In the careful what you wish for category, a fairly famous DJ- Tiesto for those of you who follow such things, was playing on the 9th at a resort on the beach in Cabo San Lucas. We hadn’t really meant to stay in Cabo that long, but between weather and some lethargy, we weren’t leaving till the 10th. So we ran the dinghy into the beach after dark on the 9th to see if we could catch the show for free from the beach. Apparently a few others had the same idea as small clumps of people were strewn around the beach, and multiple police officers lined the area that transitioned from the beach to the resort. Due to hearing about several dinghy thefts during our stay in Cabo, we couldn’t leave the dinghy and there was nothing to lock it to on the sandy beach. The DJ hadn’t started yet, and what music we could here was mostly just booming bass since we were kind of behind the speakers. I went up to the resort to inquire about tickets and found they were now two for one, so Jenn and I could see the show for $90 – a little rich for our cruiser blood. And the show wasn’t really starting till somewhere around midnight. Our plan was for a fairly early departure the next morning, so we decided to just bag the whole thing, the logistics just weren’t working out to catch it for free and the tickets weren’t a serious consideration. Even if we had the money, I’m not sure we still own the clothes I saw on the people entering the show. Jenn figured we could just hear it from the boat as we were anchored about half a mile from the resort. So off we went back out to the boat, and as it got later I dug out one of the last beers in the cooler (which by the way was a epic sailor fail since we were about to embark on a three day sail with no beer), laid out in the hammock we had finally deployed in Cabo, and gave listening to the show my best shot. I actually could hear fairly well, but realized that just laying in a hammock listening to techno played half a mile away wasn’t really the experience I was seeking. While I can listen to electronic music on headphones, when it is being blasted over massive speakers you need to be in front of those speakers, feeling the music and dancing to it. So, somewhat disappointed to have actually stayed in Cabo long enough to be there for this show but unable to actually experience it, I headed to the v-berth for sleep before a 5:00 am alarm so we could stow the dinghy, prep the boat and head to the Los Frailes anchorage about 45 miles away. One problem – the music, while not really loud enough to pulse through me for dancing, was too loud for sleeping. And it went on for hours. And the anchorage was a bit rolly. And it was hot. I’m still not sure if the alarm was mis-set, or we slept through it, but after finally dozing off after a very fitful night, we awoke to Dodger Too circling our boat and calling us around 6:30 am. We scrambled and had the boat prepped in an hour or so, and set off, somewhat groggy but happy to be sailing again and out of the less than flat Cabo San Lucas anchorage.
Our joy lasted a few hours, just until an unforcast wind and sea state arose. We were soon beating (sailing upwind) into an estimated 20 knots of wind, with 4′-6′ swells. While the swells weren’t huge, they were very close together, and steep, not long period gentle ocean swells we grew accustomed to coming down the coast. The conditions were almost reminiscent of our first attempt to round Cape Mendocino. I will say, being sprayed by a wave slapping the boat is much easier to deal with when the water is warm than when it is 50 degrees. We were both a bit incredulous, we had sailed 2200 miles, had some great sailing in the Haha, and as soon as it was back to just the two of us and we were headed into the renowned Sea of Cortez cruising grounds, we were getting the proverbial “stuff” kicked out of us. I offered to spin downwind and head back to a marina we had passed about 8 miles ago, but Jenn was game to continue on. She seems to finally either adjusted to the up and down of the boat in waves, or the wrist bands she started wearing really work, but she didn’t have any issues with sea sickness on this trip which really improved her mood and enthusiasm for tackling the sailing challenges.
Although we had told ourselves the Haha was the end of motoring, overnight sailing and night entrances, we found ourselves motoring the last stretch of the trip into Frailes in the dark. It was supposed to be a fairly shallow anchorage – but we found ourselves motoring around in circles wondering if our depth sounder had quit working since we couldn’t find depths under 100 feet. Finally, we wove between anchored boats, around 35 in the anchorage, and found a spot around 30′ deep and dropped the hook. Looking at an older chart a day or two later we found that we were probably weaving around an underwater canyon that I kind of knew about but didn’t really think about clearly after our long days trip. Once the anchor was set and we had waited a bit during dinner to make sure we weren’t moving around, we crashed out. While it had been pretty bumpy out in the Sea of Cortez, it was quite calm in the anchorage and we got a good nights sleep. We again overslept a bit, and found Dodger Too had left when we woke up, so we decided to try and keep up and set off after them. We didn’t really explore Frailes, but we will probably be back as it is a good jump off point for the Mazatlan where we’ll be heading in few weeks, on our way down to Puerto Vallarta to meet my sister Ahmis and her boyfriend Chris near Christmas. Our leg from Frailes to the Ensenada de los Muertos (also know by the developers of a resort in the bay as Bahia de los Suenos – maybe vacationers prefer a bay of dreams to a bay of the dead) was just a fairly normal sail – in fact a couple days later I can’t really remember it. Jenn says we motored for a few hours and sailed upwind for most of it. I think I don’t remember because the next couple days provided so many memories it crowded out something that didn’t stand out. I do remember that Muertos was another night entry, and as we move around another anchorage, this time with only about 20 boats, Dodger Too radioed us to let us know they thought we were in a great spot just in front of the mooring buoy off our bow. Thanks, Dodger Too, since neither of us had seen the bouy we were about to run over. We spun around and put the anchor down and again got a good set on the first try. I’m loving the Manson anchor so far, while the Rocna was my first choice it was about $150 more and the Manson has tested with pretty similar performance. After a couple night anchorages Jenn and I are working on some hand and flashlight symbols while I’m on the bow raising and lowering the anchor and she is at the helm doing a great job of driving the boat. It is a work in progress, but we are doing a good job and getting better, and considering we keep learning with multiple boats around us rather than in quiet little bays all by ourselves I’m pretty happy with our progress.
We slowed up and spent a day at Muertos, and spent the day. I jumped in for a sailor shower, and after washing in the salt water I swam over to the wind vane to see about flipping the blade out of the water. There is no anti fouling paint on it and there was a little growth starting to appear on it. Being careful as I pulled back on the spring loaded piston that held the shear pin in place to avoid having it pop out, it promptly popped out, missed my desperately grabbing hand and sank. I called for Jenn to toss me a scuba mask, and started free diving towards the bottom, about 30 feet below us. I was not having much luck as I only had a few seconds near the bottom to look for it. So, hoping I had some air left in my tank, I broke out the scuba gear which took quite some doing since the tank is under the v-berth bed and the gear is in a heavy case at the bottom of the lazarette. I managed to remember how to hook everything up, checked the tank and found it was actually full, hooray! Hoping I actually remember how to dive since it has been a couple years, I rolled backwards off the dinghy after gearing up, settled everything, and submerged. 30 seconds later I had the part in my hand, but I spent a few minutes swimming around and remembering just how much fun scuba diving is. I surfaced, put the part back in place and again began to move the mechanism, and promptly popped the part out again, missed my stab at in, and got in my second dive of the day. I’m going to have to rig a little piece of line to this part so this doesn’t happen again, as I was lucky to have dropped it in relatively shallow water, while anchored in very clear water. After rinsing, drying and storing the scuba gear, we deployed the dinghy for a trip to the beachfront restaurant for a couple cold beers (so tasty after several days without, this over site in stocking up for this trip was really getting to me) with Leif and Jackie. I launched the the kayak to paddle around a bit and poked over some shallow rocks that the dinghy couldn’t get over and then paddled over to Good News to say hi and chat for a bit. I was started to get bounced around a bit sitting in the kayak, and Jenn waved me back to Ventured so I paddled back over and we stowed the boat as the waves began to build. We got stowed just in time as we heard several boats chatting on the VHF about not being able to bring their dinghies aboard. Soon we bouncing around just as much as we often do at sea, and trying to deal with frazzled nerves of not being comfortable at night. Of course the wind was blowing inland, creating a lee shore that we were closer to than I wanted to be. I stayed up, watching from the cockpit to make sure we stayed in place. The anchor seemed to be holding, so I dozed fitfully in the cockpit, and a bit down on the settee. With the wind blowing, and the warm night, I never really achieved deep sleep. Midnight came soon, and we hauled anchor to catch the tide through Cerralo Channel, and hopefully also through the San Lorenzo Channel just at the end of the flood tide.
This was a great sail on this leg, hoisting the jib after motoring out of the anchorage and cruising along on a beam reach with just the jib out under moonlit skies. As we approached the entrance to the channel which took as between Punta Arena de la Ventana and Isla Cerralvo I expted to tack and start beating up the channel but the wind shifted right with our course and I just kept sailing along on a port tack, hardly having to touch the sail trim. Midway through the night I glanced over my shoulder and Dodger Too was suddenly much closer than they had been, and then sailing past us. I told myself it was okay as they had both sails up and we were under jib alone, but when Jenn came up for her watch I hoisted the main. After that they stayed about one mile ahead of us on the radar, feeding the racer in me a little more than the cruiser. As we passed by Isla Cerralvo, we began to head west for the narrow San Lorenzo Channel. Accoring to the chartplotter the to navigation lights we needed to pass between were just over a mile apart, which of course signaled the arrival of a 300′ or so Mexican ferry flying toward the entrance too. Despite some trepidations, no one got too close together, and the feared large
wake never materialized. We did finally have to tack, and began sailing towards Puerto Balandra which looked in our guide book to be prettier than imaginable. Finally being one of the early boats to arrive in anchorage we had a much easier time finding an open spot for the boat, and set down the hook in 20′ of water so clear we could see the bottom. Dinghy deployed, we set off to explore a bay that became quite shallow not far from the our boat. We visited the famous El Hongo mushroom rock, did some snorkeling on a small reef, helped a local push is Boston Whaler off the beach back into deep water, rowed back to check out the beach visited by locals rather than us Gringos (although there was still some t-shirt and jewelry vendors but they actually did not approach us) and did some beachcombing with Leif and Jackie. Although we didn’t have the typical blue skies and sunshine, it was still a very scenic bay. But then… the wind picked up, and the clouds in the sky began to deposit strange drops of water on us, a phenomenon I remembered from my distant non cruising life in Seattle.
Having not slept much the night before, and skipping a nap when we anchored, I was really having a hard time staying awake. Luckily Jenn was feeling less tired than I was and volunteered to watch the boat. We were soon bouncing around almost violently in the anchorage, and were only a couple hundred feet from some very shallow water which of course the wind was blowing directly towards. I missed the heavy downpour, but it did a nice rain that rinsed off the boat. Unfortunately, the fresh water rinse didn’t last long because Jenn woke me up from a rather fitful doze in a bouncing vberth around 5 am with the news that she thought we were dragging anchor. Looking at other boats and some topography I had lined up our position with, I agreed, and we began to pull anchor. I went to the bow and managed to get the chain I had wrapped around the cleat free. This was another lesson learned, I am deploying a snubber on the anchor chain from now on, something I should have done in the first place. I suspect we were dragging in part because the boat was pulling on the anchor chain without much shock absorption, and it may have jerked on the anchor enough to cause it to loose traction. As the waves hit the boat, I found myself looking down from a rising bow at the water, seemingly 12 feet away, but then rapidly approaching till I was at sea level with the bow buried in the trough between the waves. The spray recovered the boat with salt water, undoing the effects of the cleaning rain. And in my haste to dress for the weather, I had actually thrown on my foulies, clothing I had thought I might not wear again for years. I’m still quite upset I had to put them on, but the water was warm enough I was able to still remain barefoot. The anchor came up with less drama than expected, but we had fallen off to starboard and as I finished bringing the anchor onboard I looked back and saw another anchored boat uncomfortable close as Jenn worked the helm trying to bring us back to port and towards the head of the bay. I was just about to scream to spin to starboard and go around the the other way, but hesitated because that would have pointed us towards the shallows when Jenn got the boat turning and we started driving out of the bay. As we exited we noticed Dodger Too was gone and saw them just ahead of us, they had sawed through a line in their anchor system and had also pulled out of the anchorage. We slowly crawled to windward, for awhile trying to use a scrap of jib rolled out to help but eventually rolling it back in because the wind and waves were not lining up to sail a comfortable course. We basically just idled around trying to keep the boat from rolling excessively, not always successfully. Several other boats streamed out of the anchorage and also seemed to be kind of aimlessly wandering, and although it was very uncomfortable, it was a lot better than stressing over the shallows mere feet behind us while anchored. We consulted our guide book and found an anchorage that looked protected a few miles away. It was not a pretty bay for tourists, but rather a commercial harbor for ships and ferries, but the guide book mentioned a spot we could anchor. We were just about to hail Dodger Too with the information when the morning cruiser net out of La Paz began on the channel we were going to hail them on. This was our first listen to the cruiser net, and while it was interesting it was frustrating to not be able to radio another boat during it. However, as it continued both Dodger Too and us slowly passed the entrance to the bay in what felt to be lessening seas and wind. By the time we could make contact we both agreed we were going to try to make it into La Paz. It turned out to be an uneventful entry, and after a four mile long channel we were in calm water with light winds, out of the Pineapple Express we had just been hammered by. The foulies came off, and we set about finding a place to anchor. We found a small hole in the myriad of boats not far form the marina with the dinghy dock and cruisers club house, and about six or seven attempts later finally had the hook set so that we weren’t too close to anyone else. And we didn’t even yell at each other, much. Finally in quiet calm water, Jenn got a much deserved nap. I’m not sure when that transformation occurred, but she was suddenly super sailor on the last couple legs, even volunteering to go forward to free a fouled jib sheet when I thought she was going to tell me it wasn’t safe for me to go forward. She is even claiming she can back the boat up better than I can, but she is going to have to prove it in a narrow waterway, not a wide open spot of water. Still, she is doing a great job driving the boat during anchoring and handled some serious stress with aplomb coming out of Puerto Balandra under nasty conditions. Rested up, we went into La Paz for dinner with Leif and Jackie, and on several people’s advice (including some random guy we met on the street while looking for the place) hit up The Shack, just in time for 15 Peso (just over $1) Happy Hour margaritas. All they were cooking on a Monday night were hamburgers, but they were huge, tasty, and while not cheap, pretty reasonable. They also had fast wifi so during dinner we were able to download a couple TV shows. We headed back to the boat, picked up and 8 pack of Pacifico, and caught the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother while enjoying a nice cold beer. We then finally both got to sleep in a quite v-berth that was not pitching around with crashing waves, enjoying our best nights sleep in what seems like weeks.
Today we went in search of a Farmers Market we did not find, I finally got a haircut, and after visiting a branch of the store where we bought our internet modem and the Telcel customer service office have our Banda Ancha internet access modem working. And we still have some time to head back into town this evening for a happy hour if we want, although we may just relax on the boat and give Minion some pets since he was left alone for much of the day. We are enjoying La Paz, it is a large town with out the tourist vibe of many cities in Mexico that most people visit. There is a huge cruiser community here, and great support for questions and problems. We’ll stay for at least a few days, then probably head north to an island with lots of beautiful little anchorages for some exploring.