Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cyrus el Tortuga

The knock on the boat comes early in the morning … it is the Park Rangers.  Viking II has been anchored in Partida Cove for several days … this sunrise visit by the authorities can’t be good!  I say “buenos dias”; in English, the young researcher tells me that they will be tagging turtles at the fishing village in fifteen minutes and cruisers are welcome to watch.  No coffee … no breakfast … fire up the dingy and head to the beach.

 There is an assemblage of cruisers on the beach encircling nine unhappy turtles lying on their backs.  This is the monthly turtle tagging by the government.  Nets were set up last night; local fisherman assist with the task; young research interns add to the ambiance.  

 Each turtle is weighed, measured, named and tagged; the Jefe has the girls measure the tails while the leather skinned fishermen laugh ... some things are the same in any language.  
Cyrus and his cousins are about 20 to 25 years old; Cyrus has a California tag, from about 1,000 miles away. The process is quick to minimize the impact on the turtles; when complete, the turtles are rolled over onto their bellies; they dart off the beach and swim to open water.  They will probably tell their friends about the crazy people to avoid on Isla Espiritu Santo.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Captain Erik and Viking II on the Baja Ha-ha: Cabo San Lucas and Sea of Cortez

We arrive in Cabo San Lucas to an unfavorable east wind … the Captania de el Puerto closes the port due to safety concerns from the heavy surf.  We will not be at Squid Roe tonight; no big loss.  Viking II will be rocking and rolling in the wind and waves all night.

After clearing into Mexico, boats go their separate ways … Viking II is heading off to La Paz, one of my favorite cities in Mexico.  The Sea of Cortez is flat on our way north through the familiar passages.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Captain Erik and Viking II on the Baja Ha-ha: Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria

Departed in light winds with the heavy asymmetrical and main sail set; anticipating freshening winds to 20 knots tonight.

News flash: off of Punto Santo Domingo, helmsman EJ hit 16.6 knots surfing down a wave with a full genny and main sail. He now holds the record for the trip.

The party at Bahia Santa Maria is the highlight for me. If Bahia Santa Maria was in California, there would be miles of condos; here, there are miles of uninterrupted beach. Population of the bay is about a half dozen fishermen/families. When the fleet comes in, the band, beer and food is hauled over the dunes from La Paz. The dinner plate is about $14 USD, but the tamales are only $1 apiece and taste wonderful. Two and a half dollar beer leads to buying in pairs because no one can make change … tough :o) The band warms up with the usual covers and everyone dances. Favorable tides this year allow partying beyond the hour which people our age should have been back aboard … in bed … asleep.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Captain Erik and Viking II on the Baja Ha-ha: Bahia Tortugas

Disclaimer:  beer is not the only thing involved in cruising …

I love Bahia Tortugas, Baja California (Turtle Bay).  Turtle Bay is not on any main road, just the route along the Mexican coast to the Sea of Cortez.  We arrived in the dark after a two and a half day sail from San Diego; sailed a little wing on wing … most of the trip was surfing down the waves … we motored the last ten miles due to a dead calm.   I have been here often enough to feel secure in the dark … Lowrance (the GPS) has several tracks that take me where I have been before.  We anchor, and per tradition, break out the tequila and toast a successful passage.

In the morning we move Viking II closer to the pier to shorten the dingy and panga runs.  Pangas are two dollars per person this year; I’d swear it was only one dollar last year … inflation in Turtle Bay.  At the softball game and around town, people appear to be in good economic shape; unemployment is said to be low; fishing is the primary industry … tourism comes next … that would be us.  The Baja Ha-ha has been coming here for sixteen years; with six hundred people pressed onto a normal population of four thousand, it is a big event.  Annabel is nowhere to be found, so I purchase fuel and water from Enrique Jr., El Gordo, the local tycoon. 
EJ, Marilyn, Jynene, Buffy, Jan and I, launch the dingy.  A $150 overhaul back home in Sacramento (under the watch full eyes of the Cal EPA) and the outboard will not idle … this will make it more of a challenge docking and beaching the dingy through the waves.  Off to town to catch up on the internet and see how cold the beer is.  My favorite is La Palapa with Carlos and Mercedes, proprietors.  A great visit with old friends, good food, internet access and yes … the beer is cold.

A new softball game between the locals and the Ha-ha’ers is a delight for all.  No one keeps score … the Ha-ha’ers get eight outs … the music is wonderful; a great event to share with the community.  As the crowd dissipates, Julio the beer concessionaire gives us free beer as we listen to the music in a near-empty stadium … just Julio, the musician from the ministry of culture, and us … this is the good life.  We arrive late for the Halloween party at the Vera Cruz but make up for it by closing the place.  Ha-ha’ers and locals danced the night away.
The beach party is in full swing as I deliver Jynene, Buffy and Betty through the light surf.   A little confusion with helpers on the beach and a stalled outboard nearly proves disastrous as a wave hits me and knocks me off the dingy.  I bail water as I return to the anchored fleet to pick up Alan, EJ and Marilyn ... our landing is uneventful.  The party is pot luck and concession beer; volley ball for the athletic and golf ball/horse shoes for casual play ... Jynene is obviously a ringer. Kites fly over the beach and the women whip the men in a tug of war.  Locals are selling trinkets and cool drinks; they have licenses … bureaucracy is coming to Turtle Bay.
Dinner at La Palapa is wonderful; I have estofa de pesca that Mercedes has prepared specially for us; Buffy does the best langosta impersonation I have ever seen.  Captain Fred, Alan and Betty, the crew of Aunt Sur, join in the revelry; conversation is lively.  As the Ha-ha’ers drift back to the fleet, the locals as well as the mayor come by to socialize.  The Ha-ha is not the sum total of life in Bahia Tortugas.  This is a solid, working class town; I could live here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Captain Erik and Viking II on the Baja Ha-ha: San Diego to Bahia Tortugas

Viking II departed San Diego with the Baja Ha-ha fleet of 160 to 190 boats.  On board are Captain Erik, Jan, Jynene, Buffy, EJ, and Marilyn.   We set out with a full main and the light asymmetrical spinnaker.  Winds are light and the fleet soon scatters far and wide through Los Coronados Islas off the coast of Mexico. 

Standing watch on an ocean going vessel is both a safety necessity and a legal requirement.  We run 24 hours a day off shore with sails flying.  Watch rotation is set to match the need with the skills at hand.  I like short watches for novices as well as for experienced mariners to minimize fatigue.   We set up a rotation that starts with two hours on the helm where the helmsman needs to be sharp and alert; next is two hours in the cockpit to be a resource for the helmsman in the event of a sail trim, etc … this is a time to relax and take in the scenery; finally the crew member is off watch … eight hours with our crew of six.  Meals are cooked by the volunteer of the moment; dishes are washed by someone who did not cook (likely me).

Approaching Turtle Bay the wind slackens.  We have had light wind and I am bored with our progress so I tell Buffy, my watch mate, that we are going to have a little fun … wing on wing.  This is a dead-down-wind run with the spinnaker set to starboard and the main boom to port; it is unstable and hard to hold in a following sea.  It is fun for an hour; we make about one more knot in speed; the setting sun suggests a more stable sail set into the night.

It has been two nights out at sea with an after dark arrival in Turtle Bay.  The stay sail has a tear in it that will need repair; first sail tear on Viking II.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Big Boat Series on San Francisco Bay

The 46th Rolex Big Boat Series on San Francisco Bay started today in the fog.  Last year I crewed on winner, Summer & Smoke, with skipper Pat.  It’s a grueling four days of boat to boat competition that tests the equipment, the crew and the pocket book.  This year my seat is in the St Francis press room; it is a different view and I will likely come out of it without bruises.

The boats race out of the fog into the press room view offshore from the St Francis yacht club.  The fleet is smaller this year, likely due to the economy, but the competition and testosterone are still in abundance.  The press boat has the best view today; we can not see much beyond the two buoys marking the finish line.  The sailboats tacking into the wind and the flood tide are revealed and then hidden by the fog; rail meat hangs on the life lines.  The sound of the Golden Gate fog horn is in the distance.

The winds are high enough to make spinnaker handling delicate.  The lagging boats are the ones having difficulties flying spinnaker and losing time to the lead boats.  The Melges 32’s are fast boats; they are so light (3,775 lbs), they fly on top of the water.  The finish is grand; lots of smiles on the boats that get the gun.  But so much for racing … one day down and three to go ... now it’s time to party.  The liquor runs fast and the women are faster.  Me? … I am just an observer.

Today I have a seat on the Pursuit boat.  This provides full access for sports photographers and writers at the turns.  Next to me are professionals with lenses long enough to see the sweat dripping off of the man on the foredeck.  My pocket camera will take a back row and not interfere.  The only time I have been as close to the race boats, I was on one.   The action is spectacular as the boats round their marks; crew scrambles to change sails and advance their position …

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Beer Can Racing

Beer can racing on Wednesday nights off Mare Island in Vallejo.   Sponsored by the Vallejo Yacht Club, the competition runs the range from obsessed to casual sailors on the bay ...  the beer is always a winner.