Jun 19 2010

Baja Bash: Bahia Santa Maria to Bahia San Juanico (June 19, 2010)

Bahia Santa Maria to Bahia San Juanico

I awoke around 4am, and actually had overslept a bit. The passage from Bahia Santa Maria to Bahia San Juanico is 95Nm–about 15 hours of sailing, and I wanted to arrive during daylight. So, I hurriedly, got dressed weighed anchor, and got on my way.

Over the night, the bay had calmed completely. The wind instruments were reading 0 knots of wind, and the water was glassy. As I steered a wide course around the point (most of the points have submerged rocks up to a half mile or more away from them), the wind picked up to a tiny 5 – 8 knots, and I proceeded on my way.

The stretch of land between the two bays has three water-filled lagoons–none of which I would attempt to enter in a boat with a keel. Perhaps a panga, or a sailing dinghy with a retractable centerboard, but certainly not this boat. And, setting a straight line course to Bahia San Juanico is the shortest route. The land curves a good distance away from that route.

Over the course of the day, the winds grew steadily to a meager 15 knots, and it was a fairly uneventful and relaxing (though long) sail. We like them that way. I did, however, drag the magical cedar plug on the end of the fishing pole behind the boat for about two hours and caught a 5-pound blue-fin tuna. I made sushi and put enough in the refrigerator for 2 more sushi servings.

On the final approach, Bahia San Juanico is an easy anchorage. You sail into the big nook on the East side of the bay, and far out in the center, I set the anchor in 18-feet of water. There was still some wind from the day, but the Punta Pequena protects the anchorage enough from the swell that there was no swell at all. And, into the night, the wind even died down. It was a very comfortable anchorage.

In the middle of the night, I got up around 4am and took a quick survey of the boat, and it was beautiful. The water is filled with plankton and with phosphorescence. At first, I looked up and saw that the relative darkness of this sparsely populated area allows for a REALLY good star-show. It was beautiful. When I looked down into the water, I saw something else. The phosphorescence was thick enough that it turned the darting fish into glowing, underwater silhouettes. It was quite a site to see the shapes of the fish, glowing green, darting through the water (NO–this was not an acid trip). 😉

When I was here, the water was a red color–from the red tide, so be careful not to catch and eat any of the fish in the water. Although, I always prefer to catch fish out in the open ocean because the water is simply cleaner . . . .

26°15.083′ N

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Jun 18 2010

Bahia Magdelena to Bahia Santa Maria: The shortest leg of the trip

After the longest leg of the trip, it was great to have the shortest leg of the trip. Today, I sailed from Bahia Magdelena to Bahia Santa Maria–a mere 20Nm and from anchorage to anchorage about 4 hours.

But, let’s back up a bit. Around 4am, I heard a bird land on the mast. Typically, I would run up on deck to scare whatever bird it was away because I hate to clean up their droppings . . . but, last night, I was exhausted and had finally found peace with it. A tired bird looking for a place to rest is not a big deal–a few swabs of the mop in the morning, and all is well. I heard him sitting up there all night . . . or, so I thought.

When I awoke this morning, and was doing my morning survey of the boat, I saw all of the appropriate droppings on the deck. But, when I looked up, I saw a dead pelican hanging limply with his broken wing caught in the middle spreader–about 30 feet above ground.

I am not sure if he tried to fly between the shrouds and the mast and hit his wing, or if he was resting up there and got it caught at some point during the night. But, he was certainly stuck–it took me a while to get him down and set him afloat in the bay. I know that all things of this earth must return to the earth at some point, but that was the saddest thing I have seen my entire trip.

After that, I tried to piece together my morning. Sat and thought for a short time, made something to eat and some coffee, and then took another short rest.

About 10am, I raised the anchor and motored towards the mouth of the bay. Once outside, the winds blew a steady 20 knots all day, and the seas were a lumpy 2-meters high with a pretty fast interval. It was a short 3.5 hours to Bahia Santa Maria, and I arrived to an empty harbor (other than a couple of trawlers anchored out towards the ocean off Punto Hughes).

I set the anchor in this familiar bay (we stayed here for three days on the way down with the Baja Haha), made some food, and off to sleep. If the winds die tonight like they are supposed to, I will depart for the 95Nm leg to Bahia San Juanico at either 11pm or 3am–depending upon the weather. It will take about 15 hours and I need to arrive at the anchorage during daylight hours . . . .

24°46.000′ N
112°15.428′ W

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Dec 12 2009

Best Sailing of the Trip (and then the Doldrums) . . . .

6am came really early this morning. In fact, it was so early, our alarm clocks even missed it (and we all overslept). But, rise we did, and as a race crew, we are already intimately familiar with rigging the boat on the way to the startline. Fortunately, we discovered that the Grand Poobah responsible for the the start had, in fact, overslept, as well. Suddenly, we were like students who were late, but not really–the teacher was behind us . . . .

We had, in fact, rigged most of the boat the day and night before. All of the boat chores were completed. Things were secured. Other things were stowed. It was a pretty tight ship to begin with. In the darkness, however, I spotted the topping lift tha had snaked its way part of the way up the mast–and, that problem required sending someone aloft–and, Nathan was our guy.

After retrieving the topping lift, the wind was already following us and we wanted that spinnaker up as soon as possible. The Grand Poobah informed the fleet that we would have a rolling start, and we got that spinnaker up and the motor off immediately following.

What would transpire over the next few days had a dreamy, surreal quality to it. Nathan caught a second Yellowfin Tuna for the boat–not 45 minutes after sunrise. (We cleaned it immediately, but saved it for lunch/dinner. Sushi at 7am is a bit much.) The wind held steady at the low end of Marishanna’s performance range, and continued to build over the course of the next day and a half.

By the time our nighttime racing came around, the winds were blowing a steady 18knots. The waves were perfect. The angle of the wind was just right. We were holding at a steady pace of 10knots–it was phenomenal. We were smoking.

And, so was the entire fleet. We were all enjoying this perfect sailing weather: high speeds, comfortable rides, warm weather. All of us were ooohing and ahhhing each other on the radios . . . .

As we pulled within 20 miles of Cabo San Lucas, the wind came to a halt. Zero. Nothing. The water became a mirror. Our sails were limp. There wasn’t even a dark patch of water to chase.

In situations like this, the symptoms of someone affected with the racing affliction become most evident. The cruisers would say something along the lines of, “Hey, that wind was good while it lasted and got us really close. Time to turn on the engine. We’ll be there by breakfast.” It is a simple and practical statement. They are thankful for what they got.

Our response is akin to that child sitting at the table who won’t eat his brussel sprouts. “We are NOT turning on the motor. We’ll be disqualified from the sail-only division.” Period. Final. No arguments–from any of us.

And, so we sat. We watched as the cruisers motored past us. Fortunately, no one was close enough to wave, or say kindly things. But, we watched all the boats that he had worked so hard to overtake motor by and beat us to the showers and to breakfast.

And, we continued to sit. After about an hour, we got about 1 knot of boatspeed. And, then it was up to 2.5 knots, and then it was a little higher. All in all, it took us 6 hours to finish the remaining 20 miles to the finish line–our record-shattering attempts were in shambles, but our principles were intact.

We turned on the motor, gave the steering to Otto von Helm (our Auto Pilot), and the four of us sat on the foredeck, cracked beers, poured our offerings to King Neptune, and toasted a fantastic sail from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

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Dec 10 2009

Singles Party

Over the Single Sideband Radio, we had been hearing about a Singles Party. I thought it was a bit odd, but was waited to pass judgement until I learned the details. That morning, over the daily check-in, and after all of other business was concluded, we heard a bit more about the party.

The holder of the party made a direct pleading to boat owners. He said that this party is organized on your behalf. You have picked up your additional crew members to sail with you on the trip. Tonight, would be a great time to take those crew members, send them over to the three rafted-up sailboats with a bottle of booze, and in return, give yourselves a couple of hours of privacy. If you know what I mean?

Once the encrypted words floated on the airwaves, I understood.

Send your kids. Send your crew members. And, you get to have the boat to yourself . . . it’s been a few days, and your on vacation, right?

Nathan and I went over to the party–as we were the only ones who were single, but we quickly found out that we may have also been the only boat adhering to the “singles” part of the party. It was a party for everyone with a lot of alcohol, loud music, and a little dancing on three rafted-up boats (complete with sparkly Christmas-party lights) in an absolutely gorgeous setting . . . .

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Dec 10 2009

Bahia Santa Maria

Bahia Santa Maria is pristine–like a postcard, actually. It is less than a 100 miles from the larger Mexican port, Magdelena Bay, but rather than deal with all of the bustle and crowds, Bahia Santa Maria is quiet–idyllic almost.

After catching up on our sleep, we awoke to a beautiful, peaceful bay. I popped my head out of the hatch (before even having a cup coffee) and went up on deck. The water was like a mirror. A dorado (Mahi-mahi) was chasing a school of smaller fish, and he/she (couldn’t tell) came swimming by as if it were a dolphin: breaking the surface of the water, down into the water, out of the water again, and back down again. The dorado in its rhythms did this between our boat and another one for a couple hundred yards. It was beautiful.

Apparently the town was hit really hard by hurricane this summer. The recent rains associated with the storm are what caused the hills to turn green. The local fisherman, to my understanding, fish here during the week and stay in some improvised housing, and on the weekends, drive back to wherever their homes and families. Of course, there are some who live her permanently, but not many. The only sign of humans from the harbor, in fact, were these dozen or so improvised buildings and a slightly larger structure that I believe was the “town bar.”

We were excited about 2 full days of rest and relaxation (while the rest of the fleet catches up). There were a few chores (our dinghy needed a bit of repair), and, a couple of social events. But, for now, we were excited to take in the scenery and relax.

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