Change of plans; the crossing
Once we started considering sailing directly to Mazatlan the winds continued to build, and we had sustained winds of 15-20 knots with higher gusts. We started going through in our heads our provisions; we had plenty of food, plenty of water, but we were a little short of my comfort level for diesel fuel. I figured that we would need to sail at least 100 miles of the 285 mile trip. Sooo we did the unthinkable and went with the weather guess that called for good wind over the next 24 hours...and we were on our way to Mazatlan. I would like to be real clear to those of you that are not sailors.....a 285 mile open ocean passage with only two crew members is a BIG freaking deal. This would match my passages coming down the Pacific coast of Baja last March...with one BIG difference, we had three people abroad Si Bon for those legs and the comments from at least one of them was "I can't believe how physically exhausting this is".
We were sailing on a port tack and on a broad reach, which means that that the wind was coming over our port stern (left rear), normally on this point of sail the boat will not heel (lean) a lot...but as you can see from the pic we are heeled over pretty well. As dusk fell upon us the seas continued to build and the swells (more like huge chop) were trying their best to throw Si Bon around...with varying degrees of success. Si Bon is a very sea worthy vessel and was slicing through the rather rough conditions at sustained speeds of 7-8 knots, as darkness fell we decided to reef the sails (reduce the sail area) and we slowed her down to right around 7 knots.
As we sailed through the night Sharon and I came up with a watch schedule where one would sleep for 3 hours while the other stood watch, we backed each other and if one wasn't completely exhausted they would let the other sleep longer. Sharon was now beginning to feel comfortable at the helm and realizing that although Si Bon was being tossed around a little, she was going to be fine. As the morning came and the winds began to let up a little we had sailed over 150 nautical miles since making our decision to go directly to Mazatlan. We had to motor for a few hours on thursday morning as the wind continued to decrease, which was ok as our batteries needed a little recharging from all of our electronics running throughout the night. By noontime the wind came back up and once again we were under sail, only now the air was warmer, the breeze gentler and Steve and Sharon were in their bathing suits and wearing very large smiles.
We did the nearly 300 NM trip in 49 hours which included slowing down and waiting for the marina to open and also included finding and tying up to a slip. Sharon and I worked as a team throughout what will end up being one of our longest non-stop passages. Although both of us were physically spent, we never argued or became irritated with each other. Sharon did a superior job of co-captaining with me and was quick to join in all of the tasks necessary to undertake this type of passage.
We are now in the mega resort of El Cid (a good place to visit us) and will do a blog about this beautiful spot in the next few days.
Change of plans; the decision
On our way to La Paz Sharon and I stopped at a beautiful cove called Auga Verde. While at Auga Verde Sharon told me that she thought it would be a good idea for her to do an overnight sail before we crossed the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to Matzatlan, a passage of somewhere between 2-3 days total. I completely agreed with her, as although she did do some night sailing from San Carlos to Santa Rosalia, it was not an all-nighter. So we changed plans, we decided that we would leave Auga Verde on Wednesday morning, sail down to another anchorage, stop for lunch, then leave for La Paz at around 1600 (4:00), this new plan would have us sailing all night, arriving in La Paz early Thursday Morning. We would then spend two weeks in La Paz before leaving for Matzatlan.
Although the weather had been forecast to be VERY calm all week, I decided to tune into the weather guru, Don Anderson, on our SSB radio before leaving....and a good thing I did. The new forecast by Don was "There is a high pressure system over Montana and the wind is going to start blowing in the Sea of Cortez any minute. The Wind is going to blow all day and all night and into tomorrow (thursday) morning, it's going to be blowing 20-25 knots and up to 35 in certain channels..so you better get ready cause here it comes". I looked at Sharon and said " change of plans honey", I think we need to skip the lunch stop, and I also think that we need to avoid the direct route to La Paz, which would take us through the San Jose channel. The San Jose channel is notorious for funneling dangerous winds through itself. I charted a course that would take us outside of the San Jose channel and several islands, when we were far enough out we would jibe (turn) and sail into Bahia de La Paz...it was going to be an epic day and night of sailing. Auga Verde is not very well protected from north winds and as we were raising the anchor the wind started up. As we headed into the sea we almost instantly had our sails up and were sailing along on a beautiful point of sail doing 7-8 knots (which is hauling ass in a sailboat).
I'm not really sure how the next plan change started.....I think I was muttering to myself something like "this would be a great point of sail for our upcoming passage to Mazatlan", Sharon must have heard me and said "so what are you thinking". I laughed and said "don't worry honey, my mind is always going". As we were talking I was flipping through GPS pages and when I zoomed into our map position I commented " look at that..We are directly on course for Mazatlan, nearly 300 nautical miles away". Well one thing led to another and as you may have noticed from this blog title....we are now in Mazatlan. What started as an epic day and night of sailing, turned into two epic days and nights of sailing. Tomorrow I will post about the 286 NM passage.
If you are following our spot locations on Facebook, tonight will be the last one I send out for awhile as I will be staying in the mega resort of El Cid until after New Years.....subject to change of course!
Time to head south
11/13/2011, Pureto Escondido
Early this morning we were awaken by a strange sound. When you live on something that is floating on water and could at any minute sink from under you....you become very in tune to any kind of noises. I immediately jumped up to investigate and was surprised to see a strange wet substance falling from the sky. OK...so I know that we aren't going to get a whole lot of sympathy given that this is the first time I've seen rain since cruising Baja (total of 6 months).....but I then had to do the unthinkable and throw on a sweatshirt and long pants. Soooo here is where our friends rolling their eyes in cooler climates are going to get a little revenge. We then had to take the dinghy in to the marina area, fill it up with the 15 gallons of drinking water that were still in the rental car.....take the water back to Si Bon.....get back into the dinghy and go turn the freaking car in. After donning our rain gear, as if on que., as soon as I stepped into the dink the wind and rain hit with a vengeance....kinda like a big wet slap in the face.
So in between waves soaking us, Sharon and I quickly decided that we need to head south sooner rather than later.....we'll be leaving Puerto Escondido tomorrow morning and beelining it for La Paz, where we heard on the radio net this morning that it was 81 degrees. We won't have internet access until La Paz which should be within 1 week.....unless it warms up along the way.
After having spent over a month living and cruising on Si Bon, Sharon and I both felt it was time for a boat break. Many cruisers seldom leave their boats, however I have always felt it important to be able to get away occasionally and to explore areas that are not necessarily within a day trip away from the marina or anchorage. On Thursday morning we rented a car and drove into Loreto for a three day visit, Puerto Escondido is a good place to leave Si Bon as she is currently tied to a mooring ball (or at she was when we left her) as opposed to being anchored.
Loreto is a really cool town of approximately 15,000 people (slightly larger than Brattleboro, Vt.). Loreto was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries and was the first Spanish settlement of the Baja California peninsula, Loreto served as the capital of Los Californias from 1697-1777. The Mission of our lady of Loreto (pic) is located at the start of the "El Caminio Real", which is the royal highway and long string of missions that make their way north through California.
Last night before Sharon took me out for a romantic birthday dinner, we sat in a small outdoor bar overlooking the town square, there was an open mike night and the VERY talented locals provided us with a wonderful evening of music while the ever present teenagers (polite teenagers), with their mutual flirting and showing off for each other further enhanced our evenings entertainment. We both agreed that this evening was indeed one of the great rewards in our cruising lives.
We will be provisioning (again) today while we still have the car and our current plan calls for us to leave Puerto Escondido on Monday morning and continue south. After leaving Puerto Escondido we will most likely NOT have internet access until we get to La Paz...which should be Thanksgiving day.
San Juanico to Puerto Escondido
11/11/2011, currently in Loreto
San Juanico (SJ) is a picturesque bay with beautiful rock outcropping and numerous reefs extending into the various coves which make up the bay. SJ is a favorite destination for people cruising in the Sea of Cortez. SJ is home to the "cruiser shrine" (pic), which is a tree (more like a bush) in which cruisers make up an ornament of some sort which pays tribute to their boats and then they hang said ornament on the tree to forever be remembered....or at least until the sun, wind, salt, birds, insects or next hurricane wipes the slate clean. After checking out the shrine on our first day in SJ, Sharon did a little beach combing and came up with some shells, a piece of driftwood and a scraggly old piece of cloth and spent most of the afternoon creating our very own shrine ornament.
After hanging our ornament on the bush....oops I mean tree, we hoisted the anchor and headed to Isla Carman and one of the most beautiful little coves that we've been in yet, called Bahia Balandra (not the same one as we stay in by La Paz). The water in Bahia Balandra was so clear it was like we were in an aquarium. after dropping the hook we threw on our snorkeling gear and were treated to an amazing show of nature. We both instantly fell in love with Balandra....until about 2:00 in the morning when a fairly strong breeze came up from the west and Si Bon turned into a rocking horse. Fortunately the wind died down after sunrise....just in time for the local bees to wake up and come over for a drink of water. As I was cooking up some hot dogs for lunch the rest of the hive decided to join us, we very quickly pulled the dogs of the grill, hoisted the anchor in record time and got the hell out of dodge....trying desperately to out run the little bastards. Yes cruising is full of many challenges and many rewards....but it sure beats working for a living.
We are currently on a land trip to Loreto where we are celebrating my birthday and taking a nice little boat break.
Sailing and catching fish
11/04/2011, Bahia Concepcion to San Juanico
As we were motoring out of tranquil Bahia Concepcion on our way to San Juanico, I vowed to Sharon that I was going to catch a fish for dinner that night. If you've been following my blog you know that catching fish is not one of my strong points. As the sun was rising over the Sea of Cortez I was deploying first a hand line with a cedar plug and then I let out a line from my pole with a repeller lure.
As we rounded the cape and turned south down the sea a breeze started to blow, I already had our main sail out motor sailing and within short time off went the engine and out came the 155 genoa..which is a large headsail which is very powerful. We were sailing along nicely in 10-15 knot winds and our speed over ground (SOG) was around 7 knots. I turned around and there on the end of the hand line was.....A FISH!!! A hand line is basically a long piece of thin rope with another long piece of fishing line attached to it, this is not a set-up for the sportsman as there is no fight and the fish has little chance of escaping, this is the best way for a cruiser to land a fish while sailing a heeling boat. I pulled the helpless fish to the stern of Si Bon, dropped him into the wet locker on our swim step and let the line back out for another try. Our fish, we think he was a tuna, was not large, but he was big enough for dinner for two later.
Mean time the wind had now increased to 20+ knots and Si Bon was becoming difficult to handle, we furled the genoa (reduced the sail area) in order to calm things down. I looked back and there was another fish on the hand line, I started pulling the line in, this time the boat was heeled WAY over and I was hanging on with one hand and reeling the line in with the other with Si Bon on auto pilot and Sharon ready with the gaff. We suddenly were hit with a strong gust, Si Bon leaned WAY over and began violently pointing herself into the wind, Sharon yelled "TURN OFF AUTO PILOT" and as I reached behind me to turn off the auto pilot....I let go of our fish. So much for the "fish having little chance" theory. At about that time the line on the pole started spinning off the reel, as we tightened the drag the fish snapped off our line...so in a matter of minutes we lost a cedar plug, a repeller lure AND a complete hand line....but we had dinner and 20-25 knots of wind, so life was good.
Soooo.....how was the fish? Well I filleted the little sucker, threw him on the grill and when we bit into the dark purple meat we both nearly feel out of our chairs. This was by far the best tasting fish either one of us had ever eaten, if you didn't know that is was fish, you would swear that the tender meat was a fine steak. The next Day I caught another fish while at anchor and we made him into fish tacos for dinner...so while I probably won't be seen on American Sportsman show anytime soon, at least we've ben able to get a couple of good dinners, and hopefully there will be more to follow.
As of November 8 we are in Puerto Escondido, where we will be for the next week or so before continuing south. Over the next few days I will post some of the adventures that we have had since leaving San Juanico last week.