Sunday, May 5, 2013

Finally to Baja

My apologies to everyone for taking so long to post to this blog the last part of our trip — our time in Ensenada, and our voyage down the Pacific coast of Baja and up into the Sea of Cortez to La Paz, where I am now, soaking up the sun in paradise, and attempting to learn a little español.

We stayed in a very friendly marina in Ensenada called Cruiseport Marina, since it was near the docks the cruise ships pulled in to twice a week.
A view of the marina common area where we cruisers
met for morning coffee, potlucks and parties.

A street stall that made the best ceviche, topped with avocado,
for less than a dollar. For another dollar you could buy
a great ice cream cone at the shop on the corner.
One of our bikes on the dock near the boat,
showing how we went shopping.
A view from the marina towards the town
and the enormous Mexican flag there.
The local swimming beach a short bike ride down the Malecón.
I swam there quite often.

A local vinyard in the winery district near Ensenada.

Growing food in the desert, just south of Ensenada.


After a while in Ensenada, we traveled back to Oregon for the summer.

An eclipse of the sun as seen through the coastal
gloom at Huntington Beach near LA.
Camping by the Trinity River in northern California
on our way back to Ensenada.

Karen swimming in Whiskey Town Lake in northern California.
It’s like a tropical island, only fresh water! So perfect!

Me on an air bed on Whisky Town Lake.
One dirty car, after some off-roading through some
incredible mud after rain in Baja, south of Ensenada.
Lucky not to get bogged forever in one long, deep pool of mud.

Hauling the boat for a bottom job in Ensenada,
just before sailing south.

One dirty bottom!
All clean again and painted

Early last November, we sailed out from Ensenada to finally make the voyage south to La Paz. Cruiseport marina let us keep our car there free of charge until we were able to come back and get it. I put a car cover over it to protect it from all the dust in Ensenada.

We left a day before our friends Lane and Vicki on Adesso, to take advantage of favorable winds and seas. We sailed well out to sea so there would be wind during the nights to keep us going. Close to the shore the land effect generally causes it to be calm over night. We had two days and two nights of fair winds from behind, and made a good passage. Unfortunately Karen was rather sea sick, as she hadn’t regained her sea legs yet after some months in port. When dawn broke on the third day, we saw the San Benito Islands ahead of us off to port. We had planned to sail past them on to Turtle Bay, but they looked so inviting after two days out of sight of land that we decided to anchor there and get some rest. On the way in to the anchorage, we got our first experience of the Mexican charts being inaccurate. According to the chart on the GPS plotter, we traveled over land to get to the anchorage, though in fact we went right down the middle of the channel between the two islands. Then it showed us anchored on the land! You can see this in this photo I took of the GPS at the time, where the fine dotted line shows our course, and the triangle our boat position at anchor:

We anchored at San Bonito at about 9 am, and though it was breezy there were no waves, so the boat sat still in the water, and it was sunny. We slept for a while, and Karen quickly lost her sea sickness. That afternoon we had a good cooked meal and soaked up the sun. In the evening, just after dark, we sailed off, much refreshed, under a beautiful moon and a gentle breeze for Turtle Bay. We arrived at Turtle Bay just after sunrise, and anchored in its very protected anchorage along with many other boats. It was total dessert there – not a green thing to be seen. It was like a moonscape, but beautiful in its own way. We stayed four or five days, rowing ashore to buy food, ice, have a shower, eat at a restaurant, and explore the town. After a couple of days, Lane and Vicki arrived on Adesso, and there was another boat there, Gemini, that we knew from our last days in Ensenada. Les and Diane on Gemini are very experienced cruisers, and were very kind to us. They invited us over to their gorgeous boat to have a very enjoyable sea food dinner with them. Here are some photos from Turtle Bay:

The Pier covered with bird droppings at Turtle  Bay.
After tying up the dinghy at the dinghy dock,
we would walk down this pier to get ashore.

Pelicans on a panga
Adesso at Turtle Bay

Swimming off the boat at Turtle Bay
Les persuaded me that it was worth stopping at Bahia Asuncion, just south of Turtle Bay. He was carrying spare parts for friends of his, Casey and Diane, on Inkatu, who had been waiting a couple of weeks at Asuncion without a working engine for these parts. We left two days after Gemini, but did go to Asuncion. There we saw them again, and met Casey and Diane of Inkatu, while having a meal with them on their boat. Just before Les and Diane sailed off again, Les came past my boat in his dinghy and asked, since I knew something about electrics (having an electric auxiliary  motor system in my boat I had designed and installed), whether I could help out Bill and Vicki on Matowi, who were having major electrical problems. I agreed to do that, and was able to get their generator up and running so they had electricity on their luxury million dollar sail boat. Out of gratitude they had us over to dinner, and offered us the use of their washing machine on their boat. That was a boon for us, as our laundry was beginning to pile up! Asuncion was cleaner and greener than Turtle Bay, and we were also able to buy fresh food and ice there. The folks on Inkatu and Matowi thought there was an electrical vortex there that had created havoc with their beautiful, expensive boats and left them stranded there! That had me spooked, since I had an electric motor, and I have to admit to checking that my electric motor was still working, half way through our time there. Fortunately it was!
Inkatu at Asuncion
Then there was another double overnighter to Santa Maria Cove, just before Mag Bay. All went well with this part of the voyage, as Karen had her sea legs by now, and didn’t get sick from then on, all the way to La Paz. We approached Santa Maria Cove just after midnight, but didn’t want to go in in the dark, since we didn’t know it at all, and couldn’t rely on the charts being accurate. So we heaved to, which steadied the boat, and moved us slowly (at about two knots) out to sea on a course that kept us about the same distance from our destination. I got three hours of uninterrupted sleep while heaved to, so I was in good shape at 4.00 am to reef down the sail, as the wind had kicked in, and sail in to Santa Maria Cove just as the sun rose. Just as I awoke at 4.00 am, our AIS showed that a cruise ship was going to pass very close to us in about 15 minutes time. The AIS told me the name of the ship, so I was able to radio them and ask if they would change course slightly to avoid us. The officer of the watch on the cruise ship was very nice, said he could see us on his radar, and had spotted our navigation lights visually, and agreed to change course to pass further away from us, which he did. Even with the course change, the cruise ship still passed within a mile of us, and was a very impressive sight in the night, with all its lights.

Santa Maria Cove was the most beautiful anchorage so far. Just after we had anchored there, a panga (an open Mexican fishing boat with an outboard motor) came up to us and offered us lobsters. I asked how much: “¿Cuanto Cuesta?” They replied “Batteries” Turns out they wanted the very small AAA batteries, of which I had four to spare. I also gave them a couple of AA batteries. For these we got seven huge, very alive lobsters thrown into the cockpit of our boat. I think that after seeing the shock on our faces at having the first few lobsters crawling around us on our boat, they threw a few more in just for the entertainment of seeing us react! We got our act together, though, and had two wonderful meals from these lobsters, as you can see from the following photos:

Ashore at Santa Maria Cove, with the Witch anchored in the distance.
We found this little harbor within a harbor where we landed the dingy.
There were lots of beautiful flowering plants growing here,
not at all like the complete dessert at Turtle Bay.
In the next photo I am at the nav station on the Witch, receiving a weather fax on my computer, via the short wave radio above the computer. The single-side-band weather fax transmission sounds just like a fax does on a phone. The headphone jack on the radio is connected by cable to the microphone in jack on the computer, as you can see in the picture, and software turns the all the clicks and screeches into a series of weather maps for the coming few days, one of which you can see scanning in, line by line on the computer screen:
Next stop was Mag Bay itself, just a short day’s sail away. We left just before Inkatu and Adesso, but the wind was light to start with, so about half way there they motored by at five knots, while we were sailing at three. Once we entered Mag Bay the wind piped up from the north (of course!) and we had to tack (zig-zag) into a stiff breeze for about five miles to reach the anchorage off the little town on the bay. But we got there well before dark, and earned the admiration of our friends for putting on a display of actually sailing all the way there, rather than motoring when the wind was not perfect for sailing.
Matowi arrived the next day, so here we were, four sail boats with eight people who were all sailing down to the Sea of Cortez for the first time, all together at Mag Bay (Bahia Magdelena). We decided we should celebrate that, and did so by having a meal together at the little part-time restaurant under a palapa (thatched-roof open-air structure) on the beach. The guy who ran it got together all the sea food delicacies he could for this banquet, including some excellent octopus. Parts of the beach at Mag Bay are strewn with sea shells, as you can see here:
The following photo of our GPS plotter shows the course I plotted from Mag Bay to Bahia Los Frailes, with Cabo San Lucas right at the bottom of the peninsular. You can see we are just over half way down where the little black triangle is. On the right you can see we had done 105 nautical miles already on this leg, and are at latitude N 23° 26.43’, just crossing the Tropic of Cancer. So, after many months of voyaging south, “Sailing to Sunshine,” as this blog is called, we had finally arrived in the tropics! It was quite a thing to celebrate! Also note how close we are to La Pa, as the crow flies. The previous night we could see the glow of the lights of La Paz to the east of us.

The rest of this day we had very little wind, as we drifted along toward Cabo San Lucus. And the same through the night, as we ghosted along in a very light breeze, with our electric motor ticking over and the generator going to give us three knots. Here we are sailing along with the spinnaker up to help catch every bit of the light breeze we could:
We rounded Cobo Falso, just before Cabo San Lucus, just as dawn broke on the third day. We hadn’t planned to stop at Cabo, as we’d heard it cost about $150 a night to stay at the marina there. But after over two days on this trip, and over two weeks since we’d been at a dock and had a proper shower, Cabo looked very inviting. We sailed in to have a look, and saw Adesso, which had left Mag Bay a day before us, anchored off the beach, and called Lane and Vicki on the radio. It was great to see them again! I decided to radio the marina to see just exactly how expensive the marina was going to be for a little 30 ft boat like ours. When they said they’d recently dropped their daily rates, and it would only cost $42 a night, you can be sure I jumped on the offer, and headed straight for the marina. Lane said they’d be coming in by water taxi later in the morning, and would find us at our dock. Here are motoring in to the harbor at Cabo:

Looks like this is as much as I can post. More soon.





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