08 March 2012 | Los Frailles
What do-do heads would start a 2800 mile crossing by leaving a lovely anchorage for 35 knot winds and steep confused seas? We'd been warned some time ago by our friends Vic and Hanna (now of S/V Funkadelic) that we should stay put if a Norther was predicted in the Sea of Cortez. It probably would have been wise to follow their advice. To be fair, we have plenty of experience with Pandion in 20-30 knot winds and the prediction was for low 20s today. For some reason the narrow, long Sea of Cortez tends to stack waves steep and incredibly close together, making life a whole lot rougher than one would expect. If we'd been heading upwind or in a shorter boat as our friends once were, today's conditions would have been an impossible nightmare. As it was, they provided an exhilarating (if wearing) next step up our learning curve.
Pandion has a waterline of around 60 feet. This helped dampen the close-together waves both directly and by allowing us enough speed to effectively spread their wavelengths out to a manageable (and sometimes almost comfortable) distance. We spent much of the day making 9-10 knots nearly dead downwind, with apparent winds in the mid-upper 20s. On the larger waves Pandion would take of and surf briefly to 14 knots and once we clocked her for a few seconds at 17.6! Not the way we want to spend a 3 week crossing but for the two of us not incapacitated by seasickness it was an exciting ride. The sensible one aboard finally prevailed, though, and we ducked into a little cove with good protection from the North (though 20 knots if wind still keep us tight against our anchor snubber).
Tomorrow will be a day of rest and repair. Not all of our downwind systems are completely dialed in and today's conditions certainly revealed the weaknesses. Casualty list includes a snapped staysail whisker pole, chafed-through jib sheet, cracked batten and chafed mainsail. Fortunately, what we saw today will almost certainly be rougher than anything we will encounter between here and Fiji. Spirits are good and we're all excited for another night or two of motionless sleep before getting back on the roller coaster.