Saturday, May 10, 2014

Crossing to the Sea of Cortez

The crossing from Mazatlan to the Baja peninsula is about 200 miles, an overnight sail. There was a good weather window and 6 or 7 boats were all making the passage at the same time. Unfortunately our engine was being serviced so we couldn't leave with the others, but we decided to do a solo trip early the next morning. We left at 3:30 am to arrive on the Baja side early so we would have options where to anchor.

In the middle of the crossing, a nice wind came up so we put up the sails and gave the engine a rest. I had our fishing lines out but I didn't think there would be any fish in 8,000' of water. I was below and Kathryn called down to let me know that something hit my lure. By the time I got to the bottom of the companionway steps, it was gone. A couple seconds later it was back and this time it was on the hook. I looked aft and couldn't believe that there was a striped marlin on the line. 

Striped marlin starting a leap out of the water

It was a pretty big fish and the first thing it did was break the rod holder. Fortunately I heard the fittings letting go and I had my hand on the rod, but now I was trying to keep the fish from pulling me overboard. I asked Kathryn to put my life jacket and tether on and once that was done I started to enjoy playing the fish. Kathryn had to start the engine and get the sails under control so she could keep the fishing line away from the boat. I don't remember how long it took, but it was very exciting getting the fish to the boat.

A beauty, about 9' long

After we released the fish, I took the fishing lines in, we caught our breath, the wind died, and we resumed motoring. The mild weather continued all the way across to Baja. It was an easy crossing and we arrived near the coast just as the sun was coming up. We decided to continue another 30 or 40 miles to one of the anchorages in the National Park islands of Espiritu Santo or Partida in the southern Sea of Cortez. We sailed by these islands on our way to La Paz back in November. They looked beautiful then and we were looking forward to our first anchorage in the Sea.

Isla Espiritu Santo

Espiritu Santo - geology at work

We were sailing close to the island and Kathryn was pointing to some of the amazing rock features so we were both looking in that direction. There was no warning to what happened next. The sound was like a truck slamming into a concrete wall without the tinkling glass. It happened so fast that we didn't even have time to be scared. A whale breached right behind the boat. When we turned around there was a white and green boil of water next to the boat. I grabbed the camera and was both disappointed and very pleased that I didn't see a repeat performance that close to the boat.

This guy breached right next to Agave Azul

In the whale behavior seminar we attended in Puerto Vallarta, we learned that adolescent males often pair up with a mother and calf and act as an escort. The speaker said that breaching is often an aggressive gesture by the escort to assert their dominance. Humpbacks are about the same size as our boat (39' - 52') but they weigh more than twice as much (35 - 50 tons). I guess Agave Azul looked like a threat?

Imagine the sound that made right next to the boat

When our heart rates slowed down we started looking for a place to anchor. We settled on Caleta Partida, an anchorage between the islands of Espiritu Santo and Partida. The hills were rugged desert, the water was blue like the Caribbean and the anchoring was solid. It was a beautiful spot for our first anchorage in the Sea.

The sandbar in the middle of the two islands is navigable at high tide

It was a big day for fish … or mammals. When we arrived at our anchorage I went forward to drop the anchor and found 3 flying fish on deck, where they landed sometime after we left Mazatlan. A day for big fish and little fish.

Flying fish on deck

Caleta Partida had several fishing camps. The one in the photo below is on the sandbar between the islands.

Fishing pangas and pelicans

There were 6 or 7 boats anchored at Caleta Partida. We saw this one, Vagabundo, back in November at Marina Palmira in La Paz. It is beautifully maintained. When the owner re-rigged the boat he had the aluminum masts and booms painted to look like wood. We later learned that he always anchors in exactly the same spot when at Caleta Partida.


We spent two days at Caleta Partida, relaxing and exploring the area in our dinghy. We met some of our boat neighbors and had them over for drinks. Then it was time to head to La Paz for a couple weeks before starting our spring in the Sea of Cortez.

Kathryn navigating between the islands

Friday, May 9, 2014

2014 Banderas Bay Regatta

When we lived in San Francisco and read about the Banderas Bay Regatta in Latitude 38, we thought it sounded like a really great event. When we decided to cruise to Mexico, we added it to our must-do list. The regatta has a reputation for being well organized, not overly competitive, with good weather and a lot of cruisers who are cruising their "homes".  There are more serious race divisions, too, but we raced in one of the two cruising divisions.

Agave Azul Crew - Banderas Bay Regatta

Our crew all sailed in the 2013 Baja Ha-Ha.  Brian and Richelle Neill from Vancouver, BC on Woodwind II and Ron Brown, from Sequoia Yacht Club in Redwood City on Hazel Rose.

There were 3 days of racing and lots of non-race activities. The regatta kicked off with a boat parade.

T-Shirts from every Banderas Bay Regatta

One of our favorites, Alcyone, with a swimming pool on the foredeck

Below is a photo of Shindig, an Oyster 485, also from the bay area. They sailed well throughout the regatta and won our division.

Race 1 - Shindig in the lead

One of the non-race activities at the Vallarta Yacht Club was a seminar on whales. With whale sightings almost a daily occurrence while cruising in Mexico, we enjoyed learning about Humpback whale behavior. I was especially interested in learning how to avoid them when they are breeching near your boat.

Kathryn was particularly fond of this replica of a 6 week old baby Humpback

Thirty-one  boats raced in this year's 20th edition of the regatta, nine in our division. The photo below is of  Daring, the winner of the other cruising division. Daring rounded the 1st mark right behind us and blasted past us. They sailed their boat well and it was fun watching them throughout the regatta.

Daring - Dawn 48 Ketch - they won their class

We had good starts in the 2nd and 3rd races and everything went right during the 3rd race. This is one of my favorite photos because the 8 boats in the picture were all in our division.

Cruising fleet behind us

Trying to catch up to the performance division boats

Like I said, we managed to do everything right on the final day and we won that race. Big smiles and margaritas to celebrate.

Agave Azul margaritas

The final event was the awards dinner at Paradise Village Resort. The buffet food was great, the speeches were short and the band wasn't too loud.  A very enjoyable way to end the regatta.

Awards dinner

Yee-Haa … 2nd place!