The last nasty 36 hours heading into Cabo San Lucas were an endurance test. Overnight, we bucked winds and seas. It was one of those passages during which no one sleeps. There was sail up, despite it being even a bit much with the main reefed. At 3 am the decision was made to drop the main. By morning, it was as calm as it could be and the grins spread on all three tired faces, as we motored through calm waters and sunshine.
The grins were replaced with grimaces during the last stretch into Cabo San Lucas. Watching the shore, it looked like we were not moving at all. With the engine working hard, and concern for adequate fuel for the fight, the opposing winds and high, choppy seas were causing us to make less than a knot of speed. Along with the slow progress, darkness looming, and over three inches of water washing over the decks, our inner stay was also swinging loose. Fearing it would come undone altogether, two of us went forward to tighten it and wire it in place. We should have been grateful that the seas pounding us were warm.
Unable to reach anyone on the radio, and having done a tour inside the breakwater, we found no moorage at the marina and headed back out to anchor in the bay. It was not a calm anchorage, but it was a pleasant change to anchor and at last, in the dark, we were all relieved.
After saying goodbye to our crew member, Kevin, who was returning to Canada, we remained anchored for a week in the noisy and busy anchorage. We left Cabo San Lucas thinking we would head for Los Frailes on the way to La Paz. It started as a windless day and the iron jib was front and center. The wind started to build and since we had sailed a lot less than we would have liked, and diesel was not cheap, we decided to sail, albeit not quite in the direction we wanted to go. The wind built and we put the first reef in the main. The wind continued to build and the second reef went in. We needed to turn more towards land and to think if this was really what we wanted to be doing.
Gale force winds (not forecasted) and contrary seas were not what we hoped for. Radio contact with a couple of sailboats, two or more hours ahead, told us it was not going to be a fun night. We realized we would arrive in the dark, at an unfamiliar anchorage, exhausted from the conditions we were seeing. Grateful for the rare radio contact, we told our new radio friends we were turning back. It seemed calmer heading back, so after discussions we turned another 180 degrees thinking maybe we were hasty in our decision to turn back. Only a couple of minutes in this direction told us that no, there was a huge difference in comfort heading back to Cabo, so we turned for the last time and headed back to Cabo San Lucas.
Of course it is never simple. We realized we needed to pull in the tangled fishing line before dropping anchor and reversing through the line. After slowing the boat and reeling in the entire line, including the lure, we anchored around 2330h, comfortable that it was the better decision to turn around. We spent two additional nights in Cabo.
About 36 hours after anchoring, we got up and by 0500h, we were motoring once again towards La Paz. The forecast was for a front to come up behind us that would not be pleasant and the clouds off our stern supported that forecast. In daylight, compared to the last time, we could see the opening in the breakwater and decided to stop at Puerto Los Cabos. We headed into the bay and gaped at the lush green contrast between Puerto Los Cabos vs Cabo San Lucas. We docked and decided to stay two nights. The weather forecast turned it into three nights. The sailors we met made the stop more than pleasant. It was an oasis from the weather and for the soul. With fresh, but not potable water on the dock to wash the salt from the boat, with kind locals providing us with a driver and vehicle to go to the bank and supermarket, and with one of the transient boaters giving us some of his fish catch, it was a lovely stay. It was not an inexpensive stop in dollars, but we saved at least $12USD washing clothing and bedding in a five-gallon pail and hanging it on the life lines!
The next two legs of the journey were uneventful and took us to Los Frailes. We then had another long day to get into Los Muertos, with some hard work fighting to reef, and then douse the main. Just about when it was obvious we would not anchor in Los Muertos until after dark, a large bird arrived, sat on the pulpit, left and came back with two friends. The wind had picked up and we were motoring once again into the wind and a lot of chop. The three birds flew above the boat and made me think of them as an escort for us. Two of the birds flew away and one landed on the bow again. Daylight faded and darkness took over. I got out the million candle power search light, scanned the water ahead of us, and the bird remained in place despite the extremely rough ride and the light repeatedly passing over it. I went forward to check that all looked well with the windlass, passed the bird within a foot and it remained in place. The bird didn’t budged until I was actually dropping the anchor. It felt spiritual, as though there was a connection between me and the bird. It lifted my spirits and that the bird never left until it knew we had arrived safely.
Los Muertos is an awesome, quiet place. We spent two days and nights there. We left at 1 am to make the leap to La Paz. It was about a twelve-hour motor journey, but the decision to leave in the dark and arrive in daylight was a good one. The first trip down the channel into La Paz was long and tiring. We thought we would stay in La Paz a week, but weather and the need to find and alter a used sail to replace the one torn on the trip south, stretched the visit to four weeks.
We were in La Paz for Christmas and we were pleased to sit in our marina with many other sailors, and watch the lighted boat parade pass right in front of us. On Christmas Eve, there was a pot luck at the local boaters club and Christmas dinner with new friends aboard a luxury sailboat moored next to us.
Here we are, in the Sea Of Cortez, and all the ground we have covered since mid October, when we tossed off the dock lines in Victoria, seems a bit of a blur. I know I should understand the line in the song, “Oz never did give anything to the tin man that he didn’t already have”. But what I really know is that I can look at what has been accomplished, being part of a crew, getting a fifty foot sailboat from the coast of BC, Canada to the southern tip of the Baja in Mexico, and up into the Sea of Cortez and us both being over 65!
I am part of the boat and crew that got us here, but I still search for my comfort zone, still feel the need to improve my knowledge and skills. I still feel in awe of the power of the wind and the sea. I still feel anxious as we head out to new areas and, despite years of preparation, studying and planning, I have to sometimes remind myself that I have earned the bragging rights to where I am and how I got here!
If I had to give a bit of advice to those still planning the journey, I would say to remain humble to the ability of the wind and the sea to test your skills and endurance, but not so humble that you don’t every now and then reflect on the journey and be proud of what you have done. There will likely be times you think you must be crazy to have thought you could do this, and times that you know you would be crazier not to have tried.