With a little more than a month left before we fly home, Valhalla left Mazatlan on Friday, March 22, 2013 to cross the Sea of Cortez. We had an exciting beginning leaving the skinny channel which was, as usual, about half occupied by the huge ever working dredge. A south-west swell was going to be a nice asset to the sea state to help push us across the Sea to La Paz.
As we made the blind dog-leg turn and approached the Mazatlan channel exit/entrance, with no turning back, we saw breaking waves traveling across the length of the channel. FULL THROTLE ahead for Valhalla against the strong surge was only 4 knots…YIKES! The Captain, held the helm tight and kept Valhalla as square to the waves as possible, but with the force of the surge we slipped just a bit sideways. Katie held the dodger tight and ducked for cover. The 8-10 foot wave was curling toward our bow and, in an instant, engulfed the entire bow pulpit slamming us on the starboard with full force. The boat rolled sideways as mass quantities of water came through the (always open) head window. It was quite a rush and after those 30 seconds of sheer terror, we were out of the channel and heading across the Sea of Cortez looking forward to the next 54 hours of boredom!
|Blind Dog Leg Curve Ahead - Exit at Your Own Risk!|
We counted our blessings (of us and Valhalla being spared), mopped up the inside of the boat and cracked a beer to steady our nerves. Things to be considered…dog those hatches (ALL OF THEM) and never leave Port on a Friday (if you’re superstitious).
During the crossing, we had moderate seas with a south-west swell and winds between 5 and 15 knots. We sailed whenever we could (or had to), trying all the possible sail combinations for the conditions. We got a lot of good use out of our spinnaker during the crossing as well. We even did some motor sailing with it during the lighter wind and calmer seas.
Of course, we had to use and listen to the purr of the iron Jenny a lot too. We learned that even though it is a SAILBOAT, it is important to carry extra fuel on deck since Valhalla only has less a 30 gallon capacity. In the middle of the night during my watch, all of the sudden, Valhalla began to throttle down and her engine just died. I woke up the Captain, we popped out some sails and he went down below to check the fuel level. Sure enough…she was bone dry! Thank goodness…it’s a SAILBOAT! We sailed along slowly a couple of hours before the sun came up. Fuel was loaded in and we were up and running (at will) again.
On our second night out away from the mainland while enjoying the billions of stars overhead, we were treated to seeing the Hubble Space Telescope fly over. At the time, we were not sure what we were seeing. It was too fast and too colorful for an airplane. It seems like all the colors of the rainbow were flashing and twinkling as it traveled across the dark sky. Trying to focus on it with the binoculars (while bobbing in the sea) with delirium setting in, I convinced myself it was a UFO. It wasn’t until we heard discussion on the VHF radio when we reached La Paz that we realized it was what we had seen. The “unidentified” flying object had now been identified.
All things considered, after our rough start, the passage went well for us with a good sea state and comfortable temperatures day and night. We did great sharing night watches with each of us going below to sleep in bed. Adequate rest time away from the helm paid off because we both felt great after making 248 nautical miles in 54 hours and were happy we were able to sail almost 40% of that time!
|Sailing is Good|
|Sailin' Hard on Valhalla sporting her new Bimini, Solor Panels and Party Lights|
|A Desert Island Paradise - Playa Bonanza|
|That's One Tough....Cactus!|
Valhalla was covered in salt and running on fumes (and what wind we could find) so it was time to head into La Paz. We fueled up and spent 6 days at Marina Palmira cleaning up the boat, provisioning, preparing for our last HOORAH and figuring out a plan on where to leave Valhalla for the hurricane season and getting back home to GRASS VALLEY!
|Fuel for the Iron Jenny - La Paz|
We're both so excited to be here and are amazed at how different it is compared to the untamed jungle on the mainland. The color and clarity of the water is unbelievable and along with the aired climate is a welcome change from the tropical mainland. This is the desert, but with no marine layer you can see for miles! The cactus, the white sand beaches, along with the majestic Sierra de la Giganta mountains with so many colorful layers and crazy rock formations, give you a constant sense of being in awe.
|The View is ALWAYS Changing|
We were prepared for 15 days at anchor and had a lot to see in a short amount of time. There’s 3 islands not far from La Paz that have been designated as a part of the National Park system; Espiritu Santo, Partida and Isle San Francisco. Jaque Cousteau explored, studied and filmed these islands and played a major part in assisting the Mexican government, making a point of the importance of preservation. He also labeled a large part of the Sea Of Cortez as “The World’s Aquarium”. Anyway…
On April 1, 2013, we on Valhalla, set sail to see the Sea of Cortez. Our first stop was San Gabriel on Espiritu Santo, only 18 nautical miles from La Paz. After setting anchor in the huge inlet, we launched t/t Valhalla and went to check out the nesting Frigates. It’s quite a sight and pangas bring out tourists to view their huge nesting area with thousands of frigates.
|Tour to See Nesting Frigates|
That night was our first experience with the coromuel winds common to the La Paz area and the surrounding islands. After sunset, all is calm and then all at once, the wind starts blowing steady between 15 and 30 knots. The comfort level of the chosen anchorage depends on the wind and wave direction. When big gusts would come through, Valhalla would pull and tug at the anchor rode preventing us from a good night’s sleep. First light, anchor’s away and we headed off to find more protection for the next night.
Anchorage at Ensenada Grande on the island of Espirtu Santo
|On Top of the World at Espiritu Santo!|
|Valhalla at Anchor Between Two Islands|
Next, we went to the island of Partida. The island is separated from Espiritu Santo by only a narrow spit of land. Eons ago the two islands WERE one until the volcano erupted and both the east and west side of the volcano eroded away. The anchorage is actually the crater of what is left of the volcano. The sand is grey and has a creamy consistency much like volcanic ash. The coromuels blew again, but we were protected from the wind waves and our anchor held tight stuck in volcanic mud.
|Inside an Ancient Volcano Crater|
Valhalla at anchor between Espirtu Santo and Partida. One island formed into two islands when the volcano blew eons ago.
We visited San Evaristo and Auga Verde two villages on the Baja Peninsula. Though a bit primitive, these stops offered great protection from the coromuel winds. Fishing being their main source of income and the only “services” offered were small tiendas (stores) being operated right out of the proprietor’s house. The people who live in both of these towns, have a 20 mile ride down a dusty dirt road just to get to the highway. The setting with the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range as backdrop is spectacular.
Agua Verde, which is almost 100 nautical miles from La Paz, was as far north as we sailed up into the Sea of Cortez. In 15 days, cruising the Sea of Cortez we logged 225 nautical miles. We wanted to keep going but time was running out to get Valhalla back to La Paz.
|San Evaristo and the Road Out of Town over the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains|
|Salt Ponds at San Evaristo|
|Valhalla at Anchor - Agua Verde|
|Life's a Beach in Agua Verde!|
|Billy Goats - Agua Verde Makes Goat Cheese|
|The Road Out of Town Over the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains - Agua Verde|
Our last island destination would be Isle San Francisco! Valhalla made it from San Francisco, California to Isle San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico. The shallow crescent shaped bay with crystal clear, aqua blue water and white sand beach is so beautiful it’s almost unreal. We took t/t Valhalla and walked the shell covered beach and hiked up to the top of the ridge overlooking the bay to see the amazing view with Valhalla at anchor in San Francisco! The other side of the island is a rock beach known as Agate Beach where, if you know what you’re looking for (or at) a person can find agates.
|The Perfect Crescent Shaped Bay|
|A Nice Hike Along the Ridge - Valhalla at Anchor|
|Bahia de San Francisco and Agate Beach on Isle San Francisco|
|The View Across our Anchorage at San Francisco Bay|
|Valhalla - San Francisco Bay, Baja California, Mexico!|
|Colorful Rocks on Agate Beach - Isle San Francisco|
After 15 days at anchor, it was time to get back to La Paz to finalize arrangements for Valhalla’s extended stay in Mexico. We hauled her out on April 24, 2013 and checked into the Hotel Perla on the beautiful Malecon in La Paz. La Paz is the nicest city we have visited in Mexico thus far. We intended to do more sightseeing, but getting Valhalla cleaned up and hurricane safe and ready took several days.
*** Since Don and I left San Francisco, after a blue moon on September 1, 2012, Valhalla has logged 2,745 total nautical miles in 8 months, adding only 388 engine hours.
In two days, we fly home to Grass Valley. Our journey has been remarkable and memorable; however, we are looking forward to seeing all of our family and friends soon!
Thanks so much for reading our blog and we hope you enjoy the picture show.
Scenes from the Sea of Cortez
|Partida Fish Hut|
|Wants to Keep Me Around, I Think!|
|Captain Wighty on t/t Valhalla|
|Okay - No Trash|
|Now That's BULL!|
|Music Man - Plays While Sailing|
|Playa Bonanza - No Photoshop!|
|Enjoying a Nice Winter Day|
|Solar Panels on Full Power|
|The Beautiful Malecon at La Paz|
|An Outstanding Singer and Guitar Player (and Catrina)|
|La Paz Malecon|