Crossing The Sea of Cortez

March 13th, Tuesday, 2012

Today marks one week ago that we pulled up anchor in La Paz and headed out of the bay. We stopped for the night at the nearest anchorage to finish up a few jobs. The following morning we put Mike up the mast to run the SSB Antenna, pulled up the anchor and headed out into the bay once again. The day was beautiful. The wind and the water were calm as we rounded the point passing Ballandra Beach and familiar places we visited during our stay in La Paz. The water was a dark turquoise blue. The shallow areas of light blue lined the beaches. The huge brown mountains and their jagged edges were easier to look at in full view from the water. It was hard to believe that after 21 months we were actually leaving.

About five miles out into the Sea of Cortez we spotted well over 100 fins in the water.  Michael asked me to grab his camera and go out to the bow of the boat and start filming. Caelin, our dog, was starting to growl and run back and forth. She knew something was going on. As I approached the bow rail it was like a dream. Dolphin were everywhere, jumping out of the water and darting quickly from side to side of the boat. They were bumping into each other and competing to keep up with the boat, squeaking and squealing as they do. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I took it as an omen that the trip ahead was going to be good one.

Being that there are three of us on board, it was decided that we would take turns at the wheel so that no one got “overworked”. Michaels shifts were 4-8 AM & PM, Mikes were 8-12 AM & PM, and mine were 12-4 AM & PM. ( I must say the toughest time was from 2-4 AM.) I chose that shift because I rarely sleep the whole night and sometimes take advantage of everyone being asleep to enjoy some quiet time.

As it got dark Michael requested that we all clip into our jacklines so that no one slipped over board during their shift. What a horror that would be. Around 9PM, Mikes shift, I went up into the wheel house to check and see if he needed anything. He Said he was fine but was getting sleepy so I fixed him some extra chocolaty hot chocolate and brought him my MP3 player that had the Car Talk show on audio books. The combination seemed to give him what he needed to complete his shift.

My shift was uneventful. The moon was full and the sky was filled with stars. There was some light cloud cover that reflected the moon, making it easy to see for a long ways. My eyes shifted from the compass to the GPS, to our track across the water. I was trying to keep within “feet” of our chartered course. (For a lack of better things to do.) I listened to a few Garrison Kealers , Lake Woebegone. Laughed out loud at times and then wondered if I’d woken Michael who was sleeping in the cabin right below the hatch that was next to the wheel. He had instructed me “ If you see a boat or the depth go 100’ or below, wake me.”

I tried not to think about the depth because my knees would grow week when I thought about us being in 2-4 thousand feet of water. I just got use to focusing on my job. As I grew sleepy I turned on my tunes. Michael said he peeked out the hatch at one point and saw me dancing and jumping up and down. He knew I was trying to stay awake.

The following morning when Mike was back on watch he rang the bell for us to come up on deck. He said he turned his head to look behind the boat because he heard a noise only to find a whale exhaling directly behind the boat. He said it was a least 40’ long and close enough to throw something at it. We missed it.  As I think of it now, I cringe to think had the whale  surfaced any closer to the boat we could have taken on some damage. Sheesh!

The rest of the day went on without an event. The seas had gotten large swells and keeping on course had gotten to be more of a challenge. I was tired of fighting the wheel. Michael relieved me for an hour as well as Mike. I was frustrated with myself and felt “whiney”. Later that afternoon Michael ran down the wiring for the autopilot. He hooked it up and it did the work for us.

Around 11pm Mike was looking forward to his shift ending. He was tired and ready to crash. The buoy light at Mazatlan on the mainland had started to come into view, giving us more steam to continue on. When he heard an exhaust sound that was different. He woke Michael to look at the engine, who pulled up the floor boards in the salon to find water and oil floating all around the engine. The engine was shut off as he evaluated the situation. The seas were on our beam (side) making it hard to stand in one place. As a wave would hit the boat, the boat would roll from side to side. Making it a bit uncomfortable. Being as resourceful as Michael is, he was able to put a “band aid” on the situation and sail us into Mazatlan.

The wind was light and the boat didn’t move more than 1-2 knots an hour. It took us 9 hours to go 20 miles. Mike was so tired he was falling asleep on his feet, so Michael send him to his bunk. Michael and I weren’t much better, but we pushed on. The sun began to rise which made it a little easier to function. Several hours had passed before Michael asked me to wake Mike. They started the engine to take the boat into the channel at Mazatlan.

I was instructed to stay by the engine and report if any oil started to leak out or if the “band aid” came apart. I sat for an hour or so and watched the engine, trying to stay awake. My head kept falling over and short dreams kept running in and out of my mind. Once we realized the engine would be ok, I told Michael I was going to crash for 30 minutes. I layed down only to get up an hour later as we were navigating thru the anchorage. Michael instructed Mike where to drop the anchor. He backed down on it to be sure it would hold and turned off the engine and we all went to bed. We slept all day Thursday and all night, only to get up to eat. Well…me anyway. 🙂

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