Gone Sailing

30 December 2014 | Turtle Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico
30 December 2014 | Hanging on the Hook in Turtle Bay
15 December 2014 | Still in Ensenada
12 December 2014 | Still in Ensenada
09 December 2014 | Ensenada, Mexico
05 December 2014 | San Diego
01 December 2014 | Oceanside... still.
30 November 2014 | Oceanside, CA
29 November 2014 | Dana Point Harbor, CA
28 November 2014 | Long Beach Harbor
17 November 2014 | Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, CA

Christmas in Turtle Bay

30 December 2014 | Turtle Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico
12-25, in the Morning

[The photo is of Mariah anchored in Turtle Bay - Today is the 30th, and I'm playing catch-up getting my blog entries posted.]

So, here I sit. Anchored in Turtle Bay on Christmas day. I've straightened the boat out as best I can. Everything is crusted with salt - I could have scrapped off enough to fill several shakers. That's how much spray had been flying those last few days.

Tomorrow, I'll get the dingy in the water, and go look for a diesel mechanic to come solve my mechanical woes. (And to see how Turtle Bay answers the Taco question.)

12/25 8:30pm

Juan, the fisherman who towed me in last night came by to see how I was doing as he and his friend headed out for their night fishing job. The boat has a 200 hp Yamaha outboard - nearly silent and deadly powerful for that little boat. He handles it fluently - effortlessly keeping a foot or two away from bumping boats. His English is fairly good. His friend didn't say anything and I'm guessing he doesn't speak English. Juan asked if I'd like a fish, and I declined. He asked if I wanted some tequila, and I thanking him and said no. He asked if I liked Mexican food and when I said yes, he offered me some tamales his mother made telling me that his mother was "a great chef" - I assume he meant that she's a good cook. I said yes. I can now report that they were excellent! Packed with pork, a little diced halepeno, some diced white onions, and with a green olive inside each one. He said he'll be back in the morning and that he knows someone who is a diesel mechanic. He said to call if I needed help. I laughed and pretended like I was yelling out: "Juan, ayudame." He said, "No, on channel 16, you call 'La Gaviota'" The name of his boat - "The Seagull."


Juan came by and he loaned me his phone to call Alex and let him know I was still among the living. Bill and Lauren had just left Riverton and were hoping to escape before Wyoming was closed due to snow.

Juan can't find a diesel mechanic, but thinks he can find a good non-diesel mechanic. I called Roberto at Baja Naval in Ensenada. I'm trying to set up
a situation where his mechanic will talk a non-diesel mechanic through the diagnosis and fixing over cell phones.

I also told Roberto to find a delivery skipper to get the boat back from Turtle Bay to Ensenada (when I get there I'll arrange to have the boat delivered to San Diego.) I'm no longer enjoying sailing. I'm too apprehensive, too intolerant of discomfort, and don't trust in my physical abilities or the boat's fitness. I miss my recliner. I want an intellectual life - mostly lived indoors - with people.

12-27 11:30am

An uncomfortable night and worse today. The wind piped up hitting 29 knots. And it shifted around to the NNE. That left me a bit more exposed. In case you wanted to know, the wind generates little white caps at somewhere between 18 and 20 knots. And the fetch from the NNE is longer, thus making Mariah pitch a bit. When they hit the side of the boat it sounds like a shotgun blast hitting the side of a barn. I got up in the middle of the night and let out more anchor rode. I'm at 160 feet which is more than enough for my 33 pound Rochna anchor and the good holding here in the bay. It isn't even very uncomfortable because the little wind waves are only a couple of feet high and mostly coming from directly in front, but it is nerve wracking with rocks about 2 football fields behind me - there wouldn't be time to raise sail. And the engine still won't start. I'm carrying too much fear of what might happen and it is killing any joy in this adventure. I still haven't been ashore in Turtle Bay. I can only imagine all the tacos I could have scarfed down by now (as I eat a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich).


It's Sunday, and Baja Naval is closed. Juan never came back on Saturday - maybe too much wind for him to try it. Watching the barometer it looks like

things will calm down tomorrow.


Monday. Still no Juan so I went looking for a diesel mechanic on my own. I put the dingy in the water and rowed ashore. I found a restaurant with WiFi (where I'll go to post this... probably tomorrow). And the restaurant owner said her brother knows a mechanic. The brother heard the story about me wanting to call Ensenada about a mechanic and misunderstood. He thought I was going to have the mechanic travel to Turtle Bay - which would be outrageously expensive.

The brother must have decided that there could be some large dollars in this if he could get himself inserted into the deal somehow. He found a mechanic, and a helper, and herded us into a powerboat and out to where Mariah is anchored. All the time telling me how wonderful this mechanic was. His intensity signalling that he saw himself on the verge of a large gold-strike.

The mechanic was fairly good - a little rough and backyard style - but he dug in and got the job done. It was crud gumming up part of the electric fuel pump and the need to have the injectors bled.

Afterwards, Jesus, the brother, self-appointed maestro and provider of my diesel solutions, had the helper whisk the mechanic away - leaving the two of us there to work out his enrichment. He borrowed paper and pen and while telling me (all in Spanish, 80% of which I didn't understand) that it would
only be 5,000 pesos, but that he would take dollars (at 11 pesos to the dollar - not the normal 13). We dickered and he took it very personal and said things that I'm sure it is better I didn't fully understand. He ended up settling for about half... but in bad spirits.

His sister kind of warned me. She said that she would translate for me. I was thinking she meant translate diesel mechanic stuff - but her English isn't that good. But no, she clarified. She would translate the money part because she didn't trust her brother. Then she suggested that she would sail with me to Cabo San Lucas. She's a kick. Great personality - all bubbly, happy and funny (like her brother is all dark, cunning and bitter).

She fixed me shrimp tacos. Very good. she deep-fried them in a very light batter. I gobbled them up in corn tortillas with green olives, chopped
cabbage, covered with a light, lime-flavored mayonnaise and a nice green habenero sauce. (Way better than the canned sardines on soda crackers with mustard and dill pickle slices that I made myself last night!)

Now that I have a working engine, it can howl here in the bay, and I'll be safe.

One of the sailboats that came in after that storm had his mizzen sail shredded. Another sailboat, called "Ceste Le Vie" told me he is thinking of changing it to "Never Again" because of how terrified that sail left him. Made me feel better.

Unexpected detour to Turtle Bay

30 December 2014 | Hanging on the Hook in Turtle Bay
Blues skies and a bit of a breeze
The picture is Juan in his fishing boat.

At about 10am on December 21st I left Coral Marina in Ensenada. The wind was almost non-existent and I motored away on a nice day. By 3pm I had some wind, actually quite a bit: 14kts. I double reefed the main and the jib and was having a nice sail, but for one thing. I couldn't get the wind vane to work.... but no problem, I just turned on the electrical autopilot who was as happy to steer for me as the Wind vane autopilot should have been.

Then the next day, the engine quit. And it wouldn't start. I could hear that it wasn't for lack of battery power - it was turning over fine but not catching for more than a fraction of second. I suspected water in the fuel (but I'm no diesel guy so that's just a guess).

Returning to Ensenada where they have such a fine boatyard was one option, but it would be really tough because the wind had picked up and it was from the North. I would have to tack back and forth under sail, without the engine - against the wind and waves. That would be tough and no telling how long it might take (I was already over 100 miles away). Because it is a sailboat, and because Cabo San Lucas was to the South - the same direction as the wind and waves - I could sail down there. But, with no engine, there would be no recharging of the batteries, and that meant no lights to make me visible at night, no radar or AIS to alert me to other boats at night, and worst of all, no electrical autopilot. When a person sails single-handed they really need that ability to have the helm under direction while they hop about attending to this and that. And my wind vane wasn't working for me. The electrical was to be its backup.

I decided to go for Turtle Bay (Bahia de Tortugas... with the tiny port of Bartholome). It is all-weather anchorage. It was to the South (and a bit East), so I had the wind and waves with me. I could sail there in a couple of days. Then the fun started. Out of clear sky full of stars, the way that you can only see when far from any city lights, the wind piped up. I mean it blew like all stink. It was hitting 29 knots on my meter. That's about 34 miles per hour. And at Sea Level air pressure that is a force to be reckoned with. I put all three reefs in the main sail and rolled up the roller-furling jib an equivalent amount (reducing my total sail area by over 70 percent) and I was still flying. Beam reaching, on the edge of a broach, getting hit with spray every minute, the waves growing confused, the wind making howling sounds, and each strong gust making the mast shudder so hard the boat felt like it was a dog shaking off water. I was sure that I would lose the mast at any minute. During much of this time, while huddled in the corner of the cockpit contemplating what would break or go wrong next, (i.e., feeling more than a little unnerved) I was looking at a little do-hicky on the wind vane and realized I hadn't set it up right. I fixed that in about 2 minutes, and I was back to having a wind vane type autopilot. Yeah!

It howled for two days and felt like I was riding a wild animal. Then, suddenly the wind vane ceased working again. I opened the cockpit cover over the place it connects to the steering and saw that it had snapped the stainless steel wires holding two little blocks to the steering quadrants - I fixed it, but only temporarily - note to self: find some kind of steel ring to replace the wire.

I went back to the electric autopilot when I could but had to hand steer when the seas were rough. At night, especially when alone, my fears build and color all perceptions.

I had a period the next morning where the winds died down and became normal winds... for a while. And, on the 24th at about 3 pm I got to the approach to Turtle Bay. (I even saw a turtle swimming towards shore and he was out there about 10 miles off - he was about 2' across, barnacles growing on his shell which looked sort of like the conquistador helmet with the ridge at the top, and the sides).

It is a fairly round bay about two miles across that is nearly closed off from the Pacific but for a 3/4 mile wide gap between some rocks near the two points on either side of the entrance. My problem was that the wind was still strong and coming directly out of that entrance. I tried for hours to tack back and forth and make it to that entrance... I was almost there when the sun went down. No way was I going to trust the electronic charting programs (one on the Chartplotter and the other on my iPad) to be accurate enough to keep me off the rocks with a night-time entrance. I tried calling on the VHF to see if there was a fisherman who wanted to make some money towing me in... but no luck with that.

I had no choice but to drop sails and let myself slowly drift out into the Pacific. Heading for China at 3 tenths of a knot per hour. Let me tell you, that is horribly frustrating.

I had been sailing (it felt more like being tormented) for three days. I wanted to wash up, to have electricity, to be able to sleep, to eat something that wasn't soda crackers or baloney sandwiches. I was a marine-bound mope. Hunched in that same cockpit corner realizing that I hated sailing. I really hated it. All the tweaking of lines, the reefing, the sail changes, and the endless battle of things going wrong and needing to be put right...

Ugh! I just wanted off and I felt totally helpless to effect any change right then.

I could only wait till the sun came up and start that business of tacking back and forth, and I assumed it would take the better part of that day to get in.

While I was sitting there in the dark drifting away, feeling sorry for my wet, tired, frustrated, smelly self I saw a fishing boat headed my way. By now I was about 3 or 4 miles away and it was about 10pm on Christmas Eve. They started to turn away and I flashed my flashlight at them. It was about a 23 foot long boat with a small cabin stuck in the middle and like a small porch behind it. A 200 horse power engine drove it like a Mercedes. They came over and I explained that my engine 'esta muerte' and the wind wouldn't let me go inside Turtle Bay. They asked if I had a rope. Like asking an Italian restaurant if they have spaghetti! I handed them the rope and off we went. It took an hour or two and they dropped me off right where I wanted to be.

We wished each other Merry Christmas (I gave them a present - $100 US. They hadn't asked for anything.) And off they went, night fishing, I assume.

I dropped the anchor - too dark to see anything except lights on shore and the head of a seal as he swam by looking at me. I left the boat a mess - time enough for that in the morning.

Moved to Coral Marina

15 December 2014 | Still in Ensenada
Beautiful Day - high 70's and blue skies
The photo is from the Coral Marina web site.

The people at Baja Naval treated me really well, and they put the boat back in the water Saturday. I rode on top of the deck as the travel lift moved it out to the launch area - that was neat!

But their marina has a lot of surge and Mariah rolled and pitched. And their WIFI Internet connection wasn't functioning. So, I moved to the Coral Marina - very swank by comparison. No fish smell, almost no surge, no loud seals braying like mules half the night, their own fuel dock, and bottled water delivered to the dock (I'll fill my tanks before I leave.) I'll be here a week working out the weather patterns and picking when to leave.

Work on the boat is nearly done

12 December 2014 | Still in Ensenada
Rainy - Good weather to be on dry land
They finished painting the bottom of the boat just before the rains came. My new depth sounder is installed (I really didn't like creeping into port without knowing how much water was under the keel!).

I managed to install the new VHF radio and get it working, and the people here at the yard hooked it up to GPS for me. Baja Naval is the name of the ship yard and so far I have to say they are excellent! The workers start early, take about an hour and a half for lunch, during which they play volley ball. Often as not one or more are singing while they are working. And they work hard - knocking off about 4pm. Everyone seems to be happy and like that is their natural state.

This is Mexican shipyard but their bathroom and shower facilities have all white marble floors and walls. I'm telling you, it makes Marina del Rey's facilities look positively third world.

I'm delighted to say that I've been munching down on some fine Mexican food: Fish tacos, Birria and an omelet ranchero style, and tonight it's going to be a seafood restaurant that has been highly recommended.

Mariah will be back in the water sometime tomorrow (weather permitting) and within a week I expect I'll be on the way to La Paz.

Bill asked if that thing in the upper right corner is an RSS control.... yes, and I thought it was turned on, but maybe it doesn't work.

Night Sail to Ensenada a Success

09 December 2014 | Ensenada, Mexico
Was cold and damp but it's nice now.
I left San Diego late in the afternoon. Just after crossing the USA-Mexican border, the sun set behind the Coronado Islands - two lumps of rock. That was on my right and the lights were starting to come on in Tijuana on my left.

Night sails are special. They feel bolder... trusting ones skills in the dark. And it is exciting to be pounding through water you can't see - just defining your place in the immediate by the motion and by the familiarity of your boat.

It was great to have a favorable wind - instead of right on the nose. It was light - about 8 knots, but on the beam. I'd forgotten how fine this boat sails. She turned that into 6 knots of forward motion that felt light and natural after all the days of motoring.

I did end up motoring later when the wind died out late at night. And the dew came out heavy and everything became covered in cold wetness. I entered Ensenada at just after daybreak. Now, Mariah is out for a fresh coat of bottom paint and I'll be living up in the air for about 3 days.

I'm dead tired and just finished about 5 pounds of Mexican Government paperwork.

Till later.

Last Stop in the US of A

05 December 2014 | San Diego
Cloudy, windless, cool... but a nice day
(The selfie photo above is supposed to show La Jolla behind me. Instead my face is all scrunched up concentration on aiming the camera. And all for nothing, since, as if often the case with photos I take, they have to be explained.)

It is nice to have my electrical system back in order again. If anyone is in the Southern California area and needs any electronic or electrical work done, Shea Weston of San Diego is the God of Electronics (619) 980-6217. He is a principle at SailMail - their head technical guy, and a specialist in SSB/HAM to email and weather charts and such. People fly him to distant foreign ports to get their different bits of nav gear and computers to speak to one another.

I left Oceanside this morning as soon as the sun made its appearance. I'd have gone sooner but there are too many fish-traps and floating patches of kelp ready to snare the unwary boat by the rudder. At times it was like dodge ball. And this, even though I laid a course that kept me 3 nautical miles offshore!

The wind just wasn't enough to raise a sail for. It was never over 5 knots and less during the middle of the day. The autopilot drove, I watched for kelp and fish traps.

From the start there were these tiny birds - ducks maybe - about the size of a man's fist. They just floated about in pairs. And did I mention, I was 3 miles offshore. They were either black or a very dark brown and would bob their heads under water, then up, then under, like little bizarre metronomes of the sea. Then, without warning, it was butt up, duck gone. They dived. Seriously dived, and don't watch for them to come up because even though a sailboat is only traveling about 6 or 7 mph, they were under too long to see again - I tried to see them come back up and craned my neck to look behind me, but I never did see them reappear. They would move from one place to another with something that looked as much like running on the water as flying. Their little feet pedaling like crazy and hitting water now and then, necks stretched out like that would pull them forward, and their wings flapping like crazy to keep them just above the water - so close that they left a trail of tiny ripples from where their wing tips hit the surface.

I got in about 3:30 this overcast Friday afternoon and don't want to do anything but sit and read.... maybe eat. It is good to be at dock, here in San Diego, my last stop in the U.S of A.
Vessel Name: Mariah
Vessel Make/Model: Catalina 30
Hailing Port: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Home Page: http://www.stevewolfer.com
Mariah's Photos - Main
Photos of Mariah, my Catalina 30 sailboat
1 Photo
Created 18 September 2014

Port: Los Angeles, CA, USA