Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Its all about the weather (and perspective)

Karina says:
Sailing in the Sea of Cortez this year has so far been all about the weather. We've been averaging 1 day of calm weather to 5-6 days of winds greater than 25 knots. Needless to say this has restricted our movements somewhat.
After spending a week being bashed against the dock at the marina in Santa Rosalia, the weather calmed down enough for us to make a run down the coast to a place called Punta Chivato. It is basically just a collection of "gringo" houses on a big, beautiful beach with some protection from the north winds and seas. Despite a forecast of calm seas and no wind, we had a fast, bumpy sail the whole way, much to Gary's delight. Our main reason for stopping in Chivato was that is one of two stops between Santa Rosalia and La Paz (~200nm) where there is cell phone reception, so I could do my weekly work call.
Of course our next weather window looked like it would be Monday morning, during my call. As we didn't want to be stuck at Chivato for the next big Norther, we decided to sail down from Punta Chivato into the more protected Bahia Concepcion last Monday, and do my work call while underway (the cell phone tower was on the way). This sounded like a good plan the day before, but turned out to be a bit of a challenge. There wasn't much wind the morning we motored out of the anchorage, but the seas were pretty big. After realizing there was no way I could be below during the call, I carted my laptop and notes upstairs and did the call from the cockpit while Gary sailed us through the big seas at 2-3 knots. He did his best to make it a comfortable ride, but there was only so much he could do. Somehow I survived without throwing up…
We then spent a lovely week in Bahia Concepcion waiting for the next weather window. We inflated our water toys (SUP and little kayak) and explored the bay (during the morning before the winds picked up). It was even warm enough one day to swim!
The next weather window was, of course, on Monday - calm seas and no wind. Perfect for our next 50nm hop down the coast. Except I needed cell phone coverage for my work call. So instead of heading south with the rest of the boats from the anchorage, we sailed north back up to Punta Chivato and got the hook down just in time for my call. Overall we were OK with this plan as the forecast was still for decent seas on Tuesday…
Gary grumbled all day Monday about the awful motor we were going to have down the coast on Tuesday. Then the cold front that had been predicted came through overnight and created some un-predicted conditions. Instead of the flat seas and no wind we had been expecting, we sailed in 20+ knots of wind and 4-5 foot seas the whole way as we caught the tail end of the front. It was quite a wild ride. It was like being on a drunken sleigh ride while being nipped in the butt by a heard of rabid buffalos. At one point we turned around and noticed a compressed, dark anvil shaped cloud forming a couple of miles behind us. Coming out of the cloud was a tight thread of white water that looked suspiciously like a water spout… And it was heading straight for us. Needless to say we started preparing the boat to get hit by a major squall. We put on our foul weather gear, cleared the cockpit, and furled in the genoa. The winds were hitting about 27 knots and we didn't need the head sail to keep our speed above 6.5 knots! I, of course, wanted to reef the main before the squall hit us, but Gary wanted to leave everything up to see if we could out-run the squall. Despite my better judgement, I agreed and we sped along just in front of the squall for the next hour. Luckily for us the squall lost its energy and dissipated before it completely overwhelmed us. So I guess Gary won that round.
We arrived safely in Caleta San Juanico yesterday afternoon after traveling 55nm in 8.5 hours - an average of about 6.5 knots. A very fast run, especially since we sailed without a head sail for a couple of hours. We'll be here until at least Saturday waiting out the latest Norther. The winds are predicted to hit 38 knots this afternoon - it is currently blowing 25-30 knots in the anchorage. We are glad to be in here and not "out there"…

Gary Says:
I can't believe how fantastic the sailing season has been. Despite being constrained to places with internet so Karina can get paid, we've managed to sail everywhere we've needed to be. I was worried that the weather gods had stopped smiling upon us on Monday when everyone but us left for the next anchorage. In fact my misgivings were unfounded as everyone motored on Monday and we got a great sail (albeit with a water spout chasing us down). Hopefully the next weather window will turn out like all the rest and we will maintain our average boatspeed above 7 knots for the season. Maybe we will get lucky and it will increase to 8 knots!

This message was posted via Ham Radio. Sorry for the lack of pretty pictures... We'll upload them when we get back to internet.

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