San Diego to Bahia Tortugas
November 4, 2019
We left San Diego in bright sunshine with lots of fanfare around 10:00 am on Monday November 4th. All of the boats joining on the 2019 Baja Haha were in a parade formation as we exited the San Diego Harbor channel out to the Point Loma Lighthouse. We were surrounded by helicopters, fireboats, horns, and sirens all celebrating the start of the rally. It was a picture perfect start to an unknown adventure we were about to undertake. Our third crew member Howard had done the Baja some 20 years ago so had some recollection of what was involved and shared his experiences with us. I found myself a bit emotional as this was a BIG step in our future plans for sailing and it was actually starting to happen.
We settled into a motoring mode as the weather forecast was for light (5-8) winds. Once we exited the bay, we realized we had passed the “non official, official start line”. It didn’t really matter as the rally coordinator announced over VHF that almost everyone had crossed the start line before the official start time, so we were in good company.
Despite the forecast, we had winds of 10-15 knots and immediately had the large jib, staysail and main sail up. Looking around it became apparent that was not the way to dress for this party. Many of the sailboats had their spinnakers flying in full color. We decided Boundless needed to be wearing her colorful spinnaker too. Now raising and setting a spinnaker is not difficult unless you have a captain and crew that want to begin designing new ways for the tack to be controlled as well as sheet runs. So needless to say after securing approximately 20 different pieces of line, rope and blocks it was finally done and we set the spinnaker and took off. We got so into setting the spinnaker we missed our official crossing into Mexico!
At long last after talking about this for a few years and getting serious about it for the past two and a half years it was an incredible feeling to say we had Boundless in Mexican water. We still had a long way to go but with the sails set perfectly and the Monitor Wind Vane controlling the steering we were headed south.
The winds started becoming lighter as the day went on. We heard via the VHF that there was better wind further offshore, so we adjusted our point and headed off shore towards the sunset. We decided 50-75 miles offshore would be a good place as the wind patterns were a bit stronger according to our downloaded weather models. Our wind died as the sun set and we enjoyed a nice meal together in the cockpit under moon lit skies. We began our 3 hour night watches, started the engine, and settled into a routine. The moon overnight was bright and lit up the waves, as well as other Baja boats that were on AIS and close enough to see.
November 5, 2019
Sunrise was incredible at 605 am. The sun sets fast and the sunrise is just as quick. The sky slowly turns brighter and brighter and then the sun peeks over the eastern horizon and lights up the ocean. The wind was picking up again and we were getting 10 knots of wind aft so we shut down the motor (ahh peace and quiet) and raised the main and spinnaker. We had a nice leisurely morning of coffee and breakfast and naps to catch up on lost sleep. The sun was shining and life was good.
Around 11:30 am we decided to put out the fishing rod and the hand reel. We talked a lot about how nice it would be to catch some fish, and we kept hearing on the Baja VHF channel that people were catching fish. After about an hour the reel on the rod began spinning like crazy “FISH ON”. We all began running around. I grabbed the rod and began reeling in. There was a good fight on the end of the line and I could feel the fish diving deep and then coming up. We had it all ready. We had read that cheap vodka poured into the gills would kill the fish, so we had that. We heard that you needed a sharp filet knife to filet with and we had that. The only thing was….. we had never caught a fish before in our lives.
As I was reeling in the rod line, Howard decided to pull in the hand line so that the lines wouldn’t cross. Once the hand line was 5 feet from the boat we saw that there was another fish on! We scrambled to get the gaff hook and brought on board a yellow fin tuna about 8-10 pounds. We tried to kill it with the vodka but I think it was a cheap Russian vodka drinking Tuna as it fought us hard. We ended up having to kill it on the deck with a knife which was again wrong! Blood everywhere! Also in the process of trying to stab it our VERY sharp knife also cut through our spinnaker tack line. It was a bit of a three stooges scene if you know who the three stooges were.
Back to the rod and reel….. Well in all the craziness of the first tuna we had passed the reel back and forth between all of us and in the end the fish managed to break off and was gone. By the time we were done we were all laughing so hard . The good news was we still had tuna in the fridge for tonight. After the chaos and fileting we had to do some cleaning of the decks, windows and side of the boat and replace the spinnaker tack line. We went to reel in the hand line to put it away for the night we had another yellow fin on the line. This time we took our time and did it right ( based on what we had read). We did not have a bloody mess on the boat and the fish was killed swiftly and less traumatically and did not get to drink any cheap vodka. We now had enough tuna for a few days in the fridge, we quit fishing and called it a successful day.
As the sun set on the horizon it became apparent that the wind was dying so we again started up the engine and began motoring. The seas were very rolling and causing the boat to be lifted and surfing down the waves all night. We had a great meal of fresh seared fish and salad for dinner and settled in for the night watches.
November 6, 2019
Staying warm on night watch is becoming easier and easier as the temperature is not cooling off as much. The sky overnight was brilliantly lit up with a moon and a thousand stars. At this time on the AIS system we can see boats on the chart plotter but you cannot see any boats visually until they are very close.
Around 3 am on Howards watch he saw a boat approaching us and despite using the halogen beam light and seeing them approach ( they did not have AIS) he tried to wake up other crew ( who did not hear him call). In the end he diverted our course slightly and a Mexican fishing boat went by. These boats are usually way off shore and don’t transmit AIS. We should have had our radar on and it would have shown up earlier, but lesson learned.
Around 0800 the wind picked up and we gladly silenced the engine. We had a great breakfast of toast and egss and coffee an then set the sails ( spinnaker up) and began riding the wind. We had lots of fun trying different sail trim and poling out the jib and even the spinnaker, sailing wing on wing with the spinnaker and jib was great fun. The wind was a consistent 12-14 knots. Perfect!
We finished the day with a great meal on deck and watched the sun set as we began our third consecutive night of sailing with the engine droning on in the background. The waves were very confused at times and rolling the boat from side to side. Anyone who was trying to sleep had to make sure that they had pillows around them to keep from rolling across the bed and into the side walls and or the lee cloths.
As night darkened it became apparent that the moon was not going to come out and light our way into Turtle Bay, so we slowed down so that we could enter the bay at sunrise the imorning.
November 7, 2019
We passed the finish line for Leg 1 of Baja Haha 2019 @ 02:50 am. Felt like a long first leg, yet it went by quickly. We arrived into Bahia Tortugas around 0730 am and began making our way into the bay. This is a massive bay and we were pleased to see many of the other Baja boats present. The bay is spectacular. It is surrounded by low lying bluffs with minimal foliage on them. Barren land but the view was incredible. The bay is well protected and offers enough anchorage for a thousand boats I am sure.
The people who live here are welcoming and as we looked for a spot to drop the anchor they were running about the bay in panga’s (little motor boats) picking up peoples trash, delivering fuel, water and even food if requested. We ended up setting our anchor 3 times before we could get it to set properly, (which is always fun to do when you have a large audience). Once the anchor was set we turned the engine and sat and relaxed for a half an hour. We had finished the first Leg of the 2019 Baja Haha. While it was not the best sailing we had ever done it was pleasant and gratifying. We celebrated with a breakfast of scrambled eggs with salsa, pancakes and hot coffee.
Now to the beach to explore the village and catch up with friends we had made since arriving in San Diego who were also on the Baja. The village used to have a cannery but it had shut down many years ago so there were many derelict buildings. The food was plentiful as were the ice cold beers.
The next couple of days were spent relaxing, doing minor boat repairs and mingling with other boaters. We wandered around the town and found a great store with fresh produce and restocked.
The Baja annually has a large baseball game with the local kids teams and donates many items that people had brought from their boats to the locals. The game was fun and entertaining and all the money raised went to the local schools for lunch programs and school support. We had a big beach party with all of the Baja participants and got to know so many other people who are also sharing the dream of sailing for a few years. It was so fun to hear everyone’s views on sailing, their trip so far and their future plans.