Looks like today was a good day to leave Ensenada. If we’d stayed another couple of hours we would have had to deploy some new dock lines. This time maybe use some fire hose for chafe protection:
We went out to Alfonse’s for breakfast (huevos rancheros for me, chilaquiles rojas for Lulu). We were a little concerned about whether or not the restaurant would be open because Baja Naval had lost their power during the night sometime and it still had not been restored by the time we headed out. Fortunately, the outage didn’t extend all the way to Alfonse’s. Back at the marina, we managed to locate Rogelio and pay for our extra day. Then it was back to the boat to get underway.
The slips at Baja Naval are not quite like others we’ve seen. Instead of being perpendicular to the dock, they are angled slightly (maybe 30 degrees) towards the bay. This makes them really easy to get into because you don’t have a sharp turn to do at the last minute and hope you judged that last minute right so you don’t either hit the dock on one side or hit the neighboring boat on the other. Entering these docks is more like a course adjustment. However, this same feature makes getting out of the docks a bit harder. Picture yourself in a car. You’re on some street that has diagonal parking. Easy to get into. Easy to get out of because you just back out into the traffic lane and then continue on in the same direction that you were going when you entered. But if you did that here, you’d promptly run into the landward end of the marina. So picture yourself backing out of your parking spot and proceeding back the way you came. Not as easy, huh? Now you have to back straight out in a direction about 120 degrees from where you want to head, and then hope there’s still enough room between the back end of your car and the row of cars across the street for you to get yourself turned 120 degrees so you can proceed on your way. Now try the same thing in a boat remembering that boats don’t have brakes. And boats don’t always behave predictably when backing up. A lot depends on the width of the traffic lane (the ‘fairway’) and, in this case, it wasn’t a whole lot wider than Siempre Sabado is long. And we find normal undocking stressful.
Well, for once we had a plan, an alternative, and another alternative just in case:
The plan: There were a couple of empty parking spaces across the way and towards the bay from us. We figured we could back out of our slip into the fairway and then turn, still going backwards, and back into the first empty spot between the dock and a parked boat. From there it would be an easy exit, all in forward.
Alternative 1: If, for some reason we were in a bad position to back into the first empty slip, we would go past it and turn into the next slip which was actually two parking spaces side-by-side since there were no boats tied up there. This would give us lots of room to maneuver.
Alternative 2: If we couldn’t do either of the above, we’d simply back on out the fairway into the bay where we would have plenty of room to turn around and get going. Don’t know if you remember or not, but this is pretty much how we got out of the slip at Charleston, OR. And this fairway was less than half as long as that one was.
We also like to untie some of the dock lines before we get going just to see what the currents, winds, etc are going to do while we’re still in a position to hang on to the boat. This time that was pretty much impossible. If we loosened any of them, there was a pretty good chance we’d smack our bow pulpit against the concrete piling at the dock end of the slip. We like to maneuver the boat with dock lines until we’re pretty sure the helmsman is in control of things. Just couldn’t do it this time due to that pesky surge. So, we just had to pretty much do it all at once: take in all lines, start backing under engine power, fend off from the piling and get everyone (meaning Lulu) aboard, all at the same time. Well, we did it. I started backing out and was happy to hear Lulu call out “Bowsprit’s clear!” I managed to back into the first open slip (The Plan), stop and reverse direction to motor on out of the marina. It all went very smoothly. I hardly even got any cotton mouth and Lulu wasn’t at all freaked out. Maybe we’re learning how to do this stuff.
Holy cow! All of that just to get out of the marina? I’m not yet sure how long this first day is going to take to describe but you might want to go get another cup of coffee or another beer or something, maybe take a bathroom break, before we proceed. Go ahead, I’l wait.
Okay, ready to continue? Let’s go.
We departed Baja Naval at 1030. It was sunny and clear albeit a little on the cool side. We motored past the end of the jetty and set our course to go between the southern tip of the bay and Islas de Todos Santos. The wind was almost on the nose so we raised the main for stabilization. Then, as we adjusted course a bit, it dawned on me that we were in a good position to sail close-hauled on a starboard tack and, if the wind direction didn’t shift, we shouldn’t have to tack until we made a course adjustment once outside the bay. So, we hoisted the jib and the staysail and shut the engine off. At 1120, we were sailing at 5 knots on our rhumb line. That’s right, SAILING. Not motor-sailing, not motoring, not making excuses, SAILING. Hot damn! And, being close hauled, we were heeled at about 20 degrees which just adds to the whole feel of sailing. Because wind pressure was holding us over at 20 degrees or so, we had a reasonably smooth ride, just plowing through the seas.
We cleared the Bay and entered the Pacific at about 1300 (N31*45.73′ W116*45.83′ – it’s a lot easier to use the * for degrees than to go into the alternate keyboard and scrounge up the actual degree mark) and turned south. The coast of Baja runs more or less SE and we wanted to get 20 miles or so offshore so, by heading straight south we would reach our 20-mile-offshore point gradually without having to waste time just heading straight out to sea. This adjustment put us on a beam reach on a starboard tack. We were able to sail a little more upright and were sailing our rhumb line at 5.7 knots.
NOTE: It occurs to me that I’ve used the term “rhumb line” a lot but may have neglected to explain it’s meaning to my non-sailing readers. When plotting a course for somewhere, you make a starting point on the chart and then add more points (waypoints) to designate course changes. A straight line drawn between two of these adjacent points is the rhumb line. “So what?” sez you, “Where else would you sail except along the rhumb line?” Too true. However, on a sailboat you’re subject to wind direction. If the wind were coming at you directly on your nose when you were aligned with the rhumb line, you couldn’t sail there. You’d have to sail a course at an angle to the rhumb line and then tack back and forth across the line. So, when everything lines up so that you can sail AND stick to the rhumb line, it’s a cause for jubilation. Or at least it is for us.
Prior to leaving port, I had stuck a scopolamine patch on and Lulu had downed a Bonine. Well, like every seasickness remedy she’s tried to date, Bonine makes her drowsy for awhile. So, now well on our way, she went below to sleep it off. However, the boat was bucking and rolling and she was having trouble getting comfortable in the V-berth. I suggested she put settee cushions on the floor and sleep down there where she’d be hemmed in by the galley on one side and the elevated floor of the settee on the other. She did this, added a little extra padding, and was finally able to get some sleep.
It continues sunny and cool-ish but by 1445 (N31*33.54′ W116*48.80′) the wind was building and it seemed like a good time to tie in the first reef (make the mainsail smaller by tying the bottom two feet or so to the boom). Lulu got up and we reefed the main and doused the jib. We were now sailing with only the staysail for a headsail. An hour later, the wind shifted around to our stern and the staysail started slatting as it alternately filed with air and then spilled its air. Not having a downwind pole for either headsail, we could either change course or douse the staysail. We doused. We were now running dead downwind with just the reefed mainsail. I tied a preventer to the boom to guard against an accidental jibe. (NOTE to non-sailors: when sailing downwind, the boom is out as far as it can go. If the wind were to get on the downwind side of the mainsail, it could cause the boom to come screaming across the cockpit until it was stopped abruptly by the mainsheet on the opposite side of the boat. Jibing is simply moving the stern of the boat through the eye of the wind – the opposite of tacking where you move the bow through the eye of the wind. What I described her is called an “accidental jibe all standing”. This can be disastrous. If someone’s head was in the way they could be badly injured, knocked overboard or possible killed. The forces on the rig are enormous when the flying boom comes to an abrupt halt and have been know to cause dismastings. This is obviously something to avoid at all costs. One of the best ways to do this is to tie a line of some sort on the boom and to the boat to hold it so that it simply cannot move. This is a “preventer”.).
We continued on this way through the afternoon and early evening. The seas were building and knocking us around quite a bit. Still, the autopilot (A/P) was doing a great job of keeping us on course. We were getting slapped by waves from all sides and occasionally taking water over the sides. At about 2000 (sorry, too rough to record bearings the rest of the night), a particularly nasty wave hit the rudder from the side causing it to force the tiller to port. This movement pushed the A/P to port and broke off the mounting bracket. Fortunately, it was still held on by one bent bolt or we would have been in a world of hurt. If you remember, we had a problem with rotted bolts on this mounting way back on our first trip from Anacortes to Neah Bay. I wasn’t about to try repairing the mount in these conditions so we put the A/P below, tied the mounting bracket to a stanchion so she couldn’t be lost accidentally and proceeded to hand steer.
By 2100 I was pretty tuckered out and realized just how hard the A/P had been working to maintain our course. We decided to try heaving to so I could get some rest. So, we turned up into the wind, pulled the main in tight and tied the helm off. Now that we were facing the weather we realized just how bad it was. Big swells that would alternately lift us way up in the air and then slam us down to the point of almost submerging the bowsprit. When hove-to, the boat is supposed to take a position more or less 45 degrees off the wind and then make very slow progress downwind as the sail and the rudder battle it out for supremacy. Things are also supposed to miraculously calm down so you can rest, make tea, whatever. Well, I suspect we did it wrong. We were sitting about 90 degrees to the weather and making little, if any, progress downwind. However, it was just about as far from “calmed down” as we could possibly get. However, Lulu stayed on deck to keep an eye on things while I went below to rest.
I don’t know how, but I may have actually gotten a tiny bit of sleep. Man! was it ROUGH! After an hour and a half, at 2230, I came back up on deck and decided that the boat, and crew were taking far less abuse sailing downwind than we were hove-to. So we got back on course with only the “prevented” mainsail and continued to hand-steer the rest of the night. Steering was hard enough that we stood only two-hour watches. Of course, this means we only got two-hour rest periods as well. The seas continued to be rough and, all-in-all it was a VERY uncomfortable night. But, we’ve been through worse.
So “Why” you ask “didn’t you use your windvane to steer?” A fine question. You just trying to embarrass me, or what? Okay, here’s the scoop. I didn’t lower the steering oar before leaving port. When I went to lower it once underway, it flopped the wrong direction and came unhitched from the axle. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it connected again from deck. Almost need to be in a boat behind to do it. Or hang way out over the stern, something was unwilling to do in rough seas. So, although one of the things we’d hoped to work on during this passage, I’m afraid the wind vane would have to make the whole trip out-of-commission.
A rather nasty start to what is planned as a 7-10 day non-stop passage.