February 13, 2010

Cabo San Lucas to Banderas Bay, 1989

Log of S/V La Mouette. November 30 - December 8, 1989.
Magdalena Bay to Cabo San Lucas:  33 hours, 146 nautical miles.
Cabo San Lucas  to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle:  71 hours, 304 nautical miles.
Our last sailing entry left us in Magdalena Bay. We'll continue with
the next log entries that describe our passage from Mag Bay to Cabo
San Lucas, at the tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, and the passage
from Cabo to mainland Mexico.


We slipped away from our Magdalena Bay anchorage at dawn, leaving the bay in a red sunrise as the fishing pangas came from all directions to go to work. Many joined up with larger fishing boats in silhouette “trains.” Chuck caught 3 small fish right away and tossed them back, hoping for a biggie that didn’t bite. The passage was uneventful - not a bad thing! We had to motor a fair bit – best breeze is at night, it seems. Then to get to Cabo before dark in failed wind the second day we motored 6 hours. At 15 tons, La Mouette does ask for a fair breeze to get her going at a decent clip.

When we sighted the distinctive Cabo cliffs it seemed like a dream (hooray!). Chuck called ahead to check conditions inside the harbor – “bumping room only,” said Vance on Destiny, “but come on in!" Standing beside Chuck, hand on a shroud, I'm holding my breath as he threaded among the boats, but once the hook was down I got used to the narrow (unsafe in bad weather, well just hope for the best) quarters.
Getting to Cabo was a big deal. There were Mintaka, Avatar, Dulcinea, Endless Weekend, Geeja, Kokana, Golliard, Jupiter and others we haven’t met but heard on the radio. Everyone’s full of excitement at making it to this milestone, and we sat on the boat and talked to folks coming by in dingies for at least an hour, past dark. Genesis made port late, and we helped guide their tiny boat in. Then eat and sleep!

Wednesday we did the roundabout to check in at all the necessary offices you must visit at a major port: Immigration (Migracion), Port Capt’n (Capitania del Puerto), a bank next door to pay fee, then Customs (Aduana). We rode our folding bikes – it would have been a long walk! At first, I'm surprised at all the dirt streets, but maybe just because it's our first Mexican town. The officials were nice, and we meet friends on the way all doing the same thing, but it takes hours!
Immigration didn't seem to rate a real building! 
Then lunch (very welcome, I’ve a terrible headache) at Papi’s Deli, a renowned boater hangout, where everyone signs their boat name on the Baja Ha Ha "Class of 89" wall chart. The annual Baja sailing rally is sponsored by Latitude 38, a great San Francisco sailing magazine: http://www.latitude38.com/. Papi's owners Karen and Gil are very busy, but Gil volunteered to drive Chuck and S/V Kokana’s Chuck to a battery store – we both need new ones, and it’s wonderful they will do this! Chuck worked all next day on the project and it is done!

Cabo is a mass of construction completely surrounding the harbor – condos, shops, hotels, a marina. The noise and dust aren’t bad on the boat because of the onshore breeze, but town is sure dusty walking in the dirt streets amid construction, and all the outdoor restaurant chairs and tables are coated if they don’t clean constantly.
This week we met folks on other boats, shopped – each time finding a better fruteria or carniceria, and ate out! We’d head out at 9 or 10 after the local radio net, and by 12:30 were so hot and dusty we HAD to stop and eat. A very good dinner at Big Jose’s, BBQ ribs and chicken. Peso exchange is 2,650p/$1 US. Dinner was $15 for two, with margaritas. Giggling Marlin has a $3 lunch special.

We jugged water by tying the dingy to the rocks of the quay; walked to the curio market; climbed over the hill to Tienda Sol condo – a blinding white sand beach slopes to brilliant water, incredibly clear because the sand grains are so large they don’t stay suspended in the surf. Wind-sculpted boulders rise a mile away in each direction. Boats are anchored in the bay outside the marina, rising gently to the ocean swell. We like the inner harbor - it's free, flat, sheltered and way more convenient! On Monday, we'll make the rounds to the Port Captain and other offices to check out.

Lots of folks decided to fuel up today. There's George and Brenda on Avatar! It was uneasy getting settled at the fuel pier - C dropped the hook, I backed down, and Skip and Sheila from Djinn took the first line into the pier with their dingy. Once tied up, however, it was a nice place to pass the long wait for the one fuel hose and for water - 4 hoses, but those fishing boat crews are immaculate, particular and unhurried in washing their boats! Some of our boat gear can be seen in the pix below.

Little kids were fishing off the end of the pier with line and stick. At last, the hose, and a bountiful, refreshing rush of excess fresh water! We washed everything down and filled up. When we’d finished topping off our fuel, the pump man took the hose and said, “Beer!” We tossed him one, then the money in a coffee can, and he ignored us thereafter. "Quantos gallons?" called Chuck…78! At 1330 we were away from the fuel pier and back at anchor. 


Eager to move on, we left today in company w/Vance and his pickup crew Michael, on Destiny. We’re headed for mainland Mexico, to the small town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, at the north end of Banderas Bay. Puerto Vallarta is also located on that huge bay. So far, wind is tending to be on the nose – not typical and not the best for sailing our desired course of 109 degrees. But it is, by the way, hot and sunny, 8k wind, negligible swells, sort of perfect other than wind direction. I’d say Destiny will outdistance us before long!

1720: Not yet sundown, seas glassy, tiny surge, C. woke me (I wasn’t sleeping) because porpoise are coming toward us from starboard, 75 yards, they curl, curl, curl…like a sea serpent. In a couples of minutes ten or 15 are diving under the bow, herding us, following along at the surface to many feet down. It’s so clear they shine whiter when they roll their bellies up…many have whitish scars on their back in a claw-scratched pattern, especially aft of the fin on top. Could this be the result of a struggle with nets? Had they friends who didn’t make it? The smallest don’t show these marks…the biggest one has the most. He hovers below the surface right under the dolphin strike (a support cable from tip of bowsprit to the waterline). They are beautiful bottle-nose porpoise, larger than the grey and white common porpoise we saw so often in California.
1750: An anonymous radio call from a boat up ahead was a warning: “You folks back there are going to have company!” Soon along comes a big unmarked matte-black chopper, whump whump whump – shades of Airwolf! We see them circle Destiny…then head this way. The authorities (US Navy? We never knew!) in black buzz by fairly high and seem to go…then they’re bee-lining back low, 50’ to starboard. Another swoop by and they leave us.

2200: Now this is tropical sailing! Or it would be if we were sailing, not motorsailing. Tennies, no sox, lightest sweatpants rolled to knees, a sweatshirt is too hot, no hat. For the first time, my purple jacket is below during this night watch. Even the cat won’t sleep on the jacket’s lining!


It’s 0730. My watch began with tinges of pink left from the 0600 dawn. We were already nearing land and had sighted the light on Roca Corbetana.

Yesterday, the 3rd day out of Cabo, was grinding – but just before sundown a large, graceful brown bird buzzed the boat several times, swooping and sticking its feet out as to land on the sprit but unable to in the confused and bouncy seas. At 0630 I was greeted by another, coming very close to drift in our following breeze. Got out the book - a blue-footed booby, immature. Soon it was joined by another…then nine were hovering and banking off the mainsail and bow, drifting over the stern. Now they come and go in ones and twos. The adults, marked with white, stay away. I glimpse them in the distance, interested in other things.

We reach the north end of Banderas bay, passing by Punta de Mita as we look for our destination, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Our eyes are on the depth sounder as we approach the anchorage. I wonder who's there? Soon we’ll drop the hook and go ashore!


Anonymous said...

Great blog! I'm going to try one next month after a short class at OLLI.

Just call me "Oregon Jim", the NYT does. They say I have one follower.

PAL, jim

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Good story!!! Fun to read, what an adventure you guys had on the high seas.