Annnd….we’re off. Puerto Los Cabos 0630…Fingers crossed, you never jinx something as momentous as a departure on a potentially long and fraught trip. So – we have untied, the sun has come up, we have dodged the numerous pangas draping their nets across the bay heading out of Puerto Cabo – and the few fishermen plying the waters outside the entrance, probably trying to catch the twin to the rooster fish I watched a couple of local young men catch off the breakwater yesterday.
Today it is more humid than we have experienced for a while ( summer is coming, Jon Snow)… and I am taken back in time to holidays in Huatulco with the lovely rich smell of Mexico in the south. (bit exotic flowers and bit rotting vegetation – truly a heady mixture)
Skies are clear to the East and a bit glowering from the south-west. We have our first and biggest hurdle coming up, Cabo Falso – trick supposedly is to not transit it mid afternoon when offshore winds collide with onshore? hence the 0500 up-and-at-em. Jimmy Buffet is on the radio ( poor souls who travel with us for any length of time get awfully sick of Southern Cross and If I Had a Pencil Thin Mustache..) but for us it’s appropriate background music that never offends and often delights. On the Northern Ranger I and II, you only get to pick the music when you are on watch at night. Within reason of course – no mellow jazz for obvious reasons and no headbanger music…
We have the experience of successfully completing one transit down, plus numerous books to give us advice and tips. We bought the well named “The Baja Bash II” in San Diego, and I was surprised to read that the First Rule of doing the Baja Bash is to NOT do it in the spring, but rather June. So the thwarting of our futile efforts last month to do the bash was maybe a good thing, as it is now June 2nd. Omni Bob the Weather Router concurs with what we have seen in the forecast, although he goes into a lot more depth than we can dig into ( which is a good thing). Bottom line – first few days yucky, with improvement as we head north. Improvement is good. Yucky not so. Ah well.
0802 – working our way to Cabo St Lucas, and the fishers are awake and out. The radar screen is dotted like a bad case of measles… lots of blue triangle AIS signals on the chart plotter, and there are numerous sport fishermen boats on the horizon, all chasing the big shiny fish.
I had thought about dragging a line but with my luck we’d get the fish of the century and we don’t really have time to mess around with that. Haha!… that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it. Also it would mean we would have to turn on the freezer upstairs, and someone would have to clean the fish… yadayadayada. I make up for lack of a line off the boat by listening to an audio-book version of “The Old Man and the Sea”… wait??? all that work and the sharks get the darn thing???? WHY!!????? good choice though, totally enjoyed listening to it while I was bashing through my own storm and battling my own demons..
1200 – midnight.. so that would be 2400. My turn for watch – we are trying to get into a rhythm, as Christie would recommend – so fairly short watches with sleep the only other alternative… that and eating though there isn’t much of that happening. I forgot that about this crew – food becomes less interesting. I had a great enchilada casserole I made yesterday, all mexican and spicy – it has gone in the freezer, upon the realization that although we don’t get sea sick, that doesn’t mean we need a big spicy mexican meal before the night shift! So – bananas and granola bars and gatorade it is. Yes. bananas. Somehow I managed to forget my no banana on board rule. They seem so innocuous and good comfort food… may the weather and sea gods forgive me!
So apparently maybe they haven’t.. the seas have not calmed at all, we are still burying our nose up to the anchor and hobby horsing along . Short and sharp and tall… as Lawrence says, it seems easier to take, rather than a big following or beam sea, but for moving around the boat, it’s a pain. You think you know where the floor is, or the step, but no…. it’s now three feet lower than you thought. Minimal moving around here! And sleeping in the forward master is out of the question. Moving through the fulcrum zone is like riding some sort of crazy-ass ride, and when you get there and try to lie down, you feel like you are getting bucked off the ride every five seconds.
So we have set up pillows in the saloon, where it is relatively comfortable and close to the pilot house.
The moon is up, half of it anyway, shining off our port. I like it when the moon is in front of us… makes for a bright shiny sea. The only other boat out here that we know of is a sailboat that we have been shadowing the whole day. We think it is heading to Mag Bay, as they have now angled off… we are going to try for Santa Maria. I had thought maybe if we are comfortable we could keep going, but after these waves and such I believe perhaps we will appreciate a rest.
Hopefully Omni Bob has the right of it and we are seeing the worst of our trip now. Not horrendous.. just…to coin a Simon Cowell phrase.. kinda pitchy.
After an engine room check, Lawrence is taking his turn with the saloon bed. The few clouds that obscured the moon for a minute have skidded off and the sea is shimmering platinum again. I keep hoping for a whale or a porpoise to leap out and create another “ah ha” moment, but so far no luck. We have had our fair share of porpoises leaping, and a huge ray flying out of the water, so I am not complaining.
As Satchmo is singing on the radio ( I see Lawrence has switched from daytime Buffet to nighttime pop music) … “It’s a wonderful world”… albeit somewhat bumpy.
0730 – I actually had almost four hours of sleep, kind of snuck that extra hour in after my midnight to three watch… my bad..didn’t actually think I could sleep that long so didn’t set an alarm. I figured after my adrenalin-inducing moment I deserved a good sleep but didn’t actually believe I could fall asleep!
“Bobo’s Berth”.. sailing off into the sunset…
After finally calling “Bobo’s Berth”, the sailboat that has been dogging us ( thousands of square miles of sea and he is staying within two nautical miles of us???) and confirming that yes, he saw us and yes, he was sailing and yes, he was having a great sail thank you very much – but would make an effort to avoid us. (thank YOU very much… hate to inconvenience you, but no way am I going to do a sudden ninety degree turn to run broadside in these seas to avoid you, buddy!!)
Speaking of seas… happily bashing along (not really happily, I confess, it is totally annoying)… the Mother of all waves approached us… and her big sister, Just Swell….the bow tilted up, and the bottom dropped out of our world, and we crashed down with a huge shudder, a massive splash that rolled up and over the boat, and almost everything tucked up on the pilot berth including my fishing rods came crashing down around me. The worst part of it was, after the crash, the absolute silence – just utter stillness. I thought my heart would beat itself out of my chest, thinking the boat had stalled. But then I did the intelligent thing ( when the brain re-engaged) and checked the gauges and of course, everything was as it should be. Lugger still lugging, chugging, and moving us along happily. It was the weirdest thing…. total silence.. anyway – it was nearing the end of my shift so I just put things back where they belonged and awaited my replacement, who had happily slept through the worst of it all.
So this morning – “Bobo” is still tacking along behind us, so I guess he is either going where we are going or doing the whole trip without stopping. There are now a few more ships and vessels showing up, but it seems it’s not as busy as it was when we were coming down ( last time I remember lots of really big fish boats plying the waters at night – causing a lot of consternation among the 20 plus boats taking part in the Cubar, which is what we were doing there – )
So now we are both up, it has calmed down somewhat ( funny how your perspective on what is horrendous and what is doable changes over the years and the miles travelled… and with the vessel you are travelling with… yay Northern Ranger II !) and the trial balloon that just got floated is “the weather prediction indicates it could be good enough to just keep going”. Hah! called it! I knew he would say that!
Now I just have to figure out what I can feed us… aforementioned spicy mexican casserole that was supposed to be dinner for two days has been relegated to the freezer and calmer times. We just had scrambled eggs and toast and avocado ( yay real food! not a granola bar!) If the prediction is true and we don’t have as many / any more bowpounders, maybe some chicken can be delicately seasoned and carefully cooked… wait… that’s old predictions. Like, two days old.. we need updating and we are waiting for the internet to get itself going. Lights are on, the satellite is tracking, but nobody is communicating. Hmmmm…… sounds familiar… LOL…
Later – well, when the Satellite finally agreed to talk to everyone, Lawrence was able to update his weather maps and also contact Omni Bob about various options. At this point, we could end up getting stuck somewhere if we wait too long – and get hammered a little bit more if we keep going…( which begs the question, why is it that it’s totally comfortable during the day, like it is now, and thundering seas at night? wait, it’s actually a meteorological fact of life down here..convergence zones, counter currents, offshore winds, heating and cooling, warm Sea of Cortez water and cold Pacific water..…. and unfortunately the “usual for June” didn’t happen last night. Calming trend after midnight? I don’t think so. )
So we will take a side trip into Santa Maria and hole up for the rest of the day and night and then leave tomorrow. The estimates for times for each leg were based on doing 6 knots average, and unfortunately even when we ‘put the pedal to the metal’ we still are only averaging 5 – 5 1/2 knots, (freaky current?) which puts us into Turtle Bay a few days from now and sometime in the wee dark hours.
If we had a third crew member, there probably would be no question about going – boat isn’t the issue, and actually neither are we – just easier on everyone to share the watches…
Meanwhile, I have cooked up some nice mild chicken and rice for dinner, whenever that happens. This is the anchorage where we had panga fishermen delivering “lobster” to the boat, for a price of course, during the Cubar. Not sure we are in the mood but you never know – it could happen.
17:22 – anchored in Santa Maria, only other boats in this huge anchorage a shrimper (maybe one of the ones that chased us down during our Cubar adventure!) and a sailboat. Lawrence had a surprise when he brought in the stabilizer fish – the chains were covered in prawns. We must have dragged them through a big school of shrimp! unfortunately they were all mushed up and we don’t think we are allowed to fish for prawns. So back in the water they go.
This is a huge anchorage, one side is twin peaks and the other is long curving low sand dune. Wherever you look, the swell and the waves curl in and crash on the shore. It sounds like airplanes taking off in the distance, and certainly discourages one from dropping the dinghy and going ashore. Also the wind curls in as well, so all in all it’s safe, and protected, but not the world’s quietest place. However, I think it’s great for the night … no jumping in the water for a swim, though. It may be sunny but this Pacific side is decidedly colder than the Sea of Cortez!
So time to have showers, clean up, put together dinner, and crash – so we can get back out there and do it all again! Next stop… maybe… Turtle Bay!
Which, according to something I read, is halfway there – though I think they mean to San Diego, not Ensenada.
OK… plan in place, dinner is done, dishes put away – we will get up at 5 and assess the weather, and then probably leave. Forty hours give or take to Turtle Bay – and then from there another 282 miles. Difference going up is the current – we are used to the well-documented currents and tides up North, travelling the Strait of Georgia and Johnston Strait and all the rapids in between… frightening to the uninitiated but predictable. This current that travels down the coast from north to south is new to us – we obviously used it to good advantage without even being aware of it heading to the Sea of Cortez… but heading North – we are at its mercy.
So… onward and upward. And hopefully – calm seas and fair winds and happy trails!