Yesterday was an interesting one. Started out like most, with little wind, and hot sunny skies. We were planning a long hop north, about 35 miles. Leaving our snug little anchorage at Isla Mitlan, we motored for the first hour or so. A light wind out of the SE came up, so we hoisted our sails. Lovely, smooth downwind sailing, with two fishing lines out. Hooked into a nice dorado, and while playing him, the wind began to come up (of course!). We landed him, and as I was cleaning him, the wind rose (of course!) into the 20's, with gusts tickling 30. Yikes...finish up with the fish, it's time to reef!!! Fish quickly in the freezer, we got the first reef tucked in, as the wind continued to build...now steady in the 30's with gusts hitting 40. Time for the 2nd reef in the main, and douse the genoa, let's hoist the staysail. Okee dokie...all good for a few minutes. Now the wind was a steady 40-45, with gusts in the mid 50's. High wind on the instruments (that I had the nerve to look at!!!) was 58 knots! Yeeeee Hah!!! Wish we had rigged the #3 reef line in the main, or the trysail, but we never thought we'd see winds like this. So we held on for the wild ride, watching huge rooster tails flying off the transom as we surfed down the waves at nearly 12 knots...that's a big number for Bravo!!! But for a long time, she remained in full if energetic control. Eventually, as we were rounding up in the gusts with even #2 reefed mainsail up, it was time to drop it altogether, and we continued on with the staysail for the last 5 miles into Puerto Refugio. 'Bravo' once again showed us what a fantastic voyaging boat she is, handling the nearly 60 knot winds unharmed. That said, it sure felt great to come around the corner with the wind falling, and drop the anchor in the bay worthy of it's name. The wind was squirrelly the rest of the afternoon and all night, ranging from 5 to 35 knots out of the west. A bit of an uneasy sleep, but no worries, the anchor held fine.
Puerto Refugio is a beautiful spot. Quite remote, with no real settlements nearby. It reminds us a lot of the west coast of Vancouver Island, desert style. It's at the north end of Isla Angel de la Guarda, a 41 mile long, uninhabited island in the Sea of Cortez. The area is a wild, rocky, and barren wilderness, with only 3 other boats now here in the 5 natural anchorages. Two of those boats are single handers, who've headed here specifically for the isolation and privacy the area affords. The other boat is Buena Vista, another Peterson 46 with friends Don and Deb aboard. Great snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing adventures all around. We'll likely spend a couple of weeks here before heading back south to Bay of Los Angeles for resupply.
So, what have we been up to the past couple of weeks, since leaving Santa Rosalia?? Well, we've been thoroughly enjoying the central/northern Sea. The wildlife has been spectacular. Most days we spot whales of one sort or another. So far we've seen sperm, fin, sei, gray, and pilot whales. Dolphins are all around, as are coyotes (on the beaches), amazing birdlife, hiking (whenever we get an occasional cloudy morning) and great fishing. Quoting from one of our guidebooks, about one of our favorite recent anchorages (San Francisquito)..."Bahia San Francisquito is unique and wonderful, offering a real essence of the heart of Baja. The lonely howls and cries of coyotes roaming nearby hillsides, and the distant blows of whales feeding on the nutrient rich sea mark the late night hours here....At San Francisquito the desert and sea combine, making a perfect stop for the nature lover, the hiker, and the fisherman." (thanks to Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer) It's all true!!!
The social scene up here in the summer is active, with around 25-30 boats spending the summer aboard. We had the first of two "full moon parties" in Bahia de los Angeles a few days ago, where folks brought out their floaty toys (or "noodles") to "run the estuary" as it drained on the ebbing tide. A beach potluck followed. Great sailing stories told by all ("...So there we were....."), and it was fun to put faces to many voices we've been talking to on the radio over the past 8 months.
The summer scene revolves around the tiny hamlet of Bahia de los Angeles, but more importantly, Puerto Don Juan, the only real "hurricane hole" in the Sea of Cortez. We'll be staying no more than one day's sail from Don Juan, and can head into the sheltered bay when a major storm threatens. Weather forecasting has taken on a new importance these days, as we're now officially into the hurricane season for the Sea, which runs from around August 15 through the end of October. We follow all tropical depressions as they begin to form down south, and through radio nets and radio email broadcasts are able to track their development. The other weather phenomena which cause concern are more localized (such as the winds we encountered sailing here yesterday). Known as chubascos, these rascals develop over the Sierra Madre mountains on the mainland to the east of the Sea, and the convection cells can often bring massive lightning, rain, and very strong downdrafts. Hard to predict where they'll hit, we always keep a weather eye to the east, especially in the evenings, to be on the lookout for the towering cumulous clouds which can indicate an oncoming chubasco.
So, here we are, in the northern Sea of Cortez, for the next 8 weeks or so. We'll continue to post to the blog via radio email, like this, but unfortunately that means no photos. Will try to upload some pix when we're next in Bahia de los Angeles, at an internet cafe. CHEERS!!!