Sunday, January 15, 2012
Back to La Paz and Winter Weather Patterns
So far this winter, southern California has experienced some warm and sunny weather caused by a high pressure dome over the four-corners area of the United States. This adiabatic phenomena results in an off-shore air flow along the southwest coast of California, accompanied by compression of the air mass as it moves down the coastal mountains, creating warm, dry and clear conditions. For those of us in the Sea of Cortez these same conditions result in a not so benign weather pattern.
That same high pressure ridge over the central western United States also causes airflow southward, across the low lying desert, down the Colorado river basin and into the northern reaches of the Sea of Cortez. While the air is usually clear, it has not undergone any abrupt elevation compression and remains cool. It flows southward, unimpeded along the entire fetch of the Sea of Cortez creating steep wind-waves (up to 10 feet) that are generally at a very short interval (5-6 seconds) creating what are described locally as a square wave pattern.
Winds generally will blow anywhere from a consistent 20-25 knots with gusts upwards of 30-40 knots. These conditions can last for days on end, creating a very uncomfortable environment to exist in and a potentially dangerous one to be sailing in. Most tend to hunker down in their boats to read and play games to pass the time. Depending on the proximity to the nearest land, venturing outside exposes one to blowing dust and sand. It loses it's charm after three or four days of constant blowing. This winter seems to have had more than its fair share of these 'Northers'.
We experienced these weather conditions during most of our stay in Puerto Escondido. Conditions were often severe enough to make it impossible to do any fiberglass work on our rudder. When all the repair work was completed, we also had to wait for a weather window in order to relaunch. Due to the high winds and accompanying gusts, the boat crane operators do not perform boat launching maneuvers during these conditions because of the danger of boats swinging in the crane slings.
After launching we spent a couple of days on a mooring ball in the protected harbor at Puerto Escondido before leaving with our buddy boat, Mingaat (Don Anderson and his Islander 36, along with crew, Captain Mary Campbell) for our trip south to La Paz. We spent three uneventful days covering the 120 nm back to La Paz, anchoring at Bahia San Marte the first night and Isla San Francisco the second before making our final push to La Paz.