Sailing the coast of Baja California to Cabo!
With help from some awesome marina neighbors in Ensenada, we filled 12 jerry cans of diesel to avoid back tracking to the fuel dock, which would have been about an hour out of our way. Karuna holds 100 gallons of diesel and we also carry an extra 20 gallons in jerry cans on deck. With the tank full, we were one step closer to leaving Ensenada!
We provisioned for about a month's worth of food and I made multiple meals ahead of time. The time spent preparing meals paid off as it was so convenient to just grab something and heat it up while underway.
We hired a weather router, who is someone that specializes in marine weather forecasting and routing for sailing worldwide. They can send us weather forecasts via our satellite communication system and track us along our journey. The weather router can notify us of any dangerous weather that is coming our way, if need be. Hiring the weather router proved to be valuable, as we learned that other boats experienced some heavier weather and seas on their way down to Cabo.
After checking out with the Ensenada Port Captain on February 9th, we left mid-morning on February 10th. We noticed a couple of other boats leaving Ensenada, a few hours behind us. We decided to head straight out to the ocean, as we knew we could find better wind heading further off the coast. We had some beautiful sailing, however once we tacked back towards the coast, winds picked up and the swell was building. This made for an uncomfortable ride! We both got a bit banged up as Karuna was constantly being rocked and rolled.
As I have mentioned before, we take turns being "on watch" 24 hours a day. While on watch, you are looking for other ships, monitoring weather, and the course. We got into the groove of three hour shifts, however it seemed like every time Doug would head below to sleep, I would have some sort of issue: increase in wind, change in wind direction, a course change, or a new sail-plan change. We have come accustom to reefing our mainsail at night, to be prepared for heavy winds that might pop up. Reefing the sails refers to reducing the area of sail that is out. If we go all the way to our third reef, it also allows us to sail downwind more efficiently. Our highest clocked wind to Bahia Tortugas was 27 knots.
We ended up motor sailing the majority of the time on our way to Bahia Tortugas. We knew that some high winds and big sea would be filling in and we wanted to be in a safe anchorage for that. We were happy with our decision to pull into the anchorage as the winds did pickup! Even in a safe anchorage, we were getting tossed around and we were thankful we weren't out at sea for the higher gusts. We waited for the weather to pass and contacted our weather router to find a good weather window to continue on to Cabo. We had hoped to leave on Tuesday, February 16th but, our weather router advised us to wait until Thursday to avoid the rough sea state that was caused by the passing wind. Although we were ready to keep moving, we decided to wait until Thursday, February 18th.
While we waited at Bahia Tortugas for 5 days, there were other boats that arrived. Each morning we would get on the VHF radio and talk to them to discuss weather and departure plans as everyone was heading south to Cabo. We let the others know of our plans and one of the boats decided to leave the same day/time as us, so we had a buddy boat for the 4 day trip to Cabo. It was nice having another boat with us, as it brings some comfort of having someone a radio call away if something arises. The first two days were still a bit rolly with 6-8 foot seas, which were rolling in a very frequent period. Typically anytime the swell period is less than 10 seconds, the ride is a bit uncomfortable. We had consistent wind around 18-20 knots behind us. We started taking 4 hour shifts, which we found was extremely helpful to get a longer block of sleep, if only an extra hour. By February 20th we had perfect sailing with 12 knots of wind on the beam. This is what dreams are made of...the sea state was calm, the wind was fresh, and the sun was shining. We took this time to catch up on some rest, reading, fishing, and really just let the autopilot carry us towards our destination. During this tranquil time, Doug spotted some waves in the distance and we were greeted by thousands of dolphins, for as far as the eye could see! When I say thousands, I am not exaggerating! I will be uploading a video, so stay tuned! It was surreal, this massive pod of dolphins stayed with us for some time. Karuna cut through the ocean as the dolphins swam and jumped alongside us.
Another incredible experience that we witnessed was a massive migration of Pelagic Red Crabs: Pleuroncodes planipes. For a split second, I thought there was a mass amount of red leaves floating around us on the surface of the ocean, like a fall road blanketed with leaves. However, we were about 20 miles off the coast so we knew they weren't leaves. As we looked closer we could tell that they were crabs...and lots of them! We have done some research and the Pelagic Red Crab is normally found over sand and mud substrates at depths between 50 m (165 feet) and 365 m (1,800 feet), however they can occasionally be found on the surface!! They feed on copepods, detritus and diatoms utilizing the hairs on their legs to filter food from the water. They are a critical food source for a wide variety of fish, pinnipeds, squid, sea turtles, whales, and sea birds. At times, they comprise 85% of the diet of Yellowfin Tuna. They ride the California Current far out to sea and then return to the continental shelf by riding a deeper counter current (Source: Mexican-fish.com).
After an amazing day, we both slept well at night, still continuing on the 4 hour shifts. Typically we are both up during the day, taking naps when needed and then start our 4 hour shifts around 8:00pm. This particular night I was on the 12:00am-4:00am shift. I was enjoying a good book, and out of the corner of my eye I saw trails of lights in the water streaking towards Karuna! I stood up to investigate and Karuna was again surrounded by a pod of dolphins. They were glowing with bioluminescence which caused them to light up as they swam. Bioluminescence occurs through a chemical reaction that produces light energy within an organism's body. For a reaction to occur a species must contain luciferin, a molecule that reacts with oxygen and produces light. The glowing dolphins stayed with us for over 30 minutes!
As day broke, we were just a few hours out of Cabo San Lucas. We were greeted by whales and many fishing boats leaving the Los Cabos area. Unfortunately we didn't get great footage or pictures of the whales, so you'll have to take our word for them!! We sailed past the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas around noon with very light winds. We arrived at San Jose Cabo around 4:00pm.
We docked at Marina Puerto Los Cabos on Sunday, February 21st and stayed for two nights. We caught up on sleep, met the other boats that we had been traveling with off and on for the past week, and did some exploring. Check-in was incredibly easy and we did not have to check-in with the Port Captain as our final destination was listed as La Paz. San Jose was absolutely beautiful, best described by one of our marina neighbors as being a "sticky place", meaning it's hard to toss the dock-lines and leave.
Next up, I'll write about our passage from San Jose Cabo to La Paz.