Ensenada to La Paz

December 12, early morning, we took in our lines and left the Marina in Ensenada, bound for Cabo San Lucas, 800nm south.  We made a pit stop a couple of miles north of Ensenada to bunker fuel.  We topped our tank and made sure all our jerry cans were also filled to the max.  That done, we could point Capri’s bows southward and begin our 5-6 day passage.

We had a bit of wind the first few hours, Capri speeding along, enjoying her freedom from being tied to a dock.  Unfortunately, the wind died a few hours later – exactly as the forecast had predicted.  We’ve waited for a calmer forecast before leaving.  The past couple of weeks the winds have been blowing gale force and even harder along the west coast of the Baja peninsula.  We had enough of that kind of weather when we sailed down the west coast of the US.  We didn’t need to be out in that again.

When the wind dies, we sailors say, “That’s why God invented the diesel engine”.  We fired up our iron genny, set the rpms to 1800 to go easy on consumption (this, as it turned out was a great idea) and trundled along on an almost mirror flat sea (and moaned about how there was no wind – sailors always have something to moan and complain about – if there isn’t anything we can cheerfully invent something).

It is our intention to spend Christmas in Cabo San Lucas, a holiday town.  Many we’ve spoken to have said that once you have been in San Lucas a couple of days, you are more than ready to leave.  But we would like to spend Christmas in a city, go out for dinner, enjoy the celebrations etc.  It is said that the Mexicans go all out for Christmas and hell – it is only Christmas once a year.

The days roll past.  No wind.  The skies cloud up – still no wind.  The skies clear up – still no wind.  Our fuel tank is emptying, so we pour three jerry cans of diesel in.  A little problem has snuck into our lives.  Our fuel gauge has decided to strike.  No passage sailing without boat repairs to make life interesting (and a wonderful little thing that a sailor can moan about).  If we click on the switch (say over 100 times) the gauge comes to life and shows the fuel status.  Depressing to see how fast we are using our limited fuel.

We try motorsailing (sailing on the engine with our sails up) to capture some of the apparent wind we create by sailing on the engine.  I suppose it did give us a little extra speed – but not enough to notice.  We use about two liters per hour when we run on the engine at 18-1900 rpm.  We add another couple of jerry cans diesel and are gratified to finally see the fuel gauge show ¾ tank.  1800 rpm gives a speed of 5.5-6 knots per hour, depending on sea and wind conditions.

The weather is good, we no longer have to wear full battledress – so even Vinni is happy

When we have a full tank and full jerry cans, we carry 330 liters of fuel.  A little quick mental arithmetic reveals; 330 liters divided by 2 liter per hours = 165 hours of cruising.  165 hours multiplied by 6 knots gives us a range of 990 nm.  Hey no problemo!  We can easily sail to Cabo San Lucas 800nm south form here on the engine.

Of course, that is under ideal conditions.  If we get a current against us or wind against us or choppy swells, our speed drops and our fuel consumption goes up.  At 5 knots, the arithmetic becomes worrisome.  Now we only have a range of 825 nm – just barely enough.  We might have to dig out the oars.  Many years ago, we saw a fellow in Denmark who was swimming with his sailboat tied to his back (no wind that day).  Considering there are sharks etc here; that is a propulsion method we have no intention of emulating.

We still have fantastic sunsets to enjoy

The weather forecast says we should run into some wind as we get further south, but the forecast grows more uncertain as the days pass.  There is only one place on the western Baja where diesel is available and we have passed it so we are on our own.

We slow the engine to go easy on the fuel.  Less rpms, less consumption, unfortunately, also less speed.

Sigh.  It is a sailor’s fate that there should always be something to worry about.  I tend to be fatalistic about things like this.  We’ll either make it or not.  If not, then some wind will come along at some point and we can use our sails.  Vinni worries.

A lot.

We keep a can with 20 liters as reserve, dump the rest of the cans in the tank and now we’ve done what we can.  We’ll either get there or we won’t.  We have a little more than 100nm to go.  Vinni is still nervous.

A lot.

At 9 am we round the outer pier and sail directly to the fuel dock.  Thankfully, diesel in Mexico is cheaper than in the US or Denmark, but we still take a heavy hit on our wallet.  Over $400.

Sigh.

The marina is completely full, so we sail out into the anchorage and drop the hook.  Once down, snug and secure, we are pleasantly surprised that there isn’t as much rock & roll as we’ve been led to expect.  It feels great to be at anchor again.

Uhhh, this is it felt great until the armada of jet skis, pangas, motorboats and whatnot, come flying out of the harbor at full speed, throwing up huge wakes.  They speed along is all directions and Capri is dancing a jitterbug.  Apparently, no one has ever taught them that one sails slowly through an anchorage. 

Of course, then there are the beach bars.  They all have stereo systems designed to be heard in Japan, and they have them turned all the way up.  The DJ’s try to get the party going by offering free drinks to any of the gals who are willing to show off their bare breasts or butts.  This is at 10 o’clock in the morning – it gets worse as the day progresses into evening.  Four or five “party boats” sail around the bay, each with its own DJ who screams into the microphone to “take this wild party to the next level”.  Some have rock bands that play at a decibel level beyond comprehension.

Each morning two, or more, cruise ships anchor up in the bay, discharging a couple of thousand passengers each to shore in their lifeboats and picking them up early in the evening after they have spent the day shopping and drinking.

The party boats all have a monstrous display of Christmas lights in their rigging

Hmmmm – we’re beginning to understand why other cruisers leave after a couple of days.  We decide to leave also.  Vinni and I are not in our twenties any more so that type of entertainment is not something we are looking for.  We’ll sail northwards to La Paz and spend Christmas there.  La Paz, according to rumor, is a wonderful little city.

But first, we need to “clear out” at the Port Captain.  His office is a couple of kilometers from the dinghy dock and we march down the narrow sidestreets.  On the way, we passed a restaurant with a huge sign, “World’s Best Margaritas!”.  Ok, we noted where it was and after clearing out, returned for lunch.

It isn’t every day that you get to taste the “World’s Best Margarita!”   This day wasn’t that day either.  The drinks tasted good, but Vinni and I agreed they seem to have forgotten to put tequila into the drink.  The lunch, however, was good and large, so it was OK.

Back on Capri, we relaxed and made ready for sea the next day.  Early morning, we hauled up the hook.  The weather forecast noted we should get good wind, unfortunately right in our faces, but only 10-12 knots so it shouldn’t be too bad (we would get smarter as the day wore on).

Our first 3-4 hours were on the engine as we were in the lee of the mountains.  Wonderful sailing, lots of sun, very relaxing.  When we rounded the last small peninsula, we got hit with the full force of the wind.  Not 10-12 knots, but 20-25 knots, gusting higher.  There was no bailout here, the nearest place to bail was a bay, Los Frailles, 20-25 nm north.  Nothing for it, grit your teeth and hang on.  Act like you enjoy this.  Our neighbor boat from San Lucas also sailed north, but left San Lucas a couple of hours later than we did.

It was hard sailing.  No, let’s be honest – it was brutal.  No matter what we did, we got beaten and beaten hard.  The swells were nothing but chop, running between 1.5 to 3 meters.  We could only hang onto Capri and look forward to getting to Los Frailles.  The choppy seas rolled in over our bows and Capri slammed into each wave. 

If we didn’t have something to moan about before, we certainly did now.

At 5pm, after 5-6 hours of continual assault and battery by heavy seas, we entered into the little bay and let our anchor chain run out.  We weren’t alone, there were two other boats there.  The one left the next morning, but the other one, a Canadian boat, crewed by Gentry and Tera, stayed.  Wild Blue, from San Lucas showed up a couple of hours after us and so we were three boats.

The weather forecast (something ALL sailors can moan about), gleefully forecast wind, wind and more wind.  We would see the whitecaps and chop outside the bay.  This little bay is well-protected against the swells, but not the wind.  We’re seeing 25-30 all day and night.  But the bottom is good sand and our Mantus (In Mantus we trust) holds as if it is nailed to the sea floor, so life is good (what’s this?  Nothing to moan about? – Ok, the beach is great but if there was a little beach café, life would be perfect).

The beach is everything a sun-hungry Dane could wish for.  Small swells, fine-corned yellow sand, wide, few rocks.  The snorkeling is good here.  The only hard coral reef in Mexico is here and it is a national park.  Lots of sun and dunes to get away from the wind.  There are a couple of beach houses here and a very small hotel.  Aside from that, there is a primitive RV campground with no facilities, although you get rid of your garbage.

We wanted to celebrate Christmas in La Paz, but this little bay isn’t bad.  We spoke with the others and agreed to celebrate Christmas on board Capri.  Everyone had steaks and potatoes, wine and tequila so it was a festive evening.  Our little Christmas tree (which we bought in the Caribbean and have set up ever since) got rave reviews (ok- we are the only boat with a Christmas tree).  The evening passed with good food, lots of congeniality and great sailing stories.  Our guests spotted our books on the bookshelf and were in awe of spending Christmas with two world famous sailing book authors (well, maybe not quite world famous.  Perhaps famous in Denmark?  Sigh – how about two sailing book authors?).  At any rate, they were impressed that we have two books out.

Sundowners in the cockpit before the big Christmas feast

The Sea of Cortez is one of the areas where humpback whales spend their winters.  So does the blue whale.  We see the whale spouts just outside the bay throughout the day; occasionally a couple of them come into the bay and circle around the boats.  One day, several of them breech next to the boats, landing with a loud splash and throwing up an enormous spray of water.  Even though Vinni and I saw lots of this when we were on Maui, we are still impressed.  Aside from the whales, there are a wild assortment of fish and a large population of a “mini” Manta Ray.  These rays jump several feet out of the water.  Apparently, they do it to get rid of parasites.

Our wind instrument has decided to go on strike (moan), after splitting most of the boat apart, Gentry and I found the problem.  Finding it demanded a trip to the top of the mast for me (in a 30-knot wind).  It works now, but the repair is temporary.  When we get somewhere without wind or swells and we have three pairs of hands, we can fix it permanently.

Crap!  Another repair, although this one is not expensive, it is a pain in the butt (moan, moan).

The crews eat together almost every evening.  Wild Blue fishes every day and catches something every day, so we eat perch, sushi, sashimi and grilled tuna.  Good thing they are good at fishing – we are all running a bit low on provisions.

The other problem with this little corner of paradise is a total lack of telephone or internet.  Nothing.  Nada.  My telephone catches a phone signal from the other side of the mountain when the wind is right, but it only lasts a few seconds, just enough to let me know I have mail.  We don’t care about that, we enjoy being completely off grid, but our friends and family were beginning to worry – we always call and wish every a Merry Christmas – this year we didn’t.  Our days were spent enjoying the sunshine and total relaxation.  The crews get together every evening, Gentry, Tera, Chad and Caroline are good people, easy and enjoyable to talk with.

After most of a week, the wind dies and we up anchor and sail for the next bay, Bahia de Muertos (Bay of the Dead)

An exciting name and why exactly is it called the Bay of the Dead?  Many years ago, silver was mined here and the ore was shipped out on barges to be refined.  The barges laid to at a small stone pier and in order for them to lie there, they were moored to several old railroad car undercarriages that had been dumped to use as moorings.  The moorings were known as “Dead Man’s Moorings” and the bay became known as Bay of the Dead.

It is an exciting name, but not if you are building a resort hotel there.  The investors tried to get the name changed to “Bay of Dreams” (much more inviting to hotel guests).  I think they managed it on the land maps – but the sea charts still call it Bay of the Dead.

Another wonderful place, this time with a small beach café where we had margaritas and dinner.  It has been 10 days since any of us could provision, so supplies are running low.  Wild Blue supplies us with lots of fish and has been extremely generous serving up sushi etc, but fish every day can get a bit tiring.

Caroline and Chad from Wild Blue have brought their entire lives with them on the boat.  They have lived on boats for the past eighteen years, but only cruised for the past two.  Vinni and I are impressed with just how much they are carrying.  The deck and roof over the saloon are filled with all kinds of things.  There are “things” everywhere down below, but it is cozy and truly a home.  Their seventeen year old cat lives with them and so does their 4 year old dog, Spinnaker.  Spinnaker has lived his entire life on the boat so he knows no other existence.  He is an unbelievably sweet and happy dog.  When visitors come, he jumps around, dancing and yipping and gets so excited that he does not know if he is coming or going.

Spinnaker is a wonderful dog – loves everyone

Vinni and I love dogs so we are very taken with Spinnaker.

Spinnaker kisses everyone – here carsten

Early next morning we set sail for La Paz, 55nm north.  We have a little wind and now Capri shows them that she is a fast boat indeed, leaving them far behind in a matter of hours.  When they come into the bay at the outskirts of La Paz the other boats could see Vinni and me sitting on the foredeck, sipping a sundowner.  Wild Blue caught a couple of yellowfin tuna on the way and invited everyone for sushi again.

The next morning we all head the last 12nm into La Paz.  The trip from Cabo San Lucas should have taken three days, but ended up taking nine days – we were sheltering in Los Frailles for almost a week.  We have to admit that Los Frailles was not the worst place in the world to shelter.  We had good neighbors and an active social life.

The other boats headed for the anchorage while Vinni and I headed for the marina.  Capri is simply filthy, totally encrusted in salt.  On top of that, she was hit by hundreds of flying squid who jumped up on her decks at night and lay there rotting until dawn when we made the morning rounds and tossed the bodies over board.  Never heard of flying squid?  We hadn’t either, but they exist and they left nasty stains on our decks.

It took us an entire day to clean her up.  New Year’s Eve, the three crews plus some stragglers from other boats went into town to find some drinks and dinner.  We found a great little neighborhood place on a side street that served good food and big margaritas.  But sailors are tired people and almost all of us were on our way back to our boat by 11 pm.  Vinni and have a drink in the cockpit and try to stay awake until midnight – but we didn’t make it, hitting the bunk at 11:30 (more to moan about).

We will write more in a few days – first we have to go explore La Paz

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