Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cruising Down the Baja Pennisula in Mexico

Leaving San Diego
After checking in at Ensenada, we immediately made our way south for our first overnight passage since we had left San Francisco.  We had excellent wind, so made good time down to Turtle Bay, our first stop going down the coast of the Baja peninsula.

51 = Official Squid Count!

You never quite know what you will find some mornings when dawn finally breaks – and on the 2nd morning in route to Turtle Bay we woke up to a bunch of mini squids all over the deck.  There were so many, we decided to count and there were 51 of them in total!  Apparently they were all eager to get their big break in a fine California sushi establishment, but didn’t “catch” that we were heading the other direction!  I know – terrible joke.   Bad Stacey!

Later that day we were completely surrounded by large bottle-nose dolphins - at least 30-40 of them this time.  There were about 5 to 6 of them at all times taking turns playing under our bow, with the rest all around us.  They raced along with us for about 40 minutes and they were so close you could almost touch them as they jumped out of the water.  So amazing, I never tire of watching them. 

Turtle Bay was a nice stop and a good place to get a little rest before continuing on.  The bay is quite beautiful – with high mountains on either end, connected by a long flat sandy section.  It is pretty huge – so I can see why it’s one of the stops on the popular Baha Haha, which went through the week prior.

Turtle Bay
We had a lovely day in route to our next stop of Bahia Santa Maria, with 10-14 knots of wind, kind seas and about a gazillion more dolphins – great passage day.  Unfortunately, it was followed by a night of 18-25 knot winds with large, confused seas.  With this kind of weather it’s very difficult to sleep off-watch as the boat is really noisy and creaky and waves tend to slam into the boat from all directions.  It’s incredibly loud.  They had only forecast 13-17 knots, so we were a little surprised to see the wind get up that high.  But we found the wind to be consistently about 5 knots over the forecast the entire way down the coast, so eventually we just learned to incorporate that into our forecast. 

Because of the angle of the wind, we also had to do a lot of jibing (ie. "out of the way" sailing), on this leg – which means it takes a lot longer to get where you want to go.  Originally we had hoped to arrive at Bahia Santa Maria around 3pm, but instead arrived about an hour after dark – not something we like to do.  Thankfully it is a wide, easy bay to enter – so with the aid of radar and our chart plotter and careful scouting, we managed to get safely anchored.  We have HD radar and it’s amazing how it shows literally every boat, every rock, every piece of land and exactly how it compares to the charts - very helpful – don’t leave home without it!

After a very short stay at Bahia Santa Maria (basically just an overnight), we made the short passage to Bahia Magdelana, which is just 20 miles to the south and a HUGE bay.  We had been getting some warnings of high winds for the next two days, so wanted to be there to wait it out before making our final jump down past Cabo San Lucas and around the tip of the Baja. 

Bahia Magdelena is a HUGE bay - miles and miles across.  The bay is known for the gray whales that come through and birth their calves in the spring, but unfortunately they were long gone when we passed through.  Surprisingly, we’ve still only seen the one whale on our way down (the one that almost took out our rudder!).

Bahia Magdelena
The winds arrived as predicted, howling through the anchorage as the sun was setting.  That night, we had one of the worst nights at anchor that I think we’ve ever had.  Even though we were safely anchored, there was so much wind and noise that it was almost like being out to sea all night!  It was impossible to sleep more than an hour or two at a time.  That said I was very grateful we were holed up there in just 25 knots and not out to sea or located somewhere worse!  We found out later that some friends spent the night anchored out near a sand storm where it was gusting over 60 knots all night and pelting their boat with sand.  Much worse than we experienced for sure!

The winds finally died down around mid-afternoon, so we decided to make the jump down to Las Frailes, which we expected would take us about 36 hours.  We figured if we left around 5pm we would hopefully arrive around dawn two days later.  After un uneventful night and day, the next evening we rounded the “corner” by Cabo San Lucas and it was quite a sight to see.  After an entire coastline of almost no lights, Cabo looked like it could be Las Vegas in comparison.  So many lights!!!  And it stretched on for miles – quite impressive and a nice change from the complete darkness of most night watches.

We had decided not to stop at Cabo as it is VERY expensive to stay there.  They charge $20 US a night just to anchor out and dock space was FAR above that.  Since we’ve been there several times in the past, we just didn’t feel the need to blow our meager cruising kitty on something we’ve already seen – so we went on to Bahia los Frailes instead, which I’ll cover in my next post. 

Overall the landscape on the way down is quite breathtaking.  For any of you that have visited the Palm Springs area it’s very similar to that – huge soft looking mountains in front of a bright blue sky – but here the mountains come down to long stretches of white sand and water instead of the desert.  As we traveled south we watched the water temperature continue to climb and by the time we reached los Frailes it was over 85 degrees!    

We finished our fast trip down the Baja peninsula in just 9 days and I can hardly express how GREAT it feels to know that I won't have to make another overnight passage for MONTHS!!!  Since leaving Seattle we have traveled almost 2500 miles - all at no faster than about 8 miles an hour and all done in just two months with lots of stops.  Kind of gives you a little perspective, eh? 

I am really looking forward to finally SLOWING DOWN and starting to actually live the life we’ve been dreaming about for so many years.  Here’s to hoping that reality matches up with our expectations!

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