We did it again and as Goldilocks would say, this one was juuuuust right!
On this, our 5th (and last?) crossing of the Sea of Cortez, our planned route was from Bahia los Frailles at the southeastern tip of Baja California to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in Banderas Bay on the mainland, 281 nautical miles, or nearly 60 hours when traveling at 5 knots per hour.
On our previous crossings we’ve either had no wind and crazy confused seas, or too much wind with swells so steep that they forced us off course. This time we had smooth seas all the way, with a long low southeasterly swell gently lifting and lowering Happy Dance every 12-15 seconds.
We left Bahia los Frailles (Bay of the Friars) at 4:30am with the wind blowing 8-12 from the northeast. Our rhumb line course for the next 2 days was southeast on a heading of 125 degrees true, so the northeast wind put us on a lovely flat beam reach with full sails traveling between 5 and 6.5 knots per hour. We set the sails, turned on the auto-pilot and enjoyed the ride on a beautiful sunny day with puffy white clouds all around.
Our nirvana sail lasted only 6 hours, when the wind finally died and we were forced to start the engine in order to keep the sails from flogging and our speed over 4 knots. We rolled up the Genoa, sheeted in the mainsail, and motor-sailed across flat seas with the waves behind us pushing us along.
We motored the rest of the first day and the entire first night, for a total of 20 hours straight. After a beautiful red sky sunset we spent an uneventful night traveling on average about 6 knots; though at times the current pushed us over 7 knots with about 10 degrees of course correction thrown in. With only a sliver of a moon out for the first few hours of the night, it was very dark on the sea. The stars were magnificent, throwing silver beams across the water and sometimes tricking us into thinking they were boat lights on the horizon.
During the night we had a few hitchhikers show up. First a pair of boobies circled us for quite a while trying valiantly to land on our mast, but lucky for us, they never succeeded. We have plenty of expensive equipment up there and a large bird landing on a swaying mast could cost us bunches! Our mast top includes a wind vane, lightning dissipater, and a couple of antennas, so it isn’t a very comfy spot for a bird and we’ve not seen any successful landings, including our boobie couple who finally gave up and flew away.
We did have one surprise visitor though, considering that we were so far off shore. A lone goldfinch suddenly showed up on the stern arch and hopped around the boat for a couple of hours. We dubbed him Freddie Finchstone and wished him well as he went flying off to whereabouts unknown.
Sunrise number one was gorgeous, with the sun coming up through a band of puffy clouds on the horizon, throwing pinks and oranges throughout the sky. Being out at sea with many more miles to travel made us think of that old adage about red skies predicting weather, so I finally had to look it up once we got online again. Here’s a bit of trivia to add to your mental files, compliments of The Library of Congress;
“Red sky at night, sailors delight. When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.
Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning. A red sunrise can mean that a high-pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way.”
The wind started up again around 10am, and we were very happy to roll out the sails and turn off the engine. There is nothing like the peaceful sound of sailing on an empty sea. We sailed the rest of the day and through the entire second night, slowly making our way southeast with a course change to the east on our final heading into Banderas Bay after clearing the 20 mile restricted zone around the penal colony on the Marias Islands.
Sunset number two was undistinguishable from sunset number one, but enjoyable nonetheless! It’s amazing to watch the red ball of sun sink into the water. As it nears the horizon you can see the outline of the waves on the edge of the world (our world at that moment anyway!). When we are lifted on a swell it appears as though the sun is coming back up for a minute before it finally disappears completely. Another great show!
Our original route plan predicted that the 281-mile trip would take us 56 hours traveling at an average of 5 knots. We have always used an average of 6 knots in our previous plans, but this time we wanted to sail as much as possible so we used the slower speed. As it turned out our actual speed was in the 5.5 knot range so we were going to arrive too early, and in the pitch black of the night. With the wind only blowing in the 8-10 range our mainsail was sometimes flogging in the lumpy seas, so we rolled it up and just flew the Genoa. This gave us a quieter ride and we traveled along at an easy 4-5 knots all night.
As we approached the Bay, we started seeing more boats out and about, and had to make sure to stay away from a couple of speed bumps, a.k.a., rocks. The winds picked up a bit in the pre-dawn hours, so we furled the Genoa a bit in order to slow our speed and time our entrance into the Bay at first light. All went perfectly and we watched another lovely sunrise (number 3) as it rose over Punta de Mita, the northern point of Banderas Bay.
Once entering the Bay, the winds turned against us, so we rolled up the sails and started the engine for the last hour into La Cruz. It was nice to see the lush green hillsides and some familiar sights as we made our way to the Marina. There were only about 4 boats in the anchorage; quite a difference from the 60 plus that were anchored there when we left last April!
We were given a slip all the way at the inside end of dock 10, which meant not much turning room in front of the slip, so we backed all the way down the fairway and into our slip. We’re now all tied down, sun covers out, fans blowing, and very comfy. We were pretty happy to have arrived with one full fuel tank too!
Arriving on October 30 holds some significance for us, as it is our 4th wedding anniversary! It’s also the 1-year anniversary of our arrival into Mexico, and in a few weeks it will be 2 years since we sold all our land based stuff and moved onboard Happy Dance. Dates and time passages are a bit of a blur when living on the water without schedules or demands, but it’s always fun to mark the big milestones.
We’ve now danced 7,000 nautical miles in our cozy home called Happy Dance. Sometimes it’s been a waltz, sometimes a jitterbug, but we’re still enjoying our tango together and always with a smile. And yes, as Goldilocks would say….This is JUST RIGHT!