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.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Bouncing a Bit at Sunset

24 March 2022, 18:30
Gulf of California, 50nm W of Mazatlan

We're about 1/3 of the way across. The wind piped up this afternoon to 12-14 knots out of the WNW, resulting in some decent chop and bouncing. Nothing too bad. Things should calm down soon.

The sun is setting directly ahead, pastel orange hues painting the clouds on the horizon.

I've set a radar guard zone for the night that will alert me of any vessels that get within 4 miles of us. Plus, I set the AIS to alert me to dangerous targets. This will allow me to take short catnaps through the night. I had a pretty easy day today, so feeling pretty rested and alert. It will be a long night, though.

Departed Mazatlan, Crossing the Sea

24 March 2022, 10:32
Pacific Ocean, Near Mazatlan

Intermezzo is crossing the Sea of Cortez from Mazatlan. It's a singlehanded passage for me, about 30 hours of solo sailing.

I waited until today to depart to let the seas calm down from several breezy days. It seem like that was a good idea. There is a gentle westerly swell which we are loping over comfortably. It's forecasted to shift southward, which would be nice. The wind is presently blowing lightly from the southwest, allowing me to roll out the jib and add a half knot to our speed as we motorsail westward. The weather is sunny and fair, pleasantly cool, with a marine layer of cloud on the horizon ahead that I'm sure will burn off soon.

The boat feels good, I feel rested, I'm well provisioned with food and treats. It should be a good trip, although I'm sure I'll be plenty fatigued when I drop anchor in Las Frailes off the Baja peninsula tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Passage to Mazatlan, Goodbye Crew

Marina El Cid, Mazatlan

We had a very nice passage from Chacala to Mazatlan, even if the wind and waves were against us, as they usually are heading up this coast. Intermezzo is secured in a slip in Marina El Cid, Pete and Mary left today to fly back to Montreal, and I am waiting for a weather window to cross the Sea of Cortez to the Baja peninsula.

It took us a little longer to weigh anchor in Chacala on Thursday morning as we had set a stern anchor upon our arrival to keep Intermezzo's bows pointed into the swell entering the anchorage. I wish I had a smaller anchor for this purpose. My second anchor is an aluminum Fortress FX-37. It only weighs 21 lbs but the shank is 40 inches long making it cumbersome to deploy, which we usually do from the dinghy. And the holding power of this anchor is so great that the only way to break it free when leaving is to back the boat down to it and then pull forward on the shortened rode with the engines. A smaller anchor would be easier to deploy and retrieve.

We got underway at 9:18 am on a calm blue sea. The sky was blue overhead, powdery blue-white on the horizons, a light haze along the coast. The light breeze from ahead was pleasantly cool. Mary took the first watch, feeling good, not seasick. I was happy for her.

We motored along all day, the wind piping up to 10 knots on the nose knocking up a moderate chop for a few hours. When the sun set behind Isla Maria Isabella, a full moon was rising over the mainland. The sky was painted with color all around us, 360 degrees of oranges, pinks, purples and blues. The night's passage was in mostly calm conditions.

We saw a lot of whales along the way. Some just surfaced, blew and dove again in a gentle loping arc. Others were more acrobatic, breaching out of the water as they surfaced and landing with a big splash. We had to alter course for one whale ahead of us who was on the surface and smacking its tail repeatedly, making slapping noises and splashes. I don't know if the whale was waving at us, threatening us, or just being a whale. We gave the thrashing whale tail a wide berth as we passed by it.

Pete encountered a mystery vessel during his 21:00 to 02:00 watch. It didn't show up on AIS or on radar and was unlit and invisible until it suddenly turned on bright white lights and headed towards Intermezzo. Before it reached us, it turned away and turned off its lights again, heading towards another boat that was behind us, then turning its lights on again. We figure it was probably a Mexican Navy patrol boat looking for drug boats.

I stood the 02:00 to 06:00 watch and it was a cold, damp one. I had on a light fleece sweater, a light down jacket, a foulie jacket, long pants, wool socks, sea boots and a wool cap. Quite a change from my normal board shorts, t-shirt and bare feet while sailing in Mexico.

Mary took the next watch and I retired into the salon to warm up and catch a nap. A half-hour later, Mary woke me up to tell me it was foggy and she was concerned about a couple of vessels in our vicinity. I got up and was amazed at how dense the fog was. Visibility was well under a mile. We turned on the fog horn, which roused a surprised Pete out of his cabin. I told him all was well, he went back to sleep and I stood watch with Mary until the fog cleared about an hour later.

We entered the inlet to Mazatlan small vessel harbor around 10:45 am. I had forgotten how narrow the entrance is and how the swells, breaking waves and currents push the boat around between the rocky breakwaters. I entered the channel at nearly full speed so as to maintain steerage in the following seas. The entrance was even more tricky this time as there was a dredge pipe submerged on one side of the inlet making the navigable channel even more narrow.  After a few tense minutes we got through the tough stuff and into calmer waters.

We checked into the marina, maneuvered to our slip and celebrated the end of this passage and the week's sailing from Barra de Navidad. Pete and Mary got their flights booked, took care of Covid testing. In the evening, we enjoyed a huge seafood feast and a bottle of wine at a beachfront restaurant.

Pete and Mary left this morning. I am sorry to see them go. They were great, dependable crew and great company, happy spirits that brightened up my life on Intermezzo.  I really enjoyed sailing with Pete again after a three-year break and many miles under the keels. Mary loved the whole adventure, aside from her bout with seasickness, a rite of passage for all sailors that I think makes the good times seem even better.  I look forward to sailing with them again.

I've been looking at the weather forecasts (suggestions) to find a window for my overnight crossing of the Sea when the normal NW winds aren't blowing too hard.  I was originally planning on continuing up the mainland coast to get a better wind angle for my crossing. That would involve an additional overnight passage north and a tricky entrance into the estuary at Altata. I realized that, if I crossed directly from Mazatlan and then turned north along the Baja coast, I could stop at two easy anchorages on the way to La Paz, avoiding overnight sailing. A much better alternative when singlehanding. I like sleep.

Me, Pete and Mary enjoying sundowners in Chacala

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Bashing, Raving Madness


Intermezzo is anchored in Chacala after dealing with several challenging days after departing Tenacatita on Saturday. 

Things started off well with a nice mid-day snorkel among the rocks at the west end of Bahía Tenacatita. Our plan was to depart Tenacatita around 4 pm and motor through forecasted calm conditions to La Cruz. But when we finished snorkeling, a nice breeze was blowing from the southwest and we decided to leave early and take advantage of the wind.

We weighed anchor at 1:30 pm and began sailing downwind with following seas. Nice, but only for an hour.  For the rest of the passage, until we entered Bahía Banderas the next morning, we were bucking headwinds and bashing into head seas.  Not nice.

Fortunately, the headwinds were not strong, less than 10 knots but, unfortunately, they created wind waves that combined with a short period swell from the northwest and a long period swell from the southwest to create a very confused sea state. Intermezzo lurched, bounced and bashed for 18 hours straight.

Mary succumbed to seasickness shortly after the bashing began, but mustered up enough energy to reel in a fat sierra (Spanish mackerel) before being sent to the sickbay, nestled among the bean bag chairs in the cockpit until after sunrise. The bean bag chairs are much loved by those suffering from seasickness as they form a comfortable nest outside the cabin in fresh air.

Conditions calmed after we rounded Cabo Corrientes and made our way across Bahía Banderas towards La Cruz. We spotted several whales and were able to to sail the last hour and half in a gentle downwind breeze and calm seas. A nice ending to a difficult trip.

We dropped anchor in La Cruz at 1:17pm, just shy of 24 hours after leaving Tenacatita. Shortly after we arrived, a large motor yacht anchored next to us. That is always a cause for worry, as the people on these yachts tend to party well into the night. Little did we know how bad things would be.

We took the dinghy into La Cruz to get ice cream and pick up a few grocery items and then returned to Intermezzo to enjoy eating Mary's fresh-caught fish for dinner. By this time, techno-beat music was thumping loudly out of a big sound system on the upper deck of the motor yacht, where people were congregating and dancing. The music was very loud on Intermezzo, 500 feet away. I can't imagine how loud it was on board the yacht. Even though I don't like techno-beat music, it was a high quality mix, obviously spun by a talented DJ and at first we tolerated, even enjoyed it a bit.

The music played on and on into the night. We realized that an Ecstasy drug rave was taking place on the boat and the music was not going to stop.  It would do no good to complain about it. The people on the yacht were not going to turn down the music and since yachts in Mexico are often owned by drug cartels, it is not advisable to go all "Karen" over them. There are no loud music ordinances in Mexico and anyways, the local authorities don't typically pester oligarchs with yachts, cartel or not.

Though thoroughly tired out from our overnight passage, we hardly got any sleep that night. The noise-cancelling feature of my AirPods gave me a few hours of respite from the thumping music, but not enough for me to sleep more than a half hour before waking up again. I was very tired, very angry and lay in bed thinking about how I could sabotage or sink the yacht to stop the music.

When the sun came up and my AirPod batteries had died, the music was still playing, people dancing on the yacht like zombies. I had had enough.  I started the engines and prepared to weigh anchor which brought Pete and Mary out of their cabins, bleary eyed and as pissed off as I was. They had also been lying in their bunks thinking murderous thoughts.

We weighed anchor and I tried to find a place to anchor further away from the offensive music but to no avail, the sound carried so well over the water. As I passed by the yacht, I glared at the dancers like Charles Manson and gave the yacht a two-middle-finger salute, not giving one fuck if I was insulting a drug cartel kingpin.  Mary suggested, "Why don't we just sail to our next destination?" I considered this for less than a second and replied in the tone of voice of a very tired sociopath on his edge, "Yes. We will do that."

We left La Cruz and enjoyed a nice day's sail to Chacala, anchoring here on Tuesday afternoon. We laughed when we arrived as a large Mexican brass band was playing loudly on the beach. Thankfully, it was different music, not as loud and ended before sunset.  We enjoyed a peaceful night's sleep. At last.

Yesterday we had a relaxing day on the boat and on the beach. Chacala is a nice little beach town with a few small hotels and palapa restaurants, not much else. Perfect for recovering from our rave music PTSD.

We decided to stay here another day and sail straight to Mazatlan tomorrow, rather than stopping to visit San Blas. San Blas is an interesting town, but plagued by mosquitos and jejenes (no-see-ums). We'll give the bugs a miss.

I'm starting to plan my passage from Mazatlan to La Paz. I'll be sailing singlehanded overnight across the Sea of Cortez and then turn north and harbor-hop up the Baja peninsula to La Paz. A weather window for the crossing looks like it will open on March 23. If I can depart Mazatlan then, Intermezzo should be back in La Paz by March 28.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Goodbye Barra, Heading North

 Bahía de Tenacatita

Intermezzo left Barra de Navidad yesterday morning bound for Tenacatita. The original plan was to sail further on to Chamela, but strong headwinds made the shorter trip to Tenacatita a more comfortable option. We’ll depart this afternoon for La Cruz, a 25-hour overnight passage in calm conditions.

Pete (as Pierre-Luc is called by his friends) and Mary arrived in Barra Thursday around noon. After orienting them to the boat (re-orienting in Pete’s case), we had a nice lunch overlooking the laguna. Afterwards I washed the boat while Pete and Mary relaxed at the hotel pool. When they returned, I was filling the port water tank and, for some unknown reason, decided that it needed to be filled faster. I turned the valve to increase flow in the hose which resulted in a bunch of yelling from Pete and Mary, “Steve!, Steve!, Steve!”  The increased water pressure had caused the end of the hose to escape from the water tank and end up on the deck, the stream of water aimed precisely into the hatch above Pete’s cabin. I shut the water off pretty quickly but several gallons of water had entered the hatch, thoroughly soaking Pete’s bedding.We spent the next hour drying out the cabin and hanging all the bedding around the boat. Intermezzo looked like the Joad’s truck from the Grapes of Wrath. I felt rather stupid.

Yesterday morning we headed to the fuel dock to top off on diesel before setting out to sea. Fortunately Mexico does not seem to be suffering from the huge increases in fuel prices I’m reading about in the US. We headed out from Barra and motored against 10-15 knot headwinds and light chop. I began Mary’s sailing lessons, familiarizing her with the instruments and controls at the helm station. She seems to be an eager and fast learner who loves boats.  She was very happy when encountered several pods of dolphins, always a nice start to a sailing adventure.

Once we rounded Punta el Estrecho, we were able to unroll the jib and sail the rest of the way into the Tenacatita anchorage on a nice reach.  We anchored, relaxed on the boat and then took the dinghy to the beach to go running and have an evening margarita.  I was missing Robin, remembering the many great days we spent here almost a month ago.

The forecast for our passage to La Cruz is for very calm conditions. Unfortunately, I expect we’ll be motoring the whole way, but at least not bucking against headwinds and seas.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

LIfe in Barra de Navidad

Marina Puerto Navidad, Barra de Navidad

Intermezzo and I have been in the marina in Barra de Navidad for two weeks now. We are scheduled to leave here this coming Friday, March 11. I've mostly enjoyed the solitude of being on my own here and, though I'm living life at a pretty relaxed pace, my time has been fairly productive. 

I spent a good amount of that time getting my advanced engine charging system to work properly. The port engine has been intermittently cycling from charging to not charging ever since I installed the system about a year ago in Florida. Tech support for the Wakespeed voltage regulators thought the solar charging system might be confusing their voltage regulator. So, before leaving Puerto Escondido in January, I installed circuit breakers that would allow me to disconnect the solar system when I ran the engines. This didn't seem to help. Then I started to have alternator belt issues and thought that perhaps belt slippage was the problem. It wasn't. I finally ended up solving the problem by upgrading the Wakespeed firmware and reloading the configuration file. It seems to be working properly now. At last. I hope.

As is common with boats, fix one problem and another one surfaces. Now, my port water heater is leaking. It's not leaking from any of the piping or connections, so it must be the heater tank itself. Fortunately, it's a slow leak, so I can still have hot water for washing dishes while nobody is using the port aft berth and I can periodically bail out the locker beneath it where the heater is located. Before we get underway with crew again, I'll need to bypass the heater to stop the leak and we'll have to make do with no hot water on that side of the boat. I was able to find a marine exporter in San Diego to ship a replacement water heater to me in La Paz at a reasonable price. So, we'll be back in business once we get back there.

I'm most excited by the progress I made writing my Sailing Intermezzo book. I am almost finished with the "Hiatus" chapter, which covers the year and a half between when I thought I had ended The Voyage in June 2017 to when I resumed it again in January 2019 during which I did not post to this blog. A lot happened in that period, it was a tough one for me, difficult to read through my personal journal, sort things out and write about them.  Once this chapter is finished, the writing will go faster as I will have my blog posts for reference and I find writing in the context of my sailing is much easier, even if my personal life was challenging at times. I'm hoping to print and publish the book this summer.

I've enjoyed daily life here in the marina. I run in the hills behind the marina early every other morning, before it gets too hot. I've enjoyed brief conversations and hugs from Sue, wife and mother of the family Lisa and I sailed with on the 2019 Baja Ha-Ha on board their catamaran Winston. I've taken dips in the hotel pool and lounged around it, reading. I've explored the grounds and back roads of the resort on evening walks. I found a great coffee roaster in Barra town, Mokeke's Cafeteria, and love drinking their coffee. I went to a Santana tribute band show in the town square and had a great time listening and dancing to their music, including three encores. All this, plus keeping the boat clean, doing laundry, cooking, washing dishes, grocery shopping, taking care of business, exercising...it's a busy low-keyed life.

I spent my birthday on my own, treating myself to a nice dinner in town. I had figured on buying a big slice of cake from a street vendor who is usually near the water taxi dock, but alas, it was his day off. I had to do with an ice cream bar.  Just like last year with Robin. Only this time, no goats. It was a happy enough birthday.

I'm please to report that I have found crew for part of my passage back to La Paz next week. Pierre (Pete), a policeman from Quebec who sailed with Roy and I on the first leg of The Voyage in early 2019, will be joining Intermezzo as crew again! He's bringing one of his colleagues and sometimes patrol car partner, Marie with him. I'm very happy to be reuniting with Pierre, looking forward to sailing with Marie, and glad to be sailing "three-up" instead of singlehanded. Pierre and Marie will be sailing as far as Mazatlan with me. After that, it looks like I'll be on my own from there to La Paz.

We'll sail to Mazatlan over the course of about eight days, weather permitting, with stops in Chamela, Punta Ipala, La Cruz, Chacala and San Blas. Or, more likely, motor. Winds are still mostly blowing out of the northwest, the direction we need to travel. I'm hoping we'll get a few days of favorable winds, anything from northeast to west would be good. If headwinds are too strong, we'll sit them out at anchor or travel at night when winds and seas are usually more calm. I expect we'll arrive in Mazatlan on March 19 or 20, if we aren't delayed by weather or decide that more R&R is needed.

After Mazatlan, I plan on making my way further up the coast to Altata, cross the bar into the estuary there and visit the town, which is off the normal cruising path. From Altata, I can sail directly across the Sea of Cortez to La Paz in all but westerly winds. I'm figuring on arriving in La Paz during the last week of March.

Renée's daughter, Christina, son-in-law, Nate, and granddaughter, Maddie are going to join me on Intermezzo in La Paz on April 3.  Renée might even make it, too.  We'll take a short cruise to Islas Espiritu Santo and Partida. I'm looking forward to showing Maddie all my favorite beaches, swimming and snorkeling spots. Oh, and introducing Christina and Nate to sailing life, as well.

The news of the world is troubling, but it seems far removed from life here. I hope the madness ends soon.

Marina Isla de Navidad, Intermezzo's current home

My birthday sunset

Mokeke's Cafeteria, delicious house-roasted coffee

One of the several of what I take to be an angelfish with foot-long streamers that swim around Intermezzo

Intermezzo looking nice and neat in the marina slip