Baja 2012 Kickoff

Two weeks ago on September 5 I started my big trip for this year, a sail from Moss Landing down the coast of California and the Baja peninsula to La Paz, 100 miles inside the Sea of Cortez. This is about 1500 miles, of which I am already about 1/3 done. Yesterday I arrived in Ensenada, the first port south of the border and about 60 miles past San Diego. This morning I cleared customs, and I will be continuing on tomorrow. The trip so far:

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I’m doing this trip on Grand Illusion, the Great Dane 28 I’ve owned since 2006 and sailed from Moss Landing to Catalina and back in 2008 (need to write that trip up…). This is a great, solid boat, though a little cramped with all the junk I’ve got piled aboard. Besides provisions for another two months, 30 gallons each of fuel and water and a pile of cruising gear, I have a kayak, two surfboards, a kiteboard with three kites, snorkeling gear and a scuba tank with regulator.

For the next month or so I’m planning to slow down my pace, stick to the coast and pick my my way down, exploring and enjoying the area. I’m hoping to get to La Paz around the beginning of November, then spend a couple weeks nearby before flying back to the US. Not sure yet about my long term plans for the boat itself, but most likely I’ll take it up the Sea of Cortez next winter and trailer it into the US.

So far the trip has been going pretty good. From Moss Landing I sailed 48 hours straight down to Bechers Bay on Santa Rosa island. For the first 24 hours I was motoring, but around Point Piedras Blancas the wind started up and I was able to sail nearly continuously down past Point Conception, really nice. Had similar weather to this in 2008, though the wind was stronger then and snapped the boat’s boom around Point Arguello, which kind of put a damper on sailing for the rest of that trip. Nothing drastic this time around, though I did fry the engine’s alternator at some point — combination of some corroded terminals and a bad wiring design.

Even without the alternator the boat still ran fine, just no battery charging, and I was able to stay at Santa Rosa for a few days before heading to the mainland to fix the engine. Santa Rosa is my favorite of the northern channel islands, had a great time hiking here back in 2008. Things were a little curtailed this time, unfortunately. I didn’t bring hiking boots, just sandals, and even those I lost the second day on the island, when they were blown off the boat in some truly ferocious winds. Which kind of put a damper on doing any serious hiking on the island.

Instead, I spent the rest of the time on Rosa kiteboarding in Bechers Bay. There is a sand beach of a mile or so long on the south side of the bay, which gets strong sideshore winds. Launching and landing here are tricky due to backing cliffs which induce gusty, intermittent wind on the beach itself, but once out on the water I had a great time getting up and kiting around. I am very new to kiteboarding, need more lessons and spend most of my time sitting in the water rather than up on the board, but had a lot of fun here and felt steady improvements in skill and comfort. Looking at the beach from the east:

From Santa Rosa I headed east to the Channel Islands Harbor south of Ventura, got a transient slip and stayed for a few days while taking care of the alternator and other supplies. Replacing the alternator on this boat should be simple, just changing over a few wires, slipping on the V-belt and bolting it into place. Unfortunately, of the two replacement/spare alternators I’d ordered the first was defective, and it took the better part of a day dorking around with the electrics and then working with some folks at the boatyard next door before we just swapped in the second alternator, which worked fine, thankfully.

With the engine squared, last Thursday night I headed to Catalina for a long weekend. I stayed on the inside a few miles north of Avalon. This area, and for that matter most of the inside of the island, gets a lot of boat traffic, but close in there’s good kayaking and the snorkeling is excellent. Snorkeling around Long Point is one of my favorite memories from 2008, and coming back was great. Fairly clear water, lots of fish and kelp, cool water but warm enough to swim in trunks for 30-45 min at a time. Lots of fun, spent most of my time on the island kayaking around and snorkeling in various spots.

On Saturday I went south to Avalon and rented a bike to see the island with. I’d also done this in 2008 with my Mom, which was nice but only covered one piece of the island (biking to the airport and back, maybe 12 miles total). This time I still didn’t see all the roads on the island, but made it out to Little Harbor on the west side, then biking back in a loop. Very hot, but nice biking. Little Harbor:

Sailed (well, motored) overnight on Sunday to get to San Diego, where I spent a night to get more supplies, go to the zoo (nice!) and then head down to Ensenada. Lots of dolphins in the water riding with the boat as I approached Ensenada.

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