Saturday, January 22, 2011

The "Southern Crossing" to Mazatlan

El Tiburon safely tied up at Marina Mazatlan
The passage from Baja across the Sea of Cortez to the Mexico Mainland is referred to as the "Southern Crossing". In the winter months weather is monitored daily to ensure a passage free of nasty "Northers" that are generated above Arizona and rush down the 600 miles of open sea.  Our plan was to south sail to Ensenada de los Muertos, spend the night, and leave early the following morning for the 190 nautical mile trip across the Sea to Mazatlan. We left La Paz under blue skies with a good breeze. The seas quickly turned lumpy and on our beam as we pounded and sometimes slammed our way through the narrow San Lorenzo Channel. It would be a long 2 or 3 hour trip until we headed down the coast placing the seas more on our stern, thus making life smoother, albeit rollier. Which transpired, and we - especially Sparky - were grateful. We have been blessed with relatively "uneventful" passages, however, our luck was about to change.

Below decks I heard loud moaning and screaching sounds, I rushed downstairs and to my horror watched the mast doing the hula. Never a good sign. The spartite material that Sven's in Alameda had put in our mast to hold it in place had popped out, rendering our mast somewhat a "free agent" from the keel upward 65 feet. I took the helm while Darrell grabbed a hammer to pound the spartite back in place. Deep breathe. However, twenty minutes later those suckers popped out again. Due to strong seas that would have been directly on our nose and endangering the mast's stability further we could not turn around and head back to La Paz.  Far safer for us to continue downwind the additional 46 miles to Los Muertos. Darrell - the Love of My Life and Captain of the ship - got several large wooden plugs and pounded them around the mast. She was now shored up enough that we were not in any immediate danger - but ever so watchful!

Thank Godness, Mystic, also headed south, was only a bit behind us, and followed us down the coast. David and Betsy stood by and made sure we entered the anchorage safely. Which we did. Nice to be out of 25 knot winds and anchored in our most favorite Baja Bay. Darrell, who pretty much saves EVERYTHING from old cavas to sails to scrap metal to 4X6 pieces of hardwood, also saved the day. He got out his saw and cut 6 wooden wedges that he hammered around the mast and the cabintop, then screwed some other saved metal bits and bobs into the chalks. The mast looked like she was pretty well secured. Only wind and seas could really test her.

Enter, Beth and Norm on Sarah Jean II. They came into the anchorage our second day and agreed to let us "shadow" them the across the sea. Great folks from Canada, fellow Baja Ha-Ha-er's, and good strong sailors aboard a most excellent Saga 43 enroute to Puerto Vallarta for the "Puddle Jump" to the Marquesas.  Self-reliance is the name of this sailing game, but having angels like Mystic and Sarah Jean II close by reminds us count our blessings daily. The 25 hour crossing was FAST, so much so we had to slow El Tib down in order to reach Mazatlan harbor at morning light (Another story). Not many complaints about the 15 to 20-ish knots of winds, and rolly seas for several hours (some teeny-tiny complaints were made about that!), but then the seas turned a bit. With the sails trimmed and autopilot set, the 12 hour evening passage was lovely under a moonless sky filled with countless twinkling stars and some shooting ones too. Our southern crossing was "uneventful" and to date Darrell's handiwork appears to be holding strong.

 The ever-faithful Mystic was waiting for us in Marina Mazatlan and helped guide us into our slip. They told us that Earl and Louise from Serenity, a lovely Nordhavn 43 from Alaska, had been trying to raise us on the radio to make sure we were safe. Many thanks to the folks on Mystic, Serenity, and Sarah Jean II for watching our backs. And we loved hearing a hearty welcome from Moondance as we entered the harbor. This is what cruising is all about. Well, that and a fun game of Mexican Train Dominos with friends.

Betsy & David from Mystic and Beth & Norm from Sarah Jean II enjoy a game of
Mexican Train Dominos aboard El Tiburon

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