South to Mexico

December 2006

Our colorful spinnaker pulls us south on a day of light wind

San Diego to Mazatlan in 9 days

We left San Diego Monday, December 11th, the exact same date that Paul left San Diego on the same boat but with a different wife in 1993. We didn't plan it; it just worked out that way. We had some big swell the first few days out, sometimes almost as large as during the passage down from Seattle, but the waves were spaced further apart, so the ride was never as vomit-inducing (Erin didn't get sick at all this time).

Since we left at new moon, the nights were dark--perfect for stargazing. There is nothing like watching Orion rise to the east and march overhead while listening to the sounds of the ocean streaming by, with the occasional soft "plunk" of a small squid deciding to hitch a ride. Since the squid rarely survive out of the water for long, we don't know what motivates them to leap aboard. At times a more insistent flopping sound indicates a flying fish has diverted onto our deck. Since these REALLY stink, we go on deck with a flashlight to toss them overboard (Erin uses pliers so as not to touch the slimy fishy).

As we got further south, we wore less and less under our foul weather gear. Switching from sea boots to deck sandals was a relief, and we hope not to be getting those boots out again for years. The day before we passed Cabo was beautiful--just enough wind to move along, but not enough to create large waves or spray. We sat in the cockpit reading and watching the scenery go by as we listened to a CD--a perfect afternoon.

We didn't see much wildlife this time--nothing like off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. Paul saw one whale blow, and Erin spotted a shark fin, but that was about it, aside from a few seabirds. Some especially persistent brown-footed boobies tried for 30 minutes one evening to land on the boat for the night, but Paul's chasing and yelling was even more persistent, and they finally gave up. We just don't enjoy cleaning up their guano, which is about the consistency of concrete.

We spent some time figuring out the Ham radio and managed to get on a few "nets" during which helpful geeky people discuss important things like weather forecasts. We also download grib files to get a weather forecaster's view of what's going on, but it's nice to hear other voices and get other opinions when you're 200 miles offshore. People on one net mentioned the winds would be increasing in the Sea of Cortez, which we entered after rounding the tip of the Baja Peninsula and passing Cabo San Lucas on our eighth day out. The net guys were right and the grib files were wrong, as it turned out. We got into a bit of a norther--a pattern of strong winds out of the north common to the area. The wind came up just as Erin was removing a tray of cookies from the oven at 1:30 a.m. (it was a nice break from studying Spanish on watch), so she had to drop everything to switch from the electric autopilot to the windvane and reef the genoa. At least Paul had reefed the main before going to sleep, as we had learned on previous evenings never to leave the full main up at night. Too often, we would get spanked by increasing winds and Paul would have to go on deck in the dark to reef the main (Erin hasn't reefed it in the dark yet). And yes, we are attached to the boat with a harness whenever we go on deck. So the last 24 hours were a bit of a wild ride, but we both slept better than we had in days--guess we were too exhausted to care about sleeping on a rollercoaster. Later that night, the wind varied so much in intensity and direction that Paul ended up hand steering the rest of the night. Our speed varied from 1 knot to over 6.

The last day, December 20th, conditions were so rough, we weren't sure if we should even attempt the entrance to Marina Mazatlan. But we spotted two sailboats getting tossed around just outside the channel, and ended up following one through the entrance. Always look for the locals! It turned out both boats had just come out of the marina, said, "No way!" as soon as they saw the conditions outside, and turned around and headed back in. As always, the instant transition from big seas and wind to calm, flat water was a shock, and we quickly removed our foul weather gear to avoid sweating to death before getting dockside. People in the marina were surprised to learn we had been out in the rough seas, and more surprised to learn we hadn't stopped anywhere since leaving San Diego. Our response was, "Who wants to go to noisy, overcrowded Cabo anyway?" Mazatlan is where we wanted to be, and here we are, after nine nights and days at sea, 1,017 miles from San Diego, and 2,318 miles at sea since leaving Port Angeles in May.

Paul relaxes in the cockpit with a magazine off the coast of Baja

Our watermaker did its job, now Erin does hers by topping off the tank with the fresh water.

Every morning we checked the deck and cockpit for tiny squid and flying fish that tried to hitch a ride during the night--they get pretty stinky if you don't toss them overboard!

We had a couple good sunsets off the Baja Peninsula
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