Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Well I'm not sure whether discussing my bread making failures on the blog had anything to do with it, but I made the best loaf of bread I've ever made yesterday. It was fantastic and I'm thrilled! Big, soft, fluffy and so fresh tasting, what a treat since we've been out on uninhabited islands for a month now.

Also just to be clear, it is me, Julia, posting from Jacob's account about the bread because once again I've forgotten my account info to post to the blog.

In other exciting news last night we spent our first night as the sole boat in a beautiful anchorage. It was absolutely lovely, and as of this morning, we are still the only boat here. What a treat.

Posted by Julia

Lat 26 23' N, Long 111 26' W

Monday, April 27, 2009 | Author: Jacob
The last couple of weeks we've been exploring a set of islands that are part of a national marine sanctuary. It's so beautiful here; turquoise water that is crystal clear, fish swimming up around your feet as soon as you get into the water, white sandy beaches, the whole deal. At night the phosphorescence is incredible, we can see fish swimming in the water by their trail of light, and little bugs on the surface look like stars.

Somewhere along the line I set a goal for myself to master the art of making pressure cooker bread. How hard can it be? My oven bread was successful, we comfortably ate meals involving bread and buns baked in the oven. At every anchorage I diligently get up in the morning and foam the yeast, knead the bread, let the dough rise and pop it in the pressure cooker. Every time it comes out a disaster and we're eating crustless chunks of smokey bread that I've salvaged from the ashes. I've also scarred the bottom of the pressure cooker with all these failed attempts and each afternoon spend time chipping chunks of black char off the bottom.

I've tried low heat, high heat, raising the pressure cooker off the flame, stacking pans underneath so the pressure cooker is really high off the flame, coating the inside with flour, leaving it bare, nothing has been successful so far. I am aware that time is ticking, a couple more short weeks and we will be in San Carlos prepping Pisces for the summer on the hard and the pressure cooker will stay here this summer.

While others call this stunning area "the Polynesia of Baja" it will always be called "the anchorages of burnt bread" in my mind.

I'm off to foam some yeast and try again. Maybe today's my lucky day!

Lat 26 06' N, Long 111 17 W

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Well, we sat out (most) of the aforementioned Norther, safe and sound behind Isla San Jose. Things were pretty chill in our anchorage, and we thought the forecasts might have been exaggerating a bit, until we hiked up on a small bluff and saw what the windward side of the island looked like...what a difference a quarter mile of sandbar can make...

Yesterday we had a short bash up to Evaristo, which was slightly less crowded than during the peak of the Norther. Still, Julia and I realized we just don't like crowded anchorages. The problem now is that we are completely in sync with seemingly every other cruising boat making the trip into the Sea of Cortez. So, the well known all-weather anchorages are also the crowded anchorages. We need to get back out to some of the more remote island anchorages, but it's always a bit of a leap of faith to go off the beaten path.

Early morning today, and we were underway before the sun rose. We wanted to make a big push ~45 miles North to Agua Verde, which is well protected for the next day or so of Southerly winds. As the day broke the breeze filled in from the SE, and we flew down wind with the full main and jib poled out wing-on-wing. It was great sailing all day, we had light winds and got to fly the spinnaker, and heavier winds where we hit 6.7kts with a reef in the main (pretty good for a house!). And just to add a little more excitement to the day we caught two bonito, one large and one small (we ended up throwing them both back, as we are not huge bonito fans).

We're now tucked up at Agua Verde, seemingly along with every other boat that was at Evaristo last night (some of you guys motored all the way here! You know who you are, shame on you!). Depending on tomorrow's weather and forecast we will probably leave tomorrow mid-day, make a slightly shorter push up to Isla Carmen, where we plan on waiting out the next Norther which should arrive Thursday. In case you're wondering, apparently it's not normal for so many Northers to come in a row, but currently the Pacific high is sitting much further South than normal, allowing low pressure systems to drop down over the Southwestern US, which in turns causes us to get a bunch of wind. Or something like that, don't quote me on it.

Lat 25 31' N, Long 111 04' W

Saturday, April 11, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Well, the last blog post was about anchoring, and boy have the last few days giving us a drilling on our anchoring: practical, theoretical, hypothetical, and more.

Our week thus far...

Tuesday: Anchored at Isla San Francisco, around the back side of the 'hook'. This is the anchorage we mentioned in our last blog post. A beautiful night.

Wednesday: The morning brings a building SE breeze, right into the anchorage. We decide that it's a good time to be going, not to push our luck at this little bight. We motor over to the western side of Isla San Jose, which provides good protection from the SW through to NNW. Absolutely beautiful anchorage, but a light NW starts to build, bringing some chop, but not enough to be a big concern. �We'll keep an eye on it.�

Thursday: Tao and Scheherezade are anchored on the East side of Isla San Jose, and are reporting calm winds and a beautiful anchorage. We are still getting NW wind and chop into our anchorage, so we decide to duck around the back and join them. We sail on and off our anchor as we move to the new anchorage. Winds stay light all night, but a rolling swell from the ENE keeps us awake a good portion of the night.

Friday: In the morning a SE breeze kicks up, sending some chop and wind into our anchorage. Scheherezade leaves first heading for San Evaristo, an all-weather anchorage about 5 miles NW in order to wait out the Norther which is forecast to bring gale force winds to this area in the next several days. We and Tao leave several hours later, with a stop back at the west coast anchorage for a dinghy excursion into the mangroves. After our exploration, we up anchor and head for San Evaristo, where we also plan to wait out the Norther. Unfortunately, we talk with Scheherezade, and they report the anchorage is packed. Very little room, and more boats continue to pour in...looks like we weren't the only ones with the San Evaristo plan.

Instead, we scope out Punta Salinas as a possible hiding place, set up some GPS waypoints, and then return to the western anchorage in calm winds. Dinner, and then we settle down to watch a Battlestar Galactica DVD before calling it an early night. Midway through BG, the boat spins, and we start hearing wind across the deck. Pop up topsides for a look and...great...we are on a lee shore again. Over the next few minutes the wind picks up into the 15-20 knot range, and by the end of the episode, we are pitching in 3-4 foot wind waves. We wait a few extra minutes for the moon to rise, and then at 10PM out into the wind to up anchor, follow our GPS track back around the other side of the island to the Eastern anchorage , where we get the anchor set at about midnight, and sit out a night of (un-forecast) 20-25kt NW winds.

Saturday: So here we are, currently we are getting a moderate ESE wind, again putting us on a lee shore, but we've decided we are going to try our best to dig in here at this anchorage for the Norther (that should arrive anytime between this afternoon and tomorrow morning). We are hoping that the Norther has a westerly component, in which case we should be well protected, however if it swings at all East, we won't have much protection. In that case we can either: 1) Bail to the 'hook' on Isla San Francisco and hope it is not too crowded and provides protection, 2) Head to the Western anchorage and hope that the channel effect isn't bending the winds towards the west in there 3) lose some ground and sail 20+ miles South to Isla Partida where there is better protection.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 | Author: Jacob
If there's one group of sailing skills that are most important to enjoying your time out cruising, it's those skills belonging to the category of 'anchoring.' When we left San Francisco we felt confident in our sailing, but definitely were weak in the anchoring category, and we paid for that, with uncomfortable nights, stress, and losing sleep, not what you want at the end of a several day passage. Since then, being anchored out for more than 3 of the last 4 months, we've had a little bit of insight into what makes for successful anchoring, and so we present a brief, pre-coffee, guide to anchoring, the practical and the theoretical.

Practical Stuff:

We're not going to go too much into the gear part of anchoring, because really you can find so much information about this stuff out there already. Our setup is a 45lb Bruce, and a 45lb CQR, 200 feet of high test chain, and then an additional 100 foot length of chain stored further aft. We've used both anchors as primaries, and they both have worked great. We are very happy to have all chain, not just for the weight, strength, and chafe resistance, but also because boats on all chain move much differently in the anchorage: we pivot around on wind shifts, but we don't sail all over the place the way boats on rode do.

A lot of people down here have the Manson Supreme or Rocna anchors, they also seem to work great (and for some reason the folks with Rocna anchors are always evangelizing about how amazing the anchor is...). A common setup we've been seeing is as big an anchor as you can comfortably carry, 100 feet of chain, and then a bunch of nylon rode.

Before we left to go cruising we were always looking for anchorages with shelter from the wind. Now what we care about is shelter from the fetch (wind driven chop or swell). Your properly sized anchor setup will hold you tight through all sorts of wind, but even a few feet of chop hitting you on the beam or thereabouts can make your night very very uncomfortable. For a fantastic example of this check out Tao's website (shawnchris.blogspot.com) and look for their 'Rolly Anchorage' video.

Anchor Placement
Until you've gotten a bit of practice, one of the most stressful parts of anchoring will probably be placing your anchor in the right place so that your boat ends up where you want it relative to other boats, rocks, shoals, and expected wind shifts. Unfortunately we don't have very many helpful hints to offer on this, as it's something we are still working on. However, we do recommend getting into the dinghy and getting some distance away from your boat to take a look at the placement from another perspective. Usually when we do this we realize we are way off in the middle of the anchorage and are nowhere near anything we thought we were.

Other Boats
You are anchored in a beautiful little anchorage, there are a few other boats there, but you are all well spaced out, the sun is just starting to set, and you are enjoying a drink in the cockpit when....around the corner of the point pulls into view a 45 foot powered catamaran going 9 knots with music blasting, 4 kayaks on deck, a dinghy on davits on the back, and a boston whaler being towed behind. Like some sort of homing missile they head straight for you, split the difference being you and your closest neighbor and 'chunkachunkachunka' drop their anchor. All of a sudden you feel just the slightest bit crowded, and you have visions of a windshift putting them right on top of you. What to do?

Well it depends. We haven't been in an anchorage yet where there simply wasn't room for another boat. Starting from this assumption, take a look around, given the available space, are they really too close to you? Or would everywhere else in the anchorage put them similarly close to another boat? Our comfort level with other boats has a lot to do with the space of the anchorage, in a tight anchorage it's going to be tight between boats, but if someone gets in tight with us at an anchorage with plenty of room, we will ask them to move, there's just no need to be so close. Similarly, if the forecast is for settled weather, you might allow someone a bit closer than if you have a forecast for strong or shifty winds. On the flipside of this, if you are that boat coming in to anchor right before sundown, pay attention to the (not very subtle clues) your neighbors are giving you. If they are standing on the foredeck staring you down as you drop your anchor, chances are they are unhappy with your location. Up anchor and try again.

Anchor Waypoint
So, you are anchored, now you just need to stay that way and equally important stay re-assured that you are staying that way. Most GPS units have anchor alarms that set a circle from your location and beep if you move outside of that circle. This is handy, but it doesn't give you a lot of information aside from telling you that you have already dragged. We have taken to setting a GPS waypoint right where we drop the anchor (Julia is usually on the helm and as I start to lower the chain she just pops below to the nav station and presses a couple buttons to set a waypoint). When we are done anchoring we then use the 'navigate to point' functionality of the GPS to navigate us to our waypoint. The handy thing about this is it gives you both distance to your waypoint (which is where your anchor is), and also the direction to your waypoint. So, if you pop up in the middle night and it's dark out and you're bleary eyed, instead of standing in the companionway for 5 minutes trying to figure out where you are, you can look at the GPS and say 'oh, we are now 125 feet from our anchor, but we've swung around to the N side.' (When we can't get a waypoint directly at the anchor, we just set one wherever we first end up, as relative motion and distance can still be useful).


The theory side of our anchoring guide is really just about trying to get your expectations for being anchored to line up as much as possible with the reality. When we first began, our expectations were more in line with land-based life than anchoring out. Namely, when we lay down to go to sleep we expected to stay asleep until we woke up in the morning, well rested and ready for the day. Some of the lowest moments of our trip have been when we were tired, expecting to get a good nights sleep, and then as we lay down in bed something happened that pretty much guaranteed a sleepless night. Talk about demoralizing.

Our first night at a new anchorage we set the alarm for 2 hour intervals, to get up, look around, and make a entry in our anchorage log (Location, Barometer, Wind Direction/Speed, Distance to waypoint, comments). We find that it's better to know you'll be up every few hours than to have some underlying anxiety about the anchorage, which can cause you to half-wake up even more frequently listening to the sounds of the anchorage and the boat wondering if you should get up and check.

When we go to bed at any anchorage, if there's any indication at all that something might change during the night, we'll do the 2 hour watches. If things take a change for the better we'll stop watches, if a change for the worse we'll increase the frequency.

We've also come to expect that some portion of the time we will not be able to sleep in the v-berth, and instead will have to use sea berths. This has been more common recently as many of the anchorages in the La Paz area become very rolly at night from the Coromuel winds. At first this really bothered us, as our expectation was that in a 'good' anchorage we would be comfortable enough to at least sleep in the v-berth. Now we realize that sometimes it's worth it (or the only option) to put up with a bit of rolling at night to be able to enjoy the beautiful location during the day (usually the rolling is less than being underway anyway). Just keep a focus on the positive reasons for being where you are, rather than dwelling on the fact that you are losing sleep. You can always sleep in late, you can always sleep in late, you can always sleep in late.

Whew, long blog post, but anchoring and life at anchor is probably the single biggest adjustment when you start cruising. As an anecdote to put it all in perspective. Yesterday we arrived at Isla San Francisco after a day of light winds and motoring. The popular anchorage on the island 'the hook' was fairly crowded with 15+ boats, and open to the Coromuel winds we expected that evening. We went around the back side of the island, to a much less common anchorage, where we were and Tao the only two boats. As we came up to anchor dolphins played around our boat, leapt clear of the water, and we could even hear their calls from the bow, we were actually concerned as we dropped the anchor that we might hit one of the dolphins. In the evening we shared a fantastic birthday celebration dinner for Shawn, and went to bed full and happy. An hour later a small swell started hitting us on the beam, rolling us a bit, and waking me up. I was up and down a few times, checking out the anchorage, making sure that the swell didn't portend anything worse to come, and then eventually my tiredness beat out the small swell, and I got to sleep. The anchorage though was so beautiful that even if we had not gotten any sleep, or had to leave in the middle of the night, we'd still be glad we had come.

Lat 24 50' N, Long 110 34' W