Personally, Lulu and I don’t think it’s asking too much to ask for 2 or (dare I say it?)3 nice passage days in a row. Somehow the powers that be just seem to delight in screwing with us.
Sunday,as I wrote before, was quite nice. Seas were gentle and we had enough wind to push us along at least part of the time. Tuesday started out nice as well. But, as the day wore on, things began to deteriorate. The seas went from 3-4 feet to 5-8 feet and way closer together than the weather report I read said that they’d be. The wind was good, though and we were scooting right along under all 3 of our normal working sails. The sails were also keeping us well heeled over, which looks really cool but is a colossal pain in the butt. There’s only one reasonably comfortable seat in the cockpit under these conditions and that’s the one on the downhill side. It’s a bitch to drag yourself back out of it but it’s easy to sit in and ride along.
The seas continued to build and just tossed this little boat all over the place. The windvane was doing a yeoman’s job of keeping us on course as we plowed along under a reefed main and the staysail. Lulu wasn’t feeling well so she stayed below in our “underway bunk”. The underway bunk is just the starboard side of the v-berth. The port side is filled with packs and extra paper towels, crocheting supplies, and so on. The starboard berth is OK when we’re on a port tack so we lean over to starboard. Then you’re just in bed, held firmly in place against th cabin sole by gravity. Unfortunately, on the other tack (the one we were on), gravity works to dump the sleeper on top of all those empty packs, paper towels, etc. Yeah, we could swap sides with the stored stuff but for some reason we don’t.
Just like on our trip from La Paz to Mazatlan, I kept telling myself that, as soon as the sun goes down, the seas will die down too. This isn’t based on old sailor’s lore or anything, it was just something I told myself to give us hope. Of course, the seas didn’t die down.
Out in the cockpit, I’d occasionally venture to the uphill side to make a log entry, read the GPS, etc. Since this was the high side, the water already looked pretty darn far below the decks. But, when we’d find ourselves on top of an 8′ swell, looking down into the trough, we looked like we were REALLY high up. The seas were coming from the NNW and we were sailing NW mas o menos, so we were taking them on our starboard bow. Often, the bowsprit would plunge down into the next swell and a huge amount of seawater would be deposited on the foredeck. It was pretty exciting and would have been cool to watch as a movie but it was just kind of a pain in the butt to live it.
Sometime in the late afternoon, Lulu appeared and said that every time the bow was buried, a flood of water was coming into the V-berth under the doors of the anchor locker. There was also water coming in and running down the portside of the V-berth, through her clothes locker and finally into the bilge. Also, there was a drip coming from the forward hatch whenever the bow was buried. Not much we could do about any of these things right now so she deposited towels in strategic places and we plowed on. By 1800 it was too rough to make any more logbook entries; couldn’t hold the pencil and paper steady enough to make the entries legible. We were completely safe on our tough little vessel but things were really uncomfortable.
At our average speed, it was going to take us another 22-24 hours to reach Isla San Francisco. The weather that I downloaded while uploading our position report looked like there’d be no change for most, if not all of the coming week. So, we had another full day of this abuse to look forward to. At 1900, I made an executive decision to alter course for Ensenada de Los Muertos (hence the “deadheads” reference). This is the closest place on the Baja to Mazatlan and is where most of the cruisers head when they leave Maz. Then they just wait for a weather window to scoot up the Cerralvo channel and on to La Paz. From where we were at 1900, we would have about 50 miles to go and could probably be there by early morning. If we opted for Isla SF, we had 109 miles to go and could probably be there by late Tuesday afternoon. I decided to opt for the closer destination. We had planned on skipping La Paz but now it looks like we will stop there for a couple days after all. We need to get fueled up and it would be nice to take our wet, salty clothes and things to a laundry before we head up-island. See what I mean about how quickly plans can change?
After a continued bashing through the night, we were 5 miles off Los Muertos at 4 AM. The moon was going down at 4:30 or so and we’d be plunged into blackness. Not the best way to enter any port. So, we hove-to for a couple hours. Gave us and the boat a little chance to rest. By now we were in the lee of Cerralvo Island and conditions had mellowed considerably as a result. Just before dawn, I woke Lulu up. We struck the sails, fired up the engine and started to head in to Ensenada de Los Muertos. The sun was up when we got here. There are 9 other boats anchored here at the moment.
Once we got the anchor down, we cleaned stuff up a little and then hit the rack. Lulu had been in bed most of the trip but her seasickness and the tossing of the boat made sleep nearly impossible. I had cat-napped in the cockpit in between getting sluiced down with water coming over the side, but that was it, in spite of Lulu offering many times to relieve me so I could go below and sleep. Things were a bit too exciting for formal sleep, so I declined.
Conditions here at Los Muertos are beautiful. A slight swell rolling through the anchorage, mild breeze, hot sun, and bright blue sky. You’d never know the seas are pitching a fit on the other side of Cerralvo Island.
Once we got to looking at the various issues we found on the way over, things didn’t look as bad as they had last night. Most of the leaks, with the exception of the anchor locker, were pretty mild and did little harm. I need to stuff the anchor hawse pipe with something before we take off again. And it’s be nice to be able to close the doors between the locker and our bunk better. Gaskets, yes, but we also need a positive latch. Very difficult to secure double doors. Right now I’m entertaining the idea of a bar across the door like you used to see in old Westerns. That’s one of the few things I can come up with. I’m open to suggestions. What you’re trying to do is make it so that when I close a set of double doors (side by side), they close tightly against a gasket and can withstand the weight of the chain which, while shifting about at sea, tends to want to force the doors open. They already have a hook and eye between them but a good push from the chain side can still create a small opening.
Our plan now is to watch the weather, of course, but, hopefully sometime in the next day or two, we can scoot out of here and travel in the relative protection of the Cerralvo Channel. If the seas are still running, we might get a little beat up as we exit the Cerralvo Channel and enter the San Lorenzo channel. But, once through there, it should be a smooth sail to La Paz. We’re going to try to not stay in La Paz for too long, a week at most, and then get started back up north.
What’s good about our trip so far?
Well, the windvane worked great except for a few times early this morning when it lost its mind. I was able to bring it back under control, however and, upon inspection, I see that the reason it lost its mind might have been because the line that was lashing a block to the frame wore through. What was Cap Horn thinking? I replaced the line with a nylon wire tie for the rest of the trip but, as soon as I can, I’ll get a couple small shackles and do it right.
We got to sail almost the whole way. Granted, much of this was motor-assisted. Why? Well, when we first got some wind and hoisted the sails while the motor was running, we were tooling along at over 5 knots. We’d only been doing 3 knots with just the motor. But, when I shut the motor down, our speed dropped to under 3 knots under sail alone. So, we’re getting beat up. The beating looks like it’s going to continue for at least a few more days. Do we sail on pure principle and subject ourselves to the extra day or so it might take? Do we douse the sails and just motor and subject ourselves to the rolling abuse that comes with that configuration, as well as prolonging our trip due to slower speeds? Or do we use everything we’ve got to get the hell out of these seas? We chose the latter. We reached speeds we could never have attained under either sail or motor alone. And, with the motor assisting, we are able to point much higher so we were able to sail a near rhumbline course in spite of headwinds.
The engine shut down once. I checked the fuel and there was still a half a tank. I switched fuel filters using my handy-dandy hot-switchable filter setup. She fired right back up and never shut down again until we told her to after anchoring. And, I’ve decided that the only Westerbeke engineers that will have to go are the ones that designed the transmission cooler connections. The ones that designed the engine did a great job. What a dependable little workhorse.
Almost everything down below must be stowed well because we were mightily heeled over, first to starboard and later to port, and almost nothing came adrift. This is mostly to Lulu’s credit as she’s the downstairs stower.
So, we may be out of here tomorrow morning or we may wait until Thursday morning. Now I’m going to check the weather, post this blog, and send a couple e-mails.