Captain's Log, Water Date 67754.7
16 April 2014
Up until "phase 1" of our journey on Cadenza had been completed, I had been absorbed with the day to day details of keeping the boat shipshape and the crew as happy as could be expected. My wonderful mate, Terri, has been assembling beautiful stories of the people and places we have been and the pictures which accompany her blogs have been inspiring.
So now, this is somewhat of a retrospective blog. And yes, the "water date" by-line has a unique reference to Star Trek. I was one of the principal composers of music for that franchise which through various permutations lasted nearly 18 years. It was there I met my wife, one of the producers of Deep Space Nine. Thus, the name of the boat Cadenza, a musical term meaning the section of a concerto where the performer plays freely at the end of the composition and expresses his unique interpretation of the musical material.
In the future, I plan to write a more elaborate piece on the music of Mexicoq we have encountered on our trip.
Perhaps it is easier to write about it after we have actually succeeded in making a section of the voyage .
But for any of those contemplating such a dream cruise, I have assembled some hints which I would have loved to have someone, especially a new cruiser, share with me.
First of all, the preparation was so much more difficult than the actual journey. Mostly because until the journey is completed the anticipation resides in the minds of those contemplating the trip.
Fear is real, until it is realized, then, one can say, oh, that wasn't too bad. But the overall responsibility for other's lives and well being is huge. Such as a transmission failure while entering a major shipping port at night. Anchoring with instruments only in a completely dark and strange port, sailing at 10.7 knots, 65 miles offshore and trying to have just enough night vision to actually see the sails.
Yep, it all sounds scary. IT WAS!
But not as frightening as untying those lines for the last time at a marina where Cadenza has lived for over 20 years.
And what about leaving all those friends and family, and the bills, mailings, trying to maintain a company with limited communication.
And, of course FIXING STUFF! The old adage of cruising is fixing stuff in exotic locations didn't quite apply. We were fixing all sorts of things in a not too exotic location. We would watch our bank balances get depleted while I would confer with my pals and say," Yep, it was another $2500 week." And we hadn't even left yet!
Then there were the going away parties. We had to restock our pantry and wine locker several times before we even left the country. Our dear friends even followed us by car to San Diego to bid farewell.
And when we were finally ready mentally, our adrenaline was jacked up so high, we said, "Screw it! Let's not wait until dawn, let's leave right now." as no one was going to get a decent night's sleep anyway.
We did it.
We actually left!
Went out of San Diego Harbor and straight to Mexico. What a thrill. One can follow Terri's blogs with much more detail on each leg of the cruise along with an incredible photo gallery.
My writing after the fact is more about what to expect, what worked, what didn't and what we wished for.
To begin with , Cadenza is an older boat. A vintage lass of 1979, heavy displacement Hardin 45. Big Isuzu 60 hp diesel with over 5000 hours. Lots of tankage. 200 gallons of fresh water and 150 gallons of fuel plus whatever extra we carried in tanks above, on the deck in storage. She weighs in around 38,000 pounds.
But, she can sail!
We carry a full batten main, a 160% genoa, a staysail, a mizzen and TWO spinnakers.
Downwind she can carry around 2500 feet of sail and can move along quite nicely. On the wind, 18 knots is her sweet spot. Don, our crewmate, for the trip down the outside Baja coast, got the thrill of clearing Cedros Island when a fresh breeze pushing 20 plus knots kicked in out of nowhere. He looked at us and cautiously asked, "When do we reef?"
"We don't." I said. And Terri enjoyed riding the forward rail as white spray was a flyin and Don was a grinnin. We had to pry the wheel away from him by the time we reached Isla Natividad off Turtle Bay.
That was the anomaly however. The wind is SUPPOSED to be out of the Northwest in November and December. Our prevailing winds down the coast were southerly, sometimes with an easterly component.
So it was a motoring trip or motor sailing if you like to consider the main as a vertical stabilizer.
I computed that in approximately 1600 miles of travel, we motorsailed at least 70% of the time. The wind was either on the nose or dead downwind, blowing that lovely diesel back into the cockpit.
Our fuel consumption was .625 gallons per hour at 1200 rpms.
Our water usage for 2 averaged 11 gallons per day.
One BIG thing that we learned was to make certain that the dodger or enclosure is vented to release the diesel fumes and associated carbon monoxide gas. If not, it simply collects under the dodger or bimini, usually affecting the helmsman the most.
It can be a killer.
Another realization is that the outside Pacific Coast of Baja is very cold. The water temps were barely in the 60's. Those pictures of the scantily clad crewpersons must have been from warmer climes. We didn't get rid of the sweats until Bahia Santa Maria and still needed them on a few more overnights.
Good night lighting (red lenses - especially on flashlights) are essential as one's night vision gets so attuned to watching darkness, that even the little lights on the chart plotter seem distracting at times. Sometimes the stars, damn, they are just so bright! And then those big phosphorescent waves rushing by reflecting their own light. Its probably a good thing we didn't see them in daylight. Everything seems bigger and louder at night.
Our running lights are up on the pulpit and sometimes they would reflect and it would appear that another boat was really close, even though the radar showed no targets. After a long watch, one starts to imagine all sorts of anomalies. A little duct tape over the reflective surface solved the problem.
Our nav systems worked well. We have a Raymarine E80 series running Navionics Platinum charts with radar overlay. This radar function was invaluable as we had to rely on the radar ONLY in many instances. We were also able to use the MARPA function to target ships and to identify their course and speed. We don't as yet have AIS, and I suppose when crossing the Sea, we may add it, but unless it was a cruise ship, most of the other traffic was limited to fishing vessels, probably not carrying transponders.
In one entire month of cruising in the Sea of Cortez, we didn't see one ship.
Our back up of choice was the Garmin 76 of which we have two. I sleep with one!
We also use Nobeltec Odyssey .
But the real surprise was how much more accurate the charts were for the iPad.
We ran INavx using both Navionics Charts and Blue Lattitude Press charts. The further up in to the sea we ventured, the less accurate the Platinum charts were.
And, of course, we had Terri, the primo navigator, graduate of several Orange Coast College Nav courses running fixes hourly on paper charts.
Next season we are ordering new paper charts from the Mexican Navy.
Not too often did you hear anyone say, "Where are we?"
The cruising guides of choice were Pat Rains' Mexico Boating Guide and Shawn and Heather's The Sea of Cortez, a Cruisers Guidebook. The latter has excellent chart inserts which are also available for the iPad.
We have an outstanding and efficient solar array. Two Kyocera 140 panels connected thru a Blue Sky controller tied into the mains with a Xantrex system. Also we carry two alternators, one for the engine, another for the house bank with an automatic charge relay to shunt the power from the starting alternator over to house bank. All using AGM batteries.
We have a " backup" Honda 2000 generator. The only time it was run was to drain the fuel line at the end of phase one.
Cadenza is equipped with two refrigeration systems. An engine driven Technautics system for the "freezer" and an Adler- Barbour 12 volt system for the regular fridge. Both performed admirably, but on our wish list for next season would be a self-contained freezer such as the Engel which could actually freeze fresh food and keep it frozen at the dock or anchor without running the engine.
No real functioning watermaker at present. We have an old, fairly inefficient one, but we found fresh potable water readily available even in some remote locations.
The anchor and related equipment is essential. We have anchored more than 40 times in this first part of the journey in all sorts of conditions. We use a big bruce 65 on 3/8 chain as a primary. A Maxwell 2200 windlass on the bow also has all the halyards able to be led to it for pulling someone up the mast.
We never needed a stern anchor, although we carry 5 anchors on board.
The dinghy and davit system is also essential. Our dinghy is big. An Achiiles RIB at 11 feet and a Tohatsu 9.9 outboard. The dinghy is outfitted with Danard wheels, by far the strongest and best dinghy wheels. We have custom davits and a 5:1 block and tackle system which enables me to lower Terri in the dinghy to release the dinghy lines. I can also pull her up, after a bunch of huffing and puffing. Do I see an electric winch in the future?
We found it adequate, but a bit large and heavy for most of the Islands in the Baja. The coves are so shallow that we would have to anchor the dinghy and wade ashore and hope that it would be there when we returned. In most of these outings we reverted to our two trusty old kayaks.
Communication is handled by our Icom 802 SSB and Icom VHF. We also have an ICOM handheld. Weather, in English, was always available on the Ham nets.
Another interesting device onboard is the DeLorme SE satellite communicator. Not exactly a " beam me up device," but a very good system to keep in touch with family and friends and could be used in an emergency situation as well. It uses Iridium satellites and can be linked to ones' smartphone.
We didn't have a modem for our SSB and probably didn't need one for cruising the sea. If we were crossing the Pacific, yes, probably, but Shea Weston, the SSB guru in San Diego showed us an amazing way of getting weather grib files on our Ipad using the audio output of the 802. The app costs $3.99. A lot more reasonable than the Pactor 4.
We also purchased a Telcel Banda Ancha USB card for the computers. This will allow you to connect to the internet wherever cell service is active. It can be switched from computer to computer and you can recharge online.
Cadenza now resides in La Paz where it is getting warm. Fans are essential, the more the better. We found a few which also have red and white led lights built in, so, one over the chart table would be a good addition.
Provisioning to feed a hungry and cold crew on the way down is probably in a forthcoming blog from Terri, so suffice it to say that when the boat is heeling and the omelets are flying all over the galley, please praise the chef on duty.
A serious suggestion is to get the book, Spanish for Cruisers by Kathy Parsons
It will save much embarrassment at the markets. Don and I ended up pointing to pictures of a pig at a local carniceria. Many areas speak some English, but a lot speak no English at all. We found that when we could engage the locals by asking them about their children, etc., we were much further along in the communication process. Sure beats pointing to your chest when trying to order chicken breasts. And especially helpful when dealing with some fairly complex mechanical issues.
There is an abundance of local foods available.
Cranberry sauce at Christmas time was the hard one to find. I can remember a very strange Christmas eve wandering around in a store shopping for food items in a language I didn't totally understand, a system of weights and measures that were different and listening to Holiday music sung by the Carpenters. Completely surreal!
And I ended up with a kilo of tocino( 2.2lbs of bacon)
Warm beverages and a good way to keep them warm on watch are essential items coming down the coast.
The cold beverages come out later, but, be wary, beer and tequila are the drinks of choice. If you like a nice white wine, stock up in Ensenada, or else you might be looking at Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill. Seriously!
The wine country tour is absolutely worth the trip in Ensenada. The scenery is magnificent, the wines, especially the reds are first rate.
The ever present pangueros really like to rev up their huge outboards and travel at high speeds in the dark. They tend NOT to look up to see anchor lights. We noticed that the really veteran cruisers had elaborate lights at deck level so they could be seen.
We purchased a cute solar display for the stern and it has worked fine.
A few sailing oddities:
Sailing in the sea of Cortez in general is off the wind. Most real cruisers don't try to beat their brains out going to windward. It's not the wind that is the problem. It is the seas that are associated with the wind. A 6 foot square wave swell at 5 second intervals is not fun. It's wet and you get salt all over everything and you can't make much progress. Hole up in a snug anchorage with plenty of scope. Two days later it will be beautiful. Roll out the big genny and sail someplace.
As mentioned earlier, those beautiful turquoise coves are that color for a reason. They are shallow. Although we were impressed the first time we anchored in Bahia San Gabriel on Espiritu Santos. I looked down in 30 feet and could see all the chain and the anchor.
I suppose this log or blog could go on for some time, but I felt that an "after voyage" log or blog might be of help to someone contemplating such an adventure.
One of the most important things we did was to move aboard the boat long before attempting a long voyage. It is helpful to get used to being in a small space while it is relatively stable and its a good relationship test as well. Separate spaces are quite helpful at times.
I will also include a list of contacts for quality repairs and marina facilities along the way.
We found the Mexican workers to be extremely helpful, knowledgable and expert craftsmen.
Yes, fear is involved, soon to be erased by achievement.
There is no such thing as having enough knowledge, we learned something important and new everyday.
Your crew is more important than all the latest gizmos you may have aboard, for it will be the crewman and not the gizmo who will save your butt and make a good cup of coffee as well.
Cherish the friends you meet along the way as no sooner will you strike up a meaningful relationship than one of you may sail off to a different part of the world and you may never see each other again.
Part of cruising is letting go and its amazing that by letting go of so many seemingly important things, that one finds their true selves.
Appendix of referenced contact information:
Shea Weston- SSB Guru and shipboard communications at
Offshore Outfitters, San Diego 619.225.5690
Quantum Sails ( George Szabo) San Diego 619.226.2422
Downwind Marine, San Diego 619.224.2733
Steve Allport Solar installation and marine electric 805.985.0747
Channel Coast Marine ( Gary and Steve) Marine Electronics) 805.985.0747
Baja Naval Ensenada ( excellent hull and mechanical repair) 011 52 (646) 174 0020
Coral Marina, Ensenada, email marina @hotelcoral.com
Big Left Turn Enterprises (yacht management and supplies in La Paz, BCS) email : Tom Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Lattitude Press charts available thru www.x-traverse.com
Puerto Los Cabos Marina email : email@example.com
Marina Costa Baja, La Paz, BCS www.costabajaresort.com
Club Cruceros ( great cruiser resource in La Paz) www.clubcruceros.net