Northbound–The Seamanship Test
Sunday June 11th
Holly shit!! Thank God for a well made Australian catamaran and an able crew. Today was one of those days that tests your seamanship to the max. Weather conditions have a low pressure system moving into the northern Sea of Cortez. Sailing the western shore of Baja can be treacherous due to spill over winds from the Pacific under these conditions. We found five spill-over areas on our journey from Bay of LA to Willard Bay where we rest while writing this update. Weather conditions showed the prevailing winds were going to turn from prevailing southerly to north winds on Monday. For our sail north this produces some challenges and probably some uncomfortable bashing sailing tight into wind and more importantly in the Sea of Cortez very tight wind waves. Studying the weather our best option looks to be head from Bay of LA to Puerto Refugio on the north end Angel Island where there is good protection for just about any wind condition. Between the Bay and Refugio there are two Pacific wind slots. Viewing the web app WindyTY, the winds are forecasted in these areas in speeds we’ve sailed many times enjoying the broad reach with winds in the mid 20s. Winds moving north have been light and a little windy sailing is to be enjoyed. Right? The whole windy event actually started last night with the typical Bay of LA Elephonta west winds that force us inside for dinner at Guillermo’s. Winds have laid down this morning and all the fishing charter pangas are heading out this morning, a good sign. A run into Guillermo’s for a last minute check of weather and we’re ready to head north. Weather shows if we go early we can get through the windy slots before they get to max forecasted strength of 25-30 kts.
We’re off 7ish and immediately setup the main with a double reef and only roll out 50% of the jib expecting the worst. A few miles north the first windy area shows green water full of whitecaps. With our reefed setup, the 25kts made for an confortable exciting ride. We squire out of the wind mid way up Smith Island and were motoring and winds become light from the southwest. The next slot is 10 miles ahead that extends 10 miles to Punta Remedios. Looking north we see no winds and shake out our reefs to make the best progress with the southerly winds. Approaching the next windy slot south of Remedios we see only a light shift to the west. This is where we should have put our reefs back in but didn’t. Winds quickly filled in and we’re not in the preferred close to the west shore. Rolling seas come with the winds from the open bay south of Remedios. We’ve done this area many times under full sail and to reef in the short 3 second 4’ seas is very difficult and very hard on the sail and boat. We have our sights on Punta Remedios where we hope to get shelter. Winds start at 20. Rick has the wheel steering through the waves and closely watching the leeward bow that digs and sprays with each increasing wind gust. Soon low 30kts become the norm. Remedios is getting closer but not soon enough. This is getting serious and Gato Loco is handling it well. Within 200 meters of the Remedios things seem to lighten then BAM. Remedios seemed to have focused some wind and we get hit with 40. Everything rattles violently and the jib fails and starts it way done the furling car being beat by the strong winds. Nothing to do but for me to go to the bow and get it down quickly before it destroys itself or pulls us around in the wind when it fills on its way down. The noise of it flailing in the wind will be remembered but I finally got it down and used the spinnaker sheets to lash it to the foredeck. Meanwhile Rick continues northward to lighter winds. Returning to the cockpit I hear we have a big problem. The main sheet block is all contorted with half of the cleat busted. Thank God we’re now in calmer water and can catch our breath and asses what can be done. Wow glad that’s over.
The main sheet blocks can be repaired. Not sure about the jib. The head strap broke free creating the initial problem but 5’ of the furler luff bead is torn and looks un-repairable. 30 minutes and we have the blocks repaired and begin assessing our next move. Looking across the channel towards Refugio the winds and seas are something we’re not ready to face. Winds are forecasted from the west and hugging the west shore of Baja an making our way on up to Gonzaga will give us some relief and give us a better position for north winds for heading our way home. Here’s the problem… There’s at least one more windy slot between us and Gonzaga. Seas are pretty confused as we motor sail towards still drying out the boat. As you can imagine salt water went everywhere except the salon. 25 miles from Gonzaga we see the now dreaded green white capped water ahead. We’re with a double reefed main and no head sail as we head into our 3rd heavy air of the day. Now we have an extra challenge. We see at least 10 fin whales ahead which are hard to see in the heavy seas. Their blows are instantly wisp away by the strong winds. Rick is back steering and Jeffrey is on whale watch. Reefed, this windy slot is navigated without problems and we manage to miss what we count as over 25 fin whales working the area. It would have been nice to enjoy the whales more but we were too busy managing wind and seas.
Winds light again and begin to clock west as we near the actual Gonzaga Bay. Clearing the point on the south end of Gonzaga we can’t believe it. Things are bad, 25kt winds 5’ sea and it’s a 10 mile stretch of more abuse. We hope to anchor in front Alfoncia’s but these conditions raise concerns and we turn a little north to Willard Bay to guarantee we will have a restful night. 7:30 anchor down and we’re beat. Everybody is disappointed that we can’t get to Alfoncia’s for dinner but Jeffrey whipped up a another awesome shrimp dinner while we lamented about one of the roughest days on the Sea of Cortez. We survived, relearned a few lessens, gained more seamanship and fully appreciate a well made catamaran that delivered us safe and sound.
Monday June 12th
Very restful night with the exhaustion from yesterday. Jeffrey has been stitching on our jib sail since yesterday afternoon and is determined he’s going to get it back in service. This morning he finishes up the last stitches and proudly displays the fully repaired jib luff bead along with some UV cover stitches. Awesome.. We’re going to move around to the north end of Gonzaga Bay this morning to take advantage of Alfonsina’s restaurant and the internet.
Our plan after having a nice breakfast at Alfoncia’s and studying the weather on internet is to lay over today here in Gonzaga. Tomorrow, Tuesday we will make our way up to Puertocitos and overnight there for a better angle on the north winds still blowing. Weather permitting we will then head for Penasco early Wednesday morning. Generally WindTY show favorable conditions for us. After all of this I’m very happy report we fixed the main sheet cleat block assembly, put the jib back in service, replaced the broken 2nd main reefing line, tighten side stays and clean salt from everything and now all is well on Gato Loco. We’re going to relax the rest of the day. I hope to follow up the update with some video of our day yesterday.
Until the next Update
Alfonsina’s newly remodeled Restaurant