March 5, 2007 -
On our way to the Police Docks At Shelter Island in San Diego.
Our plan is to go straight to La Paz. If weather doesn't cooperate, we'll check in at Ensenada and harbor hop down the Baja peninsula. The projects were a success, the wind generator works very well and the wash down pump is installed and ready to clean muddy anchor chain or the deck when needed. This will be our last update until we have a chance to use an internet cafe in MX. We will send ham radio emails when possible.
We departed the San Diego police docks on the morning of Saturday, March 10th. After emptying the holding tank and fuelling the diesel and propane tanks at Pearson's fuel dock, we passed back by the harbor police docks at 11:30 am. At approx 2pm we cleared Point Loma and followed the buoys to sea. It was a wonderful sail for the first four hours. Then the wind died and we motored for the next 46 hours. The seas have been dead calm and glassy, 4-6ft swells and the only wind is the apparent wind created by our forward progress.
The first night out, Adrian and I felt pretty lousy. Jamie was fine, of course. Most of Sunday was spent sleeping except during watches while our bodies adjusted to the motion and the interrupted sleep. Sunday night was quiet. We had the main sail up from 4am for about 3 hours and added a knot of speed to our progress, for a grand total of 6 kts. But, all good things end, and it had to come back down when the wind died again.
Monday was bath day. Woo hoo! It is mid 70's and the water has changed from steely blue-grey to a soft sapphire blue. We had a grand lunch of fried potatoes and spam!! Everyone has their appetites back and energy, too.
On our approach to Cedros Island Monday afternoon, a huge wall of fog rolled in and we spent the next 13 hours navigating by radar and gps. In other words, totally blind. It was a bit tense, we "threaded the needle" between Isla Natividad and Point Eugenia via Canal de Dewey. It's 4 miles wide and you need to keep 2 miles off the island due to shoals, but all our systems were working fine and we were able to see obstructions and fishing boats on the radar.
We put in at Turtle Bay at 6am on Tuesday, March 13th and a panga brought 100liters of diesel out to us, so there was no need to dock or anchor. Cost: $62.00 or approx 660 pesos. We departed immediately and continued south.
Adrian spotted whales playing in the caves south of Turtle Bay. We saw flukes and blow spray. We had an awesome breakfast of lamb, rice and peas, spiced and stewed to perfection. We tend to eat big breakfasts and light lunches and dinners when at sea. I think the terrible hunger in the morning is a result of night watches.
About 20 miles from Bahia Magdalena (Mag Bay to gringos) we were all a bit crabby. Day 5 at sea has proven a bit tedious. Lack of sleep and the endless irritating drone of the engine is a bit much. We have had the head sail up for most of the last 24 hours, adding only one knot to our speed over ground. We are all hoping for enough wind to sail this boat sometime before we get to La Paz! Adrian made his first watch alone at night last night. He was on deck (strapped in with life jacket and tether) from midnight until 1:15am. It was clear, starry and I had only seen one boat in the previous 4 hours. He's pretty proud of himself, he did a great job.
The next morning around 6am we were surrounded by a huge pod of dolphins. Grayish black backs and white bellies. They played in the bow wake and around the boat for about a half hour. Adrian and I had so much fun watching that we forgot to get pictures. Jamie had only been off watch for about an hour and opted to stay snug in his berth. After the last person goes off morning watch, Adrian usually takes over until lunch while we clean up, and do things like email and weather downloads, and naps, of course. The good ship Flying Cloud has surprised us with nearly flawless systems. I guess mild weather helped break us in easy.
Midday, Wednesday, we finally got a steady westerly 15 knot breeze (which means the wind was FROM the west). We put up all sails and made really great time (6.5-7kts) until about 10pm. We reduced sail to the genoa (a large head sail at the front of the boat) and headed back towards land. We decided to make an official stop at Bahia Magdalena. It is about 160 miles NW of Cabo San Lucas and is as big as San Francisco Bay. It is a primary rest stop on the Baja California Coast for both North and Southbound boats.
We cleared the entrance at 10am on Thursday, March 15th and motor/sailed until 1pm to get to a northern Puerto San Carlos to finally clear into the country (remember, we haven't officially entered Mexico, yet). The problem was, when we arrived the wind was really blowing like crazy and there is nowhere to safely anchor the boat and not be on a lee shore. And the shoals were massive.
We got the dinghy ready and had just enough time to clean up and go to a pot-luck on Sweetie with Shannon and Tom and other cruisers in the bay. We played a hilarious card game called apples to apples, even Adrian played. We awoke this morning to discover the dinghy had chafed through it's painter and disappeared. I spoke with a young man operating a panga and he notified the fishermen. Within a few hours it was landed at the beach and we gladly gave a small reward for its return. We still had our outboard and the inflatable dinghy on deck, so our loss would not have been crippling, but the port-a-boat is very lightweight and easy to row or sail. It was a bit sickening to think that we had been so careless, part of the fault being sheer lack of sleep. We normally always hoist the dinghy on deck for the night to prevent theft or loss. For all intents and purposes it was an easy lesson learned.
Now we are well-rested and relaxing on the boat. We are having the time of our lives and are thrilled that we skipped Ensenada, our "black hole" when it came cruising south. We are running low on fresh fruits and vegetables, which we ate in huge portions at sea. I know now to provision about 3x my original quantities of oranges and carrots, fresh juice, etc.
On Sunday, we rowed to shore with our trash and laundry. We got rid of both and went for a long beach/mountain walk and stopped at the only restaurant for lunch. We shared a plate of fried shrimp which we ate in tortillas with refried beans and salsa. The portions were huge. Also, one of the whale tour guides had bought shrimp for his tour group and brought them to the restaurant to be cooked. They shared what was left with us. Delicious. We rowed about a mile to the tidal flats on the north side of the shore and walked a couple miles over the sand dunes to the pacific side of the peninsula. We watched two panga fisherman return with their catch and caught a ride back to our dinghy. We tried to buy lobster from them, they had massive 3-5lb lobster, but they couldn't reach the cooperativo (fishing cooperative) for a price, so they couldn't sell to us. I appreciated that they were honest and didn't cheat their employer. The cooperativo supports many families by pooling the catch of all the panga fishermen and sharing out profits. It's a good way to make the small panga catches work in big business. It would never work in the U.S. Competition would kill the cooperative concept before it ever took hold.
Monday morning, Jamie took out his tools and worked on making a lexan divider in the refrigerator to split the colder holding plate side from the rest. It turned out very nice. It might even act as a freezer if it works the way we hope. In afternoon we rowed into shore for laundry. Oh, the laundry, where we had the shock of our lives. They wanted $48 U.S. for having washed our clothes, some sheets and a rug. After some negotiation, we got it down to $45. We were just a bit bitter after that experience, discouraged by the blatant theivery of the situation. We did learn, however, to negotiate all transactions up front. We are wiser now. We spent the remainder of the day getting the boat ready for sea and grousing about the laundry.
On Tuesday Jamie rowed to shore to use the phone once again and to get our rug, which wasn't returned with the laundry. Upon his return, the port captain showed up and checked us in and out, but didn't have the tourist visa paperwork. He sold us some gasoline for the outboard and we gave him 4AA batteries. We were out of there by 11am and on our way to Cabo. We left with the tide and hit 8kts on our way out the mouth of Bahia Magdalena. We sailed for several hours, the winds were light and we used our drifter and mizzen until 8pm. We were getting gusts that required that we take the light headsail down. By the time we finished this little song and dance, the wind died altogether and we ended up motoring through the night.
At 1pm we could see land again and were also able to put up the genoa (massive head sail) to add a few knots of speed and raced around Cabo Falso and into Bahia Cabo San Lucas at 6.5kts. We dropped the headsail and had a bit of a nasty time anchoring. After 3 attempts at our first choice and no bite, we moved all the way to the south end of the sailboats and anchored in 22 feet of water off the beachfront. The anchor held first try here.
After a bit of cleaning up, we broke out a bottle of champagne given to us last year by Gary and Amy from A dock. We gave a bit to the sea gods and toasted our arrival. I guess you're a real cruiser if you make it to Cabo. And then we toasted a late wedding anniversary (March 19th - 8 years (Holy Crap!)). It was a rolly night of no winds or high winds. We didn't sleep well, but things are calm now. We've had baths and breakfast and the dinghy is ready for a shore adventure. We have to obtain our tourist visas, the rest of the paperwork is complete. Then, hopefully, it's beer and tacos and some fresh fruit and vegetables at the store.
We spent a couple days cleaning the boat and lounging around. Jamie had to work on the dinghy outboard. It was not inclined to start and the carbeurator needed some love. Needless to say, it took Jamie a long time to get it up to snuff, but then it ran great. We took the bus to a big grocery store and everyone came home with 3 bags in hand plus a full backpack. I'm glad to have so much help doing the shopping!
We sent the first of Adrian's homework packets to the US. It's pretty expensive to ship things from here. $13 for a small book and 8 school papers. I wonder how long it will take to get to San Diego??
We discovered a way to supplement the cruising kitty. By attending a time share presentation, you can get paid $200-300US for about 3 hours of brain numbing presentations. A lot of nodding of the head and listening to great number crunchers... it really sucks. Jamie thinks they're pretty funny. Where this plan fails is when you get sucked into a deal and spend far more than you could possibly "earn". When we're ready to discuss it, we'll tell you all about it...
We have been walking great distances daily (miles) inland to experience a little more realistic Cabo San Lucas. Getting away from vendors and hawkers and snooty marina millionaires and drunk spring breakers has been the general plan on these walks. We found an amazing pool hall, members only, but we were able to play on Carom tables (no pockets) for 30pesos/hr - yes, $3.00. Beer's $1-3 depending on your taste and soda's a dollar. We found a shop with great swimming trunks for adrian for $4 and peasant skirts for me for about $6. It's awesome. Anything you can think of can be found here. On the tourist side of Cabo, Marina slips go for $200+ per day and the beach hotels run $300+ per day. City hotels are much cheaper down to about $45 per day depending on what you're willing to put up with.
We've been doing lots of swimming. We went snorkeling yesterday near the arches. There were parrotfish, angelfish, boxfish, puffer fish, etc. It wasn't a huge exotic reef, but it was fun to see underwater wildlife. We get massive fish alongside the boat. We actually moved closer to the shore and reanchored a few days ago and dramatically reduced the distance of our commute.
Just to give you an idea, a dinghy commute goes as such: dress as nicely or as poorly as you wish, but wear good walking sandals. Get in dinghy: 3 seats, one in front, one in the middle, driver in back. Untie the dinghy painter and push off away from the boat. Middle guy ducks and leans forward or receives a good punch in the head or back by dinghy driver starting outboard. Ok, off we go. Splash, spray, smooth, splash, sprays, Watch out for the Wake! Oh f@*! my shirt and shorts are soaked and water is running down the back of my neck. Get to dinghy dock, shake off, clothes dry as you walk leaving bright white salt-water rings on your clothes. Repeat as many times as necessary to get to shore. It would be like someone throwing random 2 gallon buckets of water at the back of your head or down your front on a wet and choppy days. Smooth days, it's just like being in a car.
We're still having the time of our lives. We've established a pretty reasonable routine. Adrian does schoolwork early every morning while it's still cool. We clean up the boat and ourselves and then plan the days. More often than not, mornings are boat chores. Garbage and water runs tie in with going to shore, as do topping up gas for the ourboard. I have to say, at this point, the watermaker and the outboard have been the most time-consuming projects. I haven't quite worked up enough drive to do the sanding and varnishing that I see needs to be done. I'd like to enjoy my "vacation" a little longer.
We've met several cruisers here, some we knew, some are new. The main boat we hang out with is Petra, because Scotty and Katy have 12 year old Sarah on board and she and Adrian are getting along just great! They've made going to the beach and other events a blast. Of course, the kids are self-entertaining and the adults actually get to visit. Boat kids are awesome, they are so thrilled to have other kids around that they really go the extra mile to enjoy themselves together without the nonsense.
We'll probably leave here by week's end and make a slow trip to La Paz. It's only about 150 sea miles with some great anchorages for snorkelling the reefs along the way.
Tonight all we are worried about is finding a good pizza on shore....