Not Your Normal Jump
Punta Mangles is not the normal “jumping off point” for a crossing to San Carlos. The direction from here to there is due north - we’d be heading right into the prevailing wind and waves. If you saw the video from my last post of us bashing into short-period waves, imagine doing that for 24-hours straight. NOT fun. So, most people cross the sea from farther north to get a better angle and a better likelihood of sailing instead of motoring. But, you STILL have to travel 60 miles north-northwest along the coast just to GET far north enough to cross at that better angle. It would take us two days to travel those 60 miles further (one short day, one long), then we’d cross the sea in a 75-mile overnighter just like last year; as opposed to a 100-mile single shot from Punta Mangles…less miles and days spent overall, but more potential of being caught in unpredictable seas during this longer passage.
In the end, a decent enough weather window overrides everything. Our angle to destination would probably require motoring the entire 100 miles (Brian HATES motoring). Despite this fact…I’m just going to go on record…Brian was the one to suggest this strategy! Once we made the decision, we switched our angle and headed across the sea to San Carlos, 100 miles away.
To date, we have completed 8 “passages” - this will be the 9th. A passage, in my mind anyway, is anything that involves sailing/motoring continuously for one or more complete overnights...dusk ‘til dawn. Including our initial Baja Ha Ha rally from San Diego to Cabo, over the past two seasons we have completed the following passages: 3 straight nights at sea, 2 nights, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2 and 2. An overnighter is no longer this scary monster requiring self-induced panic a week in advance. This time, I easily switched my mindset from anchoring in a few hours to an all-night crossing and I was OK with it…pretty good (for me).
Prepping Dinner in the Morning
As soon as we angled away from land, I went below to make dinner… in the morning! I happened to have leftover cooked quinoa… so I cut up some veges and cheese (of course), threw in a tuna packet, mixed a salad dressing and threw it back in the fridge. Anxious about a repeat of yesterday’s severely choppy, mid-morning bash, I felt the need to prepare dinner now, during morning’s flat water. It paid off later… big time.
Standard Sea Lunch
The crossing started out fine, but late morning again brought increasing wind and waves. Not quite as bad as the day prior at 20+knots, the reduced 15-17 knots sustained rather uncomfortable seas for much of the day until well after sunset. The sea state was bouncy enough that going below to fix lunch was not high on my to-do list. So I reverted to our “standard salami sea lunch”.
In the gallery beneath this post is a photo of our typical “I don’t want to go below” lunch…pre-sliced, pre-packaged salami (easily obtainable at any Mexican grocery store), cheese (duh) and Saltines (you can find them everywhere in Mexico, it HAS to be this country’s official cracker). Maybe I add an apple or some carrots and peanut butter, if you’re lucky. This is my go-to lunch when we don’t feel like eating much and, more importantly, when I don’t want to be downstairs preparing food in a jolting galley.
I can quickly grab my cracker bin, haul the salami package and a cheese wheel out of the fridge (pre-positioned and easy to access), add a knife (with blade sleeve) and cutting mat, and bring it all in the cockpit in just a couple minutes. Right there on the seat, I leisurely slice & dice, using the cutting mat as our plate. We eat this lunch so often (I don’t think it’s THAT often) that Brian has declared we are not allowed to eat Saltines or salami in the RV for the entire summer. Booo. He can’t ban cheese though…he knows better.
After our tuna-quinoa dinner at sunset, the seas calmed considerably, eventually smoothing out to a sheen during the night. Whew! Flat seas always evoke a great sigh of relief. While we had no moon by which to steer, millions of diamond-stars glittered in the dark sky. It took me a while to realize that the massive transparent cloud looming overhead was actually the Milky Way. What a beautiful sight!
A moonless passage in the Sea allows for an unparalleled view of the night sky. Other than a barely-perceptible glow from Guaymas and one other town, there is zero light pollution. Gliding along, we literally witness the circulation of the earth and the passage of time as one constellation dips below the horizon and another pops to the surface. The weather in the Sea of Cortez is usually so crystal clear that I’m often perplexed when a new, bright star comes into view at the horizon line: is it a star or a ship? I keep an eye on it to make sure it continually rises higher, not brighter/closer. Of course…there’s a cool app for that too. Sky Guide
Mysterious Sea Creatures
OK, so I am on watch at around 3am, Brian is sleeping below. It’s flat calm and completely dark except for the glowing stars overhead. Suddenly, I see a huge shape stream UNDER the boat. Yes, UNDER. How can I see said shape, it’s pitch black out? (Brian: Yeah, you’re blind as a bat, you see bugs and spiders and all sorts of things that aren’t there due to your eye-floaters, no WAY you saw anything in the water.)
Well, I wasn’t sure I did either. It appeared as a gigantic blob of faintly illuminated smoke streaming fast perpendicular under the boat. A lighter blue/black just discernible enough amid the murky water but nothing broke the surface. It must be a phosphorescence trail of something, but what? I neither saw nor heard dolphins swimming nearby, plus it was way too big for that. The shadow was as long as our 34ft boat, but only about half as wide, maybe 5ft. The first thing I thought of was a cloud of pee, ‘cause, well, that’s what it looked like! Did a whale emit this as it swum beneath us? I know I’m stretching. It would have dissipated and hung around, plus there was no smell (I assume it smells?). Maybe a tightly packed school of fish streaming phosphorescence? But it was so uniform in shade, it had to be one object. Maybe it was a small whale?
I waited and kept looking and looking…and it happened again, this time running parallel to the boat! So happy it was NOT my imagination! But now I am paranoid and alert and standing up on the seat leaning against the dodger to get a higher view of the surface. I saw these sea monsters a couple more times and finally slowed the boat slightly, afraid I’d run into whatever they were. A little bit later, Brian came up on deck and I reported my sighting. Totally did not believe me! I went below to take a nap and he saw nothing during his watch. Of COURSE!
“Once again we have defied death and made it to safe harbor” – Michael :)
Well, we didn’t hit any whales… I never figured out what those watery ghosts were… we didn’t have to bash into choppy waves the entire way… and we even got to sail for about 3 hours in the wee morning hours. I’d call that a successful passage!
As the sun rose, Indigo pulled into an anchorage just 6 miles north of the marina and all of us quickly fell asleep. After our nap, we took the kayak to an early lunch at Bonifacio’s on the beautiful sandy beach of Playa Algodones to celebrate our victory. The next morning, we headed into Marina San Carlos to begin the tedious process of getting the boat ready to leave on the hard for the summer. The fun’s over…now the work begins!