Cruising with Playpen
Leg 2 - San Diego, CA to
Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

Installment 2  - Turtle Bay to La Paz

11/22/02 Turtle Bay to Bahia Asuncion 27 08.01N 114 17.37W 52nm 8 Ĺ hrs.

We can wish for more days like today, but they canít get any better. We chugged along in the flat Pacific under warm sun and calm breezes. The browns and reds of the desert and mesas were sandwiched between the blues of the sky and sea. And the entertainment! We cruised with a pair of huge amorous gray whales breaching to show off, a hundred or so porpoise trying to out-jump each other, tuna flopping around to tease us, and pinnipeds grinning at us from their kelp beds. Then the humans came. A pongo with 3 fishermen and a Dalmatian came peddling lobster. They wanted beer, but alas, we had none; so we traded 3 diet Pepsis, a can of Spam, and some dog treats for 4 lively lobsters. We hated to turn off the sea into the anchorage, but the timing suggested anchoring and making the next run an over-nighter. We anchored off the village in Bahia Asuncion with one other cruiser and enjoyed the sunset off our bow and the church bells tolling the hour. After our lobster dinner, the Capt. worked on our fishing rods, we planned for tomorrow, and star gazed before a good nightís sleep. What a beautiful day!!

11/23-24/02 Bahia Asuncion to Bahia Santa Maria 24 46.49 N 112 15.02W 182nm 25-ľ hr

We passed 1 small turtle, and I was despairing of not seeing any more wildlife when we decided to fish. We had a 180+ nm run, and decided to do it at 1800rpmó7.5kn. Right in the middle of a pod of porpoise at sunset we hooked a yellow fin. After cleaning it and the back deck, it was time to settle in for our over-nighter. I absolutely love being at sea at night; so I took the midnight to dawn watch. Itís impossible to describe or even fully appreciate the perfection of Godís universe under these ideal conditions. I got out the Reedís Almanac to try to ID constellations, but I needed more info. The porpoise jumped at night too, there was enough boat traffic to keep it interesting, and I listened to a story, show tunes, and country music. As Venus came up over the mountains and the Eastern sky turned pink I relinquished the wheel and headed to bed. Only 1 Ĺ hrs later I was summoned to drop the hook in lovely Bahia Santa Maria. There were 2 sailboats and us. Shortly after we were settled a panga came by to drive a hard bargainósome cookies and candy, 2 Pepsis and a can of Spam for 4 lobsters. We spent a few hours lulling in the sunshine on the back deck, and I went for a swim in the perfect water, freeing the stabilizers of their kelp beds. I began thinking maybe, just maybe, Alaska cruising could be rivaled. Those who cruise AK in the summer and Mex. in winter really know how to live! Bahia Santa Maria had brown hills on one side leveling down to golden sand dunes at the rest of the crescent-shaped harbor. There was a small settlement where the mountains met the dunes, but the surf made landing a dinghy difficult.

11/25/02 Bahia Santa Maria to Bahia Magdalena 24 38.02N 112 07.78W 27.5nm 4.5hrs

We got brave and took the Whaler through the surf and into the mangrove lagoon where we saw fish camps. The largest camp had 5 or 6 huts with solar panels, propane, a tiny chapel, and lobster holding pots. Then we anchored the dinghy in the lagoon and walked on the beach collecting large sand dollars from the soft, gushy, sand. After an adventurous ride out across the breaking surf we raised the Whaler and weighed anchor for Bahia Magdalena (Mag Bay). Weíd expected to see several boats as this was a popular port, but we were the only travelers we saw. We spent a quiet night (except for barking dogs onshore) and planned our next overnighter.

11/26-27/02 Mag Bay to Cabo San Lucas 22 53.09N 109 54.61W 198nm 26hrs

Walt the Weatherman said, "Go now;" so we went. The day and night were cloudy, and while I enjoyed my night watch, the Capt. couldnít sleep. We couldnít seem to slow Playpen down en route and ended up doing 4 kn for the last couple of hours so we could arrive in daylight. The Cape is every bit as beautiful as all the photos of it. We tied up at the only available marina (at $2.00 a ft, the most expensive on the entire west coast of North America!) We were both wiped out; but we strolled to the Port Office to check into Cabo ($154), strolled the harbor wall admiring all the fish boats, and stopped for a fish taco dinner before crashing. Then the rain cameÖand cameÖand came! Since there were no storm drains in town the flooded yards spilled into the streets, which dumped into the harbor in torrents. Normally this town gets 1 week of rain a year, and no one was happy about the unusual deluge.

11/28/02 Happy Thanksgiving! Lay Day in Cabo San Lucas

We awoke to garbage in muddy water steaming behind the boat, but we donned raincoats and walked through town. We went to Bimboís for limes and bread, and after a lunch of fish tacos

Fred rested on the boat while I did some shopping (mostly the window variety). We called home to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and then we walked to a new complex across the harbor. The architecture and stone and concrete work were exquisite! This was a new, truly upscale, project with beautiful staircases, pools, a viewing tower, some shops, and several restaurants. We chose a restaurant, Cinamomo, for our holiday dinner, but decided to walk more before eating. We hiked to the beach on the ocean where the anchored boats were rocking and rolling like crazy in the strong winds and surge. We were so-o-o grateful for our quiet slip inside!! The beach had several beach-type cantinas but not many customers as the wind and rain blew in. Walt was right on the money telling us to be in Cabo by Thurs. After counting our blessings about our secure moorage and countless other blessings, we returned to Cinamomo for what was billed as a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It started with a huge coconut shrimp followed by an avocado, tomato, cheese salad, lobster bisque, turkey with roasted fruit and nuts and potatoes and mango gravy, and finally a fancy pumpkin Napoleon for dessertóall accompanied by champagne and perfectly served. The 2-hour feast left us stuffed (as Tígiving dinner is supposed to). We missed our families, but were thankful to be here safe and sound; and we enjoyed our unique Thanksgiving experience.

11/29/02 Another Lay Day in Cabo

The weather forecast was "iffy"; so we stayed in our secure slip for another day. We talked to a sail boater who came in from the anchorage. She used some sailor language to say it was horrible out there. A large motor yacht said he ended up cutting his mooring line and coming into the fuel dock last night because he was swinging in the surf. We still had on and off showers as I found a very nice supermarket with better-than U.S. prices and variety. Then I talked with a realtor who, of course, said his is a booming area. The new golf courses command $200 greens fees, and the remaining beachfront is being gobbled up for condos, haciendas, golf courses, and marinas. Better buy now! Capt. Fred straightened out fishing lures and took himself to Johnny Rockets for an artery-clogging lunch.

11/30/02 Cabo San Lucas to Los Frailles 23 22.03N 109 25.20W 47nm 6 hrs.

That was 6 grueling hours of 20-30 kn winds on the nose with 8í-12í swells and 3í-6í wind waves on top. The extension definitely helped with hobby-horsing, but it still wasnít pleasant. Then the anchorage! The surge was so bad the aft stabilizers were out of the water on the rolls. Even the 85í and 110í yachts were rolling. We couldnít wait to leave even though the weather was to be the same for the next day.

12/1/02 Los Frailles to Los Muertos 23 59.20N 109 49.55W 45nm 8 grueling hrs

The conditions were no better, but the anchorage was much less rolly. Several boats rolled in this very pretty cove. Surrounded by mountains, beach, and sea, the sunset was lovely, and we slept until dawn.

12/2/02 Los Muertos to La Paz 24 11.75N 110 18.19W 54nm 7 Ĺ hrs.

With a slight change in direction and a slight reduction in wind we had a slightly more comfortable ride. It felt soooo good to be tied up securely at Marina Palmira 2 miles from La Paz.

La Paz is the capital city of the state of Baja California, Sur (B.C.S.). It sits on a lovely harbor facing the western sunsets with cactus and palm covered hills on the east. The people are super nice, accommodating our very poor Spanish and always being helpful. The weather is HOT and still very breezy. The Northers blow down from the Arizona desert and wreck havoc with Sea of Cortez boaters in the winter. Summers are supposed to be beautiful in the Sea with pleasant weather for exploring the many islands and anchorages. There is a Cruiserís net with cruisers helping one another and locals always ready to jump in and help. Itís a great cruiser location. We went to an elegant hotel for dinneróChateaubriand for 2 was $16.00 U.S. (thatís right---$8.00 a piece), and it was delicious. The docks are full of locals who do a great job of washing and waxing boats, and the marina has all that we could want, including a French Bakery with hot bread at 0730 everyday. No wonder cruisers stay here for years!

Weíre leaving 12/13 to spend the holidays at home. Weíll return 1/9 and wait for a weather window to cross to the mainland. So weíll sign off for now. Feliz Navidad!!

The Captain's Thoughts


We ran 1 day and 2 nights to Turtle Bay; thatís good. If you add 1 day of daylight you obviously come with 48 hrs. That means at 1950rpm and an average of 8 knots Sharon and I can comfortably cover 384nm. I bear in mind that the weather was good, seas calm, and we had a full moon to give us a horizon each night. This will give us some confidence if we decide to make some long runs.

Sharon said I repaired an air leak in the stabilizers. There could be a discussion among stabilizer aficionados as to which is better: air or hydraulic. I donít think I even knew what stabilizers were until I bought Playpen. We are equipped with Gyro-Gale quadra air stabilizers. Dr. Metwally is the owner and manager of the company. I realized recently that I have known him for 20 years. He goes by his nickname, Magid. The systemís main components include: 4 fiberglass fins that slide over a stainless tube attached to the outer hull plate (stainless steel), the tube extends through the hull, through the inside hull plate and receiver tube. A s/s hex shaft is inside the tube fitting the fin at the bottom of the tube and a drive plate on top inside. Two pistons drive a shoe attached to the drive plate. Air is generated by a Midland air compressor on each engine, and a gyro senses the m motion of the fins and reacts in the opposite direction. Stabilizers donít eliminate roll, but rather, dampen it. You can definitely tell the difference when you turn them on. A friend recently had 2 hydraulic leaks within a week. Imagine the mess hot hydraulic fluid must make, not to mention the fire hazard. Ed Hamel (founder of the LRC Club) told me his 2-fin system didnít work very well on a following quarter sea. My quads work great in those conditions. My air leaks were caused by too much heat, which, over time, softens the d.o.t. hose that may be high in the engine room. I have been replacing them with s/s braided Teflon which does not blow out. Magid is only a phone call away. He designed the system and manufactures it. In 20 years Iíve never had to rely on outside help. If Iíve had a problem Magid talks me through it, and if I canít get parts locally, he sends them UPS.

When Playpen was in Rockport Yachts for the extension I gave thought to a bow thruster. A thought was all. A good reason to have twin engines is that you donít have to have thrusters. A bow thruster costs $20,000-$30,000. You then have a complete new system to worry and maintain. Thrusters donít wok well if you have any weigh on. They are designed to be used when the boat is stopped. They donít help direct the boat when moving. When the tube or prop gets fouled with growth they donít work well either. Hydraulics is a system Iím very glad not to have. The problem I see with a Hydraulic get-home is that if you have to hook up a chain to your shaft you could be in real trouble. Sharon & I helped the owner of a 60í single screw trawler cruise from Florida to our house on the Chesapeake. The engine stopped when approaching a bridge in Norfolk. We dropped anchor 50 yards before the bridge. If timing had been different things could have been real bad. In my opinion, if you want a get-home it has to be instantaneous or donít have it. Iíve been told that 90% of the time a main engine is lost it has to do with the running gear. A wing engine has its own shaft and prop. The trouble is that itís hanging out in the middle of the hull just waiting to take a whack from a log or Mother Earth. That prop is only a fraction of the size of the main prop. How efficient can it be? Remember there is no rudder behind the prop. My observance in last nightís anchorage showed 26 sailboats and 3 powerboats. Two of the 3 were twin engine Hatteras and the third a single screw trawler that had been waiting a week for a seawater pump delivery that hopefully would arrive next week. Single or twin, you must carry lots of spare parts!

Lots of Pictures



            Back to Stories