Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tequila, Ropes and Gringos

We have finally made it to Mexico.  Our trip has gone from ‘yay, we’re sailing down the US coast and it’s very nice and very expensive’ to ‘yippy cayo-cayee we’re in Mexico and can now relax and drink and swim and do whatever the heck we want!’.

Prior to leaving the US we gave ourselves 8 days in San Diego to do our final preparations and get some projects done on the boat.  Instead we ended up refinishing a lot of the teak on the boat working from morning till evening and seeing nothing of San Diego.  I also wasted a bunch of time on our wind turbine which broke somewhere in Oregon.  For whatever reason I had the replacement part shipped to a guarded military base and chased it down for 3 days.  San Diego, we blew it.  Sorry.

But on October 24th we finally left the US behind.  We signed up for a sailing rally that goes from San Diego down to Cabo San Lucas (called the Baja-Haha).  This annual run takes about 150 boats from the US who are too scared to do the trip by themselves down the coast in a convoy unlike anything you’ve ever seen.  The parties start in San Diego and happen at every stop along the way, but these aren’t parties where you get to meet the locals and stay up way too late, not at all.  These parties cater to the average age of the group which is about 65.  So the party usually starts mid afternoon and is over by 6 or 7pm so that everyone can get home and eat their prunes and discuss how wild the party was. 

In retrospect we should have skipped the Haha and done the trip ourselves.  One of the problems is that most of the boats are way over 40’ and we are 31’.  This means that in general we go about 25% slower than everyone else.  So when the leg took 2-3 days to sail and the scheduled rest was 2 days, we’d get in on the 4th day and only have one day to rest while everyone else was ready to go.  Making matters worse almost all boats were sailing with spinnakers, which are those gigantic balloon shaped sails that make you go really fast downwind.  Well we didn’t have room for ours so we were extra slow and we’d often have to run the engine to try to keep up. 

There’s something dangerous about running your engine, especially in foreign countries and especially at night.  If you hit a crab trap buoy or anything else with a rope on it, it will most likely wrap itself around your propeller or propeller shaft.  So…. on the first day of rally you cross the Mexican border which is only about 10 miles from San Diego.  Unfortunately there was no wind that day so the majority of the fleet was motoring south.  We were motoring all night and at about 2am I heard a horrible screech from our engine that lasted all of a ½ second and then the engine shut down.  I knew right away that we got something on the propeller but it took us a good 30 minutes to figure out what it was.  At first Sylvie was convinced that we had the corpse of an animal, maybe a snake or a muskrat.  

After a lot of poking and debate it was clear that we had a huge rope wrapped around our propeller and that we would have to dive under the boat to free it. 

We sailed the rest of the night at about 2-3 miles/hour and at first light we dove.  Sylvie went first while I watched apprehensively from the deck.  She managed to dislodge a lot of the rope that had bunched up between the propeller and the rudder but couldn’t get it free.   Then the fearless captain told the first mate to step aside so that she could see how it was done.  Donned with Sylvie’s old wet wet suit, snorkeling gear, a pool noodle and a 6” filleting knife I went down and started cutting away at the rope.  Three cuts later and after some dramatic wheezing, I had had enough. 

The reason for our struggles; a 8,800 strand nylon rope - 1.5 inches - wrapped itself around our propeller shaft like a turban.  We were hooped.

So I got on the radio and hailed the other 170 boats to see if anyone with scuba gear could help.  By now, a full 24 hours after we’d left, most boats were 50 miles ahead of us but a few boats in the back were still trying to sail and were close to us.  The beautiful irony of the whole situation was that the name of the boat who came to our rescue was Set Me Free.  After a few minutes of diving they were able to cut away what we couldn’t and we were back on our way.   We presented Set Me Free with a bottle of tequila and 10 feet of the monster rope when we got to Cabo San Lucas.

In the end we got fed up with the rally and let it go on without us.  We decided that we needed an extra day in Bahia Santa Maria, an incredible bay with surfing, swimming, endless beaches and seafood galore.  

Oh ya, fishing.  We’re finally catching fish.   We’ve caught probably about 15 fish and managed to bring in about 4.  We lost most of them because we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.  But the ones we got on deck have been delicious!   

So we’re in Cabo San Lucas, a bizarre over the top resort town for rich Americans.  We plan to stay here a few days to unwind and replenish our stores before we head on to Mazatlan.  From there, who knows.  We’re not sure what’s after Mazatlan.  We’re planning to go to Mexico City at some point, maybe for new years eve.

Anyway, we’re having an incredible time and are being kept very entertained by one another and the people we’re meeting along the way.  That’s it for now, take care, get back to work.

Dan, Sylvie & Ustupu


King of Neptune on his brand new throne that he had to install himself.

Santa Catalina Island

Approach to Santa Barbara

Cruising Palm Desert with Jackson and Vaness

Palm Desert

Los tres amigos

Where the anchoring incident happened.
Handle bars are the new soul patch

Baja Haha start line in San Diego

The propeller incident

Ya, F' you rope that ruined our day.


Our first tuna.  Thanks for being so delicious tuna.

Baja sailing

Beach clams.  We didn't even die.

Looking for treasures
Sylvie doing a cut-back.