Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pinned down in Puerto Escondido

Cruising the Sea of Cortez is delightful – at least part of the time. At this time of year, you can count on spending about one third of the time pinned down by strong winds called “northers.” Fortunately these are quite predictable. As long as you follow the weather forecasts, you usually have ample time to find a secure anchorage ahead of time. In this case we were already in Puerto Escondido, a near-perfect natural harbor, so the decision to stay was easy.

We moved the boat, from a mooring far up in the bay, to our own anchor, set closer to the dinghy dock. This was for convenience in getting to and from shore, and because we don’t trust a mooring unless we have inspected it. The water is 65F and murky, so the idea of diving the mooring did not appeal. Our own ground tackle consists of a 25kg Rocna anchor and 200’ of 5/16” hi-test chain, and we always sleep soundly when it is deployed.

We are on our third day of this particular wind event, with at least one more day to follow. Most of the time the average wind strength has been about 20 knots. The strongest winds came yesterday evening, when we had a few gusts over 30. This is a relatively mild norther. Later in the season we will expect to see gusts of 40 or 50.

We went ashore each of the last two days; I am grading papers and exams for my job, and need Internet access on shore. Today we’ll stay on the boat, as it has gotten more lumpy in the harbor. Traveling to and from shore in the dinghy isn’t too bad in these conditions. The hard part is mounting and de-mounting the outboard, and raising and lowering the dinghy. Our cardinal rule is to never leave the dinghy in the water at night, not only to prevent theft, but because we have had it flipped over once, with the outboard on, by a high wind gust.

Puerto Escondido, despite its natural beauty and superlative weather protection, is far from my favorite destination. I won’t go into the reasons here. But it is the only choice on this part of the coast. The nearest other yachting facilities are Santa Rosalia, 125 miles to the north, and La Paz, about the same distance to the south.

This facility, like all of the “Escala Nautica” (Nautical Staircase), has been financially unsuccessful and is now for sale. If a buyer is not found, and this facility closes, Puerto Escondido will be an even less attractive stop.

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