Thursday, Dec. 3rd at 1:30pm we left the “relative” security of our mooring in PE and headed south. Enough of this wind. We just want some peace. And I’d like to be able to go to shore already! Tired of waiting for consecutive northers, we were willing to go all night. Yes, you heard that right.
But to get to the peace of La Paz we had to roll through some punches. Just outside the harbor, the 4-5ft waves snuck up upon us. I was below cutting vegetables for a couscous salad for dinner when it started. Suddenly the boat heeled over… sharply. Veges started rolling everywhere, dishes and utensils slid towards me attempting their escape. I wedged myself into the tilted galley trying to put my hands and elbows on anything that moved and finished as fast as I could manage. “Cut that out!” I told Brian, like it was his fault.
The 2-Second Cortez Roll
In a 15-18kt healthy breeze we flew down almost-buffaloes at 6kts for about 3 hours. Of course tacking southeast out to sea we were at that perfectly uncomfortable angle… almost beam-on to the large waves. Each second knocked us sideways on a 15 degree angle. I literally could count: “One-ee-and-ah”…whop… the mainsail would shake, rattle and roll, and the jib would luff violently and lose power. ”Two-ee-and-ah”…whop…the mainsail slammed to the other side. It’s a wonder we could still sail so fast. Lashing off a preventer line from the boom to one side of the boat helped control the banging, mostly. Anything we neglected to securely fasten certainly was flying around downstairs - but we weren’t about to go get it.
I Think We're Alone Now
As the sun set beyond the mountains, our wind died. We began motoring in the pitch black along the equally blank coast; not a single light to be seen on shore. It’s a testament to just how far we are from civilization.
Another First: Anchoring in the Black
Our original plan was to travel all night just to put on miles. But after surfing down waves much of the night, we opted to stop in Timbabiche to get a few hours of sleep. Why? Well, no one (guess who) wants me tired and cranky. I wasn’t (yet).
Anchoring in the dark is tricky. Although our chartplotter seems pretty accurate, one reef in San Juanico wasn’t charted. Had we not seen the swell breaking over it at dusk, we may have run it over in the dark. (Our secondary chart system did portray the reef.) It’s also very difficult to judge spacing between boats using just that tiny light at the mast tip. Moving amongst multiple boats in a narrow anchorage would be dreadful. Then there’s sudden shallow water ripe for keel-raking, fishing buoys & homemade mooring balls lurking to snag propellers, unlit pangas out for a midnight troll…all hazards you can’t see ‘til it’s too late.
But we had anchored in Timbabiche once before, so we were sure of our surroundings. Our previous anchor point was already sited on the chartplotter. I knew not to go north towards the rocky point or much inland of that spot to keep us in about 16 ft of water. Farther south was all sand and wide open. It’s the only anchorage along our route that we decided we’d feel comfortable driving around in at night.
So for the first time ever, we anchored at 10:30pm under starlight alone. We only had to avoid two other boats. It figures… they were parked right on top of my old anchor point. Had there been 12 other vessels, we may have waived off. We turned our bright spreader lights on so Brian could work the anchor and I could see his hand signals. Thankfully… no drama. In fact, it went quite swimmingly. Whew! We downed my pre-made couscous salad for dinner and fell into bed, exhausted but happy with our new accomplishment.
On the Road Again
It would be a long, 57 mile day to Isla Ispiritu Santos. Today was destined to be the best weather day of the week at 9-11kts. We needed to arrive before sundown. In order to do so, we had to get on the road before 6am, just before the sun rose. This was the third time we’ve pulled up anchor in the dark; it’s much easier than setting. Mind you, those other 2 boats were far enough away that we weren’t nervous about colliding. Plus it wasn’t windy. So we had the best scenario possible.
It took half the day to motor down the benign San Jose Channel in light 4-5kt winds. As we approached Isla San Francisco, its silky serene waters called to me. Darn it, if only we could pull into its alluring cove and stay awhile. But coming out of the lee of both San Jose and San Francisco islands, the 4ft waves from last night popped up once again. Our peaceful evening did little to abate their force through the night and we were hit with the same rocking, rollicking swell. But by this time, we had enough wind to sail…a pleasant 9kts. We took advantage and the boat sailed wonderfully across confused seas to Ispiritu Santos.
We arrived at Ensenada Gallina, dropping anchor just as the sun disappeared. We would NOT have tried going into this place at night; rocks littered the sea floor. We could see them so clearly, even at dusk and where our depth sounder said 12ft…it looked like 4. Yikes! Right full rudder!
Last Day – Dec 5th
Saturday, we again raised anchor in the dark in order to get into our slip at Marina Palmira before the big winds started. Our early departure allowed a spectacular viewing of the sunrise over the San Lorenzo Channel.
Suddenly, the Baja Ferry appeared on our hind quarter. On a course through the channel, he was heading for La Paz, yet angled significantly away. Then our AIS alarm went off - he changed course and was headed right for us! It’s not a great feeling to have a big ship bearing down on your rear end at 20 miles per hour. Our AIS told us he would pass us on our right at about a 1/4 mile. Still too close. So I steered towards land to allow more distance. I added a photo of the radar in the slideshow below. We are the tiny dot in the center. Land is represented by all the red blobs angling to the upper left and top of the screen. The ship is that huge red blob just to our bottom left. It’s nice to see exactly where he is relative to our location.
Instead of going to Marina Costa Baja, we thought we’d try Marina Palmira. Motoring down the La Paz channel, we called in for our slip number. But as we pulled near, there’s a boat in our slip! And the one next door was occupied with a floating construction derrick in the midst of replacing a piling. Frickin’ eh. Now what?
Turning away, we hurriedly hail the marina - she has us go to a different slip. Good thing there are wide fairways here in which to turn around. Slip numbers are located at the end of the pier and again on the dock box. We see the box number first and head towards it. But just outside the slip, we realize the number on the dock is different from its box; the darn dock boxes are switched! We are heading to the wrong slip! Son of a…
So we make yet another turn, performing a full figure 8 and make our way to the other side. The Mexican fuel dock workers, along with all the cruiser bystanders, attentively watch us do silly circles. Glad we could be the entertainment highlight of their day.
Luckily, the spot we are heading towards is a 60ft slip near the end of the pier. It’s so long you could darn near fit another Indigo in back of us. Docking was a piece of cake. Except we aren’t meant to stay long… once the piling on the other dock is finished, we lose our comfy couch and are relegated to slumming-it with the smaller boats.
Ahhh. What a good feeling to finally arrive in La Paz. It felt like coming home. We are happy to be here, if only for a couple weeks. We look forward to the excellent grocery stores (abundant cheeses to choose, plus I can actually find pickle relish and fresh ground coffee), organic market (can’t wait for tasty treats from Lolita’s pie man and bread from Pan de Les), and awesome restaurants (Marina Azul, here I come). I welcome a hot shower, the ability to do laundry in a real washing machine and cleaning my boat from salt build-up. Plus, I can use as much electricity and water as I want! (Brian can’t say I have to wait ‘til tomorrow to charge my dying ipad.) Once again tethered to land after 28 days, our weather worries are, for a change, non-existent. Peace.