Friday, April 22, 2022

Intermezzo's 2022 Cruise Ends

22 April 2022 
Marina Puerto Escondido
 

We pulled into the slip from which we departed here in Marina Puerto Escondido yesterday early afternoon, a bit over four months since we departed on January 16. We sailed a total of 1,345 nautical miles.

I enjoyed this cruise. I felt very at home and comfortable on the boat. Overall, I enjoyed sailing with crew more than on my own, but also appreciated the solitude, silence and focus singlehanded sailing. I made great strides in finding enjoyment in fixing things that break on the boat, rather than feeling frustrated and discouraged.

The cruise ended a bit earlier than I originally planned, but I didn't have crew to continue and have had enough time listening to conversations with myself. I would have like to have explored Bahía Concepcion, just north of here, but it will have to wait until next year.

I'll spend the next week or so preparing the boat for storage before returning to land life until early June. Then I'll return, do final prep and haul out for hurricane season by mid-June.

 


Nice Sailing, Rocky Los Gatos, Peaceful Monserrat

I wrote this post a couple of days ago, but sent it via satellite to the wrong email address, so it didn't post. Here it is, belated news...

20 April 2021
Isla Monserrat, BCS

The forecasted southerly winds actually materialized and we’ve enjoyed two days of downwind sailing.

Yesterday we sailed from Isla San Francisco to Puerto Los Gatos. The winds turned out to be more east than south, which was fine for sailing but not good for anchoring. Los Gatos is completely open to the east and the swell entering the anchorage rocked Intermezzo uncomfortably until well into the night. I turned in early after two rum drinks and a sizable dinner. From about midnight until dawn, life on board was comfortable.

This morning we raised anchor as the swell returned and continued northward to Isla Monserrat. The sailing started out noisy and uncomfortable, the wind not quite strong enough to keep the sails filled as we rode down short but steep swells, the boom banging away as the main sail backwinded then filled again with a snap. We motored for 45 minutes around noon when the wind briefly died, but then enjoyed a steady 15+ knot breeze that stabilized the sails and moved us along briskly on a broad reach.

We are anchored at the north end of the isla, protected from the swell coming from the southeast, gratefully not rolling like last night. The desert island rises gently from the shoreline, a mix of rock and sandy beaches. Flocks of pelicans are actively fishing for sardines, barely rising above the water and immediately wheeling over to make a plunging dive. The sun is setting over the mountainous silhouette of El Gigante on the peninsula to the west. It is peaceful.

Tomorrow we return to Puerto Escondido, our starting point back in January.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Heading Back to Puerto Escondido

18 April 2022
Isla San Francisco, BCS

We're on our way back to Puerto Escondido, the beginning of the end of our 2021-22 sailing season in the Sea of Cortez.

I took a hiatus from posting to the blog over the past three weeks since arriving in La Paz from Mazatlan. Here is a recap of events on board Intermezzo.

30 Mar - 2 April
I anchored out in the El Mogote anchorage off the La Paz seafront until April 1 when I took a slip in Marina de La Paz. My replacement water heater was waiting for me there, shipped there via Deko Marine in San Diego, a shipping/export agent. It was a relatively easy job removing the leaking water heater and replacing it with an identical new one. It was a bit challenging trying to figure out why the new one wasn't making hot water from the engine coolant heat exchanger, though. After running the engines a few times and adding a bit of coolant in between, I finally got hot water. I concluded that either there was an air lock in the heat exchanger circuit or that I didn't get all the air out of the heater tank before trying to make hot water, or both. Inconclusive diagnosis, but we now have hot water in the galley again.

3-4 April
I rented a car and drove to Los Cabos to pick up Christina, Nate and Maddie, Renee's daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, respectively. I stopped at one of my favorite restaurants, Hierbabuena, in Pescadero on the west coast of the Baja peninsula. The herbs used for artisanal cocktails and to season the fresh food dishes come from the restaurant's own garden.
I managed to rendezvous with Christina et. al. at the airport, despite there being no cell signal in the arrival area. They were tired from getting up really early in the morning and a long day's travel, but in good spirits. We took it easy the next day, getting settled on the boat, exploring a bit of La Paz and enjoying a couple of nice dinners out.

5-9 April
The four of us headed out from La Paz to Islas Espíritu Santo and Partida for a mini-cruise. We enjoyed swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, beach walking and lazing around in mostly secluded anchorages, though we were driven out of Ensenada Grande by noisy party motor yachts. There seem to be so many more of them than there were four years ago.
The highlight of the trip for me was teaching Maddie, age 6, to snorkel. She took to it quickly and we explored rock and coral reefs, her tucked to my side, enjoying all the colorful fish and other underwater life. It brought back happy memories of me snorkeling with my daughter Hannah when she was about the same age, 20 years ago.
We attempted to swim with some turtles that were swimming around the boat. We never got close to a turtle, but I felt things pelting my body underwater and discovered what the turtles were eating, fish eggs, aka caviar. I captured a few and tasted them. They were quite good, very mild salty jelly-balls, about a quarter-inch diameter. I was surprised when Maddie, who is often fussy about food, asked to taste some. I caught a few more and was even more surprised when she said she liked them, two-thumbs up.
We all got along well on the somewhat cramped quarters of the boat, a test for attitude and relationships. Nate and Christina took good care of the boat and seemed to like the lifestyle and beautiful surroudings. Maddie handled hanging out with only adults for a week very well.
Of course, it can never be perfect on a boat, as I noticed the raw water pump on the starboard engine was leaking during our cruise. Nate helped me replace it. I last replaced this pump in Puerto Escondido back in November 2018. They usually don't last that long, so I couldn't complain.

10 April
I rented a car again and drove my crew back to Los Cabos to catch their flight back to California. I drove back to La Paz along the east coast of the peninsula, stopping in Los Barriles, about halfway, for lunch. I made a disappointing choice of restaurant in this very gringo town. I should have driven a bit further and eaten at a taqueria on the highway.

11-15 April
I anchored out in El Magote again. I don't really like this anchorage. It's usually a wet, bumpy ride to and from the dinghy dock and tour boat pangas rock the boat with their wakes. The current swings the boat around four times a day and there is a lot of noise at night from the waterfront bars and nightclubs. It just never seems peaceful.
It was a good enough place to take care of some boat projects and clean up from visitors, though.
The exhaust elbows on both engines were leaking salt water. When I replaced the port elbow, I noticed coolant in the engine sump and sprayed residue around the engine compartment. That means a leaking coolant pump. I had just replaced this pump in January 2021. Something is amiss, these pumps should last much longer. Replacing these pumps is a pretty big job, requiring draining the engine of coolant, removing the bad pump, switching all the fittings from old to new, installing the new pump, filling the engine back up with coolant and testing. I've replaced these pumps so many times now that I am an expert, but it's still a three-hour job.
My satisfaction with fixing things didn't last long, as the dinghy outboard suddenly acted up, losing power, struggling to propel the dinghy at five knots when it usually can buzz along at nearly 20. I bought new fuel, checked the fuel pickup, fuel line and fuel filter, removed the carburetor, dismantled and cleaned it (even though it was squeaky clean already) and checked the spark plugs. None of this solved the problem. The engine seems to be running very rich, so maybe the choke solenoid is not opening the choke? I don't know. I'm pretty solid with diesel engines, but lack experience troubleshooting gas outboards. Especially since this one has run almost perfectly for almost ten years with no repairs and little maintenance.
I enjoyed visiting Barbara and Johan at their new place further out of town. After five years of living in the center of town, right off the malecón, they grew tired of the ever increase in noiseless of the neighborhood. Their new place is on a hillside with big terrace overlooking an expansive view of Bahia de La Paz. I enjoyed a nice dinner and conversation around their small outdoor fireplace.

16 April
I departed La Paz singlehanded for Puerto Escondido. It was a beautiful day, but no wind, so I had to motor the whole way to Ensenada de La Ballena on Isla Espíritu Santo, where I dropped anchor in the early afternoon. No wind beats bashing into headwinds any day, however.
I had the whole ensenada to myself until a motor yacht dropped anchor right next to me, playing loud music, again. What is it with these people? I surveyed the situation and concluded that they were not going to stay overnight, so I resigned myself to a few hours of unpleasantness. Sure enough, just before sunset the yacht and its music departed and I regained my solitude. I took the kayak for a spin, had a naked swim and shower off the back of the boat and enjoyed the sunset in peace, rum cocktail in hand. The full moon rose shortly afterwards, bathing the steep terrain of the island and the sea in a blueish light.

17 April
We motored in very calm conditions to Isla San Francisco. It was so calm that I turned off the engine and drifted on a flat, windless sea while I ate lunch about three miles south of the island. I was surprised to encounter strong northerly winds as I dropped anchor less than an hour later. It blew a steady 15 knots with higher gusts all through the afternoon and evening. I kayaked to shore and hiked up to the island's ridge, where it was really windy. It was a wet paddle back to the boat, upwind into the chop. About a dozen boats spent the night here, including several motor yachts. Thankfully, none of them played loud music.

I'm spending the day here at Isla San Francisco. Conditions are now very calm, with light winds. The weather oracle/astrologist/shaman koans suggest that there will be decent southerly winds tomorrow, which would allow me to sail instead of motor northwards. I'm fully prepared to be bashing into 20 knot headwinds and steep waves, however, as now the Wind Gods are aware of my intentions.

This morning I heard splashing under the boat, so I went onto the trampoline and bent over the crossbeam between the bows to take a look. A sea lion splashed me in the face as he darted to catch a fish that was hiding under the boat. Funny.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Arrived and Anchored in La Paz

We had an easy trip from Caleta Lobos to the La Paz anchorage this morning. The southerly breeze we enjoyed sailing in yesterday was against us today, so it was motoring all the way but in very light chop. No bashing or complaints.

The sail from Los Muertos to Caleta Lobos yesterday was beautiful. We sailed the whole way, except for a couple short periods of motoring when the wind died.  The winds were with us, the seas calm and the weather beautiful.

Last night in anchored in Caleta Lobos was a different story, though. The weather forecast (why don't I just stop paying attention to them?) was for light 5-7 knot southerly wind. In fact, it blew 10 to 15-plus all evening, all night and into the morning.  Much of the Caleta Lobos anchorage has been closed for marine life preservation, so the only place left to anchor is open to the south. Not a problem if 5-7 knot light winds. A problem in stronger southerly breezes there is long fetch for waves to build and enter the anchorage. We rocked and pitched at anchor all night. Not very pleasant at all.

We'll be in La Paz waiting for Christina, Nate and Maddie to arrive on Sunday and then depart for a trip to Islas Espiritu Santa and Partida on Tuesday. I'm looking forward to showing them my favorite places and introducing Maddie to the sailing life.

Between now and then...boat projects!

Monday, March 28, 2022

On the Way to La Paz

Punta Gorda, Sea of Cortez

We're sailing along beautifully, dead downwind, the sails wing-on-wing. Today's destination is Caleta Lobos, a favorite cove of mine just north of La Paz, about 46 nm sailing distance from Los Muertos, where we upped anchor this morning. We'll overnight there and they head into La Paz tomorrow.

Yesterday's passage from Los Frailes to Los Muertos was very pleasant. We motored in calm seas a bit less than halfway and then, around 11:00, the southerly wind started to build and we sailed the rest of the way. We anchored dropped anchor in Los Muertos at 16:23 and I had a relaxing evening chatting wiht my Dad on the phone, getting some business work done, and continuing to debug my port engine charging system (which is still not behaving properly).

I woke this morning at sunrise to dense fog in the anchorage and the decks dripping wet with dew. It was a great opportunity to mop the salt off the decks while I waited for the fog to clear. I'm happy to report that the mobula rays (Devil Fish) are out and about, launching into their aerobatic routines which I enjoy so much.

I'm so grateful for these southerly winds. No motoring. No bashing. Nice.


Los Frailes anchorage

Hiking above Los Frailes

Finally, downwind sailing!
Foggy sunrise in Los Muertos anchorage

Friday, March 25, 2022

Anchored in Los Frailes

25 March 2022, 18:45
Los Frailes, BCS

We dropped anchor here in Los Frailes at 12:50, making for a 27 hr 26 min trip, for an average speed of six knots. Not bad.

The wind was blowing hard when we arrived- 18 knots at one point. PredictWind said it would be only blowing 5. I don't understand the discrepancy, but perhaps local effects from a cold front in the area.

After neatening up the boat after passage making, I made a nice salad for lunch, opened one of my few remaining Lagunitas IPA's to celebrate and then took a nice nap.

When I woke up, I launched the dinghy to go for a run on the beach. It turned out to be quite a workout, as the sand is too soft for the dinghy wheels and there is only one of me to haul it up on the beach.

The wind has now died down, the anchorage is calm and I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep. I'll stay here tomorrow to rest before heading north and making my way to La Paz.

Long Night, Almost There

25 March 2022, 07:30
Gulf of California, 34nm E of Los Frailes, Baja California Sur

About five hours left to go and all is well aboard Intermezzo. We're motor sailing in moderate rocking seas, the jib close-hauled for a 10 knot wind off the starboard bow.

Last night was not as the weather forecasts led me to believe it would be. Nothing new. All the wind models had maximum predicted wind along our route of 12 knots. It blew over 18 for over an hour. All the wave models predicted 4 foot swell from the south at a comfortable period of over 12 seconds. Swells were 3 feet from the north at an uncomfortable period of less than 6 seconds. Even after the winds dropped around 22:00, it remained a bouncy ride until after sunrise. The seas are only now smoothing out.

The good news is that there was virtually no traffic the whole way. One fishing boat that got within two miles and a couple of ships way off in the distance. With my radar and AIS proximity alarms set, I was able to grab sleep in 30 minute snatches. I'd set the timer on my watch and get up, take a look around, reset the timer and resume sleeping. My watch vibrates when the timer goes off, a great feature for sailing. I stream the radar display to my iPad which sits right in front of me in the cabin. I can open one eye to make sure the boat is on course and there aren't any other boats to worry about.

I'm feeling fairly rested, but also that mussed, greasy, traveled feeling like after a redeye flight or an "all-nighter" studying at college (wow, that was a long time ago.) We should arrive at Los Frailes around 13:00 and I look forward to jumping into the water for a swim and then a nice hot shower.