2014 NOV – SINGLEHAND CABO TO LA PAZ

Sunrise in one bay

Sunrise in one bay

I realized on the HaHa trip from San Diego to Cabo that there has been an alarming increase in the things that I know nothing about. And every morning is the dawn of a new error.

However, I am sure that at some point I will consider this adventure to be just another walk in the park, and so I persist. Besides, all the people I have met so far are so friendly and helpful and are always ready with good advice.

Cabo is a tourist city and finding crew to go with me to Mazatlan is proving problematic. I was assured that if I went to La Paz first, a cruisers city, then I would easily find crew wanting to hop the Sea of Cortez to the Mexican mainland. I was also assured that I can singlehand to La Paz because there are Bays every 8 to 10 hours up the coast where I can anchor and get a good nights sleep. I met another singlehanded bluewater sailor and asked him to buddy boat with me. He very sweetly agreed. I am sure that he will be bored stiff on his J120 as he tries to stay in sight of FASTALLEY as I waddle along carefully, but I know I will be comforted looking out and seeing his boat near.

(Tues 11/11/2014) 1st Leg – Cabo to Bahia Frailes

This morning was my first time to singlehand offshore. I had a sleepless night worrying about pulling up the anchor with 4 boats clustered around me. I have always had someone (me or crew) at the wheel steering and keeping an eye on things as the anchor comes up. This morning it was just me. I don’t mean to sound blasé because really I was terrified. There was a stiff breeze blowing and the considerable chop had all of us rolling and bucking at anchor. Actually I was paralyzed with fright at what could happen when the anchor popped free. In the end it was a non-event. The anchor came free and FastAlley stayed right where she was – jouncing and bouncing and trying to buck me off the bow.

Being 80 miles offshore with competent crew is not the least bit scary. Being “on”shore with no one but my own abilities – one set of eyes, one set of hands, lightweight singlehand experience, and puny girl muscles – is very scary!

At 6:00am I was dressed, I had started the engine and while it idled quietly, I sat in the cockpit trying to pluck up enough courage for the day. I’ll be honest – it was 6:30am before I had talked myself into taking action. It was “raise the anchor and go” – or get stuck in Cabo indefinitely. Finally I decided to do this in baby steps: (1) Up the anchor. (2) refuel the boat. (3) head out. I decided against thinking about step 4 and the 200 miles ahead of me.

I upped the anchor and headed for the fuel dock. After refueling and water, I waited in the bay for my boat buddy and followed him out to sea. The forecast was for 25-30 knots wind and 6ft swells from a storm down south. Well there was no wind, and the swells were 8ft. Perry tried to sail but even his fast racing boat couldn’t generate enough speed to be worthwhile. But whenever he disappeared over the horizon looking for wind, I would be left alone on the sea, so I stayed within sight of land, maybe 5-10 miles off. Then 9 hours later – my longest watch ever! – I had to anchor singlehanded with all the other boats already in the bay, watching. Thank heavens the anchor grabbed on the first try, in 40 ft of water.

I must add that anchoring near shore and its swells has the unsettling effect of making it appear you are dragging. All the time. I keep checking my anchor. I check my bearings. I check my relationship to the surrounding boats. I do this over and over and over because I could SWEAR I am moving. Eventually you just have to adopt the Ostrich Method and Don’t Look!

I recall a time my brother was learning to fly and he took off in clear weather for a 8-hour flight to a remote gold mine. Suddenly he was surrounded by a black storm and he was not yet instrument rated. He said he switched to autopilot and then forced himself to shut his eyes! He said if he looked out the window he could swear he was diving for the ground and he wanted to grab the wheel and “correct”, but if he looked at his instruments then the plane was flying just fine. He forced himself to fly with his eyes shut, just peeking occasionally to check his panel, until he flew back into sunlight. He said he recalled his instructor saying over and over – Trust Your Instruments! Trust your Instruments!

I guess I just have to learn to Trust Your Anchor.

Sunset in the next bay

Sunset in the next bay

 

(Wed 11/12) 2nd leg – Bahia Frailes to Bahia Muertos

My second day of raising the anchor alone! I am learning to do things in bite sized stages. First I raised the anchor 15ft until I could reach the bridle. I disconnected that and put it away. (Yesterday I forgot all about it and left it lying on the deck!). The bridle takes the stress off the windlass and transfers it to the amas, and also stops FastAlley dancing around the anchor. Then I raised the anchor until it popped loose with 50 ft still in the water. I was worried that FastAlley would catch a swell and surf onto the beach so I reversed gently into deeper waters. The bottom drops off from 50 ft to 100 ft very suddenly; it must be a shelf there. Then I put the boat in idle while I hauled up the rest of the anchor. I was astonished at how quickly my boat was washed away from the shore. I had been nervous that I would surf onto the beach, but in fact I was being washed out pretty rapidly. I then headed straight out to sea and called my boat buddy that I could see walking his deck, and told him I was leaving.

My second day of dropping the anchor alone! I am starting to get the hang of this. In 20ft of water (near the beach – why is the best anchorage always so close to the beach and the breakers?!), I dropped 50 ft of chain and backed down until it was set. Then only did I take out the bridle and attach it and drop another 20 ft of chain to loop the stress to the amas. Baby steps! I was so proud of myself that I decided to treat myself to a pedicure and painted my toenails a shimmering color.

I’ll shower later when the sun sets and the darkness affords privacy. It’s kinda fabulous to stand in the cockpit in the evening under the stars, with the gentle breeze caressing your skin as you wash down. Really kinda fabulous.

Boat buddy anchored comfortingly close!

Boat buddy anchored comfortingly close!

 

(Thur 11/13) 3rd leg – Bahia Muertos to Bahia Falso

I thought I was getting used to this singlehanding stuff but this afternoon I was dozing off when my boat buddy called me over the radio to tell me I was in shallow water. He was monitoring me on AIS and saw that I had wandered outside the channel buoys and over a shallow shoal. That woke me in a hurry. I think I am just over-tired. I hope I am just over-tired.

Otherwise nothing exciting happened today. Thank goodness, because “exciting” usually means that something critical broke.

I will probably just manage a turkey and cheese omelette for supper. Oh joy! But my enthusiasm to cook doesn’t stretch any further than that.

Wow! I just saw a huge shoal of fish all leap out the water. And again, I have seen the odd fish jump but not dozens! And again and again – the whole shoal is leaping out the water. Over and over. Must be something big down there hunting them. I guess I won’t take an evening swim.

I am finding that I live by the sun. When the sun goes down, I am bathed and in bed by 7:00pm! And I am fast asleep within 10 minutes. I sleep till about midnight when I get up and check that all is well with the boat. Then I sleep till sun up. It’s strange and different being in a cycle with the sun rather than with an alarm clock.

 

(Friday 11/14) 4th leg – Bahia Falso to La Paz

I DID IT. ….. I DID IT …… I DID IT ….!

I AM ANCHORED IN LA PAZ!!

I can’t believe I did it…..

It’s the scariest thing I have ever done in my life – even scarier than ziplining!

OMG I DID IT.

FASTALLEY anchored in the background, before I moved it to Brian's mooring

FASTALLEY anchored in the background, before I moved it to Brian’s mooring

With massive grateful thanks to my boat buddy FELICITA who monitored my AIS blip, warned me when I strayed into danger, and remained in constant contact even when I called him just to hear his calm voice! I am immensely grateful to Perry for patiently staying with me all the way.

Anchored near the Malacon and behind the Monk-with-Conch

Anchored near the Malacon and behind the Monk-with-Conch

And another first for me… This afternoon I dropped the dinghy in the water to head over to the Port Authority to pay the “use of the channel” tax. Dropping the dinghy was simple enough considering gravity takes over. But dropping the motor onto the dinghy transom requires two people – one to lower the engine, and the other to catch it and lower it onto the dinghy transom. Doing both activities was beyond my abilities so I paddled my dinghy over to my boat buddy, picked him up, and we both paddled back to my boat. Then I lowered the motor to him and he placed it on the dinghy’s transom. And off we went to report to the Port Authority, find some wifi, and have dinner.

Coming back in the dark was another exercise in first time stress. First I dropped my boat buddy then I motored over to my boat. Let me not sound like finding my boat was easy because in the dark all white hulled boats look the same. I did a tour of all the boats in roughly the area I thought I was anchored and examined each boat until I found mine. About 10 feet from my boat the dinghy motor died and the stiff breeze started blowing me away towards the channel. I tried paddling back to my boat but the breeze just kept pushing me away. I made a mental note to (a) grab any boat that I might bump into, and (b) carry my handheld VHF in future so that I can call for help. Eventually I got the motor started again and this time I DROVE the bloody dinghy right in between the port and center hulls. And there it stuck firmly while I tied it securely to FastAlley.

Enough already with the Firsts! I am ready for the “oh this is so easy…!” part

Things that have broken so far……

1). The small shackle on the boom at the traveller broke

2). The connector for the vang to the boom broke off

3). The autopilot broke but Gary managed to fix it to be used in calm seas

4). Ken threw my bucket overboard

5). The window hatch above the guest bed looks like a line ripped it. Gary glued it together.

6). The running light on the mast stopped working when we flew the spinnaker

7). The Engine thermostat runs from 160-180 degrees intermittently.

8). The dinghy davit stay broke when the dinghy loosened in high seas and started swinging.

10) My dinghy paddle holders broke off and need to be reglued.

 

I need a dinghy anchor.

 

Sculpture on the Malacon (which means Road alongside the Beach)

Sculpture on the Malacon (which means Road alongside the Beach)

And another sculpture on the Malacon

And another sculpture on the Malacon

 

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