Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas

Ok while Krister is surfing, or scouting for surf rather, I thought I'd continue what I started yesterday. At the time of the last post we were in Abreojos. We stopped by town, grabbed a few provisions, checked our gmail, found no surf and decided we should keep sailing south.

It was our first passage that we had enough wind to sail the entire way- only turning on the engine to set the anchor. Krister has put a moratorium on the use of the motor. I agree, if there's wind we should be sailing, and if there' s not wind and we're not in a hurry, bobbing around is ok , plus it saves money- all good things. But this can put us in a bit of a bind because it's hard to determine our ETA. Brittnay can do about 6.5-7 knots with the right wind. I've seen her go as fast as 9 kts while in a current or surfing following seas, but Baja has some pretty light airs- meaning we're lucky to get 5-10 knots of wind. With that, we can make about 2-4 knots of progress. Where I'm going with all this is that we've been anchoring in the dark a lot lately. It's not something that one should do, or something that I'm 100% comfortable with, but it just seems to work out that way. With only 12 hours of day light, and most of our passages 100+ miles... I'm hoping we can get better... better winds and better at judging how slow we'll really go. The winds usually die just after sun set and don't pick up until the following afternoon. But we're in the tropics now, and around the Cape, about to enter the Sea of Cortez, so the weather patterns may shift in our favor.

So we sailed our first motorless passage and arrived in the dark. In Turtle Bay we consciously decided to stay away from other boats in case they dragged in the heavy winds. In Santa Maria we just had no idea of how poorly we judge distance in the dark. We didn't want to get too close- to other boats, or to the breaking surf so when we woke with the light to find ourselves isolated- way off from everything- we had to laugh. I guess it will just take some getting used to determining distances from the boat accurately.

Bahia Santa Maria was our favorite place so far. It has miles of treasure strewn beaches, mountains to hike with amazing views, a peaceful anchorage, plus friendly sailors to visit. We met a few boats over the radio while waiting out the windstorm in Turtle Bay. I say boats because when you use the radio you use your boat name. For example when using the VHF radio, you hail like this... Name of the boat you want to contact 3 times, then your boat's name and then you wait to see if they "come back," or reply. It sounds like this "Iron Butterfly, Iron Butterfly, Iron Butterfly, this is Britannia, do you copy" Then hopefully a voice comes back. Oh and everyone in the area is listening to you. Channel 16 is the one everyone monitors and uses to hail which means if you want to continue your conversation you have to switch channels. Of course, you call this new channel to your contact , which means that anyone who wants to can follow your conversation to the other radio channel. Which is what we all do :) So that is how we meet Iron Butterfly and Pionero. But we had no idea of who we were really talking to- just faceless voices. It was really fun to finally be able to meet them and hang out on their boat. Pionero is actually Robin and Ken- from Alameda- long time sailors and now retired and living the dream. We're hoping to run into them again soon- maybe on the mainland.

So back to Santa Maria... the beach is like nothing I've ever seen. It's probably what beaches used to look like before tourists. We found tons of "treasure"- seal bones, shells, a fishing lure (still haven't use it though) and more sand dollars than we've ever seen in our whole lives combined. (and you know Krister and I have seen lots!) I thought about how much my nieces and nephews would love this beach. It was sunny and warm and perfect for a picnic. Living in a postcard is pretty great- seems to fill me with romantic thoughts and makes me so happy I just about burst! The only thing that could make this place more awesome is if it had a sun set over the water- which it can't because the mountains are in the way- so I guess there's give and take even in paradise!

The day after the beach, we decided to get out and get some much needed exercise. We hiked up- about 1500 ft. to catch the view from the top. It was easy ground to walk on, hard packed rock and dirt- and a semi-trail on the ridge line all the way to the top. It reminded me of hiking in the Grand Canyon, which made me think of Rick and Forrest. (We miss you guys, too bad about the sea sickness or I'd say this should be you next big adventure, it'd be perfect for you.) I found a few interesting rocks- maybe turquoise? In this way I'm just like my mom and sisters- we like rocks and rock collections. Krister says I have to be able to carry them all myself- good thing we have a boat. I don't think I'm in danger of sinking it with the weight of my rocks, but I'd like to think that there are that many treasures out there waiting for me that it would be possible. We didn't make it all the way to the top- there was so much wind I thought I might blow off or at least seriously fall and hurt myself. It felt great to get out- I'm looking forward to lots more hiking and exploring.

Wish we could've stayed there longer, and I have to remind myself that there will be more cool places, and we are on a schedule to meet my sister in La Paz. Off again, feels like we're racing, but Cabo was just an couple days away. And our water supply needed replenishing. We sailing all day and night- something we're used to now. Our watch schedule seems to have settled at: K sunset to midnight, A midnight to 4 or 5, then K again until 8, and A until he wakes up for the day- usually around 10 or 11. I never feel fully rested, but I get enough sleep to feel ok. Even sometimes at anchor, if it's too rolly sleep is hard to find, but there's alway time for a nap later. Naps are good...

We arrived in Cabo with a full moon and a full spinnaker- beautiful. Again, unsure about anchoring in the dark, but managing to feel fairly good about it. As always, we alway set our dragging alarm and went to bed. In the dreams of early morning, just when the sky was turning from grey to orange, I realized the noise I was dreaming was real. A clanking, metal sound, deep rumbling. What was it? A huge cruise ship dropping anchor not more than a football field away from us. And it wasn't the only one... two more where headed in into the small bay. Our peaceful night was over at the crack of dawn and filled with jet skis, parasailers, loud speakers, music and people. (There were two whales that came into the bay to party too- that was cool) Whoa what a shock after weeks of solitude! We couldn't relax with the zooming noises so close to the boat... usually when people come that close it's to talk to us. Eventually someone did come out to the boat... to charge us $10 for the anchorage. That made our minds up- Cabo is a terrible place for us. We resolved to get water and fuel in the morning and then bug out!

And that's what we did. After filling up, Krister cleaned the bottom of the boat for the first time. We got so much done, so early, that when the wind picked up in the afternoon we were ready to go. Had a great sail out, fixed some drinks and enjoyed the sun. Too bad the wind died before we got far. We decided we were not going to anchor in the dark again and we were not going to motor all night so we headed for the first place we could drop the anchor. And it worked out great! The moon rose full and red- yes red, and as it went up in the sky it turned to orange, then yellow and the finally white. With the binoculars we could see all it's breathtaking features. Krister was euphoric- nice to have him getting back to his old self! Whales circled the boat and we ate dinner and watched a movie before bed. In the morning we found internet and even got our friends, the Bradford's, online for a live chat! It's hard to describe the way time and distance become tangible things. But being on line, hearing about the people and places that are going on without us, where we were once so involved... "life looks different from here" is the bet way I can describe it. You may ask different how? And all I can say now is, it's just something you have to feel for yourself... maybe I can put my finger on it some other time. I'll try.

So here we are, in Bahia San Jose del Cabo, waiting for wind. We're meeting up with a Dynamite Truck friend, Elizabeth, later this evening. She was kind enough to offer us showers at her hotel room. I'm looking forward to going ashore, getting out, maybe dinner and some grocery shopping... Tomorrow we plan to ship out again- not sure if we'll anchor in Los Frailes or head straight for La Paz. I'd like to get the boat cleaned up and provisioned before Suzy arrives so we're going to try to be there by the 26th. Krister is back from his surfing adventure... small surf, too bad. But life is still good! He'll take a nap and then we'll get the dinghy ready to go to town.

Thinking of you all as always- with love,


Saturday, February 19, 2011


So this posting will probably be boring for most, but maybe interesting for those of you (Bradfords and Sojkas at least) who are sailors.

Now that we’ve been at it for a month or so, I feel like I’ve got some pretty well formed opinions on what equipment we need and what we can live without. So, here’s what I wish I’d known before I left:

Top 5 things I use all the time:

The autopilot. I’d been torn between a windvane and the autohelm before we left, and I’m sure now that the autohelm is what we’d pick if we had to have one or the other. Much of the sailing we’ve been doing is in light air (I’m talking really light – like our speed through the water is a knot or less), and the windvane wouldn’t work. We’ve run into sailors that have both, and none of them use the windvane except as a back up. The arguments I’ve heard against the autohelm haven’t held up: it uses power, it’s loud and it’s not as reliable. Power hasn’t been an issue – it’s been using about 1.5 amps after I’ve tuned in the settings. It’s not loud enough to bother me, and I’ve read about plenty of issues with windvanes too. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to have both, but again if I had to chose, I’d take the autohelm every day of the week. Just bring along spare parts!

Solar. We have a 215W panel which is exceeding our needs – it produces about 100AH per day which is about 30AH more than we need, so we usually have the fridge on for a few hours, which has been a nice luxury. Our alternator charges at about 40A when it’s warm, so we’d be running almost two hours a day without the panel (and not using the fridge). At 0.5 GPH, we’d be burning about $4/day in diesel. I spent $1,000 on the solar set up which means the ROI works out to less than a year. That’s a pretty outstanding return. Add in the quality of life improvement in not having to run the engine and it’s double worth it.

Ham Radio (including the HAM license). I check in with the HAM nets every day. So far as I can tell, we’re one of a very small handful of “marine mobiles” checking in – the vast majority of people on the nets are land based and have internet. That means that we’re mini (ok, micro) celebrities, and we’ve got a whole team of informal weather routers. Even full access to internet wouldn’t work as well. I’ve also been using winlink in place of a Pactor modem, and so far the email access has been flawless (and free).

Chartplotter at the Helm. I’ve heard debate about using a PC vs. helm mounted dedicated chartplotter. The PC uses about five times the power, is more difficult to see from the helm (ok, I guess we could mount a waterproof screen up there… still doesn’t help with the power consumption though) and is completely incompatible with water. It also knocks around when we’re underway, so I want it stowed. The chartplotter is the single most used piece of equipment with the possible exception of the autohelm.

Battery Monitor. I know rough approximations of your state of charge can be made using just a voltage measurement, and I know that the net meters aren’t perfect. But having a 90% accurate idea of our state of charge puts my mind at ease, and lets us use the batteries more fully without worrying about it. Conversely, if we’re getting low, I know and we can manage power accordingly. This was an impulse buy of mine, but it’s one of the instruments that I check constantly. I’m sure we could live without it, but I’m glad we don’t have to.

Honorable mentions on the must have list: Radar – we’ve used it a handful of times, and I can’t imagine how I would have felt without it. Pelican cases for everything – we don’t have them for the computers and it stresses me out. The one we have for the camera has already saved us once. Binoculars – get used daily and are great. Dragging alarm – helps me sleep, wouldn’t leave home without it. Fridge – we only run it for a few hours a day, but cold drinks are great. Could we live without it? Sure… but happy it’s there. Sat phone – It was a last minute addition, but the free texts have been fun. It’s nice to have a backup to the HAM, and it’s nice to feel like we could call if we needed to.

So, the top 5 things I thought we needed that we don’t use:

AIS. It’s a fun toy, and I can see it being useful as part of the suite of instruments on a well found boat, but outside of the US, I’ve found that LOTS of VERY big boats aren’t broadcasting. So, it doesn’t really make me feel much better, and we’ve been turning it off a lot of the time to save power. It’s kind of fun sometimes, but I’d much rather have the radar than AIS. I thought we needed it before we left the dock, but now I wish I’d saved the money.

Lots of sails. We have too many – a 120 genoa, a 150 for Mexico, a working 90, a storm jib and an asymmetric spinnaker. If I had it to do over again, I’d leave the 150 and the 90 (we have the 120 hoisted as our working sail). There isn’t really a scenario where I’d switch out the 120 for the 90 (maybe I’m just lazy – but a reefed 120 works well enough until I’d be looking for the storm jib anyway), and between the storm jib and the drifter, we’ve got it covered if we have a blow out. The 150 is pretty redundant to the spinnaker, and it’s harder to set. They take up a lot of room.

Bigger batteries. We’ve got 215AH batteries, and I thought we needed more. Really though, you’re either meeting your power needs or your not. If you’re not, you have to supplement one way or the other (read: run the engine) and having a smaller bank just means that we have to run the engine more frequently for less time rather than less frequently for more time. Either way you have to generate exactly what your deficit is (in theory – the solar’s been so effective that we have yet to turn on the engine for the sole purpose of charging). I s’pose that bigger banks could get us out of a pinch if the solar failed (or it was cloudy for an extended period) AND the alternator failed, but I’m not too worried about the “double fault” scenario.

Jerry cans for Diesel. I reserve the right to change my mind when we cross the pacific. However, for costal stuff, we NEVER use the engine. We used a total of 16 gallons getting down the 750 mile coast of Baja, and 12 of those 16 were used to high-tail it out of a dangerous anchorage before a blow came through. We have a 42 gallon tank, and the 10 gallons extra we’re carrying seems pretty unlikely to be needed. You just have to be comfortable not being in a hurry, which seems like the point.

The Windlass. I know not everyone will agree with me here, and some people will find it necessary, but I never use it. I like hauling up the chain by hand – it’s hard work, but I don’t get as much exercise as I’d like on the boat anyhow. We’re living the easy life, and pressing a button to raise the anchor just seems… TOO easy. I literally have yet to use the windlass for anything other than moving chain in and out of the anchor locker. If you’re young and healthy, just man up and pull.

I was going to do a top five things that I wish we had and don’t, but there’s really only one: a watermaker. We’re great about water conservation, and are averaging about 25 gallons a week, which means that our 100 gallon tanks last a month. Even still though, we end up having to worry about how much water we’re using, and more importantly when and where we’ll be able to fill up next. I can’t imagine how nice it would be just to have water show up magically in our tanks. We couldn’t have afforded it, and ultimately, all things considered, I still wouldn’t have bought one but I understand the appeal now. If we keep the boat after this trip, it will be the one and only piece of gear that I’d be really excited to add. The idea of taking a fresh water shower even just every few days sounds luxurious as hell.

Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo san Lucas

We look a bit chilly no? Don't worry things warm up for us soon!
The light house at Abreojos. Just makes me think of my friend Kathie from Maine. Mexico has a good number of beautiful- useful- lighthouses.
The sun puts on a good show every evening...
and if you're awake for it... in the morning too.
Our friends Robin and Ken from Pionero
The beach at Bahia Santa Maria- nicknamed Frisbee Beach- you can see why. No, we did not collect these for the photo, they are just there- everywhere.

Me in my goofey hat. We hiked 1500ft to the top of the surrounding hills that funneled wind into the bay. Best views and great exercise! This was a very good day!
Happy Krister on the bow of the boat, spinnaker set and we are cruising!

Hey George? Does this taste funny?

Near full moon with the near full spinnaker, almost to Cabo.
Woke up to this huge cruise ship baring down on us. So much for life in the slow lane. Cabo San Lucas is a crazy place!
Krister cleaning the bottom to the boat himself for the first time.
And the whales...

Ok I know this is cheating but I have to go. The wind just picked up and we take it when it blows. Much love and I promise to fill in the details soon!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Punta Abreojos

Just real quick... because I could go on and on... We made it to Abreojos after an all night and all day sail. It's a nice little town, queit and not much going on. It´s also home to a world class surf break, too bad for Krister it's not firing today. The swell is super mellow and the winds are forcasted to blow so we're just stopping in and will be back to sailing tomorrow.
We used the solar shower for the first time yesterday. Filled it up with salt water and got naked on the deck. That felt weird, but was fun. I also served up my first batch of sprouts for lunch... yummy! We're still checking into the Baja net in the morning and the Manana net in the afternoon. If anyone has an SSB radio you can chat with us and hear the weather there.
We've had great sunsets, but it's still pretty chilly. I'm wearing classic Amanda. Jeans and a sweatshirt and Krister is still wearing his Game Ready fleece! lol
I'll post more pictures when I can!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Isla San Geronimo to Turtle Bay

Wow time is flying! Can't believe we've been in Mexico for over a week and this is the first time we've made it into a real town! I can blame a lot of that on the weather, but also there's just not much of what you'd call civilization around here. We left Ensenada the day we checked in and sailed to Isla Todos Santos.
The island was surrounded by fishing and abalone nets, lucky for us a couple helpful souls guided us to a morring ball where we tied up and passed the night safely. And what a beautiful anchorage is was! Got to post the picures to see what I mean- just kinda a
1950's kinda vibe- litlle red buildings with white trim set on a green hill side surrounded by crashing waves... Unfortunately the guys needed the mooring for business the next morning so we had to push off just after dawn.
We cruised farther south to a super rolly anchorage- can't remember the name of the place right now. But it had the most beautiful kelp beds and it got me thinking that maybe that could make a nice tattoo? (not sure if my mom reads this) Anyway... we seem to be unable to stay in one place for long, and the next morning pushed south again to Isla San Geronimo.
It was clear to both of us that we needed some R and R (I know we're not at work, but I promise that we have definitely been working)
As we sailed, whales filed past the boat- not close enough to get a great shot, but a bit of a video and enough to thrill me. We turned off the engine and bobbed around watching them blow their spouts. About an hour later we made our approach to the island. We were a bit worried because the cruising guide was vauge about the anchorage, our chartplotter didn't show anything, and even google earth didn't give us much of a clue as to the location of what the book called a fair anchorage. (all the previous anchorages had been rolly and loud, so we were really looking forward to a semi-still night). On the approach it didn't look promising. It's a spec on the map, and the only buildings to be seen were a lighthouse on the peak and a few abandoned shacks. But being adventurous types, and the alternative being a long night at sea, we said why not? The swell and much of the wind was broken by the island as we dropped our awesome rocna off the bow.
The next morning we decided to go ashore. The dinghy was winched up and over the lifelines, the overly huge outboard swung onto the back and off we went. There was really only one place to haul her out as there were rocks along much of the perimeter- no beach, lots of sun, but still cold (like 55-60 F). We were greeted by the most friendly dog either of us has ever met- but kinda weird that no human seems to be around. We struggled to get the heavy inflatable and outboard up over the high tide line with no joy- finally decided to tie off and get back before the tide rose too much. Our tour guide dog beckoned us along and we happily followed. It had been days since we'd been on land and even longer since I'd gotten the chance to hike. The ground was sandy and kept giving way under our feet. The dog kept looking back as to say hurry up- as it was a small island we made it to the western side in about ten minutes. Now we could see all the pacific and what the island was protecting us from. Waves crashed over the rocks spraying white water into the air. The dog barked and gave chase as the waves came in and slide out again- hillarious! Further up the shore our guide found an elephant seal, a broken surf board, and birds gallor! More seagulls, pelicans, karmarants... I can't belive we didn't get hit... with all the guano painted white rocks the odds were against us for sure. Back on the anchorage side we spotted Britannia alone in the water- she appeard so small, hard to believe she is our home, with everything we need aboard. We came back to our starting spot- dinghy still beached and safe, but what to do now? I felt bad for eating in front of the dog- we hadn't seen a soul the whole time, and the ghost town began to give Krister and I the creeps. Even though the wal was wonderful we decided to head back to the boat.
We have been checking into the Baja radio net in the mornings and the MaƱana net later in the day. Which is how we first hear the news... strong weather headed our way. What to do. We have often thought the hardest decicions would be concerning what to do in the event of bad weather. we said we would not run with a storm, heaving-to seems to be the best storm tactic- but this storm had not yet arrived. In fact it was sunny and calm. Krister's uncle Mag (more on this later) had sent us info saying winds were predicted to reach 45 knots! That's gale force winds from the east. No joke stuff as we were in the lee of San Geronimo. That means that with the swell coming fro the west and strong winds coming from the east the seas would get choppy and uncomfortable. But worse than that if our anchor didn't hold for wome reason, we would be blown into the island and all those rocks. At noon we decided to make a move. It was difficult because it meant an over night sail to Turtle Bay over 100 miles from where we were. And with our short water line there was no way we could make it there before the blow set in. But heqaving to in the open ocean was better than an accident waiting to happen. And maybe those weather forcasters didn't get the exact time right... So we motored through the night, anxious to set the anchor in a new safe place.
And guess what? Those weather guys were wrong- the blow set in 35 minutes early! Under a triple reefed main and with just a scrap of our forsail out we managed quite well, arriving ourside Turtle Bay just after one in the afternoon the next day. Britnay was getting along fine, but to enter the bay we had to turn her directly into the wind. With the engine running, and tacking back and forth we slowly made our way. Sand was blowing and swirling off the land, making it appear like some kind of alien moonscape. Getting the anchor down was another trick. As the wind was blowing us back fast enough to put a real strain on the cleats as soon as the anchor caught. Krister did his best, and we learned a thing or two about our windlass and anchoring techniques. Happy to say we spent 2 days safely anchored off of Turtle Bay. We got to meet a few fellow cruiser who also tucked away here to weather the sorm. Today the sun rose on clam waters and we were finally able to come into town- to the internet cafe- and hope to get out and see Mexico finally.
Much love to you all. Know that we are safe and doing great!