Friday, December 27, 2013

A few pics while walking around today

I forced myself to take my camera with me as I walked around La Paz today, doing a few chores before taking off for an excursion.  Here are a few pics (pics, not Photographs.)

I walked down to Chedraui, one of the local supermarkets.  The selection in the stores in La Paz is really good, they have pretty much everything you would want.  There are a few things I can't find, but nothing essential and I haven't hit all the stores in the area yet...not by a long shot as there are a lot of them.

A mountain of coffee on display.  Behind it are cartons of milk.
Mountain of chips 
There are constantly these big mountains of various types of food in the stores.  I walked by a mountain of Pepsi that reached the ceiling yesterday.  I keep wondering how often they fall down.

One of the bakery shelves
The bakery sections of the stores are pretty cool.  There are several racks of these shelves with the baked goods out for you to see.  You grab a tray and some tongs, walk around and fill your tray up with whatever you fancy, and then take the tray to the bakery counter where they wrap the things that need it (such as glazed donuts), put them all in a bag and stick a price on it.  Its all fresh and if you arrive too late in the day the display is pretty much picked through.  I'm working my way through the selection.  So far there have been more hits than misses, but there have been a few misses.

The Malecon runs along the water front, and every now and then there is a statue.  This is one of my favorites, I'll keep walking along the water front when I get back to remind myself of what they all are later on.

I'll be heading out to the local islands for some exploring, starting on Saturday the 28th.  I have enough food to eat pretty well for around 10 days, fairly well for maybe 5 more days, and then have enough food to survive for months.  So I'll be away for something like two weeks, perhaps longer, perhaps shorter.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Arrived in La Paz!

I need to figure out  the panorama mode on my camera still.  Here's an early experiment.
I arrived in La Paz on Saturday.  I left Muertos on Thursday after visiting with s/v Discovery (Andy and Betty) Wednesday evening.  Discovery left the anchorage Thursday at 2:30am, I left at 6:30am, leaving two boats remaining there from the 10 who where anchored the previous evening.  There were a lot of early departures.

I had wanted to stop in the islands briefly before heading over to La Paz, and I pulled in San Gabriel for two evenings.  Its a beautiful anchorage.  The water color is amazing, there is a nice walk across the island from there, you can swim, there is a beautiful long sand beach.  Unfortunately when I arrived the wind started to blow - from the south and later south west which is directly into the anchorage.  I didn't get off the boat for the time I was there, the trip to the beach would have been a little crazy.  I was able to dive off the boat which was nice.

I left San Gabriel on Saturday morning, arrived in La Paz anchorage just before noon and was very happy to shut the boat down and stay stationary for a while!  Its been a trip getting here.  I feel like I've arrived now and look forward to relaxing for a while.

Happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A few pics from Baja

Sailing.  South of Ensenada
Cabo San Lucas!
Luckness and I in Cabo from s/v Discovery
Cape Falso, at Cabo
1535 at Ensenada de los Muertos

I've been here for a week now and will probably stay for another day.  Maybe two.  Maybe less.  Its nice to not have to make plans!  Life is pretty easy here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

At anchor Ensenada De Los Muertos

Date: Dec 12, 2013, Time: 5pm MST
23° 59' N 109° 49' W
Barometer: 1015, Water Temp: 74.3f
Log: 10515

Wow. Sailing upwind in mid-20 knot winds for a little over 40 hours sure makes you appreciate downwind sailing. Sailing downwind is all sweetness and light. Upwind when the waves and winds are developed isn't like that.

I had a great sleep at Cabo and woke up refreshed, prepared some food and left anchor at 6pm. The plan was to be able to arrive at my first target anchorage, Bahia Los Frailes, in the daylight the following day after having sailed all night.

Leaving Cabo the winds were light, as you would expect due to the cape wind shadow. Within 50 minutes of motoring, wind had found me and I started sailing in 11 knots, upwind. This was the best sailing - I love upwind sailing when the seas are flat and the winds are moderate. At around midnight the wind died away quickly. I waited two hours and then to be able to make my afternoon arrival at the next anchorage I started to motor toward my destination. By 3:30am I was sailing again and it stayed that way for the rest of this trip.

When the wind returned, it returned from the same direction, but with increased intensity. Rather than 11-15 knots I started to sail in sustained 18-25 with gusts slightly higher. The highest apparent wind I saw was just over 30. As you would expect, the seas started to develop - or I suspect, rather, arrive from further north where the wind had been blowing like this for a while. This is when the northward bash started.

I bashed northward toward Los Frailes where I arrived by around 4pm, as expected. I decided to continue on toward Muertos as the weather information I had been receiving showed a short weather window for moving around followed by likely being holed up in the anchorage you had chosen until early next week. I would rather be holed up in Muertos than Los Frailes. Muertos has a beach bar, wifi you can use on land, a large anchorage with good holding, and good memories from my last cruise where I spent over a week here with Sockdolager and Clover.

By the end of the trip I had dialed in the sail combination which worked best for these conditions (M2SG2) and the boat was making mid 5 knots through the pounding waves, close hauled, tacking back and forth toward my destination which was where the wind was coming from. This is pretty active sailing. The boat is constantly healing, often with the 'rail in the water'. The motion of the boat is far from gentle, crashing through and down onto waves creating cascades of salt spray. When moving around the boat you need to be very careful, planing hand holds and foot positions deliberately, as the boat is rising and falling by several feel while rocking side to side, constantly. Its nice to be doing this sailing where its warm as I was covered in salt water from about 1/2 way through the journey to its completion.

I hadn't sailed upwind in these types of conditions for quite some time, and my decision to keep on sailing was partly to stress the boat and myself a little. If I do continue on to my possible destination of New Zealand, there will be some upwind sailing involved, far out to sea where you need to accept the weather that arrives. I feel good about the upwind side of things again, although I would like to avoid upwind in heavy weather if its possible...

Anyway. I'm at anchor with the wind blowing 20-28 knots. I arrived at 11am, making the journey 41 hours. I've spent the afternoon starting to clean up the boat and made a good dent in that. I had a swim, and although the water has cooled from Cabo San Lucas, its still awesome. I have a few chores to look at while I'm here. My list of 'things that broke' has one item, which is easy enough to remedy, and my list of 'things that I can improve' is longer. I'll be making a few adjustments to some of my equipment during my stay here.

I'm looking forward to getting to shore to look around, and then to continue my journey to La Paz early next week.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

At anchor, Cabo San Lucas

Date: Dec 10, 2013, Time: 2pm MST
22° 53' N 109° 53' W
Barometer: 1037, Water Temp: 78f
Log: 10348

I rounded 8nm south of Cabo Falso yesterday morning, which is the cape just south of Cabo San Lucas, at 5:45am PST. This is pretty much the end of this leg of the passage, which makes it a 6 day trip - 9:30am on Dec 3rd I left Ensenada and 5:45am on Dec 9th I was within a few hours south of Cabo. It was a nice passage, downwind for all but the first few hours and sailed all but a few hours as well.

As I rounded the cape I wanted to try to get north to Muertos and anchor there. This is roughly a 110 nm route from where I was to the anchorage (shorter if you stay closer to shore.) The winds at the cape had fallen off to the point I couldn't sail in the waves, which is what the GRIB (weather) files had led me to expect. This wasn't just a cape effect, it was in a wider region. After bobbing around until 11am I got fed up and started motoring NE for 40 minutes until some wind found me. This wind was strong enough, and from the NE that if I had been a little more patient it would have found me bobbing where I was before I started motoring. Oh well.

The wind picked up but the seas were fairly flat for a while. Then the wind picked up some more as did the seas. By 3pm I was only 6nm away from Cabo, headed upwind into 16 knot winds looking at 30 or more hours of sailing until my destination. I weighed the choices. Head back to Cabo and anchor for a night, get a nice long sleep, prepare some food for the passage and leave the following evening. Or alternatively, continue bashing north from where I was. Going upwind is a harder than downwind. Its harder to move around the boat, harder to prepare food, harder to sleep, harder to make miles toward your destination.

I decided to turn around and prepare myself a little better for the bash north. By now, I've had my rest, had a swim, prepared some food for the following two days, read a little, rested some more. I'll leave this evening for my way north.

There is a norther blowing further north in the Sea, but it looks like I have a short weather window to make some way north. If I can pull into Muertos on my conservative schedule, and the weather agrees to follow its forecast, I'll get there and then stay for a few days for the winds to die down. If something changes, I have a few alternatives for anchorages.

s/v Discovery left La Paz this morning and came over for a chat, I hadn't seen them since Seattle. We are both headed to La Paz so I will see them there if not in some anchorage north of Cabo before then.

The folks from API, the port authority, came by a few moments ago collecting their 200 peso's for a single night of anchoring. Luckness is the only cruising boat at anchor in the anchorage, and its a big anchorage. They charge 200 peso's or $18 per night. I was paying around that while at Oxnard, in a nice marina, with facilities. The clearly don't want cruising boat off the beach here, better for the tourists to have a view toward the ocean I guess.

I'm in the tropics now! La Paz is north of the Tropic of Cancer, the line is at 22° 30' N, so this tropical stay will be a short one.

While coming down the coast from Seattle you keep passing capes along the way. A lot of them are known for something. Beware the storms at this cape, beware the fog at that cape, at some other cape it suddenly becomes warm. A lot of those things may or may not be true. Well, as you round Cape Falso, if you weren't already wearing short pants and had stowed your fleece you will here. Its beautiful. Coming down from Ensenada I was wearing a jacket, t-shirt and long sleeved shirt, sweats and foul weather pants. A swim suit is good enough here at anchor and I'll be wearing less than I was when arriving when I leave later tonight.

All is well. Later eh.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Approaching Cabo San Lucas

Date: Dec 8, 2013, Time: noon PST
23° 26' N 111° 22' W
Wind speed: 16 / wind dir: N, Heading: 120, Speed: 6.0
Barometer: 1017, Water Temp: 73.4f
Log: 10230

(I believe my previous post had a wind speed of 115 knots? No worries, that should have been 15. The most wind I've seen this passage so far is around 24 knots.)

I passed Mag bay last night and decided to keep on moving. The wind is still favorable and I'm feeling good. Hour to hour I keep changing my mind about whether or not to stop at Cabo San Lucas or to continue further north. In the end the decision will be left to when I arrive and the sea state, wind state and my state at the time. The water has warmed up nicely! From what I recall, as I move north up the Sea of Cortez the water starts to cool slightly again.

I'm continually surprised how far east I'm sailing. My natural thinking is that the coast is north-south and that as I head down it, I'm heading south. But I'm really heading south east. To put this in perspective, Calgary is at 114° 5' west. I'm currently around 100nm east of Calgary, still heading SE. I passed beneath Calgary two days ago, at around 10pm on the 6th. I still find this somewhat surprising, although I don't know why - the coast is what it is.

As I head toward Cabo now I'm heading more east that I have been for the last day or two. I have been sailing in mainly dense low clouds for the last three days and this morning finally passed underneath an arch of clouds that delineated the dense cloud from more patchy blue skies. My solar panels are finally starting to generate more power again - I was down 43Ah this morning (around 10%) and am now down 23Ah with the panels generating 16 amps as I type this (5min later, 9 amps, its variable.) Its nice to have free power. My wind instrument battery is also solar powered and its low voltage alarm went off last night at around 3am, although it did continue to work all night and morning. Its charging again now so I should have the convenience of knowing the exact wind strength and direction rather than estimating it. Its not required, but its useful.

Happy December 8th to everybody! All well here.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Past Turtle Bay, heading south

Date: Dec 6, 2013, Time: noon PST
26° 13' N 115° 06' W
Wind speed: 115 / wind dir: N, Heading: 120, Speed: 6.3
Barometer: 1020, Water Temp: 67.1f
Log: 9986

There has been good sailing for the last two days, no serious lulls or calms. Last night the wind rose to around 25 knots and so I reefed the sails. Now its falled off again and the genoa has been unfurled out to its full size. I'm making good enough speed for my taste and so will leave the main with a reef in it.

I realize that the numbers I type into this post above are somewhat artificial. The boat is constantly in motion, riding the waves, swell, and changes in wind direction and speed. The boat speed is ranging from mid 5 knots to low 7 knots, depending on whether we are riding down the face of a wave in a gust, up the face of a wave in a short lull, etc. Having said that, these sailing conditions are close to ideal. These are really fine conditions for my heading south down this coast.

The water has warmed up continually and when the sun comes out from behind a cloud its starting to warm up. However the sky is cloudy enough that this isn't happening very often. The battery bank ended the day yesterday down 9Ah, which is close to having been fully replenished. At the moment they are down 22Ah and the solar panels are having a hard time with my direction and the clouds. The direction means there are many shadows falling on the panels from the rig and sails. I know that the last time down this coast I had to run the engine for short periods to give the batteries a charge, I'm curious if that will be needed this time.

I'm a little over half of the way to Cabo San Lucas. There are some stops I could make along the way, however with the wind conditions the way they are I'm reluctant to stop and take my chances in the wind fading. If the wind stays with me, I may just keep moving. And the forecasts I've read so far indicate the wind may just stay with me. I'll download a fresh forecast just after this email is posted.

Everything is fine on board. I've been hunting down the sources of squeaks and think I have them all nailed. Now onto some items in lockers which bang around a little. But after lunch, its time to eat!

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sailing south toward Turtle Bay

Date: Dec 4, 2013, Time: 1pm PST
30° 21' N 116° 50' W
Wind speed: 13 / wind dir: NW, Heading: 160, Speed: 5.7
Barometer: 1015, Water Temp: 63.5f
Log: 9758

I left Ensenada at 9:30am yesterday morning in light wind. I motored out toward the open ocean and by noon I had found some wind and was sailing upwind toward my destination. There was a big front to my west - a definite line of clouds, dark and grey - advancing toward me. The front came across me at around 3pm and the wind fell to 1 to 2 knots. I bobbed around for a while and then got fed up and motored SW across the front. Within 15 minutes I had found wind again and resumed sailing, this time on a beam reach. This wind lasted for around 40 minutes at which pint it fell off again. Then came back, then died again.

By 7:30 I had eaten dinner, washed up, done a few more chores and the wind was still nowhere to be seen. I was far enough off shore to wait the wind out this time. The weather forecasts I had before leaving indicated that there should have been a nice steady wind and I suspected that the front disturbed the local area and that eventually the wind would return.

At 3am the wind returned and I raised all my sails again. This wind held, and has held as I write this. 1/2 an hour ago I changed direction to head slightly more east and changed my sails to be wing-on-wing, with a poled out genoa. I'm moving nicely in 6 to 8 feet of swell, downwind and down swell.

The sun has come out, the sea is gradually warming. Everything is A-ok here.

* For land-lubbers. Wing-on-wing means the main and genoa are on different sides of the boat, with the wind almost directly behind. This configuration lets you sail deeper downwind than if the sails are both on the same side of the boat. A poled out genoa means the genoa is being held out and up by being attached to a pole from the front of my mast out toward the side at around a 45 degree angle (but horizontal.) If that's too much detail, its the sail combination that makes sense for lots of downwind sailing. There you go, a little more boat talk.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Ensenada + Mexico!

Cruise ships & Luckness

I checked into Mexico this morning after sailing all night from San Diego to Ensenada. The checkin process was even less painless than the last time I did it two years ago. One of the steps two years ago was to go to a local bank and pay for one of the services - there is now a bank in the same building so you just go to a different window, pay and then continue. After checking in I had a few tacos, went for a wander followed by a nap. Its nice to be back in this country.

The sail over was good, although once again having a schedule can interfere with the quality of the sailing. I left San Diego with decent wind right away, west 10 or so and so I was making good speed toward my destination. That was a problem, as Ensenada isn’t very far away and at the speed I was going I was going to be arriving at around midnight rather than the following morning. So I started to slow the boat down. I went from a full main and genoa to reefed main and double reefed genoa. Then to a double reefed main and double reefed genoa. I ended up sailing on a broad reach toward my destination in around 16 knots of wind with only a double reefed main and was still going too fast. Then I almost centered the main, which when going downwind de-powers the sail and ended up going at around 3 knots, which was perfect for my arrival at around 8am the following morning. Unfortunately, once I had done all of this slowing down, the wind died and I was left bobbing around 35 miles from my destination without any wind. I ended up motoring the rest of the way, arriving at 8am with the wind blowing two or three knots.

There are remarkably few crab/lobster pots in this area which I thought was really nice. There are lots of pots scattered around San Diego waiting to catch your boat if you aren’t watching. As I was arriving toward Ensenada it was still dark, so the lack of pots was handy, although the glow of the city lights reflecting off the water in front of me allowed me to see directly ahead.

At around 5:15am, pitch dark, 8nm from the city with lots of its lights shining around the horizon I saw a few lights from a boat a few miles ahead. The boat wasn’t on AIS, so I couldn’t look it up on my system and see what it was, where it was going, etc. It was far enough away, so I did a sleep cycle (20 minutes.) When I got up it was closer, but still comfortably distant, and I got my binoculars out to have a look. It seemed like it might be a fishing boat towing a net or something? As I got closer and closer I could see the line streaming off the back of the boat but then it just disappeared. As I got to within a few hundred yards I was finally able to identify the dock the tug was towing - the dock was slightly to my left, outside of the city lights reflection in front of me, the tug to my right, which put my course just ahead of the tow, to the stern of the tug. Yikes. Time for a quick about face and some maneuvering to get behind the tow. Once I was on its other side, looking at the tow with the sea as a background, I could see two lights on the tow which had been completely lost in the light pollution as I was looking at it from the sea side toward town. The dock was low in the water and didn’t occlude any lights itself. As I was approaching the tow the first time I heard a stream of spanish on the VHF and had no idea what it was. Shortly after that outburst I saw the tow - I suspect the tug’s captain was saying something along the lines of “you might want to turn around before you hit my tow” or some variant of that message. This is one of the reasons I like being on a passage hundreds of miles away from anything, things are really peaceful out in the middle of nowhere!

As part of my checkin process to Ensenada, I also checked out with the Port Captain and I’ll be leaving tomorrow to continue my journey south. The weather seems like it may cooperate and give me some decent sailing opportunities. Once I leave here I’ll won’t have a schedule, which will be nice.

I’ll try to check in from time to time with updates to the blog via my radio.

Yipee! I’m in Mexico again!