Sleigh Ride to Cabo

The peaceful anchorage in Magdalena Bay turned boisterous in the middle of the night as the northwesterly winds picked up to 20 knots. By dawn the wind chop made our anchorage untenable and gentle communion with the whales impossible, as the bay was boiling and teeming with white caps. We fired up the SSB radio and downloaded the weather forecast: strong winds for at least three days, followed by light winds down the coast. Our choice was to use the wind to sail south, or search for the best anchorage in Mag Bay to hunker down with books for three days, while nurturing our hope for another blissful day of whale watching. We agonized over the choice, but our time in Mexico was already shorter than desired, and the Sea of Cortez (blissful cruising grounds, snorkeling, kiteboarding) called. So we set off for Cabo San Lucas with a double reefed main alone, flying out of the bay into the 9-14 foot swell and turning south to run downhill.
Anthea lifted up on each swell and charged down, harnessing the energy of the waves. We were sailing in 15-20 knots apparent wind, tethered into the cockpit to ensure no one would be swept overboard if a rogue wave broke on our stern. The cockpit stayed dry and the run was exhilarating, until, that is, the swell changed from the steady rhythm of “up, up, up, up, down, rushing down, down,” to a mixed swell of “up, up, up, up, down, rushing down, down, side, rock, side, rock, up, up.” When the cross swell surged, the rolling motion sent items sliding in the cupboards below, adding a cacophony of clatters and bangs to the sensory overload of the sleigh ride to Cabo.
Devon, who had bartered his way out of nightwatch by promising to cook and clean for the crew, was cutting vegetables for a cream of vegetable and black bean soup. He mastered the galley under the conditions, barely phased by the motion as he reached for ingredients and filled up the pot on the gimballed stove. By the time he added the cream and was ready to serve, no one had the stomach to eat. For the first time we were all seasick, and Anson was down with a headache. So Mark and I faced a night of keeping the boat safely heading south while fighting nausea and fatigue. It was a long night. A bad night. A night of wishing we were at anchor in Magdalena Bay.
By dawn we had switched to full jib to power up the boat in the slightly moderated winds. Mark went below after his long watch, while I harnessed in and played with the self-steering lines for more consistent performance in the changing breeze. Soon the sun was gracing the horizon and a pod of dolphins leapt towards Anthea, playing in our bow wave before journeying on. My fatigue from the night evaporated during the blissful visitation.
Our final approach to Cabo was beset by lightening winds. Up went the main with full jib, and the sailing continued, but barely. Soon the large waves spilled the gentle breeze from the sails and Mr. Perkins was called upon again. We found a new breeze at the point and rounded the iconic rocks of Cabo (Neptune’s finger, the arches) under jib alone, gliding into the anchorage under the bright glare of the afternoon light. After 750 miles of mostly barren coast line, the scene at Cabo was shocking: cruise ships rising stories high, pangas racing, parasailers lifting behind speed boats, jet skis buzzing, booming beats of beach parties, and lines of condos and hotels. We set the anchor and collapsed with fatigue, happy to have arrived in warmer climes, but shell shocked by tourism gone wild.
After three nights at anchor and two days of reprovisioning, errands and doing laundry, we departed Cabo at dawn, sailing gently out of the bay and into calm waters. On went the motor, but soon a gentle four knot breeze began to blow and we were sailing again, this time in shorts and t shirts.
We sailed along the blunt end of Baja and tacked up the coast, pointing towards Los Frailles, the first protected anchorage past Cabo. Our boat glided through the water in 5-8 knots of wind and calm, clear seas. Whales spouted around us from morning until evening. Anson sat on deck with his camera at the ready, Devon calling whale sightings, while the windvane steered and Mark and I navigated the shoal-lined coast. We sailed into the anchorage just as the sun was nearing the horizon. A perfect sailing day. Pinch me. We finally arrived in the long awaited cruising grounds!

2 thoughts on “Sleigh Ride to Cabo

  1. What marvelous word pictures of an action packed journey well begun. Thanks for sharing all. Blessings. Or as our Navy families say “Fair winds and following seas. Jim and Dee


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