Second-guessing a hurricane, and enjoying life in the Sea
05 June 2015 | Bahia Santo Domingo
This morning, we're anchored in beautiful Bahia Santo Domingo, near the entrance to Bahia Concepcion, or about 40 miles south of the town of Santa Rosalia. For those of you interested in our exact GPS location, it should show up in our position data.
You may recall that we've been working toward a minimum goal of 27 degrees north latitude, and today we're almost there: from here we could see 27 north if it were an actual line painted on the earth, about 8 miles north of us.
We've spent the past five days moving north in the Sea of Cortez, carefully scrutinizing all the available weather data as we go, trying to tease out Hurricane Blanca's plans. It seems now that she won't veer out to sea, choosing instead to scrape the western edge of Baja, and then cross over in to the Sea somewhere near latitude 27 degrees north, shredding herself on the peninsula's mountains in the process.
If this is indeed what she does, then when she gets to the Sea, she will be a wet mess with moderate winds, easily managed by us in any reasonable anchorage, such as the one we are currently in. If she changes her mind at the last minute, and becomes a major storm again, before heading across, the situation would be more dire, and we would really need to be in a known hurricane hole, such as Puerto Don Juan, about 160 miles north of here.
After looking over all of today's forecasts, and discussing our options, Eric and I have decided to hold here for a day. IF Blanca does as she's predicted to do, then this anchorage, or a more protected one a few miles south of here in Bahia Concepcion, will work just fine. IF Blanca ups her game in the next couple of days, we still have time to reach Puerto Don Juan. So, here we are for now.
But enough about hurricanes and such. We've been having an excellent sailing adventure up the Sea of Cortez. Beginning in our landfall anchorage at Isla San Francisco last Monday, we've traveled almost 150 miles in four days, stopping each night in anchorages along the way. Since leaving, we've spent nights at Timbabiche (25 degrees 16.221'N, 110 degrees 56.383'W), Agua Verde (25 degrees 30.941'N, 111 degrees 04.066'W), Isla Coronado (26 degrees 06.641'N, 111 degrees 17.049'W), and now Bahia Santo Domingo.
We had intended to spend last night in a pretty little anchorage called San Sebastian (26 degrees 37.092'N, 111 degrees 33.945'W), about thirty miles from our anchorage at Isla Coronado. We knew, from our cruising guidebook, that the entry to this little cove is dicey: it has sharp, pointy, sometimes-hidden reefs extending into the opening from both sides. But armed with the GPS coordinates provided by our guidebook, giving a position outside the cove, and the anchorage in the cove, we knew we could get in there just fine by connecting these dots. Even with our electronic charts being off to the extent that it showed our entire track into the cove as being well inland. (A typical problem with charts here.) We knew, further, that this anchorage would be small, though it was said to be big enough for at least one boat to swing freely.
Well, when we arrived outside the cove after a day of sailing, we found it to indeed be dicey. As we slowly entered the cove, Eric watched our GPS track, steering to keep us on course, while I watched the reality of what was happening outside the boat, keeping a close eye on those nasty rocks on either side of us. It was quite an intimidating place! Rocks and cliffs and froth and foam on all sides! Both of us expected the cove to open up where we were supposed to drop our anchor, but it didn't! The sides stayed narrow and the bottom came up quickly. There was room to swing, but not much. We pulled a tight u-turn and crept out toward the opening, where the depth increased a bit. I wanted to leave immediately, suspecting that I would be up all night, staring at the cliffs, if we anchored. Eric wanted to give it a try, though, so we did.
We dropped the anchor in about 20 feet of water, in between the narrow cliffs. When we performed our usual anchor check by backing down on the anchor with 2000 rpm, it skipped along the bottom. The holding was not good. So up came the anchor, and we high-tailed it out of there - matching our entry track exactly - back out into the safe, wide, blue Sea. It was 4:30 pm.
The next anchorage, Bahia Santo Domingo, was 28 miles north. If we motored (and we had to, as the light southeast winds (from behind us) that had whispered in our sails all day had inexplicably turned to moderate northwest winds, blowing from where we were now headed), we would reach the anchorage in 4 hours, just after sunset. Though we were both confident, based on the description of this wide-open bay, that we could easily anchor here in the dark, if need be.
We arrived at Bahia Santo Domingo just as the sun had set behind the mountains and was painting the western sky with fiery streaks of orange (I'll spare you the Crayola details). Floating on 20 feet of water, we dropped the anchor onto the sandy bottom (thunk!), where it set and held. The wind had calmed to an inuendo, and the water was glassy. Eric jumped in for a swim, and I laid on the dodger roof to watch the stars come out. After our exciting visit to San Sebastian, and a twelve-hour traveling day, this would be a perfect place to spend the night.
The scenery has been spectacular! The land has offered us everything from the HUGE, craggy mountain peaks of the Sierra de la Giganta (the Mountain Range of the Giantess), to colorfully striated bluffs, to dry red cinder cones, to brilliant white beaches, to verdant green arroyos.
The Sea has offered clear water in every shade of blue and green imaginable (get out your 64 Crayola Box), with midnight blue, cornflower blue, cerulean blue, blue- green, green-blue, pea green, sea green, turquoise, aqua, and even some lime green making appearances.
Some of the Sea's residents have paid us a visit as well: We've seen HUNDREDS of dolphins, in loose pods covering miles. We love it when they come close, playing with our bow wave, or entertaining us with flips and leaps. They always brighten our day. We've also seen some turtles, poking their rounded heads up to check us out as we go by. Rays have amazed us with their aerobatics, leaping many feet out of the water, flapping or somersaulting before hitting the water with a resounding belly flop SLAP! Last night, hundreds of them were at it all over the bay, the sound of their slaps resounding like distant mortar fire.
In the clear water of the anchorages, we've seen all manner of swimming creatures: sad-eyed puffer fish cruising along the sandy bottom; long, thin trumpet fish, ranging in size from inch-long babies to four-foot-long grand-daddies; teeny-tiny, barely-visible baby fish huddling in SCOOTS' shadow; fish of all sizes and shapes that I can't identify, but who enjoy the scraps of food I send over the side; even a sea star, the first one I've seen in a long time.
On board the good ship SCOOTS, work has been happening as well. Eric has been busy installing and testing the watermaker filter given to us by some fellow cruisers (it's not up to snuff yet, but we're hoping), flushing our current watermaker system, and, as of today, making water again. After removing the generator alternator again (is this the second or third time?), Eric figured out why it didn't work and kept blowing the fuse: the guy who rebuilt it left the brush-retaining pin in place, so it shorted out the brushes; after removing the pin, Eric expects that the alternator will work when he installs it again. (After several installs and removals of our two alternators, and much troubleshooting of each, Eric is quite the unintentional expert on marine alternators.)
I've been polishing and waxing some of SCOOTS' stainless steel deck hardware, beginning with the radar arch, to clean off the surface rust spots and protect it from the salt. I can tell you, there is a nice view from there as you are underway. As her deck has MANY stainless steel fittings, this job will take awhile. I feel sort of like the painters on the Golden Gate Bridge, who have to begin again when they've finished. And we've both been taking care of the usual housekeeping chores like doing laundry and cleaning.
So that's what's happening on SCOOTS as of Friday morning, June 5. On tap for me: more stainless steel work, a swim and a shower, possibly a kayak ride around the bay or to the beach; for Eric, I'm not sure, but as he is currently up to his elbows in the wiring behind the nav station, it looks like an electronics project of some sort, with probably some fun activities thrown in later. (Update: the electronics project was installing another line to the multiplexer to get more complete GPS information into the computers on board.)