First overnight / offshore passage

Leg: San Carlos to Mazatlan

Distance: 380nm

Length: 3 days and 3 nights (depart San Carlos 0800 Sunday Feb 19, arrive Mazatlan 0730 Wednesday Feb 22)

For all of you who think we’re on some kind of extended vacation, it is not so.

This lifestyle is proving to be rewarding but also very hard work and we had a rough start to this part of the trip. We’ve been operating non-stop since the beginning of 2012 including getting organized on the boat, working the Seattle and Vancouver boat shows, and tying things up back at home – so we were feeling increasingly overwhelmed.  Not to mention that we had a long 6000 km roadtrip from Vancouver to Guaymas and back.

When we arrived back at the boat at 10pm on February 15th (WestJet to L.A., Aero Mexico to Hermosillo, Tufesa bus to Guaymas, cab to San Carlos) we were running below empty. That night Will developed the worst flu he’s ever had and so we had to sit at the dock for three days – me feeling quite glum and he feeling far worse. The project list wouldn’t disappear so were we still doing the necessary things. For example, I had to hoist Will up the 50′ mast while he had a temperature of 102! A halyard HAD to be retrieved and the rigging HAD to be inspected. We were also stressing about our time frame: Will’s brother Ben and his girlfriend Katy were flying in to Mazatlan to meet us.

Will’s fever finally abated by Sunday and so we left first thing in the morning.

Marina Real

Will up the mast with a temperature of 102!

Things were looking up! We sailed on a nice beam reach for a few hours that first afternoon and everything seemed it would be okay after all.

Sunset on my first night at sea

This was my first ever overnight passage and first time ever being out of sight of land. I’m glad to say that it was about what I expected. Challenging at times, but overall pretty good. We didn’t encounter any very rough weather so I was never scared or worried. Nor did I have any mind altering epiphanies while gazing up at the stars on night watch. It wasn’t awful, nor would I describe it as loads of fun. We just plodded along and ticked off the miles and the hours. We encountered a mixed bag of weather so had to do lots of sail changes and some motoring as well. There were some not-so-good parts, and some good parts.

The not-so-good:

  • The exhaustion. We decided to do 2.5 hour shifts at night. After a couple of nights with just two of us on this program, it was quite gruelling. Luckily we didn’t have to do any sail changes at night nor did any other ships show up to the radar throughout the trip.
  • My rookie mistake (I’m bound to make a few). We started one of the nights sailing wing on wing under reduced jib and reefed main. Earlier that afternoon we had seen 16 -20 knot winds (and up to 23) off Isla San Ignacio Farallon and had even been sailing our speedy boat up to 9.3 knots at times!! The seas got steeper and choppier and winds didn’t let up much so we decided to reef for the night. I was doing the second night watch shift – 10pm – 12:30am and when I started we were still moving along well. About an hour in I started to feel very green… uh oh, my first bout with seasickness. It progressively got worse and worse until the inevitable happened. I stuck it out for the rest of my watch just willing the horrible feeling to go away and not paying attention to anything except myself. I woke Will up to take over at 12:30am and told him how I was feeling. When he came out into the cockpit he was shocked to see that our wind had completed dropped and we were just sitting there wallowing up and down, back and forth in the ocean. No wonder I was so sick! The problem was easily remedied by starting up the engine and getting our speed back. I just didn’t know that – and found out the hard way.

The good:

  • On our second night just as I was finally falling asleep in the sea berth, Will shouted down to me out of the cockpit “Sarah, dolphins!” It was dark out except for the large sky full stars, and the dolphins came towards us like glowing torpedoes. I couldn’t believe how fast and nimble they were. Over 10 of them surrounded our boat, playing in the bow and stern waves and lighting up the phosphorescence. What a great show! It was my first time seeing wild dolphins.
  • Also sighted: a very large whale, a sail fish, and lots of birds – including one freeloader who sat on the top of our mast for a few hours messing up our wind instruments. Not much we could do about it.
  • On the evening of our third night out we were visited by Fishermen in a couple of pangas with friendly waves.
  • It felt cool to be sailing out of sight of land. I got a kick out of sitting alone at the helm – the center of our little world surrounded by nothing expect for seas and sky.
  • Warmth! Finally. San Carlos has been quite cold and all of our night watch on this passage were spent huddled under the dodger wearing about 10 layers of clothes, dressing gowns, and wrapped in blankets. The further south we get, the warmer it gets 🙂
  • I learnt a lot on this passage. As my knowledge and confidence increases so does my enjoyment.

View to Mazatlan at dawn

We are now in Mazatlan at Marina El Cid. It’s fantastic! We are enjoying the down time. Okay, watching the sunset from the hot tub with Ben and Katy drinking pina coladas does feel vacation-like…