November 4-6, 2011
Cabo San Lucas
The large megayacht in the picture is Larry Ellisons (Oracle) new motoryacht.
We are at Cabo after completing the Baja Ha-Ha. Close to our slip was a small store and I had indulged myself in an Ice Cream. We had also picked up ice so we could now have some celebratory drinks. After logging in with the Marina, we now had gate keys. George and Carl disappeared to explore the waterfront bars and Cantinas while we tidied up the boat.
Friday morning we gave the boat a good wash down to get the salt off and tidied up some loose ends. George and Carl then went off to do more exploring and apparently had fish Tacos and a bucket of beer (usually six bottles) at a number of Cantinas. Apparently, we may have not fed them enough during the voyage. I had thought we were doing them a favor, helping them to lose weight, but in one day they seem to have made up for the loss. In the afternoon, there was the Baja Ha-Ha beach party however Anita and I were not ready as we had been waiting on our clearance documentation for the boat and crew into Mexico. That evening we dined on burgers at one of the Cantinas that line the harbor.
The harbor in Cabo is small and one side is lined with cantinas selling beer and food to the tourists who come by their thousands, some staying in condos, timeshares or hotels while others arrive by one of the many cruise lines that serve the port. When we had arrived on Thursday, the only cruise ship in port was one of the Disney cruise lines which left on Friday afternoon. For the first time, we had an opportunity to see what Cabo is like without any liners anchored off-shore. It is much quieter and less crowded. We had expected the Marina area to be warm at night however as soon as the sun set, a nice cooling breeze set in so even though we used the AC at night to dry the boat out, it was quite pleasant sleeping conditions even without AC.
On Saturday we finally received our clearance documentation and then headed to the store to provision for the next leg of our cruise. Most of the Cantinas have free Wi-Fi so we were able to access the internet and upload information and pictures to the blog as well as review our email.
Saturday evening we all went to the Baja Ha-Ha awards ceremony and Hilbre had scored third place in her division along with a number of other boats. To get a first place, you really need to sail all the way and in fact a number of boats had managed to accomplish this feat, even if it meant spending little time in the stops along the way. Everyone received an award of some sort and a small certificate confirming their participation in the event. We now have the famous Baja Ha-Ha fish in our cabin on board.
Sunday morning we met up with Ken and Nancy with whom we spent an enjoyable hour or so swapping stories as Nancy had sailed the east coast extensively and had lived on a boat for a number of years. George and Carl prepared for their flight home and we prepared to leave the Marina for the beach anchorage.
It is now Wednesday, November 2nd and we are at sea and heading for Cabo San Lucas. The weather has warmed up considerably and the sea temperature reads 84 degrees. We are motor sailing as the wind is too light to use sail only.
We all left Bahia Santa Maria at 7:00 am, anxious to complete the final and third leg of the Baha Ha-Ha. During the morning we caught and released two nice Dorado as we have enough fish to last us for some time. We had lost one lure so we resorted to making them out of Beer and Soda Cans. The Coors Light was snatched off the line and later in the day we had a fin catch on a 7-Up can. This fist was at least 5-6 feet long and gave me a heck of a fight. Just as we were about to land it, the line snapped and the lead shot which is use to weight the line shot back and hit me hard in the neck. I was left with a nice Hickey, just as well Anita is on the boat.
We motor-sailed almost all the way to Cabo and it was a fine sight bringing the boat into the final port of the Baja Ha-Ha. We managed to get a slip in the Marina in Cabo however there was much confusion over which slip to use and I had to back the boat in three times to two slips before we were finally settled in and tied up for the night.
Cabo was warm and fortunately we have air-conditioning on the boat which is a real luxury on a small sailing boat. Tomorrow will be a day of cleaning and checking in with the authorities. We had covered the 196 miles from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo in just over 30 hours.
It is November 1st and we are anchored snugly in Bahia Santa Maria, a broad bay. We are about a half mile from the shore and most of the Baja Ha-Ha fleet is between us and the beach. During the morning the head gave me new problems, this time the plunger had stopped working. George and Carl went ashore by Panga at 11:00 am to join the beach party while Anita and I stayed behind, Anita to tidy up and me to fix the head.
I was very grateful that I had brought a full box of surgical gloves with me. Disassembling a head is a messy, smelly thing and something that most boats owner eventually do, if only to service them. I had done this twice before and already knew where the problem lay. It was with a small nut behind the plunger valve that had worked its way loose and dropped off. Sure enough, as soon as I had pulled the plunger apart, the nut dropped out onto the floor. This time I added a large washer and lock washer behind the plunger so this will not happen again. By 1:00 pm, we were heading to the beach in a Panga to join in the fun.
Bahia Santa Maria is a large open bay flanked at either end by a range of hills. The Bay itself consists of a sandy beach with some good surf. There is no town, the nearest is at Magdalena Bay and both bays are separated only by a spit of land. There is a small fisherman's camp but no town or village. A band drives in from Cabo to play for the party and the locals put on a very fine dinner of fish, shrimp, chicken and other tasty items in a fine hearty sauce. Everyone spoke highly if the food as it was very tasty given we were in quite primitive surroundings.
To get to the beach party, the Panga had hugged the edge of the small river that flows into the bay while dodging the breakers. The fishing camp is a couple of hundred yards up the creek and the party was on a bluff overlooking the bay with a fine view.
We stayed until mid-afternoon, returning to the boat to take a swim and a siesta. Tomorrow we begin the final 192 mile leg which will take us to Cabo San Lucas.
It is Saturday afternoon and still no fish although others in the fleet are catching Dorado and Tuna. It was a slow start out of the bay with little wind to help propel us to Bahia anta Maria. We had hoisted the Spinnaker and most of the fleet had done the same so it was quite a sight with 140 boats all heading out to sea. The wind soon gave out and we took in the Spinnaker and turned on the engine.
On the way out of Turtle Bay we had many Squid attacking our fishing lures. If you pulled the lures in slowly, close to the boat, you could see them come up and put their tentacles around the lure and then slide off it. They were about foot long and strong swimmers in groups of four or five. Some of the boats had crew pull their lures from the front of the boat while crew at the stern gaffed them aboard. There was a lot of chatter during the afternoon on the radio about cleaning and preparing Squid. All we managed as a couple of tentacles that got caught in the hook.
Having worked our way offshore about 15 miles we finally found some wind and again hoisted the Spinnaker. Unfortunately, the wind angle was not good and the only way we could keep the sail full was to continue heading offshore. After dinner, we finally got a bite on the blue and white lure that we had on the rod and reel. We pulled in a nice Dorado (Mahi Mahi) of about two and a half feet in length. We were not really prepared to deal with it and it was quite a bloody affair trying to dispatch it. I had whacked it on the head four or five time with the winch handle before it finally lay still. The cockpit, crew and boat were all covered in blood however we had our first fish, even if it was something of a primitive and primal event. It took some time to clean up the boast from al the blood and afterwards, I took it below to clean and fillet.
We have been trolling a hand line and one from the rod and reel. Sunday morning, we suddenly had two fish on the hook and in pulling one in he came free. The other, we managed to land but later cut it free. We had another bite in the mid afternoon, this time George landed a nice five foot Dorado of about 30 pounds. This time we had our plan in place and the fish was soon dead and being towed behind the boat to bleed. No blood, no mess and a nice catch. We immediately cleaned the fish and commenced to saw at least 12 nice steaks off the fish. We dined on fresh fish that evening courtesy of George's culinary expertise.
The wind continued to be fickle and we finally turned the engine on again late Sunday night, by this time we were well over 70 miles offshore. Mid morning on Monday, we finally sighted land and by early afternoon we had turned to port and were entering a fine broad bay with the wind gusting up to 16 knots. As we approached the boats already at anchor the wind dropped to about 12 knots but there were still small whitecaps everywhere. We put the hook down at 2:10 pm and had a congratulatory drink. We had covered 253 nautical miles in a little over two days and six hours.
We had arrived in Turtle Bay, Mexico on October 27,and everyone except me went ashore in the afternoon, anxious to put their feet on dry land. I stayed behind to work on the head, tidy the boat and take a shower. We had done well with just two boat issues, the head and the boom washer, although the latter could have become quite serious, especially if the boom end had dropped onto the deck. I still do not understand how the cotter pin managed to work its way out however it is now securely fastened with the washer back in place the cotter pin ends nicely curled up. I had the head plumbing redone in San Pedro however the pump used to flush the toilet just pumped air. I managed to jury rig the system by stuffing a cork into the vent which allowed some water to flush the bowl after a number of pumps however it still proves unsatisfactory and will need to be fixed in Cabo.
The bay is quite large and the entrance easy with good holding in about 30 feet of water. The town has a jetty and is spread along part of the northern section of the bay. It is easy to get fuel and go ashore by hailing down a Panga with a horn or by calling for one on VHF channel 16. The charge for going ashore using a Panga is $2.00 per person. The Hilbre crew returned in late afternoon with some supplies and a report of good, cheap beer they had had in a small bar overlooking the bay.
I did not get to see the town until late Friday afternoon when Anita and I needed to obtain some fresh provisions at a small store. It is a rather typical rural town with no paved streets without any order to how the streets are laid out. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and helpful. With over 500 "Gringos" spending US Dollars, I am sure it is a major boost to the local economy.
Friday was the day assigned for the Beach and Pot luck party. The beach was around a small headland to the right of the town and not visible to most of the boats at anchor. It was quite a crowd with lots of food, beer and beach games. After school was over, many of the Mexicans brought their families to the beach to share in the fun. One of the catamarans in the Baja Ha-Ha got too close to the surf and became stranded as the tide was ebbing. Despite a number of attempts to pull the boat into deeper water by a couple of Pangas, they were stuck there until the tide turned. We saw the boat a few hours later after it had floated off with the rising tide.
We all managed to shower on Friday evening and I finally switched fresh water tanks having used up about 25 gallons over five days. We carry just over 70 gallons in three separate tanks so we are in good shape and plan on refilling these in Cabo.
The weather was pleasant during our stay and we could feel some warmth from the sun. The sunsets were pretty and at night, the entire fleet's anchor lights lit up the bay, all bobbing slightly with the gentle swells that make their way into the bay. We enjoyed two restful nights at anchor preparing again to head off -shore to Bahia Santa Maria, 220 miles further south on Saturday morning.
It is 2:00 am and quite dark outside, everyone is asleep below. There is nothing out there except for a small light far, far away. It is July, 1971 and I am standing the midnight to 4:00 am watch on a sailboat. My compatriots are two South Africans who own the boat and an American who, like me, is extra crew. We are off St. Lucia and it is really hot with almost no wind.
It is also dark outside but this time I am surrounded by at least a dozen or more lights of the other 140 plus sailing boats, all partaking in the Baja Ha-Ha sailing rally and en-route from San Diego to Turtle Bay, Mexico, our first stop. It is October 24th, 2011 and everyone is asleep below. I am left to my thoughts of tonight, previous sailing experiences and sailors past. The Chart plotter is on as is the Radar and all of the other sailing instruments. Sometimes the VHF springs to light with news of other boats as some have AIS installed which gives the position, size, name, speed and direction of boats over 100 tons. They relay this information to the fleet.
Some years ago, I had read my Dad's journals that were a part of his sailing experiences in 1928. He had taken a contract with Lamport and Holt as a ship Medical Officer for two round-trip voyages from New York to Buenos Aires His journals were really a photo album in which he had extensively annotated each of the pictures he had taken. He had remarked that on passing Dominica, that he could smell sulphretted hydrogen from the sulphur springs on that Island. That was almost 80 years ago and there was no Radar or Chart plotters, everything was done by Sextant and plotted on a paper chart. Morse code was the standard for communications.
The light in the distance had grown closer and now had my full attention as I could make out the navigation lights. We were just a small craft on the Caribbean Sea, without Radar. In fact our total navigation equipment consisted of a Sextant, some charts, a hand bearing compass and a small portable radio with directional antennae on the top into which was embedded a very small compass. We used this to tune in various radio stations and plot a rough estimate of our position. We had no way of communicating by radio and no engine to use to help us get out of the way.
I can watch the boats in the Baja Ha-Ha around me on Radar and plot their position, direction and speed automatically and even overlay them on the chart plotter. Of course I can communicate with the other boats via VHF radio. It is a nice night and we are motoring along at just over five knots using our diesel engine.
My Dad was on a coal fired steamship called the S.S. Vauban and he had talked of being "coaled" in Santos by hand with baskets of coal being handed up from a barge. The Vauban was one of the "Famous" "V" ships and she was built in 1912 with bunkers for 3,000 tons of coal. This ship was one of the many Passenger-Cargo boats that plied the world's oceans before the age of air travel. A type of ship that is almost gone except for a few like the RMS St. Helena which sometimes still travels between the UK and Capetown.
It is 1971 and the light had grown brighter, the navigation lights indicated she was headed directly for us. She was about three miles away. I went below and alerted Andy who came on deck. We put the deck lights on and put our spotlight on the sails. The boat continued on its course. At less than a mile away, we raked her bridge with our spotlight. Suddenly we saw her sharply change course to port. She passed less than 400 yards from us, using a spotlight to look at us and leaving us rocking in her wake. She continued on her way disappearing into the night. She looked like a passenger-cargo boat, one that was still somewhat common in 1971; she was probably one of the famous "Banana Boats."
Looking at what capabilities I have on my small sailboat is a far cry from my Dad's boat and the boat I had sailed on almost 40 years before. As I thought about the tools at my disposal, I was reminded that it was time to go below and plot our position on a paper chart. Sometimes, things do not change, except in this case, I used the GPS coordinates provided from the chart plotter. I did not need to take a star sight and compute my position, even though we have a sextant on board.