Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bumpy ride to Cabo

We stayed in Ensenada only three days. Just long enough to check into the country and get Mexican phones, and enjoy our first Mexican fish tacos and Pacifico's since last June. The check-in process has gotten easier since the last time Finisterra entered the country. A couple of months ago the story was that we needed to list virtually everything of value on the boat on our TIP (Temporary Import Permit) so I created a detailed list of all that stuff and was ready to present it at the Port Captain's office, but they said the rules had been recently changed (again) and all that paperwork was no longer necessary. We breezed through the process in less than an hour.

Finisterra departed Ensenada at 10:00am on Sunday, November 16th. Just after clearing the harbor entrance we ran into a sea of kelp, so the first order of business was to back the boat down and clear it off the keel and rudder. The wind was blowing about 18 knots out of the WNW so we unrolled the jib and put a single reef in the main and set a southwesterly course for Punta Banda. Once clear of the point, we bore off to a broad reach and headed south toward our next destination of Turtle Bay, about 280 miles down the coast.

By 1800 hrs the wind had veered to NE and began to build. Finisterra is happiest on a broad reach and she ate up the miles quickly. The next day the wind continued to blow out of the northeast so we took the easterly route to Turtle Bay, leaving Cedros Island to starboard. We passed quickly down the east side of the Island in strong winds and big seas. It blew a little harder when we passed through the channel between Punta Eugenia and Isla Natividad, but once past Eugenia, the land blocked the waves but not the wind and we had a really exciting and fun 12 mile beam reach in 25-30 knots of wind and flat water. As we turned into Turtle Bay the wind died down and we came to anchor half a mile off the rickety old pier.

Within half an hour Enrique, the fuel guy, showed up in his panga and asked if we needed fuel. We topped up the tank, which didn't need much, and shared a few stories with him. He is a colorful character and is pretty much the only game in town if you need diesel fuel.  His prices are high and his fuel metering system is, for lack of a more descriptive word, elastic. So I wasn't surprised to hear him arguing with the skipper a nearby boat. But I think five bucks a gallon for good, clean fuel delivered to your boat is reasonable considering that the other options are to tie up to the rickety pier and pay approximately the same, or lug your jerry jugs up to the gas station in town.

We spent a night in Turtle, then headed south toward Bahia Santa Maria, about 220 miles further down the coast. The wind was still blowing fairly hard out of the northeast and we made good time broad reaching straight toward BSM.

We had planned to anchor for a day in the northwest corner of the bay, but as we rounded Punta Hughes we were able to download a fresh weather forecast. It called for medium winds today and light to very light air all the way to Cabo. So instead of anchoring, we headed right back out to sea in about 12 knots of breeze out of the Northwest. We sailed on starboard jibe for about 25 miles then jibed to port, back toward the land, taking a zigzag course to Cabo. By sundown the wind had built to 20-25 knots out of the northwest, bringing with it 6-8 foot quartering seas. It stayed that way for the next hundred miles.

About 50 miles out of Cabo San Lucas the wind moderated to a pleasant 15 knots and it was nice sailing for a few hours. By sunset the wind had lightened more and we were down to about 4 knots of speed so I started the diesel to give us a push until the wind returned. Thirty minutes later I noticed smoke coming out of the engine compartment. I quickly shut off the engine and discovered that the alternator had seized up. Luckily it wasn't wiring that was burning, it was the belt, which was lying dead inside its housing. We settled down for a long, light air sail toward the cape, finally arriving five miles off of Cabo Falso around midnight where the wind disappeared altogether.

Finiterra sat there until the following morning when the wind picked up out of the northeast. It was about 35 miles dead upwind to our destination of the marina at Puerto Los Cabos, and by mid-afternoon the wind died again. With a flat sea and no wind in sight, we hoisted the dinghy overboard and tied it to the stern. Its little 6 horsepower outboard pushed the 20,000 pound Finisterra along at nearly four knots and by 1630 we were at the harbor entrance. Half an our later we were relaxing in the cockpit with a sundowner.

Fortunately I had thought to bring along a spare alternator. It wasn't a perfect fit, but with a little effort we got the dead one out and the new one installed. A few hours after we tied up to the dock, the wind got serious and blew 25-30 knots out of the north for the next three days. We were happy to be nice and snug in Puerto Los Cabos where we've met new friends and reconnected with old ones.The recent hurricane, named Odile, that devastated Cabo San Lucas left its mark on San Jose as well. The Hotel Gonzo, located on the beach next to the harbor entrance was hit hard. Its plate glass windows, rooftop bar and swimming pool that we loved are all, well, gonzo, and the place is closed. Fortunately Fidel, our favorite bartender there survived the storm and is happily employed at the Container restaurant, which is located here in the marina.

In addition to knocking out the beachfront hotels around the harbor, Odile pounded the harbor, breaking up docks, damaging and sinking boats and blowing roofs off of the buildings around here. The marina restrooms are actually prefab buildings set on solid concrete and stone foundations. The men's survived intact but the women's was blown apart, leaving only the foundation and a couple of shower stalls intact.

When we were here last June I wrote a rather scathing report about the dolphin show they put on here. We were curious to know how they had survived the storm in their pens near the harbor mouth. The pens looked empty the first time we checked, but the next day we noticed some big trucks parked nearby so we wandered over for a look. They turned out to be the dolphin delivery trucks, returning the animals from Puerto Vallarta, where they had been taken for safekeeping before the storm hit. We watched as they offloaded them from the trucks one by one in canvas slings. With ten guys carrying each dolphin, they walked them down to the water's edge and carefully rolled them into the water.
They had been coated with a white salve that one of the trainers told us was to protect their skin while they were in the trucks so at first they looked mottled and unhealthy to me. After swimming around for a few minutes the stuff came off and they looked normal again, and certainly seemed to be happy to be out of the trucks and back in their pens. All I can say is that the exhibit operators seem to be treating their prisoners well.

Just launched, this dolphin is still smeared with white salve.
They dolphins put on a little impromptu performance for us.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Wedge

The Wedge is a surf break in Newport Beach, California. It's normally a pretty calm and benign place to surf, with ankle high waves, soft breezes and plenty of sun. But when hurricanes blow up out of the Gulf of Tehuantepec and head in a northwesterly direction they send powerful waves north to California. Earlier this year, Hurricane Marie did that and the Wedge came to life with surf up to 20' high, bringing out big-wave surfers and fools.

The Wedge was created when the Newport Harbor jetty was built in 1936.

The unique shape of the big waves at the Wedge is the result of waves reflecting off the rock jetty that forms the entrance to Newport Harbor and combining with the next wave in the set, to form massive peaks. My friend Craig Bothwell, a talented amateur photographer was there when the the surf got big and sent me these photos. For more info or to get higher resolution copies of these shots you can contact him directly at

Big wave rider or fool?

Dropping in.

Spin cycle

Looks a bit like the North Shore
Don't try this at home.

Wonder what the gulls thought of this guy. Notice his board on the face of the wave.

Back aboard Finisterra, we left Catalina last Friday and decided to spend a night at anchor in Dana Point on our way to San Diego. We left Dana Point just before dawn the next morning and arrived at Southwestern YC at 1530 Saturday afternoon. We spent the next four days hanging out with friends and doing some last minute provisioning, and buying an inflatable SUP. Early Thursday morning Finisterra departed San Diego, and crossed the line into Mexican waters at 0900. In the early afternoon the wind piped up to about 20 knots as we approached the harbor in Ensenada, where we will stay a few days to check into the country, get phones and enjoy some fish tacos and Pacifico's before heading south toward Puerto Vallarta.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Leaving LA

Big ships at the Evergreen dock.
The USS Iowa is a huge attraction 

Finisterra passed through Angels Gate for the last time just before noon on Monday, November 3rd. The wind was very light and we motored over a flat sea to Two Harbors where we secured a mooring on the west side of the cove. We spent the next couple of days hiking and relaxing after a long four months in the California Yacht Marina. It was always interesting to see and hear the ships coming and going from the deck of our boat, but it was ever so nice to have all our work projects completed, and the prospect of another voyage south to warm and welcoming Mexico just ahead.
While at the Isthmus we took time to vote

On Wednesday we sailed a few miles down the coast to Avalon. Here we've been been enjoying the town and relaxing. Yesterday we took the Zip Line Tour, which was a lot of fun. It starts on a hillside above Descanso Bay and in five legs drops about 550 feet, traversing the ravine behind the bay.
Geared up for the Zip Line

Tomorrow we'll leave early in the morning for San Diego, where we'll stay a few days to do some last minute provisioning and hang out with friends.