We take a weekend trip to the two islands north of La Paz and find ourselves between heaven and hell.
To avoid camp fever, we get our floating home ready for departure and lift anchor on a Friday afternoon after work. Surprise, surprise: the anchor chain had wrapped itself around the anchor. We don’t know how long ago this happened. It must have happened either right when we were picking up the anchor or at some point during the La Paz Waltz. We were very lucky that our anchor still held and didn’t get ripped out when the current turned the other way. But we always have an anchor track and an anchor alarm running so we can monitor Milagros’ movements.
Dangerous anchor situation
So, while David manoeuvred us out of the channel – in water depths where we had only 6 feet of water under the keel at times – I dealt with the anchor and the chain mess at the bow. Because the chain was wrapped around the anchor, we couldn’t pull it all the way up. Fortunately, I was able to loosen the chain by attaching two lines to the anchor and taking the pressure off. The difficulty now was to make sure that the anchor did not damage the paint on the bow, because the movements of the boat and the waves made the 30 kg colossus dangle back and forth. But I succeeded and we were able to pull up the anchor. Raising the anchor, however, caused an anchor chain mess because the chain got jammed at the deck opening where it enters the chain locker inside the boat, but with a good hammer blow that was solved too.
Our destination was Caleta Partida, which is on the west side between Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida and should be well protected from the predicted night-time southwest wind. This type of wind is called “corumuel” and is a spring/summer phenomenon around La Paz. Averaging 15 knots (about 30 km/h), it makes life difficult for sailors here, as most anchorages are open exactly where the corumuel comes from. The wind builds up waves up to 3 feet high, which together with the wind can toss a boat back and forth at the anchor. There are also anchorages on the north and east sides of the islands, but at the time there was still some north wind during the day. But what to do?
6 hours and 27 nautical miles later, we anchored in paradise next to a few other boats. After the obligatory anchor beer, we inflated our kayak and explored the beach. Since we were between two islands, there was a kind of channel running through the beach through which you could get to the other side by water – but only with a small boat without much draught. There was also a small fishing base on the beach. In the evening, the sun set flaming red over the sea and dolphins hunted in the foreground; really kitschy.
We change the anchorage
The night at anchor was quite pleasant, the protection from the corumuel must have worked. The next day we wanted to change anchorage and try our luck in Ensenada Grande, 5 nautical miles away. This bay should also be reasonably sheltered. But it was 5 damn uncomfortable nautical miles, because the sea was rough from the night wind, and it was still blowing 15 knots of westerly wind. And then the disappointment: the anchorage was already full of big motorboats. So, we had to turn around and make a diversion so that we didn’t get the waves right from the side. And of course, we also had the current against us, which added to the discomfort. We regretted our decision to leave Caleta Partida.
But we found a nice empty anchorage (Ensenada El Cardonal) and found ourselves back in paradise, which we now had to ourselves. As soon as we had anchored the wind died down and we rowed ashore with a picnic. In the evening we could watch countless dolphins with their babies. The little ones are so cute when they come up for air. Shortly before sunset, another boat “unfortunately” joined us. But the calm was deceptive.
Around 10pm, the corumuel appeared and it became simply unbearable. The boat swayed back and forth, rocked left and right and bobbed up and down. There were creaks and other noises everywhere and we felt like we were on a roller coaster. We both barely closed our eyes, just waiting for daylight to come and we could finally leave. Completely exhausted, we weighed anchor at the first opportunity and sailed back to the first anchorage.
We are disappointed
We just wanted to sleep, but we decided to do a little kayaking and snorkelling tour. And we can sleep at night – we thought. Unfortunately, the snorkelling was a bit disappointing again. It must have been full of fish once. I don’t even want to imagine what it will look like there in 10 years. Mankind probably won’t stop until everything is destroyed. At least we had a bit of exercise….
It doesn’t get any better
The anchorage was pretty full of boats this time, so we couldn’t see the dolphins anymore. But someone else was knocking: the corumuel. Because the wind angle had changed slightly and our anchor spot (practically in the same place as two nights before) was no longer well protected. Instead of a calm night, we experienced the same sh@#$% again, only with the difference that there were more boats. And more boats mean more anchors that can drag. At such moments we curse ourselves for having traded our cosy flat for something like this. Sometimes we wonder how many years we will age with this lifestyle in this time…. Again, we could do nothing but wait until the night was finally over.
We are spoiled
We didn’t want what we had and wanted what we didn’t have. When we were in La Paz, we wanted to leave. And when we were gone, we wished we were back. Our little weekend trip was not really what we had imagined. But we had got to know the corumuel and were one experience richer. At least we had a few hours of nice wind at the end and could sail a bit.
Time to refuel
Back in La Paz, where we would again only stay a few days, we had to take care of refuelling. We note the engine hours in our logbook. This way we always know how long the engine has been running and can calculate the consumption and thus the expected fuel level. According to these calculations, about 15 gallons (about 60 l) needed to be refilled in both tanks. We packed our canisters in the dinghy because diesel is about 20% cheaper at the petrol station.
Outboard strike and tacos
On the way, however, our outboard suddenly went on strike. Unfortunately, we didn’t really reach our destination rowing because of the current. Luckily, Hazel and Paul from SV Susimi came just around the corner and towed us in. Paul also helped us with the troubleshooting. It turned out that the engine just didn’t get enough fuel. That was our first guess, but we couldn’t get it running out there. Afterwards, we treated ourselves to tacos together with Paul and Hazel.
When we refuelled later, we got a surprise. One tank was already full after 10 gallons, the second after 3.5 gallons. That was about 33% and 75% less than expected. We assume a consumption of 0.7 gph. But even if I subtract the idling times, the average consumption is 0.5 gallons per hour for one tank and 0.2 gallons per hour for the other. The new injection pump seems to have a positive effect on consumption. However, we continue to assume 0.7 gph to be on the safe side. We usually cruise at 1200 rpm and reach a speed of 5 knots with not too annoying engine noise, which is perfect for us.
However, we don’t know exactly where the optimal rpm is – it’s possible that it’s a bit higher. But since different variables like wind and current affect consumption, we would have to keep pretty accurate records to find out. But we will try to experiment a bit with the rpm.
A parting gift
We had planned another trip to Isla Espiritu Santo for the Easter weekend, as our sailing friends from SV Alegria and SV Cavu had returned to Baja from the mainland and we wanted to meet them there. But before that happened, La Paz gave us a not so nice present. When we came back from shopping, we saw that our snubber had fallen off. As there was wind against the current, the wind pushed the boat over our anchor chain. The snubber fell out and the anchor chain left scratches in our new paint!!!! Our snubber was immediately discarded, and we improvised a new snubber from two pieces of docking line, each with a rolling hitch (a knot) around the anchor chain. Once again, we were looking forward to leaving La Paz.
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