Baja Ha Ha Leg1 to Bahia Tortuga

Let me start off by saying, somewhat proudly, that we sailed the entire leg from San Diego to the finish line just outside of Tortuga Bay, never once turning on our motor, yet logging 385 miles on our GPS in about 59.5 hours. Our average speed for the leg was nearly 6.6 knots, and for the first time Rhapsody ever sailed with us for 24 hours straight, we had a days run of something like 168 nautical miles. Not bad for the first time out!

This passage, from our Marina in San Diego to Tortuga Bay was by far the longest that we had done, and although we were bushed tired at the end of it, we were all very very happy to have accomplished it. BTW, the 59 hours mentioned above doesn't count the time we hung out waiting for the rally to start, or the time it took us to get into the bay and anchor. When it was all said and done, by the time we had our first celbratory drink,66 hours, almost 3 solid days, had passed since we'd left San Diego.

Now a little more of the blow by blow story ...

After our great start at 7.5 knots in 15 knots of wind, about 3 hours later, around 1:00 pm, as we were passing outside of the Coronado Islands, the wind let up quite a bit, and we found ourselves with a bunch of other boats with sails slatting and booms banging trying to make any progress at all. We did not relent and kept going at a measly 3 knots in winds between 4 and 7 knots for what seemed forever, tho it was only 4 or so hours. Finally, around 5:00 pm as the sun was starting to go down, the wind picked up a little bit and we started sailing a little faster ... 4, then 5, then 6 knots into the evening. We had great spaghetti dinner that night and we kept on sailing ...

I knew Steve would not be able to sleep, so I gave him the first 9 to 12 watch. We divide the night into 3 hour chunks, and I took the dog watch from 3-6. During the day we informally switch watches and let whoever is tiredest take a nap. The winds got up to 15 knots on Steve's watch, and the boat was doing 7 knots thru the wee hours.

The winds built a little more thru the night and then began falling off again towards morning. When I took the watch over at 3:00 am, we were still making a good 6 knots, but by morning I found it difficult to keep a good direction and any decent speed, so I put her wing-and-wing to at least head down the rhumb line. During the day I ran the generator for a bit to charge the batteries, emptied the heads, etc, and Rhapsody kept going.

The second day saw the winds increase steadily, from 10 to 15 then nearing 20 knots at sunset. We decided to put a reef in for the evening and were still making 7 knots at sunset in the regularly 15-20 knot winds. This time I had the 3-6 watch, and Steve got the dog watch. As the winds were kind of hectic, I also decided to overlap an hour of the watches, so I stayed over for a bit onto Steve's watch, and so on. The following seas, first on one quarter, then on the other, were about 6 feet as we jybed back and forth across the rhumb line, and made steering quite difficult. Fortunately Henri (our French autopilot) was able to handle it most of the time. But when he would fail, Rhapsody would round up into the wind, accelerate wildly, and scare the shit out of us. Nothing quite like a 40,000lb sailboat going breserk while coming down a wave and putting her beam to the seas, I'll tell ya that much!

Finally, after a very hard long night, the dawn broke and the sun started to show a little bit. It's a lot nicer to sail when you can see the waves than at night when they are faceless boogeymen.

The winds kept going strong all morning, sometimes reaching 25 knots, and Rhapsody kept pounding out the miles. About 10:00 a.m., I got the idea of throwing a fishing line in the water. I was hearing a bunch of other boats on the radio say that they were catching fish, and I wanted to try it. So I broke out a pole, tied a lure on it, and thru it in the water, not expecting much to happen.

Within 5 minutes, the line played out, and the next thing you know we had hauled aboard a 15 lb Ahi Tuna. We were very excited and it was a little messy as we gaffed him and brought him on board. We have never caught a big fish on a sailboat before, and didn't really know what we were going to do with him, but we figured it out, and I cleaned him over one of the cockpit drains, threw the guts overboard and washed the blood down the drain. He was great eating when we got to Tortuga bay!

The day wore on after all the excitement, as no-one remembered to take a nap. Then we had to change course when we realized that our plotted course would take us over some sketchy shallows near Isla San Benito, about 20 miles before the finish line. We lost about 2 hours tacking parallel to the finish line, then found ourselves in droopy winds in the shadow of Isla San Benito. While ghosting along at 3 knots or so, we did see a bunch of whales (about 6) and one even surfaced not 60 feet from the boat, just as Steve went below to take a nap. That's kind of scary ... he was as big as our 51' sailboat ... wow. Steve was really tired by that point, and we could not wake him up for dinner. When he did finally awake to help out on deck, he was, shall I say, a little disoriented.

Then to top it all off, as we got out of the wind-shadow of Isla San Benito, the winds really picked up for the last 10 miles and 1.5 hours to the finish line. I had the bright idea of going wing-and-wing to the finish line, as straight downwind was the shortest distance. The winds were building quickly from 10 to 15, then 15 to 20, and were gusting over 25 knots as we crossed the finish line on October 31st, Wednesday night, at 8:21pm, 2 days, 11 hours, and 21 minutes after the starting gun had sounded in San Diego. We all hollered with joy and then struggled to keep the boat under control while we brought in the sails. But we had done it. We had sailed all the way from San Diego to just outside Tortuga Bay and never turned the motor on.

By the time we motored the last 20 miles into Tortuga Bay and dropped the anchor and had our celebratory tots, it had somehow gotten on to 4:30 am. Like I said, we were bushed, but happy when we went to sleep that night.

The next day, Thursday, November 1st, was a day of rest and recuperation and as we did the dinghy drill and went into town to check it out a bit, I could tell that we were all proud, of ourselves, of each other, and of Rhapsody.