Welcome. This is the place where pictures and a narrative of the ongoing voyages of Minerva will show up, whenever I get internet access and of course, when I have something new and hopefully exciting to share. Hope you enjoy yourself here, and don't be shy, please comment if you have something to share or say!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ensenada to Bahia de Bartoleme

Many of us find excitement in the adrenaline rush during the fleeting moment of an extreme sensation jumping from an airplane, falling from heights held only by a bungee cord, or glazing rocky outcroppings on bat wings, which no doubt are indeed exhilarating, but there is another and perhaps even more poignant excitement which lasts much longer than a moment or two that may come to others from feeling the extreme smallness of yourself while trying to stay alive as Mother Nature teaches you humbleness, self-sufficiency and perseverance as one likely experiences from spending weeks or months climbing Everest, exploring the North or South Pole, or the many storied adventures in which men and women have tested themselves throughout history.  I have recently been fortunate enough to experience some of this latter type of exhilaration, particularly while sailing three hundred plus nautical miles from Ensenada B.C. to Bahia de Bartolome on my sailboat.  Being my truly first offshore sailing adventure, I was awestruck by the extremeness of holding your very life in your own hands every moment for hours and even days on end, most especially when the lessons became intense.

As it often does, it began slowly.  After completing repairs to the bowsprit, checking into Mexico, and enjoying the town of Ensenada for a week, I set sail south headed for Puerto San Bartolome in Bahia de Tortugas, on the Pacific side of Baja California some 300 miles south of Ensenada.  Light southwest winds forced us to tack out nearly due west for two days in which we made approximately 100 miles out to sea.  The winds were so light and variable that I wasn’t able to work with the self-steering wind vane enough to get it working properly, but as Minerva reaches by herself, I was able to go about a daily routine.  The predicted Northwest winds finally came up allowing us to turn southeast following the line of the coast and giving me steady winds to experiment with the steering vane and was able to get it to steer with some semblance of direction at last, though Minerva’s bow veered through 60 degrees of heading before correcting, we were headed in the general direction desired and I was able to get some sleep in 1 hour periods through the night.  The makers of the vane proclaim it able to steer “better than you can”, so I reread the directions and with some more experimentation discovered and corrected my errors and lo and behold, she maintained a perfect course!  About this time, the early morning light breeze was picking up, and I spent the day pleasantly sailing on open waters with no sight of land or other craft toward my destination at 4.5 knots.  Late afternoon brought what appeared to me a frontal system, the barometer was falling, and a three day old forecast called for 30 knot winds, so I reefed down the mainsail, exchanged the big jenny for a smaller jib and settled in.  Though the heavy winds didn’t materialize, I felt more comfortable and prepared for the mostly moonless night ahead, roasted a chicken and slept restfully through the night, again, in one hour shifts.  I even spent the first hour sleeping on deck under the stars, the first time in too long a time! 

With another 130 miles to our destination, a light breeze greeted us with the dawn, so the jenny went back up and I shook out the reef in the main and “Cappy”, the newly dubbed steering vane, guided us on a deep broad reach and directly in line with the following northwest swells at 4 knots, a very pleasant way to sail.  Among the daily chores since the house batteries were running low, I fired up the generator to recharge them and I set up the boom brake I had picked up in San Diego two weeks prior.  As the morning passed nonchalantly on, the wind began to pick up to 15 to 20 knots and with it our speed increased to 5 to 6 knots, eating up the remaining miles.  By early afternoon the wind had shifted to the west and increased to 25 knots picking up the seas to create choppy west wind waves to combine with the 8 to 10 foot NW swell and throwing us around a bit.  Cappy seemed to be working harder so I reefed the main to reduce the weather helm but left the jenny pulling hard giving us a faster passage at 6 to 7 knots.

Land Ho!  Isla Cedros off the port bow at 1718 hrs.  Isla Cedros is just short of Bahia de Tortugas by 40 or 50 miles and was a truly welcome sight, though still some 20 miles distant.  By 1800 hrs., the wind shifted to the SW and increased again, so I once again dropped the jenny but instead of battling with my smaller jib, I instead raised the stays’l to help Cappy with holding Minerva’s head down and tucked another reef into the main.  I also began to bear a more southerly course giving us some sea room, just in case the wind clocked around even more.  However the wind direction remained from the SW allowing us to steer toward our objective and with the following seas, except of course the sloppy 3 foot wind waves.   By 2000 hrs., the wind had piped up to 35 knots where it remained and even threw in some gusts to 40.   We were now making up to 9 knots and after a steady diet for days of watching the water go by at 3 and 4 knots, seeing us race along at 2 to 3 times our typical speed made me feel like we were flying!  All night was spent standing in the cockpit feeling the adrenaline coursing through my veins as the sea gave me yet another lesson, the most advanced to date, in an introductory course of heavy weather sailing and was immeasurably impressed at how Minerva takes it all in stride, racing along under nearly minimum canvas.  Cappy steered on constantly for hours providing relief from the arduous task of steering, gaining a valued and prominent status on board ship.  The nearly half moon remained above the horizon most of the night shining on the tormented waters lighting our way to safe harbor.  I was finally able to make out the lighthouses from Cedros and Punta Eugenia and a faint glow of “city” lights appeared on the horizon marking our destination, giving rise to hope for a respite from all of the excitement soon.  The winds finally began to abate somewhat as we drew into the lee of the headlands but with a wind shift and a necessary change of direction to get even closer to our goal, we were forced to change tack to port and me not being familiar enough with the workings of Cappy’s needs, ended up hand steering for the last three hours till dawn when I could see what needed to be done in order to have him attend the wheel again.  By dawn the worst was long over and a moderate breeze prevailed, requiring another shaking out of one of the reefs in the main.  By 0900 hrs., we sailed past Kelp Punta into Bahia de Tortugas and calm waters.  In another hour and a half Minerva was resting at anchor amidst a fleet of 5 other sailboats and several fishermen.  The sun was shining, the wind was nearly calm, and all was well as yet another passage through adventure was at an end.

San Diego to Ensenada


It’s early evening, the sun having settled over the peninsula of Point Loma only a short time ago, and I’m sitting outside enjoying the placid anchorage where the crickets can be heard from the shoreline, the ducks are nearby silently paddling their way about, and the stars who have been dodging the persistent clouds announcing the coming gale are bright.  Minerva and I are fit, at least as best as we’ve gotten in the last months, provisioned, and ready to go on another adventure.  We are only waiting for a good weather window to head our way south.  A fellow solo wood boat man has been talking of heading south as well, so we are planning on heading out together.

2/15/12 – 2/17/12

The anchor came out of the muddy sand at 1000 hrs. on a fine sunny morning.  Don and I had planned to leave at this time but I saw him working on his self-steering vane as I made a sweep around Princess, Don’s 36’ Herrshoff ketch.  He had one bolt to insert before weighing anchor himself and I had to top off my water tanks at the Harbor Patrol dock, so we agreed that I head out of La Playa anchorage to meet up with him at the dock, on our way out of the harbor channel, or sometime later.  After filling the water tanks and waiting for a while, I decided to get away from the dock and head to sea; we would meet up somewhere out there.  I raised a minimum of sails to allow him more time to catch me but some 10 miles and 4 hours later his sails never cut a contrast on the backdrop of San Diego so I raised sails to full and made my way south in light SW breezes.  Rather than tack toward the north in the light breeze, I made my way inside of Los Coronados Islands just past the US/ Mexican border until the wind died completely at dusk.  I dropped all sails, made and had dinner before deciding to motor away from land before trying to sleep, so fired up the Perkins and motored 1 mile before picking up another breeze, upon which we sailed into the night.  Early the next morning, in the wee hours, the lack of wind allowed me to drop sails once again and get 2 one hour shifts of sleep.  A bit of a breeze came up until 0800 hrs. when it picked up to 10 – 15 knots on our starboard beam.  We had a fine sunny sail all day and were getting fairly close to Bahia de Todos Santos but it was getting late and I didn’t want to enter the harbor at Ensenada at night, so I diverted slightly to Isla Todos Santos to anchor for the night and make the short hop into the harbor the next day.  The anchorage had been taken over by the locals for aquaculture so I found a small indent protected from the seas and dropped hook in 60 feet of water, very near shore and some outlying rocks.  I don’t like to anchor in that deep of water or in such proximity to dangers, but the depth dropped off sharply further out and it was getting dark.  I placed my stern hook away from the dangers to keep me safe, ate and turned in for the night.  Sometime later, the NW wind changed into the east and my main anchor chain apparently looped around a large rock below me and with the second anchor out as well, I still felt safe until the east swells started heaving Minerva which now had a very short leash on her bow.  All of the upward motion was trying to be restrained by the anchor chain and ended up pulling the bow roller, over which the chain was running, out and through the bowsprit, splitting it into an ugly mess.  I was able to ease out some more line and reroute the rode and get a couple hours of sleep before morning.  Despite the bowsprit being split, my biggest concern was how I was going to retrieve the anchor which I was then sure was wrapped around a rock.  Perhaps with some fancy boat maneuvering I could dislodge the chain and head out, but I was dreaming.  Minimally, I could buoy the line and return from Ensenada with a local to dive for it, but as it turned out a couple of local abalone divers happened by and fetched it for me.  What a relief!  With both hooks up I raised minimal sail to avoid breaking the split sprit and got into Ensenada with no further mishaps.  I was directed to a small marina where I could work on the sprit, check in to the country, and resupply.  I spent a week there doing just that and met many locals and another sailor who was spending some time in his boat at the same dock.  All is once again well.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Little Fisherman

While anchored at Little Fisherman Cove at the Isthmus at Catalina, I had yet another lesson on cruising.  After a couple of months without topping up my water supply, I ran out of fresh water in my water tanks.  It wasn’t any big deal though as water is available at the dock and also at the camp grounds located just behind and above the cove.  I simply rowed ashore with my solar water heater and brought back 5 gallons each trip.  While ashore on one these mini adventures, I ran across a couple, one of whom had just returned from spear fishing with four nice looking Calico Bass and a lobster.  I wandered over to admire the catch and chat with Dave and Vanessa about fishing with the spear gun versus my pole spear.  After a lengthy chat about that, among other things, these very friendly folks who have been stateside from Hawaii for only a year now offered me one of their fine catch, saying they had a bunch more in their freezer at home.  Well, how could I refuse?  They added their left over tortillas, cheese and diced onions to the gift claiming I would be doing them a favor so they wouldn’t have to take it back home with them as they were leaving on the Cat Express back to the mainland in just an hour or so.  They offered Dave’s services as a spear fisherman when I get to the Sea of Cortez and of course I invited them to join us whenever they wished.  I sure do enjoy this life and am looking forward to a marvelous fish dinner tonight!
It’s beginning to get cool out here as winter is starting to creep upon us.  I’m waiting for my anchor windlass electric motor to be rebuilt once again after which we’ll begin heading south toward San Diego.  We’ll be stopping in Newport Beach for 5 days to pick up more supplies and to meet up with an old friend who has promised me lots of books!  They go quickly these days it seems and these will be very welcome!  My new wind vane should arrive in San Diego near the second week of November so I’ll be there by then to pick up and install before heading further south.

Fair winds to us all!

Friday, October 7, 2011


The weekend started early on Thursday, warm and sunny on calm waters, as all manner of boats began making their way into Two Harbors, a small seaport town nestled into the Isthmus of Catalina Island, twenty some miles south by southwest of Long Beach California.  Despite the fact that many of these ships were flying the dreaded skull and crossbones, everyone appeared to be friendly and spent the day settling in.  The day wore on as more ships found their way into the bay and moored.
By mid-morning of Friday you could smell the trouble in the air, literally.   That’s when the cannon fire began.  It was sporadic at first and seemed insincere, but throughout the day, still more pirate ships arrived to add their cannons to the skirmish.  By afternoon a pitched battle was being waged with enormous booms echoing throughout the harbor and smoke billowing in the breeze, though who was fighting who was anybody’s guess.  As darkness fell and the loud crashing subsided, suddenly all of the ship’s crews rowed ashore and invaded the town.  The day’s battle seemed to have aroused an unquenchable thirst for everyone because the rum started flowing and didn’t stop.  When a few fellows picked up some musical instruments, those who could, and even some who couldn’t, began gyrating to the music with reckless abandon.  The revelry lasted most of the night, but as the new day dawned on Saturday, the battles began again, in earnest, and still, even more pirates entered the harbor to join the raging action.  The cannon fire was fierce.  Ships were boarded and booty taken, but still the cannons roared.  As the afternoon progressed, the smoke and loud reports from the guns intensified beyond comprehension.  During the brief lulls of fire, frightening screams and raucous laughter could be heard all around.  Large troop ships had been arriving throughout the weekend delivering so many fresh companies of scoundrels and wenches that the hills were covered with their tents.  And still the cannons roared.  But again as darkness fell, the echoes of explosions were replaced by music and, pirates being pirates, all went ashore to guzzle rum and gloat over their dastardly deeds of the day’s fracas.  Soon everyone was swaying with rum and song.

Apparently some sort of victory was reached and truce declared, for Sunday began slowly and, with a few farewell blasts of cannon and hoarse laughter, ships and their weary crews set sail toward the horizon.  By evening the harbor was emptied.  And so, another of the infamous “Buccaneer Days” at Two Harbors is history.


Monday, September 26, 2011

New Post

I’ve been told lately, once again, that I need to get busy blogging again.  Well, in order to comply, I began going through my documents and found a couple that I had started shortly after my last post.  I worked on one, “About Minerva” which has a page of its own that you’ll find on the right under the Pages heading.  I haven’t had time to bring it quite up to date, but will continue in the future.  Another dating from 6/19/11 remains incomplete, but I’ll get that one going again to bring you up to date on my ventures from then to now.
Next weekend is “Buccaneer Days” at Two Harbors, so I’ll be headed that direction tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4th of July

After spending most of Sunday, the 3rd of July, working on removing the balance of an old bulkhead and beginning to fit a new one in its place, I cleaned up a bit and went to town to catch some of the celebration going on at the Isthmus here on Catalina.  I struck up a conversation with a fellow sitting next to me on the deck and found much common ground to chat about as several hours passed quite pleasantly.  He had come here with a friend who didn’t have the patience to have a leisurely cruise out, but instead had to have the pedal to the metal in one of those big fast gas guzzlers.  Pat had sailed a couple of times previously in some beer can races, liked the quiet of sailing and envied the slow paced lifestyle I am presently enjoying.  He expressed a desire to try a relaxing cruise and since we seemed to enjoy each other’s company, I invited him to call me anytime he had a week or so of time from work and join me and Minerva for a week of sailing, diving, etc. out at one of the Channel Islands, which he eagerly accepted.  As dusk fell, a DJ set up and began playing some good ole rock & roll and several patriotic numbers in time with the exploding rockets that blossomed over the harbor.  After the finale, the crowd returned to the deck, dancing ensued and all had a great time.  The evening began getting late and the younger crowd took over the music, so I took the opportunity to head toward home and ran across three young marines, on leave and camping out here, fishing from the dock where my dink was patiently waiting for my return.  They shared their bottle of refreshment with me as we chatted and they fished.  They were very serious about getting some fish as they had come out with no provisions, depending upon the graciousness of the sea to give up some of her bounty, but they were still awaiting their dinner.  After a bit of time passed with no offers from fish interested in feeding them, I invited them aboard Minerva where they might have better luck getting something more than bait on their hooks.  Once aboard, they did indeed catch a couple of keepers as we kept the pace of the party moving on toward dawn.  Sometime in the wee hours before they left, they did me the honor of helping raise Old Glory upon Minerva’s flag halyard.  The morning of the 4th of July broke fine and clear, with a crisp new Stars and Stripes, raised by US Marines, snapping briskly overhead.
Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 1, 2011

July 1st

I'm sitting on the deck of the Harbor Reef in Two Harbors, Catalina sipping on a Buffalo Milk, a tasty and refreshing drink, their specialty. The weather is mildly warm with the promise of getting nearly hot by the 4th. We arrived in Cat Harbor a couple of days ago after two days of quite pleasant sailing from San Pedro, the first leg of which light winds brought us, in one tack, to Long Point, just west of Avalon. A couple I met over Memorial Weekend had recommended the place and as it was getting late, I figured we would give it a try. Because of this decision, I saw my first flying fish. As we sailed to within a mile of shore, a fish jumped and just kept on flying for hundreds of feet! As we got closer to the anchorage, another leaped out just in front of a pelican who became very interested. The pelican tried and tried, following right on its tail, again over a long distance, but just wasn't fast enough. This first leg of the voyage also produced sightings of dolphins and seals, which have become common to us. Even though they have appeared during every voyage for the last couple of months now, I never tire of their company.
We spent the night but left early the next morning for the short trip around the West End to Cat Harbor. The wind was extremely light allowing me to scrape paint and varnish, merely to keep from falling asleep. After a few hours, I was bored with working and fired up Mr. Perkins to get me around the point and hopefully into some wind, which never materialized. We cut the point actually too close for comfort and just at the most opportune moment, opposite the outermost precipitous jagged rock, a fish decided to take the lure I was dragging.  In my nervous hurry to avoid the danger to port and get the fish in, I pulled the hook out, only getting a glimpse of shiny silver of what could have been dinner. Just minutes after tossing the lure back into trolling mode, and of course just opposite another rock too close to port, a petrel decided my lure was too tempting to pass up. I had to slow down and drift towards that outcropping to release the bird, but it didn't put up too much of a fight and relaxed enough for me to unhook the lure quickly and get back to powering around that rock.
After all of this excitement, we made Cat Harbor and dropped the hook in my favorite spot for the night. The next day the wind had blown me into the kelp and with a friend due to raft up later in the week, I wanted to get out from the prop tangling kelp into clear water, so moved to the eastern side of the harbor.
And now, here I sit looking for another of these fabulous Buffalo Milks!
Mas tarde