three hulls, two people, one trip around the world…

Baja California – Pacific coast

Our fingers were itching, the wind was ok, wait any longer and it would get too strong. So, off we went. Unfortunately, it also meant saying goodbye to the crew of the Fradolin. Before we left, we had a barbecue together and went to the market for a second time, bought Chilean brown bread (very tasty, many Germans emigrated to Chile) and ate Mexican stuffed pancakes. That Sunday, we drove to the end of the bay, to Punta Mita. That’s where my last blog entry ended.

It followed a time with a lot of sailing, motor sailing, wind and calm, reefing, changing watches at night. The seating area in the cockpit was again converted into a place to sleep. Our first leg was from Banderas Bay across to Baja California. We didn’t want to stop at the cape, but headed straight for a point further north. The first anchor stop was Bahia Santa Maria, where we stayed for one night.

The climate here is no longer tropical. The wind is mostly cool to cold, at night it cools down quite a bit, but during the day in the sun it feels like summer in Germany. At least we can wear T-shirts again, so we have more clothes to choose from 😉 The duvets are also being used again after I let them air out properly.

Due to the change in wind strength and direction, the journey was somewhat exhausting. Here are 2 days as an excerpt from my diary (I take over the helm at midnight):

Thursday: During the night the wind freshened up. It went up to 20 knots, we tied in the 2nd reef. The wind changed direction often and was gusty, making steering difficult. We had to make a lot of corrections on the autopilot. During the day we fled from a strong wind area and then sailed along the edge of a second area. In the evening we speeded well along the coast. During the night (23:30) the dinghy had shifted out of it’s brackets. The waves had been crashing too badly around the boat. Mathias held tight to the dinghy, I had to get up and go to the helm to steer into the wind. That gave us a bit of peace and quiet for the time being. We took off the tarpaulin and strapped the dinghy down again. 126 nm.

In the small video you can see our route from Punta Mita in Banderas Bay, past Cape San Lucas to the first anchorage in Santa Maria Bay. The weather data shown was obtained daily via satellite as a Grib file. The two strong wind areas that we were able to avoid are clearly visible:

Friday: Mathias stayed awake as long as the strong wind was blowing. Between 1:00 and 2:00 the wind decreased. At first it was still going well, then there was a period with wind shifts and little wind. When it became too slow for me, I started the engine. A quarter of an hour later, the wind was back and we were making good progress. Mathias woke up when we were speeding once more. Typical, it’s hard to believe why it was so tedious before and why the average speed was spoiled. Until noon we could sail well, then a phase with little wind followed and we used the motor again to reach the anchorage in daylight. Shortly before the bay we saw whales. One of them jumped twice vertically out of the water very close to us. But he didn’t want to repeat the stunt for the camera. 98 nm.

You can see from the nautical miles that we didn’t exactly make fast progress here against the wind and with a few calms in between.

On we went to Abreojos (from Abre Ojos = Open your eyes!). You should be careful in the area because there are many shallows, fishing buoys and whales. There is supposed to be a national park nearby where grey whales calve. Panga tours are supposed to leave from Abreojos. Outside the village, however, it looked very lonely. There were only 2-3 fishing pangas. Unfortunately, we could not take several days to go ashore and make enquiries. Mathias had agreed to give a talk online for the DSV about anchoring on the 10th and he had a work appointment on the 14th. So internet was an issue again. Abreojos is only connected with 3G, which is not enough for lectures. Baja California’s Pacific coast is an internet desert, so we had to go 160 nm further to the next spot.

The change in wind strength is sometimes very abrupt, there are real wind edges. You know how it is, but it was strange when the wind dropped from 22 knots to 7 knots completely unexpectedly. You feel like you’ve been stopped completely. Once during my night watch, we sailed close to the coast. There are often fishing boats on the way. That night we were under windward steering, and the unsteady wind can make you shift back and forth a bit. The small fishermen all have no AIS and they also save battery power. That means they only switch on their navigation lights when they see a boat coming towards them. For me, this meant that I never really knew if and where another boat was. Once I saw a light and even a green navigation light and was happy to be able to see where the other boat was. But poof, the lights went out again. Well, it was going in the other direction ….

After leaving Abreojos, the next anchorage was in Sebastian Vizcaino Bay. We entered the bay through a channel between Punta Eugenia and Natividad Island. This channel was bustling with life: Fishing buoys and whales, shallows and currents. We kept a good lookout the whole time. It was a passage that should never be made in the dark. When the wind and waves were not very strong just outside the channel, I was able to go forward to untie a knot in one genoa sheet that had knotted itself around the other at a height of about 1.90 metres. This had happened to us when we had to take in the genoa in a lot of wind to replace it with the jib. When doing this, you also have to watch out for the loose sheet on the other side and we hadn’t managed that well in the strong wind. Just finished with this task, we noticed the next problem. We had forgotten the fishing rod overnight and the line pulled away to the back at a strange angle. The line had probably wrapped itself around the rudder blade – not good at all. But first we had to go through the channel. Shortly after the channel, the wind was light again and we stopped and let ourselves drift. I got ready to go into the water and have a look. Because the water here is only about 21 degrees, I put on the thick wetsuit and I only had a cold head. It took me about an hour to wind up the fishing line, to find out how the line was wound around the suspension of the rudder blade and to fix it by means of several dives.

Sebastian Vizcaino Bay was our 3rd anchor stop. We stayed there for 3 nights, but we changed the position every day. For the second night, to optimise the internet reception. Then we got closer to the coast. The following day, local fishermen came to our boat with their pangas and warned us of high waves that the strong wind forecast for the night would bring. They told us that we should rather anchor further out. You should always follow such advice. The fishermen know their area and the local weather. So we went further out in the evening, always watching out for whales. At the new anchorage, we were in about 17 m water depth and brought out almost 100 m of chain. One could sleep soundly.

Mathias giving his talk.

On the way out of the bay and north, we were once again accompanied by a group of dolphins. Often we don’t even notice them because they usually swim around the front of the boat. The faster the boat sails, the more fun the dolphins have. You can hardly see them move, but they dodge the bow tips with ease and elegance, or swim across before diving down. Surely we are also accompanied by other sea creatures. You can sometimes tell when the depth indicator suddenly reads 50 metres in the middle of a kilometre-deep ocean. That’s a whale or a school of fish underneath you.

After Sebastian Vizcaino Bay, we sailed to St. Quintin. You can’t go ashore there, but you can anchor in a sheltered spot and, yes, the internet is back. 🙂 We sailed through a whole day and the second night, arriving a little too early. The last stretch we had to move as slowly as possible so that we could anchor after sunrise. Sailing-wise, nothing special happened on this stretch, but the technic was playing games with us. We had the impression for a while that the autopilot was sometimes making strange movements. On this trip, the GPS data was suddenly lost. The autopilot could still steer relative to the wind, but the boat’s speed, course and position were no longer displayed. Afterwards we found out that you can provide the plotter with a number of other sources for it’s GPS data, but at that moment we were at a loss. The iPad has maps and its own GPS reception, so we weren’t completely disoriented yet. Switching the plotter off and on saved us for the time being. However, the whole procedure had to be executed several times. When we were anchored at St. Quintin, Mathias therefore took a look at the system. It turned out that the antenna could not see enough satellites (“only” 6). But it was also hidden under the navigation table next to various other devices. Mathias took out the antenna and moved it to a new location, more in the middle of the boat. Now the GPS antenna can see 12 satellites, determine the position much more accurately and hopefully we will be spared further failures.

We spent 2 nights at St. Quintin. We wanted to let a strong wind area pass by. It blew over us with up to 30 knots. Not a wind you want to cruise against. The next day, the inevitable calm followed. We sailed off, but not very far. The swell was still so high that the waves were long but reached up to 4m in height. Down in the boat it felt like being on a roller coaster (in slow motion). At one point you were looking against a wall of water, then there was only sky to be seen. We only suffered that until we reached the next island. There we hid from the swell at noon.

The following day, the water had calmed down and we drove in two stages to the bay near Ensenada. The first stage took us to a place called Puerto Santo Tomas, but it has no resemblance to a harbour. There is only a very small place with a slip ramp and a few possibilities for panga boats. The place itself consists of a few houses and a few mobile homes. Mobile phone reception is shielded by the surrounding mountains. And the whole bay is littered with seaweed. It was ok to spend the night, but not recommendable.

After a very slow day’s journey, we reached Ensenada. That was Saturday evening. We anchored and will not go to the marina until Monday. You can’t do any formalities at the weekend anyway. Ensenada is the last port in Mexico, we have to clear out of the country here.

Some more comments on mobile internet:

It may seem strange how often I talk about the Internet. For us, the hunt for the right connection is part of the travel planning. Yes, there is the possibility of accessing the internet via satellite. So far, however, I have not come across a system with which this is feasible at a good price. (Under the link from one of the last comments, there was no price information.) At the latest when it comes to the small print, even the unlimited data volumes are no longer what they originally promised. Doing without the internet altogether would of course also be an option. But we haven’t completely burnt our bridges in Germany, so there are decisions to be made now and then, we also use online banking and Mathias still works for NXP. Besides, it’s just nice to be able to stay in touch with family and friends. Even super-expensive systems are not infallible. An acquaintance of ours had a satellite internet connection that cost tens of thousands of dollars and promised constant internet access for around 1000 dollars a month. But he then found that his carbon-fibre sails shaded the antenna and reception was not possible. In short, reasonably cheap and quite good in most areas, the method is to use local phone cards and the mobile phone network to provide internet access. Because most cruising sailors use this method, I like to report on good or bad connectivity. It also becomes a kind of sport to be the first to discover the radio mast 😉 In areas like Baja California, this search can become a real task. Especially if there are also arranged appointments to keep. However, the whole thing also has its good sides. Normally we would have driven past Bahia Sebastian Vizcaino like most others. But because there is the only good internet spot far and wide, we stopped there. The bay is home to many whales at this time of year. They swam close to our boat and it was nice to watch them.

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