Sailing from Ensenada to Cabo has been our longest time at sea since we started – a whole 7 days! We left Ensenada on a Saturday along with five or so other boats that had been waiting for weather. There was excitement on the docks in the days leading up to it. People would come by the boat or chat with you on your way out of the marina, “So, when are you guys thinking of leaving. Friday? Yeah us too”. “What Time?” “Have you seen the latest weather forecast?” As the weather window opened and the latest weather data confirmed, it seemed to be settled, we’d all head out on Saturday morning.
Fortunately we didn’t have too much to prepare, as we’d promised ourselves, after missing the last weather window, that we’d have all our chores done well in advance (fuelling, provisioning, filling the water tanks, etc.) There were of course some last minute thigs. It seems that when you are on a dock for too long, you completely forget all of the pending maintenance requirements of your boat, untill you are of course just about to throw of the dock lines.
So Friday was spent picking up water, fixing broken water jugs, provisioning, taking cash out (as there are no ATMs for 700 miles of coastline) and securing everything on board. After all that, Robin still woke up early on Saturday to rebuild the raw water pump and replace a fuel filter.
Saturday morning we awoke to a beautiful day, a reprieve from the storms that had been relentlessly marching in on us for the preceding weeks. We turned on our diesel stove one last time to try and dry out the cabin from all of the rain and humidity, tied up the lee cloth, covered our new upholstery cushions and we were off.
We were able to contact three other boats on the VHF radio as we sailed along on the first day and night, which was comforting to know that we weren’t the only ones out there. We’d call up Jolly Dogs, Anore, and Notre Ile to share weather updates, check on each other’s positions, or just to comment on a passing cruise ship. There was were several cargo and cruise ships that steamed past us the first night, their twinkly lights dipping up and down in the swell.
The next day the wind continued at a pleasant 10-15 knots and we were making good headway. I was coming on deck after sleeping away the morning and Robin was just heading down to bed when he told me that, Jim a quinquagenarian adventure guide who was solo sailing on Anore, was hoping to take a nap and had called earlier to ask if we would we watch his boat to make sure he was on course. Sure enough Jim called on the radio five minutes later, but instead of telling me he was ready to take his nap, he told me that his engine had quit. We were 50 miles from land and hours a way from any rescue. So we hove too and waited for Jim while he toiled away in the engine room. He changed his fuel filter, but after two hours of trying, the engine still would not start.
Jim needed help but we weren’t sure how best to provide it. We couldn’t raft up our sailboats in the swell as we’d have risked tearing each other’s rigs to shreds. So the remaining option was to try and lauch our dinghy in the rolly seas, and send Robin over in a dinghy. We weren’t too excited about this plan either as the swell was 3-5 metres and building and we were out in the middle of the ocean. If Robin had gone in the water it could have been quite difficult to retrieve him.
We decided to try and troubleshoot things on the radio one more time before getting the dinghy out. Robin got out Nigel Calder’s book on Diesel Engines and step by step walked through a checklist for bleeding the fuel line in the engine. Jim started at the filters and worked his way up through the line to the injectors. He got to the fuel pump and cracked the nipple for bleeding air out, cranked the engine, and it roared to life! He called Robin and I on radio and we heard the happy grumbling of the engine in the background. Success! He seemed much relieved to have this sorted and was so grateful for the help, promising us a big dinner when we all got back to land. We were all on our way again.
Our second and third days passed more uneventfully as we settled into life at sea. We were both fairly tired from sleeping 3 hours on and 3 hours off but it was much better than other times we’d been out and overall we weren’t wracking up too much of a sleep debt. I would happily listen to my podcasts on my shift and nibble away on a 1KG chocolate almond bar that our neighbour gave us as we were casting off (there was no chocolate left by Day 6). The shifts went fairly quickly as I settled into the routine of writing down our position, speed, and other observations every hour or so.
At some point on the second night I felt an odd thud on the back of my head. I turned around, shining my headlamp behind me but didn’t see anything. Odd, I thought. Later I reached down to pick up my log book and instead, to my utter shock and disgust, picked up a handful of mulched tentacles and ink. I yelped and shone my headlamp at the offending object. It was a pile of three squid, one of them still alive. I quickly put on my work gloves and dispatched them over the side back to from whence they came. At shift change I told Robin about squid and he thought I was halucinating, at which point I regretted evacuating all of the evidence so hastily. I needn’t have worried though because 14 more squid landed on the deck that night. The next morning as we peeled off the sundried carcasses, they left behind an inky imprint, a bit like the chalk outlines at a crime scene. The following night the death toll rose to 38, when Robin counted an additional 24 squid on the deck.
The NW winds continued at 10-15 knots and we happily chugged along, one night reaching hullspeeds of 7.5-8 knots as we slid down the backs of waves. It was exchilirating at times but always felt quite comfortable and in control.
Each morning at 7.30am Robin goes on the Canmex net on our SSB radio. A dozen or so boats announce their call sign and ask for other boaters to check in (the idea being that the more people who announce it, the greater the geographical range of the net). It was nice to chat with our friends back in Ensenada and get updates on all of the other boats we were sailing with. At 8am we had our own local net with the boats that were sailing with us. Mark on Jolly Dog would give us his weather forecast and we’d all chit chat about various things. This morning Mark and Robin were talking about the Movie “The Martian” and how scientifically accurate it was. They’re both engineers so they’ve decided to go drinking together sometime.
Today was day 6 and the wind dropped away to nothing. It was hard to complain too much though because we had a fun time cleaning the boat, the decks, and playing boggle (all of which are hard to do when you’re sailing because of the angle of heel). We even set up the spinnaker for the first time which was very exciting – and wouldn’t you believe it it worked perfectly the very first time. We got out or Chapman’s book to review how it was all done, rigged up the lines, and popped it up. We had 1-5 knots of breeze at the time and got up to 3knots of boat speed at max, so I’m not entirely sure how often we’ll use it as it really does need someone attending to it all the time. Still it’s nice to know that on a becalmed day in the South Pacific, we can still toddle along a 3 knots or so.
Robin was sun bathing on the dinghy earlier today and I went up to take a couple of photos of him. I was just lamenting about how the only marine life we’d seen were those stupid squid, and wouldn’t it be nice to see some whales when we saw grey wales breaching a miles or so away.
We finished the day with a cold shower on deck, which felt lovely. It was the first day we’d been able to comfortable sail in shorts and had covered ourselves in sunscreen to protect our pasty skin. We were both sweaty after all of the cleaning below and it was fun to run around deck naked in the middle of the ocean and have a cold shower.
We’re scheduled to make Cabo San Lucas tomorrow around 1pm and we’re both excited to get back to land. All said though, it’s been a wonderful week at sea and makes me excited for some longer passages.