Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Back on the water

Rani was not feeling at all well. Neither of us had been on the water since last April and the seas were coming in nasty short 5 foot lumps, pushed by more than 20 knots of breeze from the north west. Ladybug broad reached across the Sea of Cortez, the windvane steering capably now that we had turned her bow well south of our original course for Santa Rosalia. It's funny how quickly our plans change when confronted by an uncooperative wind. We had both been so looking forward to visiting the nursing gray whales in San Ignacio, intending to leave Ladybug in a marina in Santa Rosalia. Now however, we were bound for a snug anchorage at Bahia San Basilio, much further south. Here, we hoped to wait out the much heavier winds forecast for two days later.

Ladybug in the slings ready to lift. Francisco is the yard manager (standing by  Chris)

Ladybug ready to launch

Slings stuck in the mud under the keel - it took an hour to free her up.

A day earlier we had sailed out of Guaymas after a difficult launch. The launching channel at the marina seca in Guaymas is shallow and, unless the tide is high, when boats are lowered from the travel lift, the launching slings can become trapped under a boat's keel. It took more than an hour and much prodding with poles and hanging over the lifelines to free up the big canvas slings without damaging our new bottom paint job. Ladybug's keel settled into the viscous black mud and we tied her off around supper time to wait for an early morning tide.

Fishermen at sunset off Miramar, San Carlos area.

Before the sun rose the next day, we motored down the channel in the pink haze of pre-dawn. We had light winds most of that day but I was happy to be back on the water and we meandered the dozen or so miles to the Miramar anchorage near San Carlos. We were awakened the next morning by a heavy swell rolling into this anchorage, which made it impossible to sleep. By 11 am, the brisk north west wind that was now driving us toward the Baja had come up without any warning, and we quickly hoisted sail and got underway. The heavy wind caught us by surprise and Ladybug healed over so violently that our newly acquired handheld VHF flew across the cabin, it's volume knob breaking off in the process. We hurriedly put two reefs in the mainsail and later dropped the main altogether proceeding under reefed jib alone.

Patron saint of fishermen?

Rani's malaise was short lived as the Gravol took effect, and after a brief snooze, she was able to take her turn on watch. We sailed on through a moonless night toward a previously logged GPS waypoint that would hopefully keep us clear of the intervening dangers. Before we had GPS, I would not have attempted a night crossing like this with a predicted dawn arrival. Instead, steering only a compass course and estimating our progress via dead reckoning, I would most likely have slowed the boat down or steered further offshore to ensure we avoided the off-lying islands. As it was, even with GPS, our charts for this area were so inaccurate that it was prudent to ensure that we were at least two or three miles from the charted position of the off-lying islands.

San Juanico

Rancho Santa Ana welcome sign made of shells embedded in sandstone
We made landfall around dawn at San Basilio and anchored in the San Juanico anchorage after sailing about 100 miles in less than 20 hours. Despite getting little sleep on the crossing, we knew we had to make the most of our first day here because gales were forecast for the following three days that would probably keep us pinned down on board Ladybug. We inflated our double kayak and paddled over to a nearby beach from which we hiked all afternoon along the shore and over several bluffs to a rancho that lies in a valley a few kilometers away. We returned via a true high clearance road (Rani all but disappeared in the ruts!) and spent the evening preparing Ladybug for the predicted high winds. A 39 foot Westsail had anchored nearby while we were off hiking and shortly after we returned to Ladybug, Kurt and Nancy motored over to say hi. We discussed our preparations for the blow and agreed to monitor 18 on the VHF in case either boat needed help.

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