Friday, April 12, 2013

If you're going through hell, keep going.*

*Winston Churchill

La Paz, Monday 8 April: We were very keen to hook up with our good friends in Bahia Concepcion; Mike, Stephanie and the kids would be there most of the month of April. It looked like we had a splendid weather window, southwesterly and westerly breezes in the 10-15 knot range which would mean no bashing to windward. We hoped. So we left the comfort of La Paz and set off toward the San Lorenzo Channel and the Sea of Cortez.

The Channel once again had calm waters; lucky for us! We had 10 knots of breeze but unfortunately it was dead behind us, so we had to motor sail to make any momentum northward and to prevent the big mainsail from making its noisy and annoying slatting. We hoped that the wind would shift to the expected westerly so we could sail once again. We were tired of motoring!

Weather still nice, Tom sets the fishing lines. The next day we would catch and release one small yellowtail.
A Fateful Decision: It was late Monday afternoon after a pleasant but uneventful day and we had a decision to make. Would we tuck into the cove at San Evaristo for a good night's sleep or would we continue on through the night and make it to Bahia Concepcion a day early? We decided that the predicted westerlies were too perfect to ignore and we were used to overnight passages, so we carried on northward as the sun set behind the dramatically beautiful and rugged Los Gigantes sierras to our left.

We had decided to take a slightly easterly route to go around and avoid the many islands that dotted the coastline. This would turn out to be the wise choice.

It's All A Matter Of Perspective: A couple of hours after sunset the wind started building and the sailing was good. We had one reef in the mainsail, our general practice at sunset, and although it was windy the boat didn't feel overpowered. Yet. As the night went on the wind increased from 15 knots, to 18 knots, then into the 20s and we started to feel a bit uncomfortable, so we put the second reef in as the wind continued to build. The wind chop also increased and poor Cinnabar bounced along with the occasional wave breaking over her bow. At first 18 knots felt like a lot of breeze, but after a sustained 26 knots 18 knots would feel like a picnic. And the wind kept building during this moonless night.

Cinnabar Command Center - navigating safely around unlit shoals, reefs and islands in the pitch darkness.
(Geek trivia: L to R - BEP DC breaker panel, Petzel Red Headlamp, Standard VHF radio, B & G speed/depth/wind, Raymarine Plotter/Radar, WH Autopilot, Garmin 276C backup GPS, Glacier Bay Freezer/Refer status, PC Laptop)  
By and by we hit 30 knots, and the wind STILL continued to build. By this time the winds felt like they were raging and the waves were huge, sometimes breaking over the dodger and flooding the cockpit. I called Tom up so he could help me furl the jib. We headed downwind but the jib was so loaded up we could only get it in a little bit at a time, meanwhile the sheets were flailing and tangling themselves. At one point a huge wave splashed over the side, smacked Tom broadside, and sent a starburst of phosphorescence in all directions as it splatted off his head. I was horrified but at the same time I had to admit to myself that it looked pretty cool. Until the next moment when a wave came over and slapped me upside the head, pouring about a quart of seawater into my ear. I noticed that my soaked shirt continued to sparkle with phosphorescence for several minutes after my dousing.

We finally got the jib furled but it was a messy job and part of the jib continued to flap wildly in the wind. Would things ever go right? I'm sure Tom was exhausted, but he eventually went forward and tied the corner of the jib so it wouldn't beat itself to death. Then we headed slightly east and ran before the severe wind and waves. Since we had placed the islands to our left we had this option, thank goodness, because it made for a safer and more bearable journey.

Sometimes the winds would decrease down into the 20s and it felt oddly calm, but then they would go back into the 30s and all hell would break loose again. This cycle repeated itself most of the night. Tom and I later agreed that this was one of the most challenging nights of sailing we had ever experienced. Frankly it was hell.

Tom's exhausted after his hellish night.
The winds finally steadied in the teens and low 20s. When I came back on watch around sunrise Tuesday morning it was still windy, but nothing compared to what it had been.

Our pathetically furled, yet stout jib; no holes or tears after all that flogging!
After my morning watch of winds in the high teens and twenties, the wind just shut off, leaving no evidence of the pummeling we had received except for the thick patina of dried salt all over the boat and ourselves.

We spent the rest of the day taking turns napping, snacking and basically recovering.

Heaven Is a Playground: Early Tuesday evening we sailed into Bahia Concepcion, a vast, protected bay with numerous islands and anchorages.

Bahia Concepcion anchorage
We found our friends' hillside villa and dropped the hook in the anchorage just below their place at about 18:30. A short while later Stephanie hollered down to us from her balcony and, via radio, invited us in for a feast of freshly shot yellowtail prepared five ways and the use of their hot showers. We had finally arrived at heaven!

Stairway to heaven
We have spent the past few days hanging out with our friends Mike, Stephanie and their kids Savannah and Kelston, eating all their food, playing with their water toys, and mooching off their Wi-Fi, hot water and hospitality.
Mike on a SUP leading the kayakers on a tour of the bay and mangroves

They have entertained us by driving us into Mulege to pick up supplies and sightsee, showing us cool places in the Bahia...
Waiting for a fresh seafood lunch right on the ocean with Stephanie and Mike.

...and Kelston amused us one night by sitting on a scorpion. Yes, he did get stung poor guy! (But he's OK.)
Tomorrow we drive to Loreto to pick up a couple of friends who are flying in from the SF Bay Area. Knowing Mike, he has many adventures planned so we are looking forward to the next couple of weeks of fun...and a CALM anchorage.

Our perfect little anchorage

More pics of the past week HERE.

(Distance: 217 nautical miles; 31.5 hrs duration; average speed 6.8 knots, 57% sailing, 43% motor, Fish tally - one small yellowtail caught and released)


  1. Now that is real cruising - Love the description that is totally familiar, lightning all around?????
    Judy and Torben

  2. I knew something was missing! We should have counted our blessings that we weren't in a thunder storm.