Sailng the Baja
15 March 2010 | Cabo San Lucas, Mx
We’ve finally done it! We have finally cast our lines from the US and are heading south. To think we were shooting for the end of Oct. ’09 and the Baja Ha-Ha. Ha!! Our first day at sea was pleasant enough for us, just a little rolly, which really gets to Ben and I quickly. Several hours in we got smart, broke down and took some Bonine. About 45 minutes later we were as good as new. So, as usual with a boat you usually summarize each day with whatever went wrong. So, why should we change now? After our good friends Renae, Dave, Kelly , and Aaron uncleated our lines yesterday from the Kona Kai Marina in San Diego, Larry quickly discovered one of our 125 gallon water tanks was empty. They both were full, but apparently when he back flushed the water maker the day before, it must pull water from the tank, not off the dock hose. Oops! Worse yet, when he started the water maker it wouldn’t work. Sh__! We still had one full tank, so it wasn’t like we were gonna die, but still…it’s stressfull. SHARK! (I feel like one of the dogs from the movie “Up”, when they would suddenly stop and yell “Squirrel!) By the way, if you haven’t seen this movie…do. Yes, I just saw a shark leisurely swimming by our boat while I’m writing this. See, that is exactly why I’m not jumping in the water in the middle of the ocean just for fun! So, we sailed yesterday, life was good, had the genoa up, which is a really big sail. As we’re passing Ensenada it’s getting dark (of course) and the wind dies. Well we know we’ve got some weather coming at us later in the evening so we think it’s a good idea to roller furl in the sail and motor through the night. Hmmm…sail won’t roll in. It’s 6 PM…. 3 hours and 20 minutes later we get it in. It was one of those times when you don’t know if you should puke or crap or both. Larry worked and worked on it, thinking the furling system had wrapped around itself and gotten jammed up. Turned out somehow our spinnaker halyard wrapped itself around the top of the genoa, and every time we tried to roll it in, the halyard would wrap at the top and just bind the whole system up. It’s just scary when these things happen, and you’re tired and it’s dark, and you’re way out in the ocean, and you know the wind is picking up and let me say it again…this is a BIG SAIL. Lesson learned, don’t ever forget to look up when things seem to be going wrong on deck. So, Thursday night was my first” night watch” ever. After the whole genoa fiasco I went to sleep from 10 PM to 2 AM (sort of), and then did watch from 2-6 AM. I was surprised how fast the first 2 hours went by. The third wasn’t bad, but the fourth was brutal. It was hard to keep my eyes open. Now I know why the military uses sleep deprivation as a form of torture. That idea must have come from some old sailor! It is scary – in the pitch black – hearing the sound of the ocean. It’s just a mental thing you have to get over. I keep thinking about the, not one, but two young girls that are sailing solo around the world right now. They definitely have a part of anatomy that I definitely don’t have! Ben’s been sleeping 12 hours straight through everything. He’s sleeping in our bed while we’re under way. It’s hard for me to not feel like I’m going to roll out of bed, but not Ben. Even though you think everything is stowed, when a wave hits the boat a wrong way, things crash and glasses clank and my spice bottles fall over and it sounds terrible. All those sounds used to just freak poor Moe out, to the point where he would just be trembling. Yes, we had Moe euthanized two weeks ago. Like I had mentioned in one of my previous updates, we found a wonderful, compassionate, Christian veterinarian in San Diego who would come out to our boat. The end of Moe’s life could not have been more comfortable and full of love. We must have kissed and held and hugged him a thousand times in his last few hours. As painful as it has been for us, because we selfishly miss him, there is also a feeling of relief. I think Moe would have tried to keep going for us because that’s what he was supposed to do, despite his pain. Jessica has already received his ashes and will be bringing them when she visits us in April. So Moe will continue on our journey with us soon.
Let’s continue on the details of our journey from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. Friday was a lovely day sailing south, warm, quiet with no engine on. All three of us still taking Bonine. It really helps, but makes your mouth terribly dry and I just want to eat all the time! This is not good…at the rate we’re making it around the world, I’m gonna be as big as a house! The day flew by, again knowing we were expecting 25-30 knot winds come evening, we put a double reef in the main before dark. I must say, Larry and I are working beautifully together. We think out loud the details of what we are going to do before we do them, and he really listens to me if I have different ideas or opinions. We do have jack lines to clip into for safety, but still my last words are always, “Just DON’T fall in!”. Ben is great, and helps out where he safely can. He can steer the boat well when we are both on deck, futzing with the sails. Let me say again, the kid sleeps at least 12 hours straight, as we are traveling. This is a kid who never slept in the car, or an airplane, but put him in a vessel crashing through seas and howling wind, and he sleeps. For all you parents out there, six letters, BONINE. I will say no more. So, Friday night we tried 3 hour watches. Less excruciatingly long. Mine was from 11 PM – 2 AM. The wind and waves had really picked up so I did not sleep a wink from 8-11. When I went on watch I was miserably tired, I set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes, after I’ve scanned the black sky, checked that we’re on the correct course on our chart plotter, checked the radar that there are no vessels or anything hard we might run into, and then I lay down on some seat cushions, wrapping a blanket around me as best I can, close my eyes and hold on for dear life so I don’t roll off the bench. Agghhh…just like hitting the snooze on your alarm clock. Beep beep, up I get, doing the whole checking routine over again. When you feel a particularly large wave lifting the boat (sometimes wrongly called a rogue wave) you know there are a few more behind it, so I pray and pray and pray, please God calm the seas. I guess I’ve forgotten to mention that we have the autopilot on this whole time. It does a much better job at steering than us human kind ever could, except when there is an override, and then it shuts off. So, at about 1:45 AM, I notice a slight wind shift, more from directly behind us. Now we have a preventor on our main sail so we can’t accidently gybe, which is a really bad thing to do. I change our course slightly so the wind is hitting the boat at a better angle and make a mental note again of our compass course knowing if it gets anymore rough the autopilot might shut off and I would have to grab the wheel. Knowing Larry would be up in 15 minutes I didn’t want to alarm him. But, exactly what I feared happened. The autopilot sounds a God awful alarm when it overrides, I grab the wheel but feel completely discombobulated. The wind is howling, the seas are crashing, the boat is shuttering, the main sail is getting back winded, I start yelling for Larry and then pound on the little port window to our master berth. He runs up, all bleary eyed from a dead sleep and tries to get the boat under control. When it is completely black out it is impossible to see where the wind is coming from so I’m yelling at him where the wind is coming from and he is steering, trying to get the boat in a happy state. My legs were shaking so badly I could hardly control myself. And then Larry said what I feared most, “We have to drop the main.”. This means going out on deck, and it’s wet and slippery, and the boat is bucking like a bad mechanical bull ride. To make a long story short, we get done what we need to get done, and Larry hand steers through the night. Mind you, even though it is very cold out, he’s peeling off his clothes because he’s sweating so much because it is such a workout to do this. I lay down in the cockpit, close my eyes, hold on for dear life and pray, and pray, and pray. The sun rises on Saturday morning. I don’t know if the sun in the beautiful blue sky automatically makes us feel better, or if it’s just the euphoric fact that we survived the night, but we’re pretty happy that we can pull into a safe anchorage in a few hours. We tuck in between the coast and Cedros Island and things calm down. Ben wakes up from his perfect 12 hour sleep, completely clueless to the previous night! He lets out his special fishing line that was a gift from his new “old” friend, Captain Dick, and what do you know, catches a 14” Skipjack Tuna! We spray the poor thing in the gills with vodka. (I believe it makes their death less painful?!) He is so beautiful, the stripes and colors. It makes me sad to kill him. Ben gets out his fillet knife and proceeds to fillet him, under his father’s supervision of course. Yes, we have him for dinner that night, bones and all, and thank the Lord and the fish for feeding us. I still felt bad.
We pull into Turtle Bay around 3 PM, after 53 hours on the ocean, phew! All of a sudden, this panga is flying towards us, then another one! The first one that reaches us is Annabelle’s Fuel, the price is right, and he lets us tie up to his mooring ball for the two nights we are here. We give a brand new soccer ball to the young boy working with him. Larry and I sleep 13 hours that night!
Let’s see…Turtle Bay, in one of our books they call it “coyote ugly”. But what the area doesn’t have in looks, it has in heart, and we’ve met some very nice people here. When we woke up (finally) Sunday morning, another sail/racing boat had pulled in and were on the mooring ball next to us. Turns out they were in the San Diego/Puerto Vallarta race and were now returning home but had started taking on water. By the time they pulled in by us they said they had probably bailed 500 gallons of water overnight. Scary! They asked us if we had any emergency stuff to fix holes, which we did, only one container. Larry said he’d look for it and bring it over in a little while. He then turned to me and said, “This is our only bottle, do you mind?” Do unto others as you would want them to do to you. If I had a hole in my boat, I would hope and pray that someone who didn’t , would give up their single jar of putty. So, that’s what we did. Turns out they only needed a little of it and we got the rest back. We called a taxi and went ashore, a water taxi that is, another words, the fuel guy comes out and picks us up and ferries us ashore. There’s his house , his wife Annabelle, get it (?), and the dogs, and a couple of kids. I wonder if they had the same conversation we did, “So honey, since you’re letting me start my own fuel business/buy a sailboat, I should name it after you…Annabelles/Lisa Kay?” We wanted to walk into town, which really seemd to puzzle them. They wanted to drive us. But it feels sooooo good when your feet hit the ground after 3 days on a boat. You can feel the blood pumping through your limbs, and your heart beating, not from fear but because you’re moving! We walked and walked on dusty roads, up hills, down hills, past old garbage dumps, (Ben had a great time picking up interesting rocks and shells) and what do we come across but a cemetery. But not a run of the mill cemetery. An individualized cemetery. Homemade crypts. Some were elaborate, some were not. Some were painted bright colors, some had special windows and doors. It was beautiful, perched up on this cliff, overlooking the ocean. To be born, live, and die in this small village called Turtle Bay. We talked with some parents, around our age, who were there visiting their deceased son. He had passed away several years ago, around the age of thirty. They were playing music from their van and it appeared they had placed some of their son’s favorite things on his gravesite, one being a can of beer. Neither one of us spoke the others language, yet through hand jesters we communicated. Through smiles and hugs we communicated. It was a beautiful moment. We continued up the dusty path towards town, they drove by in their van, honked and waved. Oh, here come the Mexican dogs. The rescuer in me just wants to save every one of them, but I can’t. But I can step in the first store I see to buy cookies! Some of them are so skinny and so miserable looking it breaks your heart. The others that belong to people are street smart and have impeccable manners. They are the coolest dogs. I wish I could just go around town applying Advantage on them! They’re all just chewing away. Well, it’s Sunday, looks like the internet café doesn’t open back up ‘til 4. It’s 2’ish, hmmmm, beer sounds good. So, we sit at a little place on the beach, get some cokes, a Corona for mom. Some of the locals are hanging out with their kids, cool dogs everywhere, and I am mistaken for Jennifer Aniston….(I’ll give you a moment until you get up off the floor)…okay…let me reiterate…this is a VERY small Mexican town in the middle of nowhere. We just kept hearing, “Brad Pitt’s first wife?” It’s amazing what a shower and a flat iron can do! We got hungry and found the one restaurant that kind of went with the one motel. Well, the owner/hostess/waitress/cook, was coloring her hair on a chair in the middle of the restaurant. (Yes, we were the only ones there) Now, I understand this sort of thing, and it’s important! You do not mess with a woman in the middle of a color! We tell her, in hand jesters, to let her friend finish applying the color, no worries. There were many interesting pictures on the walls. Apparently there were turtles in Turtle Bay at one time (people ruin everything don’t they?), and a visit from Poncho Villa. We soon had a wonderful meal of quesadillas, burritos, tacos, guacamole, and one more beer for mom. (Hey, the last few days have been rough!) Poor Ben’s tummy has not felt too good ever since that meal. We can just imagine the conversation in town later on…”These three gringos came, walked everywhere, and the lady who looks like Jenn A. had TWO beers! By the way, our 2 cokes and 1 beer cost just $2.70! We were able to send out a few e-mails at the local, so called, internet café/pharmacy, and went back to our boat. Next stop Punta Abreojos, which means ”open your eyes”, due to the many hazards as you enter this anchorage. We pull in around 7:15 AM after a 16 ½ hour trip. Soooo tired, excruciating after these over nighters. Now a fishing panga comes by us and I wave, they swing by and I say, “Ballenas?” Yes, it is whales I am after! Punta Abreojos is the closest spot for us to be to Laguna San Ignacio, where the once, almost extinct, Gray whales give birth to their young, before they leave and head back up north to feed. It was made a biosphere reserve/world heritage site by the Mexican govt. in 1988. Then apparently the Japanese company Mitsubishi, along with the Mexican Federal govt. wanted to open a salt evaporation plant in the area. Thank goodness that was defeated. To experience something like this has been a 30 year dream for me, since I got my first job at Marine World, since I first learned of Greenpeace, since I bought my first “whale song” record. So, the fisherman calls someone on the radio and a few minutes later says, “7 AM tomorrow, someone will pick us up to take us to the whales! $135, supposedly. Cool! So, we do nothing all day, too rough in this anchorage to lower the dinghy. Bummer…it would feel so good to walk in to town. No cell service, no internet, we feel so disconnected. Our tv is working great though. We, or should I say Ben, can watch it anytime, because Larry had this fancy dome satellite thingy put on the back of the boat (for a mere 5K). It comes out of Puerto Rico – so all of the programs are 3 hours earlier and all of the commercials are in Spanish! We’re up bright and early the next AM, so anxious to see the whales! We wait…and wait…8 AM….no one has come. I want to cry. Wait….I see a fishing panga flying in from out at sea. I wave and wave, they pull up perplexed, they don’t speak one word of English. “Ballenas por favor?” I say. Again this guy, as we later learn is named Modesto, starts talking with people on the radio, and his cell phone. (Hey, no fair….his cell phone works) Well, his partner starts filleting their overnight catch: one halibut, one shark (it actually had a baby shark in it!) one ray, and one scorpion fish. They were still moving as he’s cutting them and all the pelicans (so cool) and birds come to eat the remainders. Ben just thinks the whole scene is the greatest thing since chocolate cake. Finally, Modesto says, “Uno momento.” and takes off. I am so hopeful! So, I start ransacking the boat, looking for different gifty things I’ve hidden away for occasions such as these. I come up with 4 Coronas. He comes back and says, “Okay, go see ballenas.” We are so grateful and hand him the beer and he looks at us and says, “Agua?” So, we get that too. He tells us it will cost $150. Okay, so we’re all standing there and he’s not leaving and he motions for us to get on his boat. We’re like, oh! Well, did we have the ride of our life, blood and gaff and billy club and dead scorpion fish and us, in this small wooden panga, flying in the sea to Laguna San Ignacio. It was so bumpy, I had to concentrate to not wet my pants! The ride there was at least an hour (it seemed), and suddenly we see these wierd waves breaking, but not really near any shore. We start to slow down and come to a stop. Now we get it, it’s the entrance to this bay. We wait and wait, share our small lunch with Modesto. There is a boat coming! Now we know that only a hand full of people are allowed in each day for a few hours, only on boats operated by naturalists. Sure enough, we transferred to another panga and off we went into this whale wonderland. Unfortunately our “naturalist” didn’t speak a word of English, and frankly wasn’t even friendly, but we had a great time anyway. We shared our lunch with him too. (I don’t think he cared for the ½ peanut butter and jelly sandwich!). You could not look in any direction and not see a whale! Then we would slowly motor over to that area and watch. Babies with their mommies! We would get wet from their exhale! And yes, there really is such a thing as whale breath! It smells really fishy. After several hours and lot’s of ooohs and aahhs, he took us back to Modesto, who had been patiently waiting. (I hope he hadn’t been drinking those beers, seeing as he still had to take us home!) We spoke with one other group in another panga that was watching the whales for the third day in a row. They were filming for a 3 part, one hour documentary each, called maybe, Oceans Giants. It is about dolphins and whales, and they have been filming all over the world. They said this was the best day they’ve had. Usually, I guess, the wind and waves are howling in the bay. We felt blessed once again, like so many other times in our lives. As soon as we got back to the Lisa Kay, we pulled up our anchor and took off to Magdalena Bay, our next planned stop on our way to Cabo. It would be a long night underway but we have to take advantage of the weather window we have. The next day on the ocean was glorious! No land or boat in sight, smooth seas, warm sun, we layed out on deck in our underwear! I’m so spoiled on our boat. I can shower, bake bread, vacuum, do laundry in our machine, all underway! Mag. Bay was quiet. We were the only ones there. Our feet had not hit land for four days so we jumped in the dinghy to walk on shore. It felt sooo good. We were seeing several fishing pangas with 2-3 men on each. One had even pulled along our side as we were pulling into the bay, holding up a battery. No problem, 2 AA’s coming right up! They smiled their toothless grin and zoomed off. Now we know what we had been seeing in the water…giant squid! They were all over, sticking their beaks out of the water. The panga was full of them. I think these are the ones you hear about, pulling people under water to their death. For some odd reason they’re all in the water around here this year. While walking on shore, near the old abandoned phosphorus factory, we came across the fisherman’s camp.
It’s hard to see the poor conditions they are existing in. Literally just some rags, a few tarps, a few pieces of plywood thrown up here and there to make some sort of a building. It’s depressing to me. I’ve always felt like Larry and I have so much and it hurts my heart when I see people who appear to be struggling. But, who am I to think this? They may have a very rich and fulfilling life. Who am I to think they’re not happy because they don’t have the typical American A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder) life? Texting, e-mailing, cell phoning, tweeting, twittering, TV’ing, working, volunteering, computering, over-schedules life? Hmmmm…..We woke early the next morning to make way for Cabo San Lucas, 138 miles away. The pressure was, that we needed to round the horn, giving it a wide berth, as early after sunrise as possible because of the “cape effect” (lot’s of wind and waves). And, we knew it would take at least 24hrs. to get there. I woke up kicking myself though, thinking why didn’t I bake bread or make cookies for these fishermen last night? I wasn’t thinking! Quick, I pull up the sofa seat, pull up the floor boards and pull out any extra food I can find. Pasta, marinara sauce, a huge chocolate bar, Girl Scout cookies, 4 cokes, 4 waters, and I can’t remember what else…it all seemed so lame. We handed one of the panga’s the bag as we were leaving. They looked very puzzled. They took the bag and zoomed away – never even looking inside it. I wonder if they thought we were handing them our garbage? Have you ever wondered if we do things in life, only to make ourselves feel better? Hmmmm…they had not bothered us or asked us for a thing. Who am I to think they wanted anything? And so the chatter goes on and on in my head (yes, you have a lot of time to do this when you are under way!). Blah, blah, blah. Oh, the trip to Cabo was loooong. We rolled side to side, up and down, for what seemed like an eternity. Winds were a perfect 12-15 knots, but the seas….ugh! Your body becomes so fatigued from just trying to stand up, sit up, lay down, and not fall over or off of wherever you are. By the next day I thought this must be what it feels like to have Parkinson’s disease. Kind of like that uncontrollable shaking, jerking feeling in your body. I think it’s because your muscles can’t ever relax. We actually sailed half the time, as opposed to having the motor going. The quiet is so nice. I have everything nicely stowed now so we’re not hearing the banging and crashing as we rock. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, we have a vessel directly behind us! About 3 miles out and coming up fast. Hmmm…we’re sailing so WE have the right of way, he is the overtaking vessel so WE have the right of way, but he’s not altering his course. 2 miles away, we start hailing him on the radio…no answer, 1 mile away, we’re looking at him through our binoculars, ½ mile away, (you must be thinking, why doesn’t Larry change his course?) well it’s just not that easy with the wind and the waves. But, that’s exactly what we do, and the moment we do it looks like he’s turned also, so we turn back to our original course. Then it looks like he is heading straight towards us again. Oh, it’s the swell that made him look like he turned. This is a big fishing boat, with all the tall things that hang off the sides and drag nets? We keep calling and calling him on the radio, no answer. That’s it, we’re high tailing it out of there. The boat passes by our port stern, no one at the helm, no sign of life anywhere, just black smoke pouring out of the top of this huge, old, rusty vessel. They would have run us over and never have known it. I try to read the name of the ship through the binoculars but the sea is so rough I can only make out a few letters. Next time we’ll just take a picture with Larry’s camera, then he can zoom in later. I’m really glad this happened during the day, not at night! I was still kind of shook up by this that night and felt really apprehensive about doing my night shift. I couldn’t sleep at all before so this made it even harder. A full moon would be nice, because when there is no moon, it is black. I can see the white foam here and there from breaking waves around us, but that’s it. The stars are incredible though! Just like an IMAX planetarium. Even though the radar is on, all set up with alarms within certain parameters, believe me, I keep looking behind me! Aaahhh…the sun rises again we’re so close to Cabo….we’re so excited! We’ve made it!
To be continued…..