Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rocking the East Cape Bash

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Here we go...  After two days of ~bliss~ at the elegant and prosperous marina Puerto Los Cabos we woke early and pointed the bow east as the sun rose off our starboard bow.   We raised both the main and the jib, thinking we’d need the big main sail to beat our way north around the East Cape region of southern Baja.  Sailing on a beam reach Traveler surged forward attaining 7 knots as she heeled over toward starboard.  Down below, items not secured properly started rearranging themselves obeying laws of gravity, momentum, and chaos.  

The wind died and we were down to 3 knots.  

Then the wind returned with a vengeance.  Connie and I hung on tight as the big boat heeled over, charging through the building waves.   As we sailed around the end of the Baja Peninsula the north winds streaming down the Sea of Cortez hit us with full force.  The word “Fetch” refers to the distance that wind and waves can travel unimpeded before they hit up against something solid… like land.  We had hundreds of miles of fetch that morning.  A high pressure system over the Four Corners area of New Mexico/Arizona often dominates the weather over the north portion of the Sea of Cortez.  This high creates a “Norther” wind that blows south some 600 miles down the inland sea.  With this much fetch the waves are steep even when the wind calms down, which it wasn’t on Tuesday the 27th
Los Frailes

We had our last VHF conversation with Midnight Blue and Chasing the Sun as they headed east across the sea towards Mazatlan.  We started beating our way up the East Cape.  This region of southern Baja is accessible by a single dirt road so development is limited.   Hardy individuals have created their own private sunlit havens up the coast.  This area is a favorite for transplanted expatriates/refugees from the U.S.  As the sun rose we could see the occasional reflections off glass windows on these little structures dotting the coast line. Back in Cabo we saw gringos on dirt bikes or four wheel drive vehicles making their way into the city for supplies, their vehicles covered in dust.  I can see living on the East Cape, watching the sun rise across the Sea of Cortez.

Back on the water, the beat north was not getting us anywhere soon. With 30 miles to cover it began to look like we’d not make the anchorage at los Frailes by nightfall.  So reluctantly we rolled up the genoa and cranked up the Perkins engine and took the wind and waves directly on the nose.  Seven hours later we arrived at the bay and dropped the anchor in 25 feet over a sand bottom.  Coming into the anchorage I noted a steel motorsailer that I’d seen in Puerto Los Cabos.  These could be the same gringos who kept locking the gate on us; grrrr.  Their steel boat rolled to the swell coming around the bend of the bay.  They left after we did, bashed their way north under power, and arrived before we did; big engine, diesel power, evil. 

The day for us had been long and the ride was extremely rough with large boulder shaped waves crashing into the bow and spray sweeping the deck.  We closed all the port holes and sky lights and hung on tight as water swept over the boat.  On Traveler we have side decks with an 8 inch toe rail all around the boat.  The water would sluice down the starboard deck then sweep around the stern and meet the other water on the port side.  The large diameter scuppers were draining the decks as fast as they could and we stayed relatively dry in the cockpit with only some spray in the face once in a while.   My admiration for the designer of the boat, Stan Huntingford, grew as I saw just how well Traveler handles heavy seas.  

Los Frailes - Can you spot the Frier climbing up the point of rock?
We should have doused the main or at least reefed it but by the time we were into the rough conditions we didn’t want to go up deck to wrestle it down.  So I set the boom off to one side and used the main as a steading sail. That evening at Bahia los Frailes we ate quick leftovers and crashed in exhaustion as the moon rose over the headland.  The heat of the engine and the presence of the hot water heater under our master berth made it impossible to sleep in the master cabin so Connie took the vee berth and I the settee.  Sleeping apart? Oh No!

Los Frailes is a protected bay where an anchorage in the north portion blocks the waves and most of the wind that prevails from the north. We stayed the next day, resting and straightening up the boat.  On Thursday we poked our way out into the north wind and started beating our way north again, this time with a reefed main.  Sailing was possible for an hour or two then it got rough again so we motored for another 8 hours straight into it. The going was very rough again and both of us got tired after holding tight for hours on end.  When we approached our next anchorage at los Muertos the wind was high, the seas were steep and it was dark, dark, dark.  

Using the radar and the GPS we found the anchorage and had to get pretty close in before the wave action allowed us to go on deck.  The anchorage held about 5 boats, 3 with anchor lights and 2 without. So we used our powerful spotlight to find a space to anchor, sweeping it back and forth to find the dark silent boats anchored there.   Note to cruisers… please put an anchor light on your boat if you are in a destination anchorage where folks will be coming in at night.  Being tired, I was not careful enough and the seizing wire on the anchor shackle snagged my thumb as I released the chain.  I got a good deep laceration as a thank you for the end of the day.   Just before we went to bed, I was on deck peeing in the cup when I saw the ominous shape of a steel motorsailor entering the bay. Again, they anchored a ways off, in the deeper water where they could watch and plot and scheme.  Who are these guys and why are they stalking us?  Are they upset because I locked them out of the shower and dismantled the gate lock.  I set an anchor alarm then went to sleep.

On Friday I got on the VHF at 08:00 and hailed anyone in the bay.  Anyone came back in the form of Bill and Diane on the beautiful cutter, True Love.   I talked at length with Diane mostly about the anchorage and what strategy to use for making our way north.  She gave me a weather prediction and lots of good advice about the transit and the ins and outs of La Paz.   We spent the day aboard nursing our wounds and doing little boat projects, determined to wait for the Norther to blow itself out.

Saturday I worked on the SSB radio and finally figured out that you must plug in the antenna for it to work properly.  Then we were able to receive weather forecasts on the Sonrisa net.  The Norther was still blowing strong.  We inflated two kayaks and went to the beach.  Connie and I bought a couple of expensive cold beers, Bohemia chocolate stout, at the little restaurant there while watching the new president of Mexico, muy guapo, on the wide screen TV.  We then bought a fish from some fishermen we found at the boat launch just in on their Panga.  The fish was a yellow spotted Sierra, the type used when making ceviche, (20 Pesos )and was delicious that evening.   On the paddle over, we were hailed by a couple on a 40 foot ketch and invited over for sundowners that afternoon.  Because we’d anchored a little ways out from shore we decided to move the boat in a little closer so we up anchored and moved toward the beach setting the hook in 18 feet on a sandy bottom. 

We drifted down to the ketch “Harmony” in our little kayaks and shared a bottle of wine and some fruit with Virginia and Robert Gleser.  Like many people we’ve met, they have been cruising for many years.  Their lifestyle is to cruise half the year in Mexico then leave the boat on the hard (dry docked) in San Carlos for the summer while they visit and take care of business.  Virginia has a book out named “Harmony on the High Seas” which we are now reading.   We enjoyed the evening and as I looked south I noticed the dark, steel motorsailor was gone!  Maybe the spell is broken and we can now be free from its hulking presence.
We paddled north from Harmony finding our anchor light among the rest of the anchorage.  The stars overhead were crisp and the wind was light.  

The next morning I was listening to the weather report and it reversed itself saying that even heavier weather was expected by Tuesday.  Making a snap decision we jumped into action and got the anchor up and started motoring around the corner.  By 09:30 we had passed the infamous point at Arena de Las  Ventana where the wind and waves funnel down the coast between the peninsula and the 16 mile long Isla Cerralvo.  We cranked up the Perkins and powered north making 6 knots with some help from a favorable current.  The seas were fairly calm and we made good time.  

Using GPS coordinates from the Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer guide book we transited the San Lorenzo channel, passing closely by a shoal, a reef, a wreck and a rock.  Then we turned south towards La Paz and found a quiet anchorage at Bahia Falsa for some fish tacos and a celebration at arriving at the front door of La Paz.  Eighteen days out of Ensenada we completed the first big leg of our winter cruising plans. 
LaPaz Waterfront
Now we’re getting ourselves organized and getting ready for a month long stay in the area; more to come.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on a safe arrival!

    The situation with anchor lights doesn't get any better. We ran into it all across the South Pacific, and it kept us from entering some anchorages in the dark. One night, we had to tack back and forth off Fatu Hiva all night because it was raining and we couldn't see the unlit boats in the anchorage. We didn't have a powerful searchlight though---perhaps using that might "wake" some people up to the situation!