Sunday, January 15, 2017

South from Ensenada

[Kyle]We paid our bill at Baja Naval and left the dock around 10am. After a slight bit of motoring to get clear of the harbor entrance, we unfurled the sails and then just sat there. We were expecting this. The forecast was for very light winds. Wind was ‘due’ according to the forecasts and we wanted to be ready for when it arrived. We had the luxury of time and always try and conserve fuel where. It would likely be two thousand miles before we could pull up to a fuel pump. We may be able to go into a town on the dinghy with jerry cans before that, but that is not something that’s fun to make multiple trips for if we can avoid doing so. For the meantime, we would just be patient and wait out the lulls.

Our last morning in Ensenada - and a very quiet bay once we got out the harbor

We sat in the same spot for a couple of hours next to a flock of gulls before the lightest of breezes came up and we were able to slowly pull away from them. So long, suckers! By nightfall, we had passed through a gap separating Ensenada’s Bahia Todos Santos from the open Pacific.

Just as it was getting dark, half a dozen Humpback whales joined us, slowly going about their evening feed. They circled at a distance for a while and then went on their way. In the calm, we could hear every breath.

A night after that, we could still make out the lights on the hills above Ensenada. The clouds in the distance were lit up by Tijuana and San Diego even further. In the early hours of the next morning, the wind picked up and we were able to put some real miles behind us. We sailed the next four hundred miles well out of sight of land in almost direct tailwinds. Once or twice a day, a ship would pass by close enough to see.

Slow but pretty progress for the first few days

We had originally intended to stop at Turtle Bay and anchor for a night, but our slow progress the first couple of days made it seem more sensible to press on to our next planned stop at Bahia Santa Maria, a couple hundred miles further on. We were trying to arrive at the Sea of Cortez for a forecast period of south winds – opposite the prevailing direction.

We had been having great difficulty getting a good enough connection through our ham/SSB radio to download a forecast, and also to tell our offshore contacts about our change of destination. We were hoping we would have a good enough cell signal at anchor to update our forecast so that we could determine when was best to move on. Aboard Begonia, we can use the radio for long range voice conversations, but primarily to transmit critical emails. For the emails, the radio connects via a Pactor modem to the computer, and for years it has been frustrating and temperamental when trying to send and receive emails. There are several issues that can cause problems (e.g. signal is not good enough, the server we want to talk to won't answer, and a host of other hardware issues), but we believed the biggest issue was a power/voltage issue, if the batteries were not full and charging our modem ALWAYS seemed to lose power just as we tried to connect. Maryanne had time to so some sleuthing on this trip and finally identified a simple solution - it turns out that there are two power inputs to the modem (the second is optional and not connected, in fact we weren't even aware it existed) - she found a cable that would fit into the second power socket (one that had previously functioned to charge a spotlight) and WOW - our major problem seems to have vanished and our radio seems to be reliable and trustworthy again. Over the years, Maryanne has enlisted the help of fellow cruisers, been on long calls with radio experts, and nobody even suggested or hinted that a second power input would solve the problem - she is a genius! {Maryanne: better late than never, but this makes a HUGE difference to our peace of mind at sea}

As we approached Bahia Santa Maria, our wind finally started to taper off. In order to avoid another night at sea, we deployed the spinnaker, which had us pulling into the bay around noon (although our chart depths did not seem to match reality once we arrived). We set the anchor, ran the checklist, and went for an afternoon nap which we were most ready for after 7 days at sea and on watches.

About half an hour later, there was a knock on our hull. We groggily surfaced. One of the other boats anchored nearby stopped in to introduce themselves. There were two folks in the visiting dinghy (Richard and Denis) with another two back at the boat, Ebenezer III (Octavia and Rick). Ebenezer III had done the Baja Haha rally in November, and was now doing the long, upwind trip back to Sausalito, ducking in to anchor when conditions got too rough.

They arrived with a gift of a Mako Shark (also know as a bonito), and some chowder too. They had earlier asked one of the local pangueros (the fishermen that use the local 'Panga', and open boat or skiff used widely here) for a couple fillets and he threw them a four-foot Mako shark. They used what they could, but still had a third left over. They offered it to us. We happily (if somewhat nervously) took it. (Maryanne served us up steaks, and later was able to turn it into a coconut fish curry. This, along with the fish chowder Ebenezer III also gave us, kept us fed for four days!). It was nice to have guests visit and they were such good company we were happy to delay our naps; we must have seemed OK company to them too, as they invited us to visit their boat the following evening for drinks – wow, we have a busy social life all of a sudden!

Kyle finally feels retired and relaxed AND we have a shark to deal with - another first!

The next morning, we were just out of bed starting in on our late morning coffees when a squall passed through and it started to rain hard. A couple of minutes after that, the Ebenezer III dinghy knocked on our hull again, this time with Richard and Octavia. They had been exploring the mangroves in glorious sunshine but were now rapidly getting soaked in their dinghy, so of course we invited them aboard where we chatted easily until it passed. We had lots to chat about as we’d all lived around San Francisco Bay and It turns out Octavia was British and had studied, like Maryanne, at St Andrews University.

The wonderful company aboard Ebenezer III

Richard, the owner and Captain, was concerned about the weather going north. We had a decent signal on our phones, so we were able to download some high quality forecasts, which allowed us to go back and forth about their options. He decided they would leave during a lull early the next morning.

To save us having to deploy our dinghy, Richard offered to pick us up later on for the long ride to his boat in his dinghy. Great!

As the afternoon came to a close, we noticed them heading out. The wind was already dying down and we figured they must have been getting a jump on it. Instead, they dropped anchor right behind us. This would make their dinghy ride nice and short for our pickup. They were eager to prepare for their departure the next day and called us on the radio to see if we wouldn’t mind getting an early jump on our visit. Sure!

We met them again with a just-downloaded forecast and then headed over for an evening of wine and story swapping. When darkness fell, we took an hour saying goodbye and then they shuttled us home so they could continue their departure preparations. Their kindness and great company will be forever memorable, and we hope we didn’t keep them up too late.

The next morning, we emerged from bed to beautiful blue skies. Ebenezer III was long gone. The last of the other two boats in the anchorage was just pulling up anchor and heading south. Begonia had the whole twelve-mile long bay to ourselves. We were finally caught up on sleep and were able to have a refreshingly lazy day stretching the few minor things we had to do into a whole day.

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