“It’s a smart sailor who knows when to stay in port.” That’s good advice, and I always check the weather the night before and the day of departure. But, Mother Nature sometimes doesn’t “play fair.”
I was planning to sail from the east coast of Baja (Marina Puerto Los Cabos) across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan. This is about 180 nautical miles and estimated to take 40 hours of non-stop sailing. That was “Plan A.”
What happened was “Plan B.”
The first three hours after leaving the marina breakwater were uneventful. After that, and once out of the protection of the NE-trending coastline, the wind began to pick up out of the north (on the port beam and port quarter).
The winds gradually built to mid-20 kts to low 30 kts with occasional higher gusts and four-to-five-foot wind waves. This was a dreaded Sea of Cortez “Norther” and obviously not forecasted! The next 30-plus hours were not fun.
The boat handled it well with double-reefed main and staysail. The Hydrovane self-steering maintained course. All I had to do was sit in the cockpit, hang on, try to stay dry and warm (at night), and ride it out as you see in the photo below.
Needless to say, boat speed was greater than planned. The result was arrival off the Mazatlan breakwater at “0-dark thirty” instead of daylight. Fortunately, the winds had died to almost nothing during the last six hours of the crossing. Not wishing to defy nautical wisdom (i.e., “never enter an unfamiliar harbor at night”), I motored in a holding pattern until dawn.Tying up to the dock in the marina never felt so good!
Submitted by: Neal Doten s/v No Moss