Downwind It Is! We crossed the Sea of Cortez to the main land!

We crossed the Sea of Cortez! When we left San Jose del Cabo, we were expecting to have an easy six hour sail up the coast of Baja to stay in Los Frailes, the easternmost point on the Baja peninsula. As soon as we rounded the SE corner of Baja, however, we were met with bashing seas and 20kts on the nose! That was going to be a very uncomfortable and wet ride to an anchorage that didn’t look like it had that much protection… plus… it was going in the wrong direction! North? Who wants to go north in the winter?! So we fell off by about 90 degrees and headed towards Mazatlan. We held this course for about 40 nautical miles, but the seas were getting oh-so-uncomfortable and I needed to make dinner down below. That is extremely difficult to do when the swells were getting so big, we were both getting seasick even while looking out over the horizon. How am I supposed to go down below, while getting thrown around and not have the pot fly off the stove? So we made another change in course and turned further south. With a deep beam reach headed far downwind, we ate like kings (Mac and cheese haha), slept like babies (in 5 hour shifts of course), and sailed towards Isla Isabela, a very small island off the mainland near San Blas, Nayarit.

The second night Lewis took first shift, 8-midnight. When it was his time to sleep, he only got about 2 hours in when I saw a bright light on the dark horizon. At first I thought it was the island lighthouse, but as we got closer I realized it was a cluster of lights. And I mean, MANY LIGHTS. We were slowly (4kts) approaching into a sea full of trawling commercial fishermen whose navigation lights look like Christmas trees. Red on top of two whites on top of a green? They’re going WHICH way?!??? As it turns out, there were about 12 boats trawling (we think nets, less than 50m long) according to our “Pocket Rules of the Road, 2nd Edition” by Ocean Navigator, Professional Mariner according to COLREGS (The International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea). It took us a good 3 hours to navigate directly through them all and then Lewis finally got to bed.

I took an extra long shift since I knew Lewis would have to navigate us into the anchorage as soon as the sun rose and there was enough light to spot submerged pinnacles, well known on this island. We made perfect timing to approach exactly at sunrise. As we enter the south cove, we see that the island is covered in birds (and very smelly bird poop) and everything is rock, including the bottom of the anchorage. There was one boat taking up the very center of the cove with submerged rocks almost on all sides. Plus the huge swell from the last 3 days of wind were wrapping around and making a horrifying breaking noise every 2 minutes on the surrounding cliffs. I’m fed up and so exhausted; I say we keep going another 60 miles to San Blas. Lewis is determined to check out the east side where there are statue-like rock spires sticking out of the water. We drop anchor just south of the one that looks like a turtle head and I pass out for a good 6 hours while Lewis fishes, reads and does a Spanish lesson. We celebrated that evening with crab cakes, thinking that was our last long/overnight passage until we cross the Pacific. Little did we know the wind shifted around 2am, putting us in uncomfortably shallow water with Mr. Turtle Head as our lee shore. Thankfully we were already on anchor watch because you cannot set an anchor when it’s a rock bottom. And the cruising guides both say that these anchorages are nicknamed Anchor Eaters. This is because the anchors can get caught under/around a boulder, especially if you drift because the wind shifts and your chain drags and wraps around all of the pinnacles and coral, all while you’re surrounded by cliffs. It’s much safer to drop your chain and leave the anchor behind than risk losing your boat. Thankfully our anchor came up easily and we are on our way to Mantanchen Bay in San Blas, Nayarit. We’re thinking we might stay for a week. After all, we have sailed about 1037 nautical miles since leaving Ensendada only 3 weeks ago…

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