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Friday, December 3, 2010

12/3/2010 - About that "Norther"

I'll have to wait and post the rest of the blogs about our trip down the outside when I have a faster internet connection. This one is slow enough that Blogo times out before all the pictures can load.

Anyway, a word or two about the Norther that I've referred to a couple times. During the winter months, due to whatever weather factors, north winds frequently blow down the length of the Sea of Cortez. These blows seem to last from a couple days to a week or so and we may only get a couple of days between the end of one blow and the start of the next. The winds can be quite strong and, with 800 miles of open sea available ("fetch"), can cause pretty darn big seas to build up by the time they reach the bottom of Baja.

We managed to get tucked into Los Frailes just ahead of a Norther. The day we anchored here things were fairly mellow. Folks were walking on the beach, running around in their dinghies, doing stuff on deck, etc. But by the next morning it was a whole different ballgame. The winds started building during the night. By the time we got up (let's see, this would have been Tuesday, I think), the bay was very choppy and the wind was howling through the rigging. I went on deck with the handheld Kestrel wind gauge and found it to be blowing a steady 16-18 knots with frequent gusts of 30-35 knots. And that's in a somewhat protected harbor. Looking out beyond the bay, the seas were pretty ugly. Large breaking waves. Nowhere to be if you didn't have to.

The winds continued like this Tuesday and Wednesday. It was blowing so hard that we had no intention of trying to assemble our dinghy on deck, nor would we have wanted to venture ashore in it even if it had already been in the water. During one lull, one of the neighboring boats was making a garbage run and came by in his dinghy and collected me and our big nasty bag of garbage for a trip ashore to dispose of it. He had garbage bags from 3 or 4 boats. Between the garbage and the three cruisers, that was one full dinghy.

We're running a nylon snubber to the anchor chain via the hawsepipe on the starboard bow. Siempre Sabado danced around at anchor like she was anxious to go somewhere. Back and forth, back and forth. Not sure if it was the way we ran the snubber that contributed to this or not. I'll have to try running off the bow roller next time and see if that changes things. Or, run a line from both hawsepipes creating a bridle. Lots of opportunities for experimentation in the future. Anyway, with the seas and the winds and this anchor dance, we were once again thankful for our Rocna anchor and all-chain rode. And good holding ground. Made us feel very secure.

The word was that the winds were supposed to drop off to nothing yesterday (Thursday). Well, they did drop, but hardly to nothing. I guess they dropped to nothing over much of Mexico but we were still getting blown around pretty good here. It was calm enough in the morning to put the dinghy together and go ashore. By the time we got back mid-afternoon, it was blowing pretty good again. However, this morning things seem to have calmed down considerably.

We are supposed to have a window of a couple of days before the next norther hits. We're hearing that it should be blowing pretty good by Monday. Our plan is to leave here tonight around 2100. Why at night? The trip from here up to Punta Perico looks pretty straightforward and should be no problem in the dark. But then we enter Cerralvo Channel which, I guess, can be a handful if we get any weather funneling down through it, so I'd like to do it in the daylight. Following Cerralvo Channel we'll pass through San Lorenzo Channel which is tight, so I definitely want to do that part in daylight. It'll take us about 10 hours to get from Los Frailes to Punta Perico so, if we leave at 2100, we should be there about 0700 on Saturday. That'll give us all day to get most of the rest of the way to La Paz in daylight. However, my calculations put us arriving in La Paz at around 2100. Well, since it's dark at 2100 and the entry to La Paz is less than straightforward, we'll drop the hook either in Puerto Ballandra, Caleta Lobos, or Bahia Falsa tomorrow night. Then we'll be in a perfect position to complete the trip into La Paz Sunday morning.

We want to spend about a week at a marina to wash the salt and sand off the boat, do laundry, get groceries, etc, before moving to an anchorage. We're planning on Marina de La Paz but haven't contacted them to see if they have a slip available yet. Might try to see if I can do that with Skype today while I still have a wifi connection. Our connection might be too slow but it might work.


Anonymous said...


Now you're putting out names of places that get me thinkin' about getting out of my armchair.

None of the anchorages you mentioned are very good when the W wind kicks up as it often does at night in there. I don't know why it does that, but find an overnight forcast before you comit. Ballandra is postcard perfect, but holding can be sketchy. It's thin sand over something else so the anchor has trouble really digging in. If you stay there, dive on your anchor in the crystal clear water. We bought a bigger anchor after our night in there, but I won't scare the forum with that story (that really could have happened anywhere). Never stopped at Caleta Lobos. Bahia Falsa has better holding, but it's not nearly as pretty. Pichilingue is bullet-proof in any wind, but it's UGLY and there's traffic.


Steve and Lulu said...

Well, Rod, we've changed our plan a little so the sketchiness of the anchorage shouldn't be too much of a problem. Instead of heading out tonight in the pitch black (n moon) and just praying that the GPS keeps working, we've decided instead to start out at first light tomorrow and go as far as Ensenada de Los Muertos. Spend the night there and then get up early and start out at first light on Sunday AM for La Paz. Should get there well before darkfall. No room at the innat Marina de La Paz before Monday anyway so no real reason to try to get there Sunday.