November 29, 2000. Bahia Santa Maria
N24 46’28” Skys clear, 80F (27C) at 4 PM. W112 14’34” At anchor
We arrived in Bahia Santa Maria, just a couple miles north of Bahia Magdalena, this morning in the fog. Some of you may have heard of Bahia Magdalena as there has been a crusade in the US to stop the building of a salt plant on its shore because the bay is a major calving ground for gray whales. The whales start arriving in December, and the new mothers may stay as late as June, taking care of their calves. We were hoping to see some of the early arrivals but reports from other cruisers indicate that they have not yet arrived. So we may not bother entering Bahia Magdalena as it is an official port of entry and would require us to visit the port Captain to have our crew list stamped. We also risk a Mexican Navy inspection there. These reasons may explain why there are so many cruisers here in Bahia Santa Maria which is good anchorage without Port Captain.
Our trip down from Turtle Bay unfortunately involved a lot of motoring but we did manage to sail about half-time, at a very sedate pace in the light winds. We saw many dolphins.
The swells were reported to be between 9 and 12 feet which amazed me. I would have refused to go out in swells greater than 8 feet along the US coast but the swells here have a much longer wave-length and are truly the nice gentle swells heralded in tropical sailing. They did not bother me. Also the light wind did not contribute much wind waves on top of the swells, keeping the ocean surface relatively smooth. So I was able to read, cook a little bit and, most importantly, eat. However, we are still not used to sleeping underway and so we are both very tired today, after two nights out. Eating is something we generally take for granted, but it acquires a special significance after you have been sick at sea. I have always enjoyed good food, it’s the Belgian in me, but after arriving in Turtle Bay (our stop before Bahia Santa Maria), and having not eaten for two days, I truly felt a sensual pleasure in eating. Food tasted new, exciting and abnormally delicious. Eating was a pleasure to be savored. Clark was laughing looking at my enthusiasm for food. This time, arriving in Bahia Santa Maria, I did not have a heightened sensitivity to food since I had not been sick but I still enjoyed being able to sit down at a table with a fresh green salad and a lobster we had just purchased from a local fisherman. I am lucky Temptress has a big refrigerator, carefully maintained by Clark, so we can store a lot of fresh vegetables, meat, dairy products, etc., and eat well between major ports. Many boats still cruise without refrigeration due to its high consumption of electricity.
I did not have time to write much in Turtle Bay since we were busy dealing with the mayday of La Boheme. Before we heard the mayday, we had had a quiet day, resting reading books but also working on small projects. I had been bothered by propane leakage from our barbecue bottle installed on the stern of the boat. We had filled it in San Diego and as we moved south the heat started increasing the internal pressure forcing the pressure relief valve to release some propane during the day. Commercial propane is “perfumed” with a small dose of stinky gas for safety reason. I also hated losing precious cooking fuel. So I made canvas cover for it, lined with mylar inside (space blanket material)to cut down the heat getting to the can. I had made similar covers previously for the gasoline and diesel jerrycans we have on deck and they work well. I am happy to report the end of the stinky leakage of propane.
The coast of Baja is dry. There is little vegetation to be seen from a distance and so we are learning to appreciate the various rock colors which make tapestries of red, orange, ochre, brown and beige on the coastline. The sea is now very blue and the sun very bright during the day. The contrasts are sharp and the best time of the day to appreciate the landscape is at sunset when the contours soften and the colors warm to shades of glowing peaches, brick reds, and purples. That’s all for today.
November 28, 2000. N 25 deg 31′ 27″, W 113 deg 05′ 20″. Wind: 8 knots from the north. Sailing.
We just had a beautiful sunset at sea. A large pod of dolphins leaped between us and the sun while the sky turned pink and lavender. The sun set majestically and we saw the famous green flash as it sunk behind the horizon! Afterwards, the thin clouds to the west turned bright red like coals burning in a dying fire. Pretty soon the stars will emerge, along with saturn and jupiter. Last night I spend 4 hours studying the constellations. It is a way to pass the time and I always wanted to be able to recognize the major ones. With some imagination, one can really see the lion, the wolve hiding below orion, and the hydra, but others are just bizarre shapes to me. This passage is the most pleasant to date, even if the night watches are tiring. I have not been sick at all. Time for me to go to bed so I can be awake later tonight.
At sea, November 28, 2000
N26 00’05” Wind 9k N Skys clear Sea gentle long swell W113 32’38” Speed 5K sailing Course 140T This morning the water temperature is up to 66.5F. We had a very nice night and even got a couple of hours of sleep. We are about 20 hours out of Mag Bay and expect this settled weather to continue. We had to motor most of the night but with the morning came a light wind and we are back to being a sail boat. Just before morning I got 2 radar contacts on parallel courses. With the sun I could see that they are other cruisers going the same place. One of them we knew was out here as we have met “Elakka” before and have been talking to them on the VHF radio now and again during the beginning of the voyage. They left a bit ahead of us but made a small clerical error with their navigation and lost some miles so we are together now. As I mentioned we had talked and were somewhat expecting them in the area but it still seemed strange for them to show up in this empty ocean. The other boat “Sundance” was a complete surprise. Both boats came into radar range while I was just starting talking on the Chubasco HAM net. This is a loose network of HAM stations that passes on messages and most importantly weather every morning. (There is a similar net at night called the SouthBound net). I signed up this morning to be a relay station (I understand that my radio has a long range), but had to drop out after the call for emergency or medical radio traffic as I had to identify my new neighbors. I might become a more active HAM once I get settled in down here.
Last night Birgitta entertained herself by identifying stars. She found Orion and several planets. It made me feel good to wake up and see her excited about her discoveries instead of curled up in a beanbag chair looking miserable. But the big news of the night is that we ate the Bonito for dinner. I really mean WE, as I ate it. For those who don’t know me very well I hate the taste (especially the smell) of fish. I have never been able to eat it. I can’t even stay in the vicinity of a fish market without getting nauseous. One of my goals is to develop a taste for fish. I have spent the last 2 years trying a mouthful of any fish Birgitta orders in a restaurant. Last night Birgitta barbecued the Mexican Bonito (like a tuna) and served it to me in a teriyaki pineapple sauce. I can’t say I loved it but I was able to eat a goodly sized portion of it. I expect there is hope. Within a couple of months I might get to like it. For lunch today Birgitta has promised me a recipe of her mothers, cold tuna with mayonnaise, curry, and banana.
At sea, November 27, 2000
N27 15′ 51″ Speed 5.3k skys clear very low swell W114 38″ 12″ Course 153T water 65.8 F wind 7 knots … I keep sending you these e-mails keeping you from getting anything done. We are having a wonderful day. There is only slightly more motion then a day on the Pudget Sound. Birgitta is eating well, with no sea sickness so I began to worry about provisions. I threw a tuna lure over the side and backed it with some shock cord. After about 20 min. there was a little bonito (tuna) on the line. Well Birgitta looked more hungry then that so I let it go. (It jumped off my barbless hook while I was trying to figure what to do with it) I threw it back and reset the gear. About another 20 min latter there was another larger bonito on the hook. With my battle plan in place I had the beast (slightly less then 2 feet) on board, cut up, and marinating in the fridge. We will barbecue tonight! I will try some and truly hope I like it (or it will be dinty moore canned stew for me tonight). This is the first truly nice sailing day we have had. We have begun to think of sailing as a way to get there that we had to endure. But today has been truly fun. We don’t have quite enough wind and have to sail slow or run the engine when we fall below 3 knots or so but with no real swell we feel we could stay out here as long as it takes (cynical note from Birgitta: that’s before our sleepless night at sea…). We expect to make port in about 2 days from now. Clark
At sea, November 27, 2000
Sorry I’m sending so many today but we are now motoring and I have lots of electricity. The big news is that the sailors from La Boheme were found this morning or late last night. We were just starting the coordination of yachties coming down the coast. We had 3 sailboats moving into position to start the search when we got word that the Mexican fishermen picked them BOTH up. Only word we have on their condition at this time is “They are both taking showers” so we expect they are in good shape. I fear the boat isn’t in so good a shape if it is on a rock or beach in the surf. We will keep you informed as to what we find out. We became sort of the hub of communication for a bit there. We carry good radios and VERY good antennas so we seemed to be able to reach the farthest with the best reception and were chosen to coordinate. Last night I broke in with a MAYDAY on some US HAMS chatting and got them to contact the US Coast Guard. This may seem strange as we are way down here (over 300 miles from US) but we couldn’t reach the Mexican authorities and wanted the US Coast Guard involved if only to relay to the Mexicans. None of us yachties had enough Spanish to feel we could pass the information accurately over the radio even if we were able to reach them. While I was working HAM another boat tried SSB and got the Canadian’s involved. Both our reports reached the US Coast Guard about the same time and they offered a C-130 search plane to the Mexicans. The Mexicans declined the offer! But they promised a plane of their own and a boat. I don’t know if it ever arrived because another avenue we took panned out. One of the other boats in Turtle bay with us took their small boat over to a Mexican fishing boat who contacted friends on the island where the yacht was lost. The local fishermen went out in their pangas and started looking and apparently found the survivors this morning. The last we heard the survivors will be coming to Turtle Bay sometime today. Upon hearing this we up anchored and started on our way to Mag Bay. We asked some boats that are staying in Turtle Bay to contact us with news when the survivors get in. I hope to find out more details and will pass them along with further e-mails. News got out about the lost boat during the night and in the morning the local HAM net (the Chubasco net) was abuzz with the situation. This net is listened to by most all boats coming down the west side of Baja. Even boats without HAM licenses and gear buy a simple shortwave radio at Radio Shack in San Diego and listen in as it is the best source of weather in the area. They were just asking all southbound boats coming around the island to start the search when I heard over the VHF that the sailors had been rescued. I broke in with the news and the search was called off. Much to the relief of everyone. The state side controllers of the net contacted the US Coast Guard with the information and were able to tell me about the C-130 offer that was declined. Its a whole different ball game when you run into trouble out here. You can’t just call for help and expect it as on the US coast. I’m sure all boats will be watching their navigation very carefully. On Temptress we have just about every electronic and classical means to tell where we are and we use them ALL. We have displays in the cockpit, where the helmsmen is, so he or she is in constant contact with this information. I hope our vigilance pays off and something like this never happens to us.
Back to the trip: N27 36 23.4 speed 6.5-7K Water temperature is 63.8 F (18C) W114 52 10.3 course 142T Sky is clear Sea 3 foot slow swell Weather reports called for clear and calm down the coast today. That would have been a bummer as we need wind to sail. We weren’t looking forward to a long slow power run down the coast but the weather also called for no change for the next 5 days. When we poked our heads out the the bay we found 10-15 knots of wind from the NNW. Great! This allows us to sail for a while anyway. Here’s hoping it holds, But as I write this I already feel the boat slowing. Clark (and Birgitta) knew is was too good to last. Wind left us we are now motoring at 5 knots. Just 227 miles to go the Mag Bay and I fear we will be listening to the engine for most of the next 55 hours. At least the seas are quite flat.