Monday, November 21, 2011

Across the Sea of Cortez -- November 16, 2011 to November 18, 2011

Well, we did it - just the two of us -- 180 miles across open water.   When asked whether we've been out of sight of land we no longer have to say yes - if you count fog and night sailing.  We have been well and truly out of the sight of land!  And Bryce slept both nights while Molly was on watch; a big (and necessary) vote of confidence by The Captain. 

We left San Jose del Cabo around noon on the 16th, and motored out beyond Punta Gorda to catch the wind.  After we found the wind, we had a gorgeous sail - somewhere between 9 to 18 knots, mostly on our beam.  During the night, winds gusted to 24 knots - and we were glad we had reefed before it got dark (yes, Rick and Corinne - the jib furler worked just fine this time!).  The downside to this unexpectedly brisk sail was that it threw our timing off completely.  We realized at the rate we were traveling, we would be arriving in Mazatlan around mid-night on the 17th.  So, we decided to heave to about 30 miles north of Mazatlan to wait out the night, rather than try to enter a new and busy port in the dark.  We had a fairly gentle night, and a spectacular moonrise ushered in our 22nd wedding anniversary. 

With the dawn, The Captain developed a determination to sail the rest of the way to Mazatlan (which, since we had drifted only about 4 miles with the current while hove to, was - well, you do the math).  While sailing verses motoring is a noble goal, he could have picked a more efficient time to be converted to the true sailing cult.  The wind had dropped to around 5 knots.  But, it was a pleasant drift; we drank coffee and chatted, and each of us took a long nap (serially) -- all-in-all a pleasant way to spent one's 22nd wedding anniversary. 

The most spectacular part of the trip in was a humpback whale sighting on our last morning.  It rose not more than 50 feet to starbord and then dove straight down!  Bryce heard a big snort, turned, yelled "whale!", Molly turned, whale dove - and that was it.  No amount of pleading (once we had the camera in hand) convinced him (the she's aren't here yet, we think) to show himself again.  Our closest encounter yet.

We arrived at the Marina El Cid around 1300.  The Captain's report in an e-mail was:

"Completed our crossing of the Sea of Cortez today about noon. 180 nm or 400 km, roughly, averaging about 5 kts.  First day and night was very breezy with big waves but second day and night were more charming.  Arrived in the middle of the night so we just hove to north of the city about 30 miles out away from the fishing boats and cruise ships, slept in shifts, and waited for dawn.  Then there wasn’t much wind so it took us a long time to get back to the marina entrance.  It was a pleasant way to spend our anniversary.  We had a surprise visit by a curious humpback whale around 10 AM – a full grown male is my guess – which slowly surfaced about 25 or 50 feet from the boat and then dived, not to be seen again.  Apparently we were not that interesting.

The El Cid marina is very much ‘little America’ (or rather little Canada) with several pools, restaurants, a golf course, 3 hotels, rolling happy hours, a ton of new friends, etc.  You would never know you are in Mexico except several of the staff have ‘accents’.  We are likely going to be here 2 weeks until we continue south to PV for Christmas.  Why you may ask?  Well, time to rest up a bit and do some sight-seeing and maintenance, and this place has good security for the boat, parts, Home Depots, etc.  Entertaining a side trip to Durango and a former gold mining town called Chapala."

The whale was our most notable wildlife encounter - but not our only one.  We have become very well acquainted with various sea birds, including pellicans.  Pellicans, it turns out, are rather aggressive creatures.  We've seen them steal fish from sea gulls and sit on the back rail of fishing boats waiting for goodies to be tossed to them.  But Saturday we saw the boldest one of all -- simply hanging out in the marina office! 

We've been busy since our arrival catching up on things like electronic bill paying, sleep and laundry, and learning the ropes of life in Mazatlan -- how to operate on the two different privately operated bus systems; where to buy groceries; how to get a "temporary importation permit" to avoid duty on future (inevitable) parts purchases; etc. etc. etc..  

The primary need to provision, it seems, is to have snacks and drinks handy when others drop by to share information on Mazatlan or their passage from Cabo - it's quite a social environment here.  Among our initial greeters was the crew of Kewao, another Canadian Sailcraft 36, Tom & Pam Shenton.  It was such fun touring the same boat - that's not quite the same boat.  Kewao has a lot of nifty built-in storage areas created by a prior owner who took her to the South Pacific.  After just one visit to Kewao Bryce has a project list for years to come! 

We have, however, managed to squeeze in one day at the beach (watching our second beach wedding of the trip!) and one day of sight seeing.  Yesterday, we went to the main plaza where Bryce was comforted to see that some things had not changed since he first began visiting Mexico more than 30 years ago.  There are still shoe-shine stalls in the plaza.  We went to the Cathedral (those of you that have travelled with us know that Molly, a devout agnostic, can't seem to pass up a good cathedral!). 

And, because our feet and stomachs couldn't make it back to the marina by dinner time, we had dinner at a restaurant in a little plaza (Plazuela Machado) downtown.  We watched children chase each other, and mothers chase them, and two old guys play several animated backgammon games.  The breeze was slightly cool, and the trees were lit by the lights of the nearby restaurants.  A footbal (soccer) game was playing at the restaurant on the corner.  It was as though someone had cued the cast of Charming Sunday Night in Mexico just for us.  The waiter made our Caesar salad at the table, and we were reminded that when properly done, Ceasar salad is really wonderful, and nothing like the gooey mess it has devolved into in most restaurants in North America.  The rest of our meal and the wine were good.  We agreed that we felt as though we'd had our first real day in Mexico.   

Our American Thanksgiving dinner plans are with a group of other boaters at a restaurant at the same plaza, and while we're looking forward to it, it can't be as charming as our impromptu dinner together on Sunday night. 


  1. Anne just sent me the link to the blog--how exciting (maybe even too exciting--I hate to think about the stuck genoa!) your trip sounds! Take care and have a good Thanksgiving. Perry

  2. Your descriptions are so fun to read, I can picture myself there with you. What a lovely night it must have been. I'd probably want to play soccer though (hee hee). Up here things are quiet in the office as we roll into Thanksgiving. The Bond Unit (current and past) had lunch at Thir13en where I just had to try the BLT you had last time. Paula, Barbara (Lewis), Joel, Derrick, Elizabeth and I enjoyed a lovely lunch and caught up with each other. Jackson is ramping up his little boy antics as last Friday he decided to pour his Grandma's perfume all over himself! (Better her house than mine!) So we are getting plenty of practice in the art of redirection, distraction and drama in order to head off terrible 2's outbursts. It works most of the time but it sure keeps me on my toes! We'll see how the Christmas tree holds up this year ;) Here's a cute video of Jackson and our border collie puppy (this is a nightly occurance) -
    I also added El Cid (Mazatlan) to the Google Map. Take care and keep posting! ~Tara