23rd February 2014 A long-overdue report...
Arrival back in Ensenada from UK, via San Diego, was late in January - and Navico's local Mexican experts immediately came to help sort out my VHF radio problems - very much appreciated! Ensenada was warm in daytime but got very cold at night but Cruiseport marina was notable for its warm, friendly community . Leaving was delayed - an electrical fire on board was luckily averted when the starboard navlight was found to have shorted and burnt out, with wiring overheating as a result - a certain fire hazard if left. More rewiring problems were dealt with and we finally got away, with lots of newly-made friends to say a regretful "Goodbye" to, on Wed 12th February - with Joey and Pete coming out in a dinghy to video my departure.
I decided to pause in Bahia de Tortugas where Randy and Joy were anchored and rafted up to 'Spirit of Hanalei'. We had a great Valentine's party with two nearby boats and another enjoyable get-together the next evening with a new arrival - most of us knew each other from San Diego and/or Ensenada - typical of cruising! The dusty village was explored - mostly subsisting on fishing and visiting cruisers, with only a few tourists visiting by land. I needed to find the local Telcel shop - its large towers were easily visible inland from the fuel dock, where a dinghy landing was made among large numbers of seabirds and their 'guano'...
The wind was often too light to sail, so the motor was turned on for most of the passage south, but occasionally the wind would get up nicely and I had a particularly good downwind sail one night, heading on S down past the thoroughly arid, desert scenery of the Baja California peninsula - with its often dramatic peaks and eroded sand-coloured hillsides. I kept a look out for whales - but only saw dolphins, always a pleasure when they keep the boat company, leaping around. Randy and Joy later went to San Ignacio Whale Reserve, not far S of Turtle Bay, and recounted being surrounded by large numbers of greys - an amazing experience, they said.
It's never good to be sailing to a deadline as I was, needing to reach San Carlos fairly quickly, to catch a flight out to New York via Austin, Texas, soon. I passed Bahia Magdalena where I'd had the amazing experience in 2004 of leaving my overnight anchorage at sunrise, to be surrounded by whales near and far - even diving under the boat as I passed close to them unavoidably. This time I passed the entrance overnight and didn't stop, making instead for Cabo San Lucas - whose increased winds gave a vigorous, lively, thoroughly enjoyable sail , albeit in rough waters until rounding into its lee, where the wind slowly dropped away almost completely. A local 'panga' with two tourists, clearly on a 'whale-watching' outing, came speeding up to me to ask if I'd seen any whales. I was keeping well offshore but saw a cluster of pangas at one point closer inshore - a whale there, possibly?
Cabo San Lucas is renowned for its sport fishing but is very expensive so I didn't stop, instead making for San Jose del Cabo a short distance further N, on the inside of the Baja peninsula, where I was hoping to meet up with a 'ham ' radio contact I'd spoken to at times since 2007 from the S. Atlantic. With difficulty, I persuaded the Marina office there NOT to charge me for stopping 2-3 hours while Mike, KC0YHM, and I went for a pleasant meal and chat in the old town. $50 for a stop of even just10 minutes seemed rather excessive to my mind!
So I took off at 10pm, without my hoped-for short sleep beforehand, to sail on up the coast towards La Paz - actually a total motoring exercise in 2-4kt of wind... There was beautiful sunset on each of the two hot days it took to get there and lovely starry nights. Again, I was only stopping in the hope of meeting up with cruiser friends - and managed two of three... Robert of 'Del Viento', whose family I'd first met in Victoria, B.C., came by the fuel dock next morning in Marina de La Paz, where I had been fortunate to find a lovely long, empty space on arrival there in the dark the previous night.
I'd hoped to raft up to another friend's boat that evening, in peaceful Bahia Balandra, a short distance from La Paz town with its long entrance channel bordered by extensive shoals. But the wind and sea had got up that afternoon and the small bay was open to the swell, so it was too rolly safely to raft up, as I'd hoped to. I then found I had a problem removing the bowsprit and releasing the anchor-pin, although I later persevered with that, and finally succeeded in freeing the anchor ready for possible use in case I couldn't find an empty dock to tie to. Steve, of 'Westerly', who I knew from my 2006 Single-Handed Transpac Race from San Francisco to Kauai, has cruised Mexico regularly since then but is hoping to explore more of the Sea of Cortez, as I do, once repairs and other works on "Nereida' are completed - in June, hopefully. It was good to catch up over a meal before I left late in the afternoon to head N towards San Carlos, with several islands passed on the way meaning only short naps were possible so as to keep a frequent watch. Another windless passage, with hot sun in the daytime - but better than bashing into a 'Norther' which could have been a distinct possibility.
In La Paz it was nice to meet up with a lot of friendly cruisers and I had a lovely arrival in San Carlos where a small group of boats, headed by Bill and Micheila on came out to welcome me in - it still feels rather odd when people I've never met before come up to shake my hand and greet me! Having made good time, it was very good to cut the motor and sail very gently towards the dramatic rocky headlands on either side of the entrance to San Carlos Bay where the marina lies tucked away - it's quite a well-known hurricane hole.
I made a lot of radio contacts each morning and evening while on passage - often with people I've now met face to face! I'll be hauling the boat soon, here in San Carlos, before heading to Austin for presentations to the Yacht Club on Friday and the Radio Club on Saturday. I'm looking forward to visiting Austin - it's well-known for its music and Brad, NA5BD, and Tom, N5TW, (who helped me a lot with radio communications while I was circumnavigating) will be hosting me. The following Tuesday, I fly into New York to stay at the N.Y.Y.C., ready for the Cruising Club of America's Awards Dinner on Friday 7th March - when I'll be receiving their 'Blue Water Medal'.
From New York, I'll be flying to London, to take part in an ITV Show - that should be fun! And in April I'll be receiving the OCC's Barton Cup..... and at some point I'll be receiving the Royal Cruising Club's 'Seamanship Medal' So there's lots happening just now .... and lots of people being met up with...
Work on 'Nereida' that I'd expected to have finished by now is being put 'on hold' until my return. Typically, friends Robert and Rose, whose boat 'Tillicum' has been totally stripped and refurbished here over the last year , are still busy - each project seems to turns into another unexpected one and they're running several months beyond their expected finish date.
(Photos to be posted soon....)