Each year around the same time as the boats start leaving the Sea of Cortez in their wakes for warmer, and more interesting destinations, there is a steady stream of cyclists on the morning radio net looking to hitch a ride south. Known locally as the “argentinian cyclists”, they are usually not Argentinian, but heading there. And what better way to fill the bunks on Sea Raven with willing hands than to take a cyclist or two along for the ride. So for our trip from La Paz to La Cruz in Banderas Bay, we had on board to help us sail Virgile and Marion of Pignons Voyaguers, an awesome French couple cycling from Alaska to Patagonia, as you do… and making a documentary of the trip for French TV – their trip, not ours, though we may get a mention!
We finally pointed our sterns at La Paz and headed off into the sunset, well the opposite way to the sunset, but it wasn’t far off time wise. We had a later start to the trip than I would have liked, but with a still favourable forecast for the next few days, I figured we would be ok. The crew had been missing baking while cycling through the States, so they set to work, and after the first bread dough failed to rise due to Sea Raven’s antique yeast, we were having pizza for dinner as we headed out of the La Paz bay and into a still agitated Sea of Cortez.
The near weekly norther had just started to taper off, so while the winds were pretty good for sailing, to get any where other than washed up on shore, we had to take the waves almost on the beam to keep the sails full, not fun for anybody, let alone a new crew and tired mumma, so I did as I was told, smoothed the ride out and motored into the night. The weather guessers promise there would be good wind at the bottom of the Sea of Cortez, once we had cleared the cape of Baja, so I kept the ride mellow for the night and crossed fingers they were right. In the meantime I actually got to sleep while we moved for a change! With 2 extra sets of eyes and hands, I could tuck myself in and managed nearly 4 hours! They were told to wake me at any change of wind, engine noise, if they saw lights around, or if they were unsure of anything, and they did, which actually helps me sleep better, if they hadn’t wondered what do do at least a couple of times in the first night, I would have been more worried!
The next morning, after cruising by Los Frailes, I managed to get some wind in the sails and ease the motors back. We still had the shitty remnant swell rolling us around a little, but at least we were sailing, and stomping along at 4.5 kts to boot – about 8 km/hr! That dropped to around 3.5 kts until finally just before dark I started up an engine to keep us going along. And thats how we kept on, alternating between motor-sailing and straight motoring for most of the next 2 days until we arrived at Isla Isabella of the coast about x miles. Luckily we still made it in daylight, as a few miles before the island we had to shut down the engines and ghost over a few fishing nets, seemed to be a pretty good maze of them covering a huge area, no wonder I couldn’t catch anything.
We pulled into a crowded anchorage, and anchored on the outside in deeper water than I would usually. It was still rolly, but now it was ocean swell roll, not shitty La Paz chop, so it was nice to feel the boat move underneath me as I sat on the fordeck with a beer, watching the sunset and contemplating which of the 12 boats around me I could try and buy diesel off in the morning! We had motored ALOT more than planned, and I admit, I messed up the first night by motoring a little faster and with both engines instead of just one. I was a little shall we say, grrrr, about having to change course to settle the boat and as a result having to drop sail again, when it was only another 3-4 hours until we cleared Isla Cerralvo and I could have set a better course for the waves and kept sailing, faster than we were going burning fuel too. As a result of said “grrrrr”, I left both engines on and at slightly higher revs so we could get out into the wind in the morning…. that plan didn’t work anyways, so now 3 days of motoring later, and we were running on fumes.
In the morning I woke up around 7.30, looked outside and of the 12 boats there when I went to bed, there was only one left! Seems everyone had somewhere else to be. I managed to hail one boat I knew on the VHF just to make sure there wasn’t weather coming that I didn’t know about, and after he reeled his just caught fish in (seems it is just me not catching anything!) he let me know there was nothing forecast – wind or storms for a few days at least. After a breakfast of crepes we hung out on the boat, enjoying the quiet, watching the whales swim by and eventually launching the dink and going to investigate a school of fish circling about 100 m off the boat. Seeing as they didn’t look too tasty, I dove in and rounded up a couple of fish for dinner and a trigger for ceviche.
We rowed the dinghy to shore, easier than launching our oversized outboard, and took a walk to the crater lake in the centre. The island is a reserve and nesting place for frigate birds and the blue footed boobies, and yes, there were boobies everywhere! Not so many people stop at the island, so they aren’t as scared of people as they maybe should be, which means you can get some cool up close and personal shots, even without a zoom lens. And of course, it was another amazing colour show at sunset too.
We were lucky enough to be able to buy a little fuel off the other boat anchored at the island, so left early the next morning towards San Blas on the mainland of Mexico. Not somewhere I would usually go, the place has a reputation for sandflies worse than the West Coast of NZ, but we needed to refuel and that was the closest spot. An hour or so out, we managed to catch some breeze, sailing nicely for a few hours, holding around 7.5 kts and watching the show the whales were putting on around us. We of course slowed down and eventually had to start up an engine again, but along the way we saw 2 whale sharks, too many whales to remember, and dolphins, so all in all a pretty sweet day out! Having the wind die on us meant it was too late to hit the fuel dock, so we anchored in Bahia Mantenchen around the corner instead. Everyone who left the island the day before was still anchored there, so Virgile, Marion and I headed to shore to brave the bugs and have a beer with the other boats. As luck would have it, one of our friends there had some spare fuel, so I didn’t have to go into town the next day. Instead I cleaned the bottom of the boat and props and after hearing of a dock party for Xmas in La Cruz, we decided to do an over night run into Banderas Bay, picking up the hook around 4 pm and slowly motoring around the point.
6 and a half days and several hundred miles after leaving the Sea of Cortez, we anchored in La Cruz, listened to whales talking through the hulls and planned for Xmas the next day.