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