Cruising does two things. It satisfies your quench for finding a new place and exploring it and then once explored it creates the desire to move on to the next place. That’s what we felt like after arriving in La Paz for the third time. The town is great and the marina is wonderful and the scenery is top notch. But as usual for Lennie and I it was time to explore. We set our sights on mainland Mexico. After all, we want to get the boat back to Florida by December. If you work full-time as we do and get on the boat once every four weeks you have to start to hustle to cover 3,000 miles in seven months. The next logical stop for us was Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta. We took our charts and guide books and planned the trip. We found that on the way to Banderas Bay there is a remote island called Isla Isabella also known as the Galapagos of Mexico. That sounded good. Then there are some towns along the coast between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta that we would visit along the way. Our plan was in place and we were excited.
600 miles of fetch
I never understood the word fetch. I do now. You see, fetch is what they call it when the wind blows across a body of water and it has enough distance to build up some wind-driven waves. For example, if you anchor next to a beach and the wind is coming off the beach there’s very little fetch and you’ll most likely be sitting in flat water. But if you anchor a mile away from the beach now you may be sitting in 1-foot waves bouncing your boat around due to the amount of fetch. Now picture this… we’re ready to depart from the Baja Peninsula over to mainland Mexico and there is a strong north wind blowing out of Arizona and it hits the sea of Cortez and what does it have before it gets all the way to Happy Together… 600 miles of fetch. When a cruising friend told me that the waves in the sea of Cortez can be four or five seconds apart I thought he was mistaken. How could a wave the size of a two-story house be five seconds away from the one behind it? The answer is the Sea of Cortez fetch. When we headed across and the boat got into its groove I was timing the waves and reading the weather reports and was shocked to see these 4 to 5 second rollers smacking us on the side. There’s no time for the boat to find an easy motion…. Bam, bam, bam! Another cruising buddy told me to treat the Sea of Cortez crossing much like the Gulfstream. We’ve crossed the Gulfstream, in fact we’ve crossed it 64 times. You can imagine what we’ve seen over that period of crossings and yes, we’ve had our share of bad weather. In fact, I think I saw Jesus in the Gulfstream once. However, in my opinion the Sea of Cortez has a unique brand of waves that the Gulfstream doesn’t. Shortly after being pummeled we decided to heed everyone’s advice and head back for safe harbor and wait for better conditions.
Don’t be a tough guy
Making decisions to go or not go on a cruising sail boat is one of the most vital things you will do for yours and the boat’s safety. Heroics are not cool. The sea is a dangerous place and cannot be tamed. There’s no such thing as a boat or a crew that can avoid disaster in all weather conditions. Just think about the El Faro in 2015’s hurricane Joaquin. Once you get it through your head that the ocean can kill you, you have to go about finding ways to not get killed. This all comes down to weather and Route planning. There is no gold medal for roughing a storm, in fact I admire cruisers who have circumnavigated and come back and say they were never in a bad storm or saw a wave over 10 feet. One cruiser told me the roughest crossing he had on his circumnavigation was leaving the Miami inlet. This means they were patient, diligent, wary, conservative, and came home without a scratch. That is what I call seamanship.
The midnight special
Whenever a Crossing or passage will be over 100 miles you know it’s going to be an overnight. This gets us excited. Overnights are the time that lets you reflect on just how special the cruising life is. While all your friends and relatives are at home asleep you are piloting your vessel across a body of water in the middle of the night. This adds greatly to the sense of adventure. Nothing wrong with golf or tennis but you’re in the clubhouse after a couple of hours and waiting for the valet. There are lots of people that day boat. Very few that night boat. I recommend it for everyone. Check out the video about this trip here.