Monday, March 30, 2015

Baja Bash Northbound March 2015

Patrick had the opportunity to travel as a crew member on the Offshore 54 “Seagate” during a ferry trip from Cabo San Lucas to Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles.  The vessel is owned by Dick Squire and Patrick was part of a four person crew consisting of Alex Benson “Wild Blue”, Ray Mahaffey and Seagate owner Dick Squire.  The total trip will be about 830 nautical miles.

Getting ready to depart Cabo San Lucas

A note of explanation:  Returning from the Sea of Cortez, or anywhere south of Cabo San Lucas requires enduring the “Baja Bash”, since the weather patterns usually consist of northerly to WNW winds and a north flowing current, resulting in a short period wave pattern on top of whatever offshore swell is present.  The desired course is usually directly into this.  In addition, the prominent capes refract and redirect the swells creating sea conditions all out of proportion to what the wind speeds would have generated by themselves.  Some months are better, but March/April are notorious for day after day of ugly sea conditions.  Since the safe haven anchorages are 150-200 miles apart, and entering in daylight is preferable, departure times are often in the dark.

March 19, 2015 - Departing Cabo San Lucas

Patrick took a nonstop Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Los Cabos, where he met Alex and Ray at the airport.  Ray had a rental car and our first stop was the Costco in Cabo San Lucas for some provisions.  The three crew members met up with Dick Squire at the marina and after loading the new provisions, we all went to dinner at the Maria Corona restaurant.

Returning to the boat, departure was set for 1030 PM, for the 16-18 hour first 180 nautical mile run to Bahia Santa Maria.  We decided on 3 hour watches, with Alex and Patrick on the port watch and Dick and Ray on the starboard watch.  Our first test was getting by Cabo Falso, which is notorious for causing crews to regret not waiting for calm weather.  However, for us, the weather was initially good, with a NW swell, but rapidly disintegrated into a sloppy wind chop with NW winds to 20 knots mixed on top of the 1-1.5 meter 14 second period swell.  In the dark it was impossible to see the holes, so the ride became pretty uncomfortable.  The forward berth was impossible to sleep in, so the off-duty crew occupied the mid-ship stateroom and the salon.

March 20, 2015 – Magdalena Bay

Although we were past Cabo Falso, after only a few hours, speed had to be decreased at 0130 to keep the pounding under control as we fought a few leaks from all the water coming over the bow, and we all dealt with upset stomachs from something we ate at dinner (that is what we think!).  Our only company were numerous fishing trawlers, but even those disappeared after 0300.  Daylight at 0645 was a welcome sight, since now we could steer around the larger wave sets.

After a number of hours, the captain decided to head for Magdalena Bay, some two hours short of our original destination.  We anchored Seagate just inside the entrance to the bay in 20 feet of water at 1650, and the tired crew relaxed and prepared for the next day.

Magdalena Bay is a whale breeding location, but our schedule did not permit stopping to explore.

March 21, 2015 - Transit to Turtle Bay

Sunrise in Magdalena Bay
Departing Magdalena Bay

After a calm night at anchor we departed at 0823 for Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortugas), some 250 nautical miles, and about half way to San Diego.  We ran all day at just under 10 knots and the seas were OK until dark, when the wind increased and we began tacking back and forth 25-30 degrees around the base course and reduced speed to 8.5 knots to keep the pounding under control.  There was no moon, but clear skies full of stars.  Even so, we were essentially driving blind until daylight.

March 22, 2015 – Turtle Bay

After daylight, we could see a number of sea turtles and two whales, probably Gray Whales, but no other vessel traffic.  At 1130 we entered Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay).

Turtle Bay is about halfway to San Diego.  It has an airstrip, and one can hire a taxi to go to the main highway, some one hundred miles away where there is bus service to Cabo San Lucas.

Turtle Bay

Enrique's Fuel Dock, Turtle Bay

After fueling from Enrique, we anchored and fixed the watermaker, which had failed due to low pressure shutdowns.  Believing the problem was the low pressure switch, that was removed and the system jumpered.  Operation returned to normal and the water tanks were filled.  The anchorage at Bahia Tortugas is large, with room for many vessels.  There was good cell phone service, but limited data service, so we could call out, and get emails.  The weather forecast is not favorable, with increasing winds and seas along our route northbound, so we may have to remain here until Thursday.  Later in the day one of the sailboats in the Newport to Cabo race came in and anchored with gear failures, dropping out of the race.  They reported sloppy sea conditions along our intended route. 

Seagate at anchor, Turtle Bay

We dined on sautéed prawns and salad and everyone took naps until dinner, which was sautéed Steelhead Salmon and steamed asparagus.

March 23, 2015 - Turtle Bay

Dick cooked up French toast for breakfast, and after cleaning up the boat and rinsing some of the salt off, we took a panga into the fuel dock and wandered the dusty, mostly unpaved, streets of the town looking for provisions and lunch.  We found three Tienda’s with the items we needed and then stopped for lunch at a small taco stand where several of us had stewed goat tacos, which were surprisingly good, especially washed down with Tecate beer.  

Alex in Turle Bay main street

Sampling Goat Tacos

Our other dining choices - but closed

Colorful shells on the beach

Returning to Seagate we spent a lazy afternoon catching up on reading, logbooks and blog entries (posting deferred until we get internet service), as the winds gusted around the anchorage.  Dinner was steelhead cakes from the leftovers the day before. That evening another sailboat came in with gear failures from the race also.

Dinner aboard Seagate

March 24, 2014 - Turtle Bay

Another day at anchor in Bahia Tortugas.  The winds were gusting to 22 knots.  We took the panga into shore and had lunch at Delores, either fish tacos or fish “Maria” style.  While there we talked to some of the other boat crews anchored in the bay, mostly sail, several from the Pacific Northwest, heading south on multi-year voyages.

Delores Restaurant

Dining on the deck

March 25, 2015 - Turtle Bay

At anchor waiting for the weather forecast to improve.  Several vessels did leave, but larger than us.  Some also were headed south which would have been no problem.  We made the decision to leave at 0400 the next morning and go direct to San Diego, a 36 hour run of about 335 nautical miles.

March 26, 2015 - Departing Turtle Bay

We had an early wakeup when a large fishing boat arrived at 0200 with horns blaring, music blasting and lights glaring around the anchorage.  Seagate departed at 0340 and headed out.  The seas were initially not too bad, and by 0545 we could see where we were going.  Our plan was to be north of Cedros Island before 1100, since that is the last rough area we expected.  We were able to maintain 9-10 knots until sunset when the winds and seas picked up.

March 27, 2015 - In Transit to San Diego

A partial moon provided some visibility until moonset at 0300 when we were once again flying blind, with speed reduced to keep from pounding.  As daylight returned, we increased speed to 12 knots for three hours to get into San Diego before the US Customs dock closed.

The seas continued to decrease and we pulled into the Customs dock at 1500, only to find the agents were busy at the airport.  After three hours we were finally cleared by telephone and headed in for fuel, since we were down to about 60 gallons of fuel.  We moored overnight and had dinner at San Diego Yacht Club.

March 28, 2015 - San Diego to Marina Del Rey

We departed San Diego at 0635 for the final leg of the journey.  After clearing the harbor speed was increased to 14 knots and we had an uneventful transit to Marina Del Rey, arriving at Seagate’s home port, California Yacht Club, at 1500.  A victory dinner at California Yacht Club capped a successful Baja Bash and the crew dispersed to their homes, with Patrick remaining on board until his flight the next day.  Seagate covered 828 nautical miles (approximately), in four steps, three involving overnight passages.