After the Baja Haha, the plan was to take the boat up to La Paz for the winter and commute back and forth with a number of trips planned. The first objective, get the boat from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz as quickly as possible. Although there are several nice anchorages along the way, Jack and I were meeting our wives in La Paz. After completing the Haha on Thursday we rented a couple houses in Pedregal and family arrived from all over the states. We missed most of the parties, but did attend the awards ceremony on Saturday evening. We had not bothered to turn in our time so we “tied for third” with most all the boats. The Grand Poobah had been referring to Matador as beautiful Matador over the past week and he stayed in pattern at the presentation ceremony. We couldn’t agree more. We put Bonnie and Margie in a van to a hotel in La Paz Sunday morning and headed for the boat.
Sunday 11/8/2015 – Jack and I departed the Marina for La Paz just after 1100. The wind and seas were calm. Most forecasted calm seas and low wind, but the Poobah said Commander’s weather had said to expect strong winds Sunday. The wind stayed calm through the early afternoon. We were a bit surprised by a close in whale around 1400 going our way. By 1600 we were pounding into heavy seas with a twenty knot headwind. Spray was flying over the entire boat from stem to stern. Our plan was to anchor at Frailes and we tucked in behind the mountain and anchored just at sundown. I slit my foot big time while anchoring and it would continue to bother me for the next week. Either the wind had died or the mountain blocked the wind and we had a very comfortable night. Many blogs have pointed out that light winds leaving Cabo San Lucas can be deceiving and that was our experience.
November 9, 2015 – We had almost 100 miles to go today so we started early. We raised anchor at 0240. The forecast by everyone was to be light winds and calm seas. Hurrah. They were right. After yesterday, when boat speeds dropped below 7 knots it was good to be back at 8.1-8.3 under power. Around 0400 I saw a red running light that appeared a few miles off. At any range I couldn’t bring it up on radar. Sometime later I realized it had raised itself above the water and was now Mars. We arrived in Marina de La Paz at 1500. It was hot with little wind and after checking in at the office a very nice dock mate drove Jack and I to the hotel to spend the night with our lovely wives..
November 10, 2015 – The forecast was for a nice Tuesday followed by 25 knot northerlies on Wednesday and Thursday. We decided to make a beeline for Balandra on the peninsula for an afternoon at anchor. Jack, Bonnie, Margie and I cast off around 1100. We anchored at 1230 under hot, sunny skies and immediately hit the water. Cheese, crackers, wine and beer rounded out the afternoon. At 1500 anchor was up and we scooted back to the marina to wait out the storm.
The next two days were spent cleaning, shopping, repairing and exploring La Paz. La Paz is totally different than Cabo. Spanish and Pesos are preferred over English and dollars. Go figure.
November 13, 2015 – Underway for Espiritu Santo. At 0900 with 15 knots from the North we ducked into Caleta Lobos. Launched the dinghy and explored. Caleta is on the La Paz peninsula and is the closest in anchorage. There is a big, well marked rock at the entrance. The anchorage is well protected from the North and East.
November 14, 2015 – 0715 anchor up and headed for San Gabriel on Ispiritu Santo. Warm, sunny Winds North at 10, but seas flat. We towed the dinghy for
the first time and in towed nicely. Humorously, the guidebook described San Gabriel as “having one of the nicest beaches on the west side of Espiritu Santo”. Now that is being damned by faint praise. The beach was more than a mile long and beautiful. Although there were several other boats in the anchorage, we were alone to explore the beach and collect sea shells. You can see a portion of the beach in this picture. There is almost as much beach looking the other way. We thought we had anchored near shore in 16 feet of water, but the beach was so big it was misleading. We motored forever to get to the beach. A very gentle slope. We saw a fish dive and catch an already dead fish. A group of angry looking birds scared the girls back down the beach.
November 15, 2015 – 1000 anchor up and on our way to La Paz. We saw our marina next door neighbors, Doug and Martha, anchored not far from us. Although the wind was only 5-7 knots we sailed most of the way back. It was about 16 miles. A very comfortable trip back.
November 16, 2015 – phase one complete. Returning to San Diego by way of Tijuana.
January 4, 2016 – Margie’s sister, Kathy, and her paramour joined us for the first week of 2016. The new Cross Border Express crossing at Tijuana airport allows you to park on the US side and walk across the border to the terminal. We left just as the first of the El Nino storms hit and arrived in La Paz under sunny skies and 82 degrees.
The boat was clean and prepped. We planned on spending the afternoon getting settled and then using Tuesday to shop and explore La Paz. Wednesday would take us to Balandra Bay, Thursday to Ballena Bay on Espiritu Santos and Friday to Isla Partida.
There are lots of nice restaurants in La Paz. We started at Il Rustico, a nice Italian restaurant with decent wines. Some of the best pizza and fine dining west of the Pacos River.
The Malecon is the long walkway – perhaps several miles – along the waterfront in La Paz. It is beautiful, not terribly busy, but is in a bit of need of repair. Watch your step whenever you take a walk in Mexico. OSHA does not have jurisdiction down here nor does their appear to be any sidewalk building codes.
Tuesday we traveled to the Mega Super Market. A great selection of everything but Tonic for your Gin and canned chicken or beef broth. You mean you don’t make your own?
Alan is a semi retired Lawyer who has spent much of his life diving. We had planned to spend some time in the depth of the ocean, but hauling all the gear didn’t seem worth it. He was also uncertain as to rented equipment. I thought he should just give it a try.
Fairly new to sailing he picked it up quickly. On a boat for a week there are lots of things to learn. Each boat is different, with switches and hatches in different places. Alan (nor Kathy for that matter) are content to sit back and be served – they would have starved. So they quickly learned where everything was and how to use things.
We returned to La Paz a bit early. Margie had a bug and we wanted to see Todos Santos and tour the town. We had a fine week, with some decent light wind sailing, lovely anchorages and fine dining.
During January and February we cruised between La Paz and Loreto, about 120 miles north of La Paz. Envision palapas that serve ice cold margaritas, palm trees swaying in the breeze and quaint villages. Well, it was totally different. Loreto is a beautiful little town, but the anchorage in Puerto Escondido is a bit developed with little charm. There were one or two tiny encampments and fewer trees, but the anchorages were plentiful, beautiful and peaceful. Isla San Francisco is a perfect half circle and perhaps the most popular anchorage as in addition to being beautiful. A dozen boats are often there. Most other anchorages have fewer. During the winter months strong winds can develop out of the North and stick around for several days. During our first trip North, we ran into 35 knot headwinds. We anchored for the night, calling out to boats that were dragging their anchor and headed back to La Paz in a full gale covering the 55 miles in under seven hours under just the genoa. The crews for this trip included Chuck, who had just chartered Roy Disney’s Pyewacket for the Tranpac and finished second, a feat Roy never accomplished. Rob, a big time east coast racer who, in his seventies, crawled out the boom to adjust the leach line. Christy, a novice, but enthusiastic and a great addition and Jeff who will be joining the crew for the 2017 Haha.
We met a nice couple from San Diego on their Offshore 54 powerboat from San Diego Yacht Club. We all admitted we must have met somewhere. After they left, I remembered I had sat next to them on a flight from La Paz to Tijuana the month before. We stopped at a little restaurant with four tables, but only one chair. I asked whether they had more chairs. The answer was “yes”, but no effort was made to get any. I asked for a menu, but none existed. I asked what they had and was told “chicken mole”. I asked how much it cost and he said he had no idea. We started to leave. He asked if we would be back as he needed to know if they would be making “chicken mole”. I wish we’d gone back just to see. Lots to do and see.
The dreaded Baja Bash. We did it two years ago. Windy, lumpy, cold. There is no escaping it. Much has been written about it and how to avoid the worst, but it comes down to a 1,000 mile upwind trip. I’m just going to enter the log here. Not all that interesting, but perhaps informative.
3/26/16 1500 Robby and I arrive Marina de La Paz. La Paz Sunny and hot. Shopping at the mega store and boat prep for sea.
3/27/16 0650 Underway. 180 engine hours. Just getting light. First, we will head north to get around the point. Then South to Cabo and then North for Ensenada. About 850 nm.
3/27/16 0850 Off Scout Shoat at San Lorenzo channel. Miles from shore, but in just 12 feet of water. (San Lorenzo channel is a very narrow passage to get to La Paz, but shore to shore from the mainland to Espiritu Santo is a long way. Just shallow). Inverter isn’t working. Fixed it! The switch on the unit is in the locker and was bumped when fenders put away,
3/27/16 1200 Wind 10 from the southeast on the nose. Unusual, but perhaps a good omen. Only if we could have SE wind heading NW after rounding the cape. Now 14 knots, but flat seas. This would be no problem going north if conditions were identical.
3/27/16 1420 Anchor down in Ensenada Los Muertos. Lots of company. Not sure why. Too late for Mazatlan and PV and a bit early to be heading to Cabo (we saw no boats on the way from La Paz)
3/28/16 0445 Monday. Anchor up. Wind West at 4 knots. Warm.
3/28/16 0730 Sunny and Warm. Calm seas. Caught our first tuna (we troll two lines about 100 feet back. One is always a cedar plug). Last night we caught a puffer and netted some small fish last night.
3/28/16 0840 Sextant reading right on. 1/4 mile off. Sextant error is about 12 minutes. Add to measurement.
3/28/16 1350 At the fuel dock at Puerto Los Cabos (next to San Jose del Cabo. Much more sailor friendly than Cabo San Lucas where they charge $200 to tie up to the fuel dock). 97 litres port tank. Switched to starboard tank. 197 engine hours. Both tanks full. (from La Paz the engine ran 17 hours or 6 litres per hour. Fuel tanks total 800 litres.)
3/29/16 0450 Tuesday Underway. Very scary. Not a big harbor, but many jogs to get out. Still dark. Followed the track on the plotter from entering. Cleared harbor 0500. NNW 12 just as predicted.
3/29/16 0650 Rounded Cabo San Lucas rock into the Pacific. Whereas the Sea of Cortez is generally well protected, it is always bumpy once you round the Cape. Called the Washing Machine. Windy and Cool.
3/29/16 0800 NW 20-25. Very Slow. Under 5 knots.
3/29/16 0840 Fell off 10 degrees and set staysail. Caught the whisker pole cleat with the seat and pulled it off the mast. Speed increased fro 4.8 knots to 6.5 knots. Went forward. Starboard lifeline had vibrated almosst off. Anchor had worked loose and was out about 8 inches!!
3/29/16 1500 Grey. NW12. Lumpy. (The seas were forecast to be from the South. I thought it might help push us north, but instead collided with southbound wind waves causing very confused seas). Not really too much fun. Boat covered in salt. When wind was big, so was water on the boat. Hoping for a quiet night.
3/29/16 2100 Boat falling apart! Port running light out. Whisker pole fell down. Anchor came loose gain. Autopilot and instruments went out momentarily. Throttled back to 2200 rpm. 4.5 knots and less pointing.
3/30/16 0700 Wednesday. Oh what a night! 2200 rpm to keep banging in check. Boat speed averaged 4.5 knots (we motor at 8.0 knots at 2500 rpm in flat seas). All staterooms too rocky. Very little sleep. Will assess damage today.
3/30/16 0900 Caught a couple small tuna.
3/30/16 1200 Sunny. Approximately 10 miles off shore. Bumpy. Wind NNW 12 true (apparent 17 knots).
3/30/16 1340 Anchor down Bahia Santa Maria. Total trip time almost 39 hours. Averaged 5.9 knots!! Way below expectations.
3/31/16 At Bahia Santa Maria. Cloudy and a bit breezy. Washed boat. Traded for 5 lobsters. Tried to give them money, beer or GPS, but no luck. Wanted heavy shirts (we gave them two) and threw in a nice necklace Robby had.
4/01/16 Another day at Bahia Santa Maria. Sunny, breezy and cool. (The key to heading north – according to me – is to wait out the wind.) Lazy morning. Almost dumped dinghy yesterday leaving the beach. Did dump captain with his cell phone. Phone still works, but won’t charge. 230 engine ours. 33 engine hours since San Jose del Cabo. Reads just below 3/4. Switched over to port tank.
4/02/16 0440 Saturday. Underway NW 15. Ugh!!
4/02/16 1000 North at 8 knots. All in all not a bad day. Sunny, warm, light winds. Seas still a bit lumpy, butmuch improved.
4/02/16 1400 A day from hell. Heavy wicked seas. Finally down to 4 knots boat speed. Pounding so bad cabinet in forward cabin cabinet crushed.
4/03/16 0800 Nice morning. Fingers crossed. Changed course to Ascuncion during the night, but might try for Turtle Bay if flat seas hold.
4/03/16 1300 A lovely day. Winds and sea moderate. Whales, dolphins and we caught several tuna. Should arrive Turtle Bay before sunset.
4/03/16 1730 Anchor down Turtle Bay. 267 engine ours. Added 200 litres of diesel from Victor’s panga in port tank. 6.2 knots average speed on this leg. much better.
4/04/16 A day in Turtle Bay. Monday. Back to work. Sunny. Modest winds. Forecast looks good. Minor shopping in Turtle Bay. Three markets. First had bread, but no potatoes or beer. The second had no bread or beer and old potatoes. Lunch at Marias, the only restaurant open. To the left of the pier. Excellent food! Of course, we were the only customers.
4/05/16 0010 Tuesday. Anchor up for Ensenada. Wind southeast at 8 knots. Fast.
4/05/16 0800 Rounded San Benito Island. NNW 10. Lumpy. Grey sky. Not terrible, but hoping for better conditions. (the two worst areas heading on the Bash are just out of Cabo and North out of Turtle Bay for quite a while.)
4/05/16 1300 We heard a distress call from USCG. No location or nature given. Dumb. Amazing the distress call came VHF from USCG San Diego some 230 miles away. No sun. A very grey day.
4/05/16 2110 Slowly converging with a boat two miles off starboard. Tracking on radar.
4/06/16 1000 Flat seas. Light winds, cool and gey skies
4/06/16 1600 Arrived Coral Marina in Ensenada. A lovely marina.
There is no nice Baja Bash. Just a matter of how bad it is going to be. I thought the first trip in 2014 was bad on my Jeanneau 42, but this one was worse. I think, in part, because we pushed harder this time. I certainly don’t have the experience of many, but that doesn’t keep me from being an “expert”. First, get the book Baja Bash. It is very accurate. You will be going into the wind and seas for almost 1,000 miles so prepare your boat – and crew. They say there are better times to make the trip, but most of us have schedules. March is considered a bad time. Some say June is the best (that is the first month of hurricane season and my insurance would not cover me). There are two areas that everyone says are ugly every time. First, as you round Cabo San Lucas into the Pacific. Probably due to the convergence of the Sea of Cortez with the Pacific. It is called the “washing machine”. Even day sailing out of Cabo, it has always been uncomfortable. Experts say to get through this area before the wind comes up in the morning. The second area is after leaving Turtle Bay. The Bay of Viscano is relatively shallow and combined with Cedros, Navidad and Benito the islands make this an uncomfortable crossing.
We sailed south in October at an average speed of 8 knots with the wind. We went home at 6 knots. The apparent wind difference is 14 knots and you can’t escape that. The key is to head north with the lightest wind. Wait until the wind is light and keep going. It may take three or four days of waiting. But keep going if conditions permit. It is hard to day sail from anchorage to anchorage. The distances are too big generally and you should keep going if weather permits – don’t travel if it doesn’t.
Will we do it again? See Baja Bash 2017. We will return!