Maluhia was passage ready. Her engine was happy, food was stocked, and course was plotted. She just needed her owners to untie her from the dock and cast off. She was excited to be traveling for the first time with Cake. The Cake I am referring to is not the traditional bread like pastry, sweetly baked dessert, or the rock band. No, this Cake is a sailboat owned by our friends Ken and Sherri from Ventura, California.
We had met Cake briefly before we left Ventura but have come to know them more from sharing our Baja Ha Ha 2013 experience, and from various reunions sailing around Baja California Sur. When their return to the mainland coincided with ours, we decided to share the experience crossing the Sea of Cortez from La Paz, 238 miles to Mazatlán.
Our crossing started with a sail to Bonanza an anchorage found on the East side of Isla Espiritu Santo. Here we spent the night positioning ourselves one step closer to our departure. With a good nights sleep, we left first thing the next morning and sailed through the channel between Isla Cerralvo and Baja.
The channel has never been our favorite and can be challenging with strong currents. Let’s just say this was our second time navigating the channel and both times we’ve had to go up wind.
Before the crossing we checked numerous different weather sources that predicted the winds to be somewhat light and from the North. The winds couldn’t have been more wrong. After exiting the channel, winds were from the SSE for the first 24 hours.
Although we were sailing up wind, we had a wonderful sail. With full main and genoa we had never seen Maluhia happier as she ripped through the Sea of Cortez towards Mazatlán. Moses (monitor wind vane) at the helm performed exceptionally well steering the boat as Maluhia moved us toward our destination at a steady 6.5 knots.
By our second night at sea we were a little more than half way to our destination. The wind from the South had died out and switched to the North as previously predicted. Before dark as the winds increased we decided on a sail plan. No genoa with a double reefed main. We relieved Moses, replacing him with our AutoHelm (electronic auto pilot).
From about 9 PM until 6 AM the Sea of Cortez decided to thrash us one more time. The winds increased to a steady 18-25 knots with rapid wave action of about 5 feet at 6 seconds, in sets of 3, and 6. Maluhia was keeping up, her stern sashaying with each wave and heeling us from left to right. Our double-reefed main had Maluhia flying at 4.5 knots and accelerating higher as she scooted down waves.
Cake was sailing around somewhere behind us in the distance. We never considered ourselves the faster boat but this passage reminded us that our boat moves quickly in little wind, and fast in a lot of wind. Our boat is narrow and heels quickly which lengthens the water line significantly. Five knots of wind is all we need to get moving and with 15 knots, we can reach our full hull speed at 7 knots.
Throughout our passage we stayed in touch via VHF radio with Cake and compared notes. We alerted Cake of tankers and turtles and they kept us in good spirits with good humor. For us, the weather had us a little on edge. We were still suffering from post traumatic stress of the hurricane and chubasco incidents.
We knew we would arrive at our destination before dark, but had a theory that as we moved closer to shore, the wind and wave action would be better because we would receive more protection from the North part of the Mexican mainland. At the same time we were worried that as we moved closer to shore the waves would become bigger because of constant changes in depth.
The quick crashing waves traveling from the North part of the sea down to greet the swell of the open Pacific Ocean, made this ride extremely uncomfortable. We watched the weather around us and hung on for the ride, clipping ourselves carefully to Maluhia, as dramatic waves rose up and broke just behind the stern.
At about 3 AM our AutoHelm became over powered and couldn’t turn the boat to stay on course. It beeped angrily at us, at which point we though it broke. In a mad scramble to get to the wheel, Maluhia gybed forcing our main sail to be back winded. Thankfully our boom preventer kept the boom from swinging over our heads violently to the opposite side of the boat. Grant took over the helm and steered Maluhia back on course toward the lights of Mazatlán on the horizon.
About an hour later, we started playing with switches and realized AutoHelm wasn’t broken at all. We relieved Grant from the helm and set a course for a mark in between two islands located right outside the entrance to the marinas in Mazatlán. We arrived and threw the hook in the water behind Isla Pajaros at exactly daybreak. Exhausted we crashed for two hours before we headed to our slip.
Our friends from Delphinia, Debbie and Steve formed the welcoming party that helped get us tied up securely to our slip and showed us around the marina. We had arrived in Mazatán, tired and weary.