It’s not always Jimmy Buffet out here…
We finally splashed Echo on October 3rd with an overwhelming feeling of happiness to finally be living in our home again, in her rightful place, the water. We moved Echo into a slip at the marina with the intentions of being there for a few days to make sure all the massive projects completed were ship-shape. This was a great opportunity to provision with fresh veggies for the trip and wrap up a few last minute projects. One seemingly easy project, updating our chartplotter, quickly turned into an emergency when we seemingly lost all data. After two long days, multiple calls with technicians, getting advice from fellow boaters, and ultimately missing our first weather window to cross the sea, Brian ended up taking the whole thing apart to find a loose connection on the circuitboard. As soon as the chartplotter was fixed, we coordinated with Pap to meet us at the marina for a daysail over to San Carlos. San Carlos is a small, coastal “gringo” town about 20 nautical miles from Guaymas, with lots of delicious restaurant options, a few nice marinas, a large, well-protected bay that we prefer to anchor in, and is also where Lauren’s family lives. We had a beautiful early morning departure. Through the dense fog, we saw many local panga fishing boats out starting their shrimping season. As we rounded the cape, the rugged coastline revealed itself as the fog burned off and we enjoyed the scenery and were thankful to be underway once again.
Anchored in San Carlos for a few days, we patiently waited for a weather window to cross the sea, and enjoyed settling back into the rhythm of life on the water. After studying the weather, we picked our day to cross the sea and began final preparations. Planning a passage is difficult. There is no routine weather here. Because of a long list of factors, things can get more complicated and make for uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous conditions. We’re constantly recalling our own experiences, taking advice from others, and actively trying to pick the best conditions for us and our comfort. Our last crossing, 10 months ago, started great but as we got closer to San Carlos it got pretty nasty with big, confused seas. Since we were out of the water for so long, we were looking for a mellow crossing and specifically picked a night that was supposed to have calm seas and very light winds. We picked our departure time of 4PM and right on queue, Pap and the crew on Little Putt ripped through the Bahia for the traditional send off, waving goodbyes and hailing on the VHF until we slipped beyond the horizon.
Often times it’s hard to determine the sea state until you’re out there in it. Once we rounded the corner of the protected bay, we realized it was much choppier and more confused than expected. However, we pushed on, knowing we’d been through worse conditions than this leaving San Carlos and chalked it up to inshore, reflected seas that would hopefully settle down the further we got from land. With just a few short hours of sun, we tried to make sense of the different directions of swells and strived to pick the best angle for comfort. Plan A was to sail 80Nm southwest from San Carlos to the Bay of Conception, but that point of sail was proving to be an uncomfortable close haul. We had our mainsail reduced to its second reef and were motor-sailing, but with the winds picking up and big, close swells, Echo was getting rocked around by the randomness of it all. The moon didn’t come up until later in the night, leaving us in hours of complete darkness, adding to the vulnerable feelings generated by the mixture and size of the waves.
We were thankful for the moon’s presence when it did come up, shedding a little light on the white capping seas breaking around us. At this point, one is steering by feel, a skill that takes time to develop. As we altered course to head further south for comfort, we tried to keep on course for Plan A as long as possible. Brian felt each and every wave as he hand steered through the entire night. Between sets he would gently steer us in the direction of the Bay. At this point we were about 15Nm offshore and surprisingly speeding along quite quickly. At our current speed, we would arrive at the mouth of the bay at 3:30AM. We didn’t feel comfortable navigating the shallow entrance in the dark, nor did we want to practice a maneuver called hevaing-to to hold our boat in place so we could wait for the sun because of the sea state. We eventually decided on Plan B, to keep pointing south and tack on an additional 30Nm and 5 hours to our trip, resulting in a longer but more comfortable experience.
Sunrise was celebrated as the winds finally started to diminish and the uncomfortable seas were now being taken on the stern instead of the beam. Plan B was San Juanico and definitely not a bad plan B. At 10AM, about an hour outside of our anchorage, dolphins came to greet us and it reminded us that it can go from intense to bliss in moments. It was such an amazing welcoming to the day, to the Baja and to our adventure. We dropped hook in San Juanico, chatted on the VHF radio with friends in the anchorage, ate some food, and took some well deserved rest.
Lessons: Afterward, we realized why the weather turned out the way it did. Localized wind events around the Sea of Cortez can generate far reaching swells. We Because of our narrowed scope on the area around our passage, we missed the signs that could have kept us out of such an uncomfortable night. Also, we expected a different forecast, with less winds and calmer seas, allowing us to sail, but also traveling slower to arrive in daylight. Based on the conditions that played out, the actual winds and potential current speed, we were going faster than anticipated, and would’ve arrived before sunrise. We made most of the passage at night, which is unnecessary for such short passages. In the future we’ll minimize the nighttime travel time when possible.
Our time in San Juanico was amazing, truly what one would imagine when picturing coastal cruising. San Juanico is a spacious anchorage, its gradually sloping sandy bottom makes for ideal anchoring, and we comfortably shared it with ten other boats. The bay includes two long white sandy beaches, separated by large rocks which make for excellent snorkeling and fishing grounds. Crystal clear water made it fun to watch constant baitfish bounding from feeding roosterfish and dorado around the boat. A fin whale even came into the anchorage, which we could hear before we spotted him. We enjoyed swimming the long distance from our boat to the beach. On one late afternoon, Brian brought along his speargun in hopes to encounter the hungry dorado but instead got two nice cabrilla that he shot and swan back to the boat with. We had some of the best snorkeling and spear fishing outings thus far. Another day we got into the water with 50 feet of visibility and swam with schools of roosterfish, an endemic species to the Baja and a real treat for fly-fishermen. We swam through areas with so much fish life it was unbelievable. It was a pleasure to be swimming with schools of thousands of fish, enjoying being accepted by them in their environment. Where bait had congregated, predators fed from below, and we were fortunate that their distraction with the bait allowed us to sneak up, view, and even selectively shoot one for a few meals.
We had our first raft-up, boater’s talk for a potluck on the water. Ten or more boats met in their small dinghies at 5PM with a dish to share with everyone. One dinghy dropped an anchor and we all tied up together, forming a circle. We passed around so much delicious food and all shared our thoughts and experiences on “recent transitions”, and what a relevant question that was for us. We thoroughly appreciated sharing an incredible dinner and getting to know even more people in the sailing community.
One thing we enjoy is communication over VHF radio. Every boat has a VHF radio and depending on what your location is you monitor certain channels. It’s a great way to communicate with other boaters in the anchorage, sharing the weather, ideas and plans for the day such as organized walks, town trips, bocci ball games or raft ups. You hail out to the fleet or you can call a specific boat and then pick a channel to talk on. We also enjoy listening to the single side band (SSB) radio nets in the morning to hear where other boats are around the sea, weather and other general information.
We had another exciting first, we started our new water maker and are happy to say it worked flawlessly. What an advantage and great feeling to be able to make our own drinking water nearly any place we are.
We left San Juanico on the first day of wind after a calm period, so this time we missed the swells but got the power. It turned out to be one of our best sailing days yet. We proudly sailed along, reaching our fastest hull speed under sail at 6.7 knots, just under our reefed main and jib (not even all of our sails up) in 10-15kt winds. We were thrilled to share this epic day with a few other boats, dotting the horizon with full sails, and hailing over the radio excited talk of dorado hooked up and amazing sailing conditions. The kind of day we’re all out here for. When we thought the day couldn’t get any better, the fishing rod violently jerked down and Lauren hollered, “Fish On!” Brian ran to grab the rod in time to see a billfish jumping behind our boat. I don’t think the captain could have been any happier. Thankfully after a few good jumps the striped marlin released itself. We got the pleasure of seeing the action and beauty but also didn’t have to struggle getting it to the boat and then releasing it when we all would have been exhausted. Landing a fish under sail power is an interesting experience! And due to our freezer space, we’re only looking to take something we can eat fresh in the next few days and this fish was too big for us, but amazing to witness.
The next day, we planned to sail 25Nm to our next anchorage where we planned to wait out a strong northerly blow that was supposed to come the next day. We didn’t rush to leave and when we finally did, the winds had really diminished. It was hard to imagine turning on the engine after our incredible sail the previous day, so we pushed on, full sails, two knots ahead. In these few hours of peaceful quietness, Brian spotted two fin whales heading in our direction. The next time they surfaced was 20 feet off of our beam. They came up four or five times to check us out before taking a deep breath and vanishing. The winds completely died down after that and we dropped our sails, happily motoring south in calm, flat seas.
We knew it was going to blow a steady 25-35kts and we planned accordingly. We put out extra chain, took down our flags, secured the dinghy and hunkered down. The first day is fine as we dote around the boat, doing chores, watching movies, and playing card games. Violent wind screams through the rigging, ropes slapping against the masts, the boat swaying back and forth with the wind and healing over when the big gusts hit. Although not ideal, you get used to it during the day, but then it becomes night and it’s a different story. It’s nearly impossible to sleep, match the loud threatening noises outside with a constant rocking motion up and down with the swells and hearing the waves crash against the hull. You wonder whether it sound worse or better down below? Could we be dragging the anchor? Is it safe for me to fall asleep right now? Is it possible to fall asleep right now? The answer, usually, thus far, being no. Day two is exhausting, but we’re maybe able to get a nap with the reassurance of daylight. By night two, still under sustained winds of upper-20’s to low-30’s, we were equally unable to get any sleep. To make matters worse, our depth finder was on the fritz, which is actually a pretty rare occurrence, but has happened. Bouncing between 39 and 55 feet, indicating we might be dragging or bobbing over a deeper spot, but since we dropped our anchor in 22 feet, 55 feet wasn’t seeming so gradual. We relocated to the cockpit to “sleep” until the sun came up. If you popped your head outside the dodger it felt like a fully fledged hurricane. Our top wind speeds that night reached 37kts. By day three, with aching exhausted bodies, we were finally able to sleep through the slowly diminishing wind. (The all-time maximum sustained winds while on anchor for Echo have been 55 knots so far.)
The next morning, the winds were light, and we were finally able to drop the dinghy. Brian quickly shot off in search of fish for dinner. With the calm conditions, we could see the bay erupting with bounding baitfish and dorado flying in top gear. After a bit of high speed chase, Brian was able to hook, land, and filet a beautiful dorado, which had been a craving for a while. That evening, enjoying our fresh sashimi platter, we found ourselves thinking about how quickly things can change from intense to bliss, yet again, and being thankful for the good and bad times.
-The more experience we gain, the more confidence it gives in our rig, our gear, ourselves, and each other.
-When conditions go south, don’t keep bashing, turn and go with it.
-It can all turn around in a moment.
Currently, we’ve stopped into the cute town of Loreto for the day to resupply on veggies, get our annual park passes and fishing licenses, use the internet, do a load of laundry, and get back out there! ¡Disfruta!
3 thoughts on “High Tides and Low Tides”
Wow!! SO impressed by you two, as ALWAYS! Your adventures blow me away, I can only imagine what it’s like to be out there on those rocky seas! And ahh those seafood feasts! Your photos make me want to be there so bad. Thanks for sharing your stories!!
LAB, Great blog post and insights! Sounds like you are doing great: lessons learned, life lived, nature abounding you with blessings. Cheers to you both! Abrazos and worksweat from the dirt yard, JAM
On Mon, Nov 4, 2019, 2:45 PM Adventures of SV Echo wrote:
> svecho77 posted: ” It’s not always Jimmy Buffet out here… We finally > splashed Echo on October 3rd with an overwhelming feeling of happiness to > finally be living in our home again, in her rightful place, the water. We > moved Echo into a slip at the marina with the int” >
Your boating adventures brought back memories of growing up on Long Island and taking in all the good times along with some scary times…you forget how much you have to factor into just taking the boat out on a short
trips to Short Beach, Jones Beach, Gilgo Beach, Oak Park and on out to the Long Island Sound, Fire Island, Block Island, etc., and how things can change in a matter of minutes. I’m glad that you have each other and know how much you can learn from your fellow travelers on the high seas. Hold on tight, never ignore your gut feeling, and be safe and happy!!!!!