This time we made it out of San Quintin fuel leak and trouble free. With lighter winds we started off motor sailing south, towards Cedros Island. The first half of our passage was uneventful, but as darkness fell the winds started to pick up, building to 25+ knots. For us, the winds are not usually a issue, it’s the crazy and confused seas that we keep encountering that come with the winds. As the night grew later, the winds started to clock around from the north west to the north east, and now the building seas began to toss Agape about. As the boat speed started to build, Agape would surf down the faces of the swells, only to be slapped by the perpendicular chop at the bottom. The confused seas were giving the autopilot a run for its money. We really should hand steer when the winds and waves pick up, but at 2am no one wants to stand at the helm.
As I sat watching the swells build behind us and then rush past, I suddenly felt the boat rounding up and noticed that the wheel had stopped moving. Shoot! Mr. AutoPilot had finally decided that enough was enough and shut down due to excessive load. Well crap! Looks like it’s hand steering for now. I popped my head down bellow quickly to wake up Rachel (not that she was getting much sleep) to see if she could hand steer while I tinkered with the auto pilot. As I glanced bellow, I noticed the bilge pump light was on. When Rachel came up, I opened up the floor boards only to find a bunch of water in the bilge. The pump would click on and drain the water out and then shut off, but as soon as it clicked off more water would flood in. I’m not going to lie, I definitely had a moment of panic, thinking, “Shit, we are going to sink before even making it down Baja?!?!”.
On Agape we have a very deep sump in the bilge and water can enter either from the bow section of the boat or aft from under the cockpit. This sump can be drained automatically by a electric bilge pump that is activated by a float switch or manually with a giant whale pump from the cockpit. I looked towards the bow and found no signs of water, then aft and still no signs of water…. Crap! Where is the water coming from?!
By now the initial shock of the boat being invaded by sea water had worn off and I wasn’t really as worried because the electric bilge pump was keeping up with the intrusion just fine. I thought about it for a second, everything is a little harder at 2:30 in the morning. After a few minutes I came to the conclusion that it had to be coming in through one of the bilge pump hoses and sure enough, when I closed the valve on the manual bilge pump, suddenly the water stopped flooding in. WOW, what a relief!!!!
By now, Rachel had been hand steering the boat for a while in ever increasing swells and wind. She looked at me and I could tell that she was done. I took over the helm and she went down below and immediately began picking up things that had flown off the shelves and wiping up the floor where my coffee had landed. Later, she realized that she had felt so out of control of the situation, that she subconsciously reverted to doing something she knew she was good at and had control over. When I got to the cockpit to take over the helm and felt how unbalanced the boat was after changing course without trimming the sails, I think she did a great job!!!! We rolled in a bit of head sail, eased the main to reduce some heeling and weather helm, and decided to alter course to head around the backside of Cedros Island. With those changes the boat became much more manageable and comfortable.
We learned a good lesson, that we need to pay attention to the autopilot and take the helm every once in awhile to judge how the boat is handling, instead of just letting the autopilot do all the work. We also learned that we need to keep a clean bilge. Later we found the anti-siphon device as well as the check valve on the manual bilge pump were completely clogged up with hair, wire clippings, zip ties and other junk.
(Our gimbaled camera really shows how much we were moving while underway. This was in the morning, after the seas had considerably calmed down. It’s like living in an earthquake 24/7 sometimes!)
A couple hours later, the sky began to lighten and everything suddenly became a little easier. The wind was now at a better angle and we had altered course again to have the seas from the stern. The motion of the boat became more comfortable again for the remaining 25nm sail around the back of Cedros Island.
We knew there was an anchorage on the southern tip of the island, near a small fishing camp. We carefully made our way in close, as there are many detached rocks and shallow sections leading into the anchorage. The friendly fisherman helped point us in the direction they believed to be the best for us. When we found a spot that we liked, we dropped the anchor. We would end up picking up the anchor and trying three times to get it to set, but each time the anchor just dragged along the rocky bottom. On the third try it finally it set, but I felt like we were to close to the rocks and didn’t feel comfortable anchoring there overnight, so we picked the anchor back up again.
By this point I was tired and frustrated, and I made the decision it would be best for us to just keep going and anchor in Turtle Bay. We did the math and knew that we could not cover the 45 miles left before dark, and would be entering the bay at night. Usually, we try not to anchor after dark, but I had been there before and saved our waypoints. Turtle Bay is also a large anchorage with an easily navigated entrance. I had talked up the bay as this amazing little town with with a fun hike, that we had stopped at when we brought the boat north, and was excited to get there.
We had a great sail from 2pm until about 6pm, but as the sun set the winds started to lighten. We would rather sail, but honestly when the boat speed drops below 2.5 knots, one of us will usually fire up the engine. Around 10:30pm we neared the coast to enter the bay. The closer the coast got, the more nervous we both felt. We had the radar on and plotted our position repeatedly on our paper charts to make sure we were where we thought we were. Just before we entered the bay, Rachel and I said a quick prayer for safety when we saw a dolphin outlined in bioluminescence against the dark ocean swim up to the boat and then off in the direction we were headed. Even though we see dolphins frequently, I’d like to think that this one was a special.
Within ten minutes we had entered the bay and cleared any obstacles around the entrance. We continued in until we came to what we thought was a good spot to anchor, and a reasonable distance behind two other sailboats. We dropped the anchor, set it and passed out!!!
Waking up and walking on deck after coming in at night was quite entertaining. We really thought that we had anchored in a good spot, but turned out we anchored right in the middle of the bay!!! The two boats that we anchored behind turned out to be really far away from any of the other boats and shore. I knew that on my previous trip to Turtle Bay that we had anchored in about 30 feet of water, but must have forgotten half the bay is 30ft! It didn’t matter though, the hook was set and in the flat bay we figured an extra minute in the dingy to shore wasn’t a big deal.
Once on the beach, I quickly realized that Turtle bay was not the perfect little anchorage that I’d remembered it to be. Not to bash it, Turtle Bay is exactly what it clams to be, a once busy fishing town that now offers fuel and food to boaters passing through. Lucky for us, that is all we needed. Rachel and I asked Enrique, the fabulously friendly dude at the fuel dock, if he could bring some diesel out to the boat. After some negotiations with Roberto his brother/owner of the fuel dock, Agape was going to be refueled in an hours time, at half the originally quoted price!
We walked the dusty streets of the small town, looking for an ATM to get some pesos out. We asked everyone we saw, but turns out that there is no bank or ATM anywhere in Turtle bay. So with about 250 pesos (about $13), Rachel and I walked over to a little restaurant right on the water with a view of all the boats anchored in the bay. Here we re-met up with Michele and Jon on S/V Ardea, who we originally met up in Ensenada at Baja Naval, and Phill and “Mad Dog” Mark, on S/V Lutra, one of the other boats we anchored with in San Quintin. We had a great evening talking and getting to know both boats, and were encouraged hearing that both the other boats had had “sporty” sails down.
That evening while walking around the boat looking everything over, I happen to look at the webbing strap on the on the foot of our head sail. I noticed that it was being held together by only a few strands of webbing, the rest had tore due to the twisting of the sail and the deterioration caused by the powerful sun. Great… and so began the first of many boats projects in remote and exotic locations. We pulled down the headsail in 15 knots of wind, which was entertaining to say the least, and pulled it into the forward cabin through the hatch so I could stitch it up. I now have a lot more respect for sail makers of old that would do this work all by hand, man it takes for ever!!!! I cleared all the old stitching and webbing off the sail and then made a new reinforced piece of webbing to replace it. Fitted and stitched it on, all in only 5 hours… Haha poor Rachel! She couldn’t even come in and go to bed because it was covered by the sail I was working on, so she ended up falling asleep in the aft cabin. I finally finished around midnight and put up the sail the next day, just in time to get out of the dusty bay and continue our journey south.