Sunday, November 9, 2008

San Diego to Cabo San Lucas on Baja-ha-ha XV

We're now members of a not too exclusive club of Baja-ha-ha veterans having sailed the fifteenth running of the cruising rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. In the span of eleven days, including two lay over days each, at Bahia de Tortugas and Bahia Santa Maria, the majority of the 140 boats that set out from San Diego made their way into Cabo San Lucas.
The hardier souls began this rally from points north and south of the starting point of San Diego. Ports all up and down the west coast, from British Columbia to La Paz, Mexico were represented. There were also entries that sailed in from New Zealand and Australia (well the boat from Australia was shipped to the west coast). A majority of the boats were successful in completing the entire race, but there were a few who, due to mechanical problems (hydraulic steering) or rig failures (dismasted at the start of leg 2 from Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria), had to withdraw. The first leg from San Diego to Bahia de Tortugas started off cold and foggy but with great off shore winds that blew through the night. We opted to ride the offshore breeze, booming along at speeds of 7 to 8 knots throughout the night. We flopped over to the onshore jibe just before sunrise at 92 nm offshore, hoping the inshore fleet had dying winds over night and hadn't made much progress to the finish. Unfortunately, around 10 a.m., the wind went to zero and we were obligated to take a motoring penalty to make our way back to land. The breeze picked up some towards the end of the third night bringing us to an unfamiliar landfall in the middle of an electrical storm with intermittent rain squalls. The remainder of the night was spent navigating to openings in the cloud cover to avoid the lighting strikes occurring all around our position. We tacked inshore at dawns first light to make our entrance to Tortuga bay in the early morning daylight. Two days were spent in Tortugas, including time for a beach party and a Halloween celebration with the kids of Tortugas. This is a town of 2,000 souls at the end of a 140 mile stretch of bad road in from the inhospitable Viscaino desert. Fishing and canning represent the major industries in this hard scrabble town. In addition to candy for the children, the fleet also brought in basic school supplies which are always appreciated.

Leg 2, from Bahia de Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria, began in benign conditions forcing the regatta to start from a 'rolling' start (e.g., motoring at no more than 6 knots until it was determined there was enough wind to sail). This leg was the next longest leg, requiring two overnight watches to make anchorage at Bahia Santa Maria.

The calm early morning conditions allowed for some fishing. Within minutes of setting a hand line from the stern we hooked a dorado. As soon as we brought the fish to the boat, it managed to shake the hook and swim away. Approximately 10 minutes later we hooked into a ten pound tuna. The next 45 minutes were spent filleting the catch and filling the remaining space in the refrigerator. The paucity of cold storage space ended our fishing for the day.

Light winds gave way to more blustery conditions by late afternoon. Winds picked up to between 15 and 25 knots and the seas grew in size as we left the inshore waters. The sailing was exciting and fast. As the Baja coast receded east, we picked up two distinct wave patterns running at 45 degrees to one another. The waves continued to build throughout the evening into night. What had been 4 to 5 foot waves had now built to 6 to 8 foot waves with occasional breaking crests. It made for very uncomfortable conditions requiring some agility to keep from being thrown around while dodging charts, books and laptops that managed to break loose and fly across the cabin. These conditions remained with us for the next two days until we were within 12 miles of the entrance of Bahia Santa Maria where the contours of the geography began to influence the size and direction of the waves. Entering the bay brought welcomed flat waters.

As with the stop at Bahia Tortugas, a beach party was organized with the people of Bahia Santa Maria. With the help of pangeros from nearby Lopez Mateo and a band in from La Paz, the small fishing village of Santa Maria prepared a fish and shrimp stew with rice and crackers to feed the Baja-ha-ha fleet. It was a very traditional fish camp meal that allowed the people to generate some needed cash flow. The bay is beautiful, large with good holding ground for the 100 plus boats that were visiting.

While some of the gringo's lost their way through the waves to the beach, the pangeros managed to navigate the small wavelets with ease.
Motor sailing along the west cape brought views of some spectacular houses perched on the cliffs. Rounding lands end brought the famous arch rocks into view, along with moored cruise ships and two of the old Kiwi 12 meters match racing with paying passengers.

We checked into Marina Cabo San Lucas late Thursday afternoon and spent a few hours recouperating from our journey. Immigration and the Port Captain's offices had closed for the day, so we planned to do the check-in shuffle on Friday. Due to the influx of boats from the Baja-ha-ha fleet, Immigration was overwhelmed to the point where we spent from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. getting our tourist permits. The Port Captain's office had closed for the day by then, committing us to stay until Monday to officially check into the country and simultaneously, check-out. Monday's visit to the Port Captain's office was efficient and we were ready to leave the marina by noon. We took the opportunity to refuel and left the harbor by 1330. Being relatively late to make the 35nm sail to our next overnight anchorage at Los Frailes, we chose to anchor off the east beach from Cabo and make an early morning start to our next destination.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pete glad to hear your still alive and living the dream. Have a great time and I look forward to reading more of your adventures. I check regularly and can't wait for your next post!
John L.