Baja Ha-Ha Leg 3: Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas (Part I)

(November 8, 2017)  It was before sunrise when my alarm went off.  Six a.m., time for the morning net before our 7AM start.  I turned on the radio and groped my way out of bed.  It was hot.  Despite some good wind overnight, and open hatches, I’d barely slept due to the heat.  It was hot, and sticky, and wet, and sloppy, and the breeze was equally hot, and sticky, and wet, and sloppy, and it brought little relief all night.

Even the boat had spent the night sweating.  The cockpit and deck were wet, sticky, and just as grimy with salt as I was.  The air was heavy and thick with humidity, which would only worsen throughout the day.

The starting line was about 3 miles out, so we had to bring up the anchor and raise the asymmetrical fairly quickly if we hoped to win the start.  “Winning” the start meant being one of the first three boats to cross the starting line with spinnaker flying, with the prize being a pizza in Cabo.  The fact that there was a prize to be had – even if it’s a pizza I may not even want – was enough to motivate me.  I rigged and raised the asymmetrical and de-rigged and stowed the anchor snubber.  By the time I was finished, it was about 15 minutes to start time, and Rich timely appeared in the cockpit.  We raised the anchor and headed out.

Due to a rigging snafu in which the tack line got wrapped around the sock halyard, we almost didn’t get our kite flying in time.  But at the last second, I was able to tie down the lines and raise the sock, and we were the first ones across the starting line!  The Poobah came on the radio to congratulate us and confirm our pizza victory.  Drew on Wildfire was several miles down the shore, having left early that morning, and heard of our victory.  Drew had come over to our boat the day before to help us figure out how to sail better in light winds, and we discussed a different rigging option for our asymmetrical lines.  So, we had Drew to thank in part for our victory.

The glory of our win was short-lived.  The seas were short – only a few feet – but steep, and the wind was only 5 knots.  The fleet was getting rocked and rolled like little toy hobby horses.  So, the Poobah instituted a rolling start.  This meant that the fleet could motor without penalty.  (It’s not a race, so query whether a penalty matters, but pretend-racing is part of the fun of it.)  We desperately wanted to sail, but getting tossed around while three kids were trying to have breakfast was more than we could manage, so we started our motor.  Eventually, the wind decreased even further, so that our asymmetrical was backwinded with our own forward velocity, and we had to snub it.  We left it up, in hopes that we could use it again soon.

As we motored along, the kids got on a culinary kick.  First, Ellie decided to make Daddy breakfast.  After 45 minutes, she proudly came up the companionway with a plate of peanuts, sliced cheddar, olives, craisins, and a bagel.  Certainly not a bad breakfast for a 5-year-old.  Unfortunately, she failed to drain the olives, so all of it was soaked in olive juice.  Luckily, Daddy is a fan of olives, so he didn’t mind much.

Morgan strongly prefers baking over cooking, so she decided it was time for some chocolate chip cookies.  I tried to discourage her – it was so hot, and the oven would only make the boat even hotter – but she’d made up her mind.  I warned her that I wasn’t going to help, and she was quite pleased at my threat.  She got out the recipe, and all the ingredients, and mixed them together.  She pre-heated the oven, and only asked for my help when it was time to put the cookies in the oven to bake.  You see, our oven has a tab you have to depress to open the oven.  This is great in rough seas, because you wouldn’t want hot food dumping itself out of the oven over a large wave.  The problem is, the tab is small, and too rigid for little hands to depress.  It also gets hot when the oven is hot, so you have to press it with a pot holder.  When you do get the oven open, the outer edges can be very hot.  So, I did agree to help her with the oven, since I’ve burned myself on it more times than I can count.  Her cookies turned out fabulous.  But, by the time she was done cooking, it was 90 degrees inside the cabin, and with almost no wind, we couldn’t get a breeze through.  Coated in sweat, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I laid down in the v-berth and did my best not to move or otherwise exert a single calorie of energy, and managed to take a light nap.  I awoke about an hour later, when I heard Rich stomping around on deck.

I laid there for a time, trying to figure out what he was doing before deciding whether I’d help or pretend to still be asleep.  I watched as our spinnaker, hanging eagerly on its halyard, billowed open and took in a light breeze.  Rich returned to the cockpit and turned off the engine – we were sailing again!

And wow, were we finally sailing.  There was only 4-5 knots of wind, so I don’t mean to suggest we were ripping through the water.  What we were doing that we hadn’t been able to do before was keep our asymmetrical flying high and happy in light winds.  Rather than having the sheets come back to the boat midship, through the lifeline gate, we ran the sheets through our stern mooring chock, so that the sheets were flying all the way to the stern of our boat.  This allowed the asymmetrical to open up like it hadn’t been able to before, and boy, was it happy.  We were only making 3 knots over ground, and the rolling start remained in effect, but we sailed anyway just because it was so pleasant to finally, for the first time on the trip, have our sail full.

It was only a few minutes after we were settled in and sailing that we got another treat – two sea turtles swam right by our boat, within 5 feet, sunning their flippers in the warm air.  Their shells and fins were beautiful and pristine.  The only sea turtles I’ve seen were in Hawai’i, where (I’m told) the nitrates from the golf courses cause large, white growths all over their bodies.  But these turtles ambled and tumbled and meandered through the water without a care in the world.  They were gorgeous.

Downstairs, Iron Man played on the TV while I kept watch and worked on blog and Patreon content.  (We love our patrons – thank you so much!)  Unfortunately, my work was distracted by that fabulous sail, sitting high and happy in 4 knots of wind.  At only 3 knots over ground, we’d have to make up this time at some point – the rally minimum was 4 knots average per leg – but for now, after days of fighting with that sail to just stay open darnit, we were content to near-drift along and just watch it fly.

We managed to sail until sunset, when it was time to take the asymmetrical down for the night.  We ate outside, because at over 80 degrees, it was much cooler than inside.  After a brief struggle with the jib – and a continued hesitancy to get out the pole – we turned on the motor, and motored through the hot, sticky, wet, sloppy night.



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