Saturday, February 20, 2010

San Gabriel to Muertos

Passage: Bahia San Gabriel to Bahia de los Muertos

Travel time: 23.75 hours

Average speed: 2.3 knots (brought down by the night calm...)

Approximate mileage: 53.2 nautical miles

January 31st. The distance between the anchorage and the shore in Bahia San Gabriel (Isla Espiritu Santo) was very deceptive from the perspective of Tao’s cockpit. Chris and his dad sailed onto anchor in 15-20-feet of water which would normally imply a close proximity to the shoreline. Not in this case. It was a good 20 minute motor ride with all of Seahor’s 2 horsies working overtime before Eeyore landed ashore. But during the trip, they were rewarded with stunning water colors, from blue to light green, and everything in between as the sun shone brightly. Once finally ashore, it was hard to see Tao’s hull and mast bobbing out in the massive bay.

They began walking inland towards a large salt water lagoon rimmed with mangroves. Vegetation was sparse and rugged, spiny acacias, cacti, and lots of raw rock. They walked across 2.5-miles of spectacular desert scape. It was warm enough to work up a sweat, but nothing compared to the baking summertime temperatures. After about an hour of weaving through prickly underbrush they finally made it to the east side of the Isla overlooking the small bay formed by Punta Bonanza for a quick PB&J lunch. A small cruise ship was anchored peacefully in the lee of the point while small wavelets broke along a nicely formed sand beach littered with colorful seashells.

After lunch, Dave returned to San Gabriel via the direct return route while Chris explored the area around Punta Bonanza more thoroughly. He wanted to find the elusive hot springs that were described briefly in the old Charlie’s Chart cruising guide. No dice. His efforts were instead rewarded with the discovery of an old set of concrete foundations apparently left from a failed business venture or fishing village and a the spotting of a Conejo Negro, an endemic species of black rabbit on the island.

Rocky was hauled aboard the next day (February 1st), and sails were set. There was a surprisingly heavy pull of an unknown force towards La Paz. Mechanics could be found in La Paz, and parts could be shipped down from the States. Plus, we could contact Doug, the sailmaker and canvas guru at Snug Harbor Sails about a future wishlist upgrade…a dodger. Thus, the delay could be used to address two goals instead of one. Furthermore, Chris already knew his way around La Paz because of the time he and Shawn spent there last winter and the ambrosia served in the form of homemade ice cream from the masters at La Fuente was particularly enticing. All in all, the tractor beam now aimed at Tao from La Paz was getting dangerously close and indeed, course was set for La Paz.

Fortunately, word over the ham airwaves arrived that boat engine parts could take weeks to get down to La Paz. As can be seen in the passage track above, Tao abruptly turned 180 degrees and course was newly set for Bahia de los Muertos, staging ground for the southern crossing of the Sea of Cortez. New destination: Mazatlan; where flight arrangements awaited Dave and fortuitously(?) the only certified Yanmar mechanics on the West Coast of Mexico are based.

Tao tacked east through Lorenzo channel on a building NE breeze and navigation was via our previous waypoints and depth monitoring as the channel markers had been removed. Besides tacking, entertainment included watching an undersized motorboat with a blue flashing light on top trying to maneuver the huge replacement channel buoys into place as we sailed by. Winds were very favorable on the beam into the evening as miles were quickly ticked off to Muertos between Isla Cerralvo and the Baja peninsula. But night fell, and so did the winds. As was the case last time Tao approached Muertos nearly a year previously, the rest of the night and some of the morning of February 2nd was spent covering the last 18 of the 53-mile journey. Mid morning the hook was set in Bahia de los Muertos, where 4 other yachts were anchored.

No rest for the weary as Chris and Dave headed into the Bay of Dreams Beach Club (renamed for marketing purposes) and spent the afternoon on the internet, using the telephone, and attempting to get parts mailed to Mexico before they set off across to Mazatlan. As they sat in the palapa eating a large plate of arrachera (a popular beef cut with the locals), a large dark cell of rain descended upon the anchorage, delivering a deluge of water complete with thunder and several lightening bolts. Still, weather reports from saildocs GRIB files and Don and Geary on the Amigo and Sonrisa Nets, respectively, were looking good for a morning departure. Rain continued to fall after sunset, and it was even cool enough to dust off the diesel cabin heater. The cabin hadn’t been that cozy since Chris and Shawn were anchored at Little Harbor on Catalina Island welcoming in the new year of 2009. Time to catch up on some sleep…

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