Where’s the best place to put an oil tanker?

BEHIND you, of course! Here’s the one ship that crossed paths with Ravenswing on the passage from Puerto Vallarta to La Paz.

Zoom in; it’s 3 miles away, seen above the tiller. I heard five ships talking to various port officials over the VHF. They were all efficient, Indian-accent skippers, which matches our experience at EagleRail. A nation focused on career opportunities via the maritime trades. This is the kind of stuff you ponder when faced with 89 hours of solo time on the Pacific. Didn’t see any of the other northbound cruising boats once beyond 10 miles from Banderas Bay. It was motoring for the first 9 hours of the trip and we were much slower under power than the diesel powered boats. RW covered 469 miles in 4 days/3 nights. Other boats made stops but our sailing and constant motion got us here before the other Monday departees. RW averaged about 5 and a half knots, meaning it was a slow upwind ride. The sea state basically sucked. Not enough wind to power past the bumps, but enough boat speed to rise up the waves and pound down every third or fourth one. The sounds are fairly awful, and somewhere deep into night two Ravenswing was actually for sale very cheaply priced! Thank goodness none of you actually heard me. RickH gave me a Psychology of Sailing book; haven’t it read it yet but apparently my psyche decided to go ahead and act out all those behaviors in one trip. No, there was no GoPro filming of those lows and highs. Probably the worst part was unexplained dagger board sounds deep in the night. So I stalled the boat, hove-zero and pulled up the board. It’s fine. But still weird hull noise. Go forward and find the bowsprit in the water smacking the bow. All because a locknut had come off due to repeated motion. I had seen this never-pinned nut months before but didn’t get it on the ToFix list. JeffL is probably screaming at me from CO for this one. I get teased for my boat-lists, but even they aren’t good enough sometimes. That was the trip low point, but it was easy to assess no bad damage had been done.

RickWS insists food is very important at sea. On his RW trip southbound we ate quite well. I kept it up solo. Jeanne made a lovely roasted pepper salsa before she got on the plane home.

And yes, that’s non-alcoholic Corona (which this spell-checker just tried to turn into Coronavirus!). I don’t drink while we’re underway. But do indulge the sweet tooth. Still can’t believe I get to have ice cream aboard an Fboat!

Some of you are wondering how I stayed awake for 89 hours. Yeah right. Here are my helpers:

First we define the alarm types and range limits, utilizing the same AIS ship-finding technology as the original track-us-at-sea websites you checked. But out here we get the AIS signal directly from the other vessel’s radio antennas so this is much more relatable than the spotty satellite issues Mom and Pat had watching us last September.

Next we set up the radar alarm zone(s) and configure the screen for the info wanted. This is what I have up at night:

The purple pie slice is what we see from the bow of the boat, starting a half mile out and looking for three miles forward. If anything gets in the pink box, this sucker screams loud enough to wake me up. I got four alarms in three nights. Twice it was birds. Being a fan of ravens (flying tricksters), I laughed it off. Once it was a boat that needed my attention but no course change. And number four i have no idea – Never saw anything out there.

In general I slept enough. At night I set an alarm clock for every one to two hours, depending on the conditions. After a quick check i did well falling back asleep. Used the ‘pilot berth’ next to the nav desk in the saloon, with the lee-cloth netting hooked up to keep me in place during the bucking waves. I always had the autopilot remote on a neck lanyard, and faced the computer display so i could open one eye and change steering if wanted. During the days I tried to take a least a couple of half hour cat naps.

There were no sail changes, and only had to reef the main once. Mostly it was about dropping the jib in disappointment and getting the motor fired up again.

Late on Wednesday the mountains east of Cabo came in to view. That evening it got close enough for a glorious moonrise cap.

That meant familiar waters, having made it to where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. And Thursday morning a half dozen visitors died on the forward nets.

I don’t think shrimp can jump; pretty sure it was punching through waves that tossed them up. Made me more committed to start reading last night John Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez (a marine biology expedition on a Monterey shrimp boat in 1940).

Weather was a factor; we had one glorious bit lof sailing in the Cerralvo Channel, at about mile 430, where the wind finally built into the teens compressed up against the mountains. I short tacked the boat racing style right up against the rocks (turning each time at 40’ depth) doing 9-10kts upwind, thinking it would be an easy afternoon into LaPaz. Nope. Forecasted wind died out and the engine came back on. Anchored up actually before LaPaz around 10pm in Balandra Cove which has an amazing turquoise water shallow section that made the idyllic paddleboard landfall in morning. But no lazy beach rest day to be had, because despite all the motoring, this was headed our way. The pen shows my approx track in from the ocean toward the Baja coast.

That folks is a Baja Norther blow. The dark red means 30-35kt wind. That comes with 7-10 short period waves that would be throwing spray all the way over the boat. Not a good place to be. So of course 1/2 way through my 7am paddle on Friday that red wind started to build, and it was a hustle to up anchor and sail the last ten miles into La Paz. Sailed all the way in the LaPaz Channel and docked again at Marina Cortez, this time no drama. It’s been blowing like snot here for 30 hours. So i figured I’d earned Sunday brunch by Saturday morning.

Got the bowsprit reinstalled today, including some minor rigging improvements, and reprovisioned for heading north assuming I won’t be stopping for supplies again. The LaPaz anchorage can be a gem.

Tonight I’ve been putting together some fishing lures, going for mahi and grouper in the Sea. These will be on the hand lines during motoring or slow sailing.

Weighing heavily on the mind is how exactly to get home. Ravenswing needs to be placed in a spot where I’m comfortable she can sit without the Carters’ presence for perhaps a long time. I don’t think that’s here in LaPaz. The hurricane-safe marinas don’t have room for us. The dry storage yards are possible but don’t look secure to me. It would suck to have her gear stolen. And I want a long DIY work session upon return, so hauling out and storing her in the northern Sea, within a reasonable drive of California, is the goal. Carlos and Rick are helping with info about Puerto Penasco vs the Guaymas / San Carlos area. There are many factors of strong tidal currents, little to no shelter up north, a much longer drive to San Carlos than PP, etc. I’ve got two more days here to sort it out then get underway. COVID-19 makes it very tempting to take a slow, idyllic spring cruise northward, stopping at so many great anchorages. But what if the US/MX border gets weird? Or shut? Where will I get quarantined? What land transport to use after storing the boat? Must I shave off the beard tomorrow so as to stop touching the face? I did one right thing today – bought Jeanne two refill packs of liquid bleaching disinfectant for about 50 cents apiece in a big store here with full shelves. Maybe i load up Ravenswing with toilet paper and Clorox products, and one of you can drive my pickup to Penasco and fetch me and our high-markup booty? We’d make a bundle if we were ‘Those Guys’.

Hey, did you all find the little updates from the sea on the side of the boat’s tracker map? Is that the info you want? Hit me back with comments here about the enroute messaging. I can be better, just need your guidance.

Now go wash your hands again. And stop touching your face, Griffin!

7 thoughts on “Where’s the best place to put an oil tanker?

  1. Nice summary, Greg. The shiny silver lure will get you mahi. I’ve only caught grouper when drifting in shallow water and bouncing a lure slowly off the bottom, outside the holes the groupers like to hide in. I think of them as dumb and lazy…. “Oh, something slow and easy bouncing by, OK, I’ll bite.” Bake the mahi in aluminum foil, with some wine. Da Best! Good luck and safe passage.


  2. Hola Gregg Take care and stay alert I too have done this trek with Joel Gerber on his Hunter 40 legend with him on a delivery to LA Paz
    There I a Island in the Baha prison which has to be kept 20 Nautical miles away .I hope you are aware of this ,The Mexican navy /Patrol boats will let you know of this if you get to close .just to let you know
    Happy sailing /motoring yes the wind is on the nose a lot going north
    All the best Gregg and thank you for all your news from Mexico and your visits to LA Cruz
    Sorry I could not see you down there this year ,there are other times we can catch up for Auld Lang Sang
    Tom is working on the Tri now so the project is getting along
    All the best safe travels and take care
    Thank you again for your blogs
    Bill McDowell


  3. Updates were great. Of course we want to hear about conditions and wildlife sightings. Also boat drama, love hearing about your experiences with navigation etc. don’t know how hard it is to type in that interface or how much text you are allowed but at lest once a day makes us feel secure and keeps it interesting too.


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