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This is not the South Pacific!

It’s Friday, April 3rd, 2020. I’m sitting inside the salon of Aldabra while a chilling wind is howling outside. It’s midday and we’re anchored in Bahia Asuncion, halfway up the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula.

All four of us (David, Pat, Dana and I), just treated ourselves to indoor showers, our first since Sunday night and our last until we arrive in San Diego, possibly on Thursday of next week.

We’re in this bay waiting out a weather system, which should last through Saturday. After that, we’ll probably need a day for the seas to settle a bit before proceeding north. But the weather forecast keeps changing, so we’ll see how it goes.

We’re hunkered down in this bay with Jane and Jerry on Shamaal and Rich and Sharon on Bumblebee. Fortunately the water is pretty flat in the bay so we’re comfortable in spite of the cold wind. We’ve all filled up our fuel tanks, thanks to the help from locals, so we’re ready to go when the time is right.

I’m sure you’re wondering why a boat headed for the South Pacific ended up here. But maybe that’s obvious. Everything has changed for people all over the world with the threat of the Coronavirus. In our case, an hour before casting off our dock lines to leave Nuevo Vallarta in Banderas Bay Mexico, the port captain notified us that we were no longer cleared to leave Mexico for French Polynesia. In fact, we learned shortly afterward that we couldn’t even be cleared to leave Mexico for Hawaii. Our options at the time were to stay put, sail around in Mexican waters or clear out of the country in Ensenada.

After all the preparation to sail to the South Pacific, and the anticipation, this was a huge shock. It was hard to react rationally. Plus, information was changing faster than we could process it. I don’t know how severe the global crisis brought on by the Coronavirus will be when I finally have enough Internet access to post this blog entry, but I’m sure millions of people are suffering more than we are. So this story may sound like the sniveling and whining of four people whose plans had to change. After all, we’re not suffering financially the way many people in Mexico and all over the world are suffering because their livelihoods have disappeared. And we’re not cooped up in self-isolation in an apartment somewhere. We’re healthy, out on the water, and pretty far away from exposure to the virus, at least for now.

It’s easy to look at our situation now and feel grateful. But I’m going to tell you our story because this blog is about sailing on Aldabra. As readers of this blog know, the story for the last several months has been about getting the boat ready and getting the crew and myself prepared. I thought everything was going pretty well. In fact, up until the moment we were denied departure, I was amazingly calm and unstressed. But that hadn’t always been the case in the last couple of months leading up to untying the dock lines.

The stress started when I applied for a long-stay visa for French Polynesia. I left Mexico by car and drove north to San Francisco, handing my passport and a stack of paperwork over to the agency that processes visas for France. It was December 23rd. I then drove back south to San Diego to enjoy the holidays with my family, which I very happily did.

In late January it was time to fly back to Mexico to continue preparing for the South Pacific voyage. But the French Consulate in Washington D.C. remained in possession of my passport. And the representing agency could not provide me with any information about when I would receive it. It had been five weeks. With a few days remaining before my flight to Mexico, I needed to sell my car and get a new passport. While selling the car first appeared to be a challenge, I figured that out and sold it in one morning. Then I turned my attention to online resources for getting a second passport in 24 hours.

After paying an online service, I discovered that I could not get a second passport without either having the first one in hand or declaring it lost or stolen. I didn’t want the original to be invalidated because if I ever did get it back from the French, it would have my long-stay visa in it. (The long-stay visa allows one to stay in French Polynesia for a year or more, as opposed to 90 days, which would require one to rush through the island groups.)

The online agency advised me to contact the U.S. State Department. Miraculously, that agency was able to get me an early morning appointment the next day at the passport office in San Diego (I hadn’t realized that one existed) to receive a second passport by the end of the day. (This was Friday morning and my flight was scheduled for Monday.)

Granting a second passport is not something our government does without consideration. At the office, I had to answer a lot of questions in writing. Why couldn’t I just stay in San Diego until I received my passport back? Why did I need to go to Mexico? Why did the French have my passport in the first place? How was I going to get the passport if I went in Mexico? I also had to run down the street to have new passport photos taken because the photo on the new passport could not match the photo on the original passport. By the end of the day, however, I had a second passport in hand, good only for four years instead of the usual ten years. I could use either passport for international travel as long as I didn’t present both at the same time.

That solved, I caught my flight back to Puerto Vallarta. But the passport was still a constant concern. I waited six more weeks and still no word on the status of the passport and visa. I contacted the agency for the visas and received conflicting answers about whether the passport could be tracked. I contacted the French Consulate and received a vague response. I even enlisted my congressman’s office to help me.

As my departure date approached, I began re-planning my voyage with the new assumption that I could be in French Polynesia for only 90 days. If I arrived in French Polynesia in mid-April, I would need to leave the country by mid-July. I needed to figure out where to go and to line up crew for that because the crew that planned to be with me would be remaining in French Polynesia.

After spending a full day on that exercise, I got a notification that my passport and visa were on the way to my mom’s house in San Diego. My brother-in-law Pat could bring it with him when he arrived in March. I was relieved and a bit elated.

Another bureaucratic wrinkle surfaced about the same time. My insurance agent, who had assured me that I would be covered in the South Pacific, notified me that his company would not be insuring me. He gave me the name of another company and I proceeded to work with that one. But time was running out and that new company was swamped with applicants because cancellations for vessels have become rampant since the hurricane disasters of recent years.

When the new insurance agent finally came back with a quote, the proviso was that I needed an out-of-water survey, a rigging inspection and a storm plan. At first, with the haul-out survey out of the question, I resolved to forego insurance. But after thinking about it overnight, I called back with a proposal. What if I had a very thorough in-water survey with proof of what was done during my last haul-out in the spring? That was potentially acceptable to the company, so I contacted a surveyor who could work with me right away.

We spent half a day going over the boat and I provided him with a document that listed every modification I had made to the boat. He did the survey quickly and I sent it to the insurance company. They accepted it so I just needed to pay them. (That was a day before departure. Instead of paying them the next day, I called to let them know that I wouldn’t need the coverage after all.) So the survey fire drill was not really needed, although it might be useful down the line.

In the last couple of weeks before departure I also made other “perishable” investments in time and money. I made one-year commitments to subscriptions such as backup South Pacific charts from Navionics for my iPad and Predictwind Offshore Professional. I paid the agents in Tahiti for assistance with clearing into the country and paid the Nuevo Vallarta port captain for clearing out of the country. I paid an agent to ship CO2 cartridges overland to Mexico because they couldn’t be brought in by air. I purchased an extensive supply of medications for the journey, all with expiration dates of one year or less. I also bought a huge supply of food provisions. I purchased airline tickets for one of my crew members to fly back to the U.S. in June. And I worked with other boats to plan processes for communicating while we were underway.

Another extensive time investment, which I would not consider to be perishable or a waste of time, was attending perhaps three dozen seminars on all kinds of topics related to the journey. Many experts generously gave their time to educate the South Pacific-bound fleet on medical and dental emergencies, weather, route strategies, storm and emergency tactics, safety, provisioning and other helpful tips.

The flurry of activity intensified my anticipation, my confidence in my preparation and my certainty that this trip was imminent. The progress of the Coronavirus was in the news, but my crew and I just thought we could get out on the water and escape. David arrived in Puerto Vallarta on March 12th. Dana arrived on March 14th. We were worried that Pat would be prevented from joining us, but he arrived without incident on a nearly empty flight on March 18th. We went to the store for final provisioning of fruits and vegetables and then joined some cruiser friends that evening for a very sweet farewell gathering. All we needed to do was get up in the morning and take off as soon as the port captain and the customs and immigration officials met us at the boat at 11:00.

In our first stage of grief after we found out that French Polynesia was closed to us, we resolved to go to Hawaii. After a couple of hours of planning and communicating with our families, I went to see about being cleared out of the country only to find out, of course, that it would not be possible.

Around the same time, we started hearing that the U.S. border might close. Pat grew concerned because he eventually needed to get back to work. He couldn’t stay in Mexico indefinitely. And David didn’t want to abandon his wife indefinitely. I didn’t want to stay in the marina any longer. I had been there only to prepare for the journey and I wasn’t emotionally prepared to sit on the boat indefinitely. I had a crew ready and willing to sail, just so long as they weren’t prevented from repatriating to the U.S.  So why not sail north to San Diego?  None of us had ever done the notorious Baja Bash. I had never wanted or planned to do it. But now it seemed like a good idea. We would be out on the water and we could deliver Pat and David back to the U.S. They weren’t ready to give up on a sailing trip.

We didn’t really think about the fact that I had taken all my Baja navigation information back to California, or that it would get colder as we went north, and we didn’t have warm clothes and sleeping bags. We just decided to go. And coincidently my friends on Shamaal were on their way north and invited us to join them.

So on Friday, March 20th, we cleared out of the port of Nuevo Vallarta and headed for Punta de Mita to wait for favorable weather to cross over to the lower tip of Baja. We stayed at anchor for a couple of days and set sail on Sunday morning. We sailed the first day under pretty decent conditions and then motor sailed for two more days under slightly more uncomfortable conditions in the form of big swells.

Shorts and bare feet so this had to have been early in the trip

At one point we had a bit of drama. I wanted to slow the boat down and turn into the wind to change the location of the jib cars. The jib sheets were causing a strain on a couple of stanchions. But I forgot that we had fishing lines in the water, Slowing the boat down allowed them to get caught around the prop, which had been turning while we were sailing. Weirdly enough, as the prop twisted the fishing lines, they started twisting my pant leg. The strain was so great that I had to take my pants off to get myself free. I then dove into the water to cut the fishing lines free and we were soon back underway.

Dana showing the jumble of fishing line that ended up connected to the prop

I’m embarrassed to say that the sail over demonstrated that Aldabra was not quite ready for the passage to French Polynesia. I had not put the boat through enough pre-passage testing. Right away I discovered that the screws inside the macerator pump for the forward head had corroded and the pump was leaking. Pat and I took the pump out and plugged the hoses and we just didn’t use that head.

The boom topping lift shackle had not been moused and the topping lift came off the boom. The transmission would not go into neutral after we put it into reverse while sailing. The shifter cable was being impeded by the wire for the compass light. We had to take the compass off to free the wire. One of the port shrouds was too loose and possibly the backstay was too loose.

We arrived in San Jose del Cabo at night on Tuesday, March 24th.  Finding the marina entrance at night was a bit unnerving but once inside we glided into the slip.

San Jose del Cabo is a small, friendly marina. The area was very quiet but there were a couple of restaurants and a laundry. We met some nice cruisers and enjoyed our brief stay. We mostly worked on boat projects and refueled. Plus we emailed several documents to an agent in Cabo who could clear us out of the country from there.

On Friday, vessels Shamaal and Bumblebee arrived from the Sea of Cortez. We all went through a bit of drama because rumors were coming from several sources saying that the port of Cabo San Lucas was closed and that the port of San Jose del Cabo was about to be closed. We didn’t want to be stuck in a port, so we were a bit concerned.

As it turned out, the port of San Jose del Cabo wasn’t closed. But even if it had been, we had inadvertantly failed to check in with the port captain so we didn’t need to check out. On the morning of Saturday, March 28th, we just left without a word.

When we arrived in Cabo, all three boats went to the fuel dock and got a bit of fuel. The agent met us there to provide our exit papers and take our immigration cards. And the security guard at the dock helped us get slips in the marina.

The crew of Aldabra in Cabo San Lucas

We stayed in Cabo for two nights, nervous again because they had officially closed the port. More rumors were flying online that all ports were closed in Mexico and cruising boats would have to stay wherever they were located. We had no intention of staying, so we planned to leave before daylight on Monday morning, before the port captain noticed us.

Anyone who has visited Cabo knows the marina is usually wild with hustle and bustle. But because of the Coronavirus, it was a ghost town. We went to the beach and walked around the marina area and town. We found a mini supermarket with some decent vegetables. And we ate dinner in restaurants that were on the verge of closing. We felt for all the people who made their living from tourism and now had no income.

The pangas in Cabo San Lucas that usually take tourists out

The ghost town in the marina of Cabo San Lucas

More than once we talked to marina guards and supervisors about whether we would be stopped from leaving on Monday. We thought about making our exit on Sunday night. In the end we correctly surmised that the port closure had to do with commercial boat traffic. As cruisers on private vessels, we would be allowed to leave as long as we already had our papers and as long as we were headed to Ensenada or San Diego. We could not go to any other port in Mexico.

Because uncertainty prevailed everywhere, including with the port captains and marina employees, we made our exit on Monday morning at four o’clock. The trip around the point was manageable. We motor sailed upwind for two days in O.K. conditions.

Sunrise as we were leaving Cabo San Lucas
Heading up the coast of Baja

The third day started getting pretty gnarly with winds consistently in the upper teens and waves bigger, steeper and closer apart. And it was cold! As the wind was starting to intensify, Dana caught a fish that was big enough to keep and clean. She had caught three fish the day before but had release them. (These were the first fish she had ever caught.) Following instructions in a book, she cleaned and filleted the fish and then cleaned her utensils and the bloodied boat.

By early evening we still had some 65 miles to go to Turtle Bay. To get some relief, all three boats turned into Bahia Asuncion, which was only 18 miles away. I texted friends to make sure we would have wind protection there and they highly recommended the stop. They were right. We arrived at the anchorage at 7:30, just after sundown, and the waters were flat.

We were so relieved to cook dinner in calm, flat water. It was still cold and windy but we didn’t have to stand night watch in a cold, windy cockpit. What a contrast the day had been with our vision of sailing to the South Pacific. This was certainly not what my crew had signed up for.

Early the next morning the three boats had a radio meeting about weather, and then I called Shari Bondy, who runs a hotel and campground in the town. She sent Larry, the nephew of a local restaurant owner out to the boat. We handed over our fuel cans to him and Dana hopped in his boat to head to town. They refilled the fuel containers and went to a small tienda so Dana could get a bit of produce. When they got back, Larry also took our trash to shore.

It would have been so nice to explore the town of Asuncion and meet our hosts. But the quarantine was in effect and we were discouraged from going ashore.

Meanwhile, Pat and David and I did a bit of cleanup inside the boat. During this first leg of the Baja bash, everything had moved about the cabin and was in total disarray. I also made some phone calls in preparation for arrival in San Diego and did some weather and route planning for the leg that would take us to San Diego.

We also pondered the mystery of the water tank, another problem that would have been a challenge during the passage to the South Pacific. No matter how long we ran the watermaker, the tank would only fill halfway. We suspected that the tank had a crack in it and the water was leaking into the bilge. But there wasn’t really much we could do about it until we reached San Diego. It’s just one of many little annoyances that needs to be fixed. (Another one is that our red and green lights on the bow went out.)

The morning at the anchorage was warm and calm but the winds picked up and grew cold in the afternoon. Dana baked cookies while David and Pat read. We grilled chicken and the fish for dinner, which included mashed potatoes. Still in flat water, we enjoyed a comfortable evening.

Earlier this morning the crews from Shamaal and Bumblebee came over for a visit, which was very nice. Since taking our showers, we’ve wiled away the afternoon, reading and writing. One of our crew members is suffering pain associated with passing a kidney stone while the wind continues to announce itself.

Sunday, April 5th, 10:30 a.m.

We’re headed north to Turtle Bay for one overnight before making a bigger push north. We aimed to leave Bahia Asuncion at 4:00 a.m. but our engine wouldn’t start. Jerry on Shamaal suggested we jiggle the starter wires. We did that and it worked. We were off after a delay of about 45 minutes.

The other two boats are motor sailing and going faster. We’re just motoring. The winds are light and the angle to the wind is small so we lose a bit of an assist from the main but we don’t have to bear off to keep if full.

Yesterday was a pretty boring day in the anchorage. The wind was brisk and cold. The other two crews came over for a visit and a weather meeting. We played a couple of rounds of Hearts. And we read and puttered and checked the weather. At least today we’re knocking eight hours off our northbound journey.

Monday, April 6th, 5:00 a.m.

We pulled up anchor, raised our mainsail and left Turtle Bay along with Shamaal and Bumblebee. We motor sailed north in decent winds and biggish swells. The wind speeds and directions varied. It kept getting colder. And eventually we got rained on as we approached our destination. But the last leg of the bash was unremarkable.

After dinner on the last two nights it was so cold that we all wanted to be down below and out of the wind. So we played a couple of rounds of Hearts before night watches started. Between hands, while the dealer was shuffling the cards, I’d run out to check on the other boats and adjust the sails. For night watches, Dana took 10 o’clock to midnight. David took midnight to 2 a.m. Pat had 2 to 4. And I went from 4 to 6.

As the day started on Wednesday, April 8th, we were just south of San Diego. Light rains would visit us briefly but the day was beautiful. I got a text from friends in Nuevo Vallarta because they had heard that the port of San Diego was now closed. I called the vessel arrival authorities and was told to call them when we arrived at the police dock on Shelter Island. The agent I spoke with was annoyed that I was so ignorant of entry procedures but did not suggest that we would be denied entry.

 We arrived at the police dock on Shelter Island at around 9:30. There was some confusion about how to clear in. I didn’t have the ROAM app and had not used it to register to enter the country. I finally started using the app to register but hadn’t completed the process before some Customs and Border Patrol guys showed up to clear us in. Once they were there, all three boats were cleared in in about 15 minutes.

Shamaal and Bumblebee stayed at the police dock to prepare for continued northbound travel. But Aldabra left the dock and headed over to our new slip at Sunroad Resort Marina on Harbor Island.

We spent a couple of hours sorting out things on the boat and my friend Tom from Catatude brought us face masks. We then gathered up our trash and dirty laundry and headed for the parking lot. David’s wife Susan picked him up and my sister Wendy arrived to take Dana and Pat and I up to their house in Escondido. We did laundry and took showers, had dinner and slept very well.

Friday, April 10th

Dana and I spent yesterday cautiously doing some errands. We went to Target where Dana got some warmer clothes and I bought a couple of sleeping bags. We then went to visit my mother, where we picked up some groceries that my sister had bought us and I got some warm clothes. After dropping off the groceries at the boat, we went back to Escondido for the night. We’re waiting for the rain to stop a bit before Dana and I move back onto the boat to shelter in place while working on boat projects.

Passages, People, Places

Spring and Early Summer 2018, Mostly Sea of Cortez

I Just arrived in San Diego after putting Aldabra away for the hurricane season in Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Banderas Bay, Mexico. It took more than a week to prepare the boat. I had to strip the exterior of things that could get damaged or cause damage during a big blow. Down below, I went bow to stern, clearing out gear, cleaning compartments and then restowing the gear. I also pickled the watermaker and changed the engine oil, flushed the dinghy motor with fresh water, and lashed the dinghy upside down on the deck. The task list also included defrosting the refrigerator and freezer and giving away most of the food still onboard. The final steps were to close all the hatches and cover them from the inside with aluminum foil, and install the dehumidifier (thanks to Jeff from El Gato). After that, the boat was like a sauna, so I packed up my luggage and headed for the airport. (I was looking forward to some relief from the heat and humidity.)

I had arrived in Paradise Village on July 2 with crew Stephen Hardt after crossing the Sea of Cortez from La Paz. We left at 4:00 p.m. on Friday June 29 (I forgot that we supposed to leave on a Friday) and sailed or motor-sailed for three nights and two days. We had 1-2 meter swells the whole way across and a variety of wind conditions. During the last third of the trip, the wind came from behind but it was too light to fly the spinnaker, which we’d set up on deck in anticipation. We saw some wildlife (turtles and dolphins) but most notable were the 15 brown boobies that hitched a ride on the bow pulpit for an entire night and made quite a mess.

Brown Boobies Hitchhiking. They were joined later by more of their friends.

It was a good spring in the Sea of Cortez. It started with a week-long visit with my sister Wendy, her husband Pat and my niece Lizzie. We traveled north to Isla San Francisco and then backtracked to Isla Partida and Isla Espíritu Santo, then to Puerto Balandra and back to La Paz. It was early in the season, plus it was an unusually chilly season, so the water was cold, the anchorages were very windy, and we had only one really good sailing day.  We enjoyed Ensenada de la Raza on Espíritu Santo. We explored by dinghy and kayak and watched the turtles and the grebes in their daily routine. I hope they had a good time but the conditions were not optimal.

Wendy, Pat and Lizzie on the Back (East) Side of Isla San Francisco

Once back in La Paz, I spent time playing with good friends who had arrived in La Paz on their boats (Tom and Helen on Catatude, Jeff and Jules on El Gato and John and Donna on Carmanah). And I got some modifications done to Aldabra. (The arch and davits installed last summer needed to be made stronger.) And of course no time spent in a marina is without chores, such as cleaning, changing the engine oil, defrosting the refrigerator and freezer, shopping for provisions, and regularly checking the weather. Then on Tuesday, April 10, I headed north, back into the Sea of Cortez, this time single-handing the boat in the company of buddy boats. We knew a strong northerly wind was coming so we traveled rather quickly, first to Isla San Francisco and then to Agua Verde, where we rode out the northerly quite comfortably. (I had thought it would be good to get to Puerto Escondido for the northerly, but my friends on Carmanah suggested that Agua Verde was the place to be. I later learned that the folks in Puerto Escondido had a miserable time of it. In Agua Verde, we hardly noticed anything as we hiked and played bocce ball on the beach.)

Our Little Fleet of Boats Waiting Out the Norther in Agua Verde

Leaving Agua Verde began a two-month buddy-boating excursion in which Aldabra and El Gato were inseparable. We stopped in Puerto Escondido where I was joined by crew Katie for 10 days. We then went north to Isla Coronados, San Juanico, and Bahía Concepción. We saw whale sharks swimming around Playa Coyote and did some kayaking and hiking. Katie departed from Bahía Concepción and caught a car ride back to Loreto to catch her flight, while Aldabra and El Gato continued north to Punta Chivato and then Santa Rosalía.

El Gato Was Never Too Far Away from Aldabra

Hiking on Isla Coronados and Looking Back at the Anchorage on the South Side of the Island

Katie at the Helm on the Way North

Hiking in San Juanico and Looking Over at the Anchorage

Hiking with Jules and Jeff in Bahía Concepción. Looking Down at Playa Coyote and Playa El Burro

Hiking in Bahía Concepción

By the time we got to Santa Rosalía, I had become comfortable with anchoring by myself and I successfully picked up a mooring ball in Puerto Escondido. But I was quite nervous about going into a marina, especially one I hadn’t entered before. Plus it was quite windy. So Jeff and Jules took El Gato in first and got situated. I then followed, talking to Jeff on the radio. They had plenty of dock hands waiting so entry into the slip was smooth. The marina at Santa Rosalía is small and friendly and the town has some charm. We spent a few days getting our boats back in order, doing laundry, eating out and reprovisioning.

Sitting on the Boat and Watching the Ferry Arrive in Santa Rosalía

Santa Rosalía is an Old Mining Town with a French Influence

Then we were off again, north. We stopped in Bahía San Francisquito and then Ensenada el Alacrán. There is an eco lodge there and we visited with the guests and did some hiking. We were there for two or three days with a lot of wind. We finally broke free and continued on, up into Bahía de Los Angeles.

El Gato and Aldabra in Bahía San Francisquito

While Waiting Out the Wind, We Hiked Over to Punta el Pescador. This Cove Was on the Way

 

El Gato and Aldabra in Ensenada el Alacrán in Front of the Eco Lodge

Bahía de Los Angeles had been the goal. We’d heard so much about its beauty. And it was beautiful. But we were there during a pretty significant red tide, and the water was cold and the anchorages windy. We were chasing some magical experience that wasn’t happening. We did anchor at a couple of the islands and walked around the volcano on Isla Coronado (aka Smith). It took us four and a half hours to go around, bouldering for more than half of it. We were very glad to get back to where we’d left the dinghy.

Aldabra, El Gato and Pincoya Anchored at Isla La Ventana. The Village of Bahía de Los Angeles Is Off in the Distance

The View from a Hike on Isla La Ventana

From there, we headed north again to Puerto Refúgio, at the northern tip of Isla Angel de la Guarda. The trip north started out calmly enough, although I reefed the main in anticipation of wind, a first for me since arriving in Mexico. We were sailing pleasantly on a reach until about halfway up, when the winds and the seas built quickly. Both of our boats had too much sail area up. El Gato had an issue with their headsail, which limited their maneuverability and I found it hard to round up into the wind to drop my main. The wind was coming from behind and I wanted to sail with just my jib. The first step to dropping the main was to furl the jib, and while doing so, I lost control of both jib sheets. (I know, where were those figure 8 knots?) The problem was both boats were getting too close to each other, so I had to act. I turned on the motor to get myself into the wind, and the jib sheets wrapped around the prop.

After quickly turning off the motor, I went forward and cut the jib sheets free, dropped the main, and then rigged up new jib sheets to continue the journey with just the jib, sailing at 6 to 7 knots in 25+ knots of wind. Meanwhile, El Gato fixed their issue and sailed on ahead. They anchored on the west side of the island and launched their dinghy. Jeff then lashed his dinghy to my boat as I approached in case I needed help anchoring. We each took a turn at diving in the 60-degree water to free the lines from the prop. The jib sheets had fused with the rubber of the cutless bearing and pushed it about a half inch forward of the strut. But we got enough of the lines free so that I could motor east the rest of the distance around to where we would anchor for the night.

I soon realized that the force of the jib sheets on the shaft had caused problems with the stuffing gland, which had just been repacked in March. I was taking on more water than I should. Jeff was kind enough to repack it and we continued to make adjustments over the next couple of days. It was still leaking too much water but I was able to use the motor. And in the coming days I gained confidence that I wasn’t causing additional damage.

Puerto Refúgio, although it had cold water, was beautiful. We had good hikes on the main island and visited a nearby island with a sea lion colony. We were in the company of Gene and Gloria on Pincoya, and enjoyed a couple of nice evenings with them. We had one night there with really intense winds, the most I’ve experienced in Mexico. I thought my wind generator was going to explode but I thought it might be too dangerous to try to tie it down. It was a long, noisy night. None of us, El Gato, Aldabra nor Pincoya got a true reading of the wind speed that night, but it was remarkable.

The sail back south to Bahía de Los Angeles was quite nice. I was afraid that I might not be able to use my motor, so I left early and tacked back and forth. The wind angle eventually became favorable so I was able to stay on course on a single tack. And when the wind eventually died, I was able to motor back to the anchorage in front of the village. After a day or so, we headed back south, stopping at Punta el Pescador and then Bahía San Francisquito, where we met Adam and Jessica on Volare. We hiked all the way around the bay and then later paddled around.

Hiking Around Bahía San Francisquito

We continued on to Santa Rosalía, Punto Chivato, Bahía Concepción (three different anchorages), San Juanico and Loreto. In Loreto, we anchored off the town and attended the Chocolate Clam Festival with our friends Tony and Diane from Dolce, and new friends Linda and Ken from Linda Marie and Chris and Annette from Wishlist.

Then it was time to head south. We tried to stop at Nopalo because we never had, but it was too windy so we headed straight to Bahía Candeleros. Jeff and Jules and I took a long hike there and went swimming. The next stop was an overnight at Agua Verde, where we explored the east anchorage in the dinghy and had fish tacos at the palapa on the beach. We then continued on to Puerto Los Gatos for a night, where we took a nice hike up the hill on the north end of the anchorage.

Hiking Above Puerto Los Gatos

On Friday, June 8, we went south to Bahía Amortajada on the southern end of Isla San José. We took a dinghy ride into the estuary and celebrated Jeff’s birthday with a carrot cake. It was a calm night, but the next morning brought a significant south swell and we went in search of a new anchorage. We ended up on the northern end of Isla San Francisco, which was the best protection we were going to get from the south swell and southerly winds. We took a hike up to a saddle where we could see the other two anchorages on Isla San Francisco, with very few boats, which is quite unusual. The southwestern anchorage is usually packed.

Aldabra and El Gato at the Northern Anchorage on Isla San Francisco

Looking Down on the Other Anchorages of Isla San Francisco. Almost Empty

The next morning we headed south to Puerto Balandra, on the Baja Peninsula near La Paz. It would be our last anchorage before heading back to La Paz and civilization, and it would signal the end of our journey together. While in Balandra, Jules and I took a significant hike in the surrounding hills and the three of us went in the dinghy to a restaurant about a half hour a way. It was on Tecolote Beach, so crowded with tourists it was hard to find a place to land the dinghy. It was a crazy scene but the food was good.

From Balandra we stopped at Marina CostaBaja for fuel, where I was able to dock on my own without incident. And then it was back to La Paz, where we settled into Marina Cortez, just in time to be sheltered during Hurricane Bud, which by the time it arrived was just a bit of wind and a light rain.

On Monday, June 18, Jeff helped me take Aldabra over to the Palmar boat yard, where she was hauled out for four days. I stayed in an air conditioned room at Posada Luna Sol while the work was done. She had her cutless bearing replaced, new bottom paint, and the stuffing box was repacked.

Aldabra in the Hoist in La Paz

During that time, I also said a temporary farewell to El Gato. They were headed back across the Sea to Nuevo Vallarta. We had shared every evening meal together since leaving Agua Verde in mid-April. We’d taken dozens of stunning (and hot) hikes together. And they were my support when the conditions were challenging. We’d also watched an episode of Orange is the New Black each night. We still had two episodes left of Season 3, but they would have to wait until we were all back together in Nuevo Vallarta.

Aldabra went back in the water on the morning of Friday, June 22, with help from Doug from Spartan. I got situated in Marina de La Paz and then later walked downtown to the bus station to meet my old friends David and Susan Rose. We set off the next morning to spend some time in the anchorages of Espíritu Santo but had to quickly turn back to the marina with an overheating engine. Instead, we spent the day replacing a shredded impeller and cleaning out a hose that might have harbored impeller debris. (Before I hauled the boat out, I should have closed the raw-water intake to the engine. What I believe happened is that the impeller dried out while the boat was on the hard.)

Confident that the engine was running smoothly, we set back out the next morning and enjoyed Sunday night at Caleta Partida and Monday night in Puerto Balandra before heading back to La Paz for their last night. At Caleta Partida we took the dinghy through the cut (my first time doing this) and explored south. In La Paz, I made them hoist me up the mast so I could check out my wind instruments that weren’t working. It was a quick but nice visit before they had to return home to finish preparing for their daughter’s wedding in August.

Checking Out the Wind Instrument at the Top of the Mast

Checking Out the Wind Instrument

Once David and Susan left, I had a little more than a day to get ready to cross the Sea of Cortez. Crew Steve would be flying down the next day. He very kindly drove all over Santa Cruz collecting the parts I needed. A new wind instrument, a new wind vane and a new chart plotter. When he arrived, we installed the chart plotter and La Paz electrician Will Imanse came over and climbed the mast to install the wind instrument and vane. We had some configuration issues up until minutes before leaving, but we departed just ten minutes later than planned.

Passages

To Zihuatanejo and Back to La Paz

Yikes. Looks like it’s been a long time since I posted a blog entry. I finally have the magic combination of decent Internet access and a bit of quiet time. Since my last post in January, I’ve been to Zihuatanejo and then journeyed back north to La Paz, by way of Ensenada Carrizal near Manzanillo, Barre de Navidad, Tenacatita, Bahia Chamela, Nuevo Vallarta in Banderas Bay and then across the southern Sea of Cortez. It’s been busy and fun-filled.

With Tony and Diane as crew, we left Barra de Navidad on Tuesday, January 16 at about 10:30 a.m. and arrived at Ensenada Carrizal near Manzanillo at a little after 3 p.m. Big swells made it a rather uncomfortable night. Our friends Tom and Helen from Catatude were there. We all snorkeled along the north wall of the bay in the morning and then pulled up anchor and headed over to nearby Santiago Bay. There, we encountered even more friends, Jeff and Jules from El Gato, Steve and Shauna from Windrose, Walt and Shelly from Dune. The next day we all gathered on the beach for a late lunch at the Oasis restaurant after Jeff and Jules and I hiked up a steep hill to see an abandoned house that looked out over both the Pacific and the bay.

We stayed in Santiago Bay until 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 20, leaving our friends behind to head south to Zihuatanejo. We spent two nights at sea and were able to sail in brisk conditions for a few hours, although mostly we motor-sailed or motored. On Monday morning, January 22, we arrived at Isla Grande near Ixtapa and determined that the swells were too big for a comfortable anchorage, so we kept going to Zihuatanejo, and arrived around 9:30 a.m. We checked in with Tim and Donna Melville, the chief organizers of the cruisers for Sailfest and even joined them for Mexican music that night.

The next five and a half weeks in Zihuatanejo were a whirlwind. Lots of old and new friends arrived in the bay. We worked the booking desk to sign people up for cruises. We took people out on the boats, some sunset cruises, one race, one parade and one trip to Isla Grande. All of the cruises contributed to Sailfest raising more than 2 million pesos for the indigenous students of Zihuatanejo.

Aldabra dropping her spinnaker at the finish line of the race.

The assistant port captain was on Aldabra for the parade. All the boats came by to salute him

The assistant port captain loved driving the boat during the parade

We also found time to socialize a lot with our fellow cruisers, played pickleball, kayaked around the bay, took trips to Isla Grande and ate great food. It was very busy, hot and a bit exhausting. Four of us also rented a car for a girls’ trip and drove inland into the mountains to see the Monarch butterflies. It was so fun to get a break from the Zihuatanejo heat and spend a night in the colonial high-elevation village of Anganguero before going up even higher to see the butterflies. The air was crisp and cold and we had to wear jackets! And the butterflies were magical. We then drove to the city of Morelia and spent the night before taking a great walking tour (led by Jules) of this lovely city. Then we headed back to our boats in Zihuatanejo.

Jules and I admiring the view halfway up from the town of Anganguero to the butterfly reserve

Helen and I rode horseback to get to the butterflies. Jules and Sherri walked up the hill

Sheri and Helen marveling at the butterflies

Walking the last distance to the butterflies

The butterflies hang out in clumps until the sun warms them. Then they fly.

After most of the Sailfest activities were over, Tony and Diane sailed north with Jay and Terri on Cadenza. I stayed in the area on the boat by myself and singlehanded over to Isla Grande for a few days with other boats. El Gato and Catatude headed north from there and Mark and Stephanie on Wainui and Bryan and Sherri on Epic and I headed back to Zihuatanejo. It was my first time singlehanding and I was successful in anchoring and weighing anchor by myself. I also put the motor on the dinghy by myself, also a first.

A few days later, my crew Kip joined the boat. She had sailed from Banderas Bay to La Paz with me last year and was taking on an even longer journey this year. We headed over to Isla Grande for a couple of days and then left with Wainui, Epic and Striker at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, February 28. Epic and Striker stopped along the way so we had minimal contact with them, but Wainui and Aldabra arrived, after one overnight, at Ensenda Carrizal at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 1st. The next day we left early and headed north to Barra de Navidad, arriving at 10:30 a.m. We stayed in the marina, docking right next to our old friends on Windrose.

We stayed a couple of days in Barra. Long enough to get some chores done. The boat hadn’t been washed in more than 6 weeks and it was in desperate need. In addition to refueling and doing laundry, I needed to repack the stuffing gland that connects the transmission and the shaft, and Tim on Shoofly helped me with that. In the evenings we gathered with Windrose, Appleseeds, Shoofly and Wainui for dinners in Barra.

It was sad to leave, but Aldabra headed north to Tenacatita on Monday, March 5 on our own. We spent one afternoon and evening there, visiting with friends on the beach: Catatude, Eileen May, Dolce, Doggone, Georgia and many more. The next day, shortly before 6 a.m. we headed north again to Bahia Chamela. Shortly after arriving at noon, we were joined by Catatude, Appleseeds, Dolce and others. Sean and Katie and Leo from Mele Kai stopped by and said that our friends Carlos and Debbie, who have a house on the beach, were there. So we gathered our cruiser friends and went to shore for dinner, stopping by to see Debbie and Carlos first.

The next day, I went to shore for a longer visit and some of the cruisers came later for bocce ball. The local ex-pats joined in. After napping a bit that evening, we pulled up anchor at 2 a.m. on Thursday, March 8 and headed north to round Cabo Corrientes, with Catatude. We rounded about noon in perfectly calm conditions and reached the La Cruz anchorage in Banderas Bay shortly before 5 p.m., tired. The next morning we headed over to the Paradise Village marina in Nuevo Vallarta and reunited with El Gato, Cool Change and Windrose. We took advantage of being in a marina to wash the boat, do laundry and run some errands. We also joined friends for dinners. On Sunday, we went over to the La Cruz market and the La Cruz marina to see old friends.

Jules took this while we were having dinner in Nuevo Vallarta

I’d been studying the weather intently for several days as weather windows changed. I finally concluded that Monday, March 12 was our one realistic window to cross the Sea of Cortez, a distance of 320 if we were able to head straight there, which in a sailboat is rare. We left shortly after 10 a.m. and mostly motor-sailed across the Sea, heading directly for Ensenada de Los Muertos. We arrived after about 53 hours, which was fast, although it meant very little pure sailing and the consumption of a lot of fuel. Conditions were not too bad, and got better on the last day. As we went along, our ETA would vary a lot, so we were pleased that we arrived in Muertos on Wednesday at 5 p.m., with plenty of time to anchor before dark.

We left before 8 a.m. the next day to head up through the Cerralvo and San Lorenzo channels toward La Paz. We anchored at Puerto Balandra for the night in a spot on the west side. It was lovely, and Kip had a chance to kayak around the lagoon.

The next day, Friday, we left before 9 a.m., stopped at Costa Baja for fuel and were docked at Marina de La Paz, on the outside of the dock next to Carlos Slim’s yacht Ostar by 11 a.m. (We saw him walk by later with his entourage as they boarded.)

Kip took me out to dinner on Friday night at my favorite La Paz restaurant Mesquite Grille. She left on Saturday morning to visit San Jose Del Cabo for a few days. With the help of another cruiser, I then moved the boat into an inside slip for the week before my sister, brother-in-law and niece arrive.

For the last few days, I’ve been doing typical chores, along with some my favorite workers. My chores have been to clean and reorganize the boat, do maintenance on some of the lines, get the laundry done, remake the beds, shop for groceries, make granola, go to the ATM, defrost the refrigerator, re-mark the anchor chain, fill the water tank, order spare parts online, and a host of other little things. Meanwhile, the guys here have inspected the rigging, tightened the steering cable, done some gelcoat repair and cleaned the boat bottom. I was planning to have some repairs made to my arch and davits but Sergio can’t get parts in time, so that will have to wait until I return from my week-long trip to some islands north of here with my family. We’re approaching Semana Santa and businesses aren’t all working normal schedules.

So that’s it. You’re caught up. So much time has passed that I’ve given you just the overview. I’ve left out little details and minor issues and catastrophes. The details omitted have been about the many wonderful moments with the Mexico cruising community. Each encounter fills my heart. And I haven’t mentioned the close encounters at sea with whales, turtles and dolphins, and the sunrises and sunsets. They never cease to be awesome.

And the catastrophes have mostly been about water. Too much water coming out of the stuffing gland was my reason for repacking it. Then, for several days afterward, I would have to stop the boat while underway to adjust the gland so enough water would be dripping out. At least once, a hose came off of the water heater and more than 50 gallons of water was pumped into the bilge. And another time, the water tanks were pumped dry because a faucet was left on. These frustrations are easily remedied by running the water maker to fill up the tanks. We also lost a few things overboard but were able to retrieve them.

So all in all, things have been going well and the boat is performing well. I say this with reluctance because other boats have had lots of issues, so my turn could be just a day or a week away. But I’m hoping for the best.

Finally, you’re probably wondering why so few pictures. For the most part, I’ve kept the big camera stowed away and I’ve hardly used the iPhone. At times I’ve been too busy running the boat, leaving it it to others to take the pictures. I’ll have to try harder.

I look forward to the arrival on Friday night of Wendy, Pat and Lizzie. We’ll spend about a week visiting Espiritu Santo, Isla San Francisco and maybe a spot on the Baja peninsula. And we’ll do some sailing because the first couple of days will be quite windy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gear and Preparation, Passages, People, Places

Year Two Has Begun

Flying the new spinnaker

Transiting back and forth between California and La Paz from late August to early November, I prepared for another year of cruising. The professionals in La Paz, Sergio, Will, Hector, Luis, Fabian and Arturo finished up their boat projects, and friends Chris and John came down from California to help. I now have more solar power, wind generation, WiFi in port and satellite Internet for weather offshore. In California I picked up needed parts and had dental work done. I also got a little bit of time to visit with friends and family, although it would have been nice to have more time.

I returned to La Paz on November 2 to make final preparations for the season. After each work day it was nice to hang out with Bobbi and Stephen from Sam Bassett or visit with old friends such as Bret and Marne on Liahona and Steve and Sherri on Pablo. Jane and Jerry McNaboe (from Aeolian) joined me on November 15 and we left La Paz two days later. After stopping at Costa Baja for fuel, we motor sailed straight to Isla Isabel. Winds were light so the two-day trip had only about four hours of sailing without the motor. But those four hours were a nice spinnaker run. We learned a lot of lessons about how to deploy the new asymmetrical spinnaker.

Aldabra at Isla Isabel

Isabel was calm and uncrowded. We hiked on the island through a forest of nesting frigates, over to the other side where the blue-footed boobies hang out. Afterward, we snorkeled near our boat on the east side of the island, where I got stung by something with long tentacles. It was painful at first but then was fine, except it looked like I had a tattoo.

Blue-footed boobies

Blue-footed boobie

More blue-footed boobies

We left very early on the morning of November 20 and arrived before dark at Punta de Mita, the northern point at the opening of Banderas Bay. We stayed the night there and then headed the two or so hours into the marina at Paradise Village. Although there had been very little wind and a lot of motoring, it had been a nice passage with warm winds, calm seas, stars and dolphins. And Jerry and Jane made it very easy and relaxed.

The next day was Thanksgiving, so we joined Jeff and Jules from El Gato and Dennis and Jerri from Ultegra at Arroyos Verdes, just above Bucerias. It was a nice dinner and a nice evening. Before Jane and Jerry moved off the boat on Sunday, to join their family at a nearby resort, they helped me with a lot of chores, although we did get a little bit of beach time. While they vacationed with their family, we did get a chance to take the whole group out for a very nice day sail, and I later joined them at their resort for a day of relaxation.

The docks in Paradise Village are filled with old friends as well as new arrivals, so it has been fun to catch up with everyone. I even ventured over to the Sunday market in La Cruz and got to see other old friends.

Today is Monday, December 4, and I have two new crew arriving. We plan to head out of Banderas Bay this afternoon and round Cabo Corrientes late tonight. The wish is for wind and minimal swell, although the forecast doesn’t include much wind. The goal is to get to Chamela tomorrow morning.

In closing this first blog post of the season, let me just say that I think about what’s going on in my home country every day. I’m grateful to my news sources when I have access to the Internet. With each new bit of news I feel sicker. It’s hard to reconcile this life of permanent vacation with the travesty that goes on every day.

 

 

Passages, Places

La Paz to Puerto Escondido and Back

Before leaving La Paz, I began rereading the Log Book from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck and Doc Ricketts. It was my companion reader as we moved about many of the same places they visited to collect specimens. Aldabra left La Paz on April 15 at about 11:00 a.m. and headed north after stopping for fuel at the fuel dock at the Costabaja marina. Crew Matt had joined the boat that morning less than an hour before departure. But we had been getting to know him for a couple of days before that, as he joined us for dinners out with other boats.

We were bound for either Caleta Partida, the anchorage between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo, or Ensenada Grande, an anchorage on Isla Partida. We caught a small Bonito on the way and released it.  I had been to Caleta Partida before arriving in La Paz, and as we passed by, it didn’t look that attractive for the expected wind conditions. So we continued on to Ensenada Grande. When we arrived, we found Redwood Coast II and Kemo Sabe already anchored there. They were just about to have happy hour together on Redwood Coast II, so we happily accepted an invitation to join them. We hitched a ride over to Redwood Coast II on Kemo Sabe’s dinghy because we weren’t ready to launch our dinghy and put the motor on.

Anchoring Aldabra

The next morning we did launch the dinghy and joined Don and Anne of Redwood Coast II on a small expedition ashore to check out a view of the anchorage achieved by scrambling over boulders up an arroyo behind a small beach. It was a bit steep as we made our own path. But the view was worth the sore knees. Next we took the dinghies over to the larger beach to check out a little private camp used by a company who brings clients over from La Paz for short stays. There was another trail behind the camp leading to the other side of the island. Don and Anne and Matt and I hiked it the next morning. It was a trail for about 5 minutes, and then for the next hour or so it was bouldering. The view on the other side was stunning, but my knees were shot by the time we climbed down and returned to our dinghies.

Looking from the beach in Ensenada Grande

Looking down on the east side of Isla Partida after crawling over boulders from the Ensenada Grande anchorage

Three of the hikers looking down from the top of the cliff on the east side of Isla Partida

Anne exploring on the east side of Isla Partida

We left the next morning for Isla San Francisco, arriving a day after Kemo Sabe. We went over to their boat for dinner. Aeolian and El Gato both arrived in the anchorage that evening. The next day, with Jane and Jerry on Aeolian, we walked the ridge line that overlooks the anchorage.

Looking down on the anchorage on the west side of Isla San Francisco

Jane taking pictures on the top of the ridge on Isla San Francisco

Looking over at the east side of Isla San Francisco

That night all four boats had dinner on El Gato. While we were there, a boat was trying to enter the anchorage after just losing their prop. They were trying to come in under sail with little success, so we took two dinghies out and rafted up to either side of the boat, guiding it in to a spot where it could anchor. The next day another boat towed it across the channel, presumably where it could have access to a new prop. The winds were from the northwest while we were in Isla San Francisco, with some high gusts. Matt enjoyed the free diving off the north point. We were there at the end of the second week of the easter holiday, so there were a lot of power boats with jet skis and water skis, and it was quite obnoxious.

We left with Aeolian on Friday, April 21, at 7:00 a.m., headed for Agua Verde, which was 52 miles north, up through the San Jose Channel. The winds were light, from the north/northwest. We sailed at times but mostly motor sailed. The seas were flat until we reached the top of Isla San Jose. We had larger swells after that. We arrived at Agua Verde in the late afternoon and anchored in the middle anchorage, in front of a wide beach. We stayed there for three nights and two days. The water was warmer than everywhere else. While there, we snorkeled at Solitaire Rock, which will be closed permanently around November of this year. We also hiked over the trail at the northwest anchorage and made our way to the painted cave. It was a long, confusing slog, but we made it. We also walked around the town a bit and had tacos at a new cooperative restaurant on the beach. Al and Jolinda from Chez Nous joined us there when they arrived in the anchorage.

We hiked through this oasis on the way to the painted cave

Jerry crossing the river on the hike to the painted cave

The painted cave

Looking out of the painted cave, back from where we came from

We continued north from Agua Verde on Monday, April 24, along with Aeolian. We motor sailed the whole way to Puerto Escondido. The winds were light from various directions until the last five miles, when the wind picked up to 22 knots south of the point. We took moorings in the inner harbor and went in Aeolian’s dinghy to check into the marina. Afterward we had beer and appetizers at the restaurant there.

The next morning we all four took a taxi into Loreto. We walked around the mission, visited the waterfront and had brunch at a restaurant overlooking the water. We were waiting to see the motorcycles and cars form the offroad race. They were due to arrive at any minute, but we finally gave up and continued walking around town. We visited the Caballo Blanco used book store, the Ferre Mar fishing supply story and the Ley grocery store, before taking the taxi back to the anchorage. That night, we had dinner with Aeolian on shore, and said our goodbyes. Aeolian was to continue north, and it was time for Aldabra to start heading south again.

The mission in Loreto, the first mission in California

One of the old buildings next to the mission

Inside the courtyard of the mission

The government building in the center of Loreto

Children dancing in the town square

Inside the lobby of the Posada de las Flores Hotel in Loreto

We left Puerto Escondido on April 26 at 8:00 a.m. and headed for Timbabiche, arriving at 3:30 p.m. We motor sailed the whole way in benign conditions. A local man by the name of Manuel caught some fish for us the next morning. We gave him money, milk, canned corn and beer.

Timbabiche

We left Timbabiche that morning at 8:30 a.m. and arrived at the east anchorage of Isla San Francisco at nearly 5:00 p.m.  The going had been difficult, getting through the San Jose Channel in big seas and big winds on the nose from the south/southeast. We had the main up, the jib out and the motor going, and played the wind shifts to make the trip as short as possible. We arrived to find Redwood Coast II in the same anchorage. El Gato arrived shortly after we did. We never got together with either boat because it was too windy for any of us to get off our boats.

That night was an uncomfortable, windy, rolly night. El Gato left early to head north and Redwood Coast left later that morning. I stayed on the boat all day as the wind whipped through the anchorage, while Matt did manage some free diving to spear fish. (So we had good fresh fish for dinner.) We were joined in the anchorage by the unusual boat, Westward, which towed in a disabled sailboat. Later, the Sea Shepard research boat, Martin Sheen, arrived in the anchorage for a brief overnight stay. We had another uncomfortable night, but no quite as bad as the previous night.

The Westward

The following morning, the Martin Sheen left early, and Westward left a bit later with the disabled boat in tow. We were alone in the anchorage with a large powerboat. I did a little bit of snorkeling and Matt caught more fish. The wind started coming around from the north, so before dinner, we picked up the anchor and moved around to the west side of the island for a calmer night, leaving early the next morning for the 44-mile trip back to La Paz.

During the trip back to La Paz, we had 15-20 knot winds from behind. We started sailing with just the jib out but big seas kept our speed low. So we added the motor and pretty much flew back to La Paz. Once there, we found our slip and got settled in. After we had our final fish dinner, Rick and Cindy from Cool Change came over for a visit. It was nice to see then after several weeks apart.

We spent the next couple of days cleaning the boat and doing chores, as I prepared to fly back to San Diego for two weeks.

Passages

Mazatlan to Baja

After spending one night in the marina in Mazatlan, we left with Aeolian at first light on Tuesday morning, April 4. We sailed and motor sailed north for nearly 50 miles, hoping to then head southwest and have favorable winds as we headed to Bahia de los Muertos. In the early evening, just before it was time to tack over toward Baja, we caught a fish. Once we tacked, we suddenly had challenging seas, stronger winds and a fish to deal with. I was frustrated because I was having trouble keeping the boat’s momentum up. We should have been able to sail fast in those winds, but the seas just kept slowing us down. As I fiddled with the boat, Kip heroically cleaned the fish and got it into the refrigerator.

Shortly after that, Aeolian called on the radio and suggested we turn our motors on if we didn’t want to see multiple sunsets at sea. So we motor sailed most of the rest of the passage. That night was a long one, with high winds and uncomfortable seas. But nothing broke and Kip had no complaints.

The next day was more of the same, although things always seem less intense during the day. We arrived in Los Muertos in the late afternoon and put the anchor down. After a good night’s sleep, we went with Jane and Jerry in their dinghy to shore and had lunch at the restaurant, mainly to use the Internet. Afterward, we walked along the beach before heading back to our boats. Jane and Jerry joined us for fish dinner that night on the boat.

The next day, we headed to Playa Bonanza, on the east side of Espiritu Santo. It was windy when we got there, but settled down by evening. We had dinner on Aeolian, because they had caught a fish that day. The next morning, I swam to shore and had a nice walk along the beach and over a saddle that revealed a beautiful view of the west side of the island as well as the anchorage we were in. We left around noon to motor sail through the shallow, narrow San Lorenzo Channel to the west side of Espiritu Santo. We anchored in Bahia San Gabriel, without knowing that anchoring was prohibited. We had a quiet day and snorkeled on a small reef there. In the evening, while Jane and Jerry joined us to celebrate Kip’s birthday, a Coromuel wind came up. It was just the beginning of a long night of high winds and huge wind waves. We couldn’t wait to get out of there, so the next morning we hoisted the anchor and sailed north to Caleta Partida, a more protected anchorage. There, we lounged around, swam a bit and then went over to Aeolian for cocktails with Ken and Dotty from Dream Weaver, after getting a tour of Dream Weaver’s onboard motorcycle.

Then next morning, we said a temporary farewell to Aeolian as Aldabra headed south to La Paz. We had light winds so attempts at sailing were futile. But when we entered the La Paz channel, we had lots of wind. So much so that I found it hard to find the entrance to Marina La Paz, and entering seemed risky in those winds. So I anchored right next to Redwood Coast II. Don then took me into the marina in his dinghy, where we discovered another boat in my assigned slip. After talking to the office to ensure that the boat would be moved, we went back out, pulled up anchor and entered the marina and our slip without any issues.

Passages

La Cruz to Mazatlan

Crew Kip joined Aldabra on Thursday, March 30. We set out on Saturday, April 1, anchoring for the night in nearby Punta de Mita. We pulled up anchor about 7:00 the next morning and rounded the point toward Mazatlan. We buddy boated the whole overnight trip with Mark and Stephanie on Wainui. The winds were pretty light and from the north so we sailed a bit, but mostly motor sailed. It was an uneventful but pleasant passage.

We arrived in the Mazatlan area on Monday morning and then slowed ourselves down so we wouldn’t enter the channel too early. We would ideally enter at high tide but that would have been a long wait. Motoring north along the coast that morning was very quiet and scenic. The water was glassy and we could study the coast and a few visiting seabirds. We ended up entering the channel around noon, which wasn’t a problem except for a tiny bit of surfing as we entered. (The channel to the north marinas is very shallow and very narrow.)

Jane and Jerry on Aeolian had arranged for us to have a slip at the El Cid Marina for the night. It was a bit windy as we first came alongside the fuel dock. After fueling up, we let the wind decide how we would back off the dock, turn around and enter our assigned slip. All went well. So we checked in, had a bit of lunch with Jane and Jerry and then took naps.

We had dinner that night with Jane and Jerry and Don and Bobbi on Sea Dancer in the old central part of Mazatlan.