Log 1
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Log 1 - Baja California
(November 30, 2002 - February 15, 2003)

SAN DIEGO - ENSENADA
ENSENADA - CABO SAN LUCAS
CABO SAN LUCAS - CROSSING CORTEZ


SAN DIEGO - ENSENADA


November 30, 2002 - January 21, 2003 (Dana)

After being well fed with two Thanksgiving feasts in two days (one at Louisa and David's on Thanksgiving Day, and one with my family the following day), we headed out the morning of November 30 for the Coronado Islands, where we'd sleep for a few hours before continuing on to Ensenada.  This was our first trip after having performed a lot of work and installing some major new equipment on the boat (radar, self-steering wind vane, new engine parts, etc.), so it was going to be an important test.  We finally got lucky, and everything worked beautifully.  We arrived at Los Coronados at sunset, anchored, slept a few hours, and head out for Ensenada around 2 a.m., so as to arrive during daylight. 

The trip to Ensenada took about 13 hours, and we sailed in one-hour shifts with navigation updates at the end of each hour to fit a lot of practice into the day.  "Doing the nav" involves taking a GPS reading, plotting our fix on the chart, determining our course-made-good and speed-made-good over the hour, and determining whether a course change is required.  As it turns out, I really like doing the nav - it's the kind of thing I get into.  And since we checked our coordinates so often, we stayed on course very well.  Overall, the sail was pleasantly uneventful, with just enough wind to avoid use of the motor most the time.  We did get a lot of attention from the dolphins, however, which was a treat.  First we saw what looked like hundreds of dolphins in the distance, on both sides of the boat.  It didn't take long for them to spot us back and start swooping in.  It's common for dolphins to swim with boats, but there were just so many of them that it was really exciting.  (I was at the helm, so I didn't manage to take any pictures.)  Later, when we were passing through Bahia Todos Santos (the bay outside of Ensenada), another group of 4 or 5 dolphins joined up with us and brought us almost all the way in.  It was a gracious welcome to the first port on our voyage. 

We docked at Baja Naval, which was to be our new home for over a month, though we maintained a studio back in San Diego.  The slips at Baja Naval were not very comfortable as there was a strong current causing a lot of motion, noise and chafing of the lines, but there was very little else to complain about.  Baja Naval was much nicer than any boat yard I've seen in California, and the location was perfect:  right next to the awesomely huge Mexican flag, as centrally located in town as a location on the water could be.  After watching with hesitation while they hauled out Ker-Mor with a belt lift, we checked ourselves into the Posada El Rey Sol and gorged ourselves on tacos for several days while Baja Naval began repairing Ker-Mor's fractured ribs (common in a wood boat).  No taco stand was left unturned, and while swallowing down our tacos de carne asada, de pollo y de pescado we repeated several times that "this was such a good idea" (in regards to Chris' idea to get this first leg under our belts in November instead of January).  When we were ready to head back to San Diego, David was kind enough to come pick us up and give us a tour of Gigante, where we would do our provisioning.  The drive back impressed us with views from the cliffs of a spectacular sunset, and we stopped in Puerto Nuevo for a lobster dinner celebration.

While traveling back and forth between Ensenada and San Diego for a few weeks, we were preparing to leave San Diego for good on January 3.  However, Chris' grandma Lucksetich died unexpectedly and we left for Iowa instead.  After we returned, we finished selling our cars and storing our belongings, and left San Diego on January 10.  We stayed at El Rey Sol again that night and many of our friends and family joined up with us the next day for a send-off weekend.  It meant a lot to us to have the many people who made it there with us, especially after we changed the date at the last minute.  We gave tours of the boat (which was filthy from almost two months in a boat yard), had meals and margaritas together, drank slammers at Hussong's, and danced at Papas and Beer;  fun was had by all.  And thankfully, Chris and I were not going to be shoving off for about another week, so there would be no farewell at the docks as we pulled away.  Instead, goodbyes were at the restaurant and in the parking lot of the hotel.

Nonetheless, despite our efforts to avoid it we were not without a cheering committee when the time came to shove off.  While obtaining our "salidas" (documentation required to leave a port) from the Port Captain, we met a woman who had just returned from a one to two year voyage with her new husband, and it turns out her boat was only a couple slips down from ours.  When we were about to pull out of the slip, she (whose name I wish I could remember) came with her husband and two other dockmates to help us out against the strong currents.  While getting a bit teary reminiscing about when they were first shoving off, she waved, cheered and yelled out things like "you'll hate each other sometimes, but then you'll love each other again!" and "don't forget to pull up your fenders so you don't look stupid!"  It was great. 


ENSENADA - CABO SAN LUCAS


January 21 – February 1, 2003 (Chris)

Well, we wanted a "shakedown" cruise and we got it!  We left Ensenada (which lies about 60 miles south of San Diego) on the 21st of  January around 1100. Once out of the Bay of Todos Santos, we set our course bearing for 180º - due South.  Our ultimate destination was Cabo San Lucas located 675 miles downwind from Ensenada.  Averaging 4 knots an hour we expected a 7-day trip.

For about a week prior I had been diligently monitoring weather systems that could affect our travel.  A cold front had just passed through the area which, according to local weather patterns, would be followed by two high pressure systems – i.e. good, stable weather.  Sure enough, that’s what the surface maps were showing and a couple who had just come from Cabo said the waters were like a lake.

Once we got out to the ocean though it was a different story.  Within the first twenty minutes we found out we had too much sail up. For most of the first half of the trip we would sail with no head sail, a reefed main sail (reefing means reducing the area of your sail by tying part of it down) and would occasionally have the mizzen sail (the small sail in back) down.  Even with that set up we were averaging 6 knots and sometimes reaching above 7.  We determined that we were experiencing around Force 7 winds (rated from Force 1 to Force 12 with 12 being a Hurricane). At 2300 on the 21st Dana had noted in the log "big seas, with some breakers".  On the 23rd at 0905 she noted "BIG BIG BIG! (Seas)".  After two and a half days of this we decided we needed a break and pulled into a protected anchorage on the leeward (protected from prevailing winds) side of Isla Cedros roughly 250 miles south of our departure point. 

As awful as it all sounds, that first part of the trip was great for us.  We learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work.  This really boosted our confidence while giving us a great appreciation for the forces of nature and how we need to interact with it. 

So what worked? – Well first and foremost, the boat.  Ker-Mor plowed through the seas like a John Deere through black Iowa soil (sorry, couldn’t help the mid-west farm reference).  This boat is solid and designed for the high seas.   What else worked?  The shipmates – we’re still kiss’n and its still just as sweet!  Finally, we found out that our inflatable life jackets worked as I performed a man-over-board drill in order to test Dana’s skills.  We were actually tied into the boat the entire time we were on the open water – I was fanatical about that.  The one exception was pulling away from Cedros Island after the seas had calmed.  We were in protected waters, the weather had become very docile and the water was like glass.  I was handling one of the lines, made a slight turn the wrong way and plop!, I went into the drink.  I still had a hold of one of the lines and I looked like a fallen water skier being dragged after a big spill.  Dana passed the test and graciously returned to pick me up.  After that there were NO exceptions to being tied in.

What didn’t work? – Well my weather forecasting for one (I guess I can cross that career choice off the list).  But what we really learned was that the best weather information is in the skies above you.  We also learned certain rigging arrangements don’t work well, causing chafe and unnecessary stress.  These are minor and we’ll make adjustment before we leave.

I would be remiss if I ended the log without mentioning the amazing sea life we saw.  Right in the Bay of Todos Santos we saw water spouts from whales.  We would continue to see them, as well as a few tails, throughout our trip as the whales make their southbound migration to warmer waters.  Just prior to turning into Cabo San Lucas we saw an amazing site.  A whale within a mile of us breached the surface showing us how big and magnificent these creatures really are.  Even more amazing, it continued to breach at least 10 more times before it got too far to see.   We also had plenty of dolphins.  They’ll see you a mile away and will rush over to escort you along your journey.  Literally, 50-100 dolphins would trek with us along our port and starboard, diving in and out of the water and then speed up to crisscross our bow as if to tell us “you ain’t so fast, I can pass you without even breaking a sweat.”   Finally, the place where we anchored off Cedros Island was home to hundreds of seals and sea lions including a big group of elephant seals.  Dana took some great pictures and even video so hopefully we’ll get that up on the website.  The sea lions were very friendly and curious often coming up to the boat to see what we were doing.  Once at the boat they would dive down in groups of four or five spiraling around each other as they descended.  At night, this motion would trigger phosphorescent trails creating an aquatic light show to accompany the sea lion dance. 

All and all it was an amazing trip.  Until we reach the Galápagos our trips will be shorter, weather will be warmer and (hopefully) seas should be calmer.  But you never know what’s in store. 



January 21, 2003 - February 1, 2003 (Dana)

I have just a few things to add about the days that Chris already covered.  (I imagine most items I'll ever have to add will relate to animals, and this is no exception.)  First, as if things weren't already weird enough on our first night out surfing huge waves in the moonless night, we had a fish jump into the cockpit of the boat.  It was too dark to see it but we could hear and smell it.  I think a fish jumping into your boat at night must signify something - good luck maybe?  Another wildlife encounter of note was having the dolphins surf along with us.  As I looked over my shoulder at some of the waves coming my way, I could see them in the crests above me - very cool, and a welcome distraction. 

CABO SAN LUCAS - CROSSING CORTEZ


February 1, 2003 - February 9, 2003 (Dana)

We arrived in Cabo after six nights of cruising from Cedros that were cumulatively less painful than the 2 nights getting to Cedros.  Our first impression as we pulled into Marina Cabo San Lucas was that it wasn't exactly what we had in mind.  It looked a bit like being in the middle of an upscale shopping mall, as opposed to the idyllic beaches we have pictured.  Nonetheless, that is where the showers and laundry were, so we did not hesitate to pull into the slip instead of heading out to the moorings.  The facilities were very nice there, and at $66 per night they should be.  According to a fellow cruiser, Marina Cabo San Lucas has the highest-rent slips in the world.  But, we were indeed in the middle of an upscale (and brand new) shopping mall, designed for wealthy Americans (especially male-bonding fishing groups) and baring little resemblance to Mexico other than the warmer weather.  Moreover, everything was highly overpriced compared to other tourist cities in Mexico.  However, we did find a bargain in the taco stands located outside the main tourist area, so we happily continued our taco stand tour that began in Ensenada. 

Despite the downsides to Cabo marina, we did enjoy having solid land just steps away and all the goods and services we could need within walking distance.   And despite it not being what we had in mind, the "shopping mall" scenery was very pretty - it felt like we were in the middle of a Las Vegas hotel like the Venetian or Bellagio, with a body of water in the middle and an impressive facade of restaurants and shops all around.  Then there was the movie theater - each seat was its own giant leather recliner.  It's the most comfortable theater either of us has ever been in.  Another highlight was meeting Al and Vicki, a couple from Los Angeles who's sailboat ("About Time") was a few slips down from ours.  Al is an airline pilot turned commercial real estate broker (and apparently a couple other things in between), and he sailed the boat down with their son and daughter.  He seems a lot like Chris in that he likes constantly to be exposed to and learning new things.  Vicki is the president of a clothing company (Votre Nom), and she flew down to join him.  (The idea of sailing for more than a night or two was not something in which she had any interest, despite their luxurious boat.)  We really enjoyed getting to know this very likable couple, and since they're from LA like me, we even scored a couple points in the name game.  After spending the early evening on our boat having drinks and then touring their boat, we all head over to the Trailer Park for lobster dinner (Al and Vicki's treat - these two just get better and better).  That evening was probably our favorite in Cabo. 

After a few nights in the marina, we left our slip and moored in Bahia San Lucas.  The mooring was just off of the strip of beach hotels that includes the Pueblo Bonito Rosé (Loren should know where this is - we stayed there a few years ago).  It was also close to the main party restaurant/bar on the beach, so every afternoon we were treated to several hours of an MC announcing over a load speaker how sexy everyone was and trying to convince them to drink beer and tequila very quickly and to "dance sexy".  And if they didn't know how to dance sexy, he had some bartenders who could and did show them how.  It was the same gig every afternoon, with "sexy" being the word of the week - "muy muy sexy".  Surprisingly, this was fairly entertaining, and we found ourselves roll playing as MC daily.  We also had much more naturally attractive surroundings there in the bay.  Of course, we had to take a water taxi or row our own little dinghy onto the beach to go anywhere, but that will be the norm for us this year.  One day I took a water taxi to shore and returned in the evening to find the water taxis were off for the night.  After waiting for anyone to pass by for a while, and considering swimming (with my waterproof laptop case), I decided the water was too cold and realized no one was traveling to or from their moorings, so I found someone on the beach to take me back in a kayak.  (He'd never kayaked at night before.)  After that, we depended only on our own rowboat to get home. 

It's a drag to even think about, but I have to say a quick word about the entrada/salida paperwork we have to obtain in each Mexican port.  In some ports its easier to take care of then others, but all involve a trip to at least the migración office, capitanía office and the bank, unless we are able to have a marina do it for us for a fee.   The Mexico Boating Guide we have calls the whole process the "Paperwork Cha Cha".  In Cabo, we had to cha cha for days.  Chris bore the brunt of it, as my task was to develop the web site, which I had to learn to do from scratch.  But between Chris' trips to the various offices for the entrada, both of our trips to the offices for the salida, and my wandering the streets looking for appropriate web cafes, we have been getting lots of exercise.  Though doing it to shuffle papers is a pain, we are enjoying the exercise and the active lifestyle - it beats sitting at a desk all day by far. 

On the wildlife front, the pelicans here were great.  They were fearless and they hung around anywhere that was close to a fishing boat, which means they were pretty much everywhere.  It was surprising to see the small railings that these large birds could bend their floppy feet around, but they would perch almost anywhere on the boats and docks.  Pelicans are such interesting looking creatures and it was fun to watch them so close up. 

 



February 10, 2003 - February 15, 2003 (Chris)

As of the end of this week, we have completed another 210 miles of ocean navigation and crossed the Sea of Cortez to the mainland of Mexico.

Our journey began on Monday heading north up the eastside of the Baja peninsula.  We expected a nice little sail around the cape destined for Los Frailes (the Friars) only 40 miles away.  What we received was another whipping by Mother Nature.  Winds were coming from the north at near gale force with 33-knot gusts.  Since we were heading almost directly into the wind, we had to motor the entire way.  The trip took 13 hours we could only inch forward at 1-2 knots even with the steady speed of the engine.  Once again, the boat performed very well even though motoring into the wind and waves is like riding a bronco bull (yee-ha).  We were also very pleased with the engine (Millard take note).  It was literally the little engine that could.  We kneeled and bowed in reverence to the great engine god at the end of the trip.  We also fed the fiery beast 3 ½ quarts of Pennzoil in tribute to its awesome strength – and as part of its regularly scheduled maintenance program.

Frailes is a conspicuous mound of jagged rock rising 755 feet above the sea and forming the north end of “Frailes Bay”.  The Spaniards named it Frailes as its formation gave the appearance of 4 Friars climbing the mound.  I think imagination prior to the age of television must have been much more acute because it looked like just a bunch of rocks to us.

On the north side of Frailes rock is the only living hard-coral reef system on the west side of North America – our original reason for going there.  As it was, we spent the entire time on the south side since I was varnishing the oars and the water was a bit cold.  We did try our hand at fishing though and were quite good at it.  We landed a 10lb Dorado (Mahi Mahi) as a result of our efforts.  This is how it worked…we put our line in the water trying every kind of lure, weight and dried fruit (don’t ask) and after a while a real fisherman felt so sorry for us that he gave us one of his.  To add insult to injury, he told us that he had only meant to catch one but accidentally hooked two.  We didn’t really care though as our daily staple of beans and rice tasted so much better when garnished with a big piece of fish.

We ended up staying in Frailes longer than planned as the weather we experience getting there moved eastward and another (which we now know was the massive beating the US got) came through during the latter half of our stay.  It was at this time that we learned of a great radio service called the “Blue Water Net”.  This is an informal network made up of mostly Canadian cruisers all the way from British Columbia down to Acapulco.  Every night at 6pm they call out on their single side band (long-range) radio to report on the weather they’re experiencing.  We don’t have a single side band but can listen in on our short-wave radio.  There’s usually a ring master who starts the show and keeps things moving along.  He starts out by saying “O.K. this is the Blue Water Net.  Any traffic for the net from San Francisco?”  If there are any boats in that vicinity they’ll say something like “This is Stargazer, over.” Then the ring master, who usually knows everyone, will say “O.K. we got Fred and Margie from Stargazer – I’m read’n ya 'bout 3 out of 5 Fred, must not be a lot of propagation up there eh?”  Slowly, he’ll work his way down until he gets to Acapulco and in between reports of boat repairs, Margie’s apple pie recipe and good anchoring spots, they’ll report on the weather they’re experiencing and “Don”, an amateur (or retired) forecaster in La Paz will give a custom forecast for cruisers.

It was from the net that we learned that there was a huge low pressure system around San Diego that was affecting everyone from boaters heading to Hawaii to those of us hanging out with the four friars.  Don’s forecast assured us that it would blow over by Saturday morning leaving beautiful sailing weather for the week-end.

Wanting to get a jump start and arrive at Mazatlán during daylight, we decided to leave Friday evening at 2200.  Once again, Mother Nature was there waiting for us with her big paddle as we left the bay.  We weren’t going against the wind though which made it easier but we did get hit by squalls for the two evenings we were out.  Squalls are fast moving cloud masses with rain and strong wind associate with them.  They are usually so dense that they actually show up on the radar as big dark blobs.  It’s quite ominous to watch them chase you on the screen.  Dana seemed to get the worst of it on her watches.  At one time, there were 4 blobs closing in on her from every direction!  Needless to say, she got drenched.  The upside is that the boat received a good bath.

The final day of sailing though was about as good as it gets.  Winds were 10-15 knots come across our beam (my favorite point of sail) and clear skies.  In fact, Björk, the one-legged helmsman steered almost the entire day allowing Dana and I to read and relax.  Björk is our mechanical self-steering device.  We so named him as his inventor is Swedish and its shape is such that it looks like a stick figure with one leg missing.  We pulled into the El Cid Marina in Mazatlán around 6 pm on Saturday.  As we arrived, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.  We had crossed a sea, sailed through some pretty rough weather and traveled almost 1,000 miles over the ocean.  Perhaps, we are actually starting to become sailors.

One final note,  Dana would be upset if I didn’t give a wildlife report in my log.  In addition to the fish we “caught” in Frailes, we witnessed the flight of either a spotted eagle ray or a bat ray.  They suddenly emerge from the water jumping two feet into the air and then belly-flopping back.  They’ll do these three or four times, apparently to escape pursuers.  It was pretty cool to see.  Then we experience some of our best whale sightings yet.  They were pretty close and breaching.  One I saw literally jumped out of the water, did a half pike and dove back in leaving a huge splash.  Finally, midway through our trip to Mazatlán, we picked up a hitchhiker.  A bird, after various attempts, successfully landed on our spreaders and managed the rhythmic sway for six hours or so.  He/she also took the opportunity to crap all over our boat for six hours – most of which landed back in the cockpit.  It was like we were under siege.  There are probably other animals I’m failing to mention but we’ll leave it to our next installment of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.



February 10, 2003 - February 15, 2003 (Dana)

And now for the next installment of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom...  In addition to the jumping whales and jumping rays, there were jumping dorado (mahi mahi) that we watched one day as they were chasing their prey (which were also jumping out of the water, schools at a time).  Dorado are beautiful and very distinctive-looking large fish, so that was impressive to see.  Moreover, it fit into the whole jumping theme. 

Also, in our defense about the fishing failure, we knew it would take a moving boat to catch anything good like dorado, but our boat was anchored so we just dabbled around with the fishing pole not expecting much and not being able to use our lures, which are not very convincing when they're not moving (not to say that we didn't try moving them around manually).  The only thing we came up with to use as bait that would actually stay on a hook was dried apricots.  The fish liked them very much and became quite skilled at getting them off the hook.  I can't say that I minded though, as I grew fond of the two fish that were eating our apricots as we watched through the clear water, and I would have felt pretty bad if we'd hooked one.

Lastly, squall-magnet is more like it.  I think I must give off squall-pheromones or something.

 

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