Friday, June 21, 2024

Baja Bash Complete!

San Diego, CA

Intermezzo's happy captain and crew upon arrival in San Diego

Intermezzo's Baja Bash is over! We pulled into the San Diego public dock at 8:30am this morning ending the second leg of my voyage back to San Francisco.  We sailed 816nm from Los Cabos over 12 days, including three lay days waiting for a weather window in Man O' War Cove. We burned a lot of diesel fuel.

The trip from Ensenada was uneventful, a patch of mild bashing along the way but otherwise relatively comfortable. We cleared into the United States effortlessly using the Customs and Border Patrol's "Roam" app which notified me on my phone that my trip was approved and the three of us onboard are cleared to enter the US. Arnstein and Jimmy had breakfast and then headed to the airport, Jimmy to fly home, Arnstein to pick up a rental car and drive to Ventura to deliver another boat to San Francisco.

All-in-all it was a good trip, better than I had imagined. We bashed some, but Arnstein timed our passages successfully to minimize pain. Jimmy earned his place among the top crew members who have sailed on Intermezzo. Nothing broke on the boat, nobody was injured, we ate well, we got along well with each other.

I'll take a short break here before leaving on the third and final leg of my San Francisco Bash on June 27th. We've covered over 1,500nm since leaving Puerto Peñasco on May 8th, click here to see our track. Roughly another 440nm to go.

I'm going to take a long walk and stop at a pub to enjoy a craft beer along the way. It will feel good to stretch my legs and be off the boat for a spell.  The weather is beautiful, sunny with a cool breeze.

Last Segment, Second Leg

Pacific Ocean, 20nm NW of Ensenada

We left Ensenada tonight just before 10pm for San Diego, the last segment of the Baja Bash from Los Cabos. We are mildly bashing (BL !) under a near-full solstice moon. There is kelp floating in these waters and we have had to clear the propellers of the weed a few times by running the engines in reverse. We should arrive in San Diego around 9am tomorrow morning.

We pulled into Ensdeana last night at about 8:30pm, ahead of schedule thanks to the little Yammers. We enjoyed a good night's motionless sleep in the Cruiseport marina. This morning we headed to the Port Captain, immigration and customs to check out of Mexico, then enjoyed a nice lunch at Arnstein's favorite taco stand in town. In the afternoon, we cleaned up the boat. We had dinner at Arnstein's favorite restaurant.

It's going to be a big deal for me to be finishing the Baja Bash tomorrow morning. I've been sailing (motoring) since May 8th, many miles under the keels and will have completed two of the three legs of my San Fransico Bash. Intermezzo will be back in the USA and, after a few days rest in San Diego, we'll begin the final leg back to our home port. So much has happened since leaving there in 2015, memories often cause strong feelings to arise, joy, sadness, gratitude, regret, humility. Life sailing Intermezzo  has been full and wholehearted. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Hell Didn't Break Loose

Pacific Ocean, Off Punta San Antonia, Baja California

Well, hell didn't break loose as we exited the lee of Isla Cedros. The wind blew just below 20 knots, there was a decent swell, but it was only Bashing Level (BL) 2 for an hour or so. We did, however, encounter a rogue wave that rinsed the solar panels, ten feet above the waterline. I ducked and was saved an early morning salt water bath.

We've now passed Punta San Antonio and the Sacramento Reef that lies off the point, where we figured we had one more patch of rough conditions to push through. They didn't materialize and so we've been motoring comfortably in non-bash conditions all day and expect to continue doing so the rest of the way to Ensenada.

ETA Ensenada is 1am Thursday morning. When we get there, after beers and some sleep, we'll officially clear out of Mexico, refuel and get some fish tacos. It's a quick turnaround, though. We depart for San Diego just before midnight to arrive there Friday morning.

So Far, So Good

Pacific Ocean, In the Lee of Isla Cedros, Baja California

We departed Turtle Bay at 6pm as planned and headed out to sea under clear skies, the sun soon to set.

The first four hours were pretty bumpy, Bashing Level (BL) 2, with 20 knot headwinds and steepish 3-foot  seas. When we passed Isla Navidad and turned east to head into the lead of Isla Cedros, the seas were on our beam turning the bashing into recking from side-to-side.

We’ve been in the lee of Cedros now for several hours and enjoying shelter from winds and waves. There is now slight chop on the nose as we approach the northern end of the island, so I’ll call it BL 1, barely.

However once we get past the Cedros, I expect all hell to break loose (exaggeration) as we encounter winds that accelerate around the tip of the island, accompanied by steep wind waves. I’m figuring on Bl 3 for a few hours, then receding to BL 2 for a ways, perhaps less if we’re lucky.

About 12 hours from now we’ll encounter our last gauntlet of wind and waves as we pass Punta San Antonio. That is likely to be a four hour roller coaster ride against a 0.7 knot foul current. The little Yanmars will be earning their $8.90/gallon diesel.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Fuel and Helping Hands

Bahía de Tortugas, Baja California

We anchored in Turtle Bay early this afternoon and immediately made arrangements for fuel delivery. Things were looking good with the fuel, the price per liter was steep but not outlandish and the quantity verified correct. The only problem was we didn’t have pesos to pay for it all; I had planned on paying with a credit cart in Asuncion. We had to pay for about half in dollars at and exchange rate of 15 MXP/USD. Today’s official rate is 18.5. Ouch.

When we arrived a single-hander called us on the radio asking for assistance. His dinghy was damaged on his way here from Ensenada and he needed help getting onto the deck of his boat. When we got there, he broke down, telling us how frightened he was in strong winds and big seas, barely able to control his boat, sails getting twisted up, parts of the boat breaking. He thought he might die. His poor dog lay in the cabin, nearly motionless; it probably thought it was going to die, too. We listened to his story, consoled him, got his dinghy on deck and did our best to sort out his boat so that he could sail it more safely alone. He is clearly in over his head and his boat definitely not set up for single-handing. He told me he was bringing it to haul out in Puerto Peñasco, ending where my bash began. I wished him the best, but expect the journey ahead of him will be a difficult one. 

It looks like 6pm tomorrow is a good time for us to leave to minimize bashing and catch some calmer weather for the long leg to Ensenada. Intermezzo should be back in the USA by Friday.

Pacific Ocean, 50nm SW Bahía de Tortugas, Baja California

Tonight was the worst bashing so far on this Baja Bash, Bashing Level (BL) 3. Strong 20 knot-plus headwinds, steep seas, bows rising into the air, slamming into the sea, water crashing into the forward windows, streaming along the decks, foggy, less than a mile viz, cold, damp. You just want it to be over.

And it is. We’re motoring along on smooth seas,, nearly no wind, making over six knots. It is still very foggy and very damp. Intermezzo has pulled through the bashing well, a little water in an engine bilge, a squeak from a presently unknown source in the rigging, dripping wet outside, coated in dew inside. The little Yanmars are ticking over pleasantly, after muscling their way through wind, waves and a foul current.

We’ll make Turtle Bay early this afternoon, a patch of bashing still to go as we draw near. There we’ll take on fuel, dealing with the “turtle mafia” notorious for under-filling and over-charging for diesel. We’ll wait out weather, currently planning to depart just before midnight tomorrow. It’s one more gauntlet of bashing to run at the start and then it should be calmer conditions the rest of the way. We’re past the halfway mark, but the leg from Turtle Bay to Ensenada is the longest one of the Baja Bash, 290nm distance, over 50 hours underway. 

Arnstein has done a great job in weather analysis and passage planning, solid as a rock on the boat. Jimmy has remained cheerful and energetic, despite sleeping(?) in a levitation chamber at the pitching bows of the boat and dealing with mild bouts of seasickness. As tough as it’s been at times, these two guys have made it way better for me. Feeling grateful.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Baja Bash Resumes

Man O' War Cove, Bahía Magdalena, BCS

PredictWind weather routing, Mag Bay to Turtle Bay- anything not blue or green is bashing

The weather forecast is looking favorable for a departure around noon tomorrow from Mag Bay.

We've revised our passage plan to go about 50nm further on this leg to take advantage of calmer conditions towards its end. Instead of stopping in Asunción for refueling, we'll likely stop in Turtle Bay. Unfortunately there we will have to deal with the "turtle mafia" for fuel delivery and pay a higher price for diesel. But potentially avoiding 10 hours of bashing seems worth it.

This evening we had dinner with the crews of the three other boats anchored with us here in Man O' War Cove. The small restaurant in the village ashore opened just for us and served a buffet of fresh fish, shrimp and lobster washed down with Pacifico beers. We had a good time. We're all departing here within less than 24 hours of each other, so the read on the weather forecast seems pretty consistent among boats.

We had a nice time here, bobbing at anchor in calm waters. We did a little hiking with two local dogs, went on a beach run, explored a mangrove, dug clams (and ate them), checked the engines, repaired a chafed lazy-jack line, made bread, read, made phone calls, slept, napped, showered.

Now we have a two days of sailing ahead of us. There will be bashing. How much and for how long is to be discovered.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Waiting Out Weather

Man O’ War Cove, Bahía Magdalena, BCS

Fishing boat heading with us to Mag Bay

The bashing began at 10pm last night and continued at various levels until we turned into Bahía Magdalena, “Mag Bay” around noon. We’re anchored in Man O’ War Cove, off a small fishing village along with five other boats who are waiting out weather with us before continuing on the next leg of the Baja Bash.

The bashing was no better or worse than I expected. It was better doing it than imagining it. But it was a lot of bashing and there is a lot to go. It’s very tiring. Jimmy and Arnstein soldiered through their watches. I’m very grateful for their help in moving Intermezzo along. I’m also grateful for Intermezzo’s two little Yanmar diesels that thrummed along, giving their all to push through head seas the whole way here.

Nothing much stands out for me from the trip here. This anchorage is pleasant enough and it’s nice to be in flat water even when the wind is blowing.

High winds will keep us here until Saturday. Then we’re back to bashing.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Follow Intermezzo on the Baja Bash

Forgot to mention/remind that you can see where Intermezzo is and our track since leaving Puerto Peñasco at:

Click on View All when you get there. 

En Route to Man O’ War Cove

10nm SW Punta Pescadero BCS, Pacific Ocean

We left Puerto San Jose del Cabo in the dark at 4:30am this morning to begin Leg 1 of the Baja Bash to Man O’ War Cove in Bahía Magdalena.  We timed our departure to have calmer conditions as we rounded the notorios Cabo Falso at the tip of the Baja California peninsula. Well, to be honest, Arnstein timed our departure and he hit it right on the money.

There was nice northeasterly breeze blowing as we headed southwest to the cape during my watch, so I even got to sail for an hour or so. A final goodbye present from the Sea of Cortez, perhaps. As we approached Cabo Falso, the wind coming from the Sea was overpowered by the wind coming from the Pacific Ocean, veering rapidly clockwise around us to blow from the northwest. The temperature dropped precipitously and I was glad I had put on long pants and a fleece top.

We motored against 13 knot winds with gusts to 18 but the seas were two feet or less and not steep. Bashing Level (BL) 1. Way better than I had feared.

As we rounded the cape, the wind dropped, the wave period increased and we continued under overcast skies in comfortable conditions that have continued. This afternoon it has warmed up a bit, too.

Crew seems happy and comfortable. We are working a “threes and sixes” watch schedule, three hours on watch, six hours off.  It is downright luxury after sailing 710nm singlehanded from Puerto Peñasco. Intermezzo is running nicely, clean and organized.

The forecast has me expecting relatively comfortable conditions (BL 1, periods of BL 2) until perhaps until late tomorrow morning. But then the wind will start piping up and we’ll likely see true speeds in high teens, gusts in the 20’s and steep seas, moderate bashing (BL 3) maybe worse. The sooner we can turn into the shelter of Bahía Magdalena, the better. We’re making good speed at over six knots which helps.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Baja Bash Begins

San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur

We leave tomorrow morning at 4am. The real Bash will begin as we round Cabo Falso around 8am.

Arnstein has inspected the boat. Jimmy has been briefed. We are ready to go.

Looks like we have boisterous conditions getting around the cape, a bit of reprieve as we hug the coast heading north, then blustery winds as we approach Bahía Santa Maria.

Then we wait. Strong winds and the heavy seas they create looks like they will keep us in port for five days. We’ll anchor in Man O’ War Cove to have better shelter and more to do ashore than in Bahía Santa Maria.

I’ve not been feeling good about this passage, apprehensive. Now I’m feeling like it’s just something to get done. Safely. Make the most out of it.

Here we go.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Nice Farewells from the Sea of Cortez

Cabo de San Jose, Baja California Sur

Perhaps the Sea of Cortez knew that I was saying goodbye and was sorry to be leaving.

On Monday evening, I took the paddle board to shore and went for a long run along the curved beach of Bahía Los Frailes. I am fond of mobula rays and had been seeing them skimming the surface frequently while sailing, but none doing the aerial acrobatics that I enjoy watching. But as I ran along the beach, the mobula were leaping out of the water, twisting, somersaulting, showing their bright white bellies, flapping their wings, and landing with a big, slapping splash, as if they were waving a exuberant farewells and trying to buoy my spirits. They succeeded. Goodbye mobula, thank you.

Yesterday, the Sea gave me the gift of a nice northeasterly breeze so that I was able to sail most of the way to Cabo de San Jose. The interaction of the boat with the wind and the waves, the absence of engine noise, the simple pleasure of keeping the sails trimmed reminded me of why I love sailing. I didn’t do enough sailing on this trip, haven’t done enough for a long time, won’t be doing much on the next two legs. Goodbye Sea of Cortez, thank you.

We pulled into Puerto San Jose de Cabo in the afternoon where Jimmy was waiting at the slip and joined on as crew. He and I hit it off well from the start; good conversations, shared sense of humor and the right level of seriousness around the boat, sailing and our upcoming passage.

Now we prepare the boat and wait for Arnstein to arrive to begin the Baja Bash.  The weather is looking favorable (in a relative sense) for a Saturday night departure. Wind and waves against us, but of manageable magnitude.

Monday, June 3, 2024

An Interesting Day

Bahía Los Frailes, Baja California Sur

Yesterday was an interesting day.

We weighed anchor at Punta Arena de la Ventana in the morning in the company of a small school of dolphins enjoying their breakfast. Not long afterwards, a small whale appeared, slapping the water with its tail and breaching with big splashes. It was quite a morning treat.

We motored in building southerly winds. As we approached Punta Arena de la Riviera in the early afternoon, roughly halfway, the winds were blowing 15-plus knots with steep, closely spaced 2-foot waves on the nose. We were at Bashing Level (BL) 2, mildly unpleasant, tiring, some spray reaching the helm, occasional water running on the decks. The relentless train of waves would periodically knock boat speed below 3 knots, so I ran both engines until we passed the point and conditions eased to BL 1.5. Another half hour and we were down to BL 1.  The day's bashing ended soon after.

While we were bashing, large schools of flying fish launched from the water evading the large fish just below the surface pursuing them. I felt sorry for the flying fish as birds swooped down on them to pluck them out of the air. Neither water nor air was safe, the only safety was in numbers. Lucky and unlucky flying fish.

I could sense the transition from Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) to Pacific Ocean, changing water color, temperature and  moisture of the air, an opening up. The dark blue sea met a light powdery blue sky. The purple-grey layers of hills to the west were covered by a haze, like a fine gauze curtain. The sun shone harsh bright white, reflecting off the water in glaring sparkles. It was beautiful and familiar, like a sea home. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to the Gulf, which will be more sad for me than the sadness I felt saying goodbye to La Paz.

I quoted John Steinbeck from his book Log from the Sea of Cortez back in 2017. What he wrote about the Gulf and returning to it resonated with me then and captures why it is so sad and difficult for me to leave now:

And we wondered why so much of the Gulf was familiar to us…Some quality there is in the whole Gulf that trips a trigger of recognition so that in fantastic and exotic scenery one finds oneself nodding and saying inwardly, ‘Yes, I know.’…Trying to remember the Gulf is like trying to recreate a dream. This is by no means a sentimental thing, it has little to do with beauty or even conscious liking. But the Gulf draws one, and we have talked to rich men who own boats, who can go where they will. Regularly they find themselves sucked into the Gulf. And since we have returned, there always is in the backs of our minds the positive drive to go back again. If it were lush and rich, one could undersatnd the pull, but it is fierce and hostile and sullen. The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water. But we know we must go back if we live and we don’t know why.

We pulled into Los Frailes and dropped anchor at 5pm. The small swell from the south bobbed Intermezzo up and down, not uncomfortably when we were pointed into it, a bit rolly when the boat swung at anchor and presented its beam and stern, which it did this morning.

I spent today cleaning up the port cabins and setting them up for crew. One has been serving as a workshop, the other as a storage area. They are both now nice accommodations. I'm going to take the paddleboard to shore after I finish this post and go for a walk on the beach, my last along the shoreline of the Sea of Cortez for who knows how long.

Tomorrow we check into the marina at Puerto Cabo de San Jose, the end of the first leg of my San Francisco Bash, and begin preparing for the second leg, the Baja Bash up the outside of the peninsula.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Punta Arena de la Ventana en route to Los Frailes, Sea of Cortez

On Friday I ended up diverting to the north side of Punta Arena de la Ventana rather than continuing on to Los Muertos as originally planned. The swell, though small, was from the south and Los Muertos is open in that direction. I figured I might be more comfortable in the lee of the point, plus I had never anchored there before.

I anchored on Friday afternoon in 30 feet of water off a sandy beach that stretches for miles in crescent to form Bahía de la Ventana (“Window Bay”), a famous kite- and windsurfing venue due to its strong, predictable winds. I was the only boat there and felt a bit alone and exposed in  the open bay and vast sandy landscape. But I was comfortable. I took a brief swim, drank a beer with a shot of tequila, ate dinner and had a peaceful night’s sleep.

I spend yesterday making arrangements with marinas in Ensenada and San Diego and beginning to plan the third leg of my bash from San Diego to San Francisco. I’m very much hoping my son Luther will join me for at least part of that leg. We haven’t sailed together for eons. I think it would be a nice break for him and I would very much enjoy his company.

Yesterday, late afternoon, the wind died down and I landed the paddleboard on the beach and had a good run along the crescent of sand. I didn’t exercise much in the heat of La Paz. It’s not cool here, but it’s not broiling either.

When I got back to the boat, I refreshed myself with a swim, during which I inspected the propeller anodes that I replaced about a week ago. Not good. They are already beginning to erode. I don’t know why, my stray current measurements all turned out to be insignificant and nothing has changed on the boat, galvanically. I’m beginning to wonder if I have a bad lot of anodes, something not right with metallurgy. I’m thinking of buying a set of expensive Gori (“Gucci”) propeller anodes in San Diego and trying them out.

We left Punta Arena this morning around 7am and am heading to Los Frailes. The light southerly swell continues and Frailes is open to the south, so it may not be as comfortable anchored there. We’ll see. I plan on spending tomorrow at anchor there before continuing on, leaving the Sea of Cortez and taking a slip in Puerto Los Cabos marina for a few days.

Other than the anodes, Intermezzo is performing well. As usual, wind is on the nose. But I didn’t have to tell you that. The wind comes from whatever direction I’m sailing in, no matter the location or season. I’m cursed. My poor little Yanmar motors are always chugging away, never a break.