2008 Feb – From La Paz to Ensenada, MX

Bashing up the Baja

Bashing up the Baja


I had just started a new contract in Pasadena when the boat deal closed, the financing went thru, the boat insurance was done – and the boat was mine!!

But I had only been in my new contract for 1 week so I was sure my boss would not let me take 2 weeks leave.  Nevertheless I had to fetch the boat so I asked – no harm in asking.  As it turned out there had been a delay in getting my login and laptop, and the techies were saying they needed another 2 weeks.  Gotta love co-inky-dink!  So he gave me the 2 weeks off with his blessing.

I bolted for Mexico.


So here I sit in LaPaz, Mexico in the cockpit of my new boat.

The night is beautiful; gentle breezes, still waters, calm skies.

Everyone says its an uphill bash to California due to the Winter storms off the Baja, but – I recently read The Secret – so I’m manifesting still waters all the way.  Calm seas is what I want, preferably flat as a pond.

Its only 7:30pm but I’m pooped.  I think its mostly just stress that is so exhausting because I haven’t done much – actually that’s a lie.  I went thru all the lazarettes and the front sections of the trimaran and checked everything and made a mental note of where stuff was stored.  So I know where the anchoring and emergency anchoring equipment is and how it operates – I dont want to be hunting around in the dark in high winds (although I’m manifesting zip winds) looking for stuff – I would rather know in advance where it all is.

Then I washed the boat from front to back.  Some local guy saw me washing away and came over and in Spanish told me I could borrow his hose end-fitting for jetting water, and just throw it back on the deck of his boat when I was done.  I didn’t understand a word he said, but I got the message from all the hand signals.  So I borrowed his jetting piece and when I was done I went over to his boat and put it back on the floor of his cockpit.  Love these boating people!!

I met up with my skipper and I will be traveling up with him as his crew.  I want to be crew so that I have a chance to get a feel for the boat before I have to be my own skipper.  He and I are going shopping for food stuffs tomorrow for the trip.  He says it will take 11 days to San Diego so I might have to jump ship in Ensenada and return to work – but I will make that decision closer to the time.

The skipper was telling me to put together a list of groceries for a menu – so I said, you’re talking to a city girl who nukes her food every night.  He looked horrified and said, Never mind, I’ll be the cook then!

I’m sitting here with my laptop songs playing, typing away – man, I could just LOVE this boating life.

We will leave Monday and slog away to San Diego and then Long Beach – actually I’m manifesting calm seas.  Did I already mention that?


We left La Paz on the Sunday under clear skies and light breezes, and headed out into the Sea of Cortez.  The skipper and I quickly settled into a routine of 3 hours on and 3 hours off.

I learned a ton of stuff as well from the skipper.   Usually people hate showing you things – like its some sort of State secret – but this Skipper would go out of his way to show me stuff.  He would come over and say – Julia, I’m going to change the oil filter, you need to see this.  Or he would say, Julia I’m going to start the generator, you need to see this.  So everything he did, he would first call me, and I would traipse after him and get in his way as he did whatever he said he would do.

And he never objected when I fiddled around with the electronics and route while he was sleeping after his shift, and I had us going off in the wrong direction.  He would just quietly put us back on track and would explain how the numbers on the electronic chart actually worked.

Eventually I got it down, but the first few days I had us wobbling all over the place while he slept.  I must say, I had a blast – I didn’t know what I was doing, but I thoroughly enjoyed doing it!

For 5 or 6 days we just roared across very flat seas.  Then we pulled into Tortuga to get fuel and the next day when we were preparing to leave, a local came up and warned us that the waves outside the bay were very high and dangerous.  He suggested we hug the coast.  Then he left to warn the other yacht that had anchored in the bay.

We exited the bay and immediately faced 15 ft waves- the Skipper launched us head first into the fray.  The other yacht exited and carefully hugged the shore as we had been told to do.  I asked the Skipper why we were heading straight out to sea head on into the waves- against local advice – and he said it was “safer out there”.  His normal job is an Alaskan skipper so his version of normal and my version of normal probably diverge quite radically.

Needless to say we fell off the back of one of the very steep waves that tore a 77 inch rip in the skin of the ama.   Waves are supposed to be curved shaped but this one did not have a back to it, so we rode up the front, found no back to ride down, and went airborne.   We crashed down into the trough behind the wave and you could hear the boat flexing.  The crash and flex tore a 77-inch rip in the skin over the outer pontoon (ama) and I was furious with the damage.  We had been warned to hug the coast and it was unnecessary for us to have been going that fast into such high waves.   Man, I was PISSED at him.  So we spent 4 days at anchor back in the bay fixing the bloody rip before we could go out again.

When the glass had dried we set out again and found flat seas outside the bay.  We motored along uneventfully for another few days and I was fast asleep when the boat lurched and I was flung out of my bed!  REALLY??  On a trimaran?  I rushed up on deck to find that the seas had risen alarmingly in the hours I had been asleep and we were again smashing our way at full throttle into massive waves.  I stared in horror as the boat hit an oncoming wave, reared skywards and pointed its nose at the stars, then crashed down into the sea again flinging spray sky high.   It seemed to me, hanging on frantically to anything available, that the boat was so upright that it seemed to be standing on its beam ends.  Then crashing down.  Then up on its back end.  Then crashing down.  I was convinced that the next wave would flip us right over – backwards head over heels and upside down.

I stared at the skipper – what was he thinking??  He was driving the boat as though it was a 500-ton Alaskan steel ship, not a recreational sailboat.

I yanked back on the throttle and the boat collapsed with relief onto the sea, and gently rode the next wave like a champion.  The skipper spun around to see what had slowed the boat.  Me, the $$$ owner, was responsible for restoring normalcy!  This time I ERUPTED.  He was not only endangering the boat, he was endangering my life.   I yelled at him to bring the boat properly under control, slow it down, and angle it correctly into the waves to reduce the massive strain it was obviously under.  He grudgingly complied.   I yelled him – “What are you thinking?  Are you determined to deliver a SCRAP boat to Ensenada?!”  He responded – “Why should you have a beautiful boat like this, when I cant afford one?”.  That got my attention – it also made me nervous to go to sleep with him at the helm.

I (him too I hope!) gentled the boat thru the storm for the next 14 hours until the seas had abated enough for us to throttle up again.

Overall the trip was pretty painless.  The first 5 days we just flew along on completely flat seas, like a millpond.  Then we hit the high steep waves outside the bay and so unnecessarily ripped the skin.  That local storm only lasted one day but the tear kept us anchored for 4 days.  Then we set out on calm seas again, hit the storm that lasted the 14 hours, then flat seas again.  Mostly it was flat seas for the 14 days – a most unusual phenomenon, as everyone kept telling us.

We came into San Diego around midnight in another raging storm with 40 knot winds and gusts to 60 mph.  I was at the helm because we could not see thru the driving rain, so I drove (almost blindly) while the Skipper kept watch.  He stood outside the shelter of the cockpit giving me directions and I followed his words without question.  Even though I had the engine in neutral we were nevertheless being hurled down the San Diego main channel at over 7 knots.  The boat surfed down the waves as we sped in.

The skipper instructed me to enter the Customs channel/bay and spin the boat suddenly into the wind.  That killed our speed from a madcap 7 knots to a dead stop.  But then we were being pushed backwards down the channel!  The skipper spotted a 50ft gap on the dock that he said we would fit into.  I didn’t know how we could possibly fit into that seemingly tiny space because I was being pushed all over by the howling wind.

He yelled instructions and I followed them blindly.  While we were facing into the wind he yelled for me to pump the accelerator and jerk to port (the direction of the dock).  Then back to neutral.  And the wind blew up backwards.  Then pump, swerve to port, into neutral, and the wind blew us backwards and straightened us out. Over and over.  Pump, port, neutral, backwards.  And again.   It was hair raising stuff.  I was terrified and fascinated at the same time as the skipper expertly talked me to the dock – in that crabwise fashion – and got us neatly docked between 2 boats.  In that howling storm.  The man might be a little off-center but he sure knows how to skipper!!

He tied down the boat with every available line and watched for nearly 5 minutes in the pouring rain as the boat yanked and kicked at the dock.  He wanted to ensure it was safely tied – that was a valuable lesson for me who just wanted to get out of the rain, out of my foulies, and into a warm bed.  The next day we woke to find that one of the lines had snapped during the storm, so then I was grateful for his watchfulness.


Since the boat had been bought outside of the USA, according to US maritime law, we had to take it from Mexican waters back to American waters and thru Customs, then back offshore again for the physical Delivery – where I also handed over the check to the Skipper for his brother/owner.

Then we headed for Ensenada where the boat would spend the summer.  We docked and locked the boat and headed our separate ways – me to San Diego where my son would collect me, and him back to Alaska.

The delivery trip had taken 2 weeks and I reported for work on the Monday with some trepidation.  I wasnt sure that I still had a contract – but my boss was happy because my laptop had only arrived on the Thursday before so he didnt have to pay me for the 2 unproductive work weeks while we waited for my machine.  So he was happy.  And I was happy.  It worked out well.

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