Mama Said There Would Be Days Like This
20 December 2013
December 16, 2013
San Jose Del Cabo to Los Frailes
Mom was always the cautious one. She would hesitate and consider before making choices where my father was always the impulsive one. She might have advised us against leaving Monday, but then I am my father's daughter.
Jay, however, is much more like Mom. And a good thing too. I think between the two of us, we make a good balance. And when it comes to weather, both of us are acutely aware how integral it is to our safety when sailing. So we did hesitate and consider. We reviewed all the weather reports twice daily. We listened to the cruiser's nets and their weather analysis. We looked at the sky and paid attention to local knowledge.
The weather window to go north was definitely opening up. The question seemed to be whether or not to leave Monday or Tuesday. It is approximately 100 miles uphill from San Jose del Cabo to La Paz. There are the northers (strong winds from the north) to consider, the possible steep waves that build down the 600 mile stretch of the Sea of Cortez, and the currents that can run against us in places like the Cerralvo Channel, and shoals and reefs to dodge. We also had to consider when the weather window would close which was looking like Saturday, but maybe Friday. We wanted to take our time, too, when visiting Los Frailes and Bahia de Los Muertos.
Weighing all the information at hand and factoring in our wish list, we decided to leave Monday. In fact, many boats left for La Paz that Monday.
We left Puerto Los Cabos at dawn. It was a beautiful sunrise and the morning started out benign enough. There were calm seas and light winds as we headed out of the marina. But when we turned and headed up East Cape, things started to change. We began to get more wind. This is great, we thought, maybe we can sail. But knowing we were going to turn and head right into the wind, we decided to wait before making that choice. Suddenly the seas started getting confused and knocking each other around. The wind stopped. Then we saw white caps ahead and knew we were in for something. Little did we know...
Nobody predicted 25 knots of steady wind with gusts up to 27! On the nose, of course. The seas, we had heard about. And they lived up to their reputation.
The East Cape is where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean and causes a cross current, sort of like a washing machine. The waves started out at two to four feet, and then built to six to eight feet. Every once in awhile we sailed up and over a ten-foot wave and then crashed straight down into the next one. They were very close together. We saw a lot of water over the bow.
We still considered sailing out and then back but Cadenza doesn't point very well and besides, we would be taking the waves on the beam. Our friends chose to do the sail route, but even they said, they weren't sure it was the right course. It seemed that no matter which path you chose, there was no running from the wind and the seas this day.
Ultimately, we chose to power through. Sometimes we were going four knots and sometimes barely two. Bashing into the wind and waves is tiring to say the least and after eight long hours we arrived in Los Frailes.
Los Frailes Bay lies behind a 700' mountain, Cabo Los Frailes, and I was hoping for a respite from the wind. No such luck. Andy and Betty from sv/Discovery were anchoring as we were arriving, and I checked with them to see what the conditions were.
“How is it up there?” I asked, not too hopeful, since I was looking at white caps in the bay, “Is the wind laying down?”
And so it was. 21 knots of wind while anchoring. Jay seems to like a lot of wind when anchoring. He says we are sure to dig in then. Well, okay. But I was pretty tired of it by now.
The bay turned out to be much calmer than we thought and once we were anchored and holding tight, we sat back and relaxed. After a long day of bashing and with the thought of a few more like this in front of us, we decided to stay an extra day. That way we could wake up early and head out on Wednesday morning. We reviewed the weather forecasts and they seemed to agree. Wednesday would be calmer (wind and seas) then Tuesday. This time they were right as we would find out from our friends who arrived Tuesday evening. They too, had 25 knot winds on the nose.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
I was anxious to go exploring and hopefully, snorkeling, so I began to nudge Jay early. “Let's put the dinghy down.”
“Okay. Okay.” He said, getting things prepped for our adventure.
Nothing is straight forward and easy on a boat. There are procedures one has to go through. Like dropping our dinghy down and putting it into the water. We have to get the tires. Disconnect the straps that keep it in place, and untie the lines. We have to get our dry bag and put in our radio and camera and anything else we want. We need to find the snorkels and don't forget the sunscreen and water.
Now it is time to lower the dinghy. I climb up and over the stern rail and into the dinghy while it balances on the davits. Then Jay lowers me down. I disconnect the davits and wrap them tightly with Velcro so they won't twist. I hook up the gas to the engine and start it, move over to the starboard side of the boat where Jay passes me the gear that we have collected.
Jay gets into the dinghy, puts the tires on, shakes the gas tank and realizes we should probably refuel. He stops the engine. I climb back up on the boat and bring over the five gallon tank and hand it to him. He needs the funnel. I go back to get the funnel. He fills the tank. I put the tank back and climb into the dinghy again. We are finally ready to go.
Which way to go? We drive around for a bit, checking out the surf, trying to figure out the best place to land. We have flipped the dinghy before and weren't wanting to reenact that little disaster so we were a bit reserved.
The surf looked calm so we went for it. Jay put the tires down, turned the engine off and pulled up the engine and the waves drifted the boat in. Easy enough. But wait. Now we have to pull the dinghy up on shore. It is a soft, sandy beach with a steep angle, and the wheels dig in and get stuck. There is a lot of pulling and struggling and a bit of swearing when finally I say, “Why don't you go back in the dinghy, take it back in the water, pull up the tires and then try again?”
Jay was not convinced this would work either but there didn't seem anything else to do. So after struggling to get it turned around and picked up by the waves, he finally was back in the boat again and rowing out to sea.
More struggling. The tires are jammed now because they got pushed in when we were stuck in the sand. He spends about ten minutes fighting with them while drifting further and further out. Now he has to row back. He drifts in on a wave easily and we pull the dinghy up.
Nope. It's just way too heavy. More struggling, and pulling and swearing. We give up and take it back to sea deciding we would explore by dinghy. Forget the land.
Jay presses on and now we are facing the waves and they are big enough to send spray in my face. Now I'm really angry. “Just let's go back. Forget it.” I say pouting.
“Why don't we anchor the dinghy and we can snorkel from the dinghy.” Jay suggests.
“No. Forget it. I don't want to snorkel anymore.” I say, being a bit of a brat.
Jay won't have it. He heads for the far end of the beach where it looks like there are a few of our friends and the rocks where I can go snorkeling. He beaches the boat and before we know it, we have five people helping us pull up our dinghy. Now I am all smiles. Jay too. He did this for me and I am grateful.
The water was cool but a little cloudy because of all the wind. Despite that I still got to see some fish and it was great to be in the water.
We walked around a bit and visited with our friends and then they pushed us off and we went back to the boat. It is procedure time again; take all the stuff we brought and put it back up on deck. Then I go to the back of the boat with the dinghy. I turn off the engine, unhook the gas line, hook up the davit lines and Jay raises me up with the dinghy. I climb out and over the stern rail. We tie her up and strap her in, put back the radio and tires, sunscreen and snorkels.
We're exhausted now. We relax over a Bloody Mary, fix dinner and go to bed. Tomorrow is an early day; 4am wake-up call. We know the winds are supposed to be calmer, but then you never know.
Some days are just a little more difficult than others.