Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015-01 Exploratory Cruise to Baja California

Wild Blue and crew have cruised the Pacific Northwest and Alaska repeatedly.  It's great fun and our favorite cruising area year round.  And it would also be nice to have a warmer cruise destination, especially in winter.  So when our good friend Dick Squire decided to take his Offshore 54 Seagate south to Baja California, we offered to crew.  Besides having a fun time, we will look to Baja as a future winter cruise destination for the Wild Blue

In December, Seagate left from its home port of Los Angeles and cruised down the Mexican coastline and around the tip of Baja California to La Paz.  We joined as crew there for 10 days and the 150-mile run up the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Escondido near Loreto, Mexico.

Here's Alex's La Paz to Puerto Escondido report.

Wednesday, January 14th:  Alaska Airlines ended their direct flight from Los Angeles to La Paz in early 2014.  So the best way to get from LAX to La Paz was Alaska Air to Cabo, then rent a car for the 2+ hour drive to La Paz.  Alex took the long way down: AeroMexico to La Paz with via Mexico City.  It seemed crazy to end the LAX direct flight to the capital city with a 250,000 population, and apparently it was as AeroMexico will start their direct LAX-La Paz flight this February. Met Seagate and Dick Squire at Marina Palmira.  Enjoyed several fresh squeezed Mexican limes in a frosty glass of Kettle One.  Later we were joined by crew Ray and Cheryl Mahaffey, our sailing friends from the Cal Yacht Club.  The four of us enjoyed dinner in La Paz at Nim Restaurant and this was a fresh seafood, fine-dining experience!

Nim Restaurant even had middle eastern tabuli served with ice berg lettuce!
Thursday, January 15th: Today we provisioned and departed at 11AM for an over-nighter to Isla La Partida.  The 22-mile run was a bit bumpy with 3-4 foot closely spaced wind chop in 12-18 knots of northeast wind.  But the 75F degree dry-ish weather made a pleasant climate. We anchored at the southern end of the island in the bay that was bordered by the northern end of Isla del Espiritu Santo with five other boats.  This fine anchorage has clear water but was breezy in the northeasterly's.  We launched Seagate's 12-foot tender and landed on the island at a two-shack fish camp.  The shallow beach meant we anchored and waded ashore in warm 72F degree water.  Later, a Tony Roma rib-dinner for the non-vegetarians, with Pacificos, finished off a fine day.

The sunset from Isla La Partida
Friday, January 16th:  By 8AM we were pushing Seagate's two 800-hp Caterpillar engines at 1700 rpm and getting an 18-knot ride back towards La Paz, a new experience for us 8-knot trawler folks.  By 930AM we were slipped and ready to explore La Paz by car.

On La Paz' north end there is a fine marina, golf, hotel and villa resort known as Costa Baja.  This is by far the superior Marina close to restaurants with easy ocean access. It is a 5-star resort in my book. We explored the complex and found Nim's sister restaurant Azul Marino on the marina walk and dined there.  These two fine restaurants are operated by Chef/Owner Cristina Kiewek who doesn't hide in her kitchen.  Cristina is out there, chatting with you and gathering your response to her dining creations. This gal would be highly successful in any city, and we enjoyed another spectacular dinner.
The Costa Baja Marina is surrounded by
shops, bars and restaurants.
Costa Baja has moorage for all sizes including
this 170 foot sailing yacht with 5 mast spreaders.
One can follow the boardwalk almost completely around the inner marina.
A well protected marina.
There are pools galore including this big one just behind the hotel lobby.
Costa Baja even looks great at night.
And the marina is well lighted along the boardwalk.
Saturday, January 17th:  High winds were forecast so shopped for provisions then toured La Paz and dined at a new Greek restaurant in town.  Another pretty good meal.  The dinghy had been taking on water.  Dick hired a local to bore an access panel to the flooded compartment.  The bilge pump was cleaned and mounted at the bottom so all would be expelled overboard.

Sunday, January 18th:   High winds continued so we revisited Costa Baja at their Beach Club Bar for lunch and to watch the Green Bay-Seattle NFC Championship football game.  A great football game on a beautiful beach.  The bar was filled with boat owners from Seattle and British Columbia that stay in Costa Baja Marina for the winter.

Great football viewing venue!
And if football gets boring, you can always view the ocean, beach or pool.
Go Hawks!
We informed Marina Palmira that Seagate would depart early AM and filled water tanks with dock water through filter. Then we added 1/3 cup bleach.  The boat's tank water will be used for bathing, cleaning, and washing.  We will use the large bottled water for drinking.  Seagate has a water maker for drinking water resupply at sea.  This is the same routine we follow on Wild Blue when forced to take water at questionable marinas in northern British Columbia.  There the water is brown colored from tannin in ground sources.

Monday, January 19th: Finally departed Palmira at 730AM.  We needed to jiggle the gear shift levers to get the port engine to crank over.  Seagate ran 40 miles up to Isla San Francisco.  The wind was light, the seas flat just like the Inside Passage to Alaska. We ran fine at 1175 rpm and 10 knots of boatspeed. The engine temps at 192/194F seemed high as Wild Blue Cummins engine runs at 161F and Ray said the old Seagate runs at 180F. We ran the engine room blowers with no change in Caterpillar temperatures .  Is it possible the heat ex-changers need cleaning?  Turned out Dick says 194F is an OK engine temp for these 800-hp beasts.

We anchored with two other large sailing yachts off the southwest side of Isla San Francisco in a nicely protected bay.  Our C-Map charts have very little detail and less depth soundings.  They suck! We used the "Sea of Cortez: A Cruiser's Guidebook" guide for local navigation along with the Navionics charts downloaded to my LG G3 smartphone.  The same Navionics charts should be downloaded to Seagate's Coastal Explorer chart-plotter program.

Alex caught two fish while trolling in dinghy at Isla SF.  One was a small swordfish and the other a small Bonita/Albacore look-alike.  We kept the "almost Ahi" and dined on it as fresh sushi.

Seagate at Isla San Francisco.
Sharing with other sailing yachts.
Fresh ahi .... at least it looked and tasted like it!
Tuesday, January 20th: We departed Isla SF for Bahia Aqua Verde at 700AM.  Again flat seas with, winds less than 7 knots all day.  After a 50-mile run we anchored in the NW corner in pretty, clear aqua-green water.  Two other power boats anchored were Patience and Idlewild.  The former was Bill Surbey's old boat with new owners.  We know Bill from Cal Yacht Club and from cruising Alaska. The new owners are friendly school teachers on a sabbatical.  Idlewild is the Diesel Duck design that had transited the NW Passage a couple years ago. There was an article in Passagemaker magazine.  This boat is so famous that when we approached and started to ask "Is this the boat...." the new owners interrupted us and nodded their heads "Yes it is" even before we could finish the question!  I guess we're not the only ones......

We went ashore to a rustic village of homes scattered here and there. All the locals were quite friendly and helpful.  We visited the tiny tienda securing more Pacifico.   Later we launched a kayak and a stand up paddle board for the trip across the bay.  Water was so clear it felt as though one was paddling across the top of a giant aquarium!

That night a big south wind came up.  Our anchor with a 3 to 1 scope pulled out then re-
set about 100 feet away.  Seagate was still inside drag alarm circle on AIS so the alarm didn't sound.  Alex woke up anyway as we were now nearer to Patience.  All turned out fine and in the future we will use a 4 to 1 scope for those unexpected night breezes.

Don't feed the goats Cheryl!
A Baja Tienda, kinda like a 7-11 store.
Rock formation on east side of Bahia Aqua Verde.
Solitaria Rock is a great diving spot just off Bahia Aqua Verde.
Idlewild, Seagate and Patience in the shadows at anchor in Bahia Aqua Verde.
Wednesday, January 21st:  We hung around Bahia Aqua Verde and took dinghy outside for some snorkeling in the aquarium.  It was a bit salty for Alex and his eyes were a burning, a new experience.  The weather was changing an another breezy time was in the forecast so we departed at 2PM for Puerto Escondido.
Wednesday sunrise at Bahia Aqua Verde.  Yes, Alex was on anchor watch.
Great crew are Ray and Cheryl Mahaffey of Cal Yacht Club.
Alex and Cheryl water-sporting.
Once again these CMAP Mexico charts are crap!  The Navionics charts on my phone rule. Used those and the cruising guide which details safe passage through rocky "uncharted" areas of CMAP.  Hopefully future Seagate crews will reverse our old "safe" route in Coastal Explorer when returning south.

Unlike Wild Blue which is steered by the GPS, the Seagate autopilot runs off a magnetic compass course.  For some reason, the boat was very difficult to keep on "magnetic" course today.  Either the current was strange or there is some kind of major magnetic variance in the area that was affecting the autopilot compass.  We had to closely watch our autopilot course as it began to differ greatly from our GPS Course Over Ground (COG).  The radar heading, binnacle compass,  and autopilot compass all displayed different magnetic headings so we just relied on the GPS Course Over Ground (COG) for all driving.

By 430PM we arrived at Puerto Escondido with 12 to 15 knots of NE wind and used the Chart Guide to navigate the entrance.  There was plenty of depth at the two entrances and we eventually picked up mooring #109 which, per the Guide, was set to accommodate an 80-foot yacht.  There was no cell service so we launched the tender to go chat with the harbormaster.  There was great wi-fi in and around the harbor office.  Spoke with harbor folks just as they were closing for the day.  Seems they received my email for space and have a place for us with power.  It most likely will be a Mediterranean stern tie.  They recommended we come in tomorrow in the morning before the breeze kicks up.  

Thursday, January 22nd: In the morning went ashore to arrange moving boat to mooring M6 in front of harbor office for a Med stern tie to floating dock.  When ready to dinghy back to Seagate, engine would not turnover, even when hot jumped, so we enlisted the dive boat to tow the tender to Seagate.  Diver lost his boat hook when attempting to land us next to Seagate, so we gave him the extra Seagate boat hook, as there were two aboard, and tipped him as well.  Guess we will attempt to find mechanic to repair Honda outboard starter.

Raphael, the harbormaster here in PE, had two helpers at the dock.  We first picked up the mooring lines and attached those mooring lines to our dock lines to extend Seagate stern closer to dock.  This mooring is set up for a 100 ft boat. It was blowing 15-20 knots bow on and that added a little excitement to our moorage efforts.  Eventually we backed stern to be about 2 foot from dock with mooring loaded up. We tied stern lines to the dock cleats with criss-cross lines as well, then connected to 50 amp power.  Hopefully this will hold Seagate until the next crew arrives in February.

Med-tied at Puerto Escondido.
After examining the other boats moored here, we noticed Seagate's dock lines were a couple sizes smaller.  The other med-tied boats are all 50 feet or less with Seagate at 60 feet.  The wind is building and all lines will be under constant heavy load, so we decided to double-up on mooring dock lines.

Note when un-mooring boat, there is a mighty big load on stern lines, so it's best to be aboard with Raphael assistants on the dock to assist.  Be careful not to lose any fingers when un-tying.  This Med-tie dock is exposed to plenty of Northerly wind chop.  Its quite bouncy here and wave noise keeps one from deep sleep.

The floating mooring ball is set for a 100-foot boat.  It's about 6 feet underwater.
There's a big load on these dock lines.

Friday, January 23rd:  The winds have softened and the sun is shining.  We like the dry heat.  We rented a Fox Car Rental and will tour Loreto.  We arranged with Harbormaster Raphael to employ Carlos to watch over Seagate and check the lines over the next month.  He will also wash the boat every 10 days or so and the approved agreement was stamped by Harbormasters office. Carlos will contact Alvin from the boatyard to repair Honda Outboard start motor, so the boat should be ship-shape on the return. Harbormaster Raphael has been extremely helpful, and I guess I'm not sure as a government employee of he can take a tip, but then this IS Mexico.  Dick will need to figure something out.

Just south of Loreto is a 700-home subdivision, built between the beach to the east, a river to the south and a golf course on east and north sides.  The locals call it "Gringo Town" for obvious reasons and it is a quite nice, upscale cluster of homes.  There is only a single street with landscaped center divider that runs down the center of the development for access and parking. There are no garages and all the homes are built on walk streets!  We contacted a Realtor and toured 4 homes: a 2600sf patio home at $300K, a 2400sf home at 350K, a 2800sf golf fairway home at $800K and a 6000sf beach front home at $1.6M.  Per this Realtor, HOA fees are $250/month which includes property tax and utilities are less than $150/month. There are several homes that start less than $200K.  See sample homes here.  Finally, we noticed the vehicle license plates: Alaska, Yukon Territories, Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.  That figures!

No roads, just walk streets!
Each home has a covered roof patio for 360 views.
More and more views.
Even more.......
Alex had a fun cruise and plans to crew aboard Seagate northward from Cabo up the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles this March.  And if all goes well, there's a good chance we will see Wild Blue heading to Mexico next winter.  Have a nice winter!