I should have read the signs… not the weather forecasts, they were all perfect for the crossing, I mean the marlin I hooked who tried to drag us back into San Carlos before we got too far away to turn back! After nearly unravelling all my very undersized line off the reel ( I was hoping for a dorado, not a 6 foot marlin!) I tensioned the reel a little more, and “ping” it was over… pasta for the crossing it is then….
It had all started out ok as we headed out of the bay, and waved good bye to our old apartment. We pointed our way almost due south, and found ourselves rolling over a slight swell from the south east, not supposed to be there, but not that bad. We carried on with one engine, on schedule to arrive in Loreto in time to meet my brother and his girlfriend, for breakfast.
Just before we lost cell coverage, I double checked all the forecasts. When I saw that they hadn’t changed, 5-10 from the NW on 3 different sites, I figured that what we were rocking over was just some weird daytime breeze and by the time we hit the centre of the sea, it would flatten out, and the wind would pick up form behind us, giving us a chance to pull the sails out of retirement and pick up the pace. How wrong can ya be I ask??
Just before dark we had to slow down, the wind had picked up to 15 from the SSE, ( we were heading S) and the seas were choppy enough that we had to crawl along to avoid slapping the bridge deck (belly) as we came off the back of one wave and landed on the next one, sometimes the next two, they were that close together, joy…
Later, after dark, I had to reduce speed AGAIN, dropping down from our stomping rate of 3 kts to around 1.5 kts ( 6km/hr down to around 3km/hr). Yup, I probably could have jumped in and swum faster while towing Sea Raven. The last forecast I had seen, had also mentioned a stronger North wind blow starting in a day or so, so if we turned back we would have not been able to get across in time to catch up with the bro, so I crawled along. We were’t burying the bows, or in any danger, other than running out of obscenities to throw at the wind and waves.
Around 6am, the wind and waves eased up, finally, and I fired up the second engine and pushed the throttle forward towards Loreto. After spending the previous 12 hours averaging maybe 2 kts, (around 24 miles covered) to be able to motor ahead at 7.5 felt great, and it was smooth enough for me to make more coffee!
Then guess what?
The wind came back, but instead of the 10-20 kt head wind I battered into all night it was now 15-25, and the associated choppy seas were bigger than the night before’s. So I slowed down again, steering over and down mushy one on top of another swells, watching our eta go from just before lunchtime, to just before dark if we were lucky…. pissed…
Then the bow started to pitch under the waves, our bow is 7ft off the water so in these conditions, it means we were rocking ALOT, that, combined with the near consistent 20+ on the nose is my preset “turn around” button. So timing the gap between the sets of 3 I seemed to be getting, I spun around and started scanning the charts for a place to hide. I had already deviated from our original course when the wind pick up and was heading for a bay north of Loreto to wait out the winds, but even to get there was going to take me 2 hours, and entering an unknown bay with the wind and waves the way they were wasn’t particularly appealing. While I was doing this, I managed to get a hold of a friend of ours via VHF who called my brothers hotel and let him know the new plan – jump on a bus and head to Mulege, about 2 hours north, and we’ll meet you there!
As soon as we turned, everything got better. Suddenly we were doing 8-9kts, surfing down the shitty chop, we could walk around again, and make more coffee. Yes we were still under power, and although I really wanted to at least get the headsail out, I had only had 2 hours of sleep in the last 28, so I just wanted to take it easy and get there, some sailor right!
It was still 35 miles to go, so we kept both engines running just to get it over and done with…. of course an hour after we turned, the wind was gone, and the waves down to almost nothing…. have I mentioned before how much I hate sailing in the Sea of Cortez??
Although the wind and waves had stopped, so too had our vhf and cell coverage, getting in touch with my brother again wasn’t gonna happen, so we kept on going. We finally arrived in Bahia Concepcion just before sunset, and figured theres no sense in trying to hitch around Mexico in the dark, meaning I would track the family down in the morning… it was about time I slept….