12 June 2013 | Sea of Cortez
Well, it is about time I wrote something on our blog because the season is drawing to a close. Not exactly sure why I haven’t been inspired to write to our new blog until now. Probably, because the season didn’t turn out anything close to what we imagined. A graphic demonstration of that saying that “sailing plans are set in the sand at low tide”. I am not going to comment here on the way our time was spend this winter cruising season because I think Karen has already written about some of that and I don’t have access to the blog now because we are underway. I plan to talk about our sailing this past week.
Currently we are about 51 nm from San Carlos where we intend to put the boat up for the summer. The sun has just set, beautiful as always down here. We arrived on the 9th of January and have yet to see rain. Mostly blue sunny skies with some clouds carried in from down near the equator or some clouds of vertical development with the day time heating. Today was no exception. The winds are very light today and we are travelling along very slowly and yet our ETA is about 1 pm tomorrow. Of course we could turn on our new Yanmar diesel engine that we spent the best part of 3 months getting installed but it is so pleasant out here and in some ways we are avoiding coming to the end of our sailing that just began a week ago.
We have no complaints about our season at least not now. I must admit that when I realized there would only be a bit of sailing (with the cooperation of mother nature) at best and for the most part we were leaving Mazatlan with the main goal being getting to San Carlos (about 500 nm or 1000 km) in time to put the boat away and catch a bus to Phoenix where we have a flight back to Calgary on the 19th of June. Sailing and fixed time schedules are usually a bad match but in this case it seems to be working out better than could be expected.
We departed Mazatlan on the morning of the 23th of May and the forecast was for light SW winds which was what we got. Although the wind never blew greater than 10 knots (a little less than 20 km/hour) and most often about 6 knots, we managed to sail 65% of the time which was great, better than expected because we weren’t able to wait for the perfect weather timing. It was more of a situation where you take what you get if was at all reasonable. As a bonus it was the day before and the day of the full moon, my favorite time of the month to do a passage involving night travel. It was warm and spectacular. So nice to be out on deck and have the shadow of the moon with you and to have no need to use the deck lights to find your way around. The light from the moon is a beautiful white light in my view. We had watched a few full moons come and go while on the hard, each time hoping we would be finished and sailing away from the boat yard under a full moon but it was not to be…..until now. The perfect timing of it all, the moon, the wind, and out clean bottomed Katie G ready to go made it made it an extra special passage.
Because we had spend nearly four months in Mazatlan we decided to just head for the islands in the Sea of Cortez on the Baja side rather than head to La Paz which would be a common destination when heading north into the Sea with plans to land on the Baja side. We aimed for Isla de San Francisco which is somewhat north of La Paz and is has a beautiful quiet aquamarine bay with a white sand beach. We arrived on the morning of the 25th which was my birthday and that was a great birthday present! Even though we were on a time schedule we stopped for a day and enjoyed the bay. We went snorkeling and it was excellent. The reef is quite new in relative terms and the coral was somewhat scant but coming along with a nice variety of fan and brain coral. The coral looked healthy and not in danger. There was a surprising variety of fish and Karen got a chance to see her favorite two kinds of tropical fish.
On the 27th of May we headed to a favorite spot of other cruisers, Aqua Verde. Although we only got to sail about 40% of the way we did get some nice close reach sailing in on another lovely day. We didn’t stay there long (the schedule loomed) but enjoyed a beautiful sunset and enjoyed the night views of the bay and some magnificent silhouette views from the cockpit on that warm evening. On the morning of the 28th we left a bit early because there was another south wind and we got the spinnaker out for a while on a short run to Puerto Escondido. It was interesting to go in there with the intention of getting some fuel before we re-crossed the Sea to the mainland side again as we are currently doing. Puerto Escondido is a naturally well protected harbour. It is almost 100% encircled with geographic features and the hills to the south and west make for a natural hurricane hole. We had thought of this as an option for a place to leave out boat last summer but decided on leaving it in Mazatlan. They have a sub-optimal fuel situation there but at 2:30 pm they said the fuel would arrive in an hour. I waited there until they closed at 5 pm and no sign of the fuel truck from Loretto. We decided to stay over because it was late in the day and they said for sure it would be there in the morning. Karen and I both went to the fuel dock numerous times the next day, always the same story….they will be here in an hour. At about 2pm we decided to leave without the fuel. We didn’t really need it but with the new engine and not sure of fuel consumption as well as other work we had done on the fuel tanks we thought having some extra would be a good idea. It further inspired us to try sailing as much as possible and we headed for Isla Coranados and managed to sail all the way there and sailed right onto the anchor. We even got a good run of wing on wing sailing which is when you are running pretty much straight down the wind with the main sail out on one side and the jib poled out on the other. Time for another swim after arriving but it was later in the day because of the late start from Puerto Escondido.
We sailed off the anchor the next morning, the 30th and headed for San Juanico. We got a good variety of sailing in that day and by the time we arrived it was blowing about 25 knots. We first went into the south anchorage but as we were approaching the anchorage we got a call from fellow travellers saying they had gone around to a small bay just north of San Juanico called La Ramada. They said there was room for us and so we turned around and headed there which didn’t take long as a result of the brisk winds. By the time we arrived our preferred anchor spot had been taken so we anchored out a bit and initially it was windy and rolly. As a result we never went ashore but put in on the growing list of places to explore next fall when we return and travel down the Sea in hopefully a more relaxed manner. We intend to sail in the Sea until the winter northerlies blow us out of the Sea….but we both know how plans and reality are sometimes a poor match.
The next morning, the 31st of May, we had a change of plans. We had intended to sail north to Bahia Conception or Santa Rosilia before crossing the Sea to San Carlos but it seemed the SW winds had blown out on the day before and the forecast was for light winds followed by NW winds. There was a westerly blowing in the bay and so we decided to hop on it and head straight for San Carlos. As we left the bay there was a school of rays circling the bow. As for wildlife, we didn’t see that much but were lucky enough to see quite a number of sea turtles, dolphins, and a few whales. We even saw a seabird hitching a ride on the back of one turtle but missed the chance to get that photo. No looming career with National Geographic as a photographer as yet. The birds are numerous with large flocks of pelicans travelling in groups much as our geese do back home. We even were entertained by four blackish sea birds (?? type) who decided our bow pulpit would be a great way to travel north and their antics vying for a preferred spot were just that….entertaining. Karen eventually shooed them away not wanting them to decide our radar support would be a good place to next which is what happened last year in our absence. They were quite bold and Karen almost had to push the last one off the pulpit. Winds were light and we took the opportunity to try and re-calibrate the auto pilot (which worked) and the wind instrument (which didn’t……add it to the project list). By 3pm there was a light SW wind which we sailed on until it switched to the NW. I wrote the first part of this after sundown last night and now am finishing it as we approach San Carlos, now 6 nm straight ahead. Over night we had no big winds but did have the boat moving at a speed over the ground of 5 and a half knots for a few hours. The wind came and went but we continued to sail practicing that great skill of patience which is well taught by sailing……if you don’t immediately reach for the engine starter switch as soon as the wind fades.
So now it is 10 am, we are travelling at a nice 3.5 knots (short pause to do a little sail trim), the sun is out, and it is time to start preparing to anchor in Martini Cove, our intended stop while we explore the environs of San Carlos by dingy. There will be lots of work to prepare the boat to leave for 5 months. It will be somewhat different this year because we are leaving the boat on the hard rather than in the water. However, we have one year of experience as to what was useful, what wasn’t and what we totally missed last year being neophytes to the cruising life style. I will close now by saying I hope that all of you who have a chance to read this are well and happy. Hopefully I will be inspired to write some historical details regarding how we got to this point which has been a great adventure and as we always say this is an adventure, not a holiday. Take care.
As a late note we ended up sailing into Bahia San Carlos rather than Martini Cove and we really like our anchorage here. It is a beautiful view in every direction and we are looking forward to getting the Katie G ready for summer with the gentle south breezes blowing to keep us a bit cooler. At this time of year the day time temperature is about 95 degrees so the breeze is always welcome…..except when you are trying to wash and fold sails or climb the mast to remove and protect instruments and other equipment.
I hope this note finds you all happy and well.