Monthly Archives: November 2016

Then There Were Two

The Baja HaHa ended in Cabo San Lucas. When our terrific crew departed and the haha fleet began to disperse, it dawned on us – here we are, the two of us, alone on Footloose. With no more planned itineraries, which way do we go? This is what we dreamed of, the two of us on our floating home, free to choose our way. We decided to travel along the “East Cape” to La Paz. First to San Jose Del Cabo for a quieter Cabo experience. We were tired and this provided a few days of rest. We walked around the sleepy marina and quaint town, we swam at the hotel infinity pool, we met with other Baja HaHa cruisers. So, we’re not quite alone yet really.


Underway to Bahia Los Frailes, water on deck!

Underway to Bahia Los Frailes, water on deck!

Michael & I are obsessed with the weather and so it turns out are other cruisers. We think about it all the time. We talk about it a lot. We study it plenty. We compare strategies and models. We use PredictWind with uneasy confidence. But eventually you just have to decide when to go. We are warned that the East Cape is tricky and the wind and currents can be rough traveling north. Michael & I wait an extra day for what looks to be a better weather window to sail to the Bahia Los Frailes anchorage with moderate winds, predicted to average 10-15 knots. We leave the dock at 0930am under calm seas and little wind. We hear Serafina, sailing ahead of us, call cheerfully on the VHF, “beautiful sailing conditions out here”. It is light wind and we are motoring. I was hoping to sail, but instead I start reading a book. A chapter in, Michael says, “it’s time to start sailing.”

The wind is picking up as we raise the main and unfurl the genoa. Within the hour, I see the apparent wind clock 20, “I think we should reef”. We do and quickly add a second reef. Serafina and Paradisea warn – “it’s very lumpy out here.” And it is — with a strong northerly blowing right on our bow. The waves, 5 feet at 5 seconds, are right on the nose. The spray is over the bow, coating the boat and our skin with salty residue. I’m queazy, but determined not to barf. With a bash like this, your goal is to get it over with as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately with the wind direction, we could not point at our destination. We try tacking to see if the other tack will give us any edge, but after the second tack, we acknowledge that we’re losing ground. We turn the engine on, leave the main up and point the boat directly at the anchorage. The waves are crashing and so is something else down below. Neither one of us cares to venture down for food or head. Serafina and Paradisea opt to turn back to San Jose, sailing downwind with speed and comfort. Footloose and Single D continue on. We’re more than halfway there after all. Michael encourages me with PredictWind promises, “this will ease up by 2.” It never does. Six hours later we cover the remaining 20 miles to Los Frailes, arriving shortly before 6pm, and anchor just as the sun is going down.


The anchorage is filled with familiar HaHa boats. We feel welcomed and relieved. I coin the trip a bitchy bash, because she was. We sleep well and awake to a nearly empty anchorage. The fleet had been holed up waiting for a weather window to travel on and now they were all on their way, prompting Michael to get on the radio and ask “Was it something we said?” Single D responds with a laugh. They need to get to La Paz to get some electronics fixed. Rough seas take a toll on boats as well as crew.

Now truly alone in the anchorage, we recuperate and rest for a day. More boats join us that evening, including Paradisea and Serafina, who quickly pull anchor the next morning to head on to La Paz. We opt to stay for another day before heading out again.

The next morning at 0600 am we’re off. We motor sail, a perfectly boring calm trip to a gorgeous anchorage, Ensenada de los Muertos. We sail our Hobie kayak for the first time in Mexican waters. We meet a couple walking the beach who have been cruising in Mexico for 7 years. They are waiting to cross over to Mazatlan, while we are continuing north to La Paz. They tell us about, for “definitive” Sea of Cortez weather news. Another resource to either affirm or confuse our departure decisions. (Sonrisa means “smile” in Spanish.) We wait another day.

The next morning, we tune in to our single side band radio to listen to Geary’s report on Sonrisanet. His report doesn’t match PredictWind. We weigh our options. A new system is coming in. If we don’t leave Thursday, we may be holed up here for another week. We decide to go. We want to land in La Paz on Thanksgiving. Thursday is a beautiful day, including the best stretch of pure sailing we’ve had in a long time through the Canal de San Lorenzo. We turn toward La Paz and dock mid afternoon, leaving time for a siesta before Thanksgiving dinner at the Dock Cafe, Marina de la Paz.

I’m thankful for the wise captain (my love), family and friends back home, our strong boat, new cruising friends, beautiful vistas and safe passages. We plan to stay here for a while, so I’m also grateful to give PredictWind, Windyty, NOAA weather and Sonrisanet a rest — for a few days anyway.


Baja HA HA


Leg One – Bahia Tortuga

Ten o’clock, the race starts with a parade past the large fishing boat Dolphin, loaded with press and dignitaries.  We squeeze in close and get the cover of Lectronic Latitude.  Then we motor out to the start and there is no wind.  The Poobah (head officiant of the BaJa HaHa) gives us a motoring start till 1: 30 when the wind begins to pick up.


The Green Guy

We sail with the Green Guy our new Asymmetric and move through the fleet.  Then wind starts to pipe up and we switch down to our Reacher… Also a light air sail, but more controllable.   In the dark, Lisa and I decide it’s time to bring it on in.   We put the furling line on a winch, the boat turns up and the sail starts to flog.   It loosens its connection to the Facnor furling drum, now the sail is flogging aft.  The sail has a foot line which snags the drum and the line rips out the length of the foot, clean as a seam ripper.  It releases the snap shackle holding the drum to the sprit. Now the sail is flailing about in the sky with the furling drum beating out its own rhythm.  We have a 3 pound metal object making a 30 foot arc in the night sky.  We awaken all hands and turn on the fore deck light.  The winds have built to mid twenties and we have six to ten foot seas at ten seconds.  It’s Bumpy.

Finally, we release the halyard, as it runs through the mast we are able to haul the mess on deck.  Using the halyard we lace the sail to the life lines and proceed on under reefed main and genoa.  The wind is right on the stern but the boat won’t sail dead down wind.  The boat is very noisy in the disturbed seas.  I have a difficult time getting any sleep.  Finally we proceed under genoa only.  This allows us to run straight down the waves, the ride gets much better and we are finally going where we are trying go.  We do the second night in winds gusting to 30 and more of those ten footers.   The ride is much better.   While there was a lot of expensive stuff on the move, nobody got hurt, and the repairs won’t be more than a few hundred bucks.

Lisa and I are sitting side by side on a steering station, I smell an odd acrid odor, I sniff my collar, I must really need a shower.  Nope not that.  I get up for a cup of coffee and as I return to the steering station,  I see a huge flying fish on the step.  A deep cobalt blue with huge dark eyes and wings a good ten inches long.  He had flown at least eight feet in the air and 12 feet across the deck to hit our sliding door leaving an imprint waist high.  I throw the beast back into the maelstrom.  I figure I smelled him as he flew past.

The next day we arrive in Turtle bay…Bahia Tortuga.   A panga pulls up Ice? Water? A kid in a kayak takes our trash for a dollar a bag, talk about low overhead.

Panga ride to shore

This small dusty fishing village is overwhelmed by 604 people arriving in 147 boats.  This is a sleepy town, but they have a secret passion…. Baseball.

They have sent teams to national competition.  In a town that boasts two paved streets, the town’s soccer field (the national sport) is strewn with rocks and weeds while the baseball field is a modern marvel, complete with AstroTurf.  The kids host a game with the cruisers where everyone gets to bat.  Cruisers who haven’t hit a ball in decades find themselves running with all their might to first base.   The kids have a great time and receive baseball gloves donated by the cruising community.  Everyone has a lot of fun.

The next day, we are off to the beach party and potluck.  The beach is our first taste of Baja…steep brown cliffs, beach strewn with bright red seaweed.  We bring the MCYC aluminum dutch oven filled with pulled pork to heat up over the fire.

Leg Two – Bahia Santa Maria

Motoring start, 1130 am, with Main Sail

Light wind, we try both spinnakers, but nothing works well. We switch to Main and Genoa and sail for a while. In the end, we give up and turn on the iron genny.

This leg is all about the fish. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  the reel shrieks as the line spools off our smaller reel.  The chief fishing officer (CFO) fights valiantly…the reel is getting hot. In the end the fish takes the lure… Twice.  We are excited and spend several hours switching lures around but no joy.  We resort to making up lures using pieces of what we have including the new “green guy” lure, made from strips of sample spinnaker cloth.

Finally in the late afternoon a dorado hits. Jumping several feet out of the water, his beautiful green and blue flashing in the sun.  He jumps 10 times fighting valiantly.  As the rest of the crew reel in the trailing meat lines and the other rod.  The watch puts the engines in neutral.  Our Dorado tries one last run under the boat, but the fishing officer is on it and the fish submits to the gaff.


Twenty minutes later the CFO is making Ceviche using a time honored recipe stolen from a Mexican Charter boat crew.

Cut the fish into 1/2 inch cubes leaving all facia, red portions, and skin behind.   You are left with a bowl in our case with about 1 lb of pale translucent cubes.  Add soy sauce till the meet has a faintly brown cast.  Then about ¾ t of sea salt. We used the juice of 8 limes to almost cover the flesh… You don’t want it to be too limey.  Then add 5 or 6 firm, cubed Roma tomatoes, not too juicy.  Then ¾ cup of chopped red onion.  1 serrano chili seeded and diced finely. About 1/3 cup chopped cilantro.  Mix with hands.  Allow to “cook” in the lime juice for one hour.  Serve with saltine crackers….. You always have those on board a charter boat for sea sick fisherman.

We cleanup and 3 more dorado hit.  We release them for another day.

We arrive at Bahia Santa Maria, 11:30 PM.  Normally we don’t want to enter new places at night, but in this case the entrance to the bay is wide open. We enter the bay dodging the boats already anchored there.   The next morning we wake up to a dense fog. We can see none of our neighbors.  By 10:00am the fog has lifted and we are in a large bay with just a few fishing shacks.  We spend the day lazing on the boat, trying the SUP board, reading a book.

The next day Vincent shows up with his band, a group caters fish tacos.  They have driven from La Paz about 100 miles on dirt roads and beaches to sing for tips…. They get the tips.  Richard, the chief fishing office is also a bit of a rock and roller.  He gives his rendition of the generator song… “The generator won’t generate, but that’s OK we’re cruisers… “

Vincent, Rocking out

Vincent, Rocking out

Leg Three – Cabo San Lucas

We motor off in no wind, while a few boats in the fleet try to sail, but  shows no wind all the way down.  We spend most of the day motoring.  I’m not sure the propeller pitch is right 6.5 knots is what we get.   About 3 o’clock we are finally able to sail.  Full main, with the green guy and we are going 7 knots with 10 -12 knots of true.  The wind is at 120.  As the sun sets, the wind dies and we are back to motoring.

The real story of the third leg is once again fishing.  Early in the day, we catch a hand full of skipjack tuna, but they are not a tasty fish so we release them all.  Then nothing.  We fiddle with lures, but nothing.  Then, two in the afternoon, the reel sings its song.

The fish fights hard and strikes a long way out.  We pull in the other lines, stop the engines.  Seems like an instant, but twenty minutes later the fish is at the boat.   It’s a Marlin.  Captain Art warned me about bill fish…  Not what you want thrashing about on your boat.  We want to release him.  Marlin are a somewhat endangered sport fish, and it’s the right thing to do.  I put on some work gloves, I’ve never seen a marlin let alone caught one.  The CFO is working the Rod.  I get down on the back step.  The fish thrashes violently banging against the hull.  He seem exhausted, but will he suddenly lunge about with his 20 inch nose?  Gingerly I grab his beak.  He struggles weakly.  We lift him by the beak and estimate he is about 6 feet sixty pounds… I’m using the do it your selfer weight standard…. Lighter than a sack of concrete. As we pull away, the beautiful fish lies below the surface recovering from his struggle.

The Marina has assigned us slip H5 which is only 14 feet wide… That’s not going to work.  There is a lot of radio chatter… We decide to just show up.  The marina handles us beautifully.  In less than a minute they assign a side tie, behind a 100 foot fishing boat, Crystal.

That night we unwind at squid row.  The girls love dancing to the beat on the table top in classic Squid Roe Fashion, the beer is cold.


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