Hola de Bahia de Banderas! (“Hi from Banderas Bay”) This third sailing saga is coming to you from Banderas Bay which is the location of Puerto Vallarta as well as the lesser-known towns of Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz. Oh, by the way, please go easy on me if I happen to somewhat butcher the Spanish language. Trust me, the attempts are with good intent to try to give you a little flavor of “south of the border.”
In the second saga, Our Hero (aka “The Captain”) plus intrepid crew member Nathalie, managed to safely cross the Sea of Cortez from Puerto Los Cabos Marina (San Jose del Cabo) to Mazatlan. It wasn’t without its challenges as the 30+ hour crossing turned out to be an endurance test with HIGH winds and seas due to a wintertime-common “Norther.”
Hmm, the weather forecast didn’t say it would be THAT bad. Needless to say, Mother Nature kicked our butts most of the way across; however, we did the whole thing under sail! As you know, The Captain’s lament during this cruise so far has been that too much motoring has been required. So, in its own perverted way, the Norther was bad news and good news.
This saga chapter will introduce you to the softer side of cruising with time in port as well as better sailing and motoring conditions more in keeping with what one might expect along the coast of mainland Mexico when heading south. So, get comfy, put on some sunscreen and sunglasses, and keep your walking shoes handy.
Our Hero considered other subtitles for this saga chapter, but couldn’t decide on which one to use: “Cruising Kitty – No Litterbox Required” or “Six Weeks in Mazatlan Seems Like a Year.” Here’s why either would have worked.
Cruisers refer to their cruising funds as the “Cruising Kitty.” This kitty obviously doesn’t need a litterbox. The subtitle would be appropriate since the six weeks waiting in Mazatlan for crew member schedules (greatly affected by the holiday season) was more cost-effective (i.e., lower marina slip rental rate) than spending the same six weeks in Puerto Vallarta.
The other subtitle would be just as good since there is only so much one can do in and around Mazatlan without doing significant harm to the cruising kitty. Six weeks seemed like a VERY long time.
That’s enough blathering and folderol. Onward.
Nathalie flew back to the “real world(?)” on 3 Dec and thus began The Captain’s “year” in Mazatlan.
There are four marinas in the Marina Mazatlan estuary and all lie along the narrow channel from the sea. No Moss was docked at Isla Marina located on a small island in the estuary and connected to the mainland by a short bridge.
The marina is inexpensive compared to the other three (Fonatur, Marina Mazatlan, and Marina El Cid). Not surprisingly, there are ragged edges to the resort and the term “resort” in Mexico is used rather capriciously. The picture tells part of the story. In all fairness, out of frame to the right are some rental condos that are nicely (but not lavishly) appointed and rented very regularly by Mexicans during the holidays.
Also located on the gated resort are a café, swimming pool, and a game room. Not being a party animal by nature, Our Hero was not to be found at the café during the weekly Monday night karaoke or the Wednesday night live rock ’n roll, oldies-but-goodies sessions. Attendance in person wasn’t necessary. Both events were loud enough to be heard exceptionally well from the cockpit of No Moss.
Over the course of the six weeks, The Captain became very adept at tuning-out the atonal wanderings of the karaoke crowd and selectively listening to favorite songs played by the live band. However, no amount of such exposure could even begin to defy the New Year’s Eve tidal wave of sound emanating from a “club” about 500 yards away and lasting until 5 a.m.
On the brighter side of the cruising life, while tethered to Mazatlan, there is convenient access to a laundry, numerous restaurants, two convenience shops, a Walmart, and a mall that would feel like home to any “mall rat.” These last two are only a mile walk (one-way) from the marina. Coming back with lots of groceries is easy and relatively inexpensive; cab fare round-trip is $5.36.
One of the hidden gems just across the bridge from Isla Marina is the “Veggie Man.” Every MWF, Gume (goo-may) and his son Jesus (hay-soose) show up at 6:30 a.m. with a pick-up truck loaded with fresh fruits, vegetables, loaves of bread, and even frozen, smoked marlin fillets. It’s all good quality and priced about half of what you might pay in Lucky’s or Safeway. It was worth the early morning get-up to be the first one at the truck and get the best pick of what is available.
Every other Saturday, the cruisers hold a swap meet at the head of the docks in Marina Mazatlan. I know, you’re thinking there are lots of cruisers there and it should be a rather busy swap meet. Well, let me burst that bubble before delusions of grandeur go to your head. The only thing that I found worth the effort of attending was the selection of home-made and frozen individual dinners sold by the lady with the cooler. Her mango butter chicken is excellent.
The Captain finally off-loaded the dinghy from the foredeck, unbagged it, then blew it up (with air, not explosives). Once the outboard motor was mounted on the transom, I had the water-borne equivalent of “wheels” and exploring the waterways of the estuary was the order of the day.
One of my few forays into the nether-worlds of the estuary took me along a high rock wall that bordered a golf course on one of the nearby resorts. Roberto had told me that the rock wall was a favorite hang-out for iguanas. They apparently live in the crevices of the wall or in the trees adjacent and love to soak up the sun’s heat during the day.
No, the golf course wasn’t called “Jurassic Park,” but based on the size and number of these iguanas it might well have been. This one was the biggest that I saw and I think he was at least 5-6 feet from nose to tail.
Time marches on (thankfully) and the date for departure for Puerto Vallarta was finally nearing. Among the many checklist items is storing the dinghy on deck. Why you ask? Well, there are two reasons. First, towing a dinghy behind the “mothership” when at sea is not a good idea since weather and sea conditions can change quickly and trying to get the dinghy aboard is a real hassle when not tied to a dock. Second, Our Hero is basically lazy. I’d rather put the dinghy on deck when doing so is the easiest.
Nathalie volunteered to crew for this leg of the cruise and arrived a day before our planned departure. She has never cruised Mexico and wanted the chance to sail and see more.
The Captain and brave crew member Nathalie departed the Marina Mazatlan breakwater (16 Jan) well before the channel was blocked by dredging operations. Off like a herd of turtles with no wind and waves from the NNW. Yes, you guessed it. It was another rolling ride until early afternoon when the wind finally came up enough to fill the sails.
We planned this leg to be an overnight run from Mazatlan to Matanchen Bay (San Blas). Nathalie is smiling because this was during one of the few hours of (engine-off) sailing on the first day.
That night was less-than-boring due to encountering many big, northbound fishing boats. These encounters required numerous jibes on our part to avoid them; jibing involved changing course and swinging the mainsail from one side to the other with the wind from behind the boat. Trust me. Jibing is a pain in the butt (especially when one is on-watch in the dark).
Following Mexican maritime protocol, Our Hero turned on the VHF radio and called the “Capitania de Puerto San Blas” to check-in and get permission to anchor in the bay. Permission granted and the anchor was down and set by early afternoon.
The next day (18 Jan) was almost an instant replay (but worse) without enough wind to sail – thus motored for the entire five-hour run to Chacala. Arriving in mid-afternoon, we discovered there was only one other sailboat anchored off the idyllic beach. This was most surprising to me since on my last cruise there were numerous boats at anchor.
By the way, the Port Captain’s home(?)/office is located in the large white structure in the picture. However, in keeping with the vagaries of Mexican maritime administration (i.e., lots of room for interpretation by Port Captains, I guess), no check-in was required as confirmed by the folks on the other sailboat.
That evening, The Captain became the BBQ-meister. With a light breeze coming in from the sea, No Moss tugged lightly at the anchor and faced into the low swells to create a very relaxing motion. That was the good news. The bad news was the wind shifted later and made the night one of rolling-interrupted slumber.
The sailing plan was to spend a full day (19 Jan) anchored in Chacala to enjoy the ambiance of this quaint little town that is best described as a “Riviera destination” for the Mexican middle-class. It has a very nice beach lined with palapa restaurants where one can have desayuno/almuerzo/cena (breakfast/lunch/dinner) while sitting at a table on the beach under a grass roof and wiggle one’s toes in the sand. No Moss and the other sailboat provided some visual interest while dining on the beach.
So, not being ones to break with “tradition,” The Captain and Nathalie supported the local economy by having a fresh seafood lunch followed by wandering along the beach and then the one main street (cobblestones and potholes). Our Hero marked the occasion by purchasing a “Chacala”-emblazoned mug for the boat. It was the replacement for one that jumped off the shelf and crashed to bits on the cabin sole during the Sea of Cortez crossing.
The laid-back mindset that accompanies anchoring in a setting such as Chacala was irreverently broken by the realization that the next leg to Punta de Mita (and then La Cruz) was going to take longer than planned and thus keep Nathalie from a full day of sightseeing in Puerto Vallarta. “Oh no, what do we do now?” perplexed The Captain and crew; but only briefly. “Aha! We’ll leave at dusk and sail all night to arrive in La Cruz.”
Early evening and still daylight saw the anchor come up and No Moss slowly motor out of Chacala. No wind. That’s okay. No rush. We had to motor slowly through the night to arrive at the marina in La Cruz at sun-up. Remember, one never enters a strange harbor in the dark.
The night was uneventful (always a welcome experience) and arrival just after sunrise was made even better by having our dock lines handled by Steve and Lynne (s/v Bella Luna) whom we last saw in Puerto Los Cabos marina before crossing the Sea of Cortez. Now we were back on schedule (by skipping anchoring at Punta de Mita) and had saved Nathalie’s day in Puerto Vallarta.
The marina at La Cruz did not exist when Our Hero stopped here ten years ago. One had to anchor outside a breakwater and time one’s dinghy arrival to avoid being dumped by a breaking wave – getting back to the boat was no less exciting. Things have changed big time! The marina has numerous slips and offers a wide range of services for cruisers: very nice restrooms with showers, two restaurants, a deli, and a short walk to the quaint town of La Cruz.
The next morning (21 Jan), The Captain and Nathalie motored out of the breakwater and headed for the entrance to Nuevo Vallarta with its two marinas: Paradise Village (resort) Marina and Nuevo Vallarta Marina. Little did we know the slip reserved for No Moss at Paradise Village Marina would prove to be an ambush of sorts.
Slip E-50 was all the way at the “back of the bus.” One could not get a slip that was much farther from the main part of the resort/marina. That was not good. However, getting into the slip proved to be a major problem. The outgoing tidal current was flowing strongly and created a 90-degree cross-current. Plus the slip was shared with another boat and left little room (width) for No Moss. With a large full-keel below the waterline, No Moss was pushed quickly left before even getting the tip of the bow into the slip. Almost full power in reverse was needed to avoid hitting the dock or the other boat.
Okay. Let’s try it again. More angle. More speed. YIKES! The bow is in but the current has pushed the boat against the corner of the dock with a most-unsettling and loud CRUNCH. Dockhands frantically try to push the 12-ton boat and move fenders between it and the dock, but with little success. The Captain has no choice now but motor forward and scrape the dock to get all the way into the slip.
Later, a closer inspection revealed that no structural damage was done. Our Hero carefully removed the dock residue from the hull with a razor blade and then proceeded to wax and buff the affected areas. The gel coat was fine and the damage essentially repaired well enough that it is not visible without a very close inspection. Big sigh of relief!
That evening, The Captain and Nathalie took advantage of the resort’s outdoor (by the beach) buffet and decided that Nathalie’s one-day excursion into Puerto Vallarta was still a “go.” In the meantime, Our Hero would seek a better slip in Paradise Village Marina or go to “Plan B” which was a move to the smaller Marina Nuevo Vallarta.
And, that’s exactly what transpired. Nathalie did her day in PV. The Captain arranged to get a slip in Marina Nuevo Vallarta for the following day. After Nathalie took a cab to the airport, The Captain waited for slack tide at 4:30 p.m. and gracefully (without hitting anything) backed the boat out of the slip and motored over to Marina Nuevo Vallarta.
This is a good place to end this saga chapter. Nathalie flew safely back to Oregon. Our Hero and No Moss are comfortably ensconced in a slower-paced environment (i.e., no resort hub-bub or tidal current).
There are more adventures! Stay tuned for Paula’s arrival, forays into La Cruz, Punta de Mita, and Puerto Vallarta on the local buses, and more. Will Our Hero single-handedly sail back to Mazatlan without trials and tribulations? Who knows . . .
Work started yesterday and will be complete this week on the private, members and guests entrance to The Club. Now, you’ll be able to access The Club without going through the harbor house.
Members who are also Westpoint Harbor will have their key fobs updated to include access to The Club.
If you’re a member without a Westpoint Harbor key fob, stop by the Harbor House and ask for a fob. You may receive one fob per member on your membership. Note that, when you no longer need the fob you must return it to the Harbor House. If you lose the fob there is a $25 replacement fee.
When we set about thinking how we could get more visibility for The Club we tried to come up with an”open day” idea. This morphed into an open day for all the businesses at Westpoint, The Club, The Harbor, Yacht Suites, and our very good friends at 101 Surf Sports.
So last Saturday all the planning came to life. We had almost 50 visitors to the harbor and at least 20 of those were children and teenagers.
Through the warmth and generosity of 101 Surf Sports, dozens of Redwood City residents and their families were able to kayak and paddle-board for the first time in their lives. For many, it was their very first time on the water.
One participant spoke to said, “I am so impressed! I had no idea all this was happening here in Redwood City. My wife and I saw the link in Nextdoor and decided to check it out. We’ll be back for more next week!”
Along with the kayaking and paddle-boarding, there was a fun treasure hunt around the harbor with prizes for the younger and older participants. Breakfast and lunch were served by members and the cheeseburgers were the “best burger I’ve had in ages” according to one dad.
The highlight of the day though was the amazing foiling surfboard demo by Kai Calder of kiteboat.com.
This remarkable technology rises up, out of the water, at just 8 knots and barley makes a ripple. With a handheld joystick to control speed and direction, Kai performed a beautifully choreographed water ballet to rival that of any Cirque du Soliel performance.
More pictures can be found here.
A very special thanks to the volunteer army who helped with organizing and managing the event. And a huge hug of gratitude to Paulien Ruijssenaars who led the team and pulled off such an extraordinary day.
Planing for Day on the Bay 2019 will start in the New Year. Please let Paulien know if you’d like to help or if you have any ideas for the event.
Bienvenida a Mexico! This second sailing saga is coming to you from sunny, warm (and humid!) Mazatlan. Oh, by the way, please go easy on me if I happen to somewhat butcher the Spanish language. Trust me, the attempts are with good intent to try to give you a little flavor of “south of the border.”
In the first saga, Our Hero (aka “The Captain”), managed to safely sail from San Francisco to San Diego. This saga chapter will hopefully enthrall you with the trials and tribulations of single-handing down the Baja coast (more than 750 nautical miles) and then the less-than-ideal conditions (understatement!) experienced when crossing the Sea of Cortez.
So, get comfy, put on some sunscreen, but keep your foul weather gear handy (for the exciting conclusion). Cast off the dock lines at Fiddler’s Cove Marina, and let’s head out to sea.
Late in the day (4 Nov), The Captain left San Diego for the overnight sail to Ensenada, Mx. A late departure helps ensure a daylight arrival in Ensenada (a busy commercial port). Leaving San Diego Bay was accomplished in blustery winds (an omen of things to come?). Also, the cruise ship Norwegian Sunlumbered by (outbound as well) with its complement of armed escort boats providing security.
Light winds and small waves of the harbor increased in speed and size respectively. Unfortunately, these conditions prevailed for all but the last three hours of the 17.7 hours to Ensenada. Needless to say, with frequent sail adjustments (engine on and off depending on wind speed) and the cold and dark, the night seemed to last forever.
Arrival in Cruiseport Village Marina was uneventful. Checking into the marina was easy, but Our Hero’s Spanish-challenged vocabulary was already becoming very evident (to The Captain and the unfortunate person with whom he was trying to communicate). I did my best to prepare them with such gems as: “Por favor, disculpame, mi Espanol no es bueno” (Please excuse me, my Spanish is not good), and “Podemos hablar Ingles?” (May we speak English?). The answer to that last one was typically no since the person had little or no English vocabulary.
My saviors were Jonathan (Harbormaster) and his assistant, Enrique. They provide the wonderful service of driving you to and from the various offices one must visit to check into the country. In each office (e.g., customs, immigration, port captain), they would help me with translation and complete the paperwork. Without them, especially when resolving the issue of the missing temporary import permit for No Moss, the whole process would have been terribly time-consuming and stressful.
The end result of all this was that I could now fly the Mexican courtesy flag. Doing so indicates that I’ve completed the check-in paperwork and I’m legal to sail in Mexico. This may preclude an unnecessary visit from the Mexican Navy while sailing or in port.
Other than a visit to a local dentist to replace a filling that fell out, I was ready (mentally and physically) to head south. Onward.
On 10 Nov, Our Hero left the Ensenada breakwater in the morning with the next stop about 26 hours down the Baja coast at Bahia San Quintin. Wind and waves were light until close to Islas Todos Santos at the south end of Bahia Todos Santo (Ensenada) where one turns left to head southeast down Baja.
Here the wind and seas increased – a mixed blessing. Wind from the west about 18 kts was great for sailing, but waves (and underlying swells) from the same direction hit the boat on the starboard quarter (back right corner of the boat) and created a ride – not hazardous just tiring when experienced for hours on end.
Just like the overnight leg from San Diego to Ensenada, this one had its share of sail handling and engine on/off activities. Light winds on arrival in Bahia San Quintin made anchoring easy. The large bay was all mine since I saw four sailboats leaving (southbound) in the distance as I was entering. After anchoring, I put the boat in order (on deck and below deck) and ran the watermaker for four hours (to make 32 gallons of excellent water from sea water). At sunset, everything was calm and peaceful.
Take a deep breath, get in a “Zen place,” because the next leg from Bahia San Quintin to Turtle Bay (Bahia de Tortugas, half-way down the Baja peninsula) is a non-stop two-nighter! Our Hero will be mightily challenged.
Leaving Bahia San Quintin about mid-day (12 Nov) was marked by ideal sailing conditions: long, low swells; good wind with only small wind waves; and sunny and warm weather. Finally! It lasted for seven hours.
Then it was back to flukey winds (too much or too little) and engine runs as needed. I covered the entire length of Isla Cedros (about 24 miles) in the dark with “entertainment” provided by Mother Nature. Somewhere beyond the south end of Isla Cedros, there were two thunderstorms with very impressive lightning displays (cloud-to-cloud, and cloud-to-sea). Hmmmmm. Does this bode ill for The Captain and his worthy ship No Moss? We shall see.
Surprisingly, cell phone reception (and some wifi) has been more frequent than I would have guessed since leaving San Diego. Thus, while motoring slowly past the town at the south end of Isla Cedros, I was able to use my phone to check weather and text Paula to let her know where I was and how things were going.
FYI . . . I also have a satellite phone aboard and use that for the same purposes (weather and calling home) whenever I’m at sea or there is no cell or wifi service.
Well, at sunrise and after rounding Punta Eugenia southeast of Isla Cedros and northwest of Turtle Bay (almost there with only four hours to go), and while endeavoring to sail the remaining distance, that pesky ol’ thunderstorm decided to head the same way, but it was going much faster than I was. Consequently, it caught up and passed me with impressive displays of lightning and bone-rattling thunder. The accompanying downpour was very welcome as it did an excellent job of washing off the accumulation of salt on the boat.
After all that, arrival in Turtle Bay (14 Nov) was rather unexciting but a welcome respite from the three days and two nights underway. That is my preferred personal limit when single-handing. Once the anchor was down and set, I went through the usual motions of putting the boat in order.
Enrique Jr. is the proprietor of the fuel dock and has a monopoly – he’s the only one in town offering fueling services. He’s definitely a “wheeler-dealer” and takes every opportunity to raise the cost of fuel with each cruising boat. For instance, if he refuels your boat when you are at anchor (instead of coming to the fuel dock), he charges $4.95 a gallon. However, I heard from a fellow cruiser at anchor that a day or two ago, Enrique Jr. charged only $4.50 a gallon.
Once I was on the fuel dock with my diesel jugs, he wanted to charge $4.95. I negotiated in my best Spanish and his not-so-good English a descuento (discount) and got my fuel at the $4.50 price. It’s amazing what a little back-slapping, good-ol’-boy, used-car-salesman banter can do for you.
I spent an extra day in Turtle Bay to wait for better weather. The forecast for my planned departure day called for winds in the high twenties/low thirties with gusts to forty (knots). As I tell my consulting clients/students: “it’s a smart sailor who knows when to stay in port.”
The wait was a good decision. I finally left the following morning (17 Nov) for the next three-day/two-night leg to Bahia Santa Maria (about two-thirds of the way down Baja).
It was still windy but tolerable, and leaving the bay I had to dodge anchored fellow cruisers and Mexican fishing boats; all of whom had arrived to avoid the bad weather.
The wind and waves were mixed in speed and direction respectively. The result for 32 of the 50 hours underway was the worst rolling/rough ride I had experienced on the cruise so far. I was very glad that I did not have anyone crewing with me (George, good thing you couldn’t go). It would have been a very bad experience; they would have been miserable. But, approaching Bahia Santa Maria on the last day it was bright sun and calm waters and winds.
This leg was not without its equipment issues: early in the leg the main halyard got away from me and tangled so badly in the mast steps that I couldn’t free it – no main sail for most of the leg (jib only); and the outboard end of the whisker pole jammed shut around the jib sheet. I had to hang over the life-lines with a screwdriver to pry it open (yes, my safety tether was clipped on). While at anchor in Bahia Santa Maria, I was able to climb the mast (that’s why I installed the mast steps) and free the halyard.
I didn’t wave to them. They came on their own. Three fishermen in a panga (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panga_(boat) slowed and pulled alongside while I was putting fuel in the tank. Them: no English. Me: less Spanish than a three-year-old. But, we managed to figure out that one of the fishermen needs two AA batteries for his handheld VHF radio. So, I go below and find two.
Once he gets those batteries, one of the other fishermen wants (and this took a minute or two to figure out) two D batteries. Same drill – he gets the batteries, then asks for two more!. No, sorry. I need two for me.
Well, at this point I eventually get across the idea that we need to do some bartering here. They have a number of fish lying in the bottom of their boat, so I ask for two. Done deal. Oh, by the way, fillet them for me. OK. I now have four fillets of Corvalo.
Next, the guy who got the two AA batteries asks if I have any candy (he actually used the English word) for the children (in their fish camp at the head of the bay). I said, “uno momento por favor” and dive below for the Halloween candy I bought in Fiddler’s Cove and never had to give out. And while below, I grab one of my planned bartering items (a P2 t-shirt from my last cruise ten years ago), stuff it in a ziploc bag and give that to him.
“Uno mas por favor, fileteado.” One more (Corvalo), please. Filleted.
Now, they have their stuff. I have six fillets of Corvalo. Everybody’s happy, and they’re off to their camp.
In my experience, Bahia Santa Maria is the only anchorage where I have this interaction with the local fishermen. In the morning at daybreak, they go whizzing by in their pangas to start the fishing day and then come whizzing back about mid-afternoon. Typically, they don’t stop at your boat unless you wave them down. It’s kinda fun (more so if you speak Spanish well) and an easy way to get some really fresh fish.
One more time Our Hero stolidly motors forth from an anchorage. Mid-day (21 Nov) the anchor is up and I’m on my way for another three-day/two-nighter bound for Puerto Los Cabos Marina (around the tip of Baja and north of Cabo San Lucas). The entire leg was a record-setter: the longest non-stop engine run I’ve ever done. There wasn’t enough wind to sail, so it was motor-sailing the entire way (200 miles, 50 hours).
There were only three events of note to break up the boredom: cruise ship contact by radio, a visit from a solitary Orca, and assault on my mast by a frigate bird. Here’s the scoop on each one.
I was passed by three cruise ships at night: two northbound and one southbound. They are easy to see because they are a blaze of lights (and they show up on the GPS and my radar as AIS targets). I called the northbound ship (Celebrity) to inquire how well I showed up on their radar (I have two radar reflectors in my rigging to improve the return of the radar signal to their scope). I got a good report and the ship passed more than a mile away. The southbound ship (Star Princess) passed well clear; no reason to call them on the radio.
However, the other northbound ship (Grand Princess) seemed to be heading right toward me (collision course). I called them to confirm that my course was okay. They said yes, but it didn’t look that way to me when referring to my GPS and radar. I called them a second time to voice my concern and they said to hold my heading. Well, sorry. I don’t want to get that close, so I turned farther left and the ship still passed about a quarter-mile on my starboard side.
This was the most exciting (fun) thing to happen: a visit in daylight hours from an Orca (killer whale). This was unusual for two reasons: I don’t think they usually frequent waters this far south, and most of the time they are found swimming in pods (not solitary). I thought at first it was a dolphin when at some distance, but when closer the dorsal fin was much too tall and the body was bigger and all black. It swam toward the port side of the boat, swam under the stern, and then swam briefly off the starboard side before disappearing in the distance. I think it came to the boat out of curiosity.
Lastly, the attack of the frigate bird. They like to land on top of masts (to rest, I guess). The problem is they are fairly large and heavy and will damage anything at the top of one’s mast (e.g., wind indicator). I like my wind indicator and don’t have a spare, so his landing at the top of the mast was not an option.
Wave action causes the mast to swing back-and-forth. This complicates his approach and landing – but not enough to keep it from happening. So, Our Hero got resourceful and employed a hi-tech solution: strobe light. I have an LED flashlight that is really bright and has a strobe function. I aim the light at the bird/top of the mast and the strobe (think disco effect) sufficiently disrupts his visual capacity to see and/or gage his landing at the top of the mast. The Captain: 1. Frigate Bird: 0.
Arrival at Puerto Los Cabos Marina (San Jose del Cabo, north of Cabo San Lucas on the east coast of Baja) was essentially uneventful. I ended up in a nice big slip among the “Big Dogs” (60ft+ sport fishing boats). Here I spent a few days resting and preparing the boat for my crew, Nathalie Mary (one of my consulting clients who wanted to have an opportunity to sail warmer waters and experience Mexico cruising). Little did we know what was in store for us when crossing the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan.
Nathalie arrived Wednesday (25 Nov) and we had planned a Friday (27 Nov) departure. However, Mother Nature stepped in once again and tossed a “Norther” at us that resulted in the marina closing the harbor – no one allowed to leave).
The winds were forecast to have abated (but still in the low 20kt range) for Sunday (29 Nov), so we departed that afternoon. All was well until three or four hours later when we left the protection of the NE-tending coastline and experienced the compression effect of wind hitting land and accelerating as a result. The winds were from the north, on the port quarter of the boat, and at their worst (at night of course) estimated to be high 20 kts gusting mid 30kts.
That wasn’t so bad. It was the confused and large wind-generated waves that really made this horrendous. One can’t judge the wave height at night even with a full moon, but in the morning we were seeing 6-7 foot wind waves that would really push the boat around. It was difficult to move round inside the boat, and cooking without a gimbaled stove would have been impossible.
These were the worst sailing conditions I have ever experienced. The boat performed marvelously; there was never a moment when I thought we were in jeopardy AND the Hydrovane (wind vane steering device) steered the boat the entire time. Once we finally settled on a single-reefed main sheeted far to starboard (no jib or staysail), all we had to do was occasionally tweak a heading correction for the windvane and hang on.
This lasted about 30 of the 40 hours for the crossing. The last six hours before arriving at the Marina Mazatlan breakwater saw the wind and seas gradually abate to the point that both were calm upon arrival (midnight, eight hours earlier than planned). Waiting for daylight, we motored in a holding pattern a mile or so from shore.
Shortly after eight a.m., we were tied up in a slip at Isla Marina with the able assistance of Roberto Animas. He owns an Island Packet 38 too, and was a couple slips away from me in Westpoint Harbor, Redwood City. It was great to see a friend in a far off port and take advantage of his local knowledge since he has settled here in Mazatlan.
The only gear issue resulting from this demanding crossing was the chafing and failure of the first reef line for the main sail. Very fortunately, that didn’t happen until we were off the Marina Mazatlan breakwater. It would have been much more serious if it had happened during the worst of the crossing. Thank you to whoever was watching out for us . . .
Nathalie flew back to Oregon on 3 December. I have been repairing stuff (e.g., reef line), cleaning stuff (the entire boat and all foul weather gear was coated in a wind-blown salt spray), and catching up on the ship’s log entries as well as writing this saga chapter. I have also managed to get a haircut (badly needed) and patronize the local laundry service. So, things are getting back to normal in the context of having access to shoreside amenities.
The burning question on everyone’s mind (including Our Hero’s) is . . . what’s next?
Well, Puerto Vallarta beckons. As for a departure date, that is yet to be determined. I’d still like to see if anyone is available to crew for this leg. It is the nicest leg because there is only one overnight sail required and the anchorages and marinas along the way are enjoyable. Of course, everyone is caught up in the spirit of the holiday season and unlikely to want to (or be able to) get away – most understandable.
But if you have the hankering, a current passport, two weeks to spare, a desire for some adventure outside of your comfort zone, like warm sunny weather, and want to have an experience that doesn’t come along every day, let me know.
Stay tuned. More adventures to come as The Captain and No Moss sail south.
Signing off for now,
Saturday, August 25th, 2018 from 09:00 to 13:00
Come and enjoy Westpoint Harbor and get out on the water on a Standup Paddleboard or in a Kayak. We’ll be giving lessons to everyone before they take to the beautiful harbor waters.
Also, for the kids, a Bay Trail treasure hunt with prizes!
See detail in the poster.
Sunny. Warm. Windless. Two out of three isn’t bad, I guess. Although, Our Hero is under the impression that this is a sailboat adventure – not a motorboat one. Unfortunately, the vagaries of Mother Nature transcend all man-made plans. This is the first of many “sailing sagas” that will chronicle the good, the bad, and the ugly of cruising under sail to Mexico and back on the good ship No Moss.
It seems like ages ago, but it’s only been 19 days. I left Redwood City (Westpoint Harbor) with Paula aboard as crew on 12 October 2015 – just as planned. The trip up the bay to Horseshoe Cove (Presidio YC) was sunny, warm, and essentially windless, thus not enough to sail without help from the engine if we wanted to get there in reasonable time.
The next day (13 Oct) we motored out under the Golden Gate Bridge and cut across the main shipping lanes to stay out of the way of the big ships. There was enough wind to fill the jib but not enough to sail without the motor, so it was back to motor-sailing in order to “get there” (Princeton Harbor, Half Moon Bay).
Arrival in Princeton Harbor was uneventful (always a good thing), and we took a vacant berth on the commercial side with all the fishing boats. No Moss was “the rose between two thorns.” Here Jay and Judith met us and we went out to dinner. Jay was joining the boat as crew from here to Marina del Rey. Judith took Paula home.
The next morning (14 Oct), Jay and I motored past the breakwater and took the shortcut along the beach instead of turning west and following the marked channel. This worked well except it put the swells on the beam and made for another rolling ride. Putting up the main to stop the rolling was an exercise in futility since there was virtually no wind to fill the sail and steady the boat. Our next stop was Santa Cruz harbor; we made better time than planned and arrived a little after five. This gave us time to tie up, sign in, and shower before it got dark.
The next day (15 Oct) was a short leg from Santa Cruz to Monterey harbor. There was no wind to start across Monterey Bay, but then the wind filled in from the west at 10-12 knots and allowed us to reduce the engine rpm and save some fuel. We saw only one distant whale spout, so the viewing of marine mammals left a lot to be desired.
Our next port would be Morro Bay and require an overnight run since it is about 106 nm. We left Monterey Harbor (16 Oct) and motored into the wind and swells to Pt Pinos, turned left and motor-sailed until turning left at Cypress Pt. Just after the turn, we crossed paths with a small pod of dolphins that were very focused on feeding and essentially ignored us.
The wind would come up for a while and we would sail with the engine off, then it would drop, and back on went the engine. Talk about frustrating for a couple of sailors! We ended up motoring most of the way from Cypress Pt to the Morro Bay breakwater.
A funny thing happened to Our Hero on his way into the cockpit to take over his watch (helm duties) sometime after midnight. Glancing down while stepping onto the cockpit sole, I noticed a dark object lying there. A tired mind interpreted the shape to be a dropped sailing glove, so I reached down to pick it up and it squawked and jumped away when I touched it. Very strange behavior for a “sailing glove.”
It turned out we had an intruder. A small black(?) seabird (about the size of a robin but with webbed feet) had taken refuge in the cockpit unknown to Jay who was at the helm at the time. Jay went off watch and I left the bird alone to rest.
Later, it tried to get out of the cockpit, so I picked it up and gave it a toss into the air. I have to assume it flew away because it was too dark to see.
Arrival at Morro Bay Yacht Club (17 Oct) was marred only by the fact that there was no vacant dock space. This required rafting (tying to the side of another boat); something I have never done before this. With help from Jay and the guys on the other boat, we managed to complete the rafting process with no damage to boats or crew.
After the ordeal of an overnight run with watches of one hour on and one hour off, we agreed to take a “day off” in Morro Bay and get our energy levels back where they should be. After all, we’re in “cruising mode,” right? This was especially important because the next leg would be our longest yet: another overnight and then some to arrive in Channel Islands Harbor. This leg included the infamous rounding of Pt Conception sometime after midnight. (Note to the Curious: Pt Conception is notoriously windy and often referred to as the Cape Horn of the California coast.)
Leaving the Morro Bay breakwater (19 Oct), we headed west until reaching Pt Buchon where we turned left. The swells and wind were on the starboard aft quarter with the wind gradually building to 18-20 knots with occasional higher gusts. Yay! We are actually sailing and have turned off the motor. In fact, we have put the first reef in the main and partially furled the jib (i.e., reduced sail area to compensate for the stronger winds and make the ride better).
We were “smokin’ downwind” and managed to cat-nap when not at the helm checking our course and keeping the Hydrovane (wind vane steering system: like an autopilot but doesn’t use electrical power) “honest.”
With the swells (4-5 ft), wind waves (2+ ft), and the wind behind us, we were averaging 6-7 knots and surfing down some of the larger swells at 9-10 knots. Yee-haw! What a ride – until rounding Pt Conception. And then the wind gradually died and we went back to the old stand-by of motor-sailing. Little wind in the Santa Barbara Channel after Pt Conception is common and to be expected.
After 26.5 hours underway, we arrived in Channel Islands Harbor, checked in at the Harbor Police Office, and tied up at our assigned spot on the long guest dock. We were tired and glad that challenge was behind us.
The next morning (21 Oct), we left the breakwater and headed slightly east to pass Port Hueneme and Pt Mugu on our way to Marina del Rey. When Pt Mugu Naval AirStation was abeam, we were approached by a fast-moving RIB (rigid inflatable boat) patrol boat with only one person aboard at the wheel.
He came alongside and said we had to clear the area because there was a “live fire” exercise about to begin and the offshore waters out to five miles had to be free of vessels. I told him we were proceeding to Pt Dume, and he said fine – just keep going (or words to that effect), then zoomed off. As for us, onward in spite of bullets, bombs, or whatever might come our way.
With jib furled and main down, we entered the Marina del Rey breakwater and eventually tied up to the long dock at Burton Chace Park (location of the city guest docks). I flew the flags from the starboard spreader to celebrate Jay’s successful completion of this part of the cruise.
Jay left the boat here because he had to get back to work; his landscaping business required his professional attention. From now until reaching Marina Los Cabos, Mexico, I would be sailing singlehanded – something I have done many times before on prior cruises.
Now that we had met Jay’s schedule, I decided to slow down a bit and try really hard to get more into “cruising mode.” It’s that elusive and rather ill-defined state of mind and body where one makes a conscious effort to slow down and save fuel (for one example among many that will come to mind later).
Thus, I decided that the next stop would be anchoring off Island White in San Pedro Bay. And, I might even spend an extra day (or two). Well, there is good news and bad news about that decision. Good news: I got the rest I needed. Bad news: the anchorage was plagued with the wakes of passing boats and ships.
I left the Marina del Rey breakwater (23 Oct) after a stop at the fuel dock. The first course-change took place at Pt Vicente. After that, the wind was up and down like a yo-yo on a string, but at least the swells were behind me. Eventually, upon reaching Pt Fermin, the wind steadied from the west at 12knotss and I was able to fly the jib to get some extra boat speed.
Soon the anchor was down and set to make that a fairly short day – and most welcome. The exciting part of the day was dodging the ships that were passing in and out of the Los Angeles and Long Beach breakwaters. Now I could relax in the somewhat protected lee of “Island White.” It’s not really an island. It is a drilling platform that has been camouflaged to look like an island with non-descript buildings and a tower to conceal the drill rig. This was done to keep the condo owners along the shore from looking at “industrial ugly.”
At anchor, I flipped the switch to turn on the wind turbine to keep the batteries charged. That worked fine until the wind died. However, the biggest irritant was the incessant rolling. It reminded me of the ferry wakes one encounters when anchored at Paradise Cove off Tiburon in San Francisco Bay. But, eventually, I got somewhat used to it and managed to rest and complete some of the small projects that had been put off. The extra day was good for that.
To get to Oceanside requires another overnight run because there just aren’t enough daylight hours in the fall. Up came the anchor (25 Oct) and I was off like a herd of turtles. With only 51 nm to cover, speed was not of the essence, so pottering along at 3.5 kts was a reasonable thing to do. The idea was to arrive in Oceanside at eight the next morning when the Harbor Police Office opens and one can check in.
The night passed uneventfully with two exceptions. First, the boat was slowing down but the engine rpm was steady. Hmmmm. Looking over the aft railing with the flashlight in hand, I spied a rather enormous clump of seaweed that had been snagged by the windvane rudder. Not wishing to waste fuel dragging seaweed from Long Beach to Oceanside, I put the transmission in neutral and slowed to a snail’s pace. I repeatedly used the boathook to tear loose segments of the clump, and finally succeeded in removing it all. Back in gear at 1200 rpm, the speed increase was amazing – seaweed can be a real drag.
What was the second thing? Well, just about midnight a fast boat looped behind me and came up on my starboard side – with blue light flashing! Of course, the bright spotlight shining in my eyes made identifying the visitors all the more difficult. At first, I thought it was the Coast Guard, but the uniforms weren’t right. I slowed down to idle speed and the boat paced me as I was inundated with question after question. What are you doing out here? Where are you going? What’s your name? (etc., you get the idea).
Finally, they were satisfied that I wasn’t a single-handed terrorist attack; they had prefaced their questions by stating they were doing a “Homeland Security Inspection.” I was told I could proceed ( . . . thank you very much) and asked if I had any questions. Yes, I did. “What’s your unit?” I asked. “Sheriff’s Marine Patrol” was the answer. “What county?” “Orange County.” And that was that.
Entering the Oceanside breakwater at the desired time was anti-climactic. I was assigned to the long dock in front of the Jolly Roger restaurant. Fortunately, it was one of those back-water, once-hoppin’ places that had seen better times, and was now patronized mostly by locals and seniors; it was quiet at night.
I left behind the Oceanside breakwater (27 Oct) and motor-sailed with jib unfurled under a clear sky. It would be a seven-hour run to the San Diego harbor entrance (abeam Pt Loma). Jib furled, jib unfurled. Engine rpm up, engine rpm down. This is getting old real fast. With the rolling ride, one learns to compensate. Here’s the typical pose to keep from sliding left and right with each roll of the boat.
However, the last two hours before slipping into the harbor were downright stressful. Large kelp patches and more fish/crab trap buoys than you can imagine. It was like a bad dream. Turn left. Turn right. No, turn farther right! Phew! Just missed that one. Needless to say, it was a great relief to finally enter San Diego Harbor and just have to watch for/worry about other boats.
Darrell Allen, president of Suncoast Yachts and the broker from whom I bought No Moss, was kind enough to offer me a free slip in Kona Kai Marina for three nights. I needed a shoehorn to get No Moss into the slip and the marina has seen its better days – yet the slip rates are horrendous. I was sure glad I didn’t have to pay to stay.
I used all three days to advantage and took care of a number of things (refueling, visit to West Marine, etc). Everything I needed was within walking distance of Shelter Island (site of the marina). Darrell came down to look at No Moss on the last day and was suitably impressed with the work I have done to upgrade the boat. He said he’d be more than happy to broker the boat for me should I want to sell it. That’s quite a compliment from one of the premier Island Packet brokers in the U.S.
A two-hour run down San Diego Bay (30 Oct) brought me to the Navy’s marina, Fiddler’s Cove. This is my chosen jumping-off and returning spot when cruising to Mexico and back. So, here I sit (2 Nov) wrapping up this first saga chapter after a busy few days of provisioning and minor repairs/upgrades.
Next stop is Ensenada. I’m not looking forward to some extra hassle with the Mexican bureaucracy, but with a little help (stay tuned on that one . . .) I’ll check in to the country and then it’s big-time cruising mode.
I hope you’ve found this saga to be of interest. I expect to write the next one in Puerto Los Cabos (around the corner from Cabo San Lucas) or Mazatlan since I doubt that I will have wifi access along the Baja coast. Until then, thanks for good thoughts and well-wishes.
Signing off for now,
(aka Our Hero or The Captain, your choice!)
Ed: Neal Doten is a member of The Club at Westpoint and an active boater. In addition to these delightful travelogs, Neal provides advice and guidance to boaters undertaking coastal cruising especially those looking for adventure on the Mexican and Central American shorelines. You can contact Neal by completing the contact form below.
The Club newsletter is now published on Sway, the Microsoft newsletter site.
You can read the newsletter here.
When Scott Kirby was doing his sound check we could tell it was going to be a wonderful evening. It was a perfect, cloudless evening, and the gentle breeze coming in through the windows hinted at a Florida Keys kind of night.
We introduced Scott as the man of “the four S’s, singer, songwriter, storyteller and sailor” and the members and guest immediately settled in because they knew he was one of us. For the next hour or so, he brought to life old standards, his own classics and songs from his new album (above). Peppering his performance with hilarious and surprising stories, Scott had us singing, swaying and stomping along.
We featured a new guest chef, R Phil Gauthier with his signature appetizers and to-die-for cakes.
Next Event: July 4th, dine around the harbor – register here.
Thursday, June 14th at 6:00 pm.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, storyteller, sailor and road warrior are all words that aptly describe Scott Kirby. Writing songs for a new CD, performing 150 live shows a year throughout the US and Canada, and holding down the stage at his own club—Key West’s Smokin’ Tuna Saloon—keep the barnacles off this modern-day troubadour.
To register for this event go to TheClubAtWestpoint.com and click on Upcoming Events.