December 16th, 2016-- Caleta Lobos, 10 nm north of La Paz
Listening to the main halyard softly vibrate while eating dinner is a welcome sound. After a windy couple of days sailing, the occasional light breeze through the anchorage is blissful. Two-hundred and twenty four miles due south from Algodones, the air is almost twenty degrees warmer and stagnant. An occasional bark of a sea lion on a nearby rock interrupt my peaceful, yet hot meal (both the food and the indoor cabin temperature).
We are sitting just ten nautical miles north of La Paz in a tiny bite called Caleta Lobos. Fond memories of bring Clif’s parents here and anchoring in the exact same spot three years ago. It’s been just over three years since we first motored into La Paz, early in the morning, calling into the Cruisers’ Net and announcing our arrival—via Juneau, Alaska. We haven’t been back to La Paz in the past three years, we’ve been busy (getting married and such).
Since my last post we’ve been busy. We got Sound Discovery in the water, brought her over to El Mero for a couple of days, just outside of Guaymas, said goodbye to the truck and tossed the dock lines…
|First jump into the water of the season!|
… with one small catch. A very brief sea trial to start. We cast of on Monday morning around 10:00am, motored about two miles out of the harbor and realized we were leaking a significant amount of diesel from one of the copper tubes delivering fuel to our engine. A minor problem at first turned into a major problem when Clif went to tighten the connection that was leaking and the pipe cracked—just split. Engine was cut. No wind. We were dead in the water two miles out of Guaymas, surrounding by three or four massive shrimp trawlers. Luckily, it was only 10:30… and luckily we had a running outboard and our own strong dinghy. We put our dinghy in the water, attached the outboard and tied the two boats together, proceeding to tow Sound Discovery (for the second time) under our own dinghy outboard power. Within an hour we were back, and Clif magically steered the sailboat into the exact same slip with just the dinghy motor at propulsion. No one on the dock apparently noticed our incredible feat, but I was in awe and so proud that we could take on the task ourselves.
The afternoon was spent retrieving the truck again, which we had prepared to leave in Gabriel’s yard, and then driving around to fix the broken tube. The quick fix: cutting it shorter. It worked! Clif was able to stretch the piece of copper tubing and make it work. The happy engine started up right away without any qualms.
|Sailing the entire crossing saved fuel but was tiring.|
ROUND TWO: Ate tacos. Put away truck (again). Walked to the boat. Drank several margaritas with all of our dock mates aboard Batwing, a famous Chinese junk-rig, in celebration of making our engine run, which resulted in a slight hangover the following morning. Left the dock at 8:00am, engine running smoothly and motored our way towards San Carlos for our “shakedown” before doing out cross. Arrived in Algodones Marina Real around 12:30 to full out diesel and water tanks. We had full plans of anchoring in Algodones or San Carlos for the night, but after a quick swim to the beach and back (our first swim of the season!) we decided to scoot across the sea. We had several friends that had also planned to make the passage the same night— sometimes these crossings happen in herds—so we joined.
We sailed our entire crossing. It was windy, but uneventful (compared to last year). Most of the night we saw between 15 and 20 knots of wind from the north north-west, and sailing quickly on a beam reach directly south (aiming 170-180 degrees south), for about twenty four hours, keeping a cool 5-7 knot hull speed. This spat us out just east of Isla Carmen and Loreto—where I was hoping to get some cell service, but wasn’t able to do so. Since the wind was still steady, we chose to sail our way further south to Agua Verde—where we anchored on Wednesday night, 28 hours after we began our passage. We woke up early the following morning and motor sailed our way to Isla San Francisco, 15nm north of Espiritu Santo.
(**Side Note-- This whole time we’ve been hearing on the VHF radio, through several nets and eavesdropping on conversations, that there will be a strong northern blowing in on Saturday-Sunday, and not letting up until next Wednesday, so we were rushing a tad).
A big long push for one thing… one thing on Baja that makes all of this pushing worth it: swimming with baby sea lions. We’ve been motivating to return back to Los Islotes, a little sanctuary of a sea lion rookery, since we came here three years back. Such an incredible experience to be in the water with these little guys! The mothers with slide into the water and hover a good distance off, while they’re young come and nip at your fins. The really curious ones will touch you with their fins, and they absolutely go bonkers when Clif and I dive down to meet them. One of the pups actually stole my snorkel off of my mask (which was already falling off slightly), and swam around with my snorkel for several minutes. I had to swim around the reef to find the culprit, and when I did, he gave it back as if he was in trouble! The swim was a welcome break to our long hours behind the wheel.
|Play time with the sealion pups...|
Unfortunately… what I DIDN’T know, while I was swimming with these cute little ones, was that my Delorme Tracking points and messages that I had sent the previous days had not appeared on the website. Which meant no communication with family and friends after our crossing. While the Mexican Navy was scanning the radio for any sound of our voice, we were bobbing up and down with sea lion pups.
I didn’t realize any of this until late this afternoon, when we were barely close enough to La Paz to get one bar of service and receive some frantic family texts. We immediately called the Capitania de Puerto via VHF, and informed him of our whereabouts and arrival to the La Paz Area, and were able to text our family back in response.
Outcome: Shit breaks. Technology doesn’t work sometimes. And there isn’t much cell service in Baja… as it is quite desolate. Our Delorme Tracker is not bomb proof, but we will have to clear up some problems with the company and figure out why the points and messages we were sending were coming through okay on our end, but not the other. Before we left for our trip down the coast, we had read that using Satellite trackers were helpful as an emergency tool—but created constant communication, which is great, but kind of like being plugged into a phone 24/7. It can cause more worry and frustration for those not on the boat. Clif didn’t want to have one when we started, but it was purchased reluctantly to stay in communication with family, particularly on the outside coast. Now it has finally gotten us into trouble with our parents! So we shall see how long that little device sticks around.
FYI. In the unfortunate emergency where our vessel actually needed assistance anywhere, this is a following plan:
- VHF radio on high power if we felt like we needed our presence known--- even before we needed assistance. Check in with anyone who can be reached or relay to the Coast Guard (Mexican Navy).
- VFH radio on high power for assistance when needed.
- Delorme system has an SOS status, which we would turn on (but obviously needs to be checked now.)
- In the case that our boat was sinking, we would send out a Mayday VHF call, turn on our EPIRB and leave it on, and inflate our life raft, as well and remove our dinghy outboard and oars. We also have a ditch kit with a second EPIRB (unlicensed, but still signals distress) and several hand-held VHFs.
We have a great little boat—she is strong, has lived a long sturdy life, has held up through some rough weather, and has a smart captain!
December 17th-- In La Paz and safely anchored...
As a a quick addition to my blog post, I wanted to let everyone know that we are happy and feeling very confident in the EMS system in Mexico. We were hailed on the VHF by the port captain this morning as we were sailing into the La Paz area. The port captain had Clif spell our names, describe our boat for a second time, and clear us into the La Paz. The Coast Guard in the states was able to inform my father that our EPIRB had NOT been activated, nor had we been transmitting any VHF distress signals-- so that was a little assurance.
Please take comfort in knowing that I am currently on my second margarita, sitting on the malecon in La Paz, and just got served a hamburger! SO I'm done typing. Leaving you with more sealion pup photos!
Much love. Giselle