Pour yourself a frosty one if it’s after 0900 or a cup of joe if it’s before and get ready to read about our little trip from Las Cocinas to San Carlos.
As I wrote previously, I’d been checking the weather to see when we’d have the best chance of sailing (yes, actually SAILING) to Guaymas. The problem is that Guaymas is kind of SE of Las Cocinas and most of the wind here in the summer comes from the SE, S, and SW. None of these are particularly helpful to a boat that doesn’t point all that high but wants to go SE. Add to that the heavy, predominantly north-flowing tidal currents and the SE-SW swells that accompany the wind, and Guaymas would not tend to be one’s first choice of sailing destinations from here. But, since we need to haul out, and the nearest haulout facility north of here is back in Puerto Peñasco, Guaymas it was, like it or not.
With Micheal’s (s/v Fan) help, I had done a jury rigged repair to 2 of the 3 broken engine mounts. Here’s a photo of the broken mounting bolt. The little cup above the bolt is actually a nut used to raise or lower the engine during alignment. In all 3 cases, the bolt snapped off inside the nut, leaving this little “cup”.
Consequently, all I had to do to get the engine in its former alignment was to shove it around until the “cups” dropped down on top of the bolts. But, then I needed a way to keep them there. Enter Micheal and his box of hose clamps. I had no faith that a hose clamp would hold but Micheal was a little more confident. Besides, what choice did we have?
Doesn’t this just look like something that’s going to fail? I couldn’t get the clamp all the way under the engine bed as it’s solid on one side. So, I had to go with just the corner. This is why we don’t want to run the engine unless we really have to.
But, with the new fuel pump, the engine is running good. The transmission may or may not be slipping. The engine is held in place with hose clamps. What else could a guy ask for? So, about 16:30 or so, we weighed anchor without an engine (a first for us) and headed out into the sunset. Well, sunset was still 3 hours away but we were headed in the right direction.
The wind was blowing a nice mellow 7-10 knots as we headed out just slightly south of due west. That’s as close as we were able to point into the wind. The trip started out nice and mellow. After an hour or so, we tacked back towards land.
Yes, I know the winch handle shouldn’t still be in the winch.
“Tacked” is not the right word to use for what we did. Tacking is when you shift the wind from one side of the boat to the other by passing the bow through the wind. Jibing is when you pass the stern through the wind. Sailors, forgive me for a second. This part is for the lubbers. Say the wind is coming from due south. You are sailing WSW. When you tack, you go from WSW to ESE, passing through due south on your way. In jibing, you would go from WSW, passing through due north on your way to ESE. So, in one case you turn counterclockwise and the other you turn clockwise. Why? Well, tacking requires that you have enough speed and power to get through the eye of the wind, a point where your sails are useless. When jibing,your sails help you move through the entire operation since the bow never passes through the eye of the wind. It works but in high winds, it takes lots of care and technique to keep from causing damage when the boom slams from one side of the boat to the other. And, it looks kind of clunky. Like if you could make a left turn into a parking lot mid-block but choose instead to make 7 right turns to get to the same place. Left turns are problematic, right turns are easy. We seem to have a lot of trouble tacking. The bow makes it almost to being “in irons” (wind dead ahead, sails useless) and then she’d fall back off to leeward and we were once again going the way we had been before attempting to tack. Is this because we’re going too slow? Are the seas bringing us to a halt as the sails lose power? Are we throwing the helm over too fast? Too slow? Is my sail plan unbalanced? Damned if I know. But we’d have plenty of opportunities to try tacking on this trip.
Anyway, on our way back towards the shore, the wind built up from the 7-10 range to more like 8-12. Still pretty mellow although the seas started to build a little as well. We ended up making about 4 miles to the good when we reached our rhumb line. No idea how many miles it took us to do that although I’m sure we sailed at least twice that far.
By the time we were ready for our next tack (jibe), it was getting a little bit darker, the seas were building and the wind was a pretty steady 15 knots with gust to 20. At this point, with our leeward rail way too close to the water, we opted to roll up the jib and continue on under staysail and a single-reefed main. We found that by doing this, we were a little flatter and were actually able to point a little higher. I believe I read that, as one’s speed increases, the apparent wind moves forward. Makes sense, I think. So, since our speed dropped a bit when we rolled up the jib, our apparent wind moved aft and we were then able to point a bit higher since I also read that “you sail your apparent wind”. Ooh, we’re learning all kinds of stuff today.
I also found that the helm was pretty heavy under this configuration so we rolled out a little bit of jib which seemed to balance things nicely making it easier for the autopilot to hold a course.
On our last tack landward, the wind was blowing 20 pretty steadily with gust to 22-23. The seas were getting to be 3-4 feet and the ride was getting a bit uncomfortable. We were heeled way over and riding swells way up and then slamming down on the other side. The seas in the Sea are always close together so these 3-4 foot swells were probably no more than 3-4 seconds apart. Not too comfy. And now it was dark to boot.
The good news was that we had a 3/4 moon and the wind had shifted a bit to allow us to point closer to our rhumb line. We were having a wild ride for awhile but then, around midnight, if I remember right, the wind started to drop. And then it shifted to the WSW and we were suddenly on a beam reach to Guaymas. EXCELLENT! Except then the wind dropped off to almost nothing. We continued to ghost along at the amazing over-ground speed of 0.8 to 1.0 knots. Oh, this was going to be one LONG trip.
There’s a large island on our path called Isla San Pedro Nolasco. We had to decide whether or not to take the route between the island and the mainland or to go on the outside of the island. Well, if that nice breeze we were getting right before the wind changed directions had held, we’d definitely scoot down between the island and the mainland. But, once the wind shifted and then dropped, I had no confidence that we’d be able to cross across the north end of the island before we were dashed on it’s nasty-looking rocks. So we opted for the outside. This was what we had originally dubbed “the clipper route”.
I had been too keyed up to be able to go below and sleep before this but now that we were just slowly (and I do mean slowly) ghosting along, I finally consented to get a little shut-eye. I went below at 0330 and Lulu took over the helm. I got up around sunrise, 0530 or so and we had hardly moved at all since I went to bed. Maybe a half a mile. Maybe.
Later in the morning, the wind began to pick up a little but it also shifted back to the south so we had to tack offshore a ways. We went out a couple of miles before tacking back. But, I had not guessed right and we hadn’t been out far enough to clear the south end of the island. So we tacked again. Only this time, the wind had shifted enough so that, instead of gaining some southing, we were actually just retracing our steps back to our last tacking point. Arrrgh! This went on all morning and afternoon. We could just NOT get around that island. Of course, you know we did get around or I couldn’t be posting this. Late in the afternoon, I decided to just keep sailing away to the WSW and see if I could get enough southing to make it. And I did.
Lulu, disgusted with the whole thing had gone below to take a nap. When she poked her head out a few hours later she said, “Well…?” I said “see for yourself” and she proceeded to look at the GPS screen. I said “NO! Look at real life!” She turned the other way and was pretty darn happy when she saw that we were rounding the bottom of the island with plenty of room to keep the south-running current from dashing us on the rocks. As long as the wind didn’t die, anyway.
We decided that we’d crack a beer when we finally could see the east side of the island indicating that we were fully around the end. But the wind was not blowing very hard and then it was not blowing at all. Then it’d come back up, very lightly for a bit and then die off again GEEZ! I really wanted to clear that damn rock so I finally told Lulu that I was going to fire up the engine and get us past the end. It’d give us a chance to test the motor mounts. Yeah that’s it, we wanted to test the motor mounts. So,I started her up and we ran for about 20 minutes at 1800 RPMs, clearing the island at last. And the motor mounts held fine, the transmission didn’t blow up, and the engine didn’t die.
It’s now been about 26 hours since we set sail.
We now set our course for ESE towards Guaymas. Of course, the wind was more or less out of the SE so we couldn’t go directly there. Naturally. That’d be too easy.
As the evening wore on, the wind and the seas began to build. It started to get uncomfortable again. There were times that we just couldn’t get the autopilot to hold a course because of some imbalance causing a ton of weather helm. I’d try to adjust sails to lose the imbalance and was sometime successful and oftentimes not. During this time I was outside and occasionally dropping off in a little catnap. No problem as there was absolutely nothing to hit for miles. Invariably, a few minutes into my nap, the autopilot alarm would go off and I’d have to go rescue it. Hope I get all this stuff figured out some day.
After one tack where we once again found ourselves retracing our steps, I thought, “Forget Guaymas! We should be able to reach San Carlos pretty easily.” How wrong I was! I don’t know if it was wind shifts, current, ineptitude, or what, but I just could not point towards San Carlos . We tacked a few times trying but we would have had to sail almost down to the latitude of Guaymas before tacking and, even then, I’m not sure we could have tacked back into San Carlos. And every mile was hard fought. And did I mention the sea state? Winds 20-25 and seas 4-5 feet.
Again I tried for San Carlos but, the nearest I could point was a couple miles north of it. Tacked again and headed a little further south. Tacked again and found myself retracing my steps. Again. And the wind was howling and the seas were big and we were small and bouncing around like crazy.
Finally, a couple hours before dawn, I told Lulu that there was no way we would make it to San Carlos anytime soon, if at all, without starting the engine. So, biting firmly down on the bullet, I started her up. Well, it helped but it didn’t do the trick. To head straight to San Carlos required dropping the staysail. But, going directly into the current, waves, and wind, the best we could do without revving the engine too high was maybe a knot and a half. Don’t know if that was because the clutch was slipping or just because of the sea state (I’d find out later). This was going to take days and we’d probably run out of fuel. However, by adjusting our course just enough north enough to be able to use the staysail, we might be able to make it into Bahía Algodones. So we couldn’t make it to Guaymas, so we opted for a port a few miles north. But we couldn’t make San Carlos, so we opted for a port a few more miles north. If we couldn’t make Bahía Algodones, the next port would be Bahía San Pedro. After that, we’d be back in Las Cocinas where we started. But, you know, sometimes the whalers and such would try for 30 days to get around Cape Horn and finally say screw it and go towards Africa instead. Kind of puts our problems in perspective. But still, this was royally sucking!
Well, the upshot is that we couldn’t point high enough to make it into Algodones under sail. We picked our spot of diminishing returns where sailing further in to port also put us further north. Finally we started the engine and headed straight in. After rolling up the staysail we were still making pretty good time, 3.5 to 4.5 knots. The main was up and drawing but, dead into the wind it didn’t seem like it would add significantly to our speed. So, maybe our previous slow speeds were due to outside factors and not the clutch. The closer we got to the entry, the more the wind and seas dropped until finally, it was almost calm. We still headed in and dropped our anchor off the entrance for Marina Real. I shut the engine down and checked it out. The hose clamps were still in place and tight and the transmission case was no warmer than usual.
After we were anchored and calming down, Lulu says, “Since it’s so calm out now, do you want to just go ahead and go to Guaymas and get it over with?” I said “Are you out of your mind? NO FREAKIN’ WAY! I want to sit here and rest.” Turns out she was kidding but I didn’t realize it. I thought she’d just gone over the edge.
It was now around 0715 and we had left Las Cocinas some 39 hours ago.
We listened to the weather report on the morning cruisers’ net and they were still calling for big south winds and associated seas coming later in the day. This was one of the reasons we opted to find a port. We had heard the same prediction the evening before. So, wherever we were when it hit, we’d probably be there for at least 3 days. We looked around at where we were and didn’t see anything interesting. So, less than an hour after we anchored, we decided to up anchor and motor (oh what confidence we were getting in our old power plant) to San Carlos where, if push came to shove, we could opt to haul out and skip Guaymas altogether. Of course, the fact that wind had died and the seas were calm helped a lot in our decision.
With no wind, gentle swells and no need to rely on wind direction, we made the short trip in just under 2 hours. Dropped the anchor and finally said “PHEW! Glad that’s over!”
Total time: about 42 hours
Total distance covered: 86 nautical miles
Total distance made good: 24 nautical miles.