11/9/2011 – Wednesday in San Jose del Cabo
(note: the following took me a long time to write and, since I'm writing it in Wordpad – still using my netbook – I don't seem to have a spell checker. And I just don't feel like going back and re-reading what I wrote. So, here it is, warts and all.):
Wow, looks like I've been remiss in keeping the blog up to date. For all you know, we're still out there in the Pacific, wending our way to La Paz. Here's what's really happened since my last post on Sunday.
Sunday night we rounded the tip of Baja California. There's a thing called the Cape Effect that tends to amplify winds and waves in the vicinity of a cape. And if the tip of Baja isn't a cape, nothing is. Sure enough, as we neared land and began rounding the cape, the winds and seas both kicked up to pretty gnarly levels. Well, not so much the wind, but the seas were pretty big. It was kind of funny because Keith was down in the cabin making a phone call to his wife Kay, taking advantage of the first cell signal we've had since leaving Ensenada. He must have been below for 10-15 minutes at least. When his call was over he stuck his head out, looked around, and said, "Wow! hen did it get like this?" as we bounced and swerved our way through the seas. Pretty good tribute both to his iron gut as well as to how used to the motion that we've gotten that he didn't even notice things were extra bouncy until he stuck his head out.
With no need or desire to stop in Cabo San Lucas, we continued on our way. Fully rounding the cape, we bid the Pacific Ocean "adios" and headed up into the Sea of Cortez. They wereredicting northers later in the week so we were glad to be able to hit it when we did on Monday morning. At that point it looked like we could concievably arrive in La Paz as early as mid-day Tuesday. Well, mid-day Tuesday was yesterday and, not only are we NOT in La Paz, but we're no longer in the Sea of Cortez either.
On our way up the Sea, we had the main out while motoring. Keith happened to look up and noticed that the line that connects the sail slugs that hold the main to the cars that ride in the flexible track (Chamisa has an in-boom furler system) had parted. He decided we needed to drop the main before we tore something up. I assume the spanking that the main got when we rounded the cape on Sunday night was the culprit. Anyway, since we were experiencing some north winds he decided that it would be best to try to get out of the wind to lower the sail. Los Frailes was fairly close at hand so we made our way there. Pulled in behind tghe big rock, out of the wind, lowered the main (which went much easier than Keith expected it would) and got back on our way. I'm sure the boats that were already anchored at Los Frailes were wondering what the heck we were up to.
Back out on the Sea and headed north. We weren't very far north of Los Frailes when the engine sound changed pitch. We both got that sinking feeling in the stomach as it changed pitch again. It would run right and then slow down and then come back up again for a few seconds and then slow down again. Keith said "that didn't sound good". and I had to agree. He went below to the engine room hoping to be able to see something obviously amiss. He returned a few minutes later and the engine was purring along as nice as you please. He said there was probably a cup or more of water in the fuel filter/water separator. He drained it off and then, 15 minutes later went down to check it again. He had to drain almost as much off the second time. He kept checking and it looked like we were going to have to check it every 10 minutes or so for as long as water kept showing up, which could be all night for all we knew. Watchkeeping was taking on a new dimension. However, when we went back below so he could show me what where and how he was drining the filter, we noticed that the fuel in the filter had a decidedly cloudy look to it. So, now we had a little bit of a predicament. Both 40 gallon tanks were empty and our only fuel was in the 80 gallon tank and apparently contaminated with water and god knows what else. What to do?
With the wind coming from the north, there was no way we were sailing to La Paz. Keith asked me whether there were any unfriendly lee shores between us and La Paz in case we lost the engine. I told him the route was full of unfriendly shores and very few hidey holes. He decided the thing to do was to shut the engine down and sail back to Cabo San Lucas for fresh fuel in the 40 gallon tanks. After looking through the cruising guides we realized we could fuel up at San Jose Del Cabo, some 15 miles closer than Cabo San Lucas. So, although we were a little wary of using the main in its current condition, we really had no choice, so we hoisted the main and unrolled the jib and headed back the way we came.
The north winds weren't really very strong so we made pretty slow progress. We were unable to continue using the jib as, not having a whisker pole, we were unable to keep it full of air. It would fill and collapse, fill and collapse, fill and collapse, etc. So we rolled up the jib and unrolled the boomed but much smaller staysail. Took us a very very very long time to pass Los Frailes. However, with the wind blowing no more than 5 knots, we were still able to make 2-3 knots which is not bad for big heavy Westsail.
We continued on. Decided to stand our normal watches although keith decided to spend his first off-watch dozing in the cockpit rather than sleeping down below. He must have been REALLY tired because what he was doing wasn't dozing, it was out and out sleeping. I had to wake him a couple times and each time required more than one attempt. We ghosted on through the night, making slow but steady progress. By the time I started my second watch at 0300, we could see the lights of San Jose del Cabo some 10 miles or so in the distance. About an hour or so into my watch, I was able to change course a little which put us on a little bit better point of sail. Then the wind started filling in and we steadily picked up speed. We were scooting along at 6 knots.
When we were within about 2 miles of the entrance to the marina and it was still dark, I decided we were close enough for now. I headed up into the wind to slow the boat down and then tried a couple of different approaches to heaving-to to see if we could just basically sit where we were. I was partially successful, keeping us from getting any closer or much further away. Keith came up about 0700 and we just continued drifting around until it was light enough to be able to confidently enter the marina. Once inside, we took on 96 gallons of diesel (the 40 gallon tanks are apparently actually 48 gallon tanks), disosed of the contaminated diesel from the day tank and headed back out. While we were there, we listened to some the Baja HaHa-ers on the VHF talking about staying in the marina another couple days until the promised norther blew itself out. We weren't too worried about taking a bashing, so out we went.
San Jose del Cabo is on the south side of the tip of Baja. As we rounded the tip and started heading roughly northeast, we started getting pounded. The winds weren't such a big deal but the seas were. Although not all that large, maybe 6' or so, they were really close together, like 4 seconds. This makes for a very bumpy ride. The first casualty was Otto, the autopilot. Otto simply did not sign on to steer in these conditions and chose to shut himself down. I took the helm and could see why Otto wasn't happy. It was really hard to keep on course, or even very close to on course. But we continued on. A little bit later we both happened to be watching our speed on the GPS and realized we were only averaing about 1 knot. We began to second-guess our "push on" decision. If we continued and conditions didn't improve (they were actually supposed to get worse, we would use up all of our fuel a long ways before reaching La Paz. And, we would have to hand-steer through it all. Now we may be ignorant but we're certainly no dummies. Even we could see that pressing on was a bad idea. So, we turned tail and ran back to SJdelC. Our speed shot up to 6 knots as soon as we turned around.
Once back in San Jose del Cabo, we managed to get one of the last 2 slips that was large enough for us. We had showers (THAT felt good), ate at the little restaurant up by the office and then hit the rack early. And I mean EARLY. Keith went to bed at about 6:00 PM and I followed suit a half hour later. We both slept almost 12 hours, getting up this morning around 6-ish.
So, that's where we are. We've signed up to be here tonight and tomorrow night as well since the northers are supposed to peter out on Friday. If so, we'll head out again and try to make a non-stop run to La Paz. arriving sometime Saturday afternoon, depending on when we get started and how fast we can go.
OK, hope this lengthy entry makes up for keeping you all in the dark since Sunday.