Monday, December 21, 2015

Lost at Sea off Baja...

Espiritu and sailing fleet rests in Turtle Bay 

Yes, we were lost at sea off Baja. Well, not completely lost. We knew where we were...sort of.

We knew we were somewhere off Baja. We just didn't know exactly where we were, what direction we were going, or how fast.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, flashback to Ensenada.

Last day at Ensenada -- masts and hills at Cruiseport

Our plan was to head south the next morning for the 2 night passage to 
Turtle Bay with a group of buddy boats including
 Jason and Nicole of Stay Gold, pictured above. 

Let me tell you about these two cray kids: the've only recently returned from a round-trip sail to Hawaii which featured zigging and zagging between not one, not two, but THREE hurricanes. Trying to get to San Francisco they faced 60 foot waves, lost all of their sails, solar panels and all electrical power. Fortunately they had a back-up hand held GPS (All of you cruisers have one aboard, right? More on that later...) and tons of batteries, enabling them to limp into San Francisco victorious and alive. 

They plan on heading directly to the Marquesas, 3,000 miles across the Pacific.

Ah, youth. We're pulling for you two, you crazy kids!

We had a farewell dinner our last night in town with our new Ensenada BFFs.

The Three Musketeers: Richard of Golden Skye
Marty of Desiderata and Chris

I was mortified to see this face pop up on the local Mexican news 
broadcasting on all 3 TVs in the restaurant crowded with locals:

Oh noes.    :-/

The Mexican news was showing presidential candidate Donald Trumps' latest anti-Mexican immigrant speech LIVE on TV, complete with Spanish translation!

Several of the restaurant employees went over, crowded around the TV to watch the speech.

I was afraid this would happen.

Mexican restaurant worker watching Donald Trump live on TV

When Donald Trump famously said that essentially all illegal Mexican immigrants into the U.S. were criminals, drug dealers or rapists (and refused to dial it back, instead doubling down on his statement), naturally I was horrified. I had hoped Mexican citizens south of the border would be shielded from such hateful rhetoric. No such luck.

As best I could in my basic Spanish, I explained to the group of employees watching the speech that the great majority of American citizens are deeply offended by Trump 's anti-Mexican statements and  know that these words are, plan and simple, untrue. 

In short, I did what to some is the most unpatriotic act an American can do:
 I humbly apologized for my country.

They seemed touched and gratified by my awkward attempt at diplomacy. 

The next morning we set sail for Turtle Bay. 

This is typically a cold, blustery passage that is often complicated with big swells from winter storms in the north and cold winds. It's a passage every cruiser is happy to have behind him in his quest ever south to the tropics. 

Our first 24 hours were bumpy, lumpy and uneventful. 

Baby squids inexplicably kept jumping up onto the deck. What kind of hell was 
going on under the waves to make them do such a thing? 

 As the sun was about to set for the second night of the passage, our chart plotter began malfunctioning. First, it stopped displaying our course (the direction we were sailing). Next to fail was the boat speed, followed by a loud alarm from both the chart plotter and the auto pilot screaming:

"BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The auto pilot is not functioning! We are unable to find your position! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!"

Well, alrighty then.

At the time of the electrical failure we were about 2/3 of the way between Ensenada and Turtle Bay. If you look at the map above, we were just heading away from shore to round "the hook." 

Unfortunately we had lost site of/contact with all of our 4 buddy boats. This is normal and expected, as we were all going different speeds and one had stopped off at a tiny port south of Ensenada.

But the truth was, we were alone.

Fortunately, even though the auto pilot was screaming that it was not functioning, it was apparently confused. It WAS still working, and it stayed on course during the entire passage, fortunately.

But our chart plotter and GPS had failed. 

Chris dove into our ditch bag and grabbed one of our two back-up hand held GPS monitors. He installed fresh batteries and after a couple of minutes had us up and running via the 15 year old  portable model. 

We decided that overnight we would chart our coordinates and course every 20-30 minutes until we arrived in Turtle Bay. It was a stressful night, but we were never in danger. Along with dealing with our electrical malfunction we also had multiple sail changes, plus I had to cook dinner! We took one hour watches overnight, resting in the cockpit when we were off watch so we were readily available for any issues that would arise.

Also, the hand held GPS kept dying and needing new batteries like every 60 minutes. Fortunately we bought the economy pack of 36 double A's. 

Adding to the stress of my midnight watch was the damn alarms kept going off literally every 30 seconds all night long and needed to be reset each time. 

"BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The auto-pilot is not functioning! We are unable to find your position! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!"

Every. Thirty. Seconds.  (sigh)

It reminded me of those scenes in those airplane disaster movies where the cockpit alarms keep going off every two seconds ("STALL! STALL! PULL UP! PULL UP!") like Denzel Washington faced in the movie Flight. 

Of course, the great advantage of sailing over aviation is if the plane faces catastrophic electrical failure, the worse case scenario is smashing into the ground in a million fiery pieces.

The worst case scenario for us? We're left floating there, bobbing, dead in the water. 

We're never buying a plane.

Anyway, I digress.

The sun finally popped over the horizon to our relief. I jumped up in response to a mind-numbing leg cramp and came very close to fainting. I was exhausted. 

Passing Isla Cedros 

Approaching the entrance to Turtle Bay -- finally!  

We dropped the hook and slept for 15 hours.

The next morning we awoke refreshed and relieved. Chris got right to work and found the wire that needed to be repaired in the chart plotter. (My hero!)   :-)

I found this giant bruise on my arm while bathing the first morning. I have no idea when
 this happened, which tells you something about the passage. 

We were happy to see our friends Mark and Eden of Halcyon I had also arrived. 

Mark was a lieutenant commander on a submarine in the Canadian Navy. He told us when new sailors got freaked out with claustrophobia, they would put him in a quiet little room and give him a "hospitality lolipop." We used to use those at Children's Hospital -- they are literally lolipops made out of Valium. 

I could have used a "hospitality lolipop" during our last passage! 

Giving the freaked out soldiers a Valium lolipop is so Canadian. Somehow I doubt the American navy is that gentle with freaked out submarine recruits. 

Anyway, we headed ashore to climb one of the peaks surrounding the village.

View from the top, looking over the other side deep into Baja

Coming down was kinda scary.

I want my hospitality lolipop! 

We then set out to explore the little village.

We found the two pine trees in Turtle Bay

Abandoned baby doll in the street

I thought this was smart -- each side of the concrete yard had this 
combo basketball/soccer gizmo. What a great idea! 

I loved this hand painted stop sign

Oh, no. Another child's toy strewn into the street. As I began to fall into despair, my husband suggested that these were dog chew toys and not children's cherished toys cast aside.

I choose to believe the latter.

So, we're here in Turtle Bay through Christmas. It's a calm, comfortable anchorage, and we're here with several other boats heading south. 

All is well. What's new with YOU? Family and friends, please let me know. I live for your e-mails.

Feliz Navidad!   

1 comment:

  1. We didn't have hospitality lollipops on the Billfish or the Tullibee. Just some rum every now and then. By any chance was Desiderata a trimaran?