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Whiskey Charlie is Sailing Again

It took me three half days to install the new steering hub, dual steering cables, and control arm after my mother arrived with the parts from Maryland. We didn’t quite get on the same page and she ended up paying the import fees to bring the parts into Mexico which should have been waived because repair parts are exempt for permitted vessels. Regardless, I was happy to receive the parts after five weeks immobile in La Paz even if it cost us an additional $80 in fees. I was impressed with the new steering hub compared to the old one (19 years old) which failed. The steering is now smooth and more responsive than before and we hope to receive another 10 years or more of good service out of these steering parts!

We had a great visit with “Mimi” as my mother is known to the kids. We enjoyed succulent arracherra tacos, excellent camarrones, cold beer, and some beautiful sunsets in La Paz. We didn’t have any particularly strong weather but the winds were always out of the North which precluded any short excursions out to entertain Mimi. Our friends on Iron Butterfly, Peter and Barbara, had just arrived before Mimi flew in and Barbara flew out the exact same day for a family visit in California. As of this date, they should have just departed for the South Pacific in their 46 foot steel ketch. Peter joined a few times for cold drinks, great Blues, some dancing on the beach, and a few windsurfing lessons. Not that it matters but Peter is 65 and strong and active. I hope I’m in that active in 24 years.

After a sad goodbye bidding Mimi farewell, we spent the following three days wrapping up loose ends, provisioning, and one last Hurrah with Iron Butterfly. On Thursday morning we raised anchor with the fading remnants of the SouthWest Corumel winds and motor sailed out of the long channel to the Sea of Cortez. Once clear of La Paz, we picked up enough wind to sail downwind and comfortably reacquaint ourselves with the motions of the sea reaching towards Puerto Balandra 10nm to the south. Our first stop was a short hop to visit a picturesque bay with the noted the mushroom rock, “El Hongo”. I worked on some sail repair on the luff line of the headsail while Hil kayaked the kids ashore to run around on the long shallow white sandy beach that draws tourists from La Paz. The winds picked up out of the Northeast and then shifted straight out of the North which produced a long swell right into the bay. We slept nary a wink on our first night away from La Paz and at first light raised anchor and motored into a marginally more sheltered corner of the bay behind reef line.

We motored around the corner to Caleta Lobos where friends on “Wendy Ellen” had arrived yesterday. This young family from Australia was slowly making their way North up the Sea of Cortez to explore before crossing the Pacific back to Australia next season. They have an infant son and the girls enjoy playing with him. We had a nice visit in the small bay and I we pulled out the windsurf rig and kayak to play for a few hours in the crystal clear waters.

I took advantage of our shallow draft and anchored the boat in less than four feet while it was calm in the morning and cleaned the bottom one. I can honestly say I can clean the bottom of our boat without getting my hair wet. Since our Gemini 3400 only draws 18″ with the rudders tucked up, I try to anchor in three feet and sometimes need to kneel down in the sandy bottom to reach the widest part of the hull. We have become experts at shallow draft anchoring. If we can anchor in five feet of water a 5:1 scope for anchoring means only 25 feet of chain that I need to haul up by wind without a windlass. My back is SO much happier NOT raising 150′ of rode and chain in addition to our new 36lb Delta anchor. Right now there is a great exodus North from La Paz towards Puerto Escondido and San Carlos to haul out for hurricane season and we’re finding all the best anchorages have five or more boats already anchored by the time we arrive in the afternoon. Being able to anchor in shallow water means I can boldly motor right up close to shore and drop anchor with out a worry.

The next morning we raised the main and motor/sailed out of the anchorage to catch the South West winds to Espiritu Santos and Isla Partida, a group of islands about 20 nm from La Paz. After a great sail we anchored in Partida, an anchorage in between the islands connected by a sandy spit. The girls needed to get off the boat. We needed to get the girls off the boat! A few hours playing on the beach is comparable to a sleeping pill for the kids. An early dinner and they are out! It was rolly in the bay from the nighttime Corumel winds out of the South West. We decided not to waste the South wind and raised anchor to enjoy being pushed along with the wind to Isla San Francisco 20nm north. We sailed in 20kn of wind off the beam before rounding the point before deploying the asymmetrical spinnaker in 12kn of wind. The asymmetrical spinnaker is my favorite sail on the Gemini. We drop the main, furl the head sail and the spinnaker will pull us at half wind speed up to about 14kn of true wind. Our boat weighs in a 4 tons dry and we have been safely able to fly the spinnaker around the 20kn mark.

Isla San Francisco is a pretty island with three different anchorages depending on wind and wave direction. Heading south, we anchored in the south west anchorage to hide from a Norther. Now we ducked into the South East anchorage to hide from the South West Corumel Winds. The first night was roll from the swell that wrapped around the island but the wind was manageable. We were surprised to talk with sailors the next day in the South West anchorage who complained of 24kn winds all night! We re-anchored closer to shore and the second night was much calmer.

The next morning the weather was predicted to be light South South West 6-9kn before turning to the North East for a few days. While light, we decided to take advantage of the winds to make some headway North. We would rather motor in light following winds than motor in choppy winds right on the nose any day. That seems to be the norm for the Sea of Cortez. The best weather is usually when the winds are around 10 kn and we can avoid bashing into the short period chop. The downside, the winds usually die mid day and we end up motoring at least part of the way to the next anchorage. This day was no different. We were able to run with the spinnaker most of the day until the wind died below 4kn and we ran the iron genny the last 3 hours to drop anchor in Puerto Los Gatos around 4:30pm.

After dropping the anchor a fisherman in a panga pulled alongside and we made small talk with our horrible spanish. The fisherman and his son, Manuel and Manuel Jr, enjoyed seeing the kids and asked if we were interested in lobster. We prefer fish. He asked if Pargo was OK. We said absolutely and he took off for two other boat pulling into the bay for the evening. About an hour later, Manuel came back around with a fresh caught Pargo still cold from the water. Apparently he went out and free dived for it with a sling, a three pronged stick with a rubber band on the end. Talk about fresh fish! We traded a gallon of gas and half a bottle of 2 stroke oil for the whole fish. It probably took me longer to fillet the fish than it took him to catch it! But it was good! We had fish for dinner and fish tacos for lunch the next day.

The next morning Emma and I kayaked to shore to hike the hills and take a few pictures of the Bay. From the top of the low hills I could feel a slight southerly wind. When we returned to the boat, Hil and I decided to once again not waste a light wind day and we raised anchor to keep moving the boat forward to the North. We motored in less than 3 kn of wind for the first three hours when we rounded a point near Aqua Verde. The wind picked up to 10kn and we were able to fly the spinnaker for 3 hours making 5-6kn until the wind died again and the iron genny finished our journey into Bahia Candeleros where we are now.

Puerto Escondido hosts the annual Loretofest, which happens to be this weekend. We didn’t plan on attending but here we are. Puerto Escondido is 7nm to the north across the bay. We think we will enjoy Bahia Candeleros fro two days and then motor over for tacos and values music at Loretofest on Saturday.

Sailing South, we made the trip from San Juanico to La Paz in three weeks. Heading North, we are potentially two day hops away from San Juanico in about a week from La Paz. Coming South we waited out two northers that blew through the sea sending steep choppy waves that would have been mighty uncomfortable. This time we have been fortunate to hit the southerlies right and make some good time going north.

Well, Saturday morning is the Loretofest swap meet (how I love a bargain!) in the morning and then Blues Explosion, a band we liked in La Paz, is playing at 6pm. It looks like we will enjoy this comfortable bay with free WIFI today and Friday and then hop the 7nm to Escondido in time for the festivities there for the day. Sunday we can restock some supplies and fuel before waiting for the next south wind to blow us to San Juanico 40nm further north.

Then the crossing to San Carlos.

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1 comment to Whiskey Charlie is Sailing Again

  • rcrracer

    Looks like Bumfuzzle and Kasasa sailboats are just up the coast from you at bahia candeleros.