Sunday, December 21, 2008

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Our first week in Mexico has pushed the limits of what one can experience on a small sailboat. We have enjoyed spectacular scenery – arid deserts and craggy mountains superimposed upon a liquid blue foreground, friendly Mexican fishermen, and some of the best sailing of the trip. We have also endured a terrible storm in a dangerously exposed anchorage and Mexican beaurocracy at its best.

We spent 2 days in Ensenda, clearing in on the first day (3 hours of 'streamlined' efficiency) and visiting a museum and a festival on the second. We stayed at Sergio's marina for a very reasonable 10 dollars a night (negotiated from 20). We had supper with our friends from Butukia, Francis and Beth, enjoying cactus tortillas at their lovely house, which overlooks the harbour.

Our next stop was Isla San Martin, where we spent 2 days, climbed the volcanic hills, and chatted with fishermen who were harvesting Sargaso (seaweed) and sea urchins (see pictures). The views from the crater rim were quite fine and the anchorage is well sheltered from the strong southerly winds we experienced. Some pictures follow:

Isla San Martin - fishermen returning from anchored panga
Note the fishermen on the shore gathering seaweed.

Seaweed press for baling the weed.

Rani chats with Ramon and friends on Isla San Martin

Elephant seals lazing on the lagoon at Isla San Martin

Chris with his cactus pal - he ended up with a number of
spines in his foot from similar plants.

Rani and Chris on the top of the extinct volcano

Rani standing on a lava flow.

Curious elephant seals - they followed us around the lagoon

The next day we sailed south, but llight winds and an evil spinnaker wrap saw us stop only 10 miles away in San Quintin. This anchorage is open to the south and proved to be a very bad place to be in a south east gale – very very bad. We enjoyed calm weather here during the first day and Rani was able to disentangle the spinnaker from the forestay after I hoisted her to the mast head. That night, the wind swung again into the southeast and rose gradually to 25 and then 30 knots gusting to 40 in squalls of rain and hail. We should have left immediately and returned to San Marin, but we hung on thinking that the front would pass through in a few hours. The next day, the seas were up, running to 6 and 8 feet and breaking like surfer's waves right into the anchorage. We had a sleepless night and spent that day adjusting the chafe protection on the rode and watching the pressure on everything build. Lil' Bugger was in the water and flipped around with each swell like a kite without its tail. The anchor roller started to bend alarmingly, so I moved the anchor rode to the bow cleats and doubled up the chafe protection. Everything held, however and the anchor never dragged – thank heavens for lots of chain and a good heavy anchor.

Early in the second night, the wind swung to the south west giving us a some shelter from the nearby rocks and beach. However the boat now lay side on to a huge swell and was thrown on her side at one point. The outboard motor sheer plate was torn away and the motor began to swing freely on its mount. I must admit that I was only truly worried during one particularly nasty squall when the rain felt like nails and the tops of the waves were coming apart and blowing in wraiths of spume across the troughs. It seemed amazing that our anchor could remain dug in during such violence.

Rani however was terrified. She told me later that this was the most frightening experience of her life (and she has had quite a few that I would have thought would top it!). The lightning storm on the 2nd night was the last straw for her and she made ready a 'ditch bag' and got out the life jackets in case we had to swim for it. Rani spent a lot of time staring out the windows at approaching waves and worrying about me out on the foredeck adjusting the anchoring tackle. To her credit, she is still on board the boat although she did tell me that maybe this sailing thing is not her cup of tea. I replied that everyone feels that way after their first storm at sea, but I don't think I convinced her :)

After the storm, we sailed south, staying in radio contact with Ali Baba, a 35 foot sailboat that weathered the same storm, albeit in the somewhat protected harbour on San Martin Island. We had a glorious 36 hour sail to Turtle Bay. Some flying squid ended up on our decks during the night (see picture) and the second day, we sailed into the lee of 20 mile long Isla Cedros (see picture).

Isla Cedros on the way to Turtle Bay

Flying squids landed on deck overnight

Squid on the dodger - this greeted us when we woke up!

In Turtle Bay we met Tim and Sue of Ali Baba in person and will have a potluck dinner with them tonight. We plan to spend a couple of days relaxing here before our next leg to Magdelena Bay where we will most likely celebrate Christmas. We hope to get in some hiking and whale watching (the grey whales calve in nearby bays).


Anonymous said...

Wowo sounds like an adventure all right!!! At least you're missing the blizzards here in Victoria.


Cindy & Darren said...

Sounds like you both had a very rough night. Thankfully that is behind you now and wishing you fair winds for the rest of your journey! Wonderful to hear that you had good ground tackle and chain though-considering you bought the chain from us in Victoria! (SV Orion) At least our chain is in Mexico, even if we can't be right now! We just returned from a trip in our boat to Alaska this summer! It was a fantastic experience! Good luck to you both, enjoy yourselves and we will continue to follow your travels from here..Thanks for sharing!
Cindy & Darren