January 10, 2010

Cedros Island, North Anchorage, 1989

Log of the S/V La Mouette. November 17, 1989 
San Diego-Cedros Island: 74hours, 340 nautical miles.

Friday we sighted the north light at Mexico’s Cedros Island, almost exactly four days out of San Diego on our longest sailing passage yet. Seas were kind, wind not enough – we motored about 38 hours – but overall conditions were great.

We had a glorious sail for 20 hours Thurs-Fri. We’d never experienced such smooth water at sea, with an 8-12 knot wind moving La Mouette sweetly at 4.5 - 5.6 knots. No whitecaps, not even wavelets on the flat sea, and down below the boat rose and fell so easily that you hardly knew you were moving! Swells of two-three feet were so long and even they could not be felt!
Also had the usual night thrills with freighters in shipping lanes. Dead reckoning* showed us about five miles off to the east of our actual Cedros location due to trusting an erratic loran reading, but the island of our first landfall peeped through the morning haze. Soon, the light tower and small village appeared, falling behind as we followed the southern coast of the island. A fine passage, and Jogo the cat not sick once!

We anchored near shore on a four to six fathom shelf as the cruising book advised, next to rocky steep hills with century plants, dry shrubs, and red soil above greenish cliffs falling to the water’s edge. The first delights of this isolated place were young California sea lions leaping out of the water in a line like dolphins. Some clap in midair before diving back in! Narrow rocky beaches are lined with sea lions and one group of elephant seals – noisy!! The sounds these creatures can make are amazing. The male gargle sounds like our bilge pump! Young California sea lions swim around La Mouette, you can see them spin under the clear water. Thanks to the terific sailing magazine Latitude 38 for the map! The largest Island above the hook is Cedros.

A lazy afternoon went by waiting  for Bequia Chief’s arrival late in the day with Tom, Jan, and kids Jala & Tavis aboard. They’d traded fishermen who came up to their boat M&Ms and coke for several lobster. We contributed albacore Chuck caught Thursday night and had a potluck at our place, discussing the exhaustion of night watches, adventures, problems and the beauty of our anchorage.

We woke to blue sky to see Lisette I with Don, Lisa, Ben, Ian and Dan at rest in the anchorage. We dingied to watch seals while the two families snorkeled and speared fish. Seal puppies were so curious they’d follow the dingy, joined by more and more buddies till they were nosing each other, rolling in bundles and poking their Darth Vadar eyes at us. Chuck discouraged one from jumping in by banging the paddle on the boat. As we came to close to a harem on the beach, the male plunged into the water to charge. ”Turn on the engine!” We visited with the others, played with the SSB radio and got together at 4:00 for seafood potluck. The fishermen’s panga came by about that time and we declined lobster, placing an order for ten, “manana, por favor!”
Log entry the next morning: Now, after the first perfectly calm night and day, we’re drinking double coffee to recover from an incredibly rolly night – one of the worst– due to gusty wind and swells…where do they come from? And always at night! In the morning we’re a bit apprehensive, wondering whether the next night will be sleepless again, or as tranquil as the first.

Notes:  Cedros is the fourth largest island in Mexico, located west of the Baja Peninsula & north of Turtle Bay. In ages past, Cedros had an indigenous population of 1,000-2,000 dating back 10,000 years. The 2005 population of 1,300 is employed largely through a fishing cooperative and a trans-shipment deep-water port to export salt mined on mainland Baja. Today, tourists arrange eco-tours, biological expeditions and fishing trips to the island.

* In 1989, Loran navigation was unavailable south of Cedros Island, Mexico. Satellite systems were too pricey for us, so from here on we navigated by dead reckoning – a great name for a system designed to keep you off the rocks! A “DR” calculation is based on time/speed/direction traveled, taking into account a guess about the impact of current. An estimated “track” line is plotted (drawn) on a paper chart, with an “X” marking position, updated hourly. We’d studied celestial navigation, but to tell the truth, our attempts did not yield impressive results - and there is always the risk of dropping the sextant overboard! We have kept our lovely sextant as a souvenir!


- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Love this post! Can't wait to read more. So glad you're doing this, I always wanted to read abut and see the pics of your adventures on La Mouette.

lostpines said...

WOW...what a delightful experience. Great post.