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.