“The Bash” is the term fondly used to describe the passage from Cabo San Lucas, at the bottom of the Baja Peninsula, to Ensenada, nearly 800 miles north and only 70 miles south of San Diego, California. We are doing the extended version, since we’re going all the way back to BC, nearly 3,000 miles. The term refers to going against both wind and current, causing boats to ‘bash’ north into the seas and wind.
We left Puerto Los Cabos on Saturday, April 16, and had a leisurely three hour trip to the big, open bay at Cabo San Lucas. Fortunately the anchorage wasn’t as rolly as we remembered from 2013. We weren’t crazy about spending an afternoon and evening anchored off the beach, but it knocked three hours off the first leg of our passage to Magdalena Bay, 177 miles to the north.
Cabo San Lucas…hummm….Would we like to go there by plane and stay in a resort? No! What a zoo! Loads of bars along the beach with music and dj’s doing their best to lure drinkers in. Then there were large party boats everywhere, blaring loud obnoxious music. No sooner would one pass by us, than another would approach from a different direction, playing more loud party music. There were massive catamarans doing sunset drinking cruises, complete with live bands and even a couple of “pirate” ships adding to the overall noise. In between all these party boats were para-sail power boats looking for adventurers, and rented jet skis whipping around. I’m not sure what the appeal is to any of the above. Guess it takes all kinds.
We headed to bed around 2100h. and set the alarm for 0300h., leaving the anchorage at 4:00, in the dark. While in Los Cabos, we bought a secondhand copy of “The Baja Bash II” from a cruiser heading for the South Pacific, who no longer needed it. The book was full of helpful information about cruisers heading to Ensenada, including preparation, wind and wave conditions, anchorage details, etc. Jim reviewed it immediately and picked up a few helpful tips.
Another sailboat anchored at Cabo San Lucas, called Pacific Star, was anchored near us. A friend of ours from La Paz, named Ray was crewing for Horst and they were heading to San Fransisco where Horst lived. We also reconnected with Dennis Giraud from Ultegra, out of Vancouver. Dennis, who joined us for lunch at the Puerto Los Cabos Marina, was single handing all the way home to BC. The three sailboat skippers all agreed to stay in radio contact if possible over the first few days.
The weather was very cooperative on Sunday, April 16, and stayed that way for the first four days. Long low swells flattened out by noon, with little wind on Sunday and we motored north making good time, cruising at an average speed of 7.2. Putting that four-blade Max Prop on made a huge difference to our speed!
The further away we got from the tip of Cabo Falso, west of Cabo San Lucas, the more wildlife we spotted. Humpback whales leisurely swimming north, and a few seals and sea lions popping up to check us out. Mid afternoon we spotted a huge patch of white against the shimmering aqua blue water. We changed course slightly to check it out and found ourselves approaching a huge flock of white terns with sleek black patterned heads and long beaks. As we got closer they rose, one at a time like popcorn popping, until they were all flying, circling above us in formation before settling down again on the flat, oily looking water once we motored on.
During the afternoon we witnessed our own personal porpoise show too! A dozen bottle nosed porpoises swam straight towards Falcon VII and played in our bow wave for a few minutes. They looked so happy to see us! We both stood laughing, leaning over our pulpit watching them crisscrossing our bow wave and spotted two babies swimming among the adults. As if on cue, they peeled off to starboard, jumping clear out of the water over and over as they dashed away.
We had planned on stopping at Bahia Santa Maria just outside of Bahia Magdelena, but the weather said “keep going” so we kept going. The winds maxed out at 15 knots, so we unrolled part of the head sail and motor-sailed for another 12 hours, arriving at Bahia San Juanico around dusk Monday evening; 284 miles and 39 hours after leaving Cabo San Lucas.
We were tired but happy that we pushed ourselves to get there. Street lights at twilight showed us where the small town sat, perched above the cliffs that provided some shelter from the north wind. There were massive breakers, tipped with wind-swept spray to the west of us in the shallow bay. Since neither of us had slept much in the last two days, we headed to bed right after dinner and were back up by 0700h to continue on to Turtle Bay, another 26 hours and 200 miles to the north.
The weather held and Tuesday was calm as we headed out of Bahia San Juanico at the same time as a dozen fishing pangas. Many just had to get as close to us as they could, often waving as they splashed by us. The day was uneventful except, for the first time in nearly three years, we encountered patches of fog throughout the afternoon and night. We saw little wild life except the odd sea turtle, sometimes with a seabird sitting comfortably on its back.
During the afternoon, I had an encounter with a frigging frigate. Frigates were partially responsible for the mess on Falcon VII when we returned from Canada. They’re opportunistic birds and there was NO WAY I was going to let that bird land on our boat! I screamed like a banshee and yelled at the top of my lungs at the frigate. If he flew towards our spreaders, I ran forward and grabbed an unused halyard and wiggled it violently while screaming “No! You are not going to land on our boat!” The bird would fly off, circle around and return, flapping it’s wings and air braking for another attempt at landing on the pulpit or top of the mast or a spreader. I would run back and forward along the side deck, screaming at it to the point where Jim wondered if I had lost it and finally gone over the edge. I laughed, shook my head and said I was fine, but I was NOT going to let that bird land, no matter what. If it had landed it would have been very hard to convince it to leave. Frigates often damage wind instruments, perched at the top of the mast, or leave droppings like we had in Los Cabos. Eventually the *!#* bird got the message and settled on the water as we motored away.
As the day wore on, there was more of a chill in the air and we started pulling out sweaters, socks, shoes and long pants, towards evening. We stuck to our 3 on and 3 off watches around the clock. That means that you are on the helm for three hours, then off resting for three hours, then on again for three hours, etc. until you reach the next anchorage. Jim always compensated me by spending extra time on the helm, while I did the meal preparation time, which can be quite challenging, depending on conditions.
During the night passage Tuesday evening, humidity increased considerably so that the inside of the dodger was as wet as the outside. It was impossible to see anything through it, so we kept track of our course on our chart plotter and radar. Even if we could see out, there was little moon noticeable above the patches of fog. From time to time, I looked up at the bright stars and the full moon directly above us, though I was shrouded in fog. Every time the fog lifted, I sighed with relief because it felt less confining if I could at least see a bit of distance around me.
We arrived at Turtle Bay early Wednesday morning, anxious to get fuel then sleep, but that didn’t happen. The fuel dock we remembered from 2013 was gone! We anchored, then two fellows in a panga came out see us. They had the business of transporting diesel from the old fuel dock to the boats at anchor. Pretty much every boat heading north or south has to stop at Turtle Bay for fuel, since the coast is so isolated. It was extremely expensive, but we had no choice but to pay the high cost of fuel in the middle of nowhere. It was $4.10 US a gallon plus a $400 peso delivery fee.
Since both Pacific Star and Ultegra were anchored, we radioed them and discussed approaching weather. A new weather system was due to hit by late Thursday, so we all decided to make a run for it. So much for sleep! By 11:30 a.m. we were on our way again, hoping to reach Ensenada before the 15 – 20 knot winds hit. Unfortunately the seas kicked up sooner than we hoped, as did the wind and we were forced to change course and go into our bail spot, Bahia San Quintin, 110 miles short of Ensenada.
We were SO close to making it to Ensenada in only 5 days, something we were very proud of! Instead, we found ourselves sitting in Bahia San Quintin for 5 days, waiting for the winds and seas to die down. Pacific Star kept going all the way to San Fransisco, arriving 13 days later.
Bahia San Quintin is a big, open shallow bay. After two days, we re-anchored in a different spot, since the swells were so severe that they almost tossed us out of bed, like a bingo ball in the cage! Dennis, on Ultegra, arrived at San Quintin on Friday just before sunset. Erin on Fairy Tale was there when we arrived on Thursday. She was single-handing on a Catalina 30, heading south. Another boat, I’ll call Cordon, since I don’t have permission to name them, arrived Friday morning, having come all the way from San Fransisco in 14 days. We only spoke briefly to them during Friday, but answered a distress call from them at 4:50 a.m. Saturday morning. They had lost their chain and anchor and woke up when their keel hit the bottom, as they drifted into the surf close to shore.
Sitting at anchor for a few days gets tedious. The only socializing we did was to chat on the radio a couple of times a day with both Dennis and Erin, so on Sunday evening I organized ‘story time’ after dinner. Fairy Tale, Ultegra and Falcon VII all tuned into Channel 17, where each of us contributed stories for the others to listen to. It was great to learn more about our fellow cruisers and we all enjoyed it very much, especially Dennis and Erin, who had no other company but the radio, for days on end. Well, that’s not entirely true…Erin had her four legged companions, her seagoing cat and dog were with her! We had been anchored where you see those breakers on the other side of Ultegra. Erin decided to leave the anchorage before dawn on Monday, sick of bouncing around in the uncomfortable swells, wind and waves. Since she was heading south, the wind and waves were her friends, giving her a much needed push towards Turtle Bay. We wished her well and hope to hear from her along the line. Monday was another rough but uneventful day at San Quintin, spent reading, watching movies and preparing meals. We knew there was a small village up the estuary, but we couldn’t take the dinghy through the surf to reach it.
Tuesday morning the seas finally settled down and we had a few hours of calm weather for the first time in days, so Dennis kayaked over to Falcon VII for a brunch of bacon, eggs, toast and fresh fruit. We admired him, getting into his kayak from the stern of Ultegra, kayaking between the boats, then getting out of the kayak and onto Falcon’s side deck, while we lurched side to side in the rolling swells. He even managed to stay pretty dry during the process! We all enjoyed our meal together and getting to know each other better, finding lots in common. Since his engine was acting up after Turtle Bay, he was forced to sail the entire distance to Ensenada without using his engine. Consequently, while we hoped for calm weather to motor north, he decided to leave later Tuesday, even though the north winds were blowing 15 – 20 knots again. We stayed by ourselves until Wednesday morning, then pushed off to Punta Colonet, 46 miles further north, to break up the trip to Ensenada. The conditions were tolerable but windy again, so we were glad to finally anchor just before dinner time.
Unfortunately, Punta Colonet turned out to be just as exposed and open as Bahia San Quintin! We spent all day Thursday bouncing around in the swells, watching the breakers smash against the rugged shoreline. We hoped the massive cliffs would offer some protection, but they didn’t and the northerlies blew relentlessly.
It was cold out, with the howling winds blowing day and night. The current was also extremely strong, so we were beam on in 15 – 20 knots of wind, meaning we were lying sideways in the swells. A very uncomfortable way to live, but we managed none-the-less. I wouldn’t say we got used to it, but we tolerated it as there was nothing else to do. When it came to making meals, I worked in the galley with my legs spread wide apart, trying to keep my balance while I dug food out of the fridge and from inside lockers. Dishes and food moved across the counter at will, so I was constantly grabbing stuff before it hit the sole. I kept the stove gimballed so pots stayed upright as Falcon VII lurched from side to side.
On Friday we thought we had a weather window and decided to leave for Ensenada mid morning, but after three hours of pounding into 10 foot swells and winds that increased to 15 knots on the nose again, we turned around and sailed back to the anchorage. The winds increased to a maximum of 28 knots off the Point, so it was a very good call by Jim to turn around! By mid afternoon, we anchored again, but this time in 25 knots of bitterly cold winds. We have NEVER anchored in such strong winds in such an open bay, but we felt we had no choice! It was better than pounding into big seas and increasing winds that dropped our speed from its usual 7.2 knots per hour to 4.5 knots per hour, which would have extended our trip by about a day!
Those kinds of conditions also put extra strain on our amazing Yanmar engine, which we try to avoid at all times if we can. So we photographed the breakers around us and waited somewhat patiently the rest of Friday and Saturday for the winds to finally die down. By Sunday morning, we were more than ready to try again for Ensenada, definitely looking forward to stretching our legs on shore and resting in a protected marina.
On Sunday, May 1st, the wind gods looked upon us favourably and we motor sailed 10 hours, arriving at Cruiseport Marina, Ensenada at 1600h. Dennis was already there, having arrived on Thursday, so he ran over to our assigned slip and grabbed our lines. Pats on the back, juice in the cockpit and a delicious, but expensive, dinner followed in town on Sunday evening.
So we dashed for 4 days, then anchored and bashed for another 10 days. Total days from Cabo San Lucas to Ensenada: 14. Total Distance: 829 miles!