5/17/2012 – Puerto Don Juan to Bahia Willard

Willard? What the heck kind of a Mexican name is Willard? Who is this Willard guy? Next time I have internet access, I’ll have to Google it. There are two Punta Willards in the Sea of Cortez that I know of. We’re at the one on the Baja mainland, not the one on Isla Tiburon. I’ve updated the position report if you want to see where we are.

The trip was an overnighter as there aren’t really an awful lot of interesting places to stop along the way, especially as we hadn’t gotten a park pass from the Parque Guardia in BLA. I had read that the Canal de Ballena (Whale Channel) between Isla Angel de La Guarda and the Baja mainland can have some pretty powerful currents due to the restriction and due to the extreme tidal ranges that the northern Sea experiences. Based on that, we decided to leave fairly early to take advantage of the morning flood tide even though it would probably put us in Bahia Willard in the dark. However, I figured we’d run into some adverse tidal currents that would slow us down as well and maybe we’d arrive shortly after sunrise. I really didn’t think this thing through all that well and gave more weight to the tidal currents than they warranted, this being a trip that would see several turnings of the tides.

We left Puerto Don Juan around 0630 on Wednesday. There was a light breeze blowing from the SE as we crossed the water between PDJ and the channel. Just about the time we reached the channel, the wind machine turned off altogether. Oh well, another motor boat trip. All day long we had either no wind at all or a tiny little breeze on our nose. A few times early this morning we had just enough of a tailwind to cancel our induced wind resulting in an apparent wind of zero. But we toodled along enjoying the pleasant ride.

It was very hot during most of the day. At one point I brought one of our big golf-type umbrellas out so I’d have a little shade. It was so hot that I was having trouble finding a cool pace to set my feet down. The thermometer in the cockpit was registering 100 degrees. We did have the main up and when the sun finally went behind it, it felt SO good.

One thing that registered to us on this trip was the total lack of boats. For miles and miles and miles we didn’t even see any pangas and those things are usually EVERYWHERE. We did finally start to see a few once we got close to our destination but before that, nada, nothing, zilch.

And speaking of approaching our destination, it was looking like we would definitely be getting there too early. The tidal current gave us a boost when we first started but it wasn’t a huge boost. We moved along at around 4.3 knots at 2000 RPMs which isn’t that unusual. Towards the end of the channel the current turned and slowed us down to about 3 knots. However, at around 2100, the tide had turned again and I found us charging along at 4.9-5.0 knots at 2000 RPMs. This would put us in Bahia Willard at something like 0130 which was totally unacceptable. I knew we wouldn’t sustain this speed forever, but still… So, I lowered the engine speed to 1700 RPMs. At 2300, I lowered it again, this time to 1500 RPMs. At 0400 this morning, with Bahia Willard still getting here too fast, I lowered the speed as low as it goes; 1150 RPMs. This dropped our speed over ground to right around 2 knots and the GPS predicted our arrival at about 0530. Since sunrise wasn’t until 0545, this was still too early but it would probably be light enough. Well, by the time we were within 2 miles of Bahia Willard, it was still way too dark to enter. First I turned a big circle and then decided instead to go to neutral and just drift, keeping an eye on our position. We drifted like this for about an hour. I used the time to strike and furl the main.

With Lulu on deck, we started into the bay. Trouble was, it was sort of, make that VERY, unclear as to just where the bay was. Our guidebook (Shawn & Heather) showed a light at the end of Punta Willard. We found the light but if it was on the end of PW, then nothing made any sense. It’s hard enough trying to reconcile real terrain with a chart without having bum clues. We slowly snuck up on what we thought was the entrance, always ready to do an about face if necessary. Turns out that the light that Shawn and Heather show is NOT on the end of Punta Willard. There should be a light but there isn’t. There is, however, another light located a bit north which does not mark the northern entrance to Bahia Willard. Those following in our wake, BEWARE!

We entered the bay and anchored in 14′ of water (with low tide still an hour or so away) at 0615. Lulu went to bed and I listened to the Sonrisa net, did a little puttering around, and then went to bed as well. It’s now 1050 and we’re both up and getting ready to eat breakfast.

The plan is to go from here to San Felipe and then cross over to Puerto Penasco. However, I looked at distances today. From here to San Felipe is 83 miles, an overnighter. From San Felipe to Puerto Penasco is 69 miles, another short overnighter. A total of 152 miles. But, from here straight to Puerto Penasco is only 102 miles, a full 24-hour overnighter. That’s a savings of 50 miles (12 hours, 6 gallons of diesel). Of course, getting there isn’t necessarily the issue. Except this time, maybe it is. It would be fine to see San Felipe but, from what I read it’s not a particularly good place to anchor due to the extreme shallowness at low tide. Tides play hell when you’re dinghying as you can have very long rides and/or very long distances to drag the dinghy when the tide goes out while you’re ashore. Shawn & Heather’s guide shows anchoring available inside the marina but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that actually being available. Of course, Puerto Penasco isn’t any better except that we might be able to get into the marina where we have reservations during Circus Mexicus a few weeks early. Waiting for a return e-mail to find out. It’d be 4 weeks in the marina but that would give us a chance to explore PP before the Circus comes to town. What to do? What to do. Guess we’ll all just have to wait and see.

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About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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2 Responses to 5/17/2012 – Puerto Don Juan to Bahia Willard

  1. bullk says:

    Yea, 4 weeks should be just about the bare minimum needed to explore Puerto Penasco.

    Couple of questions:
    I read someone’s blog (I forget exactly who) where they went to Willard from Puerto Refugio (Isla Angel Guarda) for protection from a Tropical System, only they found the holding so poor that they couldn’t get the anchor to bite, even after repeated anchoring attempts. Did you notice any skittishness to anchoring?

    Other question is … do you have a Bimini over your cockpit?

    • sryoder says:

      We didn’t go to Refugio so I can’t comment on the anchoring there. However, at BLA and Puerto Don Juan, the anchor held tenaciously in the sandy bottom. Grabbed on the first try and just hung on.

      No, we don’t have a bimini although I wish we did. One problem is that our mainsheet traveler is on the bridge deck so any bimini we have cannot connect to the dodger. But, I do plan to start designing some sort of bimini. The golf umbrella was OK, but a bimini would have been better.

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