Third Time is the Charm; But it Wasn’t Easy

leaving Cabo the first time on 13 May

After arriving on the southern tip of Baja California May 9th, two weeks later we are faintly getting out of this tourist trap. Oh, Cabo, or better yet, Cabo Falso, has finally loosened her grip on us to to us pass.

My two previous attempts were unpleasant at best, more like miserable. And on each the previous attempts to round the cape in ferocious seas and winds, I had tried two or three times, either tacking away from shore or closer to shore to escape her grip. Each time, I dragged myself back to Cabo, tail between my legs.

On the second attempt, the autopilot also started to not act right, so I felt the failure even more.

My Octopus pump. the top screw was leaking
The screw, replacement “O” ring and broken circ clip for the Octopus pump

With thousands of boats in Cabo San Lucas, I thought it would be easy to find the little “O” ring and broken circ clip my Octopus pump needed. After walking around to numerous places in the hot sun, I found the ring, but not the clip. I called my followers who is a plethora of mechanical advice (he’s the one who told me how to make emergency hydraulic fluid in the middle of the Atlantic), who explained that the circ clip was just a stop, so the screw would not come all the way out.  It was already out, so that solved that problem. I put the new “O” ring on, leak stopped, and pump worked fine.

The Garmin InReach track for the May 13, 20 and 23.
The superfluous tracks are Garmin’s way of introducing us to their world. https://share.delorme.com/dauntless

I am really in debt to Octopus Pumps. This is on the list of winter projects. I really need to have a spare.

We waited and waited. I was very conscious that every day was costing me $100+ The reality is on my budget with all the cruising I do, necessities come first, so a marina becomes a convenience. Thus, it’s the one place I really try to try to control my costs.

That I didn’t like Cabo just added insult to injury.

I make a habit to only look at Windy.com and the forecast winds once or twice a day. With crew on board, I look at it more often to make them happy, but I really don’t. The nature of forecasts is that if they change radically, they are most probably wrong. Thus, once a day will provide enough guidance. Also, while nowadays, the forecast models are run more often, at least every three hours, planet Earth still has a 24-hour day. In simplistic terms, the winds and weather are driven my differential heating caused by our day and night cycle. Therefore, running the model more often does helps, but it won’t totally cure instability issues with the forecast.

I know this is getting too complicated. Let me say this, if you are waiting for a specific weather window, like I was in Cabo, how many times have you noticed that during the day, the forecast is changing, only to return to what it said originally 24 hours later? So, looking at a forecast more than a couple times per day is simply not helpful and more often confusing. This was quite apparent as I watched the winds off the southern Baja Peninsula.

The other phenomena with numerical forecasts are the sliding weather window. I mean it shows favorable whatever in the 24 to 48-hour time frame. But the following day, the favorable whatever is still forecast to come in the 24 to 48-hour time frame. It’s like the forecast is waiting for something to happen. It is in fact; numerical models are just predictors of fluid dynamics. But something in the real world is not acting like the model suggests. Therefore, it keeps sliding the forecast.

Which is fundamentally why numerical models have not replaced weather forecasters. Weather forecasters will know the proclivity of each model for each area and time of season. Changing seasons is the biggest bugaboo for both man and machine. That’s why some months are easier or harder to forecast.

Enough weather for now.

Rounding Cabo Falso

On 23 May 2018, we finally got underway heading to Ensenada with stops along the way. The first protected stop was Maddalena Bay, about 200 miles up the coast.

Our track on Coastal Explorer. We are finally past the point that we turned around last time.

Coming abreast of Cabo Falso, winds had picked up to 310° at 15 gusting to 25 knots. I put one bird in the water to reduce the roll, which had gotten to 10° to 15° to port, as the winds were on the forward starboard quarter. We were pitching 6° to 8° up and down. Not fun, but tolerable for a while.

Six hours after departure, we were finally around the cape and heading NNW. Winds had died down to 10 knots, but we still had an unpleasant pitching motion.

Night view of Coastal Explorer our first night out of Cabo.
You can see the pitching and rolling motions for the last 12 hours on left on bottom of screen.

During the spring and more recently in my time in Cabo, it was apparent that there are three distinct weather regimes off the Baja coast. The southern third has the strongest and most consistent NW winds. The second third has slightly more variety, while the last third, north of Tortuga Bay, must more variable weather, more like southern California.

Our Coastal Explorer chart showing our route for the previous 36 hours, after arrival in Magdalena Bay
Navionics on Tablet, further out view on Coastal Explorer, as we proceed up the channel in Magdalena Bay
Another view out the pilot house window, with Maretron and Coastal Explorer chart

Not until we were close to Magdalena bay did the winds back around to the west, though they were strong at 15 to 20 knots.

We pulled into Magdalena Bay 17:00 on the second day, the 24th, we then spent a few hours going up channel to Puerto San Carlos, to be protected from the coming wind storm.

Another view out the pilot house window, with Maretron and Coastal Explorer chart. It did stay like that the entire time

This leg’s summary: 188 nm, 35 hours, 25 min, avg speed 5.45 knots

Now, let’s check out that dingy. If you missed that fiasco, see:

https://dauntlessatsea.com/2018/07/14/the-dingy-fiasco-part-1/

 

The Dingy Fiasco part 2

As the winds finally let up after 10 days to let us get out of the tourist hell that is Cabo San Lucas, I was optimistic that having a functional dingy would give us increased stopping opportunities.

Our peaceful anchorage in spite of 25 knot winds

One of the key factors in deciding to burn money staying at the marina in Cabo for $100 per day was the lack of a serviceable dingy. Though, the reviews for anchoring outside the harbor, were mixed at best.

Leaving Cabo, the plan was to get a few days up the coast to wait out the next forecast period of strong northwesterly winds that preclude any movement north. Our goal was Magdalena Bay, a very large bay, similar to San Francisco Bay.

We had decided to bypass the anchorage off the Magdalena Bay entrance, as it did not look as protected as San Carlos, point another 12 miles north through a meandering, narrow channel. We were also looking forward to getting the taste of Cabo out of our systems be visiting a real Mexican town again.

Thus, the die was cast for Puerto San Lucas.

the channel to Puerto San Lucas in Magdalena Bay

As we were passing the anchorage, heading up channel, we heard a call on the VHF, weak, but readable, in Spanish, telling us something. Again, my Spanish stinks, so I wasn’t sure what was being said, but I guessed it was about Puerto San Lucas and we’d figure it out when we got there. I’d already made the decision that the anchorage at Magdalena Bay was too open for my likes.

12 miles and two hours later, as we approached Puerto San Lucas, we got the call again. This time, it was loud and clear that the port was closed due to the anticipated high winds. I suspected that, so we told them we were going to head a couple miles further north to anchor in the lee of the mangroves. That was met with happy approval, since it was clear in the tone of the conversation, that the port captain didn’t like telling us the port was closed to us.

We proceeded north another few miles which put us right on the edge of the charted area of both the C-Map and Navionics charts. Going very slowly as the water shallowed, at one point, I did let us get out of the channel and had to rapidly reverse to avert the 17th grounding of my career (but who’s counting?)

Video of us approaching out anchorage 

Still shot of us approaching anchorage
Dauntless at anchor, north of P San Lucas

Anchored in about 10 feet of water, with 100 feet of chain and snubber for the anticipated winds, we were quite content. The winds were already 15 to 20, gusting to the high 20’s, but with no fetch, the seas were very small, less than half a foot, and Dauntless was rock steady.

We did swing around overnight due to the current, but my 55-pound Delta anchor has never dragged since I got it 4 years ago. I don’t even bother with an anchor alarm anymore, but I admit that’s because I have given up on Drag Queen probably because it turns itself off due to poor reception in my cabin and more importantly, I don’t anchor off lee shores.

Having sleep like a baby, the previous two nights having been spent underway, we woke up full of piss and vinegar. Time to take the dingy to Puerto San Lucas and check out the action, well more like, check out the food.

Now, not being totally stupid, I decided to go upwind for a bit to see how well the dingy and its puny 5 hp outboard could handle the conditions. As you can see from the video, all looked great, though the winds were blowing 20 to 25 knots.

The view from the dingy on our reconnaissance lap

Did I do the math? No. Puerto San Lucas was about 2.5 to 3 miles away; downwind.

But we set off with the winds to our back, the only concern was where we could land the dingy. Not knowing that location was mistake number #1.

Mistake #2 was I have two handheld VHF radios. The primary one, the ICOM, battery could no longer charge, so that was on the list of things to replace. The secondary one, the Chinese whatever, would take real rocket scientist to figure out how to use, thus it was relegated to some storage container someplace where I put things I don’t feel like dealing with.

Video of our test lap 

Besides, why would we possibly need a radio.

Twenty minutes later, zipping right along, maybe a half mile upwind of town, wondering where we could land the dingy. We see a man cast fishing, standing in about 1 to 2 feet of water maybe a few hundred feet from shore. Let’s head there.

As we get closer, we finally realize we are running of water. Umm, those rocks look so close. I reach to unlatch the outboard, so it can tilt upwards and as I fiddle with the lever, ge-clunk, the prop hits a rock or two and we are in half a foot of water.

We get out the oars, yes, I remembered to take them, only to realize we are hard aground, as the wind continues to push us towards shore.

I jump out, to get us turned around, Larry starts to row. Some minutes later, we are in deeper water, enough to start the outboard.

Rule #1, when running aground, follow the same route out as you followed in. Mistake #3, not following Rule #1. We were further to the west than our track in.

Getting the outboard started we decided to head back to Dauntless. The outboard had a bad vibration; I’d bent the prop. That, the 25 knot headwinds with the now 1 to 2-foot seas it produced, along with a heavier dingy and two people, meant that our downwind speed of probably 5 to 6 knots, was now about 2 knots.

Every minute we would be splashed by a breaking wave. We couldn’t see Dauntless at all. I knew where she was, but clearly, we were more than 2 miles away. That meant, we had an hour of this.

That’s when we went aground again. This time coupled with a belching of very black motor oil, like the Exxon Valdez had passed through. I thought I had totaled the outboard, as in the prop hitting a solid object was enough to break a connecting rod inside the motor.

But the motor started up and we seemed to crawl northwards. I didn’t know where the oil (about a cup worth) had come from, but I expected the motor to quit at any moment. The winds and seas were too strong to row again. Even with the outboard still running, we were doing at best 2 knots.

We discussed contingency plans.

We decided to head north until the boat came into sight and hope the motor lasted long enough. I kept on asking Larry if he thought we were making any progress. That guy fishing was still quite visible, while Dauntless was no where to be seen. This went on for the next 30 minutes, until it was obvious that we were making progress. Though I wondered for how long. The outboard was clearly on its last legs, shaking itself to death with no oil.

We decided that if the outboard quit, we would have to head west to the shore, about 1 mile away. We could not go upwind, but if we angled across the wind, we should be able to make shore. At that point, we would get out and walk along the shore in deep enough water to drag the dingy north. Once NW of Dauntless, we would row to her.

We were cold and wet, but having a plan that was at least feasible, made me feel slightly better. Though I was feeling miserable that I was subjecting Larry to this fiasco. That was making me feel worse. When I’m alone and fuck up, I deal with it. But I hate for others to suffer because of my actions. This is why I like being alone many times. I don’t feel stressed nor responsible for anyone else. If I torture myself, so be it, I deserved it.

The Kadey Krogen came into sight after about 40 minutes since we stared heading back. She blended well into the background. The outboard sounded worse than ever. I pictured it quitting within feel of Dauntless. With these winds and waves, no way could we have rowed to her. Even if we were 100 feet away, we would probably have to row to shore, a half mile away, and do our drag up the coast to get upwind of her.

I crossed my fingers and toes.

About this time, we saw a panga heading south. But it was about a half mile to our east and by the time we saw it, it was well south of us. Had I seen it earlier, I would have waved it down. He could have towed us to Dauntless in 10 minutes. But it wasn’t to be. I was reminded how stupid it was, especially under such conditions, to venture forth without a radio.

For 30 minutes we watched Dauntless get bigger and bigger. I prayed to Poseidon, Circe and whoever would listen to just get there. Finally, as I bumped into the swim platform and Larry grabbed ahold, I breathed a sigh of relief. We’d made it.

Getting the dingy rigged to the winch line, I decided to see if the outboard would start. No, it was done. I was grateful it kept on going that last hour.

I’ve written before about the “having two keys”. There have been countless times when I have lost a key but had duplicates someplace. Whereas I can never remember having lost a key when it was my only one.  I wondered if I was more careless than usual because I knew I had another outboard in the future? My friend Mike had promised to give me his spare 15 hp outboard when I got to Southern California.

One never knows, but everything is connected, even when you think it isn’t.

The following day, leaving for Magdalena Bay anchorage, to give us a better head start the next day.