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Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 28, 2018-Meat, Cheese, Bread, Wine

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Judy on the Foredeck

Part One

We were going to leave at 10:30 but since there is no wind. I decide to wait. I climb up on the boom with the binoculars and look around. What breeze I can see is spotty.

From my vantage point I notice the water around the boat. It is crystal clear, the clearest it has been since we anchored here. It looks inviting. I go for a swim.

Once in the water I decide to clean the propeller. If we have to motor to Topolobampo it would be nice to have a clean prop. I go back aboard the boat and get my mask and fins and a scraper and jump in again. The water is nice. I enjoy my work.

By 12:30 the wind is starting to fill so we decide it is time and we weigh anchor. We put up the main as soon as the anchor is stowed. We set the jib right afterwards. By the time we are clear of the harbor we have some wind and we are sailing. We sheet in and go close hauled. The boat heels and picks up speed. It feels good. I turn for one last look at the harbor and I can still see two boats anchored there.

I wonder if they watched our departure.

It takes three hours to beat around the top of Isla Carmen but the sailing is nice; flat water and enough wind. We watch the scenery pass slowly by and make our offing from Punta Lobos at 3:30 in the afternoon.

As we expected from the forecasts we find the wind is shifting steadily to the right. We settle in on starboard tack and sail the lift. The breeze is less than eight knots, we’re only doing four’s and fives. It’s slow, but it’s smooth, steady, and quiet and we are enjoying it. We relax. We watch the sunset and see the islands and Baja California slowly disappear behind us.

I bring up the ETA program and it says that at 4.5 knots we will be in Topolobampo at 2:30 PM the following day, Thursday. I think the wind will pick up and our speed will increase, but I do not run the numbers; it doesn’t matter. Anytime on Thursday will be fine.

The watermaker stops. This is the third time in a week. I go below to take another look at it. Judy does not want me to get into it right now; she sees a dark cloud and worries about the weather. She wants me on deck. But I think I can take a few minutes. This time I check the salt water supply pipes. They are good but the pump still isn’t able to pull salt water in. I’ve already replaced the filter. What can it be? I take off the fitting to the selector valve and look through it: Plugged! I show Judy. She nods her head. In a few seconds I have the blockage cleared and re-connect the pipes.

Now the water maker works. Judy says the output is the best it’s been is a long time.

The weather remains mild, the dark cloud went away.

It’s my night watch now. I decide I am hungry. I go below and rummage around in the refrigerator. I find a hamburger patty with melted cheese from the previous day. I get two pieces of bread, smother them with mayonnaise and make a sandwich. It seems dry. I am thirsty. I pour a glass of chilled white wine and go on deck with my meal. The wind has started to pick up. The boat speed has increased; we are doing six knots.

I am happy: Meat and cheese, bread and wine, and six knots of boat speed.


Part Two

The crossing has been uneventful. The wind has been mild. But as we close with the mainland the wind increases and it continues to go right. Our speed begins to pick up. Now we are doing seven knots.
We are one hour ahead of our ETA. That is good.

I observe that when we turn into the long shipping channel we will be going onto a close reach. The wind and waves will be ahead of the beam. The wind is already 18 knots. The shipping channel is nearly twelve miles. It will be fast and wet.

We prepare the boat ahead of time for this leg. We flatten the sails and clear the decks. We put on back stay and baby stay. We check below for loose gear.

As we round the sea bouy and head into the channel I have already disconnected the wind vane and taken over steering.

I bring us up onto the course and we sheet on the sails. The boat surges. The speed reaches eight knots, then higher. On some of the waves we surf. I love the feeling as I pull on the tiller and the boat accelerates. I am having fun.

In an hour and a half we are approaching the harbor. We need to think about getting the sails down. Judy will have to do the take-down of the jib. She puts on her knee pads and goes forward and prepares for the dowse. I see that there is a dogleg of the channel coming up which will give us an opportunity to ease the pressure on the sails and steering. I tell Judy, “I can put it on autopilot and go forward to take the jib down, do you want me to do that?”

She answers, “Yes”.

I connect the autopilot. “Auto.”

She touches the button and replies, “Auto.” The autopilot takes over.

I run forward and she releases the halyard. The sail comes down and I pull it to keep it onboard we have it bagged before the channel turns back into the wind.

Now the boat is slower; things are easier. Getting the main down is next. We look for some shelter to drop it.

There is a ship loading grain at the wharf and we cut behind it into the lee of its high sides. There is shelter there but grain blows on us like snowflakes. We ignore them. We quickly drop the main and fold it.

Now we just have to motor to the marina.

We have arrived in Topolobampo.

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Pangas In Topolobampo, and Bahia de Ohuira

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Fred and Judy, SV Wings, Sea of Cortez

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Monday, May 23, 2016

May 23, 2016-Sailing in the Sea of Cortez

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Judy Gets the Most Out of the Wind

We are on the foredeck, Judy and I, folding the jib. We’ve just arrived at Carmen Island after a brisk sail and the boat is the typical mess it is when we’ve sailed into an anchorage: the mainsail is in a pile partially over the boom and partially piled on deck, and the jib is strewn all over the foredeck where we’ve pushed it out of the way in order to let out the anchor. There are ropes everywhere and a partially deflated dingy on deck adds to the mess.

This could be easier. Most sailors don’t fold sails anymore; they have jibs and mainsails which either roll up or automatically drop into a stack when they are lowered. We don’t have any of those labor saving devices but folding the sails, coiling the lines, cleaning this up all this mess and putting on sail covers and sun awnings is, for us, part of the fun of sailing. Yes, it’s a bit of work, but we’ve done it a thousand times before, we know how, and we don’t mind it; it’s a price we are willing to pay for having a good sail.

Sailing itself, in the Sea of Cortez, has been a bit of work too and often a challenge but it’s always been rewarding. Some days there have been light winds and we struggled all day to keep the sails filled. Other days we have had fresh breezes from the right direction and the day turned into a romp. And then there have been those days when the wind got a little too strong or the waves a little too big, and we had to work hard just to hang on. But when we got to our destination we felt we had accomplished something and when we spent those few moments afterward putting things away and tidying up the boat we could reflect on the day and feel good about it.

There has been competition too. We’ve been sailing with a few other boats which have sailors aboard. We all head out each day when the wind comes up and race to the next anchorage, watching each other like hawks, trying to find a way to get in front. When we make it to the beach that night we have something to talk about. It’s fun; the Sea of Cortez has been good for sailing.

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Puerto Escondito

The scenery here has been fantastic as well. We enjoyed the Baja when we were here last, 19 years ago, but this time we are, quite frankly, blown away by the beauty. The mountains, the islands, the stunning bays, all of them, have kept us enthralled each day as we sailed along the coast. In the evenings when we are anchored, the boat is put away, and we are enjoying that refreshing sundowner, we’ve found each of the anchorages to be magical. How did we ever forget how beautiful this was?

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Aqua Verde

We have done a little photography and while some of the shots are good, they show but do not quite convey the total majesty of the Baja or the stunning aqua waters of the bays and coves. One of the most spectacular places in Baja, and one which we do remember from before, are the Gigantes, the mountains behind Puerto Escondito. This massive escarpment rises straight up from the coastal plain and forms a backdrop that clearly establishes how miniscule is the human scale and is impossible to forget. Somehow the photos I took of the Gigantes, except the one below, got deleted and I cannot find them anywhere. Well, now that we’ve already moved on I guess there is something to come back for.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

One day, as we sailed slowly the last half mile into Aqua Verde under mainsail alone, looking at the background of the Gigantes and the hills around Aqua Verde, we knew that everything was perfect. The air was cool and clear, the sun was brilliant, the sky and ocean were as blue as lapis, and as Wings moved silently along we knew that nobody in the world, no matter what they were doing, was having a more perfect day than we were.

In a few days we will set sail for Topolobampo, on the mainland.

We expect new adventures there.

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Isla Carmen

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

May 18, 2016-Climbing Isla San Francisco

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Isla San Francisco

Isla San Francisco is popular with cruisers because of its beautiful semicircular bay and great walks ashore.

We anchored there after sailing in company with Alert from Espirito Santo. The bay was gorgeous and we all went swimming in the clear waters. Later we walked across the island and found salt ponds where we picked out large crystals of pure sea salt.

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On top of the Mountain

The next day we organized an outing to climb up to the top of the ridge behind the bay. There were five of us: Judy and I and Anastasiia and her two kids Oliver and Emily. It was a nice hike, and the views were stunning, but my heart stopped when eight year old Oliver ran ahead of me to the top of razor thin ridge which had a 200 foot sheer drop down the other side. I made him sit down and not move until we were all there. From that point onward neither of the kids could stand nor move about unless they were holding one of the adult’s hands, the drop off was just too scary. Maybe it was just me.

We sailed on after that, to the North, but Alert is a “Kid Boat” and they turned back to La Paz to meet up with some other boats with kids aboard. We may see them again next season or maybe not. We’ve been friends with the Alert bunch since La Cruz and we’ll miss them.

Part of cruising seems to be constantly parting with friends.

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Isla San Francisco

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Friday, May 06, 2016

May 6, 2016-Going Off The Grid

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Pool at Puerto Bonita

Two days ago we left La Paz and set sail north, just a few miles to Caleta Lobo, where we were to meet Alert, with Anastasiia, Oliver, Emily, and Nate, our friends from La Cruz. The sailing was really nice and we were engrossed in it, especially after I noticed another sloop beating the same way ahead of us. The wind was light and we were not powered up with our #4 jib but we were still making ground on that boat. I have to credit Judy, however, for selecting that #4. Even though it was smallish for the light stuff at the beginning when the wind filled in it was certainly the right sail and soon we had 18kts of wind and were sailing high and fast. That boat we saw was Compass Rose and when the wind built they changed down to a smaller, hanked-on, jib, during which time we got quite a ways ahead. That sail change looked tough, sails were flapping for a long time. Wings is easy to sail and we really love sailing it, and when we compare it to many other cruising boats it does stand out. Here we are effortlessly sailing higher and faster with a small headsail which Judy and I can easily handle and which doesn't have to be changed when the wind builds from 6 to 16. Nor do have to compromise with the shape of a partially rolled in roller reefing genoa because we don't have roller furling. Maybe we should, but, as it is, this boat suits us well. Most cruising boats have a lot of compromises to make operating them less effort or more convenient, but many of those compromises affect the sailing ability. With so many compromises which affect their sailing ability, even to the point of making it difficult to set sail, many cruisers must find it just too much trouble. I can understand that and so I can understand why so many cruisers don't sail much, but then why have a sail boat? Our Wings might be ordinary on the race course surrounded by other racing boats, but out here on the cruising circuit, because it is really easy to sail, it stands out, sailing is fun for us, and we do often.

It is so unusual to see boats sailing that we take note of it when it happens. Anchored in Caleta Partida we noticed a tall sloop outside the harbor beating south. Then it tacked towards the opening. Now that is really unusual, nearly all cruising boats motor everywhere, and never go to windward. We watched the big blue sloop as it came nearer, tack on tack. An older boat, but nicely sailed, except that the jib seemed slow to come in after the tacks. Then we realized it was being single handed. That makes it hard to get a big genoa in, so we had more admiration for the skipper, who we met, Brant. The boat is Carina, a 43' Sparkman and Stevens from the mid 60's. It shows a lot of influence from the 12 meter boats they were designing back then, down to the trim tab on the end of the keel. But the story should be more about the sailor than the boat. Unfortunately I did not get a photo of Brant; I'll do so next time, but he is a nice guy and real sailor.

This may be our last stop this year in La Paz, but we enjoyed being back here for the first time since 1997. It hasn't changed much. Maybe we can come back in future years.

jim slosson image
Jock Budelman talks to us, with Pat

But in other news, we took a ferry (and bus) trip to Mazatlan to spend a week with Jim and Pat Slosson at the beautiful Puerto Bonita Emerald Bay resort. We had a wonderful time chatting with Jim and Pat for a week. Jim and I go way back, to college, and we covered a lot of ground in our talks. We also had lots of good food and drinks, and the pool (one of four) was fantastic. Thanks to Jim and Pat.

That trip was interesting, particularly the overnight ferry each way and even the bus from the ferry to Mazatlan and back was an adventure. While in Mazatlan we went to Old Town to hear Jock Budelman play at Pedro and Lola's. We met Jock in Mazatlan in 1997. He and his then girl friend drove us around town in a ford Van with the side and back doors open and we shared the back with some cruiser friends and a big Harley. Jock was a sailor and a biker and a musician (his boat then and still now, was Chaunson, now based in the NW) and he played in clubs around Mazatlan. Now 86, he's still at it, and he still drives a van with a big bike in the back.

But a real highlight was the dawn arrival in Topolobambo, where the ferry lands. The water was sparkling and the sun was a huge yellow ball. I'm sorry I didn't have my camera because the views of the hills and water and the rising sun over the inland sea there were stunning. We plan to go back there in Wings in a couple of weeks so then we can do some photography.

But now we are off to go cruising on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez, in the company of the Alert family, and we'll be away from Internet and email for a few weeks. Don't worry, we'll be back.

Click here for a few more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Baja California

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