Kids, Don't Try This At Home!

Hi, and welcome to the adventures of "Triton", a 45' Robertson & Caine Leopard catamaran we purchased in July of 2007, in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. We sailed her back to Emeryville, California, located in the lovely San Francisco East Bay area, worked a few more years, then set off cruising in the fall of 2014. This journal is the story of our ongoing adventure, the folks we've met along the way, and the hardships and joys of that journey. Please read along and let us know what you think!

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here to start from the very beginning of the entire adventure. You can navigate from post to post simply by clicking the NEXT or PREVIOUS phrases at the top or bottom of each page. To find out what we've been fixing, changing, upgrading, click on the Triton Boat Work link under Related Websites. If you want to subscribe to this blog (and get emails letting you know whenever we update it) just click on the icon that says "subscribe to: posts (atom)" at the bottom of each page.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Espiritu Santu, Los Frailes and the approach to Cabo San Lucas


Feliz Anos Nuevo!

We spent Christmas at anchor in La Paz, a town I haven't been to in over fifteen years, but I'd always had very fond memories of it. It was a sleepy little town of dirt roads, adobe homes and very chill people. It is now a well developed city with a broad boardwalk that lines the bay, hundreds of hotels, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, ice cream parlors, and real estate agencies. But the laid back attitude is still there, and of all the cruising spots in Mexico it is definitely one of my favorites. The locals are very friendly, happy and relaxed. There is still a feeling of being in a small town. Naturally the sunsets were spectacular, but it has been very cold and windy, with Northerlies blowing down the Sea of Cortes and whitecaps inside the bay. Getting back and forth by dinghy has been a damp experience most days.

We've spent a few days in harbor, enjoying ourselves, resting, and making repairs to the boat. One of the most important ones has been to the hot water heater. One of the fittings started leaking a while back, so we disconnected it. That was somewhere in the Caribbean, I think, and it really wasn't an issue until we hit Mexico. Before then, if you wanted hot water, you just dove overboard. Since we crossed the Tehaunapecs, it has gotten progressively colder, and, not surprisingly, the crew has become somewhat more piquant. Somewhere around the Tropic of Cancer we realized that not having a water heater was going to become a real problem, i mean, we like each other and all, but after three or four days at sea without bathing, you just don't want to be downwind of anyone. So we raced around town looking for parts to get it working again. We've managed to cobble something together, enough that we can now avoid hypothermia and/or trench foot.

We've also been eating well. AnnMarie is aboard now, so the food has been fantastic. Plus she brought down a full duffel bag of food and treats from the states, including various cheeses and chocolates, so while our appetites are always sated, our waist lines are increasing at about the same rate as the universe. When I first met Ann, she had been working as a pastry chef for the Fog City Dinner, in San Francisco. We dated briefly and then she moved on to the boat and began cooking up mouth watering meals that lacked for nothing except caloric restraint. Each night I would come home to what any condemned man might demand on the night before a hanging, and quickly realized that if I kept eating such rich food, I'd probably end up dead as well.

Not wanting to offend her by asking her to stop doing what was clearly a great talent and what she so obviously loved, I foolishly concocted a goof ball story that there was a terrible propane leak and I needed to disconnect the stove, leaving her with only a microwave oven and a ten inch barbecue grill to work with. While that slowed her down some, she continued to make fabulous food and eventually (several years later!) I admitted that the stove was actually okay to use. I continued to gain weight but that is only because where good food is concerned I can resist anything but temptation. Since she has been aboard we've had nothing but delicious, fattening meals...unfortunately there seems to be a problem with the gas line where it attaches to the stove, so I've had to disconnect it. Oddly enough, we do have a microwave oven and a barbecue grill, so no worries, eh?

On Boxing Day we pulled anchor and set sail for Espiritu Santu, the large island just north of the hooked tip of La Paz. Of course, the batteries died just as we were getting ready to leave the fuel dock, so we ended up stranded there another night until we could get new ones. Fortunately there were two available, at an ungodly price, but there is definitely something wrong with the electrical system of this boat, and I've no doubt I'll be investing some serious effort into tracking down just what is causing the problem. For now, we throw money at the problem. Isn't sailing fun! Especially for AnnMarie, who has to work to keep me in the style to which I've become accustomed: a grungy, dirty, smelly boat repairman.

The winds had been fierce lately, with gale warnings most days. There was some talk of the harbor captain closing the port, preventing any boats from leaving, so we wanted to get outside the harbor just in case. We were eventually headed south, so while forty knots and fifteen foot seas may sound like a lot, in this boat and in that direction it was actually a walk in the park. The only problem was that we'd need to go a few miles up wind to get to the relatively well protected anchorages out at the island. The La Paz harbor entrance is actually quite long, with a very small entrance just at the southern end, and the channel is paralleled by a sand bar for most of it. While it looks tempting to just shoot across, doing so will leave you stuck in the sand until high tide. Not a good place to be when the winds pick up. We could see five foot high breakers crashing along it as we motored out.

The day before we left we heard one of the marinas hailing a boat coming in from the sea and trying to cut across the bar. It was deceptively calm then, high tide, and perhaps they thought they might find enough water to get across. It is a long way around to the channel entrance, and skipping over might seem like a lot easier solution, but it isn't. We heard "Vessel approaching La Paz harbor, you are heading towards shallow water, alter course or you will run aground" on channel 16, the VHF distress hailing frequency that all sailors should monitor when at sea. There was no response. The marina repeated its warning several more times, each time being more explicit about describing the boat, its position and what course to take, but they never acknowledged the call or altered course. A few minutes later the vessel came on over the radio "Ah, who ever that was warning us about the sand bar, thanks...but we're stuck. So, where is that damn channel anyway?" I just hope I'm never on the same freeway with that guy.

Once out of the harbor we put up the sails in about thirty knots and close hauled our way northwest for an hour or two. Triton seems to go to weather best in strong breezes, and she bounced along at eight knots in some of the finest sailing we've done on her yet, but we've had to dress warmly and even wear hats! Eventually we tacked back to the northeast and reached for the island. We arrived just in time for yet another glorious sunset, and dropped anchor in a small bay towards the eastern end of the island, tucked in behind two smaller islands called, one called "Cock Island", the other "Chicken Island", at least that's what Robinson claims their names are, but would you trust anything a man wearing that hat would say? We spent a couple of days there, but never felt totally protected from the wind. The strong north east blows would crest over the cliffs to our north and race down into the anchorage. We put down a second anchor, but even still, the wind was cold and there wasn't much to do.

We eventually moved further north, hoping to find a good anchorage near a well know sea lion roost. Robinson had hoped to do some snorkeling there, but the waves were too large to be safe, so we decided to head further north but were slammed by the gale force winds whipping down the bay. We bashed along but soon realized we had too much sail up. It was quite a struggle to get the jib back in under such strong conditions, and in the process Jessica banged her hand pretty badly against the winch. Just another reminder how quickly things can go from glorious to horrific when sailing. We decided to duck out of the wind and found shelter inside a small bight off Islas Partida, a smaller island just north of Espiritu Santu. We spent the night, and although the water was crystal clear, there wasn't much else we could do but enjoy the scenery. Baja is just beautiful. I'd always been impressed by the Mexicans love for their country, and having seen a significant part of its coastline, I understand why. The red and brown cliffs, bright blue waters and dark green cactus make a perfect pallet of colors. That night there was a blood red moon low in the sky just over Robinson's hatch. I tried to photograph it, but with the wind and waves bouncing us around, the boat never stopped rolling enough for me to take anything but a blurry shot. At least, I hope that was what happened.

We then headed south, down towards Cabo San Lucas, but stopped for a night at Los Frailes, a nice beach open to the ocean from the east and south, but protected from the northerly wind that had been pushing us along by a large cliff that extends eastwards off the beach for several hundred meters. There are a few homes, hotels and palapas along beach, and the sea is teeming with fish. We watched as manta rays jumped up several feet out of the water and splashed down again and again. Jessica sat on the deck with binoculars and watched the cute guys walk along the beach. The water was a bit warmer, so AnnMarie decided to do some spring cleaning and scrubbed the barnacles and algae that had accumulated during our stay in Puerto Vallarta. I took a great shot of her, but we modified the image a bit just in case she ever decides to run for senate. The original photo is better.

We left there the next morning and headed for Cabo San Lucas. We had hoped to be able to sail most of the way, but the wind and waves were very high, and dead on our stern, which made it very difficult to do so. We motored along, and I eventually let out a drogue. This is a small, cone shaped parachute that provides resistance against yawing side to side when a wave comes up from behind and tries to twist the stern around. We had used it once before, but this time I had rigged up a second line to it, supposedly to make it easier to retrieve. It ended up fouling around the main line and collapsing the chute, but it still provided just enough drag to make running with the waves comfortable. I definitely need to figure out a better solution for getting the drogue back on board. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

As we approached Cabo San Lucas AnnMarie caught a beautiful Dorado, and we had a delicious dinner that evening. AnnMarie also made a tub of ceviche, which was incredible. Robinson and I fought over the last portion of it, and at one point I thought it might come to bloodshed, since we were both armed with forks. Ultimately we each shoveled as much in our mouths as we could, pushing food off the others fork whenever possible. You think its dangerous to get between a bear and her cub? Try standing in between a hungry sailor and one of Amp's recipes and you'll learn the true meaning of danger.

We reached the harbor towards sunset, and went past Cabo's famous archway on our way into the very well protected marina. Later on we'll probably take the dinghy over and try some snorkeling, if the weather permits. For now, we are heading into civilization again, and will probably spend at least one night dockside. That means hot showers, restaurant food, bad tourist attractions and tacky Americana, but I could use the rest. It has been a long trip and I'm looking forward to getting home. We need only get through a few days in Cabo, reprovision, fix whatever is broken, and then we are headed up the hill for Ensenada, then sunny San Diego and ultimately San Francisco Bay! In the meantime, I wish everyone a happy new year and hope this next one will be even better.

Cheers for now!



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