Crossing the Sea and Hauling Out

As North winds were in the forecast, we decided to stay another day at Agua Verde. We talked to a couple of boats via the VHF, and though one was Northbound and the other Southbound, both reported wind “right on the nose”! We scratched our heads a bit at this, but then again, we’ve often suspected that winds in the Sea of Cortez have a magical “noserly” component!

So the next day, despite our 3.2 knot average, we were pleased to be able to sail most of the way to Bahia Salinas on Isla Carmen. With such light winds, there were no seas to speak of, so en route I used my solar oven to bake a huge chocolate chip cookie. All the while I chanted the tongue-twister that Koiya made up for such occasions: “Slowly solar cooking Susan’s solar cookies!”

The Sea is teeming with life here (near Loreto), and we saw countless mantas jump and flip themselves. We also watched a humpback whale surfacing and diving nearby, and suddenly, it exploded into the air in a full breach! The sun sparkled off its grooved white belly and long flippers, and it hung in the air for an impossibly long moment. We both cried out “Whoa!”, but our voices were drowned out by the whale’s splash. Amazing! (This isn’t our photo, but it gives you an idea of what we saw. “Our whale” went more vertical than this!)

We saw many bottlenose dolphins as we neared Bahia Salinas, but as we sailed along at about 1.7 knots, they weren’t very interested in us. At 6pm we decided to run the engine for the last few miles. Usually we hate turning on the engine, but this time there was a silver lining. “Time for the dolphin show!” I announced, heading for the bowsprit. And sure enough, the dolphins obliged immediately! Not only did they ride our bow, they jumped and somersaulted and did all those tricks you see in captive dolphin shows. “And we ain’t even bought no ticket!” exclaimed Capn Cheapskate gleefully.

The next morning we kayaked around the sunken tuna boat in the middle of the bay. No surprise, the pelicans have claimed the wreck as their own. Note to future kayakers: stay upwind or bring your nose clips! We also paddled along the beach to see the ghost town. Bahia Salinas was once the site of a large salt extraction operation, but since it closed down in the 1980s, the town is deserted.

As we kayaked, we debated our next move. Capn Wilting Flower was anxious to get up to San Carlos, fearing the heat would only get worse as the summer progressed. The forecast was for light and variable winds for a few days, then more Northerlies, so we decided to take a stab at the 125-mile crossing to San Carlos. Well, we had a couple of stretches of good sailing, but also hours of no wind. It was an easy passage and we felt pretty good about it… until the day after we arrived, when a strong South wind started blowing. D’oh! If we had just waited one more day! Still, our totals from La Paz to San Carlos were 48 hours of sailing, 16.5 hours of motoring; 12 of those motoring hours were on the crossing. Not so bad, but if we do it again, I’ll be hoping to cut those motoring hours in half.

On the passage to San Carlos we again saw mantas, dolphins, turtles and jumping marlins. We also saw pods of whales resting on the surface. Turns out, these were sperm whales, which hunt the Humboldt squid that abound in this area. I was taking a morning nap on the dinghy, when Toro woke me and pointed to a small whale, in front of us just to port. I thought he would dive sooner, but as we passed by he actually swam towards us! We guess he was about 20-25 ft long, and as we neared I could see his massive head and elephant-like eye. “Get the camera!” I yelled, as Capn Ahab scrambled back to the cockpit, only to be misted by the whale’s exhalation. Though he hasn’t read Moby Dick, he has read a book about the real-life inspiration for Melville’s tale, In the Heart of the Sea; so instead of going for the camera, he went for the helm. Later, Toro reported that the sperm whale’s breath didn’t smell fishy, which is surprising. Grays and humpbacks (baleen whales) definitely have a bit of cetacean halitosis, but apparently the toothy sperm is the one whale (if not the one sperm) that qualifies as “kissable”!

We gave ourselves 4 days at anchor to prepare for hauling and storage, and a day and a half in the workyard after we hauled. Though there were a lot of tasks to do, we adopted the motto “Hard work is only hard if you work hard at it”; meaning, with enough rest breaks and a fridge full of cold beer, hauling out isn’t so bad. I must admit things got a little ugly on our last day in the yard, as Capn Chugs A. Lot was determined to get through the handful of Pacificos and 6-pack of Modelo while they were still cold.

We were happy to meet Adam and Christina of Estrella, who we had dinner with a couple of nights. As they recently returned to Mexico after working in the tech industry, their tales of boat work and office life helped us with the transition out of cruising-mode.

On the morning we left for Tucson, we had mixed feelings. We were excited about our road-trip home, but sad to be leaving Mexico and our beloved Sugata. This season was so relaxing and enjoyable, we hated to see it end!

One Response to “Crossing the Sea and Hauling Out”

  1. Burke says:

    Hey. Great post guys. We are hunkered down in P Escondido, bucking the heat, enjoying the adventure. We look forward to seeing you in the fall…off we go for another private swim spot…
    Crew of the Clothing-Optional Sailing Vessel Isis