Saturday, April 29, 2017

Puerto Don Juan: Windy and Brrrrr...Cold!

Here's a brief summary of the past week on board Intermezzo.

We left Punta Chivato on Monday morning and sailed to Santa Rosalia, about a six hour trip, half of which we enjoyed sailing with the Code 0 on a nice reach.

We had visited Santa Rosalia back in December of 2015, traveling there overland by car from Loreto. We enjoyed the architecture of the modest little houses and the hard working feel of this mining town, originally established by a French company. It was nice to reacquainting ourselves with the town, this time in warm, sunny weather compared to the blustery cold of our last visit.

We got Intermezzo a slip in the town marina and quickly made friends with our dock neighbors, Michael and Lisa on Footloose, Jan and Joanneke on Witte Raaf, and Doug and Lyneita on Ka'sala, all nice people from different backgrounds and with a wide range of sailing experiences. We enjoyed a lively cocktail and tapas party on board Footloose, a 47 foot Catana catamaran, on Tuesday night and then a big family-style dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant on Wednesday evening. It was a lot of fun to socialize with such friendly, interesting people.

After getting some laundry done, buying a bunch of freshly backed French bread (the best in Baja California) and refreshing our perishable stores, we set sail on Thursday afternoon for an overnight passage north.

It was a boisterous passage with winds blowing in the steady 20's, gusting to up to 30 knots from the southern quadrant. Around nine p.m., under a double-reefed main and partially furled jib, we were sailing at a steady 8 knots, hitting 10 knots as we surfed down swells. We haven't sailed that fast since going down the California coast. That part was fun.

Later, we bounced around in confused swells as we rounded two points and then got hit with strong headwinds and a strong foul current in the Canal Salsipuedes a narrow channel between the Baja peninsula and the long narrow Isla Lorenzo , requiring us to power forward with both engines running hard to maintain 3-4 knots of speed over ground.

The wind was blowing from the northwest and some of the wind forecasts were calling for continued strong winds from the northeast the following day. The anchorage in Bahia Santa Teresa that we planned on stopping at wouldn't provide much protection from such winds and their accompanying swell, so I decided, on the fly at 5:00 a.m. to shape a new course to Puerto Don Juan, another 50 nautical miles further north. Puerto Don Juan, located just south of Bahia de los Angeles ("L.A. Bay") is a famous natural "hurricane hole" that provides 360 degree protection from winds and waves.

We were anchored in Puerto Don Juan at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, a bit tired but glad to have made it almost all the way to our planned turnaround point in one go.

We are the only boat in this anchorage that is about a half mile long by a quarter mile wide, surrounded by steep colorful hills on all sides, with a little "window" between them that looks into L.A. Bay, a big sandy beach for landing the dingy and trails through the desert to the two nearby bays south of us. We had a good hike today to the closest bay, traversing rugged hills and little canyons to get there and hiking an easier route along a sandy wash on the return. The wind blew hard all day and I was glad that Intermezzo was snuggly anchored in this protected spot. It was a bit of a challenge launching the dinghy in the fierce wind chop; we got pretty wet and shipped quite a bit of water into the boat.

The water is cold! The water temperature reading on the boat instruments is 59 degrees F, about the same as San Francisco Bay! It's probably a little bit warmer than what the instruments are saying, but not by more than a couple of degrees. And the air temperature is markedly cooler, too. It's hard to gauge what it is with the wind blowing so hard, but I'd guess it isn't hitting 70 degrees F. During our night passage, I was wearing two fleeces, a jacket and long pants. And even tonight at anchor, inside, I'm wearing a fleece top. I remember reading in Steinbeck's Log from the Sea of Cortez that the sea life in this area is more like that in Northern California. I understand how that can be the case.

Tomorrow we're heading to the L.A. Bay Village to meet Renee's friends, Terrisa and Jason who will be camping there. We'll start heading back south on Wednesday, stopping in Santa Rosalia on the way to meet up with my son Luther, who will join us for the final leg of the trip back to Puerto Escondido.

Only 19 days left of our voyage! It is hard to believe that this adventure will be over soon. But, as great of an experience as it has been, I'm looking forward to re-engaging with people back home and beginning a new chapter of life. From this point forward, I'll be doing chores each day to begin getting Intermezzo ready for a long layup in Puerto Escondido . And I'll be doing a lot of reflecting over this journey with started almost 19 months ago in San Francisco. So much has happened, at sea and on land. My outlook on life and my self-view have changed a lot, too.