Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wind, Engineering and Dinner in Los Frailes

We are sitting out strong northerly winds in Bahia Los Frailes. This is a fairly remote and pretty anchorage, mostly a long crescent of sandy beach with a massive rock headland its north end. We're tucked behind that headland, from which the bay gets it's name, Los Frailes with means The Friars. A couple of the rock formations do look a bit like guys in robes climbing up the steep slope.

The wind has been blowing really hard, up to 30 knots for many periods through the day and night. Our anchor has been holding perfectly and our heavy chain dampens the effects of the wind shifts and gusts. Normally the chain is so heavy that it hangs down nearly vertical from the bow of the boat, even in moderate winds. Not in these conditions, though. The anchor chain draws pretty tight at 25 knots, which causes the anchor bridle to start chafing on the Code 0 bowsprit stays. We retracted the bowsprit to stop this from happening and I am happy to report this is the first time I did this without dropping either the shackle or shackle pin in the water! I took this as an opportunity to sew leather chafe protection onto the bowsprit stays. I think I looked like a very able-bodied seaman dangling over the bow of the boat, bare-chested in 30 knots of wind. Unfortunately, there is only a small audience present in the anchorage to be awestruck at my rugged manliness.

I took a run along the beach portion of the bay. I was impressed at my pace and the ease of running the two miles to the southern terminus of the beach. Then I turned around to run back and realized that the 25 knot wind at my back was really helping me along. The upwind run was like running uphill while being sandblasted. My skin was pink and nicely exfoliated at the end of the run.

We have been struggling a bit with getting our dinghy on and off the beach. We have a environmentally-friendly but very heavy four stroke outboard. It takes almost all my strength to drag the dinghy through the sand with that weight at the stern. Many people of dinghy wheels to make this easier, but I think they look stupid on a boat. I have now devised an alternate solution to the problem. I bury the dinghy anchor in the sand a few boat lengths forward of the bow and then loop the anchor rode through the bow eye, which is smooth enough to act like a block and give me a 2:1 mechanical advantage. That's enough to make job a whole lot easier. I am going to work on refining the system, adding a proper block at the bow and bringing a small fender to use as a roller under the keel of the boat. Yes, I am still an engineer.

Last night we had Jose and Gina from Carthago over for dinner, our first social gathering on Intermezzo since arriving in Mexico. They have also sailed from San Francisco and are on a two-to-three year voyage across the Pacific, perhaps around the world. They are young, but very competent sailors with a great, honest attitude about their adventure, the good and the bad. We enjoy their company and good conversation and look forward to continuing to connect with them over the next few months as they are on a similar path as our own until heading out on their "Puddle Jump" to the Marquesas.

The weather looks like we can leave here tomorrow and make some progress towards La Paz over the next few days until the next northerly blow appears. The weather in the Sea of Cortez is mostly driven by what happens in Southern California. A storm from the Pacific there results in strongly northerly winds a couple days later here.

While we're waiting for the weather to calm down, we'll go snorkeling on the reef at the base of the headland. Maybe it will calm down enough that we can venture around the point to the famous Polmo reef, which is a national park and UNESCO site, serving as a model for coral reef recovery and preservation. I'm really hoping to be able to dive it before we leave.