Friday, December 2, 2011

Still moving in the wrong direction

At a time of year when most yachts are moving south along the Mexican coast, seeking warmer air and water, we are still moving north. With a forecast of southerly winds, we decided to make an overnight passage from Isla Espiritu Santo towards Puerto Escondio, roughly 100 nautical miles north. While we don't normally make overnight passages in Mexico except when crossing the Sea, we had several reasons for doing so this time:
- there are not many anchorages along this section of coast that provide protection from southerlies.
-there is no Internet along the way, and I need to stay in close contact with my work for the next week or so.
- we had wanted to go north and revisit some of our favorite anchorages in the Loreto area, but we didn't have time to gunkhole our way in both directions. With prevailing winds from the north, this seemed like a "free ride" that would buy us more time for enjoying a leisurely trip back towards La Paz later in the month.

Having satisfied ourselves with the rationale, and checking that we had enough food, water, and fuel for the next few days, we merely had to wait until late afternoon, so that we wouldn't arrive in the dark. The northerlies died down as predicted by our weather guru Don Anderson (Summer Passage).

By the time we reached Isla San Francisco and the southern end of the San Jose passage, it was a calm and moonlit evening. We only saw two other vessels, a large motor yacht heading south, and a large sailing yacht overtaking us from the south.

Don had also predicted the development of southerly winds from an approaching front, but they never materialized. We did get enough offshore land breeze to allow us to sail once we were north of Nopolo. It was a bit fluky, going from zero to 20 at times. We sailed with only the genoa, which we could easily roll in or out according to wind strength. This was much easier than reefing the main, and we didn't need to make optimum speed. Most of the time we were moving about 5 knots.

There were literally dozens of meteors during the night, some blazing brightly all the way down to the horizon. As we approached the reef-strewn Punta San Marcial, the moon sank below the horizon, leaving me feeling a bit lonely. But along came a pod of dolphins, their chuffing exhalations providing a welcome sense of camaraderie and cheer.

We carefully double-checked our waypoints, doused the genoa in the failing wind, and motored our way between the headland and reef at San Marcial. As we reached the open water beyond, the first light of dawn had appeared behind us. Still no southerly breezes; instead, we were soon bashing our way into a steep chop, with gusts of 20 knots out of the west.

We decided to duck into Agua Verde to see if the wind would die. If we had not been in need of Internet, we would have been glad to stay here a few days. But after a few hours, we raised the anchor and headed out again towards Puerto Escondido. We still encountered steep chop and winds up to 25 knots, making this one of the wettest rides we've ever had.

We also had an unlikely head-on encounter with a boat riding downwind. We didn't see him until he was quite close, due to our large deck-sweeping genoa. Although we were on port tack, and technically the burdened vessel, I expected that he would recognize "racing rules" because a boat heading downwind has a lot easier task of changing course than one beating to windward. He finally veered away, but I sensed that he was probably not pleased at our failure to yield right of way. Oh well, I think our boat name was below the waterline because we were heeled over so far!

As usual, the wind became completely chaotic as we approached the Candeleros, dying one moment and springing up from another direction the next. Back on the engine came, and we motored the last few miles to Puerto Escondido. We'll be here for the next week or so, while I finish grading papers.


Steve and Lulu said...

So THAT'S where you guys are. No wonder you didn't answer when Lulu hailed you. Oh well, we'll try again when you get back. Have fun in PE and say hello to Ray and Diane for us.

Paul and Priscilla Zaro said...

Ditto that! I guess I should have read your blog before sending the email....Hopefully we'll see you when you get back to La Paz!
Priscilla and Paul
s/v Wind Spirit