Crossing from Cabo San Lucas to Mazatlán is done. We survived. But lemme tell you, it was a close fucking call.
With that intro, you might be surprised to hear that we had wonderful conditions and were able to sail essentially all 190 miles. Perhaps less surprising is the seasickness I battled for nearly the same portion of those miles. But after doing so much motoring down the Baja coast, it was nice to leave the engine off for so many hours in a row. The passage was supposed to take 40 hours and we were making incredible time. The winds were perfect for a beam reach all the way across the Gulf of California which kept us moving at a solid pace and a perfect heading. The Hydrovane was crushing it so we didn’t have to do almost anything. Craig was having the time of his life. Honestly, he wouldn’t shut up about how great it was. “Blah blah blah this is perfect…. Blah blah couldn’t be better… yadda yadda couldn’t imagine how anyone could not love this… too bad for those suckers driving to work right now,” Craig, probably.
Unfortunately, the sea state was a bit rough from the recent storm that had rolled through, so we kept getting splashed in the cockpit when the big waves would slam into the hull directly on our beam. While I basically spent the entire passage laying down in various locations trying to keep my stomach from going into a full-fledged mutiny, Craig was walking around puttering and futzing and commenting on how spectacular the wind was. For hours on end I lay in the cockpit and would hear the thud of a wave… and just… wait… and cringe, knowing there was nothing I could do to avoid my fate. And then Craig would point and laugh once I was coated in a fresh layer of salt water. He’ll deny that he did this, but he’s definitely, absolutely lying, and you shouldn’t stand for that kind of behavior.
Just before 4am on the last day of the passage, we were still cruising along at a good clip about 15 miles from shore. If we kept going at the current pace we’d get there before sunrise and before the marina opened. For this particular marina, the rocks and reefs that surround the very narrow entrance make it potentially treacherous if there is any sort of wave action. With the forecast suggesting the wind would start to die it was time to turn on the engine in order to set a steady pace and time our arrival. Too bad best laid plans of captains and admirals often go awry. In this case, the engine wouldn’t turn over because the batteries were too low. A complete investigation has yet to be completed, but somehow, the start battery (along with the house battery bank) had been drained too low to get the ol’ Iron Genny started. There are a few folks out there who live this lifestyle without an engine, but we are firmly pro-engine. This new development was rather concerning as we continued sailing toward land.
The new plan was to drop the sails, drift, turn off absolutely everything drawing power, and wait until day break hoping for enough sun to charge the batteries to get the engine started. Several hours of bobbing around, laying on the cockpit floor in the rain (first rain in 6 weeks on the day we absolutely need sun), and wondering if we will need to call the Mexican Navy for help is a helluva way to start the day. A couple hours after sunrise there was enough of a charge that, in theory, the engine should be able to start. But it didn’t. Something wasn’t adding up and I started to figure out how I would explain our situation in Spanish over the radio (while I was laying on the sole) and Craig started to wish he was in a midsized sedan on his commute to work. In the meantime, Craig started to take apart the box with the engine starting switches. It didn’t take long for him to discover a loose wire on the start button. Within fifteen minutes, he replaced the wire and even MacGyvered a way to crimp on the connectors since the tools we have were too small. It was time to test it again and I questioned if I would survive if it failed to start again. Luckily, Percy fired right up and I survived to see another day. There is no conceivable way for me to accurately convey the overwhelming feel of relief that overcame us. I’ll try. It was how I imagine I would feel when you find out the squirrel who bit you when you were trying to feed it a little snack didn’t give you rabies and you don’t have to get 20 shots in your stomach. Or something like that. Something that makes you question your life choices.
Within the guidebook’s warning about the entrance was a recommendation to hail the marina office as we approached. They would be able to tell us if the entrance was open and if the dredging machine was working. Lucky us, the dredge was scheduled to work for another two hours, making the entrance impassable, and we would have to wait. If I could have captured the look on our faces, it could be placed in the dictionary under devastation (complete and utter). For whatever reason, we tried asking again and they double checked. Even though it was scheduled, it wasn’t operational today. I’m not sure if that is true or not since there were several guys sitting on the dredging machine as we came through the channel. If the folks in the office heard the desperation in our voices and had them pause operations then I feel guilty (no one wants to be that crazy American) and grateful, which is an uncomfortable mix.
Ultimately, we ended on a high note with some very nice showers at the marina. After 48 hours of passage and 8 hours of intense stress, I only regret not bringing a beer into the shower with me.