40′ Sailing Cat – Turtle Bay to San Diego #127

Our adventure on the Leopard 40 catamaran continues. After attending a beautiful ceremony to celebrate Turtle Bay’s 60th anniversary, we headed back out to sea. Turtle Bay is a protected anchorage and fuel stop – thank you Anabell’s – about halfway up Baja CA. The afternoon breeze had just started to lay down. There were whales everywhere. We cruised up inside the island of Cedros and popped out the top … to smooth water. I had never seen it smooth there. I celebrated quietly inside myself, careful to not let the sea know that something was amiss.

But the wind did come on that next day and blew hard. I saw a chance to get a break from the mean chop by shooting up inside the Sacramento reef – sinker of ships and cruising boats alike. But we ran into one of the shortcomings of cats. They won’t go into the big wind/bad chop combo, no matter what you do. I used to stay out and bang it out all night, getting nowhere, but thankfully, I’ve outgrown that. I turned tail and we ran 12 miles back to San Carlos. An hour and a half later we were anchor down in a beautiful, calm spot.

We were very close to the states now and the urge to jump back into the fray was strong. But the weather turned worse and sanity kept us in port. We spent the next day gleefully parked in flat water as 30kt gusts whistled through the rig. To kill time I pulled apart the starboard heat exchanger and found a couple impellor pieces clogging key channels. Yep, if you are missing an impellor fin, make sure you find it. For fun, Sheila made brownies and we enjoyed movies and coldies all afternoon.

That night I walked out onto the bow. There was a tiny fishing village ashore. The pueblo generator had shut down and all the fishing shacks were dark. I looked back over my shoulder to see our array of cabin lights and big screen TV aglow. I remembered back to my trip up this coast on my little Low Key. If it were back then, I’d be sitting under the warm glow of my oil lamp, reading some adventure book. Was one experience better than the other? Maybe.

Our weather reports indicated that the weather was going to break soon. We picked a time that would put us at the reefs with some light. At 0400 we tried to leave. The bow roller on these cats is not on the bow, it’s back toward the middle of the boat. To ease tention on the chain you have to motor into strong wind. Not being lead from the front, the boat tended to pivot allowing the chain to come up and grind on the hulls. It was not a clever design. It took us about an hour but Paul and I got the chain up, and with the morning land breeze, we sailed out. The breeze whisked us quickly up through the reef. It was eirie sailing with land to starboard and breaking waves to port.

And I spent more time in the engine rooms, nursing the motors so they would survive ’til San Diego. About mid day we started to smell rotten eggs. It didn’t make sense, Sheila kept the boat immaculate. I’ve had that smell on boats when I haven’t pumped the head in a long time (the life in the seawater dies eventually).

That day I learned another very important event that makes that smell. One of our big house batteries was failing and heating up. The worst thing you can have on a fiberglass boat is a fire. They say that if you don’t get a fiberglass boat fire put out early you won’t be able to, it burns too hot. I re-wired the batteries taking the offending one out of the loop.

We cruised into Ensenada putting the worst of the Baja behind us. We fueled up and took a slip at my favorite marina, just north of town, the Coral (say: corral). It felt good to have made it so far on less than perfect motors. We headed right up to the salon to get our showers and then cabbed into town. Unusual for Mexico, you can do a whole check out in one building! Then it was lunch and a coldy at my favorite roasted chicken place where a never ending train of mariachi groups played and plyed for our business.

After walking out of the 22nd chandlery of the trip that didn’t have the impellers we needed, we headed back to the boat. We relaxed for a couple of hours, savoring our last evening in Mexico. At 2200 we got underway so as to have a morning arrival in San Diego.

The sea was smooth for our cruise across the border. Morning brought us to the mouth of San Diego Bay with its sail, power and submarine traffic. Our tired cat plowed in, pushing steam out both sides. After two months of Latin American adventuring, we drifted up and secured to the first US Customs dock since Florida.

Once we were inspected and checked in, we moved over to the public dock. They gave us a spot on the inside next to a small sloop that looked familiar. It was a tight squeeze but I’d had a couple months of practice parking with motors and gear boxes that were not always reliable. Once on the dock I recognized the boat next to us. It was the wreck I had brought down months before, the one we had to sail and finally row up to the dock. I wrote about it. It looked pretty good. It must have just rained.

There was a different kind of cruising crowd at the dock than I’m used to seeing. I suspect it is something we are going to see more of. There were a bunch of young people, 20’s and 30’s, with classic plastic rigs, prepped and ready to head south to begin there own unforgetable cruising adventures. It was good to see and it brought back the feeling of cruising my own boat, just a few years ago. I hear there’s a book on the subject.

But I was home … or pretty damn close. I was ready to take a little vacation from my vacation. I was going home for two weeks. But first there were some details to be worked out, mechanics to be called and a haul out to be arranged. When my part was done I called for my ride. Dena made good time coming down from our South Bay, a couple hours away. Though she had visited the boat often in the two months, I think she still missed me.

Fond farewells were doled out. I chucked my bags in the back of her truck and she whisked me off to blissfull post delivery leisure. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my deliveries. But it’s about striking a balance. If done right, I accept the number of deliveries that keeps me on the continuous happy-go-round of being excited planning the next trip, excited being out on the cruise, and then being excited to be home. And start again.

Land life is renewed for me when I spend a chunk of time on the water. We stopped off in tiny Encinitas and pulled up a coldy at a little Mexican food place (I know, I didn’t care what I was having). No concern about getting back quickly or maintenance that needs to be done or plans to make for the next day. No where to be. Just us, catching up.

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