WE WISH YOU A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FULL OF LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND GOOD CHEER.
CONOR AND LANEA
WE WISH YOU A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FULL OF LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND GOOD CHEER.
CONOR AND LANEA
For sailors, it is not a matter of IF you will hit weather, but WHEN. How you deal with it significantly affects both your safety and sanity.
“If you spend any time at sea, you’ll spend some time wishing you were someplace else. But the amazing truth is that those times can be some of the best of your life, a tempering process that nourishes and confirms the resilience of the human spirit.”
-Brion Toss, Author, Rigger’s Apprentice. Quoted from the preface of Storm Tactics Handbook by Lin and Larry Pardey
We left Turtle Bay on the morning of Thursday, December 22nd, 2011. We were well rested after 13 hours of sleep and started the day with fresh biscuits made on the boat. After breakfast we easily lifted the anchor and picked our way alongside several strings of crab pots that littered the path to open ocean. We were on our way to Bahia de Magdalena 243 miles away. The wind started out light but quickly built to an easy 15 knots from the NW. The weather was warm the sky clear, the wind favorable, and spirits were up. Oh, this is the life. In the late afternoon winds picked up to 20 knots with 6 following seas which was manageable. By the time my 6-9pm evening watch ended we had a paltry 5 knots. The sky was clear and was covered by millions of stars. Conor took over the watch at 9pm and I went in to the v-berth and tried to sleep. Maybe I did, I can’t remember. I was startled 30 minutes later by a new noise and went to the cockpit to ask Conor if everything was OK. He reported that in the last 30 minutes the wind had built from 5 knots to 20 knots. Still very tired, I said, “I’m going back to bed. Wake me if it gets too high.” Before I even made it back to the V-berth Conor yelled down, “Babe, we have to take the sail down NOW! Get your foulies on!” Suddenly wide awake I scrambled in to my extra layers, life jacket, and safety tether. The wind was already howling at 30 knots. We both clipped in and climbed on to the cabin top, lowered the main, and lashed it to the boom. Safely back in the cockpit we made the decision to head in to an anchorage for protection. The wind was coming from the NE, the direction of the land, so we could anchor without worrying as much about a lee shore. Based on the wind direction Bahia Asuncion was the best nearby anchorage. We had just passed it so would have to beat in to the wind to make it in to port. Headed in to the wind at 1-2 knots with the engine at 2400 RPMs it was a long 12 miles and 8 hours away. We would arrive at dawn. The wind was now 35 knots with gusts to 40 knots. We don’t know how high the waves were because it was dark. Although I pined for daylight, I was happy to not see the sea state surrounding us. It was going to be a long night. Sea spray was washing over the deck, dodger, and in to the cockpit dousing whoever was at the helm.
We took 1 hour shifts hand steering at the wheel as the conditions were too great for our outdated ST4000 autopilot to handle. Steering was an adventure in itself and required great concentration. We steered in to the wind by compass course and if we accidentally let the nose slip too far off the wind the boat would be pushed sideways and we had to wrestle the wheel back to position. Since all concentration for the helmsman was used on handling the boat, the person off watch kept an eye on radar and gave updates on our course, boat speed, and how close we were to land. It would have been preferable to fly a storm jib and/or trysail to steady the boat. But we had neither on board. Partially unfurling the jib to construct a makeshift storm jib would have been difficult and potentially dangerous as we have yet to replace our frayed furling line. The possibility of this line breaking under the pressure of these winds was real and we didn’t want to take the chance.
Below decks was also a challenge. We couldn’t walk without holding on to prevent falling over. Charts, books, and gear were strewn across the floor and the galley drawers kept sliding out threatening to spill their contents.
At one point I remember seeing the third shooting star of the night out of the corner of my eye and thinking, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” It seemed pretty funny at the time. I guess you had to be there.
When we were 3 miles away from land we received a reprieve and the wind lowered to 20 knots and we picked up several knots of speed. We did not want to anchor in the dark so we dialed the engine back to 1500 RPMs. At 6am we arrived the roomy anchorage at Bahia de Asuncion. Taking great care to secure our large 45lb CQR, plenty of chain, and an anchor bridle we were finally set, we took our sights, and marked our anchor on our chartplotter’s anchor watch system so we could see if we were dragging. Soon after we anchored the winds were back up to 30 knots and waves were breaking over the deck and in to the cockpit. It was rolly and windy, but still preferable to being ‘out there.’
A seal ran in to our hull, alarming us with a thud. We ran above decks to see what made the sound and the seal danced around looking up at us as if demanding, “Come play with me!” A couple panga fisherman drove close by out of curiosity and waved as they cast big smiles while passing us by. We were happy to receive the smiles after a long and tiring night. We are the only cruising boat in the anchorage and feel welcome. It is comforting as we checked the weather and will have to wait out the heavy winds for a couple days before moving on. Until then we will continue taking turns with anchor watches and several naps to catch up on sleep and restore our energy banks.
Did we make all the right choices? Maybe we should have continued on our south east course. We may have escaped the reaches of the high winds by daybreak which would have been just as challenging as beating in to the wind to come in to port. We are not sure if we did all the right things or make the right choices but the right thing is very subjective. I will tell you one thing, I am happy to be in an anchorage now and thankful to wait out the storm with a holding anchor.
For our friends and family, know this. Moondance did an excellent job. She fared the conditions well and could have taken more if the sea was so inclined to give it to her. And her crew held up pretty well, too. Under pressure we always work really well as a team. And there was never a point when I feared for the safety of ourselves or the boat. I never once thought we would have to use our emergency gear but we each were planning back up plans in the case that an emergency did arise.
I am sorry I did not take too many photos. I did not think to do so at the time. Some photos can be found here.
We finally left Ensenada on Sunday, December 18th and dropped anchor in Turtle Bay on Wednesday morning at midnight. This was the first time we ever anchored at night and I have to say, we did an excellent job!
On passage we tried to fish with a trollling line. We caught no fish but we did catch one purple octopus! We weren’t sure what to do with it so we let it go. Maybe we’ll try to cook the next one! We saw a lot of sea life near the islands. When we passed Isla San Martin and Cedros Island we were greeted by dolphins, seals, dozens of pelicans, and one whale.
The winter nights are long at sea but we are finding new ways to keep ourselves occupied and awake while the other person sleeps. We strangely look forward to our Cup o’Noodles dinners together after dark.
It is also fun to look in to the sea and see the bioluminescence caused by our boats wake at night. It looks as if someone has thrown glow-in-the-dark confetti in the water and some patches are so bright that they look like mini underwater fireworks.
The first night was beautiful and clear, the second night was cloudy, and the third night was cloudy, rainy at first and then clear. We even saw a lightening storm which lasted for several hours but luckily it was over land and far away from us. We never heard any thunder.
We slept for 13 hours last night with an alarm going off every hour to check on the anchor. We finally feel rested again! We leave today in a couple hours for our next passage of 243 miles to Magdalena Bay. We will get there in two days unless we decide to stop at another anchorage on the way.
Limited internet here so sorry, no pictures* until we get to San Jose del Cabo.
Hope all is well!
The travelling french boat circus performs in Sausalito
Back in the days when we lived at a Sausalito boat yard to complete our boat Refit we took a work break to watch a travelling boat circus act that performed literally in front of us. They were working for donations as they worked their way down the CA coast, the MX coast, and beyond. We thought nothing of the family at the time.
Strangely we saw them again when we were trying to leave the Bay Area (for the first time) at the South Harbor Marina in San Francisco.
And again in our final days in San Diego at a nearby marina on Harbor Island. It feels as if every time they appear they are silently telling us “it is time for you to go.”
So we went to Ensenada. Within a day their yellow boat with the French flag appeared in the anchorage. “We have caught up with you again. Shouldn’t you be further along by now?” They were silently mocking us, this we could be sure of.
Nick, a sailing friend, suggests they are stalking us. But of course! This makes perfect sense! We have international stalkers. French international circus stalkers. With two small children on board.
So we tried to leave Ensenada. We tried to leave the same day as everyone else we had met. The day after the rains cleared on Wednesday, December 14th. But it was not to be. Conor had a nasty cold that kept him in bed for several days. I ventured out in the rain to a nearby Farmacia to find medication and brought back a couple of options. Of course we googled the active ingredients to make sure that I had not accidentally ordered Ambien or Lipitor with my rudimentary Spanish. We found that one of the active ingredients not only works to suppress a cough, it also can help you get pregnant! Fancy that. Maybe I did order the wrong medicine.
So as my dear husband recuperated I was able to get a Banda Ancha*, carry a 5 gallon bottle of water back to the boat, find suave Kleenex, have 5 gallons of diesel delivered to the boat, get money changed at a local bank, and bring back fresh made tortillas. I know, I know. I am a fabulous wife!
Of course Conor more than made up for it. He started feeling better today so he fixed the leak in the pump for our head and he worked on an engine oil leak and new/old air leak in the fuel lines. To celebrate we finished the night with pizza and beer. We LOVE pizza. And coincidentally, Ensenada loves pizza too.
Tomorrow we wash and wax the boat and do laundry. Saturday morning we leave. Well, we intend to leave on Saturday. We are thinking of making it a 4 day passage partially because it may be fun to experience a 4 day passage and partially because we are ready to be further south and in warmer waters. Besides, we have to escape the French boat.
*The Banda Ancha is a 3G internet device that you plug in to your computer’s USB port. It cost about 600 pesos from Telcel and the first month is free. After that it is just $500 pesos per month for 3 gigs and there is no contract. $500 pesos is less than $40 per month. It comes with a SIM card that we can also put in a phone. Once we get to the mainland we will either buy a flip phone or unlock one of our phones and use the SIM card.
December 11th. pm
Once you pass the 5 block migratory cruise ship pathways full of Papa’s & Beer type bars, overpriced retail stores and dozens of pharmacies luring Americans in with over-the-counter Viagra discounts, Ensenada becomes a more interesting town.
Tortillerias, Panaderias, and Grocery stores interest us to come in a take a look. One grocery store sells cockatoos, guinea pigs, and ducks right next to the 5 gallon water jugs. Another sells bulk items. And I mean bulk! One gallon of hot sauce anyone? What about a 10 gallon pot?
On the street vendors sell their fare. You can find leather goods, trinkets, bags of cheese puffs, candy, hot corn on the cob, tomales, and fresh-baked cookies.
Mariachi Band members are on almost on every corner (do they have turfs?) stopping for a couple of tacos before they start a long and cold evening of selling songs to those who will pay a handful of pesos for a song.
Everyone is trying to make an honest buck and I admire them for it.
For many cruisers headed south this is their first stop in Mexico and a very different place to cruise. They like their music loud in Mexico. Very loud. At night a disco in the marina plays music outside the club as loud as they play the music inside. You can hear the techno music from inside the boat until the wee hours of the morning. Cruise ships come in to port three times a week and on these days it is hard to walk down the street without being yelled at to purchase anything from a taco to a hat. Or even a Monster Energy Drink horse-drawn carriage.
We are just in the beginning of our exploration stage in Mexico. What next? Maybe I’ll go to the fish market tomorrow and try to figure out how to cook it on the boat. It is supposed to rain so why wouldn’t I close the boat up and cook something stinky?! Maybe we will try a new restaurant off the beaten path. Or walk in the rain and find new hidden gems. Both of us are thankful for every day we experience in our adventure.
Sunday Dec 11th. am
So we stayed put because there were swells coming from the south that were forecasted to be 24 feet… then 18 feet… And now it looks like the southerly swells changed their minds and decided not to come. So we are currently looking at a forecast of rain and southerly wind for Monday and Tuesday.
After reading the blogs of other cruiser friends we have made who are a couple weeks ahead of us, I am really pining for warm waters and was a bit cranky about being in Ensenada.
Boo hoo it is going to rain.
Boo hoo the wind is coming from the ‘wrong’ direction.
Don’t worry, I got over my silly pity party pretty quickly. If my largest complaint in life is that it is going to rain and the wind is coming from the ‘wrong’ direction in the next two days, I am doing ok!
Today we are going to go on a tasting adventure and try out a panaderia, tortilleria, cookies made in the street, and anything else that is adventurous… but not too adventurous to taste! We might try to catch a football game if we can find it broadcasted somewhere. We sat at a bar for 3 hours last night to watch the UFC fights and only paid $14.00 for all of our beers! Although I think they may have served us beer flavored water…
At 2:30am on the morning of Thursday, December 8 we slipped away from the dock at Southwestern Yacht Club under a blanket of stars and a nearly full moon. The moon was so bright in fact that we could see our own shadows. So long, San Diego.
After 12 hours of motoring (again no wind!!), watching the moonset, sunrise, whales, dolphins, seals, plenty of birds, and wearing a lot less clothes (don’t get excited, we were both wearing so many layers that we would have easily won at strip poker even as the worst players at the table), we made it in to Baja Naval Marina in Ensenada.
The harbor is much shallower than we are accustomed to, but we got in just fine. We called Rogelio on channel 77 and he sent someone down to help us tie up and show us to the office. Unfortunately we could not properly clear in to Mexico as the officials are only available from 9am-2:30am. No problem, we’re told. Check in Friday.
So off we went. Tired from our journey and curious of our surroundings. We eventually stumbled in to a restaurant. Well, I think it was a restaurant. There were tables set up outside but I’m not convinced that we weren’t sitting in an alley. It was a glorified street taco stand. We sat amongst huge goblets of salsa that completely surrounded us. We weren’t quite sure where to start. $1 tacos, $2 beers, and a churro later and we stumbled back to our boat satisfied. Yeah, we’re in Mexico!!! We settled in for a movie on the boat at 5:30 and were in bed by 9pm.Gosh, we are boring.
What is our next move? Well as a fellow cruiser stated, “we no longer have plans, only intentions.” So we intend to make our next stop at Turtle Bay which is about 68 hours away. There is a nasty front moving along the Baja coast so our next decision is to leave Ensenada as quickly as possible before the front passes through or to wait for the front to pass in Ensenada and then make our way down.
A good piece of news, the anchor light DOES work. Hallelujia! And we repurposed a solar light gifted to us by Karen and Joost as our steaming light. Thanks again, guys!
Ok San Diego, we get it. Loud and clear. It is time to move on. The Christmas lights are hung at the marina, Christmas music can be heard from the restaurant upstairs and it is cold. Really, really cold. It is as if a cold front is physically sweeping us out with a broom. Get! Get!
So off we go. We have done so much provisioning that we may accidentally sink out boat in the slip. We provisioned with plenty of food. We had to find a place to stash 60 beers. Hopefully we find them all over the next year! We provisioned with plenty of spares, 8 gallons of engine oil (which costs twice as much in Mexico) and 260+ feet of anchor chain! We provisioned with fishing gear- pole, fancy hooks, spear gun, trolling line, net, how to books. We even provisioned with fun water gear- surfboard, wet suits, kayak, snorkel gear. And we now have more clothes on the boat than we know what to do with. We are ready!
The first stop will be Ensenada where we will probably get a Mexican cell phone, an internet card, and a little sleep before we skedaddle down the Baja coast with a couple stops in small anchorages along the way. Our next big town stop will be San Jose del Cabo which is about 20 miles south of Cabo San Lucas. By the time we get to Cabo we will be sailing in T-shirts and shorts. Bring it!
We should (if it is working) have internet in Ensenada so we’ll be able to post one more time but then probably won’t have internet again until we get down to Cabo. The weather looks fantastic for sailing this week. Check out www.passageweather.com for a look.
We are hoping to leave on December 5th which, coincidentally is the same day my little sister is also leaving San Diego to travel through South America for 3 1/2 months. You can read about her travels at shvhiker.blogspot.com. Safe, happy, and fun travels Sabrina!