“Bashing to Windward,” Cold and Wet, Low on Fuel, and “Otto” Dies

Zero.  Zilch. “Goose egg.” Cero. “No Mas.”  Those last two are obviously in Spanish and the last one coincidently fits nicely since it’s the name of the stalwart vessel that made all of these sagas possible.  Be all that as it may, you get the idea . . .  This is sailing saga “last” and will bring closure to the (hopefully) exciting adventures of Our Hero and his occasional crew.

Yes.  The Captain is still alive and well even though the absence until now of another sailing saga chapter might have led you to conclude otherwise.  Much has happened since saga chapter six that chronicled the highlights of Our Hero’s cruising time in La Paz and the Sea of Cortez that lies north of there.

Now is the time to fasten your seatbelt and enter a mental state of profound patience:  the second of which is critical to enduring the mind- and body-numbing tedium of bashing into wind and waves when going up the Pacific coast of Baja, Mexico and California.  The rough water and blowing spray were not conducive to photography since Our Hero and intrepid crew, Nathalie, were focused on sailing the boat to the greatest advantage and not subjecting a camera or a smartphone to such hostile conditions. Thus, there are no true “Baja Bash” photos; even if there were, they would not adequately capture the true experience since the photos would be two-dimensional.

Enough blathering and folderol.  Onward!

When last we left Our Hero, he was in Marina Palmira in La Paz and awaiting the arrival of crew-member Nathalie.  She arrived as planned and a team effort for provisioning and boat prep worked well.  By the way, Nathalie volunteered for the long haul from La Paz to San Diego in order to experience the east coast of Baja (La Paz to San Jose del Cabo), the west coast of Baja (San Jose del Cabo to Ensenada) and checking in to the U.S. at San Diego.  All of these are very valuable experiences that can’t be duplicated any other way.

No Moss left the marina on Tuesday (26 Apr) and made the short run to Puerto Balandra.  Granted, 11 nm is not any great distance, but this short leg made the next one to Bahia de los Muertos doable in all daylight.  Entering an anchorage at night (even one that is familiar) is to be avoided if at all possible.

Puerto Balandra was not its usual benign self.  It was a rolly anchorage that made getting a good night’s sleep next to impossible.  Thus, getting up early and leaving the anchorage before seven in the morning was eagerly accomplished just to reduce the motion of the boat.

The ride to Muertos wasn’t much better.  Little wind and residual wind waves made for a rolling ride, and even a counter-current at the south end of the Ceralvo Channel made the day less than ideal.  The Captain and Nathalie had their fingers crossed that the anchorage would offer better conditions.  There’s nothing in the log book to state otherwise, so one must assume all was well.

The leg to Bahia de los Frailes (Bay of the Friars) was short on wind and thus long on motoring.  The counter-current was our nemesis again.  It slowed our speed to the point that what should have been about a nine-hour run was actually over two hours longer.  Fortunately, we did get the anchor down and set before dark.  The sunny skies of La Paz gradually have morphed to a high overcast, so the picture of the shoreline seems rather somber.

There was actually enough wind for a “downwind” sail during the last few hours on the way to Puerto los Cabos Marina; sailing with only the jib unfurled, we managed to hit 6 kts from time-to-time.  This made for a “short day” and was a welcome break for Our Hero and Nathalie.  However, the high overcast persisted and little did either of us know that this was a harbinger of weather to come for the rest of the cruise.

Up to this time, the dinghy had been stowed inflated on the forward deck in the event that a shore trip was desired.  From Puerto los Cabos Marina all the way to San Diego (maybe even as far as home in Redwood City), no shore trips were expected where the dinghy would be required.  All the stops would be short ones and/or there would be nothing ashore to make a such an excursion worthwhile.  The exception would be Turtle Bay (a little over half way up Baja), but there a “water taxi” of sorts is available.

This fact, coupled with the need to have a relatively clear foredeck to improve safety, ease of access to the pulpit and the anchor, plus reduce wind resistance, spurred The Captain to deflate and stow the dinghy in its bag on the foredeck.  Teamwork paid off again and the task was accomplished most effectively.

Our Hero and crew departed Marina Puerto los Cabos on Tuesday (2 May) to start the first leg of the Baja Bash:  200 miles in two days to Bahia Santa Maria.  That certainly was optimistic . . .

Everything went well for about five hours until turning the corner at Cabo Falso (just northwest of Cabo San Lucas).  As forecast, the wind picked up to 13 kts out of the northwest (the direction one heads in general for the entire length of Baja to Ensenada) and the seas began building.  The wind direction plus wind waves on top of the swells forced The Captain and crew to tack back and forth across the desired course, thus making much less progress than a straight course.  The Bash was on!

Even with the wind easing some at night, what should have taken two days ended up taking almost four.  The only consolation was a period during day three when the wind shifted from NW to SW and we could actually sail with the engine off, full main, and 3/4ths of the jib unfurled. Ultimately, No Moss arrived in Bahia Santa Maria 26 hours later than the planned time.

This resulted in Our Hero’s first time anchoring in the dark at 0535 in the morning!  That is never a good situation, but using the GPS cross-checked with the radar, the anchor lights of a few other already-anchored boats, and the sound of surf breaking on the shore (Yikes!  Are we that close to shore?!), we set the anchor and shortly after found it very easy to fall into an exhausted sleep.  Cocooned in a down sleeping bag in the aft cabin, Nathalie had earned her “crew rest.”

All that extra time and motoring resulted in burning more diesel fuel than planned.  Now the question was, “Do we have enough to make it to Turtle Bay?”  Turtle Bay was 245 miles away and the thought of having adverse wind and waves the whole way was cause for concern.  Running out of fuel was not an option.

It was going to be a close call.  Getting fuel here would be a good thing, but fuel is not available – usually.  A conference on the VHF radio with three other cruising sailboats anchored nearby resulted in the following discoveries and action:  one of the boats needed fuel more desperately than No Moss; someone saw a pickup truck parked on the beach near the fish camp (truck = transport to a gas station?); so we decided to make a foray to shore to see if a local fisherman could be persuaded to make a fuel run to the nearest gas station.

Three guys plus Our Hero went ashore in a dinghy and hiked more than a mile to the fish camp.  To make a long story shorter:  we found the fisherman with the pickup truck; he agreed to take our diesel jugs to the nearest gas station (70 miles away!); but he wouldn’t do it until tomorrow and then bring the fuel back the day after that.  A three-day delay would potentially mean bashing to Turtle Bay when the winds were much less favorable.

The hike to and from the beach where we left the dinghy required that we cover some pretty dry and rough ground (e.g., hiking down into arroyos and then up the other side; it definitely wasn’t a walk in the park).  From the dirt track one could look off to the bay and see the boats anchored.  No Moss is the small dot on the right in the background.

The next day after the “fuel hike fiasco,” Our Hero was busy with boat projects such as repairing the mainsail headboard attachment.  While I was so occupied, Nathalie enjoyed a dinghy excursion with Nikki and Dave (s/v First Date) whom we had met before back in Marina La Cruz.

Four days after anchoring in Bahia Santa Maria and having decided to go without additional fuel, The Captain hauled up the anchor at 0641 in the morning and Nathalie steered No Moss out of the bay and turned NW into the gray and wave-graced Pacific.  The overcast persisted for most of the day with wind on the bow.  Again the combination of wind and waves required tacking to make “progress” and resulted in adding time to the passage.

We didn’t make it to Turtle Bay as planned.

Just before dark on the third day when we should have been anchored in Turtle Bay, we were 54 nm short of that goal, really low on fuel, and the winds were up to 17 kts.  Another night at sea in those conditions was not a smart thing to attempt with fatigue setting in for Our Hero and crew.  So, we anchored in Bahia Asuncion.

This turned out to be a good decision for more than one reason.  First, it was a calm anchorage and we could get much-needed rest by spending a “day off” there.  Second, we found a local gentleman, Juan Acer, who runs a hotel and is a great friend to all cruisers who anchor off the town of Asuncion.

Cutting to the chase . . .  A phone call to Juan – his English is excellent – resulted in the following:  a fisherman friend of his stopped by the boat and took me and the diesel fuel jugs to the beach; Juan met me on the beach with his pickup truck and drove to the nearest gas station (about a mile away) and back to the beach; his friend then returned me and the fuel jugs to No Moss.

This is a classic example of how friendly and helpful Mexican locals can be.  Initially, neither Juan nor his buddy would accept payment for their help, but I was able to prevail and both ended the morning with 200 pesos (about $10) in their pockets.  They had some unexpected pocket money and I had fuel.  Everybody was happy.

A little after ten that night, The Captain hauled up the anchor and we were off on an anticipated 12-hour leg to Turtle Bay.  Waiting until late at night was planned to allow the daytime 20-25 kts of wind to drop to 10 kts or less.  The winds did as expected and the final 54 nm to Turtle Bay was an eleven-hour motor-sail.

But, there was one significant problem.  The electric autopilot (“Otto”) died.

Otto is an essential piece of equipment for safety reasons.  He steers the boat when motoring and allows Our Hero and Nathalie to be on-watch but not steering the entire time.  This greatly reduces fatigue especially when conditions are rough and windy, and on a course that takes one directly into both.  Now, we would have to hand-steer (this is not good) for the rest of the way to San Diego – the first place where a replacement could be obtained.

A two-day break anchored in Turtle Bay allowed time to rest, refuel, and buy some minor provisions.  Checking weather using the satellite phone and what we could access with the local cellular phone tower resulted in a less-than-ideal forecast.  The next leg to Bahia San Quintin would start out with unfavorable winds (no surprise) but might ease the next day.

Monday morning (16 May) we were motoring out of the Turtle Bay anchorage which is a little more than half the distance between Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada.  Weather was as forecast until approaching Punta Eugenia and the right turn to head mostly north along the coast of 22 nm long Isla Cedros.  The next three hours (until in the lee of Isla Cedros) produced winds over 20 kts with waves on the port side that would hit the boat and send spray flying.  Fortunately, it eased as we motored along Isla Cedros.

Let’s see.  What kind of weather hasn’t hit so far?

If you said rain, you are right.  Motoring along the north half of the island, we gradually lost the clear skies as overcast and low clouds streamed our way with dusk and nightfall.  After dark, the wind was up to  22 kts and whipping drizzle in our faces.  The Captain and Nathalie were cold and wet (only on the outside, the foul weather gear worked fine) at the end of each one-hour watch.  One-hour watches were the order of the day because we were hand-steering the whole time and that is very tiring especially in those conditions.

That was a long night.  However, by morning the winds were light but the overcast skies persisted.  The mainsail was up yet provided little drive due to the wind direction.  Our Hero was so focused (and tired?) that he neglected the morning ritual of sunscreen application, and paid the price.  Even with overcast skies, the solar radiation from above and that bouncing off the water resulted in a red face (and not all of it from embarrassment at the oversight).  Consequently, the next three or four days required drastic sun protection measures.  The Captain had no choice but to do his “Blue Man” impression to “save face” (pun intended).

Only the day was spent in Bahia San Quintin.  The wind forecast for the next leg to Ensenada amounted to “go now before the winds get stronger,” so we did.  We left the anchorage before seven that evening and arrived in Ensenada about 24-hours later after another cold and damp (dew this time, not rain) night at sea.  Our Hero and Nathalie were finally back in “civilization” with only the leg to San Diego remaining for her.

Wasting no time the next day, we obtained the all-important “zarpe” from the Port Captain’s office.  The zarpe is Mexico’s “okay, you can officially leave now” document.  Of course, the ironic part is that when entering the U.S. in San Diego, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers never ask for that.

A little before nine that night, No Moss left the Ensenada breakwater behind as we headed out for the overnight run to San Diego.  It was mostly uneventful.  Winds were pretty much as forecast but the seas were lumpy and made the ride somewhat rolly with an added “hobby-horse” component (the bow rising and falling frequently).

At 0753 Saturday morning (21 May) we crossed the U.S.-Mexico international boundary and The Captain lowered the Mexican courtesy flag.  By 1058 we were tied to the San Diego Harbor Police dock and undergoing the CBP inspection required to enter the U.S.  To comply with the agricultural regulations, Nathalie had to give up the fresh fruit she had purchased in Ensenada.  After paying the $27.50 entry fee, we left the dock and headed down San Diego Bay for Fiddler’s Cove Marina.

To show his appreciation for her hard work and unrelenting support during the bash, The Captain treated Nathalie to brunch at the Hotel del Coronado.  In addition, he gifted her with the Mexican courtesy flag that had flown from the starboard spreader for the entire time she was aboard.  She now had proof of her accomplishment:  a “brag rag” of sorts that she could fly from the spreader on her sailboat (Bon Vent) back in Portland.  Our Hero realized this was not an entirely fitting thank-you gift, so later he sent her a very nice sea bag.

Nathalie flew back to Portland, OR on 23 May.  This left The Captain to single-handedly sail (of course, you know by now that means mostly motoring) from San Diego back home to Redwood City.

Ah, I knew you’d ask . . .  What about the busted autopilot?  Would he hand-steer all the way up the California coast?

No.  Our Hero was able to get a new rotary drive unit and installed it while still docked in Fiddler’s Cove Marina.  It would have been a VERY bad idea to head up the coast singlehanded without a working autopilot.

Just before seven in the morning on Monday (30 May), The Captain left the dock in San Diego for the day “sail” to Oceanside.  The day started off with the typical no wind AND what the SoCal coastal dwellers refer to as “May Gray” or “June Gloom.”  In other words, it was overcast with even occasional misty drizzle until near the San Diego airport.  The wind gradually made an appearance after rounding Point Loma but wasn’t enough for setting the jib until off Point La Jolla.  The rest of the leg was uneventful and ended tied to the dock in front of the Jolly Roger restaurant in Oceanside harbor.

The next day was the start of the overnight motor-sail to Marina del Rey.  June Gloom presided virtually the entire time and the wind never got above five knots.  The boredom of continual motoring was broken twice:  a passing U.S. Navy hovercraft, and later by a radio call to the LA/Long Beach Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) at one in the morning to advise that I was crossing the inbound/outbound lanes for commercial shipping.  Fortunately, there were no ships in the vicinity; there was no conflicting “traffic.”

From Marina del Rey to the next stop, Channel Islands Harbor, was a ten-hour run under June Gloom skies with fog and winds on the bow.  Consequently, tacking was needed to make progress from Point Dume to Point Mugu where the wind finally backed enough to allow flying the jib and actually getting some drive from it.  But, the motor was needed to make timely progress.

A day off in Channel Islands Harbor was put to good use with provisioning at the nearby Ralph’s supermarket and hiking to the fuel dock twice to top off the boat’s tank and the jugs.  Fog crept in late in the day and left a misty aura that shrouded the local “dinner cruise paddle-wheeler” as it passed.  The waterway was pretty narrow and it seemed impossible that the vessel could turn-around, but somehow it managed.

The next leg was an overnight from Channel Islands Harbor to Morro Bay.  This leg included rounding the infamous Point Conception – often referred to as the “Cape Horn of the California Coast.”  This is appropriate because the prevailing NW winds and current collide with this protruding point, compress as a result, then increase in speed as happens to any “fluid.”  The portion from Channel Islands Harbor to Point Conception is westbound in the Santa Barbara Channel which is usually fairly benign.  When one turns NW at the point, that’s when it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

Our Hero suddenly realizes that he has been remiss in providing an adequate picture of The Captain’s “uniform of the day” when sailing in the cool waters of the Pacific coast of California.  For the nighttime passage around Point Conception, and any other (non-tropical) night passage for that matter, you can envision this attire.

Leaving Channel Islands Harbor at 0758 in the morning on Saturday (4 Jun), No Moss motored resolutely toward Point Conception under overcast skies with light winds varying from SE to W.  Fog was a constant companion and visibility varied from as little as 1/8thmile to better than 4 miles.  Needless to say, the radar was on and getting a lot of attention to avoid vessels that could not be seen visually.

Visibility improved after rounding Point Conception.  It was easy to spot the oil platforms that were ablaze with lights.  The price for that improvement was more wind and waves on the bow, but not bad enough to require tacking.  Yay!  Thus, the entire leg to Morro Bay could be considered quite tolerable with arrival and docking at the Morro Bay Yacht Club about two on Sunday afternoon.  That’s Morro Rock in the background.

Okay, so what does one wear when day sailing?  Dressing for day sailing in essentially the same conditions requires only a few changes.  Lose the headlamp and the heavy jacket, swap the clear lens glasses for sunglasses, and add the neck gaiter.  The end result looks like this.

Overcast.  Arrived under it, and departed under it.  The overnight motor-sail from Morro Bay to Monterey held virtually no change in weather.  The winds were from the usual undesirable direction of NW, but at least they were ten knots or less.  Waves were from the same direction, but not big enough to slow progress by punching into them.

The only problem encountered was the seaweed that wrapped around the wind vane steering rudder.  Since that rudder is mounted off centerline to starboard, it doesn’t get protection from the boat’s keel.  Thus, seaweed that passes along the right side of the boat will often get caught on it.  The downside is that creates drag and slows the boat.  The only way to remove it is to slow (or stop) the boat and pull it off with the boat hook.  It’s wet, time-consuming work that fortunately doesn’t have to be performed all that often.

Arrival in Monterey at ten the next morning was a pleasant surprise as the Breakwater Cove Marina turned out to be a very nice place to stay.  Forecast winds of 20+ kts were expected for the next four days, so The Captain with all due respect for Mother Nature – and no desire to do any more “bashing to windward” – elected to spend the time comfortably tied to the dock.

Breakwater Cove Marina is located between Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row.  The distance is easily walked and offers a lot of options for dining, plus a Nob Hill supermarket for provisioning.

No Moss was not alone at the visitor/service dock.  Ahead was a 47ft sailboat awaiting haul-out and loading on a truck for transport to Lake Lanier in Tennessee.  Behind was a large fishing boat that awaited the return of its crew from “shore leave.”  Fortunately, it wasn’t going anywhere during my stay at the dock, otherwise No Moss would have to move to let it out.

The water quality (and thus clarity) is excellent in Monterey – no wonder someone decided it was a great place for an aquarium.  While tied to the dock, I noticed that while there was no seaweed wrapped around the wind vane rudder, that was not the case for the boat’s propeller.  With this conglomeration of seaweed around the prop, it is amazing that I got any drive from it.  No wonder I had to increase the rpm to keep the same boat speed during the run from Morro Bay.

The next leg was about a 12-hour run to Pillar Point Harbor (Half Moon Bay).  The “weather window” was open (i.e., the forecast was favorable) for an early morning departure on Sunday (12 Jun) to assure arrival before late afternoon (or nightfall) when the winds would ramp up again to the 20+ kts range from the NW.

Our Hero knows the value of a weather window, so he was up before dawn and motoring past the Monterey breakwater at 0500.  The forecast wind from the SE was a welcome break from the usual NW wind and waves.  There were wind waves from the S that conflicted with the prevailing swell from the NW, so the ride had a rolling component, but the mostly-filled jib provided some drive and helped dampen the roll.

During the day the wind built to 12 kts but gradually eased to light and variable about one or two hours before entering the Pillar Point breakwater.  No Moss was tied in a slip by 1830 that evening – almost “home.”

One more weather window (less than 20 kts from the NW) was needed before the final passage from Pillar Point Harbor to SF Bay and Redwood City.  However, the forecast said that window was four days away, thus allowing Our Hero to leave No Moss for three days to go home (about 30 minutes by car).

Back on the boat the afternoon before departure, The Captain prepared the boat for the last leg.  That left little to do before casting off the lines and leaving the slip at 0734 the next morning.  No wind with broken clouds accompanied Our Hero as he motored NW toward the entrance to SF Bay.  Look closely at the picture and you can see him standing on the foredeck and enjoying the view and the calm conditions.

Abeam Pacifica, the clouds dissipated further so that when turning right off Point Lobos, the sun was shining, the visibility was excellent, and the Golden Gate Bridge was majestic in the distance.  The breeze was fitful and light, so the sails would have provided no extra drive.  Motoring under the bridge required a higher than normal rpm setting for the engine in order to fight the outgoing tide.

Passing under the bridge was accomplished in virtually ideal conditions except for the lack of a good sailing wind.  Decision time was at hand: stop now and spend the night at the Presidio Yacht Club in Horseshoe Cove, or continue on to Redwood City and hopefully arrive before dark.

The unknown factor was how much the outgoing tide would slow progress.  Knowing that there were more daylight hours at this time of year, Our Hero elected to press on.

As it turned out, No Moss was safely and finally tucked in a slip at Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City at 1735 on Thursday (16 Jun).

The cruise was over.

(Stay tuned for the Epilogue . . .)

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. Read about his educational program here. You can contact Neal by completing the contact form below.

2018 Holiday Party

Mark Sanders welcoming the party goers

Thank you to Bob Wilson and Ken Parker for recording the sights and sounds of this year’s wonderful Holiday Party and Boat Decorating Competition.

The link to Bob’s photos can be found here and the link to Ken’s video is here.

Special Categories

  • Most Participatory Dock Challenge Cup – 2018 Winners – B-Dock
  • Most creative handcrafted decoration
    • On Adamo, B-Dock – Karen Gitter’s mom for the most beautiful Santa Wreath – Prize Sanders Chocolate Box
  • Wishing we were somewhere warmer for the holidays (also known as the “Using Summer Decorations in a Winter Scene Fail”
    • On Agave, B-Dock – Shannon Amerman and Tod Klinger for unusual use of inflatable Palm Tree and Flamingo – Prize freshly picked Artichokes from the Sander’s ranch

Best Decorated Boat – Top 5

  • 5th Place – On Tuva, F-Dock – The Atencios – best use of Candy Canes
  • 4th Place – On Serenity, C-Dock – The Smegsruds – the sights AND sounds of Christmas
  • 3rd Place – On Private Reserve, C-Dock – The Estradas – most effort in decorating (aka the “Can be seen from space” award)
  • 2nd Place – On Firebird, E-Dock – The Cranes – the most colorful decoration


The 2018 Best Decorated Boat Winner – On Hall Aboard, E-Dock – The Halls – for The Holidays Incarnate, trees, music, lights, stockings

Congratulations to ALL the winners. Thank you to our judging team of Doug Furman and Arvid Hoppas.

A Peek at the Sea of Cortez

Sailing saga chapter six is coming to you from La Paz.  It’s been more than a month since my “magic fingers” danced over the laptop keyboard and provided you with the last saga.  Needless to say, a lot has happened, and I’m finally going to chronicle the high points to indulge the “armchair traveler” in all of you.  So get comfy and be ready to “ooh and aah” over the beautiful watercolors of the anchorages in the Sea of Cortez.

In the fifth saga, Our Hero (aka “The Captain”) gallantly fought his way north from Nuevo Vallarta to Mazatlan.  Actually, it wasn’t all that bad, but still involved the usual challenges:  fighting off boredom from droning along under power, and maintaining one’s sanity when assaulted by the incessant rolling in some anchorages.  These two constant companions were overshadowed only by the attack of the bees in the anchorage at San Blas (Matanchen Bay).

This saga chapter will fill you in on The Captain’s adventures on the “high seas” as he takes a deep breath and plunges headlong into crossing the Sea of Cortez from Mazatlan to (eventually) La Paz.  With long sea passages being inherently boring, I have taken the liberty to add the adventures in the Sea of Cortez.  So, read on my friends and enjoy the trials and tribulations of cruising north from La Paz to Bahia Agua Verde and back.

The closing paragraph in the last saga chapter rhetorically asked if The Captain would get his butt kicked during the Sea of Cortez crossing from Mazatlan to Bahia de Los Muertos.  In short, the answer is no.  In fact, the winds and seas were almost the opposite of the first crossing.  At no time during the entire 40 hours did the winds exceed eight knots; the waves were no more than one to two feet.  The downside was that the engine ran non-stop the entire time and resulted in the longest engine run Our Hero has ever experienced.

Picture61Of course, like any adventure on the sea, this one was not without its nuances.  This is a good thing; otherwise, the boredom would become overwhelming.  There is a ferry service that runs regularly between Mazatlan and La Paz.  The ferry must follow a route similar to mine since we crossed paths in the middle of “nowhere.”  Fortunately, it was daylight and when overtaking No Moss the ferry kept a safe and respectful distance.

Picture62Mother Nature was kind enough to grace this passage with light winds, but on one evening she went nutso and provided a very impressive sunset.  It’s experiences such as this that “make the bad go away” when one remembers all the crappy weather and sea conditions experienced on a cruise in a small boat.

At long last about midday (day three), The Captain and stalwart No Moss arrived safely and none-the-worse for wear in the anchorage at Bahia de Los Muertos (translated:  Bay of the Dead).  As you might guess, there were no bodies floating in the water; in fact, it was a very pretty anchorage but not nearly as visually impressive as ones to come later.

Picture63There was only one other cruising sailboat in the anchorage upon my arrival, but by nightfall, at least seven others had dropped anchor as well.  Here’s the other sailboat with the cruiser-friendly beachfront restaurant on shore.

To make up for the prior beautiful sunset, Mother Nature and King Neptune combined forces to slap us around a little and instill some humility among those of us in the anchorage.  From about ten that night until four the next morning, the wind came up and blew in the low 20-knot range with gusts to the mid or upper 20s.  About two in the morning, Our Hero dragged himself out of a nice warm (but somewhat “storm-tossed”) bunk to go on deck and let out another 25 feet of anchor chain.  Obviously, sleep was in short supply until the winds died down.

The next day’s leg to Puerto Balandra (an anchorage ten miles north of La Paz) was about a ten-hour motor-sail, so the anchor came up shortly after sunrise and No Moss joined the exodus from the anchorage.  Trying to make it all the way to La Paz could have resulted in arriving after dark and that is never a good thing to do.  Now, I ask your indulgence here.  There was more than one visit to this anchorage over the following weeks, thus I’m saving the pictures of Puerto Balandra for later in the saga.

Marina Palmira in La Paz proved to be a good choice due to its location, services, and the quality of its facilities.  There is nothing visually remarkable about this marina so I will abstain from including pictures.  If you have a burning desire to see the marina pictures, send me an email request.  Trust me.  The pictures of the anchorages are much more enthralling.

Our Hero spent a week here to get the best daily slip rate and complete various projects before wandering north into the Sea of Cortez.  Doing laundry and buying groceries were only some of the exciting pastimes engaged in during the week.  Once most things were in order, it was time to leave “civilization” and head north.

This is the part of the cruise that was the driving force behind the concept of doing another “Mexico cruise.”  In my prior two cruises, I had never gone north of La Paz.  Now was the time to remedy that.  I allowed myself 11 days to go as far north of La Paz as possible and return.  The 11 days was based primarily on the need to return in time to meet Paula and then head out again and share the best anchorages with her during the 10 days she had for her visit.

Picture64On my first day, I left Marina Palmira and motor-sailed to Espiritu Santo – more specifically the best anchorage on the west side, Caleta Partida.  This proved to be a fairly well-protected anchorage and hinted at the turquoise-blue waters that were yet to come.  Its popularity as an anchorage was in evidence as I joined a “crowd” of about nine other boats sharing the wide, cliff-edged passage to anchor in the cove at the east end.

FYI and speaking of turquoise-blue waters, the lighter the watercolor, the less the depth.  Thus, it may look like a spacious anchorage, but in actuality, only a limited portion of the area is deep enough to anchor safely.

Picture65The following day was a seven-hour run to the anchorage at San Evaristo.  This anchorage proved to be even smaller when considering usable anchoring space/depth.  The cruising guide write-up and my assessment were not in agreement.  Fortunately, I set the anchor in an appropriate depth and location on the second try.  The first try put No Moss in shallow water even though I was a comfortable distance from the nearest anchored boat.  I definitely got my workout for the day as hauling in 75-100 feet of 5/16thinch chain is no easy matter.  Once that was done, a look around the anchorage proved that there just wasn’t much here.

I left the next morning for Bahia Timbabiche (pronounced:  tim-ba-beech-ay).  This proved to be a less well-protected anchorage, but had the favorable characteristics of being remote (no one around on the beach), pretty, and shortened this day’s run to five hours; the same run the next day would get me to Bahia Agua Verde.

The next day was bad news times two.  First, I was headed north, and guess where the wind was coming from after an hour or so underway.  You guessed it.  There was enough wind (10-12 knots if I remember correctly) to create waves in the 2-3 foot range, and these would seriously slow the boat when plowing straight into them.  To alleviate that problem somewhat, I increased the engine rpm setting and made long tacks left and right of my course line with help from the jib.

Now for the second bad news:  the anchorage at Bahia Agua Verde also was not up to my expectations based on the write-up in the cruising guide.  What the cruising guide didn’t tell you was the following:  there is only one good location to anchor (and it’s very small in size); plus the rest of the bay is open to the prevailing northerly winds and waves making the anchorage a rolling nightmare.

Picture68The anchorage was visually appealing, but that was it.  The best part of the anchorage was already “taken,” and there was no room for another boat.  I had to drop anchor off the beach in the picture and say that “misery loves company” since there was one other boat anchored nearby and suffering the same discomfort.

Of course the light breeze that night was from the west and just enough to swing No Moss to lie beam to the waves that were coming from the north.  It was a very uncomfortable night.  The only way I could sleep and stay in a bunk was to rig the “lee cloth” for the couch in the main cabin.  It worked well, but sleep was hard to come by even then.

I was well-motivated (even though drag-ass tired) to pull up the anchor at sunrise and head south. I had planned to stay an extra day, but no way after that kind of night.  Bahia Agua Verde was the farthest north I could go with the time I had available.  Essentially I fulfilled my cruise goal of “going north of La Paz.”  There may have been better anchorages to the north, but I don’t know and that’s okay.  I still had yet to anchor in Isla San Francisco.

Picture610Next stop was back to Bahia Timbabiche.  This time I was going with the wind and it was a great sail for the entire five-plus hours.  The only downside was the north wind had a slight easterly component and the anchorage was protected from the wind and waves but not to the extent I would have liked.  Still, it was not a rolly anchorage and No Moss had the wind and waves on the bow while anchored, so all was reasonably well.  Two huts on the beach were occupied this time.  One of the fishermen had his kids with him.  They stopped by after a day of fishing and asked if I wanted any fish – “no hoy, gracias” (not today, thanks).

Picture611The next day was the antithesis of the day before it.  No wind.  I left Bahia Timbabiche and headed for the anchorage at Isla San Francisco.  That meant by-passing San Evaristo, but that was fine with me.  I was hoping that Isla San Francisco would prove to be a better anchorage.  And, it did.  But, I’ll get to that in a minute.

The water was flat calm and very clear.  For a brief time before passing San Evaristo, there were three dolphins that swam beside the bow of the boat.  I was able to get a really good picture of one of them and their visit was the highlight of the day.  It was only exceeded by the anchorage at Isla San Francisco.

The anchorage was the epitome of the tourism brochures’ “beautiful anchorage” pictures.  I took photos while I was there, but knew I would come back with Paula. So, to keep continuity to this saga (while feebly attempting to keep from being long-winded), let me say that I spent an extra day there and then headed to Puerto Balandra and eventually back to Marina Palmira to pick up Paula.

Picture612Now, fast-forward to a week later and leaving Marina Palmira with Paula aboard to head out to the “islands.”  Our first day was to Caleta Partida for an overnight there.  It was an uneventful motor-sail with the usual more motoring than sailing.  However, Paula enjoyed the time on the water and found the anchorage to be very pretty and worth the visit.  Here she is on a deck while anchored in Caleta Partida.

Obviously, we were short on time and wanted to spend as little of it in-transit as possible.  The next day we were off on the five-hour run to Isla San Francisco.  The day was windy and not from a great direction, but we made reasonable progress.  The only snafu was arriving too far along the east side of the island and having to make a u-turn to get to the anchorage.

Picture613The northeast wind and two big motor yachts forced us to anchor in a less-than-ideal spot, but we were there.  The wind eventually died as the day passed and the motor yachts left:  one that evening and the other the next morning.  After the second motor yacht left, we decided it was worth the effort to haul up the anchor and chain and move to a better spot since we were planning to spend the entire day and that night.

Picture614We went ashore in our dinghy late in the morning and enjoyed some shoreside exploration before the wind came back.  The beach is semi-circular and lines virtually the entire cove/anchorage.  The water colors are most impressive.

Here’s No Moss anchored in about 15 feet of water and that’s our dinghy pulled up on the beach.  There is a sand dune that is centered on the semi-circle and cliffs (like bookends) at either end of the beach.

Picture615Paula is at the top of the dune (with her back to the anchorage) and looking across the island to the other shore.  She’s in the process of taking pictures with her phone camera and may come up with potential artwork as a result if she gets something she likes.

It was a quiet night at anchor and we left early (just after sunrise) to by-pass Caleta Partida and eventually anchor in Puerto Balandra.  This would allow us an extra day in Puerto Balandra – something I knew she would like since she enjoyed Isla San Francisco.  The seven-hour motor-sail was uneventful with light winds until crossing the San Lorenzo Channel from the end of Espiritu Santo to Puerto Balandra.  The breeze stiffened and the jib provided a lot of drive so I could back off on the engine rpm for the last hour and a half (might as well save fuel when one can).

Puerto Balandra proved to be as pleasing to Paula as Isla San Francisco (maybe more so).  There were more people (there is road access to the beaches) and boats, but not to the point of spoiling the experience.  We went ashore again in the dinghy and walked the beach; I photographed while Paula took photos but spent more time collecting shells.

Picture617Picture616The “trademark” feature of Puerto Balandra is its mushroom rock.  We particularly enjoyed the water colors and the fact that the water was so clear.

The wind came up that night and blew in the high teens and low twenties (knots) from about two in the morning until four.  Then it was as if someone flipped a switch and the wind died.  There was plenty of anchor chain out, so I got up once or twice to check that we weren’t dragging anchor, then went back to bed.

The two-hour run back to Marina Palmira was ho-hum wind-wise and otherwise.  We were back in the slip just before noon and decided to treat ourselves (actually The Captain paid for the crew’s lunch as a “thank-you for coming”) at one of the two restaurants in the marina complex.

BUT, before sitting down to lunch, we stopped by dock five and reconnected with our sailing friends, Lynne and Steve, whom we had last seen in Marina La Cruz on Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta area).  They had made it across the Sea of Cortez about three days prior and were now happy to be in La Paz.

Paula had an extra day here in La Paz.  We went out to dinner with Steve and Lynne plus Dave and Nikki whom we also know from our time in Marina La Cruz.  It was a good time with special people who share the unique bond of cruising under sail in small boats.

That brings you up to date on the wanderings of Our Hero . . .

Stay tuned for the gory details as Our Hero and intrepid crew, Nathalie, endeavor to sail against prevailing winds and currents as they do the infamous “Baja Bash.”  Will they sail and motor with benign conditions or will Mother Nature and King Neptune test their mettle with contrary winds and seas?  Will they get their butts kicked during the 750+ nautical miles from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego?  Who knows . . .

Signing off for now,


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. Read about his educational program here. You can contact Neal by completing the contact form below.

Celebrating the news of the week

It has been an amazing week at the marina.

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018: Winning The Marina of the Year award from Marina Dock Age

MarinaOfTheYear_2018.png  nashville_dec2018

Come and see the award in person in The Club. Anna Townsend, Editor-in-Chief of Marina Dock Age on the left.

Thursday, December 6th, 2018: Final settlement with BCDC

best Christmas ever  Celbrating Victory

Celebrations everywhere.


Our first cruise-out to St Francis YC

IMG_5988The Club at Westpoint’s first cruise out was to the world famous St. Francis YC in San Francisco. With cruising to St. FYC, our spectacular San Francisco weather, and our six boats attending, Carolyn and I felt it was a fantastic weekend. After arriving on Friday afternoon and the staff atSt. FYC assisting with the docking, we had cocktails on the outside deck at the club in warm weather (not found in the summertime!) and then went to St. FYC’s magnificent seafood buffet – salad, crab, oysters, many fish dishes, sushi bar, even prime rib, and dessert bar! Saturday started with our members heading in different directions into the City. One of the main attractions was the Disney Museum in the Presidio. We would really like to thank John and LuAnne Graves for hosting our first “docktails” on “Grunion”.  So much food (before dinner…) supplied by everyone and I definitely lost track of wine bottles that we consumed.  Well, that ended with a great dinner at St. FYC watching the lights turn on on the Golden Gate Bridge. Thank you, Peter, for wine at dinner! After dinner, Vladimir and Liliana invited everyone to their boat, “This is it” for after dinner drinks. What a great boat and I cannot believe how hard that I laughed into the wee hours of night… Thank you, Vladimir and Liliana, for making this a tremendous experience! We woke up to the one hour time change, saved an hour of sleep, but still had to catch the early flood for the cruise back the south bay. Again, many thanks to all participants and will be looking to make this an annual event!

International Cruising Program – August 24, 2019

IMG_8741I’m excited to announce that we’ve selected the leeward side of the Society Island as the location to launch our International Cruising Program; We’re going to French Polynesia! This stunningly beautiful area in the South Pacific includes the idyllic islands of Tahiti, Raiatea, Moorea, Tahaa and Bora Bora. These islands offer crystal clear waters, perfect tropical temperatures, steady winds, protected anchorages, and open blue-water crossings from island to island.
Unlike our local cruise outs, for the International Cruise Program, the first step in preparing is to arrange/charter a boat and pull together your crew. Boats charter from the island of Raiatea, from the chartering companies Moorings or Dream Yachts. There are easy, and at least one direct, flights from San Francisco to Papeete, Tahiti, landing at Fa’a’a International Airport. Once in Tahiti, it’s a quick island-hopper flight to Raiatea. And, both charter bases are within a mile of the Raiatea airport. Both charter bases offer bareboat charters, and also fully crewed charters.
As of this publication, there are five boats chartered, with a mixture of our Club at Westpoint members and Sequoia Yacht Club members:
Shannon Amerman – Club at Westpoint – Lagoon 62, a crew of 11
John Graves – Club at Westpoint – Dufour 520, a crew of 4
Steve Holmstrom – SYC – Bali 4.5 Luxe, a crew of 8
Mike Kastrop – Club at Westpoint – Moorings 4800, a crew of 8
Eric Jessen – SYC – Sun Odyssey 439, a crew of 4
Of the boats already scheduled, we all start on August 24, 2019. Some of us are going for a seven-day charter, others for 10 days; cruise as long as you like!
If you are interested or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Shannon Amerman or John Graves; co-cruise out captains supporting the Club at Westpoint members.
Shannon and John
For more information complete the form below.

The Club in Latitude 38

Great update about the Club from Tim Henry at Latitude 38. Thank Tim. Read about us here.

There’s a new club coming to the Bay Area’s newest piece of waterfront, and it will have yachts. But don’t call it a yacht club.

The Club at Westpoint was formed in January, and as of the summer, already had nearly 100 members signed up. Currently housed on the top floor of the Westpoint Harbor harbor house in Redwood City, the Club at Westpoint hopes to break ground soon on a “high-tech, modern, super-cool, classy, sophisticated, elegant 15,000 square-foot two-level building,” according to Kevin Parker, one of the people behind the Club at Westpoint. Parker says the club hopes to have a soft opening at Thanksgiving, with the full opening in December 2019.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Club at Wesptoint. The new building will also have showers and changing facilities for sailors coming off the snortin’ summer South Bay.

© 2018 Club at Westpoint

“We deliberately chose not to use the words ‘yacht club,’” Parker added. “There is a certain impression that people get from ‘yacht clubs’ that can be intimidating and excluding. We want to be an inclusive club that anyone can join. The idea of the Club at Westpoint is that we’re a premier sporting and social club where people can come and enjoy the water and the weather. Our motto is ‘no boat, no problem’. We want to make it as open as possible.”

Parker said that the two-floor Club at Westpoint will have a casual downstairs bar and restaurant, “serving good, wholesome food in the style of a British pub.” The downstairs will also feature a conference center, which will double as an event space and be available to rent out. The bottom floor will open onto a one-acre green area, where there will be indoor and outdoor seating. Redwood City is, of course, known for his exceptional microclimate, which tends to be a few degrees warmer than the surrounding towns during the summer months.

With a new club comes a new burgee.

© 2018 The Club at Wespoint

Parker said the upstairs will have a fine-dining restaurant on a private deck overlooking Westpoint Harbor. The club plans to source local food and beer. Parker went on to say that the Club at Westpoint plans to be environmentally conscious and sustainable, “We’re going to build ways of filtering rainwater and using other organic methods in our operation. We’re also going to offer a residential program for ornithologists or biologists, where they can use the clubhouse as a venue for marine sciences, to help us all become better stewards.”

Originally from the UK, Parker went to work at Pacific Shores Center, a high-tech business park adjacent to Westpoint Harbor. He decided to look for “lower-cost living,” bought a boat, and kept it at Westpoint. “That gave me the ability to be on the water three days a week, and to be part of an amazing community.”

For more information, please go to The Club at Westpoint.


Nuevo Vallarta to Mazatlan – Pangas, Bees, and Pelicans

Welcome back to the “Black Hole” (aka Mazatlan).  Much like its astral counterpart, this Black Hole sucks in things (in this case cruisers and their boats), but (unlike its space cousin) escape is possible with sufficient mental and physical effort.  You “gotta wanna” leave really badly to make it happen.  Our Hero has a severe case of the “wannas” and is just waiting for a “weather window” (i.e., the right wind speed and direction) to make crossing the Sea of Cortez something less than an ordeal.

In the fourth saga, Our Hero (aka “The Captain”) plus “The Admiral” (Paula) completed numerous “recon missions” that involved La Cruz, Punta de Mita, Bucerias, and Puerto Vallarta.  Of course, recon mission is a euphemism for shopping, sightseeing, and eating in local restaurants.  Needless to say, there wasn’t much sailing involved in all that.  No Moss served as a floating respite and transportation from Nuevo Vallarta to La Cruz and then back again.

This saga chapter will fill you in on The Captain’s adventures on the “high seas” as he backtracks from Nuevo Vallarta to Mazatlan.  Why you might ask is he returning to Mazatlan?  Well, as it turns out that’s the only way to get to the Sea of Cortez.  So, fasten your seat belt as we go charging up the coast at a breakneck speed of 4-5 knots (about 5-6 mph for you non-nautical people).

“Dodge’m Boats.”  It’s not an amusement park ride like “Dodge’m Cars.”  It’s the real deal and what The Captain had to do to get out of the harbor and exit the breakwater on a Saturday (27 Feb).  Lots of boats (sportfishers, private yachts of all sizes, tour boats, and local pangas, to name a few) come and go and criss-cross the small harbor; some enter and exit through the narrow breakwater channel.

Our Hero’s careful navigation, patience, and good fortune saved the day.  Once out of the breakwater and clear of most of the boat traffic, The Captain wiped his sweaty brow in relief and settled into the routine of passage-making.

This leg of the cruise from Nuevo Vallarta to the anchorage at Punta de Mita was short (13nm, 3.5 hrs) and not without its frustration of some wind then no wind.  Essentially, it was another motor-sail with the motor providing the drive and the jib occasionally helping with an additional half-knot of boat speed.  With about six miles left to go, the wind veered to the right on the bow and the jib was furled. So much for the highly-touted sailing on Banderas Bay . . .

Only two things of real note occurred.  First, since the engine was running it was a good time to run the watermaker. After three hours, the water tanks were full with the addition of 23 gallons of reverse osmosis (fresh) water (i.e., seawater passed through a membrane under pressure to remove salt and other “contaminants”).

Picture51Second, the GPS map that appears on the chartplotter screen was wrong!  The icon (red/green triangle at the lower center of photo) that represents No Moss appeared (at anchor) to be .18 nm inland – not out on the water in the anchorage as was the case in the “real world.”  The Captain confirmed this using the radar.  The radar position (reality) of No Moss was .3 nm offshore.  Now you know why a careful and skilled navigator always consults more than one “aid to navigation.”

Just as you read in the prior saga chapter that Punta de Mita ashore was nothing to get excited about, so too was the anchorage – maybe even more disappointing.  When Our Hero uses “rock-and-roll” to describe the anchorage, he is NOT talking about music.  True, other anchorages have been more rolly, but that comparison didn’t make the experience any more enjoyable.

Hold on.  There was one other thing that detracted from the visual and aural serenity of the anchorage:  pangas zooming around.  In case you don’t remember (or maybe I forgot to mention it before this), pangas have only two speeds:  fast and stop.

Picture52The panga “harbor” at Punta de Mita is home to a multitude of pangas that are used for fishing and taking tourists out to the islands.  Consequently, during daylight hours they come and go with irregularity and no great concern for how close and fast they pass by the cruising boats in the anchorage.  Here’s a classic example.  This may not look that close, but the picture suffers from the same problem as your car’s side view mirrors – “objects are closer than they appear.”

Sunday morning (28 Feb) The Captain made an early departure from the anchorage to do the eight-hour run to the next anchorage (Chacala).  I know this is getting boring – it’s not my fault, blame Mother Nature – but there was virtually no wind.  Only during the last two hours before getting to Chacala was there enough wind to make it worth unfurling the jib and actually getting some drive from it.

Picture53The passage was uneventful, so in the throes of boredom, one seeks something of interest to contemplate.  Ah-ha!  There is something worth noting and it’s the water temperature.  For a northern California sailor who is used to seeing water temperatures in the 50s and 60s, this was quite impressive.  Check out the reading on the instrument on the right in the picture.  It’s no wonder that the air temperature was always comfortable – although a bit humid – with a water temperature of 82 degrees F.

Picture54As I told you before when Nathalie and I stopped in Chacala on our way south in January, this is the “Riviera” for the Mexican middle-class in this part of Mexico.  It wasn’t a bright sunny day, but it was a Sunday, and the beach-goers were there in good number.  I know the crowd doesn’t rival those of the other rivieras around the world, but it was pretty impressive for here.  This was the view from the cockpit of No Moss when at anchor after arriving.  By the way, the guy with the boat has one of those inflated “banana boats” that he tows around the anchorage with paying passengers (kids) aboard.

One night in rolly Chacala – actually it was less so than before because the swells were smaller – was enough.  There was no reason to stay longer.  The anchor came up at 8:23 a.m. on Monday (29 Feb) and it was off “like a herd of turtles” for the five-hour leg to San Blas (Matanchen Bay).  No wind.  Our Hero droned along with the motor spinning at 1500 rpm and averaging 4.5 knots.  I might as well get some additional work out of the fuel consumption, so the watermaker ran for about 3.5 hours (28 gallons) to fill the tank.

There was a “welcoming committee” in the bay; there were six other boats at anchor.  This is the most I have seen in this anchorage in all of my prior visits/cruises.  I’m not sure why.  I stayed an extra day here and only one boat left on my lay-day. When I left the following morning, one other boat left too and was headed north as was I.

Matanchen Bay is not without its representatives from the natural world.  Some were benign, others weren’t. I’ll start with the “bad guys.”  The bees arrived in what I would call a small swarm about 11:30 a.m. on my lay-day.  They seemed attracted to the stainless steel arch at the back of the boat and fortunately stayed mostly in that area.  As soon as I saw them, I closed up the boat so they wouldn’t get inside.

After watching them from inside the boat for about ten minutes, I decided to try to persuade them to go somewhere else.  I dressed in light-colored clothing, grabbed a white dish towel, and ventured into the cockpit.  I first tried to spray them with water from the cockpit shower hose and that seemed to have little effect.

About this same time the breeze came up and the wind turbine blades started spinning.  This would save the day in the battle with the bees.  The spinning blades were hacking up the flying bees; bee body parts were strewn all over the aft end of the cockpit.

The turbine blades plus my water-spraying and flapping towel seemed to reduce their numbers gradually.  By 12:15 p.m. they were gone.  I saw maybe one or two late-comers/stragglers after that, but the attack was over.  All I can say is it’s a good thing they apparently weren’t the Africanized (aggressive) bees; I wasn’t stung or even approached with any regularity while in the cockpit.

Now on the lighter side of things, I noticed quite a few small fish swimming around and under the boat.  I couldn’t identify them and they weren’t big enough to consider catching and eating.  Also swimming about and not easily noticed were small jellyfish.  They ranged in size from the diameter of a ping-pong ball to that of a baseball.  Not exciting really, but a novelty none-the-less.

Picture55Lastly, pelicanos (Espanol for “pelicans”) were flying around and diving for fish in the anchorage.  They were probably eating small ones like those hiding under No Moss.  Two of them mistakenly landed next to the boat and sat there thinking I was going to give them a hand-out.  I guess they weren’t the brightest tools in the shed and couldn’t tell a sailboat from a fishing boat.  They were impressive for their size and prehistoric-like appearance.  The beak and head always remind me of pictures of pterodactyls.

Picture56It was time to pull up the anchor and make the final push to Mazatlan.  That ol’ Black Hole was starting to exert its pull on No Moss and The Captain.  The anchor came up before eight on Wednesday morning (2 Mar) and thus started another long leg (130 nm) with an overnight “sail” (motor).  The morning was windless and afforded a good view of a very solitary rock (Piedra Blanca del Mar) that sits way offshore with no connection to the land.  It’s a very unusual sight that prompts the question, “What is that doing there all by itself?”

A gentle breeze started to fill in, but not from a good direction.  In other words, here it comes again right on the bow.  Before it got too strong, Our Hero spied the infamous “long-fishing-line-between-two-hard-to-see buoys” that the Mexican fishermen managed to place right on my course.  One should always try to avoid them for two reasons:  courtesy to the fishermen so you don’t run over the line and snag or cut it; and to avoid the hassle of wrapping the line around your prop thus requiring stopping, going in the water, and cutting it free.

Picture5aThey aren’t always easy to spot and the distance between the two buoys varies greatly.  The black flags show up well against a light sky, but not very well against dark water, and not at all at night. See what I mean?

The wind now built quickly to 16 knots with occasional higher gusts – more frustrating than threatening.  No Moss would punch into the wind-generated waves (about 2 ft in height, sometimes more and sometimes less) and immediately slow from 4 knots down to 2-3 kts.  Not good at all.  So, The Captain elected to partially unfurl the jib and then reluctantly tack back-and-forth across the desired course to make any kind of headway.  This was a very irritating situation with so many miles left to go and not knowing how long these poor conditions would last.

Mother Nature must have taken pity on Our Hero because after four hours the wind gradually backed to the west.  This meant The Captain could hold the desired northwesterly course and make progress without tacking.  The waves were gradually dying down as the wind lessened, so the ride was still lumpy but smacking into the smaller waves didn’t slow the boat nearly as much.

As the sun went down, so did the wind.  The jib eventually was furled and during the nighttime hours the waves eased up.  By sunrise, the wind had died and the waves had become ripples.  This was all good news, but it meant the engine would have to run for the rest of the time to Mazatlan.  This leg turned out to be another marathon engine run of 30+ hours.  That’s a lot of diesel fuel (approximately 15 gallons or so), but there was no choice.

The now drag-ass tired Captain had one more challenge.  The dredge for the channel into Marina Mazatlan was operating its usual hours.  It blocks the channel so no boats can get in or out.  Dredge operations take a break from 2-3 p.m.  Can No Moss make it to the channel entrance during the break in dredge operations?  It was going to be really close.

Our Hero decided to take a shortcut between two islands.  Doing this reduced the distance to the breakwater by a mile and might make the difference.  So, frequent cross-checks of the GPS and the depth coupled with visual sightings of the islands and their shorelines worked well.  It looked like it was going to be really close on the timing, but the shortcut paid off.  No Moss entered the breakwater and passed the dredge at 2:36 p.m.

Whew!  That was a relief.  The last thing Our Hero wanted to do was make the ordeal longer by having to motor in circles for two hours before the dredge knocked off for the day.  No Moss was finally tied up to the Isla Marina dock at 2:55 p.m.

Picture5bOur Hero has given you a tour of the Marina Mazatlan area in a previous saga chapter. However, there are two things to add for your edification.  First, the street entrance to Isla Marina and its resort is rather unique.  In keeping with a nautical theme, they made the guard/gate house resemble a fishing boat.  Here you see one of the security guys, Alfredo, standing beside the structure.  You can’t see it, but he’s grinning from ear-to-ear – I don’t think anyone has asked to take his picture before this.

Picture59Second, I’ve made reference to the “hombre de frutas y verduras” (the fruits and veggies man) who shows up M/W/F mornings to sell fresh produce, some bread, and occasionally some smoked marlin.  I finally got around to taking his picture.  No doubt I’ve mentioned before that he has excellent stuff at VERY reasonable prices.

Lastly, Isla Marina and environs occasionally dishes up something different.  A couple of days ago the weather became very interesting and produced something I have never experienced in all my time here on this cruise or prior ones.  A squall tore through the marina.

Picture510The sky gradually darkened in the afternoon and the temperature noticeably dropped rather quickly. A breeze came up and a quick look from the cockpit presented this view.  In less than ten minutes, the wind hit 25 kts with gusts to 30 as a squall passed through the marina.  The strong winds were accompanied immediately by heavy rain.  The whole event subsided to an occasional shower after 25-30 minutes.  You just never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you . . .

Stay tuned for the second crossing of the Sea of Cortez (Mazatlan to Bahia de los Muertos).  Will Our Hero single-handedly sail across the Sea with benign conditions or will Mother Nature and King Neptune conspire to humble The Captain with contrary winds and seas?  Will the 186 nautical miles of non-stop offshore sailing kick his butt?  Who knows . . .


Signing off for now

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. Read about his educational program here. You can contact Neal by completing the contact form below.