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Sunday, April 17, 2016

April 17, 2016-Beating towards Baja

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Judy looks at Isla Cerralvo

It is morning, we're at sea, and the day is beautiful. The the sun’s warmth is welcoming after a cool, damp, and windy night, although I know it will feel hot soon, after all this is Mexico. But right now it feels good.

We are sailing towards Baja on a cruise into the Sea of Cortez. The wind is out of the NW and our course is also to the NW, so we are beating. First we took one long starboard tack to the west, out into the Pacific Ocean, and then an equally long tack on port, north toward the Baja peninsula and the Sea of Cortez. We could have short tacked up the middle, along the rumb line, but instead we chose to bang the left corner. Our weather analysis indicated a persistent right hand shift for the first two days and then a subsequent shift back to the left starting on the second night. We timed our tacks to take advantage of both shifts and were lucky that they worked out as planned. I wish we were racing; we’d have done well by hitting those two shifts.

The sailing has been great. It feels fantastic to be charging across a deep blue sea under clear blue skies, sails stark white in the brilliant sun, spray flying, and the wind vane steering while we just sit there watching the water flow by the sides of our hull and daydreaming about whatever we want. That is, other than the fact that we have been hard on the wind for two days in choppy sea conditions.
There have been 1 meter wind waves on top of a 1 meter ocean swell, making for lots of holes in the ocean and frequent steep 2 meter waves. The boat has been fast but it has been pitching and slamming and we’ve been thrown around quite a lot. Plenty of sea water has also been flung about, drenching anything not under cover. And we’ve dropped off some of those waves hard enough the make us think the bow of the boat is going to break right off if we take one more like that. It sounds like a fiberglass bathtub being dropped 10 feet onto a concrete parking lot. BANG! This kind of motion is tiring and it reminds us why we avoid passages these days. But Wings is fast and strong and safe in these conditions and we wonder how many other boats could do as well. Probably few sailors would want to.

During the worst of it, last night, we finally eased off a bit by depowering which relieved the motion at some sacrifice in speed towards the destination. It made sleep easier for the off watch.

The boat has performed well in these fresh conditions with a full main and a number four jib. Those are our Dacron working sails and both are quite new and look rather nice. With this sail combination we’ve been consistently hitting high sixes and we’ve been sailing very close to the wind. During the peak wind speeds last night we considered reefing but instead I depowered the main by dropping the traveler and putting on the flattening reef, which I have used only rarely in the past, and I also sheeted in the jib, flattening it too. This worked well, the main became flat as a board, as did the jib, to a lesser extent, and the boat depowered and slowed down. In this way I avoided putting in a reef in the main which is a bit of hard and wet work in the middle of a dark night.

Our predicted route (blue, with diamond way points), and the actual track (sort of purple)

One astonishing (at least to me) event was that on the crossing we hit exactly one waypoint we had placed some 194 miles west of Punta de Mita. We had set that waypoint in the OpenCPN for 1900 Saturday, where we expected to be based on the grib file assessment etc, and where we figured a wind shift would make it a good time to tack. After sailing 36 hours, all of it on the wind-vane, we arrived exactly at that spot exactly at 1900 Saturday. Our track looks like the track of a sidewinder missile tracking a target. Look at the image: the line with the blue diamonds is our predicted course, the squiggly line is our actual track. You can't zoom in on the image and see the detail but we hit that point exactly, couldn't have been closer in time or distance. Astonishing coincidence. Of course, the wind did shift as predicted and we tacked.

The boat is basically fine but... the toilet pump broke and dumped yucky water in the bilge and some got on one Persian carpet, the alternator controller decided to limit the output based on fictitious temperature settings, the SSB decided to go silent, the hydraulics decided to belch fluid and stop applying pressure to the backstay, a couple of windvane lines broke, and some other things happened, and we found out that we left quite a lot of important cruising stuff in the storage locker which we now miss. Also, we didn't eat for three days. But everything broken which is fixable is now fixed, mostly due to judicious and expert wire wiggling, and we are eating well.

Update:Monday Morning.
Now the wind has died completely, which was also in the forecast, and we’re motoring but we expect it to come back and we’ll have a bit more sailing before arriving in Los Muertos, on the Baja side, this morning.

We are in Los Muertos, in Baja California. We arrived yesterday morning. It's great to be back in the Baja after 20 years.

We've met good friends on three other boats who all just happened to sail in here and drop the hook right next to us. Brain Waves, Vela, and Gene Butler are each crewed by great sailors who just faced the same rough crossing we did. But they all sailed hard on the way and got here in excellent spirits and good shape and we had a lot to talk about. All of us all had our dingys disassembled and stowed for the crossing, which partially accounts for the good trip we all had, and is a sign of good seamanship in my opinion, and we had to negotiate who was going to rig up a dingy and ferry the rest of us in to shore for the ad-hoc party which we have planned. David and Grant from Gene Butler got it done and we all rode in their dingy, except the Vela crew who decided to rest up. They left on this morning and I think they got a smacking; we're seeing 26 knots at noon and it's bound to be more in the channel. We were supposed to take off today too, but at 0700 it was already blowing 18-19 knots and we decided to stay.

Our planned schedule, other than that one waypoint, is a bit messed up due to our three stay at Punta de Mita and our aborted departure from here this morning, but we will soldier on. Next stop, La Paz.

Update:Saturday, April 16
Now we're in Caleta Lobos, a delightful little cove just North of La Paz. The day is pretty with blue skies and bright sunshine but wind has been fresh and B'rrrr cold and we're glad to be tucked into this protected, place. It this Mexico? It's supposed to be hot.

I shouldn't skip over the sailing we've done in the last couple of days. After leaving Muertos we sailed up the Cerralvo Channel, which was another 35 mile beat, but it was a fantastic sail on a gorgeous day and we made excellent time, and anchored at Espiritu Santo Island that afternoon.

Caleta Lobos, at Sunset

After Espiritu Santo we visited La Paz, met up with more friends, bought groceries and made arrangements to take the ferry to Mazatlan later in the month. Wow! Busy. Now we've left La Paz again and we're back in the islands.

Life is good, even if it is a bit cool here.

Update: Later that day
Oops, four catamarans and two monohulls, all filled with "Women who Sail" just motored in and filled the anchorage. It's still pretty here, but it's a mite crowded.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, The Sea of Cortez

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