Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cabo San Lucas to La Paz

With Scott departing the crew in Cabo San Lucas, that left Kathie and I to continue the cruise. After anchoring out overnight off the east beaches of Cabo San Lucas, we got an early morning start on our first leg to La Paz. Since we didn't have to follow a schedule, the plan was to break the trip up into day sails since there were obvious anchoring spots along the way to our destination. The first leg consisted of a 38nm sail to Las Frailes (the Friars), a small bay protected against the north winds of the Gulf.

Las Frailes was named by the Spanish for the cliff rock formations that resemble Friars climbing stairs out of the Sea of Cortez. We anchored less than 30 yards off shore of the rocky headland later to discover that we chose a spot farther east than what was described in Pat Rains Baja Cruising Guide. The consequence was that we anchored in a boulder field and had to dive on the anchor in about thirty feet of water to determine how best to unwind the rode from the boulders the morning we were ready to depart.

The moonrise over Las Frailes was haunting. The lone tree on the rocky escarpment was framed by the rising full moon. The moon light shimmered on the waters surface, rising and falling with each gentle swell and wind ripple. This is a beautiful anchorage that we shared with about thirty other boats with ample room to spare for double that number.

We spent two days anchored in Las Frailes and after unwinding our now chaffed anchor rode from around the boulder field, we hoisted anchor and began our sail northward to Bahia Los Muertos, 47nm to the north-west. We started this leg by motor sailing the first several hours and then, due to transmission glitches, ended up sailing. Our progress to the northwest was slower under sail and much longer since the wind was on the nose.

By nightfall, the wind had diminished considerably, further slowing our progress to our goal. By 05:30 the following morning, we enjoyed a glorious sunrise which was only equaled by our joy of entering Bahia Los Muertos, ending a longer sail than expected.We were both extremely tired but glad to be able to finally anchor and rest in this snug sandy harbor. The good news is our anchoring team work is beginning to improve and we're gaining confidence in the holding ability of our ground tackle.

Had anyone seen us when we arrive at Los Muertos, they would have been surprised to find that we only spent one night recuperating before setting out again for La Paz.

After napping much of the morning, swimming in the late afternoon and enjoying a peaceful nights sleep at anchor, we were ready to push on towards La Paz the following morning.

The final 55nm sail to La Paz couldn't have been much better. Leaving the shelter of Bahia Los Muertos and entering Cerralvo Channel the winds were light and from the south. We motor sailed for the first several hours to keep our boat speed up to 6 knots to insure reaching La Paz during daylight hours. By early afternoon, the wind had increased enough to maintain our speed reaching off under sail alone..We enjoyed warm clear sky's with the temperature up into the high 80's. The wind waves didn't exceed six inches and the sailing was a treat. The whole coast of Baja was covered in a hint of green suggesting the recent hurricanes, while passing to the north, had managed to bring precipitation down as far as Los Muertos north to La Paz.

When we reached the entrance to the San Lorenzo Channel, the wind increased in velocity and we changed to a closer reach. The boat was happy to boom along at 7.5 to 8 knots. Rounding the buoys marking the shoals at San Lorenzo the course to La Paz became a down wind run. To simplify our sailing and minimize an accidental jibe, it was decided to roll up the jib and sail under main alone. Struggling to roll in the jib as it luffed and filled, we cranked up the engine and headed up wind until we had the jib rolled up. Once the jib was secured, we headed back down wind under main and engine toward Bahia de La Paz.

Kathie and I were both struck by the realization that after years of traveling to La Paz overland and dreaming of how it would be to have our own boat here, we were actually in view of the Magote and a view of the city ahead from the cockpit of our boat. Passing Pinchilingue and the Pemex refinery, I was so excited that I ignored the charts and was late in recognizing the marked channel into the bay. Overhearing two boats on channel 16 discussing the coming fate of the white hulled sailboat on the other side of the shoals from the channel caught my attention and allowed me to finally see a red buoy about a half a mile to my left (oops, red, right, returning)! I changed course towards the buoy only to hear the radio exchange mention that now that boat was heading straight for the shoal. A quick reassessment of the channel markers made me aware that I had sailed past the first three buoys and, indeed, was now heading towards the shoals. With 60 feet still showing on the fathometer, I changed course (both to my relief and the relief of the two boats on channel 16) and made my way back to the start of the channel entrance to the bay.

Progress towards Marina de La Paz on the west end of the Malecon was slow due to the ebbing tide. At 2700 rpm Citla was making about 4.8 knots over the ground. In the absence of current, that engine speed would be pushing us along close to 6.8 knots. The good news was that the transmission had worked flawlessly since leaving Los Muertos. The other advantage of working against the tide was that it gave us more time to pick up the bouys as we made our way up the unfamiliar channel. By 17:15we had docked at our boat in slip 132 in Marina de La Paz. We shared the same dock as Tumbleweed our 1982 Cal 39 sister ship who made their way down from Washington on the Baha-ha-ha.


Anonymous said...

You were one lucky son of a bitch! A few seconds more and you would have been sunk on the rocks and then would be flying back to the rat race that the rest of us live in each day.
Mr. Best

Anonymous said...

Mr. Best is feeling his oats as he has now rejoined the work force while the rest of the country is auditioning for a spot in the "Grapes of Wrath" 2008 sequel.

Mr. Cook