11/18/2008, San Carlos - Phoenix-Las Vegas
I'll keep this short. I got up early and repacked as my bags are bursting. After showering, I went down to Serenity to see if Jackie and Stan wanted to do any work on her. It was weird as I felt obligated to announce myself and ask permission to come aboard since I have officially left.
We spent the morning doing miscellaneous choirs including dumping the four 5 gallon diesel cans into the tanks [using a device called a "Baja Filter" which is a real fine filter. Remember, we had filled the cans in Turtle Bay (it seems like a lifetime ago) and we were not sure of the quality of the fuel]. We hoisted and cleaned the Stay Sail (most of the time we had up three sails, this is the middle of the three) as it does not roll up, but remains on the deck while you are underway and we wanted to rinse the salt water off it. We cleaned the dodger (one of covers at the cockpit) and all the lines that had been soaked with salt water during the trip. We got the sail cover on and an awning put up to create shade for them until they leave town. We had planned on scrubbing the boat real well, but Stan found a local to wash and wax it for an incredibly cheap price that he could not resist. We removed and rinsed the jack lines (straps that run the entire length of the boat on bot the port and starboard side and to which you must clip onto if you go forward for any reason at night or in foul weather) and we filled the on board water tanks. It seem like we did more, but that is all I can think of.
We said our goodbyes and good lucks and I went to shower, have some lunch (I found a place across from the hotel called "Simply Coffee" which had GREAT food, great coffee (all right, I had my final Negra Medelo as well! Also, I have been drinking instant coffee for a month now, so maybe it wasn't great coffee, maybe it just seemed that way) all at a great price. I caught a cab to the airport early, checked my bags in, and headed across the street to the Restaurant "Mickey Mouse." It is the quaint little hole in the wall across from the tiny little airport (I won't get into more detail than that since I bored you all to tears with that description last year) as I have been looking forward to it since I realized I would fly home from San Carlos/Guaymas. Unfortunately, it was closed. Oh well. I did, however, take out the lap top and write today's entry as I sat at the outdoor tables. I wonder if it is closed forever or just for now. The tables and chairs are still here, and the same ole' pitbull is chained up outside, but no one is in sight.
Before sitting down I found a little store and although they had no beer (I know, that makes no sense whatsoever), but I bought a coke and upon finishing it, left it on the table. There is now a sizeable swarm of bees that appears to be getting bored with the soda and are now starting to explore me and computer, so I guess it is time to make my way back across the tiny, but heavily driven road, to the airport and await my flight.
That's it. The trip is done and I won't make any more entries - save and except some unforseeeable event here, in Phoenix, or in Las Vegas. Thank you for taking the time to read the blog. At least from my perspective, the updates don't appear to be as exciting as last year. I hope you have enjoyed them. However they came across, trust me, this was just as exciting and fun as last year's Baja Ha Ha, even if it was cut short and even if it did not appear to be as thrilling as last year. Again, I thank you and wish all of you the best.
Until the next voyage or adventure, take care.
11/17/2008, San Carlos
We got into San Carlos well ahead of schedule at 6:30 a.m. - just after I got off watch. The currents - and the tide probably as well, although I did not check that - were obviously in our favor much of the night as we made great time. I will mention that yesterday's trip was like crossing a desert in that we did not see any sign of any life at all, with two notable exceptions. Hour after hour, after hour we sailed along with no signs of any boats. The two exceptions were a fishing boat that, as we approached , was in the process of pulling up a large container of some sort. We speculated (so take it with a grain of salt) that it was either getting mineral samples off the ocean floor, or that it was fishing for bottom critters; I don't know if either theory is plausible. However, of more interest was that there was a helicopter - with pontoons - circling above. As we approached, it left the "fishing" boat to come circle us a time or two before leaving. A few hours later a helicopter came back and circled us several times before it too left.
Anyway, after so many extended hours of seeing no boats, no lights, etc. it was a bit of a shock for me in the last couple of hours of my shift (about 4:30 a.m. or so) to see MANY lights. I knew by the clock and our charts that I was seeing the lights of Guaymas and, ultimately, San Carlos, but it still freaks you out a bit after hours of darkness to all of a sudden see so many lights off in the distance. Of course, when you first see them you don't know if they are big lights far away, or small lights very close. I kept returning to the radar to reassure myself that there was nothing close by, but it is still sort of nerve racking as you don't want to be involved in a collision - especially this close to the end!
Shortly after Jackie came to relieve me (6:00 a.m.) we got the rest of the crew up as it was time to start getting shore ready. Because we would not be anchoring, we had to get dock lines out to secure the boat once we pulled into the slip, we had to get ready to, and then actually lower, the main, and then we had to find our way into the tiny harbor entrance. By the way, on last year's trip I crewed for Dennis and Lynn on Pura Vida, who in the last few weeks temporarily moved their boat down to Puerto Vallarta. Before doing so, they advertised their San Carlos boat slip for sublease, and that is the slip that Jackie and Stan got, so for two years in a row, I traveled 1200 (???) miles and ended up in not only the same marina, but the same slip!
But, when we got to the marina, there was already a boat in the slip; it was just a little boat, but it was a boat nonetheless. It was too early for the office to be open (to early and it was a holiday - Revolution Day or something) so we found an empty slip and Stan and I went up and waited about an hour for the mariana office to open. Of course, we couldn't turn the boat motor off because we didn't know if it would start again, so Jackie and Alison stayed on the boat.
The lady at the office talked to Dennis and Lynn's daughter and confirmed that Stan and Jackie had the slip, but she was short staffed and said she didn't have anyone to send out to see if the boat in the slip had moved. She added that if the boat was still there, we were just out of luck until the next day (the main guy, Francisco, would be on Tuesday). She did offer, however, that if we did not feel like waiting for her staff to check on the slip, that I could walk completely around the marina to see if the boat had left. I did only to find that the little boat was still there - so I moved it! There was an empty slip next door, so I untied the little boat and moved the sucker! Nothing ever came of it, so I guess we got away with it.
I walked Alison up to the cab pickup area (she will fly out today) and we had breakfast. I then checked the hotel and they had an empty room for a good price, so I got a room, went back to the boat and packed, and left the boat. I guess I'm no longer official crew.
Jackie, Stan, and I met for dinner and then I called it a night. I will go to the boat tomorrow to see if they want help get it ready for them to leave. As of tonight, they don't seem real excited about working on the boat as I think they want to relax for a day or two.
11/16/2008, Sea of Cortez
We plugged on through the night under sail and made good time. We averaged over 5 knots and the wind shifted through the night so that by the end of my 3:00 - 6:00 a.m. shift we were actually headed north west - not quite for enough to the west but in the general direction of where we needed to go. The going was slow, but we are getting there. It looks like it will take, assuming the wind and direction of the wind hold, about 48 hours to get to San Carlos.
It was a bit cool on watch, but not bad. I did not see a single boat on my watch and Alison tells me that she only saw one boat on her midnight to 3:00 a.m. watch. The water temperature, although still warm, has dipped to 83 degrees. By the way, the coordinates for this entry are from 1:37 p.m.
When we are sailing 24 hours a day, I try to get a few hours of sleep between dinner and my watch. We have fallen into a routine (when underway 24 hours a day) where I clean up after dinner and boil a pot of water to put in the thermos. That way, the night watchs can have a hot drink without having to stop and boil water. After my watch, I try to get 2 more hours of sleep.
Well, today I was awoken just after 8:00 a.m. by the sound of...the motor! Stan had been pondering the situation during his watch as well as after going to bed and, based on the tests we did yesterday, figured that there was a problem with the ground connection. He, in essence, hot wired the boat to start the motor. This is bittersweet in that we are no longer at the mercy of the wind (the weather report is calling for 35 knot winds tonight - which we are going to be out in, even with the fix, but at least now we have options), but Stan and Jackie have decided that they WILL NOT turn the motor off until reaching San Carlos. I can't blame them and neither to I really disagree with the decision. But...no more sailing and we should get into San Carlos sometime late on Monday morning - well ahead of schedule. My hat is off to Stan for his ability to track this stuff down and fix it.
It is pretty hot today and we are moving on. As I stated at the outset, the coordinates for this entry are from our location at about 1:30, now that you see the motor is up and running, you can understand how we made that time.
It was a beautiful sunset yet again, and although we really go out of our way to see the sunset each night at sea - it very much a routine and tradition - such was especially true tonight. This will be my last sunset at sea for who knows how long and it was, I must admit, with a heavy heart that I watched the sun dip below the horizon. I stood up on the highest point of the deck so that I could see the sun for as long as possible.
11/15/2008, Southwest of Isla San Francisco
We got up at 5:00 a.m., as the guy from the marina was going to be at our slip at 5:30 (at our request) to pick up the gate/shower keys. We had shore power (electricity to plug into) last night, so we got that disconnected and the cord stowed and got underway about 5:50 a.m. Bahia San Evaristo is about 6-8 hours away, depending on the wind and we planned on getting in by 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.
I'm not sure if I have mentioned this or not, but now that we are done with the overnight trips (for now), we have one hour shifts instead of 3 hour shifts. There is no particular order to our shifts, we just rotate; after the first rotation is done, we then stick with that rotation for the rest of that day. Today, I had my first shift from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. We were, obviously, well away from La Paz by that time and adjacent to a large island called Isla De Espirito de Santos; we were between that island and Baja. It is just warm enough still to not need a shirt, but I think those mornings are coming to an end as we head north. However, the early morning sun on my back was both comfortable and comforting.
At about 8:30, at 24 28.09'N: 110 27.19'W we had our first whale siting. There were two of them, but they were some distance behind us and we just saw them spouting in the distance.
Although we put our main sail up every day (as I think I may have mentioned, it helps to reduce the rocking action of the boat), we don't always put up the other sails unless there is enough wind to actually sail. Around 9:30 we put up the jib and it helped us to make better time, but the wind just wasn't strong enough to allow us to turn off the motor yet.
About 10:00 the wind was blowing hard enough for us to sail and we made what ended up to be the fateful decision to shut off the motor and sail. It was a great sailing day and we tacked back and forth as we made our way north to Bahia San Evaristo. We were making good speed (regularly over 6 knots), but as the afternoon wore on, it became evident that due to wind direction and currents, it was going to take quite a while to get our anchorage so we decided to fire up the motor again and head straight to Bahia San Evaristo - but nothing happened when Jackie turned the key - there was no motor! The coordinates entered for this entry was our approximate location when we found out the motor would not start.
Stan and I dug around in the motor for a good hour and a half (let me clarify that, Stan dug around and I held the flashlight so he could see what the hell he was doing). I guess this is as good a time to describe boat motors as I know them. The manufacturer crams them, for want of space, into a tiny compartment with very limited access. The most common things you may want to attend to (checking belts, oil, coolant, etc.) are generally pretty accessible, but it is real hard to get to anything else. It was clear that there was an electrical problem so we dug around, hanging basically upside down testing wires to see if we could find anything loose and/or to see if we could find where the problem was.
In the meantime, we are worried that with no motor, the shore could be a problem as the wind was pushing us toward the cliffs. Alison suggested altering course, putting the jib back up (we had taken it down in preparation for staring the motor) and heading out to sea to buy us space (between us and the approaching shore) and time. We did so.
Having not found the problem, we were thankful we were on a sailboat and not a motor boat as we had an option: sail straight for our final destination, which is San Carlos. The Sea of Cortez curves to the west at the top, so although we wanted to get to San Carlos, which is on the east side of the Sea of Cortez, we actually had to sail a course of about 327 (north west) to get there. The wind only allowed us to set a course of about 50 (north east) because of the direction it was coming from. San Carlos is about 180 miles away...we'll get there, but it won't be quick.
I should mention that the auto pilot also went haywire (during the trouble shooting) and Alison had to hand steer. This was, we think, due to a combination of the wind hitting us after it ripped with a funnel effect between the two islands we had been approaching: Isla San Francisco and Isla San Jose. After giving up on the starter (Stan had narrowed it down that much, but had no solution to the problem), we rebooted the computer for the autopilot and electronic chart/plotting program and, having passed through the wind gauntlet, starting steering the course I have described above.
We were now back on our three hour shifts and I took my normal slot of 3:00 to 6:00. I must say, it was very tranquil. Even on this type of cruising trip, once you have your anchorage in mind, you sort of focus on it. As the day wears on and you are not there yet, you start to think about turning on the motor so you can get in, anchor in the light, go swimming, and have a drink. At those times, you, or at least I, forget that the purpose is to be out sailing. Once we came to the conclusion that the motor was just not going to start and the 6 or so miles we had to go until our next stop became the 180 miles it was to San Carlos, the attitude immediately changed. We were just sailing again. There was no rush, no desire to even start the motor if it had been an option. All of a sudden, the calming effect of the wind and the rocking of the boat were our friend again.
As my shift wore on, it cooled considerably and it dawned on me that during tonight's watch I would need socks and my fleece (unzipped, but still needed) and it was bittersweet. On the one hand, it was a beautiful, tranquil afternoon/evening, but on the other, the fact that we are creeping north is becoming more and more evident.
We are, or course, completely dependant on the wind and prayed that it would not stop because the boat would then stop as well. The wind held up and actually shifted to the west a bit, allowing us to vary our course until by bed time we were on a course of about11 (still north east, but getting close to north, which is 0).
We had a dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner and then it was off to bed.
11/14/2008, La Paz
November 14, 2008 - Friday
We got up at 5:30 a.m., and were underway at 5:49 a.m. Not much to report as to the sail itself. There was virtually no wind and it was pretty warm. We got into La Paz at 2:00 p.m. I should note that there is a very long channel that you must stay in to get to La Paz and for such a short trip we did not want to take the time to navigate that channel. The coordinates of this marina, although accurate, are for a marina on the approach to La Paz rather than in La Paz itself. The marina is called Costa Baja and the GPS coordinates are our slip (C-34) and I hope you all are able to Google Earth the spot.
It appears that the "fleet" remains in tact as a string of about 15 boats made their way north with us toward La Paz. Some were under full sail, others were not, so the pace was varied
Anyway, we got in and filled up with diesel and then got a slip for the night. This is a pretty nice marina and hotel. We have use of the pool, showers, and restaurants. Stan, Alison, and I made our way to the "super market" which was nothing more than a grocery store. We stocked up on beer, bread, fruit, water and some soda.
I wish I had more to say, but I don't! It was a fun day, but not much happened, very calm weather so we motored the entire way.
We will get up early and get on the water again in the morning. I'll tra and keep you posted, but I'm not expecting internet access for several days now.
11/13/2008, Bahia de los Muertos
November 13, 2008 - Thursday
We got up at 5:30 a.m., got the Main Halyard (the rope/line used to raise the big, main sail) attached, the Flopper Stoppers up and stowed, the preventers (see prior entries) attached, and eventually the anchor up and were underway at 6:09 a.m. It is not far to our next anchorage, but we wanted to get in, settled, and go swimming before dark. Yesterday's report called for the wind to settle down today and then be pretty non-existent by noonish. As of 9:30, that all appeared to be true, but the winds never really died down they were just a bit calmer than yesterday. We were still going against the swells and although not nearly as rough as yesterday, every once in a while you hit one just right and go flying. I am sitting below deck now typing this and every few minutes the boat goes up a steep swell. Once it reaches the top of the swell, the front (bow) of the boat is suspended in the air as the swell passes, and then once the boat reaches its center of gravity, the bow falls back down to the water. Down here when that happens you are weightless for a moment until you thud back into the water. Again, I don't want to overstate this phenomena: it happens real quickly and not all the time.
We got to the anchorage about 2:00 p.m. or so and, although still windy, it was well protected from the swells and we slept much more soundly with calmer water; we did not need to put out the Rocker Stoppers.
We all went for a swim to cool off and then broke out the snorkeling gear as well. When we first arrived, we put the motor on the dinghy (you don't leave the outboard on when you pull the dinghy behind the boat), and wiped off all the dried salt off. During that process, I dropped the little towel and it immediately sank to the bottom. While snorkeling, we saw a white object on the bottom and for the longest time could not figure out what it was; it was the towel that had sunk in 32' of water (we know that because the boat obviously has a depth finder). I attempted to dive down and get it, but only got about 2/3 of the way. Returning to the surface and re-surveying the situation, I could see that several puffer fish had assumed control of the towel; they seemed to be fascinated with it. I dove down again and this time I got the towel and, my lungs bursting because I am in such horrible shape and because I had to fight so hard to dive in the very buoyant water, immediately turned and kicked for the surface. Unfortunately, my fins are fitted to wear with my dive boots and, due to the hot sea temperature, I was not wearing my boots. As such the fins are a smidge loose and, you guessed it, one of my fins came off and sank in 32' feet of water! Although I knew I had to go back down and get the fin, I also knew I would not have as much kicking power because I was missing a fin! Anyway, never wanting to pass up a challenge, Alison, wearing her fins, said she would give it a shot and, sure enough, on her first attempt got the fin (which by the time she got to it was now the subject of the blowfish curiosity).
The others went to shore for dinner at the Giggling Marlin - which is no longer the Giggling Marlin as it was sold about two months ago, it is now the El Cardon - but I stayed behind to enjoy the peace and quiet of the boat. At 43', it gets crowed with four people and having the boat to myself was a joy. We all have music to listen to, but not having to use earphones for a change was great.
Tomorrow is La Paz, which is about the same distance we traveled today. We should have internet service there, so I hope to update the www.paulkirst.com site.