2014 NOV – ISLANDS OF LA PAZ

 

Intended route

Intended route

 

Wed 11/19 – day 1
Perry on FELICITA, my boat buddy from Cabo, invited me to join him on his boat for a trip around the islands near La Paz.

We discussed what we would need for food for 3 meals a day, for the 4 days.  We went into some detail (cereal, eggs, yoghurt, etc) while Perry took notes.  Then he tore off his notes, folded the paper conscientiously, placed it into his wallet and we set off.  As we provisioned at the local supermarket I asked to see the list of food that we had planned.  Perry opened his wallet, extracted the note, opened it carefully, and handed it over.  The list stated boldly: “Breakfast  Lunch   Supper   Fruit”.   I burst out laughing – all that planning and note taking, and this was the list!

We provisioned and stashed the food, and took off. Our first anchorage was 20 miles away in the bay called Caleta Partida on Isla Partida, which is the island north of Isla Espiritu Santo. Perry is so sweet. We were roaring along at 7.5knots with the boat heeled over, not exactly a steep heel but for a multihuller like me, anything over 5degrees I consider to be rails-in-the-water. So I asked tentatively if Perry could straighten the boat a little, which he obligingly did but then our speed dropped down to 4 knots. Not nearly as much fun for Perry! We sailed most of the day in generally light airs and about 2 miles from the entrance of the bay Perry dropped the sails and we motored in. I was steering at the time and the entrance to the rather large bay is behind a headland, so as I motored towards the bay, I couldn’t actually see it. It looked like I was heading straight for the rocks! Only when we were very close could you see the bay curving away and back to the right. The islands are without any shrubbery or trees, however, the rocky islands are a red rock in various interesting and dynamic swirls and shapes which makes the bleak scenery quite arresting. And the water is various shades of blue, from a dark navy to a light baby blue, depending on its depth.
We anchored mid afternoon in balmy weather and calm waters, and I relaxed and read a book while Perry swam around the boat scraping the algae off the bottom.

The Owner/Skipper

The Owner/Skipper

Thurs 11/20 – day 2
It was a beautiful morning in the bay and the water is a gorgeous turquoise and just crystal clear. We are anchored in 14ft of water and you can see right down to the shadow of the boat on the sandy bottom. Perry and I dumped the dinghy in the water and headed for the shore. Perry wanted to hike and I wanted to swim. The water shallows very rapidly so we were about 60 ft from the shore and we were already only knee deep. We had to turn off the motor, lift the propellor and get out, and pull the dinghy the rest of the way. Eventually we found a rock sticking out of the shallows and tied the dinghy to it, and left it floating out there. We waded to shore and Perry headed off on his hike while I wandered the shore. I found parts of the skeleton of some really large fish, easily a 10footer judging by the size of the skull and vertebrae. After spotting a puffer fish as I waded, I decided against swimming.
I am almost, but not quite, feeling badly that Perry is doing all the work. I hold the dinghy line while he physically hoists the thing aboard. I watch as he manhandles the motor onto the dinghy’s transom. I steer while he fights the sails down. On my boat I have to do all that, so it’s a novelty to watch someone else doing all the work.

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Friday 11/21 – day 3
Perry practiced bringing the dinghy onto the boat singlehanded. He did a pretty good job. Every day he adjusts the way he did it the previous day, so he is getting better and better at it. I don’t actually help, I just stand around ready to help if he needs me – but he manages just fine. Of course, like every female, I can’t help giving advice!

Tiny Isla San Francisco - just a little blob

Tiny Isla San Francisco – just a little blob with a bay

Towards mid morning we left the bay and headed for Isla San Francisco where a reef is supposed to resemble an aquarium given the variety of sea life. We had a fabulous sail in 10 knots of wind. That J120 sure can move. I asked Perry what the “120” stood for. He replied that it is the length of the boat, 12 meters. So I said then they should have called it the J12. To which Perry replied (in a male way), “But that would have sounded too wimpy”. Perry is still trying to keep the speed down so that the boat heels as little as possible. I am sure he is wondering what he let himself in for by inviting me along.
By late afternoon we were anchored in Isla San Francisco Bay and the mosquitoes and no-see-ums just loved me. Within a very short time I was covered in bites!

 

Reef with some fish

Reef with some fish

Sat 11/22 – day 4
Still anchored in Isla San Francisco. Perry wants some alone time, I think, so he has gone off in the dinghy to hike the hills and take photos. I stayed on the boat to give him some space. When Perry left with the dinghy, he didn’t drop the motor onto the dink because he said he wanted to try rowing instead. I watched Perry thru the binoculars as he climbed the various ridges. He ranged far and wide and most of the time he was too far away to see with the naked eye; I could only see his tiny figure thru the powerful binoculars. Eventually after a few hours he returned to the beach but by this time the wind was howling and rowing the dink to the boat would be quite the exercise with the possible outcome of being blown right out the bay! I hoped Perry would drag the dink, from where it was, along the beach until he was in a better wind/wave position to hopefully be blown onto the boat. I saw Perry stand up and start dragging the dink thru the shallows and knew he had come to the same conclusion. At a point where the angle was such that he was most likely to be blown onto the boat, I watched Perry launch the dink and start rowing. Meanwhile I had gotten a long rope ready in case he missed the boat. I figured I had a few chances to toss the line to Perry before he blew past. There were 2 other boats anchored in the bay and I decided that if I missed Perry then I would get on the VHF radio and ask one of the other boats to go and fetch him. I don’t know how to raise the anchor on FELICITA so I couldn’t start the engine and go after him myself!
Luckily all that planning was moot. Perry came smack alongside the boat, I dropped my line into the dink and grabbed the line Perry handed me, and tied him up. I was vastly relieved to have him safely back on the boat. I told him to take the motor next time, regardless of whether or not he wants to row!
After all that worry I wanted a nap. When I awoke my window was darkened. Perry said that he noticed that in my sleep I was covering my eyes from the glare of the sun thru the porthole, so he put a cushion in the cockpit to cover the window. He really is so very thoughtful.
We played cards for awhile – a form of Canasta, some Poker, and Rummy. Mostly I lost.
After cards I said, What shall we do next? Perry looked at my arms and legs just covered in itchy bumps and said – Let’s count your bites, that should keep us busy for awhile. He doesn’t have a single bite! Not one! In the evening we were both still wide awake so we watched 2 hours of the PBS series THE WEST while the citronella candles did a lousy job of keeping the mosquitoes away.

Swimming till he was shivering

Swimming till he was shivering

Sun 11/23 – day 5
I am getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes in the Isla San Francisco Bay and I am carpeted in itchy bumps. Early this morning we went out to the reef and swam around looking at the fishes but there was not much to see; just a few brightly colored fish and a 2-ft pencil fish that was more scared of me than I was of him. After about 10 minutes I had seen enough, plus the water was chilly, so I climbed out and wrapped myself in a towel. Maybe if I had told the fish I was coming, they would have lined up for me?!  Perry carried on swimming until his teeth started chattering.
Once we returned to the boat, we upped anchor and left which suited me fine – not even liberal vinegar swabs was relieving the itch of the mosquitoes.
We headed for a huge bay EL CARDONEL and ducked in there. Another boat preceded us and later on Jim, Bryan, Laurie, and Alison came over in their dinghy to chat. They also said that the weather report showed 45 knots wind starting tonight at midnight. Great! Perry rechecked his GRIB files and it says 25 knots, so who knows? The weather reports haven’t been accurate, not even once, since leaving San Diego.
Perry turned on the deck spotlight to shower, and the spotlight attracted little brown worms which attracted manta rays! I grabbed a handheld spotlight and shone it into the water and pretty soon I had 6 manta rays gobbling up the brown worms that were attracted to the light. It was spectacular as the rays swam and dived and gulped down the worms right at my feet. What a delight!

Navy sea, red rocks

Navy sea, red rocks

Mon 11/24 – day 6
Still anchored in EL CARDONEL Bay. We intended to move back to LaPaz today but last night the wind came up with gusts to 25-30 knots. Perry emailed Ray & Chicgaila on SEA NOTE and asked what it was like in the LaPaz channel. Chicgaila said its a Class A ride, so we chose to stay in the bay with just 1 other boat rather than return to the channel with 40 boats anchored nearby. As it was, quite a few boats dragged anchor thru the fleet there.
We had run out of the provisions we had bought together so Perry dug into his food supply and we had chicken and vegetable soup and raspberry cheesecake for dinner.
There seems to be mosquitoes hiding in the boat and every day I wake up covered in new bites! So tonight I borrowed Perry’s spare sleeping bag and slept in the cockpit where I could look up at the brilliant stars in the night sky, and feel the wind BLASTING over me at 30 knots. Later I had my pillow deep inside the sleeping bag and had pulled the opening closed over my head, and there I lay tucked up and wrapped like a burrito all warm and cozy – and away from the mosquitoes. The wind was coming from the front in this bay, and if the anchor popped we would get blown out to sea. A pretty good option.
At 10:30pm I woke to find the salon lights on while the wind howled around the boat. Perry was awake and sitting at the Nav station because the wind had clocked around and now we would be blown onto the starboard shore which had become our lee shore. Not a good option. I took over the Watch so Perry could sleep, and chatted with my son Kevin in LA via sat phone SMS. The wind pushed us around like a bucking bronco. We were turning nearly 180* as a gust hit us. Then the wind would just as suddenly die and we would straighten again. Then another massive blast of wind would smash into the boat. And the boat would heel right over. Then quiet again. It was unnerving. At one point the anchor chain under stress made a loud clanking noise in the bow roller and I gasped in surprise at the sudden racket. Perry leapt up off his bunk and was leaning over the instruments in a nanosecond. I didn’t know he could move that fast from a dozing state! And I felt badly that I had woken him. The wind is such that we are swinging quite wildly at anchor. And supposedly it will get worse tomorrow.

Tues 11/25 – day 7
Perry was on Watch from 2:00am and I woke at 5:45am and he hadn’t woken me. During his Watch the anchor had popped loose and we dragged over 100ft towards the rocky lee shore before the anchor grabbed and reset. The boat is turning full circles as the wind clocks around almost 360*. And the strong gusts and rotations are straining not just the anchoring system, but straining my nerves too. I just wish the direction of the wind gusts would stay more constant instead of flipping us around all the time. Since Perry had been up since 2:00am I took over the Watch. We still seemed to drift a bit (or maybe that was my imagination) but since it was still dark, I left Perry to sleep and stared fixedly at the radar. Once there was enough daylight to see, I woke him to reset the anchor. But Perry decided to leave EL CARDONEL bay and try the next bay over. The winds are supposed to be even worse today than yesterday with winds 30+ knots and higher gusts. So we need a more protected bay. A few hours later we were back in Caleta Partida, the first bay we stopped in last week, and we hope this is more protected.
So it’s noon now and the wind seems to have died considerably. There are a few gusts of 20+ but mostly the gusts are around 15+, which is no gust at all. I would love it if the wind died down; I am about done with wildly swinging at anchor.

Wed 11/26 – day 8
Today the winds are supposed to be down to 15 knots with gusts to 20. I saw Perry at the Nav station with his face puckered in thought. I asked what worried him about leaving that day? Perry said – the weather is so foul and I can see whitecaps out at sea so I doubt that I will be able to prevent severe heeling and keep the boat level. That is so Perry! Always caring and thoughtful. I said he should focus entirely on the safety of the boat.
Perry decided to make a bolt for La Paz so we upped anchor and set out with a double reef. The wind was howling in the confines of the anchorage but really howling out in the Bay, with massive confused swells behind us as we surfed our way home. We anchored in 15-20 gusts of wind, which was interesting, and the headsail furling fouled. There we were at the bow, with the boat trying to sail off its anchorage, fighting to manually force-furl the powerful headsail. Eventually we had the thing furled and tied down with extra sail ties, but the furling drum is a mess with the furling line all tangled up. Perry will have to sort that out later when the wind dies.

Marina de La Paz at sunset

Marina de La Paz at sunset

I got hold of Brian on KWAAI and he is in the LaPaz marina today for work on his mast. He dinghyed out to pick up Perry and I and this evening we went to a birthday dinner in a restaurant where they had a live band. After being confined to a boat for 4 days in howling weather, I had excess energy to work off so I danced all night with Bob, Perry, and Brian. I invited myself to spend the night on Brian’s boat, safely tied to the dock in the marina, with no waves tossing and bucking the boat around. I slept like a baby curled up behind Brian.

Visiting the islands was a great adventure – with the howling Northers adding some adrenaline to the end of our stay!

Thurs 11/27 – Thanksgiving
Perry and I had signed up for the special cruisers Thanksgiving dinner. Perry had packets of mashed potatoes that he was going to make and take. I had left my dinghy tied to the dinghy dock of the same marina where Brian was now docked, so I walked from his boat to collect my dink and paid my marina bill for the week’s storage (90 pesos=$8). My intention was to head for my boat anchored near the Commercial Pier and then return to collect Perry and his mashed potatoes.

The morning skies were sombre and glowering and reminded me of the line….”it was a dark and stormy night!”.  I exited the protection of the marina in my dinghy and got out into the shipping channel where the howling wind and huge chop were significant, with the waves doing their best to swamp the dinghy. When you are at sea level in a dinghy then a 2-foot wave looks huge. Worse, the waves were fighting to get into the dinghy with me. I crawled along carefully while the strong tide tried to shove me into a set of docks nearby. I would accelerate to angle away, only to be swamped with the waves at that angle. By the time I had struggled down the channel and around the docks and saw Perry’s boat anchored ahead, I had lost all interest in making it to my boat anchored much further down the channel. I was thoroughly SOAKED from head to foot from the swells washing over my dinghy’s bow and I doubted I would be able to control my dinghy in that large wind and chop when I finally reached my boat, where I would have to exit the dinghy, and tie it up, all unaided. I aimed for Perry’s boat instead and yelled when I got near. The wind and swell were so severe that it took me 4 tries and I had to circle his boat a few times before I finally managed to bring the dinghy close enough to throw a long line to Perry. He pulled me close and tied me up safely and I exited that horror of a journey. My legs were wobbling with fright. Perry was working out his route for part 2 of his singlehand travels so I borrowed a dry shirt and sat on his bunk trying to slow the excess adrenaline pounding thru my body. Needless to say, we decided to miss the special Thanksgiving Dinner being held at Palmira Marina – neither of us was keen to get in the dinghy in that weather! We made lunch instead and by early afternoon the swells were manageable so I got in my dinghy and made for my boat.

 

Pros and cons of a dinghy

Pros and cons of a dinghy

Once back on board my boat I noticed that, while I was away, FASTALLEY had dragged about 50ft during the storm. She had settled considerably closer to some old pilings than she was before! Thank goodness I wasn’t on board FASTALLEY when she dragged – I am sure my blood pressure would have gone thru the stratosphere. When this wind dies tomorrow I will lift the anchor and move away from the pilings and re-anchor.

UPDATE: Brian has a mooring near Marina del La Paz which he has offered to me. So this morning I moved FASTALLEY onto his mooring. Now I don’t have to worry about the strength of the wind and tide anymore, well, unless someone else drags. But otherwise I am conveniently just outside the entrance to the marina making it a short hop in the dinghy. What a pleasure!

 

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