At long last it is time for WORKNOT to make the crossing I recently completed aboard SeaFox. Weather has kept us in La Paz for almost 3 weeks and finally the forecast is for ever improving seas starting on Monday Dec. 16th and getting better each day for the rest of the week.
As mentioned before, weather dominates cruising in small boats and in open ocean conditions they are all small boats. Trawlers can’t run from much, we celebrate anytime we overtake something that is moving, and we can’t speed up to get to a port ahead of a storm. As an example, WORKNOT cruises very comfortably at 8kts. It’s all related to hull speed and the inability for a displacement vessel to plane. There is no amount of horsepower that can be added to a displacement hull to make it rise up on plane and run at speed much greater than its natural hull speed. “Crossing an Ocean Under Power” provides lots of detail on this but simply put the longer the boat the faster but in small increments. A 50 ft displacement boat is about a knot faster than a 40 ft boat. WORKNOT is capable of just under 10 kts under full power but at a terrific fuel penalty, (5 X fuel at 8 kts). Her natural hull speed is about 8 kts. The formula is (1.23 x sq. root of the water line length).
Back to the weather, wind is the key to power boat comfort as waves are driven by wind and impacted by current, duration of the wind, fetch and water depth. Wind dominates this equation. There a lots of weather sources and I’m learning to use OCEN’s grib file tools via sat phone. The learning curve is steep for me but found a cruiser who has lots of experience and its beginning to make sense to me. Here are a couple of samples from the weather forecasts information downloaded to make the decision to cross from La Paz to Mazatlan. The colors are based on the wind speed key on the left, blue is good. Red is a bad day at sea for everyone.
SUNDAY Wind Chart
WEDNESDAY Wind Chart
We made the decision to leave on Monday, traveling with Salacia, N40. Neil and Dianna were part of the FUBAR Fleet group and we all agreed it was of great comfort to look out the window and see another running light at 3 AM. To make the trip shorter we also decided we would go to Muertos Cove on Monday and leave for Mazatlan on Tuesday morning unless the weather improvements did not arrive. If it got bad we would wait it out on anchor for a better departure window.
The La Paz cruisers net reported on Monday the price of fuel was going up at the first of the year. The BAJA peninsula has enjoyed a 6% reduction is sales tax to encourage tourism and activity. This is being ended by the Mexican govt. at the end of the year. Mexico is also reducing the subsidy for fuel, raising the price of diesel a few Pesos each month. We took on 525 gallons at La Paz which delayed our departure for Muertos Cove until just afternoon on Monday.
Off we went at last on a backtrack trip to Muertos Cove. We arrived just at dark after a windy ride thru San Lorenzo channel and Cerralvo channel. The weather was not as predicted and we were pleased to have waited to cross until Tuesday. My wind alarm was set for 30 kts and it kept alarming and could not figure out how to turn the alarm off. Reading a software guide in a pitching boat, looking at an instrument overhead is recipe for sea sickness, at least for me. Finally got it stopped and will read the book in calmer conditions. Anchor down at 6:48PM (23.59 X 109.49 W). 31.9 gallons of fuel burned 55 miles.
Next morning we got underway with Salacia at 8am sharp. Seas were calm but the wind was still in the teens and above the forecast. We pressed on knowing the forecast was for improving conditions the farther east and longer we went. The trip is planned at 190 miles and 25 hours. This is about 45 miles shorter than direct from La Paz and almost 8 hours less making the trip easier for a 2 person crew.
The trip was very uneventful which is a good thing for ocean crossings. Given all the excitement about “selfies” in the news tried to get on for myself but it did not turn out too well.
Life underway on a crossing takes on a feeling of its own. We take 3 hours turns at the helm, engine room checks, eat lightly but often and try to rest whenever off watch. The weather was OK but it was lumpy almost half the way there. We slowed to keep pace with Salacia saving fuel but adding to the time for the crossing. The cabin starts off nice and neat but at the end of these trips seems everything we own or at least used during the trip is out on the counter top or stacked in the pilothouse. Log books, cruise books, multiple binoculars, (tip of the hat to ESW who gave us a great set), cameras, cell phones, ipads, dog toys, dishes etc are all where they were used. Always good to make port.
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