Friday, November 26, 2010

Cabo to Banderas Bay

A View of the Cockpit
Starting on the left, the Lifesling is for recovering a person who has fallen overboard, the silvery bags cover stereo speakers, the mushroom shape is the GPS receiver.  On the pedestal is a small platform for the swivel-mounted GPS, it has cutouts that can hold a wine glass by the stem, so no matter how far the boat heels, the glasses stand firm. Below it, the orange thing is the automatically inflatable life raft. Just to the right of the outboard motor is the 'MOM 8'. An automatically inflatable life ring. All this safety gear is nice, but probably of little use, since when one of us is on watch, the other is below sleeping. The most valuable of all these features is the GPS, after the wine glass holders.
Departed Cabo San Lucas around 1130 Tuesday in light air. We heard from some people who had just arrived from Mazatlan that conditions would be windy on the passage, but it was pretty light when we left so I hoisted a full main  and our all purpose jib, which is a 135% or #2 size. The wind never showed up. In fact it was pretty light all the way to Banderas Bay. Our course was to take us south of the Islas Tres Marias, but the wind was so light that I had to steer well to the north of them to maintain our boatspeed. As night fell the wind did too, and we started the engine around 1800 and pointed the boat south of the Islas. The next morning the wind filled in a bit and we were able to sail, but were forced to head in a more northerly direction than I wanted. Once again, as evening fell the wind dropped and we motored southeast. The next day we had enough wind to sail pretty much the direction we wanted. All the while, the seas were lumpy and confused, making for a rather uncomfortable ride. This is because we're sailing through the region where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. Cortez waves come from a more northerly direction and Pacific waves come from a more westerly direction, and where they meet, it's lumpy.

The Islas Tres Marias consists of four islands: Tiny San Juanito is the northwesternmost, then ranging to the southeast are Maria Madre, Maria Magdalena and Maria Cleofas. Only Maria Madre, the largest of the group is inhabited. It is there that the Mexican government has located a penal colony housing around 1200 prisoners and staff. Sailing past it, I was reminded of that old Steve McQueen movie, Papillon, in which the protagonist was sentenced to life on Devils Island. From a distance all the islands look drab and forbidding. There are a couple of bright notes though, the Mexican government prohibits people from venturing near them so they have become a de facto nature preserve, which I believe the government has now formailzed. Second, conditions for prisoners there are apparently fairly good. They are allowed more freedom than we might expect and can even have family stay with them at times. The Mexican government abolished the death penalty many years ago, although the Mexican drug cartels have not.

Once past the islands, we continued southeast toward Bahia Banderas, arriving at the entrance to this large and beautiful bay around 2100 on a night when the moon did not rise until around 2130. So we slowed down and waited for some moonlight before entering the bay, being careful to avoid some uncharted rocks in the area. Navigational charts are notoriously inaccurate for Bahia Banderas, and even with our state of the art navigational equipment, I was amused to see that where we anchored is a quarter mile inland on the chart. At any rate, after a passage of about 300 miles, taking two and a half days, we groped our way into a snug anchorage in the lee of Punta Mita around midnight without knocking any of those uncharted rocks out of the ocean.

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