Nada Ha Ha Leg 2

After a rest day at Bahia Tortugas with no unnecessary trips ashore to minimize the possibility of contracting or spreading COVID to the remote village, the Nada fleet was underway again for the second leg toward Cabo. Our next destination was Bahia Santa Maria, a picturesque bay on the western side of the Baja Peninsula just south of the prominent point Cabo San Lazaro. Our route for this leg showed 234 nautical miles.

Chart showing route from Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria

Kristin and I were placing bets on as we arrived in Bahia Tortugas how much fuel we used so far. Before leaving San Diego we topped up the 90 (ish) gallon diesel fuel tank and filled our 5 jerry cans for a total of 115 gallons. We previously figured that the engine uses around 0.85 gallons per hour which at a conservative average motoring speed of 5.5 knots puts our motoring range at just around 745 nautical miles which happens to be the direct-line distance from San Diego to Cabo.

We admittedly motored quite a bit during the first leg. Kristin bet that we used just under a quarter tank, I bet that we used a quarter tank. Checking the dipstick on the tank (I haven’t installed our electric fuel gauge yet) we found that we used just over a quarter of a tank. Certainly not a concern, but I would like to arrive in Cabo without having to tap into the jerry cans which with more sailing and less motoring should be entirely do-able. In anticipation of more light-air downwind sailing (something we rarely get in San Francisco Bay) I hauled our monster 1.5 ounce asymmetrical cruising spinnaker up on deck. 

Sunrise over Bahia Tortugas

The ‘official’ start of the second leg was at 9:00 AM on November 6th, but in order to increase our chances of arriving before dark we had the anchor up and were underway by 6:45. Shortly after leaving the bay we had our sails up and I got to work setting the spinnaker. Without too much drama we soon had the spinnaker up on a starboard tack and were making a good 5 to 6 knots in light winds (maybe 7-8 knots). The challenge was the occasional set of west swells which would pick up Sonrisa’s stern quarter and roll her from side to side just enough to upset the apparent wind angle for the main and the spinnaker, causing the mainsail to ‘slat’ which is when the upper portion of the sail backwinds, but because of the boom brake/preventer the bottom of the sail remains in place, then when the boat rolls back the top of the sail fills again with a bang. When this happens the spinnaker reacts sympathetically to the suction of the main and wants to twist around its upper third.

Sonrisa sailing with red and blue spinnaker

After many hours of adjusting and anticipating the slatting of the main it finally happened. In an inattentive moment the mainsail luffed and slatted and the spinnaker rolled to windward and wrapped itself into a knot, capturing the sock downhaul in the process and tangling itself into a hopeless mess. Fortunately winds were light enough that the sail didn’t destroy itself and I was able to drop the whole mess down to the foredeck without incident. We sailed on the remainder of the day under main and yankee alone while I spent the next several hours on the foredeck untangling the spinnaker and feeding all 50+ feet of it back into the sock.

Greg on the bow with spinnaker hoisted inside the spinnaker sock
Using the spinnaker halyard to re-pack the untangled sail back into its sock

That evening the winds lightened even more, so we started up the engine to keep making good progress through the calm of the night. We leave the mainsail up and sheeted tight when motoring as it provides some significant resistance to any side-to-side rolling motion we might otherwise get from a swell on the beam or quarter. Also when we are motoring at night we are able to run all of our electronics without worrying about our battery capacity. We have the radar running all night to augment the chartplotter(s) to know our position, the AIS to see ships underway as well as report our position to them, plus all of our radios, instruments, and displays. It’s comforting to see our old-school radar image of the coastline and passing ships confirm what we see on the GPS-connected chartplotter. Since most of the fleet left Bahia Tortugas at roughly the same time, we could see each other either on the horizon or on AIS most of the time.

Catamaran Flite Deck sailing under spinnaker
Flite Deck
Sailboat Wings of the Dawn sailing under spinnaker
Wings of the Dawn
Catamaran Atalya sailing under spinnaker

The next morning the wind picked up enough to hoist the yankee again and we were able to maintain over 5 knots in relatively light winds most of the day and all through the night. We were a bit disappointed that even with our early start we would have a second night at sea before arriving at Bahia Santa Marina, but nonetheless we were happy to finally be making good progress under sail. We altered our course a bit to maintain a more comfortable angle to the wind (shown as the brown dotted line in the chart above) which proved prudent after we gybed to the south as the winds built overnight.

Sun beams streak through the clouds on the horizon at sea
Sunrise at sea

We approached Bahia Santa Maria just before dawn on November 8th. As we approached the coast from further offshore we saw on the AIS a sport fishing boat exit Bahia Santa Maria (underway, not fishing) and turn north and take a direct collision course with us. We had been on the same course for the bay for hours and were still under sail, so I was a bit surprised that this boat would appear to intentionally turn to approach us head-on on an exact reciprocal course. They were still maybe a mile off, but if they decided to power up to 25+ knots they would be on our bow in no time.  We were still under sail and since they were obviously not actively fishing we had the right of way. Grabbing the spotlight I light up our mainsail to make it clear to them that we are under sail and have right of way. At this point the sport fishing boat appeared to stop and was now slightly off our starboard bow. Now what? The VHF crackled to life “Sonrisa, this is ___, we are going to pass on your port side.”

“Roger that. Port side.” I replied.

So then the powerboat proceeded to cross our bow, then pass less than 100 feet off our port side.

“That was weird,” I commented to Kristin. “The only reason I can think of for that boat to come out of the bay, cross our bow, head toward us, stop, then cross our bow again to pass so close to us is they probably have a plotted course on their chartplotter for their autopilot and didn’t want to turn it off, so they throttled up and down to miss us as we maintained our course.”

Still, seems easier for everyone to just drive your boat for like 10 minutes to avoid running into someone else.

We arrived at Bahia Santa Maria at 6:15 AM on November 8th at first light.

Bahia Santa Maria was just a stopover before continuing on a short day-sail to Man o’ War Cove in Bahia Magdalena.

We departed Bahia Santa Maria with the rest of the fleet at 10 AM under beautiful sunny skies and moderate winds from the north. For once there was no worry about arriving after dark and we were feeling particularly lazy so we left the mainsail down and just rolled out the yankee headsail. We’ve sailed under headsails alone before and Sonrisa tolerates it well all the way to a beam reach in moderate conditions. We need the mainsail up to be able to go upwind at all, but the helm is completely manageable even for the windvane with just a headsail up. Surprisingly we maintained 6 knots with just the headsail and it was easy to keep the sail full. We will definitely try this configuration again for easy downwind sailing.

Sonrisa sailing with one sail toward entrance to Bahia Magdalena
Running under headsail only

The passage from Bahia Santa Maria to Man o’ War Cove is a downwind/upwind affair. We sailed downwind to the entrance to the long Bahia Magdalena, but then we had to round the point and beat north again inside the bay most of the distance back toward the direction we just came.

As we approached the entrance, we had to pay a small price for our earlier laziness. Since we had not hoisted the mainsail yet, we would have to plan the moment to change our sail configuration so that we could start sailing upwind once we entered the bay. Kristin took the helm and I prepped to raise the main as soon as we were in the lee of the entrance of the bay before we reached the northerly winds inside the bay. Kristin piloted us on a beam reach under headsail only into the entrance while I waited for my moment to hoist the main. Unless you’re motoring directly upwind, it can be tricky to get the mainsail hoisted as it will start to fill and get caught up on the shrouds before it’s completely up.

Liberta sailing under reefed main and partially furled headsail

As we entered the bay Liberta and Zephyr overtook us and turned in close to hug the shore, presumably short-tacking up the shoreline. We opted for one-big-tack as Magdalena Bay is quite large and again we’re feeling lazy. The conditions inside Mag Bay strongly reminded us of San Francisco Bay. There was a good 15+ knots of wind and some significant chop to barge through. These are conditions Sonrisa is used to and we were all smiles as we charged on upwind quite comfortable on a single-reefed main and staysail. As we approached the far side of the bay, we made our one tack and were nearly dead-on course for the anchorage at the far north end of the bay. We arrived well before sunset and not too long after the boats that passed us at the entrance and before some of the other boats that left about the same time from Bahia Santa Maria. Not too shabby for a short-handed ‘lazy’ sail.

Beating toward Man o’ War Cove

The next day we had our one-and-only beach gathering of the Nada at Man o’ War Cove. At this stage all of the boats crews had been quarantined aboard their respective boats for at least a week, so we felt relatively comfortable for an outdoor gathering with reasonable precautions. This was our only chance to meet the owners and crew of the boats we’ve been on the radio with and following on AIS for days on end. It was a bit overwhelming to try to get everyones names and what boats they are on but in the end we made some good acquaintances we hope to cross paths with again. At the gathering Patsy also took time to interview each boat’s crew for her article on the Nada for Latitude ’38. Kristin looks some good time with Patsy to tell her of our travels and also get some great tips on what to expect in Cabo and later in La Paz.

Kristin smiling from bow of the dinghy approaching shore
Greg securing the outboard for the dinghy on the beach
Sonrisa anchored at Man o' War Cove

This was the last stop before we reached civilization again in Cabo. Having accomplished a long leg 1 and a shorter leg 2 I think Kristin and I felt confident in taking on leg 3. Only one night at sea? Piece of cake. We were in the home-stretch and had overcome everything thrown at us so far, building our confidence in ourselves and each other as all the crew we need to go where ever we want to go. Two at sea.