7. La Paz to SF
7 Feb 01 to 21 Feb 01
Where was I? Oh yes, leaving La Paz for San Francisco. Well, we departed La Paz at 1015
and got as far as Isla Cerralvo before turning around at 1440. The autopilot was still shaky
and now its interface with the radar was in question, but the clincher was the water pump.
Now it was blowing breakers. The cutoff pressure was up to 48 psi, up from 24 psi. We
replaced all valves and dampers to no avail. We had to have fresh water to eat and to flush
the head. No water, no trip. The crew was reluctant to turn back but I figured that we would
have a better chance of getting parts and expert help in La Paz rather than Cabo San Lucas.
Also, the earlier weather report on the SSB Manana Net was a bit bleak. They were a little
upset with me when I told them that we would continue to head down the coast while
monitoring the weather faxes and their broadcasts. But all of our usual anchorages, Muertos,
Frailes, and Cabo, were not good for the expected south winds. So for all that we turned
We arrived back at Marina De La Paz at 1840. And guess what, Mike Ford had overheard us
on the VHF talking about our problems and it just so happened that he had an extra water
pump that he presented to us upon our arrival. We rebuilt it (had a bad valve) and installed it
the next day and it worked just fine. Thank you Mike Ford. We also called EEB Mike early
Thursday morning and got him to come over later that morning. The problem had been that
after clearing memory, he had not fully reinitialized the autopilot. So he did this and we were
back in business. Got Wx FAXs; got Monana Net Wx report. There was really bad weather
from Alaska to San Diego but the Sea of Cortez was clear and the SW coast of Baja wasn't
that bad. All we wanted to do was make it to Mag Bay where we could wait out the next
weather window. Also we didn't want to have to clear in and out of La Paz again. So we
decided to depart immediately as of 1240.
That night we had a full moon, 15 knots from the north, and a happy crew. ETA to Cabo was
0730 Friday. As we went by Cabo, Terry Tift came charging out of the harbor headed right
for us. We talked on VFH and he said that he was going to do some fishing and then chase
after us up the coast to Bahia Santa Maria. Of course he got there first and was waiting there
when we arrived at 0800 Saturday. Just stayed there long enough to scrub fuel after
changing tanks, and then off again to take advantage of the weather window. Set a rhumb
line course for Turtle Bay, 310 deg. The wind picked up a bit that afternoon and we ended up
tacking back and forth and changing speed up and down for the remainder of the day and into
the next, trying to get a better ride. Got to Turtle Bay at 1715 on Sunday. Traded a hat and
T-shirt for 3 langosta. Slept like babies.
The weather was still quite unsettled and we thought that we might hang around for a while,
but Terry and his crew, Ed Kelly, Wally and Val Leppanen, and Carter West, thought they
would head for the northeast end of Cedros Island and await further weather developments.
That wasent my first choice but it wasent a bad idea either. Moreover, traveling in the
company of another boat was a comfort as it afforded a safety net in case of trouble (like
steering failure, a not so remote possibility). So off we went at 1105 to get a small head start
on Terry. He beat us by a bunch. Anchored close off a beach covered with noisy sea lions.
A light southeast wind gave us a good view of the lions.
Later that evening Carter West called on the VHF and told us that they had decided to depart
at 0400 the next morn and head for Isla Geranimo and park on its east side, in the lee from
the SW winds. We finished our dinner, printed out the latest Wx faxs and studied them. Our
conclusion was that there was going to be strong weather tomorrow and leaving at 0400
offered no advantage to us. Geranimo dident look that good to me and if we left right away
we might be able to make San Quintin or better yet Isla San Martin before dark the next day,
and if not, we could tough it out to San Diego. So I called them on VHF – no answer, then on
SSB – no answer. We pulled anchor in the building wind and buzzed them while raking them
with our spotlight. Still no response on VHF.
So on we went into the building wind and waves. 10+ foot swells from the west AND SW, 15
to 25+ knots of wind from the SW, very confused seas, very confused Naiads (stabilizers),
finally had to turn them off as they would break into oscillation and shake the whole boat
every now and then. Surprisingly the A/P didn’t do too bad. It would loose track every once
in a while, always the same error message – Current Overload, and we would have to
scramble to catch the helm, but all in all it did OK. All night and most of the next day we
rocked and rolled. Arrived at San Quintin in the afternoon, dropped the hook, dident like it for
the SW winds, moved on to Isla San Martin, fantastic. Had a great night, woke up the next
morning to find the mountains capped with snow (snow in Baja!!!), looked at the weather
faxes and decided that finally it was a go all the way to San Diego with only a bit of wind and
only a slight chance for more. So off we went. Terry passed us later that day. Then at 0415
as we were entering SD Customs, he was leaving for Newport.
SD was a time of scrambling. Two days to get everything fixed before a 3 day weekend
would strand me during a good weather window. The crew baled out. Jerry went home per
the plan. John had to go back to take care of some personal business. I ran back and forth
all over the place getting someone to look at the autopilot and then to fix it. Likewise for the
Naiads. I could only stay at the Silvergate YC for 2 nights so I had to find another slip.
Looked around but no room at the inn. Until I heard about the Marlin Club. Best possible
location and cheep as sin. Did laundry. Reprovisioned. Refueled. Scrubbed fuel. The
Naiad man came, readjusted the sensitivity and replaced the seals on the feedback pistons.
The A/P man came and said that the circuit board was ok and that it was the motor. Ordered
it overnight express. He installed it the next day and then control unit fuses started blowing. I
told him about the circuit board that I had. He plugged it in and wa la (I think the French spell
it Valhalla), it worked. God was in his heaven and all was right with the world.
Called the crew, John and Bruce, who arrived the following PM, shoved off about 0430 the
next morn and headed for Newport until I realized that Avalon was the same distance and
closer to the track to Santa Barbara or Conception whichever. Got to Avalon at about 1700
and decided to push on to Santa Barbara. Had the Harbor Master guide us thru the harbor
entrance channel (constantly shifting due to silting problems) and tied up at the YC guest
dock, in the rain, at 0320. Studied mid-day faxes and decided to depart before sunset, go
slow and arrive at Port San Luis in the morning. Morro Bay was out. John called them and
they said the waves are too big and from the SW so forget it. Left SB at 1630 on 2-19-01 but
went fast to beat the huge waves that were forecasted. Point Conception was a nonevent in
the south wind. Got to Port San Luis at 0430 amid some really big swells, found a mooring
ball in a pouring rain, crew got drenched, and settled in for a good “nights” sleep. Ha. Rolly-
polly. Mooring ball knocking against the hull. Got up and retied it. Big waves exploding over
We originally planned to stay until the wind and waves settled down but as the day wore on
and the swells started to decline a bit, there was a change of attitude that said that we could
manage 25 knots of wind from the SE on top of 18 foot (down from 22 foot) swells from the
SW. Once we passed thru the swell cell it was a go all the way to Monterey if not San
Francisco. So at 1300 we struck off again. “0030 – Wind up to 25 from the SE, boat speed
8.5 knots average, 9.4 max @ 1870 rpm.” Bruce saw the highest boat speed at 9.8 knots on
the GPS. Got one more fresh water washdown at 0600. Passed under the Golden Gate
Bridge at 1230 in waning winds and the start of the ebb, wouldent you know it. Made it to
CPYC at 1515. End of story.
I.e. the big-picture story. The real story of the trip north is told by the Wx faxes. An endless
procession of gales and storms. Cold fronts with their big winds continually poised to lash out
at us. The endless low off of San Diego. Monster storms in the mid Pacific. Monster storms
coming down from Alaska. Thank god they each either fizzled or passed north of us. The
weather seemed much more intense than Februaries past. The one good thing about it all,
was the south wind it brought helped push us on our way. On the other hand, there are darn
few anchorages on the west coast that are good for south winds.
And then there are the many, many little stories left untold. But the journal has to end
somewhere. So end-of-story it is.
But the memories live on.
Jerry and John (and Jack)
Terry Tifft at Turtle
Bruce took over for Jerry at San Diego
Port San Louis
|Golden Gate Bridge