Bahia Santa Maria

December 12th, 2005 by: cheyenne

We decided to forego Bahia Magdelena altogether and anchor just north at Santa Maria. Notable is that now the water is blue, not black or gray or greenish gray, and we finally saw a frigate bird. Jeff had been increasingly put out by the lack of frigate birds. It started when he announced a few feet inside the Mexican border, “First person to see a frigate bird gets to buy a bottle of tequila!” We didn’t see one by the time we got to Ensenada and had to buy a bottle of tequila to quell the fear that something was not right in the world; according to Jeff, there should be frigate birds everywhere. Leaving Ensenada, we bought a few more bottles of tequila just in case we saw a frigate bird but weren’t near a store. We ended up having to break into those too in an attempt to forget about how we weren’t seeing any frigate birds. At last, evidence was observed on the beach at Bahia San Quentin: a dried-up frigate bird skull; we pondered this important clue over some tequila. Jeff’s unease increased steadily until, at last, not only was a frigate bird seen but also some flying fish, another creature whose absence was causing great anxiety. All remaining bottles of tequila were subsequently drained in preparation of being able to purchase a bottle of tequila once we arrived in La Paz.

We spent two days at Santa Maria wandering the beach and trying not to collect too many sand dollars (with which the beach is heavily littered). This place has everything: mangroves and marshy critters, a tranquil beach that goes on as far as you can see (and has the sand dollars), deserty mountains covered with cacti and other shrubs that will skewer you given half a chance, and a vast area of sand dunes; then on the other side is another beach that goes on forever, this time exposed to the open Pacific so there are massive waves crashing and different sorts of beachcombing loot. Like turtle skulls (of which we seem to have a couple bouncing around in our aft trampoline pocket).

We took off for los Cabos in late afternoon; the wind was ‘eh’ and the waves were fairly flat. Night was very iffy and we debated turning the motor on numerous times. The next morning was out and out pathetic, windwise, and after nine or so hours we had succeeded in traveling all of eight knots mostly in the not-towards-Cabo direction. Mutiny was afoot and the motor thus started.

We snarled our way forward in the right direction until a puff of wind convinced us that we were being fools! Using up precious gasoline when here was the wind, free for the taking. We hoisted both sails and watched them flop irritatingly around. Then we dropped the main and put up the gennaker. When that at last managed to hold its own, we ran both the gennaker and the 170% sail off the forestay (that’s another big lightweight sail—not as light as the gennaker—that takes up supposedly 170% of the triangle between the top of mast and the forward tip of the boat). One on either side. That lasted all of 10 glorious minutes where we managed a maximum speed of four knots and of which no photos were taken (looked kind of cool). Ah well. Here’s one of a sunset.

Sunset on the outer baja, mexico

Another night went by of flopping around, little sleep (flopping sails make a hell of a racket when below), and general irritation. Finally the sun rose to reveal major fish action (sadly we didn’t catch any of the damned things), whales, and the visual espectaculo that is Los Cabos. Wheeeee!

Rounding Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cruise ships at anchor in the bay at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We carefully picked our way through the jetskiers and parasailers and Baja!Fun!Sports! tours at Cabo San Lucas, waved briefly at Bogtrotter, who were monkeying around with their anchor and looked like they had had a hell of an evening, and moved on.

The wind was mostly dead so we still had the 170%. Then it perked up to 30+ knots! Ayyyy! Down with the 170 and up with the storm sail! And a reef! Then it died! Stormsail down, reef out, and Mule up (that’s the ~100% normal sail). But that was too conservative and we soon swapped it for the 150. Then the 170. Then the wind died. Again. Then it was perky (Mule! Arrgh!), then not (150! Crappenshit!). Then it picked up considerably and, exhausted and having just actually caught a fish, we decided to anchor for the night off the beach just west of Punto Gordo where there was shelter from the sea if not the wind, which blew off the land. Once anchored, the wind began to howl, then died mostly in the wee hours.

The next morning began with a freakin’ gale. I was on anchor watch from around 3am to sunrise and measured a steady 20-25 with gusts over 30 around daybreak. We hid below reading pulp fiction and bitching about the noise but around 8 or 9 o’clock, it mellowed right out. We wandered about the boat in a daze for a bit, enjoying the sun, then pulled anchor and headed in the direction of Los Frailes.

At approximately 10:00am, the wind died. Died. But there were big ol’ waves remaining from the previous day’s wind, making everything totally annoying. (Imagine being in a giant boat-shaped rocker machine run by powerful yet senile dwarves. Senile dwarves with ouzo hangovers.) On the horizon, one could see… could it be… a herd of buffalo…? Huh. A herd of white buffalo, foaming at the mouths. Ayyyy! We watched with grave curiosity as the spectacle swallowed the horizon and crept slowly towards us as only a herd of foaming white buffalo can. At last, the windstorm smashed into us in all its splenditude catching us halfway down a reef, a storm-jib hastily hoisted (the stormjib is a wee puny looking sail that is mega thick material and very tough), and the discarded mule splayed all over the inside of the head/dressing room area. The wind was probably around 30, but we didn’t measure. This wouldn’t have been so terrible if it wasn’t coming from exactly the direction we wanted to go (north) or if it hadn’t been accompanied by very short choppy steep waves that smashed into us and brought us to a near-standstill with every direct hit. Therefore we had to tack back and forth a zillion times making a simple 20-mile journey more like a 60-mile one. Bleargh. I was driving initially, which wasn’t so bad aside from the obvious and numerous (and frequently conflicting) steering tips being cast in my direction (“Try to point up more” “Don’t point so high”) or the general radiating sense of unease exhibited by the crew when I was at the wheel, er helm. I relinquished the wheel late afternoon and preceded to have the daylights freaked out of me every 30 or 40 seconds when it felt like Joshua was going to tip the boat on some freaky wave. I guess it’s different when you are steering. Joshua and Jeff acted like this was fairly typical ho-hum weather and cracked jokes and basically appeared fairly comfortable. I, in turn, was completely irritated because I thought I steered better, my ass was hurting (sat on a winch accidentally and managed to grow a bruise so fantastic that it showed through my clothing), and it was getting cold and my foul weather gear was wet on the inside from spray hitting my face then dripping down. Then I had to pee and the prospect of being seasick in addition to being wet and having a big black bruise on my ass was just not sitting well. It got dark and although we could see the lights of Los Frailes, we still were hours away. The wind kept up but finally slowed to ~25 knots around 7pm. We came into Los Frailes anchorage around 8:30pm and dropped anchor alongside ~12 other boats.

Miraculously Joshua had managed to pull a fish aboard around sunset (a big ol’ amberjack no less!!) and once soundly anchored, we were thus inspired to fix a proper dinner before passing out cold in our bunks.

One Comment on “Bahia Santa Maria”

  1. Peg Bowden says:

    Whooa. Sounds like you “made your bones” on the high seas that day. White buffalo on the horizon, eh? Seems like I’ve seen similar white buffalo after a few shots of tequila. Love your descriptions, altho they scare the bejesus out of me. Love and safe sailing, Mom xxoo

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Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell