Turtle Bay, MX to Santa Maria Bay, MX (aka the worst passage)

note – my phone died so this section will be rather picture light.

Turtle Bay is a funny little place – halfway down the Baja California, not near anything else, it mainly seems to exist as a fishing village and fuelling visiting yachts. We spent the morning running around getting groceries and grabbing some fuel from a pretty rickety little dock. That night I did some fishing and managed to catch a spiny lobster who got his leg stuck in the circle of the hook. Unfortunately, our fishing licenses don’t allow us to keep lobsters, so regretfully we threw him back. Besides, he was super cute.

The next morning we were off – I checked the oil and it was fairly low but i figured I’d top up at the next stop It’d be fine, right? (NARRATOR: It Wasn’t). There was supposed to be a system rolling in in around 36 hours but I was sure we would be safely south by then (NARRATOR: They Weren’t). After a fine day of sailing the wind suddenly picked up and switched around to a close reach out of the North East. We started dropping sails and ended up running under a double reefed main with no foresail for most of the night but it was really uncomfortable – the wind picked up even more around midnight (top gust we saw was 30 knots with sustained around 25) and the waves were smacking us on the side. At this point we were crossing a big bay so were 50 miles offshore, luckily the wind was coming from that direction so the waves weren’t huge but it were large and choppy enough to knock us around a bunch and break over the cockpit.

What was worse was that I tried running the engine to charge the batteries a bit, but then the oil light came on followed by the overheat light. I immediately shut off the engine and hoped I hadn’t done any permanent damage… my guess was the angle of heal we were at plus the low oil had led to the engine oil pump sucking in air.

The next morning the wind died down to a manageable level and I topped up the oil and fired the engine back up. It started fine.. but then overheated after two minutes. I really started to fear I had damaged the cylinder head or something, causing a partial seizure and excessive heat generation. With no choice, we carried on sailing as the wind dropped, until we were poking along with a spinny up in four knots. At least I’d had a bunch of practice! in light air sailing back in the PNW!

As night approached I realised we didn’t have enough power to run the chartplotter, lights, radar etc all through the night. Uh oh. Doing a quick calculation I figured if we kept the consumption to under 5 AH we’d get through, so we switched off everything except the nav lights and AIS and used a flashlight and compass, occasionally turning on the GPS chartplotter to see where we were. Hand steering as well, as the AP took up too much power (and I hadn’t figured out the windvane yet, another mistake).

This was fine and we had resigned ourselves to a long boring, hand-steering night when the first gust of wind arrived from the NE again. Oh no, the Santa Ana winds were back!

Luckily, nowhere near as bad as the night before, it hung around 18-20 knots with the occasional gust to the low 20s, still on a close reach. I actually only put one reef in the main this time, although having to handsteer all night was exhausting – luckily Liz was a trooper and we got through it.

The next morning we were approaching Santa Maria bay with overwhelming relief after a pretty brutal passage though I was worried – had I destroyed the engine (Spoiler alert so I don’t get a bunch of worried emails – I hadn’t and it was fine)

We tacked up to where we wanted to drop anchor and did so – all under sail. And then fell into a deep,deep sleep.



  1. Hey! What’s with the cliff hangers? 🙂

    How’s the seasickness going? You havent mentioned it lately so I am assuming you are pretty much over it for now?

    • It’s hard to judge as the seas have been waaaaay smaller than in the past, ever since point conception but the couple of times I’ve felt a bit off, plain on Gravol has cleared it up. Guess I should have tried that first.

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