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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

5/3/2011 - In retrospect...

..probably should have waited until tomorrow to leave Isla San Francisco. It was still blowing when I got up this morning although two separate weather sources assured me that the wind speed would be dropping off this afternoon. Of course, "dropping off" could just mean that the wind would drop from the 15-20 knot range down to the 10-15 knot range and, as it happens, that's exactly what they meant. But we'd been anchored in Isla SF for 4 days. The last two days we'd been seeing winds of 15-20 knots with gusts to 27 knots. We were ready to move on and if the winds were only going to be 10-15, what the hey?

Although we didn't get up early to be on our way or anything, by 10:30 we were ready to go. The wind was going to be right on our nose heading up the San Jose Channel so we didn't even bother uncovering the mainsail. If things went to crap, we'd unroll the jib and head downwind towards La Paz. Or back to Isla San Francisco. The diesel was warming up by 11:15 and at 11:30 we were on our way. The GPS predicted a 2-1/2 hour trip for this 10 nautical mile leg.

As we got our into the channel between Isla San Jose and the Baja mainland, the wind picked up and so did the waves. Before long we were pounding through 3' swells and straight into 15 knot winds. The autopilot just could not handle the load. First we'd be way off to starboard of the rhumb line and then the A/P would overcompensate and we'd be way off to port. Then the waves and the wind would stop us cold, we'd lose steerage and the A/P would completely lose its mind. Finally, I gave it a rest and took over steering. This is the only time I've ever steered a better course than the autopilot.

Other than the taking of water over the bow as we plunged into the swells, it was a fairly uneventful trip. However, most of the trip we were lucky to make 3 knots. We were often down to under 2 knots. Not the most fuel-efficient trip we've ever made. When we finally made the turn in to San Evaristo, things got really uncomfortable. Until then we'd been taking the seas head-on. The dodger protected us from the worst of the spray. But, after we turned, the seas were hitting just forward of our starboard beam. This meant that I was getting lots of the heaviest splash and spray directly. Got wetter the last 1/2 hour of the trip than the whole rest of the way. Ultimately, our "2-1/2 hour trip" took us 4 hours.

We had gotten a VHF call from Doug and Jody on s/v El Gitano a little earlier so we knew they were already in San Evaristo. As we entered the harbor we gave them a call to find out where they were and to get their recommendations on good anchoring spots. They directed us to one where we dropped 100' of chain in 20' of water. Once we got the boat secured, we dinghied over to El Gitano for a couple of brews and some visiting.

We're now hunkered in for the evening. Tomorrow we'll join Doug & Jody ashore to see what the tienda has for sale (we're really hoping they have cerveza). There's also what we hope is a palapa restaurant/bar. San Evaristo is a small village with about 20 full-time households, a small tienda, and a desalinization plant. Should be a nice place to spend a few days.

Oh yeah, and from now on I'm taking a page from Doug's rule book: If you see whitecaps out on the water, don't go until they're gone.

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