Passage Notes from Pacifico
20 February 2011
We are back in the Barra Lagoon waiting on a weather window to continue our voyage north to and around Cabo Corrientes into Bandaras Bay. We have been here before and spoken much about this place as well as Santiago where we spent two nights after the run up from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo so I’ll talk about something else. We stopped overnight at Melaque’s anchorage (just down the beach from Barra) before coming into the lagoon in the morning on the high tide. I have not dwelt on the sailing part of this voyage very much, mostly the land side so I’ll try to fill in the gaps for some of the non-sailors out there with some of my thoughts and observations.
The passage up from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo was mostly sailing with decent sailing breezes most of the time from the various points of the compass we could use, E, S/E, S, S/W and later some W. We used the motor about 17 hours on a 39 hour passage of 195 N.M. That time included from starting at the dock in Ixtapa, getting fuel and motoring out of the marina and the bay to get out to the wind, motoring through the light spots and lastly motoring while getting into the anchorage at Santiago then dropping and setting the hook (anchor). The leg from Santiago up to Barra was about 25 N.M. We left at sundown and after the wind died so that was pretty much motor sailing and motoring straight through.
The winds are not consistent out there and we saw sailing speeds from 3.2 knots to over 6.7, which perhaps made for a longer passage than motor sailing the rhumb line between points on the passage from Ixtapa to Santiago, but it’s worth it to turn off the engine and hear the ‘quiet’ for a while. We averaged 5 knots of speed for this leg, which isn’t bad for this boat. I like to stay closer to 6 for these longer passages, but that requires either more favorable wind speed and direction or motoring when we drop below or close to 4 knots boat speed over ground. Also while sailing you don’t necessarily stay on the rhumb line, but have to sail off at whatever angel gives us the best boat speed, unless it’s going backwards, that I refuse to do, which is why there is a motor on this boat! That said, we used the sail inventory we have aboard as best we could; we carry a main, gennoa and an asymmetrical spinnaker. At various times we sailed DDW (dead downwind) with the gennoa polled out “wing and wing”, ran with spinnaker up and at times we were close hauled sailing up wind. Anyway it all worked and we saved a lot of fuel in the process. One additional advantage of motor sailing (that is sailing with main and or gennoa while running the engine) which is usually when heading into or close to the wind, is that you still get some lift from the sails and can reduce engine RPM. Our little Beta has a burn rate of about ½ GPH at 2700 RPM, which we never reached on this leg. Our fuel consumption for this leg was about 7 gallons. Not bad considering we have to run for charging and water making anyway.
What do we do on these 24 hour day passages? First of all on this entire trip we have only left sight of land a few times so there is almost always the shore over there to keep your interest and maintaining watch for that, other boats, ships, off shore fishing apparatus in the water or other possible navigation hazards. Preparing meals, eating and sleeping are big ones along with reading or working on “stuff.” A big attraction is observing the sea life around us. We were entertained by whales jumping out of the water, not quite as close as they did in Zihuatanejo (See photo album from Sailfest), none the less they were breaching out of the water and it is always a front row ticket. We had dolphin swim with us, we passed by a migration of sea turtles (darn things, think you can ever get a picture of one of them?) and rays flying out of the water. There were things out of the water too, flying fish and birds. Yes birds. In one instance this “boobie” kept flying around us and I knew he wanted to land on the boat, which I passively try to discourage; where they land they often also poop! Anyway, he was determined and came in for a one pointer on the solar panel above our bimini on the aft end of the boat. I guess he figured that was safe because he could not see us, but didn’t count on the glass surface. Anyway, because the panels are slanted aft he slid down to the bottom edge before getting a grip and his tail feathers and one wing tip were hanging over the panel and below the bimini, right by my head. We tried yelling, clapping, and pulling his feather (gently of course) all to no avail, he was not ready to leave. Finally Marisa took one of the whistles on a life jacket and blew it, which did the trick and off he went.
For those of you who boat and are familiar with “Bird Rock” off Catalina Island’s Two Harbors area or for that matter there are “Bird Rocks” all over the worlds water ways. Close to shore these human uninhabited “rocks” seem to be a haven for various sea birds and are white in color having collected years and years and tons and tons of bird excretion or “poop” which in my experience always makes them white. Anyway, there is this big rock of an island called “Piedra Blanca” or (White Rock). It’s above Punta Carrizal on the way up from Santiago to Barra. This rock lies about a mile off shore and we were treated with seeing large flights of boobies and other sea birds rounding the point at sunset making for this rock. Flying close to the water they were quite a sight in the sunset against the rugged cliffs of the point. We have posted a few photos to try to share this with you as well as a few of their destination, Piedra Blanca. This rock is so large it makes “Bird Rock” look miniscule by comparison. I have a few photos of that as well and if you look closely you can see what is a large sport fishing boat, probably 50’ just to the left of this island for comparison. All that white stuff is not snow.
At Melaque we were anchored off an abandoned hotel. We had seen it before on our land trip to Melaque (See Cuastecomate) and in doing a little reading I learned that this hotel was damaged in an earthquake in 1995 and finished off by the resulting tidal waves! Yikes! Too close for comfort. The local net fishermen were out in the morning and close enough for us to get a few photos of them in action. I have not been able to get a good photo of the fellows out in the lagoon here in Barra. A couple of them are real traditionalists, working alone in a small boat that they row all around the lagoon. I’ll keep trying.
We have reconnected with Mike from So Inclined here in Barra and all went into town for dinner and a little of the night life Barra has to offer last night. This morning Mike came over to Pacifico where we had breakfast together, huevos con machaca complete with mimosas! We will be heading into the Sands Hotel this evening for a cruisers “pot luck.” Marisa has been putting together a pasta salad and Mike will be bringing a key lime pie. It all sounds good.
We will get back to you as we continue our trek north to meet with Cathy and Lee on Sirocco in Puerta Vallarta for the annual Bandaras Bay Regatta. They have entered Sirocco and the three of us along with several friends from Oceanside will be racing Sirocco just like we do at home! More on that as it unfolds, sounds like fun!