Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Los Cabos to Ensenada

We waited patiently for that weather window and it finally materialized on June 19th. We departed San Jose del Cabo at 0830, motoring into a 3 or 4 knot headwind under a gloriously sunny sky. It's about 17 miles from San Jose to San Lucas, and during that time the wind increased to about 17 knots and the sea temperature plummeted from 82 to 70 degrees.

We rounded the point at San Lucas around noon in a building breeze. By the time we reached Cabo Falso, about 4 miles further on, the wind was a steady 27 knots on the nose, with gusts to something over 30. Staying close inshore, we rounded Falso and headed northward along the coast and by 1500 the breeze had dropped to about 12 knots and the rough seas were replaced by easy westerly swells.  Late in the afternoon the breeze dropped even further, and we motored for the next twenty four hours over glassy swells and almost calm wind.

Route from Los Cabos to Turtle Bay.

We arrived at Bahia Santa Maria, about 200 miles from San Jose in the early afternoon of June 20th and anchored about half a mile off the beach in the northwest corner of the bay. We were hoping to go ashore here and explore the beaches and nearby sand dunes, but there was enough of a southerly swell running to make a dinghy landing untenable.  Instead, we got the anchor up and headed out of the bay and into a favorable wind. We sailed all afternoon and into the night until the wind shut off completely around 2100. We arrived at Turtle Bay at dawn on June 22nd. It was a pleasant, quiet day and we spent it catching up on sleep while we waited for Enrique to deliver some fuel, which he did in the late afternoon.

The favorable conditions we had been enjoying were forecast to end soon, so we got underway just after sunrise on June 23rd. Choosing to go up the east side of Isla Cedros, we motored into a very light headwind and flat seas as far as the Dewey Channel, which lies between Isla Natividad and the mainland. There we encountered rough, confused seas until we reached the southern tip of Cedros which provided protection from the northwest wind and seas. The easy conditions lasted until we reached the northern tip of the island. Once beyond the lee of the island we had 20-25 knots of wind on the nose and 5 foot seas for a couple of hours, then the wind moderated but the swells remained big and steep. We slowed to 4 - 5 knots for the next 50 miles to keep the boat from pounding in the unfriendly seas. Throughout the passage from Cedros to Sacramento reef we were bucking a current that sometimes reached a knot and a half.

On the morning of June 24th we passed about 10 miles west of Sacramento reef and found the counter current here to be around half a knot. The rest of the passage to Punta Banda consisted of motoring into 3 to 8 foot seas and overcast skies. We rounded the point around noon on June 25th. With a fair wind, we doused the engine and sailed the last ten miles to Ensenada where we took a berth on gangway A in the Cruiseport Marina. The plan is to stay here until after the Fourth of July holiday, then head north to San Diego for a few days.

Turtle Bay to Ensenada

A few miles south of Punta Banda we were joined for a few minutes by a pod of Orcas. I was so fascinated looking at them, I didn't get many photos.

These are females. Males have taller, more vertical dorsal fins.

While here in Ensenada we were immediately among friends and have been spending our time socializing and cleaning up the boat after the long bash from Los Cabos. A couple of days ago I decided to put a couple of coats of varnish on the cap rails. The first coat went on the starboard rail perfectly, but today, about an hour after I finished putting the second coat on, a squall passed through, dropping a sprinkling of rain. I thought my varnish job was ruined but luckily it survived intact.

Ensenada is our last destination in Mexico, so I've been taking some time to reflect on all we learned about this beautiful country on this voyage. We saw so many beautiful sights and enjoyed the company of lots of friends, both Mexicans and foreigners, it's hard to name one specific thing that stands out as special. I guess the main impression that I'm taking with me is that Mexico is getting better. The people seem to have a continuously improving standard of living. The roads, schools, cities and infrastructure all seem to be getting better. Economic activity and industry are vastly better than they were when we cruised here aboard Honcho five years ago. But one thing that hasn't changed is the wonderfully friendly people of Mexico. In my opinion they are among the nicest in the world.

When we arrived here in Ensenada we learned of the recent supreme court decisions in the USA regarding health care and gay marriage. Good health care available to everyone, and tolerance for diversity among our people are worthy goals, so it's a nice feeling to know that we are returning to a better USA.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Waiting for a Window

We arrived at Puerto Los Cabos Marina a couple of hours before sunset on June 12th and were assigned to our old berth at the end of gangway L. The daytime temperatures here have been hovering in the high eighties, with light southerly winds and intense tropical sunshine every day. The humidity index has also been in the eighty percent range which makes life aboard a bit sticky and sweaty. So I broke out the air conditioner which brought the temperature and humidity inside the boat down to 78 degrees and 50% humidity. The air conditioner is a little 5,000 BTU window unit that fits neatly in the companionway, and stores in the starboard cockpit locker when not in use. It has made life bearable here while we wait.

The only problem with the air conditioner is that it makes you want to stay inside the boat from about noon to dusk.

San Jose is rapidly turning from a town to a city. In 2010 the town had a population of approximately 70,000. Combined with the tourist mecca of Cabo San Lucas a few miles down the road, this area hosted over 900,000 hotel guests in 2011. I remember visiting here in the 1970's when San Jose was a little town that no one went to and Cabo was just becoming popular as a sportfishing destination.

Marina Puerto Los Cabos. 

Here's something for the history buffs out there. Back in 1847, during the Mexican American War, a force of 24 American marines and sailors landed with a 9 pounder carronade and took up a position in the old mission San Jose. There, with a reinforcement of twelve men from California, they fought off an assault by a Mexican force under the orders of one Capitan Pineda Munoz. A couple of months later a larger Mexican force returned and laid siege to the American outpost. The seige lasted about a month and was finally lifted when a strong American naval force arrived. Nowadays we don't remember much about our 19th century conflicts, except for the Civil War, and a bit about the War of 1812. At least I've never seen anyone doing a Mexican American War reenactment.

9 Pounder Carronade. It fired a 4" diameter cannonball. As far as I can determine, this is a British gun dating form the early 1800's, but it's probably fairly similar to the one used at San Jose.  Photo courtesy of Gunstar.co.uk

As you can tell, we've had some time on our hands while we wait for that weather window to open, but it's been fun meeting new and interesting fellow cruisers. A couple of days after we arrived the pretty little Eastward Ho 24, named Molly, with Eric and Christine aboard tied up on our gangway. They sailed Molly down from Portland, Oregon and spent the season cruising in the Sea of Cortez. They left San Jose on Tuesday, June 16th, bound for Mag Bay, where we hope to catch up with them in a few days.
The Eastward Ho was designed by the venerable Walter McInnis and is a pretty salty seagoing vessel.
The weather forecast is for light southerly breezes for the next few days, so we will head out early tomorrow morning for Mag Bay.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

La Paz to San Jose

Fishermen head out at dawn from Los Muertos.

We planned to leave La Paz around June 6th but circumstances got in the way. The exhaust mixing elbow on the engine was showing signs of corrosion so I removed it for an inspection and, sure enough, it had deteriorated to the point where it could have started leaking salt water onto the engine.

Made of stainless steel, the elbow injects seawater from the heat exchanger into the exhaust, which is why water comes out of the exhaust pipe of your engine. The water is injected through the small tube and mixes with the exhaust gas in the larger tube. Photo credit: Marine Power Ltd.
I did not have an elbow among my spare parts so the only option was to repair the old one by welding up the areas where corrosion threatened the integrity of the part. It took about ten days to get it back from the welder, but when it was finished it was as good as new. While waiting for the elbow to be repaired another yacht transport ship arrived and Rob Cross and I delivered two more boats to be hoisted on deck and shipped to Canada.

The Tiberborg's deck was already half full of boats when it arrived from Panama. In La Paz eight more boats were loaded. It's becoming more popular to ship boats to Canada instead of bashing roughly 2,000 nautical miles up the coast, or sailing the clipper route.
Notice the diver in the water. His job was to position the slings under the boat. The last time we loaded a boat on a ship, there were two divers with SCUBA tanks. This fellow just had a mask and fins, yet he worked faster than the first two guys.
The Tiberborg's slings were lengthened to accommodate this 45' catamaran. I was told that the cost to ship a 35 foot monohull to Chemainus, BC is around $12,000. That might sound expensive, but if you factor in wear and tear on boat and crew, provisions, fuel, etc. for sailing there, its pretty reasonable. Chemainus is located on Vancouver Island, about 50 miles north of the city of Victoria.

By the time the elbow project was done, hurricane Blanca was bearing down on the Baja Peninsula. At this time of year hurricanes usually fizzle out or head out to sea before they reach Baja, so I wasn't concerned about Blanca. The folks that experienced last year's hurricane Odile were pretty worked up about it though. So throughout the harbor, people were taking down canvas biminis and awnings, securing dinghies and lashing down anything that looked like it might fly away in a wind. I didn't get concerned until I saw the local restaurants being stripped of sun covers and awnings. So we secured Finisterra for storm conditions, doubled up our dock lines and made plans for a hurricane party the night before Blanca was scheduled to hit La Paz.

Storm track for Blanca. In the last 24 hours before it arrived in La Paz it was downgraded to a tropical storm. Intrepid mariners that we are, we refused to cancel the hurricane party in spite of the downgrade.
Sylvia & Tom of S/V Cinnabar enjoying fresh blackened yellowtail at the hurricane party.

Saturday, June 6th, the weather was hot and still, with humidity hovering at about 80%. Sunday afternoon the wind began to blow out of the east, rising to about 20 knots.  By that night we were seeing a few gusts to 30 knots. The predawn hours of Monday brought the heaviest winds, with gusts up to 47 knots. We expected heavy rain but, surprisingly, none fell. Instead the air was full of fine dust and by the end of the storm Finisterra was covered with a thick coat of Baja real estate. Monday afternoon the storm left town and we surveyed the damage around the waterfront. In the marina there was little to report except a blown out window in a restaurant and one of the dock cleats that Finisterra was tied to came adrift. Closer to La Paz, a couple of boats broke free from their anchors and at least one fetched up on the beach on the Mogote Peninsula. Once the wind abated we got busy and washed the grime off the boat and made final preparations to head for San Jose del Cabo, about 150 miles to the south, our jumping off point for the trip up the peninsula to California. We departed on Tuesday morning, June 9th.

Our first stop was Puerto Balandra (again!) where we planned to do some snorkeling. The night before we left we went out for dinner with friends, and I picked up a mild case of food poisoning. So instead of swimming, I spent the day recovering. The next day I was feeling better and we left Balandra, bound for Ensenada de Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead). Over the last few years the local hotel operator there has been struggling to get the name of the place changed to Bahia de Los Suenos (Bay of Dreams) and I think the new name is beginning to stick.

We arrived a little before sunset on June 10th. The water was clear enough that I could see the anchor hit the sandy bottom 22 feet below the surface. For the next two days we snorkeled among the extensive coral beds on the southwest side of the bay, marveling at the variety and colors of sea life there.

Los Muertos is a beautiful bay with a rocky point to the northeast and a long sandy beach. You can just make out the coral beds in the southwest corner of this shot. Conditions here were perfect for snorkeling, with hot temperatures and plenty of sun. When we tired of snorkeling we hiked the short distance up to the Hotel del Suenos and sipped margaritas and swam in the pool.

On June 12th Finisterra departed Los Muertos at 0300,  and motored in calm wind and flat seas to the marina in San Jose del Cabo where we are making final preparations for the next leg of our journey.