Tuesday, November 13, 2007

FUBAR: Ensenada to Turtle Bay

Date: November 10, 2007
Time: 08:28 (Pacific Standard Time)
Position: North 29 00.4, West 115 27.7
Course: 157 (True)
Speed: 8.3 Knots
Visibility: Approximately 10 miles

The sun has returned! Some low clouds, a 15-knot wind from the South-South West and a four-foot swell running under our starboard quarter—perfect sailing weather. Pacific Escort also benefits from this tailwind. Skipper Jim Leishman and I are on the 06:00 to 09:00 watch. Our position is about 35 nautical miles off shore and 41 miles north of Isla Cedros (Cedros Island).

The north facing Bahia Vizcaino is a large crescent-shaped bay approximately 80 miles across, roughly half-way down the Baha Peninsula. The western-most end of the bay is delineated by a horn-shaped cape jutting into the Pacific Ocean—Punta Eugenia (Point Eugenia). Fifteen miles off this promontory to the north, sits Isla Cedros—twenty miles long—north-to-south—and 10 miles across at its widest point. Just south of it, and only five miles off of Punta Eugenia is the smaller Isla Natividad (Christmas Island). We will negotiate this passage about dusk, keeping the two islands to starboard and Punta Eugenia to port. Our destination, Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay), lies about 15 miles farther south. We expect to arrive there around 20:00 hours. We left Ensenada around 09:30 yesterday. As the main escort vessel for the fleet of 52 motor yachts that make up the FUBAR rally, our job is to hang back and assist any vessels that might encounter problems along the way. So far, there have been none.

As well as the return of the sun, we notice that the water temperature has also gone up from the 58 degrees Fahrenheit at Ensenada, to 66 degrees. Eric and James have trolling lines out. Perhaps we will have Yellow Tail for dinner.

11:04—Jay spots Isla Cedros first—rising out of the mist, still 20 miles away.

11:41—“Hook up!” The shout comes from the cockpit indicating a fish has hit one of the trolling lures. Jeff throttles the twin Luggers back to idle and Pacific Escort slows to about three knots. We all race back to the cockpit to see what’s on the line. It’s a Bonito—about eight pounds. One of three we will catch today. We release them all; we are after bigger fish. Others in the fleet have better luck. Brown Eyed Girl catches two Yellow Tail in the same area.

15:20—The weather is clear, Jim thinks it will probably stay this way for the rest of the trip. With Isla Cedros about five miles off our starboard side, the wind across our bow is down to zero. We can make out the details of its topography: It looks a lot like Santa Catalina—off Southern California—rocky, arid and mountainous. Just 40 miles to go to Bahia Tortugas. We estimate we will be in about 20:00.

17:47—I’m at the helm as we negotiate the strait between Isla Natividad and Punta Eugina. San Souci, Ken Williams’ Nordhavn 68, and one of the lead boats, is already anchored in Bahia Tortuga. He has warned us over the VHF; that there is lobster traps in the strait. In the fading light, we see each one when it is only about 50 feet away. Barely enough time to disengage the autopilot and swing the boat out of the way.

19:06—We enter Bahia Tortuga. In the old days, entering an unfamiliar harbor at night would be madness! A prudent skipper would lie off until morning; however, this is the 21st Century. With radar and a GPS chart plotter, we know our position, the position of our destination and the route to take to get there. Besides, the rest of the fleet is already anchored. We call Sans Souci on the VHF and they help guide us in, warning us of still more lobster traps, which as always, seem to be set right in the way. I’m on the bow with the hand-held spotlight (at least they stand out in the beam) and Eric and Jim are on the flying bridge, piloting the boat.

19:30—we drop our 200-pound plow anchor in 36 feet of water, pay out 200 feet of 3/8-inch chain rhode, shut down the big, sweet diesels and turn on our anchor light. 50 boats of the FUBAR fleet are anchored in this perfect bay. Sans Souci is next to us. We wait up to help direct the last two boats to their anchorage—Wayward Wind and Rogue Manor—two Nordhavn 43s.

“There is nothing so quiet as a boat when the motor has stopped: it seems to lie with held breath. One gets to longing for the deep beat of the cylinders.”

--James Kirby, aboard Pacific Escort in Turtle Bay

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