Our First 500 Nautical Miles South to Magdalena Bay

We finally wanted to set sail with Milagros! As soon as I had obtained my sailing license for inland waters on Lake Thun, I set off on my first offshore sailing trip of over 500 nautical miles south to Magdalena Bay. Say whaaat? We wouldn’t see any land for days. It should be a very special kind of experience.

I have read and seen hundreds of testimonials from other sailors. They tell of what it is like to be on your ship for days away from civilization. Now I should finally be able to make this experience myself. What became a dream on Cape Verde should finally become reality. Can we start now?

Bitten by the mexican dog

Of course not! We were held up again for two more days. This time it was missing papers. When we wanted to check out with the harbour master, he noticed that the import documents of our ship were not complete. What now? We got in touch with the office of the marina, where we were first offered help.

Better Call Saul

When the situation suddenly got more complicated than expected, they handed us an agent’s flyer. So, we contacted him and he was actually able to help us. For a few hundred dollars he would get us the necessary papers – almost overnight. In the absence of alternatives, we agreed to the offer.

Milagros wants to leave finally

Milagros had been ready for the trip to Magdalena Bay for days. Immediately after we had deducted the agent’s horrific fee and the papers were safely stowed away, we started. Thanks, and bye! We said goodbye to all the great people and new sailing friends in the marina. Unfortunately, we also had to leave Pati behind, that was particularly painful.

During the whole voyage, Windy predicted a good northwest wind that would carry us down the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula. Cast off, wave to everyone again and off we went.

Motorized towards Bahia Magdalena

We left the bay of Ensenada and started the trip under motor. We expected the wind to pick up as soon as we reached the open sea and we could set sail. Not quite. The further we got away from the coast, the calmer the sea became. We ploughed through a mirror, not a breeze could be felt. But it was nice anyway. Because when evening came the smooth sea shone in all pastel shades that one could imagine. Small sea birds in groups dived away from Milagros.

Sunset on the way to Magdalena Bay

Finally sailing!

After 21 hours under motor, the wind finally picked up. We were able to set full sails and pick up speed. Magdalena Bay we are coming! Our Kelly Peterson 44 immediately shone with her much-praised sailing characteristics. She slowly pushed forward at 5 knots (approx. 9 km / h). Our ship defied the waves of about half a meter with pleasant rocking. So, we were purposefully running downwind (with the wind behind us) to the south.

Night shift

My shift on watch was from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Then it was first Iñaki’s, then Carmen’s turn until 8 a.m. My shifts were quite uneventful – it was mainly all about controlling and correcting our southern course.

To do this, I had to keep an eye on the surroundings, as we sailed fairly close to a shipping route during the first few days. So, we met again and again large cargo ships. Iñaki was by our side at any time of the day or night. It is really a privilege to have someone with their experience aboard.

On and on towards Magdalena Bay

We spent the time in daylight with good food, music, reading, podcasts and gaming on the Nintendo Switch. We were also able to pull a fish ashore (onto the boat). Unfortunately, it was only small and hooked in the gills. So, it was processed with a heavy heart. Sorry, unlucky fish …

David catching his first fish on Milagros

Animal accompaniment

While our hope for dolphins was unfortunately not fulfilled, we still had all kinds of animal visitors. It was fascinating to see how life shook over 100 miles from any coast. Sea birds of all kinds were en route and accompanied the ship. One of the visitors tried several times to sit on the top of the mast. But without success. Sea turtles were on the move in the sometimes more than four kilometre deep waters. Our destination, Magdalena Bay, should also be a similar animal paradise. Gray whales give birth there in November. We’re a little early, but who knows, maybe we’ll be lucky?

Iñaki is actually lucky

Flying fish kept flinging away, startled by the ship’s hull. Iñaki almost got one of them in the face. Fortunately, the fish just popped into the dodger (the protective structure in front of the cockpit) and landed wriggling on deck. From there we could release him (hopefully) unharmed into the great blue. Departed from the wrong place at the wrong time, you could say.

View from Milagros' bow

Suddenly full speed – we get to know Milagros

Since we didn’t know the ship yet, we chose conservative sailing techniques and tried to move forward at a leisurely pace. As expected, the wind picked up two and a half days before our arrival. We had to be quick to reef (make the sail area smaller) so that we gave the wind less sail area to attack and had a more pleasant ride towards Magdalena Bay. For a long time, we were out with a double reefed mainsail and a triple reefed foresail. The wind got stronger and Milagros now showed what she was made of.

Milagros the long-distance monster

Despite the small sail area, she shot towards Mag Bay at a constant 6-7 knots (approx. 11-13 km / h). Nevertheless, there was never any malaise, on the contrary. We simply found out that she felt comfortable in this speed range and was constantly striving for it. Once there, she paced forward as if on rails. We were able to compensate for her strong weather helm (Milagros constantly wants to turn the bow into the wind) with a well-adjusted wind pilot and a little counter-steering with the steering wheel locked. So, the ship was steered towards Bahia Magdalena without us ever having to intervene. No wonder the Kelly Peterson 44 are loved so dearly by their owners.

The secret star – our autopilot

The secret star of the trip was our wind pilot. Our “Hydrovane” (nicknamed “Heidry” by us) steers the ship independently and only with wind power. When the wind acts on either side of the red wind vane, it tips, transferring this action through the mechanism below to the rudder, altering the boat’s course. And the boat follows the set course very consequently. So, we have an autopilot on board that runs electricity-free. In addition, there is a small tiller autopilot, driven by an electric motor, which operates the rudder of “Heidry” via a control rod and can thus maintain the course as a backup for calm or light wind. However, this must be connected to the on-board network.

The hydrovane is the mechanical deck hand
“Heidry” in action

We are losing water

During one of my night shifts, I routinely checked the bilge in the engine room. This is where the deepest point of the ship is. What I found was not good. The bilge was filled with oily water. After pumping this overboard with the bilge pump, the first thing I did of course was to check our rusty water tanks. Unfortunately, my fears came true. The water leaked directly into the bilge via the rusted weld seams. We should have emptied the tanks at the end of our first visit to Milagros in December 2019. They had been rusting away for almost a year with the salty “fresh water” of the Cruiseport Marina and are leaking more than ever. Replacing the water tanks will be another project that we will have to tackle in Puerto Peñasco.

Magdalena Bay is getting closer and closer

The days passed and Magdalena Bay came closer and closer, driven by a constant wind. It was a long drive and we were getting tired. The swell had meanwhile reached an uncomfortable direction compared to our course over the ground of between 130° and 140°. That influenced life on board and especially the rest phases. It was time that we got there.

Change of plan

One day before arrival, we made our plan to enter Magdalena Bay. However, wind and current thwarted our plans at the planned arrival time. These would have worked against each other on the passage into the bay, which can lead to nasty waves. The area guides stated that this is why yachts run aground there every year. Since we were too tired anyway, we decided to anchor in the nearby Bahia Santa Maria. Better safe than sorry. Entering and anchoring there were rather easy, even at our midnight arrival time. As soon as we were sure that the anchor was firmly set, we dropped everything and sank down in our bunks.

After-work beer

We more than deserved this sleep break after this trip. The first incredible adventure came to an end. Over 500 nautical miles non-stop in four and a half days – what an experience. While Carmen and Iñaki slept soundly, I thought back to the trip over a beer in the moonlight and just enjoyed the moment. I was kept company by our pelican reception committee.

And the trip to Puerto Peñasco had only just begun.

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6 Comments

Bravo pour cette première étape réussie !
Passer du stade “marin d’eau douce – Lac de Thun” au stade de “marin au long cours” c’est un peu comme passer du stade “sauteur à la perche” au stade “astronaute”.
Bon vent les marins !
Quand et où retrouverez-vous Pati et les autres ?
JPC

Hey JP, j’espère que tu vas bien! Je reviendrai à Bâle fin novembre. Pati et moi resterons en Suisse jusqu’en janvier avant de retourner au bateau et travaillerons dessus pendant environ six mois. Carmen et Iñaki resteront au Mexique. Salutations de la Marina La Paz de tout le monde!

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