Monday, November 14, 2011

Back to the Baja

After 5 days of recommissioning the boat, visiting friends, and enjoying some of our favorite restaurants and other places in Mazatlán, we had a good "weather window" for crossing the Sea of Cortez and decided to set out. This is a very unusual direction of travel for this time of year - most boaters are crossing from Baja to the mainland and heading south. We felt a bit of remorse in thinking about all the fun cruising destinations we would miss out on in the coming months. However, we had made our plans for the winter and it was too late to change our minds. We are looking forward to a liveaboard dive trip to Socorro, whalewatching at San Ignacio, and at least two visits from friends coming to Baja in the coming months.

We set out just before sunrise on Saturday, and had an easy first day of motorsailing. About 35 miles offshore from Mazatlán we came across a pod of about 5 orcas feeding in a tight bunch. These were the first orcas we had seen since coming to Mexico 2 years ago.

An hour or so later, we came across several large pods of dolphins. They swam by the bow for quite awhile. These encounters always leave us feeling joyous and one with nature!

The wind slowly came up during the day. Usually we expect WNW winds on this passage, but today we were getting a southerly breeze from a low pressure system to the west.

Skies were mostly clear, with a few clouds on the horizon. We had an excellent sunset, and saw the Green Flash for the second night in a row (we had seen it from a rooftop bar in Mazatlán the night before).

By nightfall we had enough wind to turn off the engine, and we sailed all night under a moon that was just past full. I was grateful to get the windvane steering properly, so we could take the pressure off of our wimpy wheel pilot.

On Sunday morning, we had a colorful sunrise.

The Sierra de la Laguna, the mountains northeast of Cabo, were visible over 60 miles away off the port bow. Winds were fluky, due to the passage of the low pressure system. At one point we were pounding into a steep westerly chop, but with only a light wind coming from the NNW. The sky was covered with amazing patterns of cirrostratus clouds.

By late afternoon, the mountains were looming close ahead, and we entered Cerralvo Channel just after sunset. Isla Cerralvo is uninhabited, and is the legendary resting place of the "Vagabundos del Mar" (sea gypsies), the last of whom were still active when I first kayaked here 40 years ago.

At this point, our plan was to continue toward La Paz, with an estimated arrival time of about 2AM. However, we were still groggy from our first night at sea and the resulting lack of sleep. When we saw a ketch anchored peacefully just north of Punta Viejos on Cerralvo Island, it just looked too inviting and I decided we should join them. The hook went down and we were soon slumbering blissfully. Except for the occasional pattering of rain on the deck, all was calm.

Until 5AM. No sooner had I remarked on what a nice calm night we had had, than the wind piped up sharply out of the NW. It took only a minute or two to realize we were on a lee shore and it was time to get out of Dodge. With the engine on and the anchor raised, we started steaming up the Cerralvo Channel, alongside the other vessel that had been anchored next to us. But the wind was gusting over 20, and the chop soon built to very steep breaking seas. Because of the hobby-horsing, we were only making about 2 knots, meaning it would take us all day just to reach the San Lorenzo Channel. I turned the boat around, and we were soon surfing downwind under a partially unfurled jib, Cerralvo Island receding in the distance.

By sunrise we were passing the windsurfers' homes at La Ventana.

By 8AM we were anchored in Los Muertos, which already had about 12 sailboats, all of them flying Baja Ha-ha burgees. Looks like we'll have lots of company for the next day or so!


joncyn said...

We've followed your travels over the last year great site & a wealth of info our Ericson 35 will be in Mexico next year we hope. Like you my wife teaches online for OHSU so grading rules our schedule & dictates the surf breaks we visit on the mainland of Mexico all winter in the land yacht keep the stories coming and have safe travels

John & Cyndee

Mark said...

John and Cyndee - thanks for your comment and good luck on your passage down next year.