Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
15 November 2014
October 14, 2014
Oh my, oh my, oh my! What a ride it was from Ensenada to Bahia San Quintin.
Since we couldn't reach Cabo Colonet (the first viable anchorage) before dark, our plan was to leave around 1000 on Thursday and arrive in the bay of San Quintin early the following morning. We would anchor here and rest up for the next thirty-hour trip to Turtle Bay.
A consensus of the various weather gurus called for 12 to 15 knots of wind from the NNW. NNW winds are the prevailing winds this time of year and we were looking forward to a downwind sail. (Except for last year, of course, when we brought Cadenza down. South winds, dead on the nose, practically all the way to Cabo.)
Finally, after years in the making, Don and Bobbi were headed south on Sea Dancer, their Ericson 38. This was to be Bobbi's first overnight in their journey into Mexico and Don was hoping for the perfect sail under a starlight sky. All signs were promising as we hoped for wind.
Almost immediately, we had fifteen knots of wind and we put up both the genoa and the mainsail. We were off to a great start. It was a beautiful, warm day with few clouds in the sky. The seas were four to six feet at seventeen seconds. There were smiles all around.
We continued along; took turns on the helm, marked our course every two hours on the chart, and had a nice lunch. All the while, the wind and seas were building. Fine by us. We were enjoying the sail. Except that we were sailing too fast.
I know, I know. That sounds crazy. Especially to you racers out there. But we didn't want to arrive in San Quintin too early. Cabo San Quintin light lies on the SW tip of the peninsula, but as we remembered it, “tip” in Spanish must mean something different. The actual light is several hundred feet inland which could confuse the mariner not familiar with the entrance, especially on a dark night. In addition, on the way down the coast and close to San Quintin is Isla San Martin and Roca Ben, two small pieces of land one would rather avoid in daylight then dodge under the stars.
At seven knots we were going to arrive at three in the morning, so we decided to furl the genoa and run with the mainsail. Ah, slowed down to six knots. A little better. But before long, we were going seven knots again with the winds rising over twenty knots and the seas picking up momentum and height.
Earlier we had discussed reefing before nightfall if it looked like there was any possibility we could have strong winds.
We looked to the sky. Lots of whispy clouds. “Looks like we are in for more wind, not less.” I said. Jay agreed. Only now the seas were precariously lumpy and we weren't comfortable sending Don up on the foredeck if it wasn't absolutely necessary. We decided to wait a little while longer, hoping (albeit for naught) that the wind might lie down.
Now the seas were ten to twelve feet and they weren't seventeen seconds apart. More like five. The wind was up around twenty-two. Time to reef.
We started the engine and turned into the wind. Don went forward to the mast, while Jay handled the lines with Bobbi's help and I stayed at the helm. It was nerve-wracking to say the least, but together we got the mainsail reefed without too much ado. We turned around and headed south while the sun set to the west.
We were still going five and half knots.
The sun set and it was a long night with winds holding at twenty-two to twenty-five knots. I saw gusts up to thirty and the knot meter once read nine point one. The seas were big and pushing us around. Each of us took turns at the helm, navigating by compass only. Keeping her on course was difficult and took enormous concentration. One slight diversion and we were thirty degrees off in the wrong direction. As you might imagine, this can lead to accidental jibes – and it did - on more than one occasion. Quite the test in skill and stamina.
Just as dawn arrived, the wind started lessening and we turned on the engine, setting anchor in the bay of San Quintin at 0800 this morning. A seal swam up to greet us. We toasted with a beer and the macaroni and cheese dinner we skipped eating last night. Then Bobbi surprised us with a delicious homemade chocolate pie for dessert. Not two minutes after the last bite, everyone silently grab their plates and dumped them into the galley and crawled into their respective bunks. Sleep came easily and peacefully to our worn-out bodies.
Suffice it to say, Bobbi's first overnight experience in the world of cruising was not Lin Pardy's romantic entree into sailing. It was more like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.