The forecast of light and variable winds turned out to be accurate, but only for a few days of the trip. By late Wednesday, we were running under the staysail alone in 30-35 knots of wind. For you non-sailors, that’s our next-to-the-smallest sail; by itself.
We estimated the winds were at Beaufort Force 5 to 6, or 17-21 and 22-27 knots respectively. Fortunately it was blowing from the west-northwest, favorable for the direction we were heading. By midnight we were back to light wind, though with a heavy swell running from the NW, which made the boat roll uncomfortably. This became the weather pattern for the entire trip: Light wind, rolling swell, then building wind (still with a swell) to near-gale force, then back to light wind again. We felt as though we were continually changing sails – first putting up more canvas to keep moving in light air, then taking it down to cope with strong winds. I had my birthday while bombing down the coast in force 6 winds under a scrap of canvas. White ponies visible all around the horizon (white breaking froth at the top of waves). The next day was almost calm. Then – a repeat. By the seventh day as we approached Cabo San Lucas, we were both tired of sail changes and the variable winds.
The final approach to Cabo San Lucas was perfect sailing. Around Cabo Falso and on to the distinctive rocky point that is Cabo San Lucas that marks the entrance to the big bay. It was early evening as we rounded Cabo Falso and dusk fell as we sailed toward Cabo San Lucas, tinting the evening sky with green, amber and mauve as we approached the cape. By the time we rounded the actual cape, dark had fallen and the city lights competed the bright lights of two mammoth cruise ships anchored in the bay, all bathed in brilliant moonlight as well. It was a challenge to maneuver our way to our intended anchorage due to several sail- and motorboats at anchor but not showing anchor lights, and the blinding lights from nightclubs on shore. We carefully made our way in, giving wide berth to the two cruise ships. OMG, no longer anchored, they were underway and slowly maneuvering their way out – with us in the way! Eventually we dropped anchor several dozen yards off the beach on a sandy bottom. In front of us, colorful neon lights reflected off the dark water as music boomed through the night from the bars along the beach. Fortunately, the bars shut down before midnight. After seven days offshore, we indulged in self-congratulatory drinks, had a bite to eat, and crashed into bed.
The next morning, we awoke to activity all around us: Jet skis, glass-bottom tour boats, para-sail tow boats, stand-up-paddlers, kayakers, swimmers off the beach, and a different huge cruise ship anchored near the harbor’s mouth. At 9:00, the music started again. By 10:00, we were heading out of Cabo San Lucas and on our way to the town of San Jose del Cabo.
The photos above were taken as we were scooting out of Cabo San Lucas. We made for the much quieter marina at San Jose del Cabo, a short 15 mile jaunt where we hoped to find a quiet marina and a good night’s rest before our way up the coast to La Paz.
San Jose del Cabo has been a renowned base for sport fishing for years. There are numerous well-maintained charter boats that are kept in the marina. There are also a goodly number of very luxurious power yachts, many flying U.S. flags. That’s a new hotel on the right as you enter. Beyond it, outside of the marina, we found a small restaurant with rooftop seating. We had dinner there that evening on the rooftop. The restaurant was owned and managed by a young Swedish couple. The menu was truly eclectic and the dishes all very good, blending Asian and European influences with Mexican traditions, resulting in dishes that were unusual and delightful.
A path around the perimeter of the harbor provides access to the various docks and to the harbor master’s office and small commercial buildings. The path is nicely landscaped and along it are extraordinary pieces of art: Larger than life-size bronze sculptures of fanciful and perhaps mythical characters. The images are inspired by paintings and sculptures made by Leonora Carrington (now deceased) who had immigrated from Europe to Mexico. The images seem familiar to me, but the language barrier was too great to overcome when we wanted more information about the artist.
We left the marina at San Jose del Cabo the next morning, Dec. 24, heading for an anchorage in Ensenada de los Muertos. As was mentioned previously, this trip up the Sea of Cortez in winter is usually brutal: Strong north winds blowing against a south current normally make for a rough sea state. The usual strategy is to start early each day and find a sheltered place to stop by mid-day, as the wind grows stronger in the afternoon. But we were lucky, and the winds remained light and variable both days as we made our way north. We were able to motor sail efficiently to the anchorage behind the point at Ensenada de los Muertos (Cove of the Dead), where we dropped the hook after dark on a sandy bottom in a sheltered bay. That night, I dug out the six unbreakable Christmas ornaments I’d brought from home and hung them on the Dickenson’s heat shield. They clinked softly as the boat rocked in a gentle swell all evening.
Before dawn on Christmas Day we were underway again, heading for our Christmas rendezvous with Ka’sala and friends at La Paz.