77.5 nm crossing from Santa Rosalia to San Carlos — 1:15 am until 9:45 pm — 777.2 nm cruised overall
8 1/2 hours in crossing — average speed, 9 knots — 4500 rpm, average — 32 gallons of gas consumed (2.4 miles/gallon) — added mix oil to reservoir after 50 nm of travel
1 am at Singlar Marina, Santa Rosalia. Wind calm, all quiet and peaceful. Time to begin our return crossing to San Carlos. For the past 2 months Chinook has performed flawlessly, averaging 5 knots under power and 2 to 4 knots sailing, the smallest cruising sailboat on the Sea. At times she has pretended to be a panga, tied up in shallow draft places like Mulege and Loreto. Now it was time for her to be a Macgregor, fastest sailboat afloat, and speedily return us to our final destination, San Carlos. Fuel tanks and jerry cans were filled with 39 gallons of gas. The boat was cleaned, gear well stowed, and we were mentally and physically ready for the final passage of this cruise.
Sandy remained in bed so she’d be well rested when it came time for her turn at the wheel. I started the engine, untied dock lines and eased away from the slip. The marina was fairly well lit, but once clear of the breakwater, I cruised out into a very black night. The route was simple and direct, just two waypoints, at the start and end of the passage, a distance of 72 nm to the approach to San Carlos harbor. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness and gradually increased throttle, with speed slowly rising to around 9 knots, as water drained from the water ballast tank. We would run without ballast as long as the winds stayed down, and the seas moderate.
For the first 30 miles, the water remained dead calm, the swell gentle. The boat steers easily at that speed, although one must be attentive, since a slight turn of the wheel at that speed can produce radical results. The moon had set, and there was no visible horizon distinguishing sky from sea, and the lights of Santa Rosalia gradually faded from view astern. In the faint starlight, our running lights reflected off the fore deck and jib sheets, interfering with my night vision. An even bigger distraction was produced by the bioluminescence stirred up by our bow wave and wake. Along both sides of the boat, an eerily glowing plume of brightly glowing foam sprayed out. Cold blue light churned up by the outboard, running at near full throttle, trailed out in our wake. Every so often, a small flying fish would launch from the water, and leave a tracer like streak of light along the surface. Small schools of fish would flee in panic as we cruised along, with random bursts of laser like light. Most unexplainable was the large patch of water, perhaps an acre in area, which uniformly glowed as though illuminated by some huge bank of underwater electric lights. Perhaps it was an enourmous school of fish, although I wouldn’t have been surprised if some huge alien spaceship had emerged from the deep. The light show wasn’t just confined to the water, either. I saw 6 brilliant meteors streak across the sky during my watch.
Navigating a boat at near planing speed in total darkness is both stressful and boring. And because night crossing watches occur during normal sleep times, remaining wakeful can be difficult. By 4:00 am I was becoming very tired, and time until sunrise had slowed to a crawl. Thus, the timing of our first 12 gallon tank running dry came at a fortuitous time. The sudden loss of power and speed woke Sandy, and by the time I’d switched tanks and resumed progress, Sandy had gotten up, dressed and fixed herself a mug of coffee. She came up on deck and took the wheel. I was grateful for the relief, and as soon as I’d oriented her to our course, I went below for some much needed sleep.
Her turn at the wheel was somewhat more challenging than mine, since by 4:30 am, a light northerly breeze had risen, bringing with it 1 to 2 foot swells and light wind chop. Not enough to prevent our running at 9 knots, but the steering did become more difficult. She handled it well, and I slept undisturbed until we were about 25 miles out, and our second 12 gallon tank was near empty. She slowed the boat and I got up and poured 5 gallons into the operating tank. I took over the wheel, and we continued our run in to San Carlos. By this time it was daylight, and the unique twin peaks of Tetas de Cabra, which dominate the skyline of San Carlos, became our landmark. We had to transfer 5 more gallons of gas a few miles outside San Carlos. The morning light produced post card quality scenes on the approach to San Carlos harbor, with its rugged, rocky hills and lavish hilltop homes. We had completed our crossing in style, only 8 1/2 hours running time, a fine way to conclude our 777 mile cruise on the Sea of Cortez.
We are tied up in a slip at Marina San Carlos, and we plan to stay on the boat for 2 nights. This will give us ample time to clean up the boat, de-rig, and prepare for the drive home. We may spend a couple nights in a motel here, so we can see some sights and better time our drive to the border. I want to cross on a Thursday, which will work well for visiting some folks on the way home.