather large “Yacht” that we christened “Dirk” after all the boys that made too much money in the dotcom era, turned out we were not far off when we met Larry the deckhand who was only too willing to put all of it’s facilities at our disposal since neither the owner nor captain were aboard.
“Dirk’s Boat” – – – – – Larry
After our beer brunch Phil & I wandered down to Playa Pichilingue to continue tasting beers and take in the idyllic view.
La Paz Run
On our walk back the walkie-talkie crackles with: “Where are you?”. “On our way back” we answer. “Good, I’m coming to pick you up”. We had a slip in crowded La Paz but had to be there this evening. Stan had confidence in the work that had been done on the now infamous fuel line and had this creative way of running the engine without having to connect to the fuel tank lines. I half filled a large peach can with fuel and Phil would top up the filter reservoir if it runs low. After 15 minutes of motoring we stop the engine to see how much fuel has been consumed. “It’s still full”. “Oh”. After a few attempts to explain why the filter is still being supplied with diesel we through caution to the wind and head for La Paz under full power.
Now the fun begins and anyone who has sailed or more likely, motored, into the La Paz channel will know what I’m about to tell you. We have copies of all our charts, “Charlies Charts”, etc on deck and of course 3 GPS’s monitoring our passage in real time. With binoculars scanning the route ahead we start navigating into the channels tight entrance by making a tight port turn just off the storage tanks headland. We’re ?? feet off shore and our depth is closing fast and will average out at 15 to 20 feet till we enter the marina. Then it’s a 90 degrees turn to starboard and we’re snugly in the well marked green to port and red to starboard buoys. We follow the channel down past The Moorings and then La Paz’s malecon comes up on our port and we start scanning for Marina La Paz which is like looking for green Volkswagen parked in a row of green Volkswagen’s. With the good Samaritan catamaran Java’s help we get directed to the entrance and are then quickly berthed and safe again. Our confidence in our fuel line improves and we settle in for a few days of maintenance, rigging inspections, re-supply and To Do list items to be scratched off.
The Entrance – – – – – Heading Down Back Towards the Tanks – – The Malecon
Whats going on with this blog??
Hello everyone. We are now in La Paz proper and tied up in Marina La Paz for some engine maintenance & a top mast inspection for Stan’s insurance. We expect to be here till the weekend so hopefully I’ll have time to fill in all the blanks on the empty posts below.
Having fun and remember the best sailing is if your plan is very flexible.
Thanks to everyones comments, they are greatly appreciated. I plan to get around to answering any questions posed.
Stealing WiFi from Baja Ferries in Pichilingue
We have been here too long.
Today, Saturday the 25th is Heathers birthday and the sun rises at about 7am. We are still on mountain time but longitude wise we are drifting west dragging the sunrise to a perceived late rising. (I like that line but not quite true as La Paz is EAST of San Carlos) When in stable surroundings the morning ritual is coffee, which I often make from the two packets of Dark Sumatra that I thank Trader Joe’s for and drink it on deck in the coolness of the day. We have achieved most of our port side objectives, which were a necessity. Phil gave the oft-mentioned fuel filters an overhaul and removed encrusted crud which had collected over time and prevented them from performing their function. Ever wonder why your basin drains so slowly only to find layers of matted hair welded together with soap oils and whatever else went that way? Well now you know what Phil cleaned up. The rigger came round and gave the mast stays a rigorous inspection & tune up and insight as what to inspect for for future wear & tear. Banks, dollars to peso’s, tourist cards paid for (210 pesos), laundry, spare filters, spare other things and also a run to the CCC hypermarket for a grocery & beer run. All things mundane but otherwise necessary.
When you first enter port from a number of days at sea there is excitement and comfort knowing that you do not have to continually look over your shoulder for changing sea & weather conditions and the hot shower is always a luxury to soak in. You can eat burrito’s, quesadilla’s & fish taco’s and wash it down with margarita’s but this morning I picked up John Steinbeck’s “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” and while still in the introduction I felt that pull where the words in the book tug your mind away from mundane reality, which I gravitate towards, and say “come play with me and the distant lands I will take you to”. Now it is time for the physical body to do the same and get out of port into the unknown adventures that lurk beyond the sea wall and especially the Baja Uphill that we will enter once we complete our second shakeout down to Cabo San Lucas.
So, hopefully we will depart tomorrow and leave behind Google & Blogs till the next WiFi hotspot, could be Cabo, could be San Diego.
Fast Burrito Stand – – – Proprietors Daughter Mast Inspection – – – – Outdoor Art
Dinner will be a 4 pm. By 4:30 we are showered and ready to trot. Phil & I go ahead and grab a table at the Italian restaurant across the road from the Marina de La Paz. “Yes, can we have 2 margaritas, blended and do you have a wine list?”. “We don’t have a wine list but some good Baja wine”. I took this to mean that they just have table wine and let it roll. When the margaritas ran out we asked again about the wine and the waiter brought us out 3 bottles to choose from. Phil & I both eyed the 2004 Syrah and said: “Si”. The wine was from L.A. Cetto and excellent. He said the winery was near Guadalupe which is south of Ensenada, near Santo Thomas. Rose, something for us to find on our Christmas get-a-way. We had a wonderful meal to celebrate Heathers trip around the sun and then retired to Excelante for desert. A truly nice exit to La Paz.
Birthday Dinner – – – – – Desert Marina de La Paz – – – – Mascot
La Paz to Cabo San Lucas
Our planned departure is at 7 am on Sunday 26th of November with an arrival in Cabo at midday on Monday. Let’s see what happens.
Got up just before 6 as the sky’s started to lighten. Took us an hour to do those things you can only do the day of your departure. Cast off at 7:15am on Sunday the 26th and motored cautiously up the La Paz channel and into Bahia de La Paz. To get around to Cabo we had to go north for a while, then east through the Ilsa Espirito Santo gap and the track the Baja coast and keep it off our starboard beam. The winds were fickle and local. Our course kept changing as well resulting in numerous jib out, lets sail to motor on and jib in on the roller. The sea had a 1’-2’ swell and we stayed on course one way or another.
Good Bye La Paz – – – – – Sails
Had another encounter with dolphins surfing our bow wave while we were motoring. One of the dolphins had 2 or 3 suckerfish on him. There were almost translucent, like jelly fish sculptured to look like a fish. Cut through between Isla Cerralvo and Baja and pored the coast for signs of human activity which there were many from little villages, hidden villas to gringo’s camping on the beach with their RV’s.
Dolphin – – – – Stan & Heather – – – – Sunset
Sun set at 5:30, Phil wanted the 8 to 10 & 4 to 6 watches to see sunrise and I took 10 to 12 and would relieve Phil after he had seen the day break and sunrise at 6:45 am. Stan cooked a killer chicken ptarmigan that we ate on deck, under the stars and trine one of the Baja wines we had bought in La Paz. The seas remained calm and we continued the motor/sail routine through the night. It is magical to be at the helm with everyone else asleep somewhere on the boat. The stars were bright off the port side but the setting moon masked them on starboard and it finally sank to the horizon like a saucer of milk careful not to tip and spill any. Orion was out again on his side and slowly rotating over to starboard as Stella Polaris anchored him somewhere to the north behind me. Did not get to see the Southern Cross as I slept in to 6:30 am and all the stars had got washed out by then.
Motored into San Jose del Cabo and picturesque Cabo just after 9 am.
Anchored in Disneyland
We plan to leave Cabo early Tuesday morning so first order of business was the fuel dock, 200 liters later we then asked how much a slip for the night was. “$175” came the reply. I reckon they got dollars & pesos mixed up but or else the slip included a 5 * hotel room. Either way we said “Adios” and puttered outside the breakwater to go anchor with the Disneyland riffraff. A cruise ship was just entering, we found a nice anchoring in 30’ of water off the beach and settled in. Decided to have lunch and then hail a panga into shore. Riffraff on Ch 16 bitching about some sport fisher boat exceeding the speed limit, gawking tourists in plastic kayaks, jet skis all over the place, monolithic hotel complexes wherever you look, you get the picture; we had better round the corner come first light and see what the Uphill is all about and pretend we never set keel in Cabo. Not even any HotSpot we can steal from, they all want WEP passwords, limited connectivity or “You have to Login before you can use this service” on your web browser.
Cabo Arch – – – – – Entrance to Harbor Fuel Dock – – – – Hotels
Living Aboard Elegante
Captain has the aft master cabin and the crew either the forward cabin or one of the couches in the main cabin if you’re long & lanky. There is a forward & aft head as well but that is pretty much where the class separation stops. She is a 48’ Choi Lee Sloop and compared to a 40’ Benateau that I was on in the BVI, larger and much better equipped for long range cruising. I’m told she “rides” very well and I was impressed the way she rode those swells on the first day out of San Carlos. There are all sorts of gadgets that have incrementally added over her 30 odd years of life including air conditioning, which we use when we are in a slip, and hooked up to shore power. We have a good distribution of 110V sockets for all the electronic gadgets like laptops & battery chargers. Then there is the toaster & microwave in the galley and regular sockets for other accessories.
Today is Tuesday and we should have started heading up the pacific side but yesterday Stan spotted some dings in the hull that he wanted fixing so we added another day of maintenance to the shake out run. Our freshwater supply has been very weak so Phil poked his head under the cabin floor for the n’th time and tried to make sense of the fresh water piping. No valves turned off or half off just a good old filter inline between the tank and faucets. Now why would he suspect that? Switch off the pump, drain the pressure and open her up. It is a high quality carbon filter looking extra gray with age. We find a non-standard paper replacement aboard and try it out. World of difference. So we will run with paper water till we get a carbon replacement.
We had bought a broom handle the night before and found the nylon brush to attach. I grab a newly purchased bucket and start to scrub the deck in a rather haphazard manner, you know, where you start out with intentions of just doing a small part but end up doing more & more and having to double back on yourself because after you do the deck you do the upper deck which dirties the deck again so it is double work for yourself. Phil in the meantime wants to know why the one instrument light does not work. Trace a few wires, ponder, measure and then: “Why is the power for the light connected to the windlass (anchor chain motor) fuse?”. “That means if we want light we need to have the windlass hot which means you had better not toggle the wrong switch by mistake else we could end up dropping anchor while you peer into the instrument panel on the 2 to 4 am watch. But the mechanical safety latch should be engaged on the windlass. Right?“.
I will tell you more as miles go by. This morning we have 3 cruise chips in port. To they look like floating prisons with supposedly an array of good services inside. They have little tenders that shuttle a few well behaved inmates to the shore & back but you have to sign up, stand in line, get transported like cattle and had better be back in time lest your prison depart without you.
I’m going backwards now but last night, Monday, we wanted to go ashore for dinner & as always, a few supplies. We consider it too much hassle to get the dingy over the side (it lives upside down lashed to the foredeck) so at 4’ish we hail a water taxi and get shuttled to the marina which is more than a short dingy ride away. We ask about retuning later on and he tells us the water taxis stop at 6:30 pm. We find this hard to believe but find solace in the fact there may be other independent taxi operators. We pay him $12 (This is Cabo San Lucas) and move on. Come 7 p m we return well fed with supplies (broom stick, more meat, fruit and fresh bread and a bottle of L.A. Cetto Petiet Syrah 2004) in hand and are told that there is nigh a taxi to be found. A local, supposedly living in OC and selling timeshares in Cabo, solicits the help of a prim lady with a cell phone and Marina Something embroidered on her white shirt. She finds someone who, in one hour, will take us out to Elegante. The agreed upon price is negotiated DOWN to $10 a head and we say Si.
The closer the one hour wait got to fulfillment, the more we contemplated Plan B which was to find our way, landwise, to the hotels we were anchored in front of and the nominate one of us to swim out to the boat and somehow get the dingy to ferry the others. No need – Our trusty contact appeared and was only too please to placate the Gringo’s questions as he ferried us and collected a high overtime rate. We decided it will be worth the effort to heave the dingy over the side and avoid such folly in the future.
The other observation I need to get off of my chest is that when we first came ashore, we were dropped off in front of this Mexican restaurant whose surroundings and ambiance made it look more like Newport Beach than Cabo. The whole waterfront around the fancy marina has been remodeled to look like, and attract the types, from Newport Beach. Now maybe Cabo has made the place look like home for the visiting Gringo’s but it has certainly sold its soul to do so. And Yes, there are certainly Newport prices on the Newport quayside.
Rose wants some photo’s that include me as the subject matter so I have borrowed these from Phil.
Off to HotSpot in Marina Real – At HotSpot in Marina – Real Aft Deck – – – Watching the Dolphins
In the Galley – – – – – HotSpot is Active Pichelingue Beach – – – I used to be able to splice rope
Checking Email before Bed – Andre Breakfast on Deck – – – Birthday Dinner
New T-Shirts – – – Cabo (Newport Beach) More Newport – – – With Broomstick waiting for Water Taxi
I was cleaning the Dingy, honest.
Cabo to Mag Bay
Man this was a bastard, well by my standards anyway.
We up’d anchor at first light and motored out and round past the Monks that guard Bahia Cabo??. Yes, the wind started to pick up and we continued our course out and away from land to be able to later set a preferred course up to Bahia Magdelania 150 odd miles up. We kept the motor on and reefed the main for assistance from the wind, which was now off our starboard side and pushing us further off our desired course but with the added advantage of increased speed. The Magellan GPS has two speeds on it, one is your actual speed in the direction you are traveling and the other is the VMG (velocity made good), which is the speed you are making towards your intended destination. So you can argue that by going a bit off course to gain speed it is OK as long as you also increase your VMG, which is your ultimate goal.
The sport fishermen were coming out is their fancy crafts and heading for wherever the fish were presumed to be. We chugged on and the wind kept up its 16 to 22 knots with sea conditions to match. White caps everywhere with increasingly choppy swells that we were attacking. In the early afternoon with the winds gusting up to 28 knots my stomach finally relented and I hurled to the fish Gods. I was in some form of seasickness for the next 24 hours, ate little and tried to remain functional without inducing another round of gut wrenching dry heaves. Night settled and Elegante continued to pound the swells, creating loud thumps when the hull was raised into the air and allowed to thwump back down onto the back of the next swell.
Cockpit View – – – – Phil Plotting the Course
We got through the night with periods of fixing things that came loose under the relentless pounding. I managed some sleep below by clearing my stomach and then lying still in one position and closing my eyes for a period of inner calm. Sunrise came behind light clouds and we continued on with 60 miles to go. Phil got some sailing in and the wind continued to shift east into our favor. Heather spotted some swordfish jumping, by as much as 5’ to 6’ before slamming back into the water, something you ultimately have to see for yourself to appreciate the phenomenon. By lunch the water started to calm and it became more difficult to harness any wind power for a course into Mag Bay so we went back onto diesel power. I checked with my stomach, drank some water and started snacking. Time for another Bonine and hope that ones over the worst. We had all decided that a night at anchor was a required remedy and had a tight deadline with sunset and Punta Belcher that was just inside. Bahia Magdelania is huge, Heather said as large as San Francisco Bay, and from our southerly approach it did not look like we were entering a bay at all but rather sailing into the gap between an island and the mainland.
A few sailing issues caused us to slip our deadline and we ended up peering into the dimming light to find the shelter of Punta Belcher as Stan kept a concerned eye on our depth. We dropped anchor with the help of the moon in 30’ of water over shoal but fairly far off the sandy beach. Spaghetti & meatballs for dinner then we all crashed.
Crashing the Waves – – – Mag Bay Skiff
It was a nice slow morning and calm seas. Fresh coffee and watch the day arrive. There is fair amount of local activity and fishermen in skiffs wiz by with traps on board but I don’t know what they are hunting yet. We do some more repairs to canopies & sunshields, tie down the dingy again, eat lunch and marvel at the near mirror conditions and warm sun – this is what we had sighed up for.
Being anchored fairly near the entrance we could observe all the traffic in & out. Besides the local skiff’s scurrying back & forth about 6 to 10 yachts meandered in & out and we guessed most of them to be on a southerly course and looked for ones that might turn uphill and be bait for us to chase the next day.
Mag Bay Maintenance – – – Roast Chicken for Dinner
Up to Bahia Tortugas
OK a quick “whats going on?”. We‘re in Turtle Bay, got here a few hours ago. You gotta see the place to believe it, remember you are halfway down Baja and miles off of HWY 1. So, no wireless internet but we have found this room full of kids playing video games and they have BROADBAND!
We left very early Saturday, December the 2nd I believe, and ventured out into the Pacific for the next 250 odd mile leg up to Turtle Bay. Fuel capacity & consumption on a boat is not an exact science especially on a boat that has just been acquired. We believe we have 90 gal main tank, 30 gal aux tank and two 5 gal jerry cans for emergency. Overall we believe the motor ran for 30 hours of our 36 hours journey from Cabo to Mag Bay with an average speed of 4.2 miles per hour. We most probably have mile/nautical mile discrepancies but we generally refer to miles for distance, knots for wind speed because that is what the instrument says, gals for fuel although we buy it by the liter down here. Where was I? Basically we believe we have enough for the 240 to 260 mile stint up to Turtle Bay and when we fill up there we will know a bit more about our carrying capacity and consumption rate. Also we are planning for a 57 hour segment which hopefully we will beat.
I slept in as I heard Stan & Phil start the engine and raise the anchor. As we motored gently out of Magdelania Bay the up down movement in the bow cabin increased and I picked up and moved to the main cabin couch and continued my fits of sleep. I lie awake wondering if I’ll ever get back to sleep and the next thing I know is that I have awoken from a vivid dream as the neurons in my brain short circuit psychedelically. Come 4:30 am Phil shines a light on me and it is my turn up on deck. Conditions are good, a light breeze that makes it cool enough to put on my yellow jacket that doubles as foul weather & windbreaker. I plug in the Archos MP3 player and gaze at the heavenly stars looking for constellations I can recognize, that is after I do not see any boat traffic lights on the horizon and pick out the flashing lighthouse at the tip of the Santa Maria Bay headland ??.
Dawn comes just after 6 am and sunrise at 6:55 am to a lightly cloudy sky. Sea conditions are too good to be true with 1’ to 2’ swell and no appreciable wind (<6 knots). Heather is up next and we have tea together as we wait for Phil to wake which he does near 9 am. Then it is fresh coffee and oats, banana & yogurt for breakfast. This is more like it! Although the seas are too calm with no wind to sail by other conditions are excellent and we can lounge on deck, suntan, read, whatever.
Our One Calm Day
I am well into “The Sea of Cortez” and would like to quote Steinbeck on the Western Flyers log entry as they round the Cape San Lucas on their return up to Monterey:
“As we went northward the gray waves rolled up and the Western Flyer stubbed her nose into them and the white spray flew all over us. The day passed and a new night came and the sea grew more stern. Now we plunged like a nervous horse, and no step could be taken without a steadying hand. The galley was in confusion, for a can of olive oil had leapt from it’s stand and flooded the floor.”
Now we did not have olive oil on the galley floor but I take solace in that we were not the only ones to get pounded as we rounded the Cape and into the Pacific.
We chug relentlessly on at 5+ knots VMG and our ETA now shows 2am on the second night out. We will wait till later to see if we should believe this but conditions will change and so will the ETA into Bahia Tortugas.
Phil & I have changed our night watch pattern and he will take an 8 pm to midnight and I will take the 4 am to 8 am stint with Stan & Heater the graveyard in-between. By 11 pm the wind has picked up and Phil is about to raise the main when Mr Isuzu coughs & splutters. All right, we’ll raise the sails and get some forward stability and then deal with the diesel fuel Mr Isuzu is spluttering over. There is mild chaos as the sheet goes up and I am assigned to haul in the main halyard. I start by using the winch but switch to hand over hand as the person pulling on the halyard at the mast shouts repeatably: “Take up the slack!”. As it gets too tough to haul in I switch back to the winch for the final few feet. No, I did not check if the lines were wound around correctly but was happy that we got it all the way up. (The line (rope) is now strung like a guitar from all the tension.) I look down at the winch and feel that “Oh Shit” feeling. It is not right and the line around the bloody thing is so twisted that it will never be able to be released to let the main down.
It is now midnight and the winds are blowing a steady 24+ knots and Phil & Stan have to clean fuel lines and I have politely thrown another spanner in the works. I try to scheme a way to release the main’s tension but it hardly budges. Try “back winching” the free end but Phil backs off when he fears the two winches tearing out and coming together. Later while Stan & I are trying another trick Phil tries again (this is the preferred way to un-jam) and it slowly unpeels itself. Whew, I retreat to bed and await the 4 am roust.
In the meantime Stan & Heather claim they had Elegante up 9 knots on their midnight run. 3 am the boat is alive again as they have trouble reefing the main as the winds nudge 30 knots and Phil is on deck helping. It gets reefed and I start my 4 hour watch. When we are at sea it is a 24 hr shop with a lot of nighttime activity and a lot of sleeping during the day or anytime it is available. Daylight comes and the sea is awash with whitecaps and will stay that way. We plug up our intended course for Bahia Tortugas, bring down all sails as we are headed too much into the wind. Later we change course and run for land as we try to escape the winds & seas. We are motoring directly into the wind and only making 2 – 3 knots and not in the direction we really want to be going (remember VMG?). Stan relates later that he was standing in our center cockpit and had to look UP to some of the swell crests – they were big rollers that subtly prevented us from making any appreciable forward movement.
Phil at the Helm – – – – Later that Day Sunset – One of Many! – – – Capt’n on Deck
I take a nap and 2 hours later we are back on course and the winds have subsided a bit (down to 24). Our new ETA is 9am next morning. The winds drop more and Stan is even able to cook us big steaks on the grill for dinner – Remember you eat/sleep whenever you can!. This night is punctionated by Mr Isuzu’s coughing & spluttering as I take on my solo 4 am shift with Van Morrison plugged into my ears. The rest sleep, as is typical of these punctionated nighttime sessions when it’s “all hands on deck” to deal with whatever.
I am laid back as the winds are light (<6 knots) and we chug on into 320 degrees & Turtle Bay. Local wind conditions rise to 16 and then fall off again in the space of an hour. 20 miles out the winds pick up again and are back to 26 gusting to 30+ and we are almost head to wind. Phil is at the helm and I go to join him. Then I get the helm and I ask the question: “We could put out the jib and see if it helps?”. “Sure, why not” he replies and we are back in sailing mode with me trying to develop that “feel” of when we are optimum or getting too much into the wind, luffing. Two more taks, more fun and then it’s roll in the jib as we carefully motor into Bahia Tortugas and look for an anchorage. 59 hours out of Mag Bay and ready for a shower and a full nights sleep.
Arrived into sanctuary around 2 pm and anchored amongst 8 or so other yachts. We had not been able to always roller furl our jib leaving a piece left over that can act as a mini sail and this time with a fair wind blowing it caused the boat to pendulum from side to side while at anchorage. OK, we’d better fix it now. We drop the jib without letting any of it over the side and it’s grins all round as we congratulate ourselves. There’s a spare jib down below and we start to attach it hoping that it might be smaller and more appropriate for the gusty 25 to 30 knot winds we have been experiencing. Luckily we discover that it seems to be an older broken one that lives on the boat. So we have to roll it back into it’s bag and get back to hoisting the original one with a few extra turns on the roller line to be able to properly retract it. Again we pat ourselves on the back as we get it up without any screwups.
By this time a local skiff selling diesel fuel has pulled along side asking how much we want. All yacht refueling is done this way as they do not have a low refueling dock. We say later but organize a ride to the town so that we can shower (been quite a few days since the last complete freshwater wash in La Paz!). We find a “hotel” that charges us 50 pesos per person for use of a rustic (Rose, remember the motel coming back from Utah?) room and a lukewarm shower. Then Phil & I cruise the dusty streets and find a green internet store full of kids playing video games. They have a good broadband connection and charge 20 pesos per hour so I test it with an initial upload but can’t remember other email URLs & login’s so we retreat to dinner for a sloooow service dinner. The kind where you realize you should have ordered 2 beers up front because they are kinda long in coming. No, the place was not full, we were the only patrons besides another table of weathered yachties that were on there way out and we briefly swapped stories including diesel fuel line encounters.
Floating Fuel Dock – – Turtle Bay
Back on board we had a nightcap and at 8 pm crashed for one of the deepest sleeps I’ve had for a long time. Awoke to Heather making coffee and the feeling that my mind had spent it’s time delving into the dream machine to the extent that I did not think I’d had a dream but rather been transported to a lateral life for 12 hours.
This place is really neat. There is this large protected bay with the little town of Port San Bartolume in one cove. The rest of the bay is bounded by “Death Valley by the Sea” type of geology. Under the water the sea must be teaming with fish life because the whole place is a natural sanctuary, except for the fish. I am sitting here on deck at about 5:30 pm and there is a hive of activity around us. Dozens of seals are honking and forever underwater gorging. Pelicans are dive-bombing and there are literally thousands of other birsds either cruising around or on the water feeding. Life is so natural it is almost as if we, the yachts, are not here. The birds fly close by and I just saw a seagull pick a 4” morsel out of the water not 30’ away.
We hail over the fuel dock boat and get them to loan us an empty jerry can to so that we can dump the dregs of our tank, which we do. Then we call for 90 gallons of diesel and the fuel dock will finally make some money out of us. They come along side with a couple of large blue containers and give is a 110V extension cord to plug into our supply. (What if we did not have 110V on board?) Using a small hand held motor they start to pump our 90 gals aboard. When their tank runs dry they claim we have our 90 gals, our gauge shows 10/11 full and we nod acceptance.
Pumping Diesel – – – – Into Town
Now it’s into town for a final meal, internet and pick up the laundry that was done by Doris, the fuel docks wife. On our way in we have to squeeze through another feeding frenzy happening all around us and I marvel at it’s existence and get a view of the swarms of small sardine like fish feeding it all.
Doris will do Laundry – Another Feeding Frenzy – Final Meal – – – – Goodbye
Bahia Tortugas across to San Carlos (the 3rd)
Planned 6 am departure and we motored out still closeted in darkness. Around the headland and turned north up the coast towards Isla Cedros which will be our kick off across the bay, about 120 miles total. Seas were flat’ish with 1-2’ swells and no appreciable wind. About 3 hours in Mr Isuzu coughs & splutters complaining again of his food chain supply gone foul. He has performed pretty well with all our problems being in the fuel tanks, lines & filters. The focus is on why, over random time, we get a vacuum on the line from the main tank to the T-switch that allows us to selet either the main or aux tanks. This problem does not occur when we run of the aux tank but it has limited supply and we need to get the main supply working properly.
The line is blown and wires thrust down it but the problems continues to occur at random intervals. Much speculation and hypothesis goes on and while we were in calm waters off the east side of Cedros it is decided to open the main tank cover (12” round plate with upteen bolts on it) and remove the fuel line for inspection and cleaning. This we achieve with an unintended trip to the bottom of the bilge first (retrieval tool was an old rusty Hawaiian harpoon and metal strap fashioned into a hook) and the line and all it pieces thoroughly poked & cleaned. Again speculation as to whether we removed an obstruction or not but at least we know that it is clean as a whistle right now. All back together and off we go again.
The waters are calm and besides a bit of confluence at the north tip of Cedros that we pass at 6 pm our ride across the bay is only punctuated by 2 fuel line incidents. We now realize some gremlin is stuffing obstructive objects into our main fuel line and live with it for the time being. The waters are also notably colder, 60 F compare to 80 F in La Paz. There are floating beds of kelp to avoid and plenty of cold wet dew in the cockpit in the mornings. Most people we talk to are headed south and rejoice in the fact they are escaping all of the above but we have to regard them as indicators that we are closer to home.
North end of Isla Cedros
San Carlos (in Baja Norte) is no more than a protected bay that also acts as a fish camp for the locals. It is near mirror flat when we arrive around noon and anchor in 30’ of water to chill out. We hail a returning panga and inquire about langosta (lobster) but times are hard and there are none available. As the tide drops the swells rise and we see huge waves froming right breaks with spray blowing back off their crests. Far enough away to not threaten us but the swells constantly wake me as I sleep that night.
Anchoring – – – – No Langosta Today
San Carlos to Colnett
We depart at a leisurely noon’ish for the 100 odd miles up the coast. The afternoon & evening are the normal conditions we’ve been experiencing and we make good time. Come 4 am (the boat has now switched to PST) it is wet and drizzly in the cockpit, full foulies for my watch. The wind continues to blow but come daylight the west is clear and the wet stuff is over the coast to the east. The noticeable headland comes into sight and we roll into anchorage beneath the cliffs. It is pretty open and only protected from the north with the big pacific swells continuing to roll in from the west. We do whatever needed to be done and decide to push on to The Barn (San Diego) 110 miles away. We even sail out and do a tack and enjoy some good sailing in 20+ knot winds, just what a boat this size needs.
Approaching Colnett – – – Dropping Anchor
We’re having fun but not going in the direction we want to. Down sails, start the engine and bash head to wind at 313 degrees. Tough going and the wind increases to 25 to 30 knots. We steer closer to the coast in the hope of calmer waters but instead Mr Isuzu complains about food supply. Not a good time to drift aimlessly so we pull out the jib but have to jibe (tack did not work) to get us on a track away from the menacing cliffs less than a mile away. Secure for now Phil & Stan get the lines kinda clear and the Captain makes an executive decision to get back to Colnett for hot food and regrouping on the Racor filter situation.
Sailing Off Colnett
It’s further than we thought back to our anchorage and we now have a neighbor in the form of a small sport fisherman type.
Run for the BARN
At 11:30 pm I am awoken by Phil in the cabin muttering that the wind had died down and he wanted to start the diesel, raise anchor and vamos before Stan wakes up. Well Stan wakes up anyway and we head out into the night. Needless to say the winds are gustier out of the lee of “the cliffs of Colnett” and we pound on into them. Daylight comes and so do 25 knot winds and we can barely make 2 knots forward. With no other option we suffer on including the indignation that when we are adrift to do fuel line maintenance, we drift back at the same 2 knots we were making forward.
The Magnetic Cliffs of Colnett
It’s a long tiresome day and we are all dead tired when the sun sets. Stan goes to sleep, Heather feeds Phil chili and I bypass dinner because my stomach is uneasy. Unbeknownst to us at the time Mr Isuzu is feeding off our 40 gal auxiliary tank and runs fine until 2 am when Stan finds out the situation and switches over to the troublesome main again. It lasts till 6 am before complaining but we have all got some sleep, Colnett is nowhere to be seen and we know the welcome sanctuary of Ensenada is just off our starboard.
The seas are flatter and we do some jib sailing during a fuel line stop thus preventing us loosing hard gained ground (or sea). Now the mood is really: Run for the Barn (San Diego) which is 35 miles away and we even empty our 2 5 gal jerry cans lashed to our stern into the aux tank. Near the Coronado Islands Heather calls one of the marina’s in San Diego and they have an (expensive) slip for us and it is OK to arrive at night something S & H feel comfortable with as they have done plenty of sailing out of San Diego which is home ground to them. SD ETA is now 7:30 pm with a further 4 miles to the marina & slip. Heather mixes up a quick chili and potatoes which we eat up on deck watching the lights o San Diego go by. But wait, the fun is yet to begin!
Plotting a course into San Diego – – – Sunset over the Coronado’s
We monitor the lights in the darkness, firstly to make sure we don’t hit anything and secondly, wonder if anybody knows we’re here and is silently watching us. We pass a number of dimly lit vessels and then see the familiar green, red & white navigation lights creeping up fast from behind us. It’s a fast inflatable and we all know what it is but await their orders. “US Coast Guard – maintain your speed & course, we’re coming aboard.” There is one guy driving from a center console, almost jockey style and 4 guys on the corners. They pull alongside and one by one jump aboard and start asking questions. “We want to see ID & the boats papers”. They go below and peer into the engine compartment and start inspecting he boat. The mood softens and we start to chat to these kids and their taxpayer paid for toys. They are young and polite and we talk of sailing up Baja and Stan finds one is a local San Diegan and they exchange “where I lived” type stories. They depart just as we are about to enter the channel proper. What a trip! Wonder how long they had been monitoring us for?
US Coast Guard Interception (out of focus)
Now we’re in the channel and looking for red flashing buoys marking the starboard side of the waterway. There is some traffic but not too much as we slide by at our usual 5 knots. Then a cough & a splutter and the friging engine dies. Phil works on diagnosing the problem and we drop the anchor and 60’ of chain in the channel – It’s like pulling to the side of the freeway to fix your engine. The engine starts, up anchor and we’re on our way and then a loud explicative from below as Phil’s cell phone takes a trip to the bilge. He’s pissed as hell but fishes it out with the rusty Hawaiian sling we’ve used before. Then a left turn and into the marina and a night search for K45 which we gingerly maneuver into and manually pull Elegante fully into the narrow slip.
We’re in the Barn. Time for a sip of wine and I reflect on the events of the last few days.
San Diego to Venice
Stan & Heather have a list of chores to be done before proceeding and it is time for me to get back to Rose. One last night aboard and I am now on Amtrak as I write these final notes. The 4 pm Surfliner #785 departs with the sun setting once again over the Pacific and I settle back into my comfy seat with laptop on tray table and handy 120V at my side. I’ve called Rose, hey my trusty cell phone works again!, and she will meet me at Union station if I give her directions. There was Internet at the San Diego station but this post will have to wait till Venice to be uploaded. Life is comfy again but the nomadic freedom is missing ….
Would I do it again? Well yes but the last time I said Yes it was a rather naïve yes and I am lucky to be able to look back and separate the woes from the uniqueness of it. Somewhere in one of those sea miles Phil relates to me comments made by a Delivery Boat Captain. One of his major check items is the question “Have you polished the fuel tanks?” to the owner. At the time I took the association of “polished” to “fuel tank” rather light heartily. Now it has new meaning and next time when I WILL ask the question and I mean POLISH as in POLISHED THE FUEL TANKS?, among a long list of other checklist items that now have new meaning to them. See the book: “The Baja Bash II” by Capt Jim Elfers.