A few hours after finally, finally getting some much-needed sleep, I struggled into consciousness like a drunk diver swirling to the surface, feeling a like a cross between a cabbage and an old bag of marshmallows.

The sun was rising, celebrating our fourth day on what was quickly becoming the most epic ‘two day’ journey to Cabo San Lucas ever. I rolled myself onto the loveseat in the main cabin, marveled at how Michael was still awake and functioning, and raised my eyebrows, asking the question, the only question that sailors ultimately care about: where are we?

There is nothing like the smell of a broken spirit in the morning; we were still hove-to off the East Cape, way out to sea but about midway between Muertos and Frailes. Unable to go forward but too stubborn to turn back, we had been hove-to for close to 24 hours, and morale was low.

We left Isla Partida Thursday afternoon, planning to zoom down the coast on the 18-22 knots of wind that everyone was waiting to come out of the northwest. “The big blow tomorrow,” one lady called it, filling us with nervous excitement at the prospect of a short, quick passage.

Weatherman lie.

We needed this trip to be a quick one, too. Most people depart for French Polynesia between mid-March and mid-May. Leave too soon and you run the risk of hitting nasty weather in the Southern Hemisphere, where Hurricane Season spans November to May. Leave too late and tropical depressions start forming off southern Mexico in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. These disturbances travel west/northwest, slicing through the path to the Marqueses, making travel more hazardous for those without accurate weather prediction, a strong vessel, and a tenacious crew. It was the beginning of May, and it was time to shit or get off the pot. Well, we were trying, we were straining, and it was beginning to hurt.

What had we done to deserve this gauntlet of a shakedown cruise? Even the 20 mile journey from La Paz to Isla Partida had been annoyingly less-than-easy. We were hit with a nasty Corumel, a cool southern breeze that only comes up at night, and though I doubt there was more than 15-20 knots of wind, it kicked up these steep, short-period, boxy, choppy waves that rolled little Azul happily from toe rail to toe rail, knocking over everything we hadn’t properly tied down. We reefed and spent two hours hand steering our writhing, jumpy vessel into the anchorage of Caleta Partida, with the high whine of the wind generator keeping our heart rates high and our palms sweaty.

We spent the next few days doing everything else we should have done before we left La Paz: we finished sealing the toe rail, we scrubbed the bottom of both Azul and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, we hoisted our Mexican flag and our radar reflector, we reorganized the entire boat. There was just enough time for a brief dive with the sea lions on Los Islotes and then off to Cabo.

We waited, waited and waited for the wind to pick up from the north. It was like being stood up – we convinced ourselves it was coming until the sun went down and we realized that she wasn’t showing up. Tired, deflated, we resigned ourselves to motoring through the night, our little 6hp yanmar pushing Azul along at teeth-grindingly slow 2.5 – 3 knots.

In the morning we were just south of Isla Cerralvo, within spitting distance of the nice little anchorage in Bahia de los Muertos, about 100 coastal miles away from Cabo San Lucas. Rather than pull in and wait for the wind we soldiered on, bravely, and then, magically, in Alanis Morisette-esqe irony (i.e. your life just sucks), the wind picked up from the southeast – the very same direction we were headed.

We reefed and grumpily put Azul on a long, offshore tack. Against wind and waves, two 50 mile tacks can sometimes only mean 30 miles of upwind progress. This is a brutal realization for every sailor who has pitted themselves against the push of mother nature, and it takes some a lot of alcohol to come to terms with the kind of patience and tenacity involved. So by morning we were about 15 miles north of Frailes, the next established anchorage about 50 miles from Muertos. Then the wind started to pick up, and, like it’s confused dance partner, the sea began to follow in stead.

It was that stupid, steep, short-period, sharp, shitty box chop that is so characteristic of the Sea of Cortez. It was like the Sea was throwing little punches at us, and southern progress was difficult. Exhausted, and pissed off at the epic journey this was becoming, we pulled out our charts and cruising guides to try to find an anchorage, any anchorage that could be tenable in a southern blow. Patricia Rains (Damn you Rains!) mentioned ‘a small hope in southern winds’ in Punta Area de la Riviera, but, let me tell you, there is nothing in Punta Area de la Riviera for a deep draught sailboat, NOTHING, except despair.

So, it’s understandable that, on the morning of Day 4 we finally said, “Fuck this!” and turned around. Going about 7 knots under reefed main and working jib, we made it to Bahia de los Muertos before the sun was down.

While this debacle was going on, a tiny little nugget of worry began in the bottom corner of Michael’s gut. It started to crescendo slowly as we waited in Muertos, and continued to grow during our take 2, a pleasant one day motor sail around the East Cape and into Bahia San Lucas. By the second day at anchor what was once a little nugget of worry was now full-blown anxiety and he, and I, both realized that we had to something about our cutlass bearing.

Or what we thought was our cutlass bearing.

We were under the impression that we had inadvertently knocked our cutlass bearing loose during our engine refit in Mazatlan over Thanksgiving. Since a cutlass bearing is sort of like chafe protection for your prop shaft, Michael solved this problem by simply shoving the rubber bearing back into our boat’s little butthole. Problem was, the damn thing kept wriggling back out. It came out infrequently at first, but after nearly 60 hours of motoring in the shenanigans from La Paz to Cabo, the prop would now only spin for just about an hour before it developed the characteristic knock that meant the little rubber buffer had, once again, escaped.

Cabo San Lucas, the Vegas of Mexico, was the sailboat hangout in the late seventies. But, like any old, established gringo will tell you, things have changed, and with exorbitant amounts of money coming in from the giant, island-like cruise ships, the zillion dollar sport fishers, the daily boat charters and the nightly booze cruises, there is absolutely, absolutely no incentive for the port authority to cater to the transient, low-budget, notoriously cheap cruising community. So every day, at about noon, an API boat comes and does the rounds, attempting to extract about 20 bucks per boat per day to anchor out.

What’s especially galling is that the anchorage in Bahia San Lucas is shite. Absolute shite. It’s not a protected anchorage; any weather from the south, southeast or east comes in and creates havoc, as many learned in the fateful storm in December 1982. Also, the Bay is not a shallow shoal area, it’s a plunging underwater canyon, so all the sand and all the anchors buried in the sand are slowly falling into this canyon. 20 bucks. Enjoy.

So, naturally, most sailboats flatly refuse to be extorted, and then the fun game of cat and mouse with the API boat begins. We like to go with the ‘ignorance is bliss’ technique, where we are always, conveniently, off Azul between 11AM – 2PM. Richard (Rudderless) played the ‘sorryidonthaveanymoneywhatareyougoingtodoaboutit’ card, which is direct but requires confrontation. Our newest friends on Southern Run, John and Paul, simply weighed anchor and went on a day sail every day. An elegant, simple solution – the ‘we were never there’ approach.

We were delighted to meet John and Paul. They were one of only two boats in the anchorage when we first pulled in, and miraculously, they were headed the same direction we were. Naturally, this led to a soiree about Southern Run, and during the course of the night we found our that John firmly believes that all the fat women on jet skis are spies sent by API, and that Paul has not only ridden the fastest camel in Africa, he has also had sex on top of Mount Sinai, but couldn’t finish because of a voyeuristic goat. Mount Sinai being, of course, the Mountain on which Moses received the 10 commandments from God. At least, this is what I remember before the tequila came out.

The moral of that story is NEVER GO DRINK FOR DRINK WITH AUSTRALIANS. But suffice to say, after that night we were friends. So it was on Paul’s advice that we decided to haul the boat out to replace the cutlass bearing, a pretty routine job that needed to get done and wasn’t too expensive.

Of course, the cutlass bearing didn’t need replacing. It was something much more dramatic.

Turns out, most boats have a strut that supports the propeller shaft once it comes out of the bottom of the boat. This keeps the prop from knocking and saves wear and tear on the transmission. We didn’t think we had one because, well, we’ve never known Azul to have one. But she did, and it was bronze, but at some point in her sordid past this bronze strut degraded and rotted away.

We spent Monday through Friday on the hard in Cabo Yacht Center, where, uncomfortably, I had to walk through the entire office and say hi to all the staff before every morning bowel movement. In five days the boys pried out what was left of our old bronze strut, glassed over the damage and installed a new, stainless strut for our poor, unloved propeller shaft. Azul now looks great. Bikini wax great. But, despite our ‘nice person’ discount and the fact that we paid cash, the boatyard bill broke us. Reality hit us full in the face; we needed to make some money before jumping off to the South Pacific.

So we are off on a 6 week vacation cruise up the Sea of Cortez. We will haul Azul out in Guymas and attempt to make some money before going to the Marqueses next March. We are not giving up… we’re just going sideways for a little bit.

This is possibly the hardest decision Michael and I have ever had to make and we’ve had to put our dreams on hold, which, honestly, we’ve never really done before. So, to make us all feel better, and to celebrate Tigre’s return to Cabo San Lucas, his birthplace, here’s some pictures of our surprisingly seaworthy little gato man.

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Iphone 12.2.12 003

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