Solo sail from Cabo to La Paz, Baja Sur, MX

So, they say you should never sail up against a deadline. Let the weather decide things. But here’s how it stacked up: we’ve been gone a long time and there’s a Monday morning plane ticket from La Paz to son Colin’s house in North Carolina for Thanksgiving. The boat (engine) is finally ready to go again but it’s Saturday morning in San Jose del Cabo, with La Paz about 130 miles dead upwind. We’ve singlehanded the Farallones race, and that’s about 75 miles in the daylight, and we’re feeling good about coastal night work too. If all goes well, we’re going to Press n’ Hold for three seconds on the Pelagic autopilot remote numerous times on this long beat to execute clean upwind tacks. The solo tacking dance is:  pre-tension the leeward running backstay, hit the Tacking button, ease the current jib sheet and quickly take up the other jib sheet, release the loaded backstay as the mainsail pressure eases, harden up the new backstay, trim the jib and adjust course a few degrees, if needed. The autopilot is set to tack the boat 100 degrees. Depending on the sea state and current, on some tacks we can do better (closer to the headwind), so after the boat is moving well on the new tack we pinch it up a little higher. Originally the machine was set to tack 90 degrees, but sometimes that wasn’t enough and we stalled out – that’s a total mess one wants to avoid. I probably tacked the boat 50 times in the 155 sailed miles on Saturday, and only blew it twice due to fatigue / not quite nailing the conditions.

You guys can play around with the visual settings on the tracker page (map mode vs satellite mode, etc):

The south-eastern portion of the Baja California coast is quite beautiful. Seeing these places in all day-parts, from sunrises, different daylight patterns, sunsets and night vistas, really changes perspectives on things. I’m enjoying the slower and more observational pace of looking at these landscapes, compared to passing by in cars and planes. The day started in the dark at 05:15, and with a decent breeze we were sailing just moments after the marina breakwater.

An hour later, looking back towards Cabo and ahead up the track

Here’s the portion of this sail that took place in the daylight (starting at the San Jose del Cabo point):


A few hours later the wind was up in the teens and generating wind waves similar to an afternoon ebb on San Pablo Bay. We could have stayed home and sailed 5 miles away from our house for these snotty conditions! If we bore off the wind a bit and let the boat speed get up above 10 knots, we’d pound through these waves every few seconds and throw a lot of spray. The bigger hits were sending sheets of water at the windshields, and of course some of that finds its way to the cockpit & driver.  So we tried to stay quite high to the wind, and made the best ground at about 8 knots of boat speed.  Here’s a mellower bit of this action:


Team Brizo, a reasonable first stop for this trip would be Los Frailes, which looked properly sheltered from the north wind.

12 hours in we had made it past Barilles (near Buena Vista on the map), which looks like a fantastic beach town. But windy, given the impressive fleet of kite surfers (some up on their foils!) that buzzed us as we came close to shore for a good look. Nightfall began as we chased and caught up to HaHa boat Rover (only other boat we saw the whole day and night).

They headed in to Bahia de Los Muertos, a good anchorage. But I knew that if we stopped there, leaving 60+ miles for Sunday would make it tough to get to the early Monday plane. Ravenswing pressed on into the darkness, covering this ground: AB5494AD-14E5-4DDC-A22A-0EA2C568BE36This map looks easy, but that point to the right of La Ventana was not. The navigable gap of this Cerralvo Channel is a three mile wide funnel of wind and waves coming at northbound boats. The various lighthouses are difficult to interpret between the mainland and large island, plus a lot of shore lighting from development. We had a freighter coming at us who would not respond to radio hails and I wanted their acknowledgment to pass starboard to starboard, ie on the left, not the usual “stay to the right”. That was a tense hour short-tacking around this hairy point. Based on its AIS name I think the freighter was local and probably used to sailboats struggling through this pass. They gave us room to work. And another hour up that coast, development ends and everything got VERY dark (also no moon) for the middle-night. Definitely an “instrument approach” as the pilots say.

The spot at the top of that map, under the word SATELLITE, where the line touches the shore under the ‘nose’ of Punta Coyote, is where we stopped at 04:00 on Sunday, 23 hours and 155 traveled miles after departing San Jose. I got rolling again by 10:00 and finished the final 35 miles or so with a mellow downwind run into the La Paz channel.

People are spending big housing bucks on the eastern La Paz shoreline.

This trip was a tough beat upwind, and a quite satisfying 23 hour solo run Saturday. We did well, but then humble pie was served in La Paz… our target landing on the outer A dock at Marina Cortez was a mine field of anchor-outs, nasty current, and building tailwind. I radioed in and two guys stood at a ridiculously small side tie slip between large boats. They waved me in with no indication of 3-5foot depth! We grounded twice, had to quickly lift the boards (no steering in those moments), and could not execute a needed turn upwind. I could see this was impossible, and executed the only option which was a very long backing up against heavy wind weaving through swinging anchored boats. They were quizzing me on the radio, “where are you going?” ‘The hell away from your shitshow’ went through my mind. Ten minutes later the boat was secured on their deep water side tie, but still on the outside. This photo gives a partial sense of the boat-breaking risk up against docks in this channelAfter a trip to the marina office we agreed to an inside tie here, and all was well.

And in a weird twist of fate… there are thousands of boats in La Paz. But the boat directly in front of Ravenswing landing here is the same one that towed us in to Cabo San Lucas a week before. And upon arriving in North Carolina Monday night, I got word those guys had pulled off the dock, been grabbed by the current sweeping under these docks, and crashed into RW’s starboard float bow. Thankfully I had been a margarita-drinking guest aboard their boat the night before. They are stand-up folks, and emailed me they had climbed aboard and immediately set in to repairing the cosmetic damage. Geez, this whole trip of breaking stuff, being pushed physically, dealing with ocean weather, and incorrect/insufficient information was certainly not in the brochure. Ravenswing is not a rocket ship lightweight racing tri; but she is still a powered up Fboat, capable of getting quite wet, stressing important sailing gear, and causing trouble in a big breeze. This is performance / adventure cruising. I think the crew will tell you it’s all more demanding than we expected, and I know it’s good to be taking some time away from the boat to get recharged for some lovely Sea of Cortez exploring this winter.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and may you find joy in your families and push yourselves outdoors into your favorite adventures. Ravenswing asks you to keep exploring over the next horizon! We’ll be out there.

More HaHa photos

We’ll go backwards a bit here in the travelogue to share some photos from other crew cameras during the Baja HaHa event. Here’s what mellow conditions driving looks like.During leg 1 we had to fix a leak in the water tank connector. When the skipper got frustrated the engineering mate Anton finished the job. A typical galley making dinner scene:Chris and Anton hiked to an amazing Pacific overlook. Speaking of heights, Chris got this vantage from his mast climb in Turtle Bay. I love that he got my current full navy in one photo. Our last supper together, at the 70’s rock themed restaurant. Sunset on day 1 of Leg 2 into Bahia Santa Maria. Other boats closer to shore got squally rain from these cells. We got dry, steady wind.

The boat builder was thankful for Ravenswing delivering her crew safely!

Two weeks together on a small ship in the big ocean brings people close together. We all felt that as the crew said goodbye-for-now to their trimaran. We thank Jim, Anton and a Chris for a great team spirit, good humor, smart sailing and a safe passage to the tip of Baja. Ravenswing and Greg were lucky you all said yes to the trip :)

Going Solo

Ok good people, Ravenswing is ready to sail again. The Suzuki engine trouble was a loose and corroded wire from the transmission position sensor to the switches that enable or disable starting and running if the gear shifter isn’t in neutral.

Out on the Pacific, we couldn’t find that because it’s hidden behind the motor’s onboard computer (ECU). The mechanic’s shop is very busy so although he came to fetch the motor Tuesday, he really didn’t get to it until this morning (Friday). It sounds like the long term solution here is a dismounting of the engine annually and complete electrical and accessory parts go-through to eliminate bad wires or corrosion issues. This will be on top of fuel system cleaning.

The marina manager pushed hard yesterday on the fact we were five days overdue for obtaining the ten year Temporary Import Permit. They can’t be obtained in the Cabo area, and I was to get it in La Paz via the boat this week. Long story short I departed Cabo San Jose in a rental car at 4:30am, drove 120 miles to LaPaz, had the TIP by 7:45 (from a federal office at the Pichelingue port building), took all necessary documents to Marina Cortez in La Paz for the upcoming two month stay, and got back to Cabo by noon to check in on the motor shop. He had just solved the problem.

Hitting the rack now, listening to the live duo playing funk on Friday night at the swanky hotel (yea the one with the amazing rooftop bar / spa). I’m the bearded, shirtless weirdo the hip folks are looking at scurrying around the dock. But THEY don’t get to sail 150 miles tomorrow by themselves!

Eager for a good day, but also appreciate you guys keeping an eye on the tracker and urging us on. You should see the dot moving by 6am mountain time, and it’s unlikely with the headwinds we’ll get to La Paz Saturday, so don’t be surprised if the boat stops at a cove East of the city.

One way or another tomorrow should be the longest solo sail of my life so far…

Getting there.

I’m still not sure what the BajaHaHa rally actually is. For some it’s group security. Or a clear path to the Sea of Cortez. Or an opportunity to break boat parts. Etc. etc.

We’re taking a break this morning still in Cabo San Jose marina because the engine is off at a repair shop.

seems it might have breathed some water as we neared Cabo. I watched the mechanic confirm via computer hookup that all the electrical components are fine. But he couldn’t tear in to fuel injection while hanging over the water. It’s not terrible to be mooching off the luxury hotel amenities next to our dock.

But how did get here, you ask? Roll it back to weeks to San Diego and the frenetic rush to get the boat and crew ready. The afternoon before the Monday departure parade we realized we had no paper backup charts of the route. We managed to find the excellent Pat Raines cruising guide. It covers all of the Mexican coastlines. Thank goodness because once we got over the border and passed Ensenada the chartplotter left our beautifully detailed NOAA charts and instead showed very gross level geometric blobs on screen. Ditto with the Navionics on the iPad. Crap, we literally have no acceptable charting aboard! And that’s when you appreciate being in a rally with 130 other boats. The start parade was a hoot, including the Navy destroyer charging through early in the proceedings.

We were the only tri in the fleet so we grew interested in pacing the Outremer (orange trim) Tumbleweed, the HH55 Ticket to Ride, and a builder-owner custom 50′ cat from Hawaii named Kalewa. The latter was the most fun to chase around for 800 miles. AIS was a big part of this crowded ocean trip. Looks funny on screen at the start. Anton getting in his groove. I’d say we hand steered maybe 40% of the trip? Sometimes for fun, but on leg 2 with too much sail up and a nasty sea state we felt better actively driving.

Leg 1 to Turtle Bay was about 410 miles. We drove full main and a big old asymmetric spinnaker for about 30 hours, but the spin decapitated itself a bit after sunset on the second evening. We were doing great, enjoying trimaran reaching angles for 300 miles. But the spinnaker head stayed aloft and fouled the reacher halyard too, so it was white sails downwind at 5-6 kts, giving us a 2am arrival to Turtle Bay anchorage. The panorama of anchor lights to weave through was amazing. Dropping that hook never felt so good.

The HaHa does beach parties at the two primary stops, and assorted entertainment ‘extras’. But the whole thing is too rushed to actually explore and get to know these amazing places. We took hikes, dinghy’d about and wandered the villages. Chris did heroic job of cleaning up the spinnaker debris. After the mast job I only took one photo, to remember the last night where we found Maria’s street kitchen and enjoyed the best ten buck dinner one could imagine.

Leg 2 was 250 miles to Bahia Santa Maria. This time I wanted to head offshore and just keep the boat at 90degrees apparent wind and max speed. We ended up sailing 295 miles that leg, and it was only one gybe. We got our 150 mile layline almost perfect, just had to put in a two mile hitch to cross the finish line. Chris and I hand drove day 1 of that leg as the wind built into the high teens and boat speed was hitting 14-15. I either didn’t read our satellite-phone-supplied PredictWind forecast right, or they totally missed the wind build upwards of 27 knots. Thank God for Ken in Jersey Girl putting out the word about 20 miles behind us as he was in that building breeze. We did a downwind reefing (first for RW) and it did not go well. Battens caught on lazyjacks and the new cheek block on the boom for turning the reefing clew lines to deck began to deform on the boom. We scrambled with makeshift snatch block works. That can’t happen again in case of squalls / storms. The call for the reef was actually because Anton noticed two bulges in the sail track at the top of the mainsail. There aren’t enough load spreading sliders up there, it turns out. This didn’t show itself in tough San Francisco sailing, but the repetitive hours of ocean passages is a whole new rig stress game for us.

Leg 2’s other big learning was caution. The morning of day two, after the very fast day one, Chris and I agreed the second reef should stay in all day and we kept the boat in the 9-11kt range. There was a lot of surfing in a confused wave pattern and gusty winds. We’d broken enough and the skipper was quickly learning the difference from day racing to being 130 miles out from land, which was desolate remote Baja mountains. Throttle back and take care of the boat and tired humans. We did get a spectacular sunset show out of the deal, and it was Jim’s birthday. It was another night arrival but at 8pm and less dramatic.

Chris and Anton did a monster hike overlooking the bay and Pacific, but I had to stay down because of a nasty stingray jab not long after getting ashore. Crap that hurt. A nurse on Profligate instructed me to soak the wound for an hour in as hot temp as one can stand. That (plus three drinks) hit the spot. Today it’s still an ugly wound in the poison area but not painful.

The BSM beach : music party was surreal. Of course it included a Hotel California sing along, as the HaHa crowd averages around early 60s.

I liked seeing how people live in these remote places.

On the final morning in BSM the rally radio net informed everyone about the tropical disturbance forming south of Cabo San Lucas. This changed the whole tone of the event. The HaHa folks were trying a new stop here in year 26, to visit Man o War Cove inside Magdelana Bay (Damian and Beth, go there!). We ended up loving this side trip but many boat skipped to head straight to Cabo. I must have been quite weather distracted- no photos taken. Best part was a beach bonfire with new friends on Jersey Girl. Got there via a long dinghy run in the dark. Next day realized how shallow we had been!

Leg 3 was 150 miles from Mag Bay to Cabo. Some hours in, the depression got a name from the weather service. We got quiet and serious about making the boat scoot to a safe harbor. That was also the best night sail of my life. Beam wind in the low teens. Big stars early then Full moon all night. Light jacket only. Lots of earlier-starting boats to chase and pass. Interesting was the 30kt closing speed with a Carnival cruise ship. Then sunrise, and a milestone on the odometer since departing SF in September. Also note the 5 knot boat speed. About an hour of that and we decided to forgoe 100% sailing the HaHa and fire up the engine. Crickets. Wind died down to the point we decided to launch the dinghy and side-tug Ravenswing. But during that prep along came DeekN’Blews and their agreement to tow us. It was a painful way to get to the big destination but I am so thankful to that crew.

I have no photos of the Cabo craziness. Hard to describe the harbor, except maybe the worst of the Las Vegas strip but with multimillion dollar boats instead of Euro cars? Pretty much hated the whole thing. We had a stressful anchoring night and at sunset were told to vacate by noon the next day as the port captain was clearing the anchorage and closing the harbor. Fine with me. We managed to get the immigration work done in five minutes via the $80 agent. That was the best move.

By contrast, I’m on day 5 now at Puerto Cabo San Jose, 16 miles northeast, and it’s lovely. The storm hit us here and found EVERY little leak in the boat. We spent sunday exploring in warm downpour.

The patrons in these multi-day-trip dive boats were holed up behind the closed harbor entrance. Monday the sun broke through and we enjoyed the beach. Got the boys’ old BoogieBoard out of mothballs :)

And at 5pm watched sea turtle hatchlings make their jailbreak.

Sadly the HaHa ended for us when the crew piled in to this red taxi and left Ravenswing to quieter times with the now-boat-fixer. Today was leaks solving, more rigging tweaks, lots of cleaning, dinghy motor care, etc. Come on Vetus, your hatch handle o-rings can’t last four years? You soaked Chris’ bed with this BS.

It’s the annual celebration day of the independence revolution so i went to town to watch festival stuff. Even had time to buy the first boat-travels local artist thing. In honor of this early morning’s paddle surf wipeouts.

So that’s the HaHa recap. I sit here trying not to get frustrated that motor guy said it would be tomorrow, but I think I got the stereotypical MX platitude. I will take a cab to his shop tomorrow if still no word. The boat is ready to rock the next phase, a singlehanded trip of 130 miles to La Paz up in the Sea of Cortez. Most all the other 20+ HaHa boats left by this morn so I’m chomping at the bit here. At least the rooftop pool is badass :)

Video from the Pacific

The Ravenswing skipper had his hands full on the BajaHaHa, so not many photos were taken. Our sharp crew took a bunch and we’ll do a proper trip report once everything is uploaded. Today we’re hanging out in a restaurant watching Tropical depression Raymond dump many inches of rain on the area. We had some drama with the engine dying 20 miles shy of Cabo in dead calm weather, but warning of the storm coming. Huge thanks to the crew of DeekN’Blues of Vancouver for towing us in to Cabo bay. They dropped our tow line and we lashed the TacoCat alongside the boat to tug Ravenswing into the anchorage. We checked in to the country and not much later were told the port was closing and the anchorage must be vacated by the next morning. We slept nervously, got up and repeated the tow lashing, and got the boat a few hundred yards offshore into sailing wind. A couple hours later after an excellent beat to weather Team Ravenswing finished the 800+ mile trip to Cabo San Jose. This is a beautiful marina and great place to recover from a fairly challenging two week trip. The harbor is closed as large waves are breaking across the entry bar. We’re in the cabin chasing small hatch and hardware leaks. What a grand adventure!

Here is some video to give you a taste at life on the Pacific coast.

Deport me!

Quick update to say S/V Ravenswing is lining up for Baja HaHa 26 parade start off San Diego’s Shelter Island.

Chris, Anton, Jim and Greg are excited to sail to Mexican waters this afternoon!

Here’s that missing photo of Jim with the WW2 Corsair, and another look at Midway as we exited.

A bit of video from our LA to San Diego day last Tuesday:

Next stop, Bahia de Tortugas :)

Tracking devices are turned on. Go to main menu and click thru to Tracking Ravenswing. Hasta la vista hombres

Greetings from San Diego

We returned to the boat in LA on the weekend and wrapped up outstanding projects. You saw the pile that had grown by the back door.

Started by slicing the Veeberth foam mattress and dressing with the new covers.

In the daylight Sunday we tackled the installation of the Irdium Go fixed antenna. This thing makes the new boat tracking possible. Running the cable through the crowded stern tower and through the cabins to the saloon settee back was a wire pulling challenge. But it’s a good looking install and is working well so far.

This Irdium satellite communicator is now reporting the boat’s position, so if you’d like to follow Ravenswing’s progress, please go to top page, find the Tracking link in the black bar under the boat photo, and read the easy instructions. You should see us get rolling on Monday morning.

Got the reacher-sail turning block straps made from UV resistant car seat belt material, color matched of course.

Here’s a nice little “keeper” to hold the anchor in place on deck. Traded some boat parts with Mike Leneman on our way through town. Very nice to visit him and Kristie and Calypso.

We’re also pleased to have added 20% more solar (500watts) with these new panels on the dodger. We now have three charging circuits: 200 watts on each float deck and this 100 on the dodger. The three groups now complement each other re: shade, and since they are independent we’re much safer vs the prior all-serial config where one panel failure brought the system down.

Jim flew in and we departed San Pedro at 4:30am to do the 100 mile sail to San Diego by dusk. Nice idea, but accidentally driving in to the kelp bed off Pt. Loma (just excruciating inches from the SD channel) hung us up two hours. We had to shut down the motor and de-weed 20+ times, plus lift both foils. What a major mess, solved only by Jim lying in the forward net pushing globs of kelp with the boat hook away from the prop area and me driving us forward at a half knot. All while Navy helicopters buzzed overhead doing some big night exercise. Crazy evening. At least the middle day was blissfully pleasant 8-10kt sailing in a mild breeze.

The Baja HaHa team organizes a lovely anchorage in Glorietta Bay at Coronado Bay. We’re steps from the Hotel Del!

TacoCat is doing a great job as our new car. It’s really good to have followed Drew’s lead on this little ship. Since we leapfrogged over catamaran Brizzo who spent a night in Dana Point, we had the chance to invite their crew for dinner with their San Diego arrival. Beth and Damien enjoyed a pretty darn good pork & veggies stir fry AND they let us celebrate Bella’s 8th birthday with them, on Halloween no less!They promptly left the country and are settled in at Ensenada tonight. It’ll be great to connect again in La Paz and stroll through neighborhood Christmas lights :)

We took yesterday afternoon off from voyage prep chores to tour USS Midway. I’ll have to come back here with Griffin. The docents do a great job bringing it to life.

We sat in Primary Flight Control…Engine room 3 (of 4) was thoroughly explained by Pete. He knew all the details of steam generation, propulsion and fresh water making. So I inquired what job he did aboard… well he retired in 1999 from a long career as captain of numerous Navy ships such as destroyers. Now he’s a great historian. We also got first hand explanations of the catapult jet launching from a pilot who had 300+ takeoffs from carriers. You actually lose your vision for about a second as the plane hurtles toward the deck edge. Oh boy.

We’ll wrap here tonight with a poignant photo. Jim’s with a rare Corsair, important because his father was a naval aviator in WW2, a Corsair pilot, and in peacetime later had buzzed his folks place in the Gilroy orchards to tip the wings and wave to his kids. When he was reassigned to the new Banshee jets, he tried one more flyby of the family place and the neighbor dairy cows stopped producing! That was the end of that.