11-18-07 Sailing to Cabo San Lucas. Part 1
When sailing offshore I enjoy the midnight to early morning watch. There’s nothing quite like watching the stars and moon slide across a blue/black night sky while at sea.
We’d sailed out of Coos Bay, Oregon on the coattails of a big blow. A week or so later, after a few days spent playing in San Francisco, we were South of Point Conception and about 5 miles offshore. The weather had been favorable and we’d been under full sail all night . Just after the sun came over the horizon, the air began to get very warm, then hot. In that part of the world those type winds are called Santa Anas. I’d experienced them while growing up and living in Riverside, CA. I never liked hot dry winds and still don’t. The episode offshore of Santa Barbara did nothing to change my opinion.
The wind went from 5 to 50 knots in a matter of minutes. I called for help and, still half asleep, my wife and son rushed up on deck. I handed the tiller over to my wife, while Jeff and I went up on the foredeck, almost being blown overboard at times, and wrestled the sails onto the deck. With no time to bag the sails, we secured them to the rails with bungey cords. The boat sustained rigging damage and we spent a week in Channel Islands Harbor making repairs.
When we got to Mexico we checked in at Ensenada and, later that same day, sailed southwest with the first night spent anchored in the lee of a small island ; name unknown. We sailed through the second night after looking at the charts and deciding not to try to anchor in a small, questionably safe cove on the south end of a low sand spit. Our next intended anchorage was Isla Cedros, which is offshore of Scammon’s Lagoon and on the Pacific side of the Baja pennisula..
Scammon’s Lagoon was named after an old time whaling skipper. He’d discovered where whales went to breed and have their calves. It had been his secret for a number of years, and is now a wildlife sanctuary. I understand it might be possible to get a permit from the Mexican government to go there ,but we didn’t try..
After sailing long days and an overnight, all under less than ideal conditions, by the time we’d anchored in the lee of Cedros we were ready to eat and get some sleep. The next day we needed to make long mileage in order to get to Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay) before dark. I’d never been into Turtle Bay before and if we didn’t make the entrance while it was still light, we’d have to sail on or stay offshore until morning. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Early in the morning, on our way to Isla Cedros and after our all night sail south of Enesnada, I noticed what looked like the small white caps that accompanied the Santa Ana wind in CA. I woke everyone and told them we had to get all sail down and secured immediately. We noticed another set of white caps coming from the opposite direction, with us being the intersecting point. Crossing winds can cause a waterspout, a tornado at sea, and we couldn’t get out of the way quickly enough. We were 20 miles offshore, sailing due south toward Isla Cedros.
While I was hurriedly preparing for the worst, Jeff asked for the binoculars. Pointing toward the “whitecaps” coming from the east he said, “It looks like fleas jumping out of the water.” It turned out to be spinner dolphins. Smaller than the bottlenose dolphins, they spin through the air when clearing the water. Looking to the west we saw those whitecaps were large dolphins. Anxiety turned to awe.
The two groups crossed directly beneath our boat. Thousands of dolphins, large and small, intersected like birds in flight. There were no collisions, as spinners leaped through the air and bottlenoses surfed our bow wake. Lying on our bellies on deck with palms skimming the water, the big dolphins would come up and touch our hands with their backs, all the time watching with big, wary eyes. Their backs were as slick as the slipperiest grease. If we moved our hand, they zoomed off at incredible speed. As long as they could call the shots, concerning who touched whom and when, they’d allow us to place our hands on them. I have photos of dolphins, stacked on top of dolphins, as far as the eye could see into the crystal clear water.
With high level Mare’s tail wind clouds coming from the west, we began sailing slower and slower on an almost windless sea. The dolphins grew tired of our slow pace and went their separate ways and we began motorsailing south towards Isla Cedros.
As the day wore on ,cat’s claws, little wind gusts, skittered across the water and black clouds rolled in from the west. By late afternoon, Isla Cedros hadn’t appeared on the horizon and we weren’t making much headway powered only by the one cylinder diesel auxiliary.
Evening enveloped the ocean around us, sporadic lightning streaked the clouds, occasional gusts turned to heavy wind and soaking rain. We hoisted our storm sails for the sail into the night.
After six or seven hours of heavy weather we were in the lee of Isla Cedros. Cedros falls off like a cliff, and we had to anchor too close to the rock walls for comfort. With bow and stern anchors out we were in 40 feet of water, not 30 feet from shore. Wind gusts rolled down the cliffs and buffeted us around. And, another animal adventure was in store after a late night dinner