Friday, February 18th, finished up clearing into Mexico with a visit to the Capitania de Puerto. That turned out to be a breeze. After submitting our papers which were quite in order, the official asked if we habla espanol and Dennis cautiously responded un pequeno (a little -which is some distance from the truth). She proceeded to rattle off a lengthy explanation of what we needed to do next and all we could identify was "Mastercard". So focusing on that word, we were able to discern that we could use our Mastercard for the port entry fee, avoiding a second round-trip trip to the bank which was now across town rather than across the street (as it was from Immigracion) and the embarrassment of ultimately revealing no working grasp of Spanish. We were out of there in less than 30 minutes.
We had hauled our dirty clothes ashore to use a self-service laundromat but the charge for us to use the machines was 90% of the price for them to do the "complete service" - $10 for two loads. So it wasn't a hard decision to spend that extra $1 to give us all afternoon to ourselves. We had gotten directions to a tackle shop (Dennis needed to replace the lure he lost on the lobster pot and having no luck on fishing up to this point, wanted some pointers). In searching for the shop we were directed to, we discovered a second tackle shop, Minerva's (side note: the directions included a strip joint as a landmark which provided Dennis some material with which to have fun with Virginia). The first tackle shop was full of customers, so we headed to Minerva's. This shop had twice the gear and half the customers of the other. Dennis explained his lack of knowledge to the woman behind the counter, expecting her to direct him to the "fisherman" owner. To his surprise and exposing his sexism, she suggested we come back with our rods at 5pm and she would give us a lesson on setting them up. We thanked her and asked her name, she responded "Minerva". We returned as requested and it was wonderful. She was so nice, so knowledgeable, and didn't try and push a lot of expensive gear on us (the previous customer's bill came to $900!). What a delight. Odd that she had so few customers, perhaps machismo is still alive and well and Mexican fishermen are reluctant to take fishing instructions from a woman. We walked through the outdoor shops selling wares. Dennis bought a leather belt and Virginia bought a sundress and wrap. We took a three mile round trip walk to Walmart as we were told they would have 3G cards for internet connection. They didn't have the cards, but it was good exercise, felt good to stretch the legs and warm the body in the hot sun. It was shorts weather that day until late in the evening. We also went to the Super Mercado and bought some produce as we were all out of fruit. Quite a productive day. Our fold up handcart got its first workout hauling two large Rubbermaid containers (which normally house our sheets and towels) of laundry and groceries; it worked out quite well. I think it was Liz Copeland's book that suggested those containers as great all-purpose bins for storage, hauling, hand washing laundry, etc. Glad we brought some.
Saturday, February 19th weather report says we will have very mild north winds and not until the afternoon so we decided to make our short 15 mile hop to Puerto de los Cabos, in Cabo San Jose, after lunch but unfortunately not before the API officials dropped by to extract an anchoring fee. Not reading about this fee in any of the guides or current Baja HaHa notes and having not been confronted with it in the last three trips to Cabo, we were somewhat skeptical that they were official. After several minutes of negotiation, it appeared that they were legitimate and that this was a new fee as of January, $10 per night. Better let Richard of the Baja HaHa organization know about it to set the fleet's expectations for next year. We had a reservation at the new marina in Cabo San Jose (no anchorage available). As we readied the boat to head out, we saw the Cabo San Lucas jr. lifeguards doing exercises and practicing rescues on the beach near us. It appears that red shorts are the international standard for lifeguards.
We didn't have much wind when we left and when it did fill in it was not from the north, but on our nose so we had to motor. About an hour or two outside Cabo San Jose, the wind picked up and with most of the afternoon at our disposal, Dennis decided to sail, turning off the motor and tacking our way to the marina. Another sailboat was doing likewise so of course Dennis considered it a 'race'. We had to reef as the first mate insisted after 20+ knots apparent and heeling 30 degrees - but we still 'won' -the other boat having quite a lead on us to start but Dennis seemed to make the most of the more favorable tacking angles. We saw some more grey whales as we neared the harbor entrance. We had a quiet night in the marina. There was a small restaurant there, but it was kind of late and we had eaten out a lot in Cabo San Lucas (returning to some of our favorites as well as sampling new spots) and were ready for some home cooking. Plus we had a strong Internet connection there and needed to catch up on bill paying, blog posting, and such. The marina is still under development. They have a "Dolphin Discovery" pool where you can swim with dolphins but the restrooms and showers aren't built yet, using temporary buildings with one shower for the whole marina (men and women share). But from the landscaping, complete with an extensive malecon/promenade around the edge of the marina with informational plaques and sculptures, you can see they have plans to make it a destination spot. The staff were very nice and helpful. At $110/night for a slip it was kind of expensive, but that's Cabo for you. Slips without power were half price and three times the distance from the office and restrooms/shower.
Sunday, February 20th. The wind is supposed to be fair today, but getting a bit stronger the following day, so we decided to head out immediately for the next anchorage, Los Frailes. We left about 0730 after giving the boat a fresh water rinse. Dennis noticed that the waypoint in the cruising guide is off about 60 miles for Frailes - fortunately he always double checks on a paper chart. We aren't using our electronic chart plotting tools (Capn and Visual Passage Planner) yet. Dennis had it all set up on the older laptop in San Diego for the first leg of our trip and then the laptop screen went black and we had to power down without closing/saving anything. Now the charting products are not happy on that laptop and we'll need to contact tech support to straighten it out. We had it all installed on our newer laptop as well; Dennis just needs to set up some of the particulars again. He decided not to use it for this basically coastal sailing. We'll use it when we head to the Mexico mainland.
We motored all the way, most of the time in 20 knot winds, which increased as we got closer to the anchorage so the last few miles seemed like they took forever; we were only making 3-4 knots headway and lots of spray over the bow -so much for the fresh water rinse! The strong wind had arrived a day earlier than predicted - weather predictions are after all really just that. We saw two humpback whales frolicking for a long time. The still digital camera didn't catch them breaching, but you can see one the whales slapping its tail on the water - an exercise it kept up for some time. We're going to keep the video camera closer at hand for times like that. We saw another pair later, but they weren't as active. It was a nice diversion from the beating we were taking. There were three other sailboats in the anchorage when we arrived and two powerboats followed later. The anchorage was not protected from the wind so it gave us a good opportunity to test our increasing skill at dropping and setting the anchor in less than favorable conditions. But the anchorage was well protected from the swell so we were comfortable, listening to the wind howl in our rigging all night and giving our wind generator a good workout. The conditions prevented us from venturing ashore or visiting other boats. There were tent campers on the beach. When we talked to our son that night on the sat phone, he said "there are palapas on the beach" - he had seen our position report and zoomed in on the Google Earth view while he was talking with us. Our last family vacation with Darren, when he was just out of college, was a camping trip to Baja. He was enchanted by the beach palapas we encountered on that trip and that visual reminder stimulated his deja vu.
Monday, February 21. Since the wind was predicted to persist (about 12-15 knots, but we would be headed straight into it), we decided to spend an extra day at Los Frailes and wait for the 5-8 knot wind predicted on subsequent days. Watching the whitecaps develop out on the Sea of Cortez beyond the point protecting the anchorage, we were glad we had stayed put. Another sailboat and one of the power boats did likewise. We thought if the wind did calm down we would kayak to the landmark living coral reef (the only live one in the Sea of Cortez) later in the day, but we didn't get that lull so we spent the day reading, cleaning the boat, and baking brownies.
Tuesday, February 22nd we left at first light (0630) to motor in light north winds to Ensenada de los Muertos. At 0715 we caught our first fish! As Dennis was busy cleaning it on the cutting board he cleverly installed on the swim step off the stern (no blood and guts in/on the boat!), Virginia watched a pod of about 30 dolphins and a whale off our port. While cleaning, Dennis cut his thumb, so he'll be excused from dishes duty for a few days. Dennis got the fish and boat all cleaned up and encouraged that fish were hitting his new rig, he put the lines back in expecting to catch a BIG one. At 0745 just a few moments later, whammo - another one on the line. We think these were either bonito or amberjacks. The second one was bigger but we just snapped a picture and released it as we had enough for a few days from the first one. A bit later we caught a third one, much smaller (also released). It was a helluva day at sea!
Muertos is a beautiful protected cove. We kayaked around the bay, over to the point, and out to visit another sailboat. Fred and Cindy of Songline, a 38' steel-hulled ketch, are from Alaska. They had planned to take our intended route, down mainland Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, Galapagos before heading to the Marquesas, but they got "started late" (boy that sounds familiar) and so they are headed back to Cabo to make the jump to the Marquesas. They had been in LaPaz for a few months and gave us some ideas on where to stay and services. We also went ashore to the "yacht club" - an outdoor restaurant - and had a beer and some nachos. The cruising guide explains how the developers didn't think "muertos" (buried anchors, aka "dead men") created the right atmosphere so they renamed the area, Bay of Dreams (which is inscribed on the arch over the club path). It was deserted - we were the only ones there. That night we had bbq'd fish (what else!) - yummy.
Wednesday, February 23rd, we left at sunrise for La Paz. Predictions were that we would be sailing into light north wind. Just past Muertos we passed Isla Cerralvo. As it is the furthest island south in the Sea of Cortez, we felt like we were finally in The Sea. Again, the wind cranked up and by noon it was quite uncomfortable and the wind was continuing to increase. Dennis headed us towards shore and anchored us in a little, unnamed, cove just south of San Rosario. There was a single house on the beach surrounded by a large field of cactus, and a nice big rock cliff to provide protection from the WNW wind and swell. A catamaran had been following us from Muertos, but they soldiered on. We had a peaceful lunch and stayed there for several hours but as the wind clocked around to the north the cove became uncomfortable and with a lee shore condition. We considered our options - beat on to La Paz or go back to Muertos. It was getting later in the afternoon and often the wind would lighten up as the sun set, so we decided to wait another hour. Fortunately, it died down enough that we were able to comfortably resume our leg to La Paz at a clip of 5.5 kts. We cleared the treacherous San Lorenzo Channel as the sun made a glorious setting but we didn't want to traverse the entrance channel to La Paz at night (it's a narrow, shallow, four-mile long channel), so we tucked into Balandra Cove just past the San Lorenzo Channel. We had the place to ourselves and it was quiet and peaceful when we arrived. We had dinner and watched a movie. We didn't get to finish our movie as our LCD panel fizzled midstream - bummer! Another project for Dennis when we arrive in La Paz. Then the wind came up blowing 15 knots out of the west and we got so much swell we started porpoising. Again on a lee shore, we decided to keep an anchor watch. Dennis took 2200-2400 and Virginia 2400 to 0200. The anchor seemed to be staying set so we tried to get some sleep after that. We had fitful rest for the next few hours. At one point Dennis had to awaken Virginia who was having a nightmare and screaming 'Dennis help us' (she and one of her sisters were being chased in a warehouse) - too many mystery novels on her Kindle!
We were up at first light, 0530, and headed into the La Paz channel. It was beautiful watching the sunrise over La Paz. A big freighter was anchored at the entrance of the channel that is marked with navigation buoys so we had to go around him. We knew from the charts and past experience that the channel itself wasn't very deep (30 feet) and it was very shallow outside the channel so Virginia kept a close watch on the depth gauge as Dennis maneuvered around the freighter. It was clear that we weren't going to make the first two buoys and Dennis knew this might be trouble so he slowed down. Only a few feet from being inside the buoys when Virginia sounded the alert that the bottom was getting shallow fast, Dennis put the boat into reverse and scraped a bit of paint off the keel as the depth reading was just a bit over 5 feet (for our 6.5 foot boat) and we could feel the boat starting to drag across the bottom. Fortunately, reverse gear spun us around and dragged us off the shoal and finally into the dredged channel. We listened to the local VHF net on our way in and duly reported ourselves as newcomers when requested. By 0830 we were anchored off downtown La Paz in a calm anchorage with lots of other boats. Before we had the boat all in order with sails and lines stowed, our neighbor, Robert in a nice, wooden 32' ketch with a bowsprit, had come by to welcome us to La Paz.
We had planned on getting some sleep once we were anchored, but decided we could do that any time. We were in La Paz and ready to explore! We dinghied ashore and made arrangements for a slip in Marina de la Paz for three nights. We'll spend this first night in the anchorage. We checked on the price of getting the bottom of the boat painted and will likely have that done before we leave here. We walked the downtown area, had lunch, bought some produce at the farmers' market, picked up some ice cream bars and some groceries (including warm fresh tortillas) at the Mercado, and headed back to the boat to prepare this blog so that we can post it manana when we have wifi in the marina. We have also now organized our photos for this first part of the trip and will try to post them as well.
We are still enjoying ourselves, thoroughly!
02/17/2011, Cabo San Lucas
We are now on Mountain Time: we lost an hour, so the sun goes down little later -or the sun comes up a little later (as it seems on the overnighters) but it seems like the day is longer.
Tuesday Feb. 8th, we put the dinghy in the water with the sling we had made for it - worked great, no more hoisting it half way up the mast to get it over the lifeline. We were headed for shore to revisit one of our favorite restaurants and use an internet café. One-armed Pedro greeted us on the wooden pier and was happy to take our basura (garbage) and watch our dinghy while we were ashore for a few bucks. There was no one around to bother the dinghy and the garbage was just piled up on the pier in a heap but we recognized him from past years so apparently he's made this his vocation. We found the internet shop where we spent about an hour paying bills, catching up on some of our email, and posting our last blog. We did encounter a problem though in that the keyboards didn't have a tilde (~) character on them and Virginia had that character in her email password...so she didn't get to check her gmail account. It was also a little slow going as we tried to translate instructions/prompts until we discovered how to request English on the Google homepage -guess that tells you how often we've been abroad. We were disappointed to find that both restaurants were closed. They must only open during certain seasons and when the big Baja Haha fleet comes through - then they are fully operational. But there were only four sailboats in the anchorage at this time. Not a problem, we had plenty of food stores aboard. Turtle Bay is a small town with all dirt/gravel roads (you feel like you need a shower after being passed by one or two vehicles). The only paved one is the road that heads out of town and becomes dirt again just beyond town. They have several small grocery stores, more auto parts stores than restaurants (it's a 40 mile dirt road to the paved Highway 1), and lots of friendly people. We purchased a tomato and a head of cabbage as Dennis is determined to make the switch from lettuce to cabbage in his lunch sandwiches (cabbage is supposed to last twice as long as lettuce). The school, medical facility, and church are structures that stand out and are very well maintained. The houses are painted bright colors.
We met another couple in the anchorage, Ann and Andrew aboard Windsong, a Hunter 32, who are from the Sacramento area. They too are retired and cruising Mexico this season. We hope to meetup with them again further along our route.
Wednesday, Feb 9th, we used our new sling to pull the dinghy out of the water and set it onto the bow of the boat without removingthe outboard and shore wheels - worked just fine. That will make it more convenient to manage the dinghy at anchorages where we are staying just a day or two. Another boat headed out of the anchorage just ahead of us so we had a buddy along the way that day. Weather forecast showed wind for sailing in the morning only so we wanted to get an early start. But alas, we had to motor sail all day. The only significant wind hit us as we arrived at Bahia Asuncion. It died early in the evening and we had a very calm and quiet night.
We didn't get a chance to visit our buddy boat as they took off early in the morning while we headed to shore. Asuncion is a larger town than Turtle Bay. They have paved roads, street signs, even some stop signs at intersections, and the road headed out of town is a divided highway. They had a nice looking medical facility. We ate an early lunch at Juanitas (a couple of tacos and rice, our first Mexican food - yum). We didn't realize until after they had served us that they actually weren't open yet. But they hadn't said a word and just served us with a smile. In fact we laughed together when Dennis asked for a Pacifico beer and they pointed out that the walls of the restaurant had the distinctive Tecate stripes - no Pacifico served there! We found an internet café that did have the tilde on the keyboard so Virginia changed her gmail password and finally got access. We hustled back to the boat and around noon we headed to Hipolito, a short sail away. And we did get to sail. We sailed all the way. Only bummer was that we snagged our fishing line on a lobster pot float and lost a lure and hook, despite circling a number of times to try and release it. Hope the fisherman who next checks the trap doesn't snag himself on that hook. We anchored in Hipolito just about dinnertime.
Friday Feb. 11th, we headed to Punta Abreojos where we planned to do a whale watching excursion. A recent boating publication (the Log) gave directions for hailing the park guides by VHF radio from that anchorage. Again we had light winds and only got to sail for about an hour before turning on the engine. We are enjoying the Baja coast landscape - it continually changes: low beach land, plateaus, peaks ofvaried heights - very interesting scenery. And we are seeing dolphins just about every day. As we approached Punta Abreojos, we saw a whale just ahead of us. We had to dodge several dozen lobster pots as we made our way to the anchorage. We were hoping some of the fishermen would approach us for a sale, but no such luck.
Saturday Feb. 12th, the prior evening, the beach was wall-to-wall pangas (small fishing boats) but at sunrise, we were awakened by virtually the entire fleet heading off for the day. We tried hailing the park guides for San Ignacio whale watching, but had no luck. We called the park on the sat phone and they said they don't come out into the open ocean, so evidently the info in the Log publication was not accurate. We called a contact mentioned in one of the cruising guides and they confirmed that you really have to get there by land. So we headed to shore, but this is a very small town with no bus service and we were unable to find a way to get ourselves to San Ignacio. But we walked the town. They have a very large church with stained glass windows and a nice baseball field with bleachers and a concession stand -no grass of course. We found an internet café, but it was closed on Saturday. Couldn't find a post office to mail our valentines - oh well, guess they'll be late. We saw a big fish processing plant and realized that all the fishermen probably worked for the 'company' and thus weren't free to sell directly to us. However, they were all very friendly and waved as they cruised by Libertad. We went back to the boat and spent the afternoon cleaning and napping.
Sunday Feb. 13th, we are headed 30 mi. south to Punta Pequina to anchor in Bahia Juanico. Another day of motoring. But we got in our whale watching afterall aboard Libertad. We saw groups of spouting whales several times that day. Twice they were very close to the boat (Virginia says 20 feet, Dennis says more like 20 yards away). It was a very calm anchorage, as promised in the cruisig guides.
Monday, Feb. 14th, Valentines Day, we didn't go ashore this time. From the boat we can see that although it is a very tiny town, they have an airstrip and some two-story homes that appear larger than in previous towns. We could also see a large church and hear the bells chime. A double-ender sailboat was in the anchorage with us; we had seen them before but didn't have a chance to visit. As they cruised by us heading out of the anchorage we had a brief chat and agreed we'd probably see them further south again. Weather looks like we'll get some wind for our overnight sail to Bahia Santa Maria; we left at 1400, hoping to time a daylight arrival in Bahia Santa Maria. We had lots of wind, lots of whales, lots of waves, and lots of sailing. We caught our first fish - but too small so threw it back. It was wonderful to sail all day. We turned on the watermaker and made 10 gallons or so. At nighttime the winds clocked up to 20-25 with big seas and so we got lots more practice with reefing the sails. And of course that meant we arrived earlier than anticipated. We got there about 0600, when it was still dark. We were glad we had decided to go to this familiar bay where we had been 3 times before with the Haha group rather than Mag Bay. We had to maneuver around some fishing boats at the head of the bay and work our way with a head wind over where a few other sailboats were anchored. First time anchoring in 25 knot wind and we were apprehensive about dragging the anchor but the wind was off shore and if we dragged it would only put us back out to sea so we slept soundly as the sun began to rise. The winds blew all morning, our wind generator got us all charged up and the anchor held tight.
Tuesday, Feb. 15th. The weather grib files indicate that the winds will lessen this morning and then get even lighter this afternoon and continue to lighten up during the following days, so we decided to head on out again about 1330 when the winds in the bay got below 20 and do another overnighter to Cabo (170 miles, so it will be a stretch to get there before dark). We sailed with about 11 knots apparent off the stern quarter averaging 7 knots SOG (speed over ground) for the rest of the daylight hours. We talked to Darren and our granddaughters when we were out at sea; so glad we bought the sat phone. Night watches were much easier than the trip to Santa Maria. We motorsailedall night to consistent winds and somewhat calmer seas, so you didn't have to be at the helm to constantly adjust the sails and our course. It is still quite cold on the night watches so the long underwear, ski hats, and neck scarves are still in use.
Wednesday, Feb. 16th, we had a huge group of dolphins around the boat in the early morning. Winds slacked off as predicted so we continued to motorsail. Had to use the engine almost all day - lots of time to read. We arrived in Cabo just as the sun was setting. No big cruise ships, but several large yachts in the anchorage. We were the only sailboat. Lots of lights and music happening around us. And it is warm again!
Thursday, Feb. 17, woke up to three large cruise ships anchored near us. We were preparing to go ashore in the morning to do our paperwork with Immigration and the port captain, when we saw another sailboat anchoring in the bay - and it was another Amel! After 3 hours at the Immigracion office (lots of people having lots of problems ahead of us), when they finally called our number, we were done in about 30 minutes including the trip to the bank. En route to the Port Captain, we stopped for lunch -we were starving after the endurance test getting our tourist visas. Getting late in the afternoon, we found the Port Captain office closed at 1430! so we'll have to finish that up tomorrow. We found a Laundromat and internet Café and we'll head back tonight or tomorrow to make use of those. Heading back to the Libertad, we visited the other Amel in the anchorage, C'est La Vie, a 1983 Mango 53. Bob is a nice fellow who is soloing. He had done the Baja Haha and was headed north to San Diego for the summer, and then he will return here next season. We were invited aboard to see the differences in our boats. Lots of things were the same and others were bigger or wider as his boat would allow. He is younger than us, and works from his boat. He uses a 3G card in his laptop and has internet access on this boat just about anywhere. We may just try that.
This trip to Cabo was quite different from the last three that we did with the Baja Haha group - not only because we are on our own with no additional crew, but because we were able to stop at more anchorages along the way and see more of this coast of Baja. The back-to-back overnighters was a new experience but we are becoming more relaxed with the routine.
Some of you have asked what we do at night in the anchorages. We brought along our travel games from our family camping days and some puzzles (Dennis stayed up until 2am one day finishing a jigsaw puzzle). One new addition to the boat was an LCD with built in DVD player and we have quite a collection of movies so we have movie night a couple times a week. The games and movies make it feel more like home than on past trips. But we miss all of you!
02/08/2011, Bahia Tortuga
We last reported that we planned on heading out of San Diego bound for Mexico on Sunday January 30, but the weather forecast wasn't favorable so we delayed until Tuesday. On Monday Virginia took our van to Long Beach to her parents' home and returned to San Diego on the train. That night we treated ourselves to dinner at the Boathouse restaurant in the marina.
We had been in San Diego for about 3 weeks and during that time had finished some major projects such as SSB radio and watermaker installation, but we also spent considerable time packing everything into the boat. Dennis, the master packer, did an amazing job and we were able to fit our full size mountain bikes, a cart to pull behind the bikes, some beach chairs, nearly every tool Dennis owns (including all his power tools) as well as several other items we had considered 'luxuries' that we might have to leave behind. And it is all stowed - not a lot of clutter on deck. We have an extensive inventory list that we need to get into Excel so that we can find things as we have them stashed in every nook and cranny on the boat. During that process of sorting and packing, the boat looked terrible for a few days with all our gear piled up on the deck. Thank goodness we had such nice weather those three weeks to allow us the luxury of keeping things out in the open allowing us to concentrate on the projects. Our 'neighbors' were probably happy that the "trailer trash" boat finally cleaned up.
We headed out Tuesday morning at 11:00. We had 10 knots of wind out of the southeast and managed to sail for a few hours. We headed further offshore where the weather grib files we had obtained via email over our radio said we would have better wind. We found more than enough wind and got a lot of practice reefing the sails. Running the reefing lines back to the cockpit worked perfectly again and again and again. The plan was to sail overnight to Punta Baja. But following the wind took us quite a bit offshore and as the wind was from the SE and against the swell, it made for very sloppy seas and the distance to Punta Baja became quite unattractive. So we didn't try to make that and headed instead forPunta Cabras. A pod of dolphins and four spouting whales welcomed us as we approached the anchorage Wednesday at 14:00.
We were in an unfamiliar anchorage with wind blowing just shy of 20 knots so we set the anchor alarm on the GPS. It awakened us in the early morning, but all was OK. We had our wind generator on overnight and realized that it was a good warning tool for increasing winds...another new sound to get used to, but it's not annoying.
Thursday, February 3 we did some projects in the morning including repairing the guard around the bow light . It had broken loose and instead of guiding halyards and other lines near the main mast away from the light fixture, it was gathering them all in. It caused a bit of trouble when taking down the spinnaker the previous night out to sea. This was the first time Dennis climbed the mast in an anchorage - thankfully a calm one, but still a challenge. At 11:00 when we were ready to pull up anchor two fishermen approached us selling lobster and abalone. We declined, but it was tempting. We were able to sail most of that day. We must already be adjusting to the cruising life as we have decided that we will just take short hops down a couple coves rather than more overnighters (the fact that evenings are dipping into the 40's made the decision quite easy). We arrived at Punta Colnett around 17:00.
Friday, February 4 next stop was to be San Quintin at 9:45. Dennis set up the fishing gear, but we only caught a banana peel and some seaweed. It gave us practice on how to handle the boat if we ever do get something on the line. We had calm seas and mild winds so had to do a lot of motorsailing that day. We spent time working on our Weatherfax - we are determined to figure it out and get it working, even though we've been told it is a museum piece. San Quintin is a huge bay and we had the place to ourselves. We arrived around sunset and anchored off the Hotel La Pinta, where we dropped off Greg J. a few years ago on one of the Baja Bash trips. It has been cold, very cold, since we left Santa Barbara. We are wearing long underwear, neck scarves, gloves, and multiple sweatshirts/jackets day and night. We are anxious to get to warmer weather! But the anchorages have been calm and we've been sleeping soundly.
Saturday, February 5 we spent time checking into some of the southbound radio nets (Chubasco and Baja nets) before heading out. We planned another short hop to Punta Baja. We motored most of that day, only sailing, with spinnaker up, for the last hour or so. The variable wind and wind direction has motivated us to try a variety of sail combinations utilizing the new inner forestay and mizzen staysail stay. Dennis is anxious for that day with the wind on the beam at around 10 knots when he can fly all five sails together. Again, we had the anchorage to ourselves. It was a bit rolly, but Dennis' homemade flopper stoppers really calmed down the boat motion. We were determined to learn how to post position reports onto our website from the radio and did so that night.
Sunday, February 6 we awoke to fog. We waited for it to clear before heading out. We planned another overnight trip down to Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay). We have stopped here on our three Baja Haha trips and we are looking forward to visiting the town again, including our favorite restaurants. Favorable NW wind allowed us to sail ALL DAY Sunday and most of the night. It was wonderful and took our mind off of the fact that we weren't hosting or attending a Superbowl party. It was a much milder night trip, no reefing required. We saw the sunrise over Cedros Island. As we passed Pt. Eugenia, the sea was teaming with wildlife. Sealions were frolicking and jumping out of the water; a big gathering of floating seabirds took to the skies as we motored through the center of them and settled back down behind us; huge dolphins swam and jumped alongside the boat and at our bow as we entered Turtle Bay. We could hear music playing from shore and it was warm! We'll stay here two nights, visiting an internet café in town tomorrow so we can post this blog.
If you place a question/comment on this site that desires a response, we will try to review them when we have access to the Internet and add a section to our next update that addresses them. Otherwise you may just contact us through our current email ([email protected]: Dennis or [email protected]: Virginia).
We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves and starting to unwind.
01/31/2011, San Diego Harbor Island West Marina
We must apologize for slinking out of Santa Barbara like thieves but we were still completing preparations up to the minute we had to shove off to avoid the ire of the SB Harbormaster. We also just needed to get out of town as the call of house projects kept luring us away from our boat projects. We would have loved to invite everyone to the boat to show off all our new gizmos but time just did not permit. We've been in San Diego for 3 weeks and made so much progress on the boat items.
We have finally completed all critical projects (after only three weeks!?!), provisioned, and are looking at an attractive weather window for leaving Harbor Island and heading south Tuesday morning, Feb 1 (Santa Ana conditions -offshore breezes into the 15-20 kt range should send us scooting down to Turtle Bay, our first stop in Mexico.
Last Friday we took the boat out of the harbor to test out two of our critical boat projects - the SSB radio and the watermaker. We have tested the email capability of our SSB radio which Dennis installed and all is functional (this is significant because most vendors recommend installation by experienced technicians). This critical piece of communication/information equipment stymied us for a while as we were getting an excessive amount of background noise which we couldn't eliminate, preventing us from hearing anyone clearly. Fortunately we had several experts to consult with (it's not who you are, it's who you know...). A local guy advised that Harbor Island Marinas are notoriously noisy, making reception virtually impossible. We needed to get out of the bay to test our watermaker, so we motored out beyond Point Loma and turned on the radio to discover that we could now hear an operator in Hawaii loud and clear. Problem solved! BTW, the watermaker worked perfectly as well, magically turning salt water into good-tasting fresh water.
As many of you know, Libertad, has gobs of storage space. This turned out to be a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because we could bring an amazing amount of "stuff" to make our voyage comfortable and make us prepared for most contingencies (system failures). A bad thing because we needed to create an inventory spreadsheet to remind us where we stashed things!
We plan to start with an overnighter, if the winds and sea conditions are good, down to Punta Baja. Our second leg will be to Turtle Bay.
Since we are starting 3 months later than originally planned, we are thinking we will delay on crossing the pacific until next season. Those of you that might have been contemplating joining us for the puddle jump will have to wait until Spring 2012. This season we will take more time in Mexico, Central America, and northwest South America - as far down as Ecuador or Peru. Those of you interested in joining us for parts of the trip in those areas, let us know! We'll leave the boat 'somewhere down there' and fly home for a few months in summer/early Fall. But....we'll see how things go...gotta remain flexible!
01/23/2011, San Diego Harbor Island West Marina
We left Santa Barbara on Sunday January 9, as our last blog entry reported, around 12:30pm. There wasn't much wind and so we had to motor/sail out to Smuggler's on Santa Cruz Island. It was a bit rolly and so I got queasy, but Dennis put up some sails to stabilize the boat and I soon recovered. We didn't see any wildlife, just one freighter. We arrived at sunset and joined the one other boat in the anchorage. It was a quiet, restful, night - and we really needed that.
Monday we headed out at 5:00 am, hoping to arrive in Avalon on Catalina before sundown. We had light winds, on the nose, which made for slow going. So we headed off course to get a better angle on the wind, passing by Santa Barbara Island. The mainland was hidden from view all day by the marine layer - eerie, when you are trying to say goodbye. We had lots of freighters emerging from that thick layer as we neared San Pedro. The wind direction never changed in favor of a course to Avalon, so we headed for Cat Harbor on the back side of the island. As we approached the Harbor we saw two whales spouting on our starboard - finally something other than freighters! That change would leave us a longer leg to San Diego , so it would be another early morning start. Cat Harbor was very empty; we got a great mooring with a straight shot out of the harbor. We decided not to go ashore and had another restful night aboard.
Tuesday we left Cat Harbor at 4:00 am. We could see a cruise ship all lit up like Disneyland just ahead of us. It was a very calm morning and the island was beautifully backlit by lights from the mainland. We had 7-11 knots of wind after we cleared the island and got to sail, briefly, before the winds died and we were motorsailing again. But those of you who know Dennis know that we tried several sail combinations before we gave up on sailing. We had the A-symmetrical spinnaker up, then the drifter, but not enough wind even for those sails. As we passed by San Clemente Island we got our own personal airshow. We heard a thunderous noise approaching and looked up to see navy jets overhead. The first one made a radical turn just above us to go straight up - it was amazing to see. Didn't have the video camera close enough at hand! The next couple weren't quite as dramatic of turns, but fun nonetheless to watch. That got our juices flowing and we were restless, so we decided to hoist our new new mainsail staysail and determine the position for the track installation.
When I was down below preparing lunch we had a visit from a pod of dolphins. It was warming up. We were able to take off a couple layers. At 3:30 pm the wind clocked around and we were finally able to put up the spinnaker and sail, for about 90 minutes. As we reached Point Loma and headed into the San Diego harbor, we were greeted by helicopters circling overhead, another pod of dolphins and a beautiful red sunset. We were so relaxed - something we desperately needed after the last 6 months of hectic activity remodelling the house and making cruising plans.
But....there were more boat projects on our list that we intended to do in San Diego, so we would be there for a couple weeks before heading to Mexico.
01/09/2011, Santa Barbara
We have been in the Santa Barbara marina this past month and it has been nice to have the boat closer to home during our preparations for heading out. Some of our friends with special expertise were nearby to help and we could crash at home at night and leave projects midstream without having to clear a spot to make dinner and bed down for the night. Tomorrow we finally head south. We will take our routine 3 day route to San Diego (Smuggler's on Santa Cruz Island tomorrow night, Avalon on Catalina Monday night, and into San Diego on Tuesday). We will take the train up to Santa Barbara to close down the house and shuttle our cars to Long Beach (we are storing them at my parent's house), and then catch the train to San Diego. We expect to be in San Diego for a week or so, working on a few more projects and visting family there. Then at the first good weather window, we head to Baja and expect to have more interesting things to report!