Sunday, December 25, 2011

A night sail on the way south to La Paz

This post is for Jamie Orr, who likes to occasionally see something about sailing on a sailing blog...

The wind was light in the anchorage at Agua Verde for much of the day. It was not until about 3 pm that a steady wind began to ruffle the water. We were expecting strong northerlies the next day and decided that rather than do all our sailing in rough downwind conditions, we would leave with a lighter south westerly breeze and sail through the evening. There was a near full moon rising around 8:30 pm that should give us some help in navigating the San Jose channel and finding a suitable anchorage. We were also familiar with the anchorages en route and with our newly functioning radar and some saved GPS waypoints, should be able to find our way in without too much difficulty.

Approximate route

We sailed out the anchor and laid a course for the north west edge of Marcial reef, about 3 miles off shore. We set up our Monitor wind vane to steer us on a broad reach as gusts of westerly wind from the cliffs at Marcial point blew us out of the bay. Dark comes quickly and decisively in mid December and we were soon navigating by way points because a heavy cloud cover and no moon made it impossible to see even the nearby mountains of the Sierra Giganta. Rounding the reef, we turned onto a beam reach and with the vane steering and a reef in the main to cope with gusts out of the mountain valleys, we headed for the entrance to San Jose channel.

Rani navigated on this passage, as she usually does, and used the radar and GPS to keep us on a rhumbline aimed at the middle of the channel. The moon rose behind a cloud-torn sky revealing the faint outlines of islands to seaward, and soon the flashing light on little San Diego island provided comforting confirmation of our electronic bearings. We passed the anchorage at Los Gatos where we could see the anchor light of a sailboat, possibly that of our friends on Southern Cross who had left Agua Verde earlier in the day.

The wind began to increase and we had 2 reefs in the main before we reached the north end of the channel. It was lovely steady sailing with the wind blowing off the land and only a small underlying swell to roll us around. The vane was able to cope with conditions such as these, so long as we made sure to reduce sail and keep the helm balanced during the gusts.

The San Jose channel is usually windier than the surrounding waters due to funneling of the northerly winds prevalent in the winter. However, with the wind in the south west coming over the steep mountains that line the Baja side of the channel, the wind actually became lighter and somewhat fluky in the channel. We decided to favour the outside of the channel and ran over to Isla San Jose to try to find a clear wind. Rani was nervous about getting too close to the sandy spits that project into the channel from the island, but we soon picked up the lighthouse on the more northerly projection and stayed about a quarter to a half mile off shore.

We debated tucking in behind the sand spit, but decided that it would offer no shelter from the westerly swell and instead aimed for San Evaristo on the mainland a few miles further south. The wind died down off Evaristo and we downed sails and motored into the anchorage around 1:30 in the morning. There were 4 boats in the north lobe and 2 in the main anchorage, where we dropped the hook off the beach and after ensuring we were well set collapsed in the V-berth after a lovely 45 mile sail.

San Evaristo anchorage - the next morning - our friends on Corvadae sail out for Isla San Fransisco

1 comment:

Randall Reeves said...

Chris and Rani,

Great to see you are back in the Sea of Cortez. Can't tell you how jealous I am. Murre is in Kauai, and I'm in San Fran for the holidays. Have a great season on the Sea! Please say hello to our favorite anchorages for me.

Aboard Murre
Nawiliwili Kauai