Thursday, April 30, 2015

Passage to La Paz

As usual, we enjoyed Mazatlan more than we expected to. Every time we visit this city we find new and interesting places to visit, and meet new and interesting people . This place is working its way up toward my top five favorite places to visit in Mexico. But all things come to an end, and our time in Mazatlan ended at 1100 on Monday, April 20th as Finisterra cleared the breakwater at El Cid, and headed northwest along the mainland coast.

The forecast was for light northwesterly winds so we motored in that direction, keeping about 10 miles off the coast, with the idea that we would be in a good position to make a quick passage across the Sea once the wind veered around to North. We wanted to pass to the north of Isla Cerralvo and avoid the Cerralvo Channel, which has earned a reputation in my mind as a frequently unpleasant stretch of water.

By dusk we were some 50 miles northwest of Mazatlan, still motoring over flat seas in 2-3 knots of wind. Later that night we bent our course further toward the west, expecting the wind to shift north and build to a forecasted 15 knots. That shift didn't happen and we continued across the Sea under power through a beautiful night with a sliver of waning moon hanging low over the western horizon.

We motored along all the next day over the same glassy seas. By late afternoon, Isla Cerralvo was off our port bow. About ten miles before we passed the rocks that lie off the northern tip of the island, a wind came up out of the south. It wasn't what I expected but I was glad to have it and quickly unrolled the jib, thinking that if it lasted more than ten minutes I'd hoist the main and we'd have a nice close reach across the north edge of the Cerralvo Channel. Instead the wind, a Coromuel, piped up to 25 knots and veered SW and then WSW, bringing a lumpy head sea with it and erasing my thoughts of a pleasant passage through the San Lorenzo channel.
The San Lorenzo Channel lies between Isla Espiritu Santo to the north and the Baja Peninsula to the south.

San Lorenzo is a fairly short and narrow channel with hazards to navigation on both sides, and it didn't take long to get through it in spite of the Coromuel wind and rough seas. I knew that once we passed through the channel the wind would back around to SW and continue all night. So as soon as we were well clear of the channel we turned and headed southeast to Puerto Balandra. The wind was still blowing 25-30 as we approached the bay in pitchy darkness. We could see the lights of a few boats anchored there, but as we approached closer we were able to pick our way between them and came to anchor at 2330 in the southwest corner of the bay, about 100 yards off some low bluffs that offered good protection from the waves, if not the wind.

With the big Rocna anchor and 120 feet of chain down in 20 feet of water, we had a quick dinner and a glass of wine. Then Lisa turned in and I sat for a while in the cockpit watching the stars twinkling in the moonless night. I kept an eye on the GPS as well, just to make sure the anchor was doing its job, then turned in myself around 0100.  I was up again at 0300 and 0600, monitoring the GPS but the anchor, as always, kept us in place.

The next two days were spent in lazy solitude in Puerto Balandra, the Coromuel wind blew both nights, giving way each day to lighter northerly winds and overcast skies. After two peaceful days we got the anchor up and headed into Marina Palmira in La Paz, where we'll stay a couple of weeks.


  1. I left Mazatlan at 8am the same day. You must of been that inshore boat (with sail up) on the horizon that appeared to be hugging the coast. I wondered if you were heading for Topolobombo.

    The sailflow forecast a quite accurate. Light Headwinds Monday until afternoon Tuesday. Light southerly filling in Tuesday night. The 20+ knot Coromuel forecast for Tuesday night meant it was better to go inside Cerralvo and hold off doing that till the Coromuel died on Wed morning.

    sure enough,dawn Wedneday off the southern end of Cerralvo was calm and I motored in flat seas up to the San Lorenzo channel.

    All in all, thanks to an accurate Internet forecast, the passage was so easy even a caveman could have done it.

  2. The boat you saw wasn't Finisterra, we didn't hoist sails that day. Looks like in this case Sailflow was more accurate than Predictwind. We didn't expect the Coromuel until around midnight, by which time we'd have been tucked into Balandra.