Saturday, March 10, 2012

San Francisco to Ensenada

After six and a half days at sea we have arrived in beautiful Ensenada. Our first big voyage went extremely well and it bolstered confidence in both ourselves and our yacht. Left is a photo of our actual track on the chartplotter, and below is a breakdown of each day. Click on any photo on the page to enlarge.

March 3rd, Day 1
We were well prepared the night before and all that needed to be done was to top up the fresh water reserves for the last time and cast away the lines. We left Alameda Marina with calm winds and a clear sky at 0855. It was a great feeling, and Tine and I had wide smiles across our faces. The anticipation was over and the journey had begun. Winds in San Francisco Bay were inconsistent at best, and we had to leave our motor on until we had passed Alcatraz Island. Finally, the sails were hoisted and under full sail we left the bay, leaving the Golden Gate Bridge behind us and putting out into seemingly endless blue. We had picked a great day to leave, considering the good weather, but it was almost too calm. Four knot breezes struggled to push us along at a satisfying speed but they later picked up and by 1630 Echo was sailing at a graceful 6.5 knots. It was a cold clear night. At ten degrees celsius with a fresh breeze over the decks it was good to have invested in some decent foul weather gear.

March 4th, Day 2
The day began with a flat sea and light winds, only managing to give us a maximum of 5 knots. With such light winds I poled out our gennaker and dragged the boat by the forestay. She performed well this way, giving her less weather helm and really giving the tiller pilot an easier task. Again, we were cold at night but still too excited to notice much or care. Each night we were doing a watch schedule of 4 hours on then 4 hours off, and a good watch was particularly important on the second night as the fog was so dense it reduced visibility to less than ten meters at times.

March 5th, Day 3
The breeze had really freshened up, and the entire day we made over six knots under a sunny sky. It was a great day for sailing. It wasn't really blowing the direction I wanted, but we managed just fine once we got the proper sails up. The atmospheric pressure was falling rapidly, and I was keeping a close eye on the barometer because the forecast for the next day was looking a bit grim. Of course I had checked the weather before leaving, but as everyone knows extended forecasts are unreliable on a good day. NOAA weather radio had predicted 20 knot winds on the 6th of March, but now NOAA issued a gale warning, predicting winds in excess of 45 knots for the 6th.

March 6th, Day 4
Every sailor has stories about big storms and heavy seas. I won't be telling any long yarns with unrealistic exaggerations, but this was a big storm that lasted all throughout the day and night of the 6th. Knowing that it was coming, I woke Tine up early in the morning to drop the main and set the storm jib. Then it came just as expected. The winds easily reached the 45 knot mark, getting over 50 during gusts. Echo pounced over five meter seas doing 5-8 knots under the storm jib alone. I considered turning her to windward to ease the motion of her, but since she was holding together well I kept her on a broad reach and we carried on. King Neptune was showing his might, testing our little yacht and her crew, but we managed quite well. Every time we opened up the hatch to get on deck water would pour in. Waves constantly crashed over the decks, the wind was whistling through the rigging, and the creaks and groans of her wooden hull could constantly be heard. Every time she reached the peak of a big wave and plunged back down to a trough there was a huge banging sound, and even standing on two feet was a difficult task that could only be accomplished with two hands for bracing. There were lots of little leaks that we found during the storm, but one porthole in particular was leaking badly. We tried to replace the seal as fast as possible, but before we could secure the hatch a big wave gushed in and soaked both of us and the interior of the boat. We were in a proper storm, but the more we endured the more my confidence in this great little vessel grew. Echo was loving it.

March 7th, Day 5
What a contrast to the day before. On the morning of the fifth it was almost as if Neptune was apologizing for his tantrum and giving us a rest. The seas were flat calm. We hoisted the main, put up the genoa, and made 7 knots on a calm sea. It was a beautiful day to be out sailing, and we appreciated it even more after the storm.

March 8th, Day 6
It was another great day to be at sea, and Ensenada was nearing. It was an uneventful day of making 3-5 knots, and we were still catching up on re-arranging the boat after all our belongings had been tossed from one side of the vessel to the other. At night we were getting quite close, and I didn't want to arrive in Ensenada at 4am, so we circled around for a while to postpone our arrival until daybreak. The lighthouse at the entrance of Bahia de Todos Santos was in sight all night, our arrival was nearing.

March 9th, Day 7
What a glorious day! The only thing that could have improved our day was a bit more wind, as we only had a one knot breeze and had to motor into port at daybreak. Just upon entering the bay, a humpback whale breached just ten meters off the bow of our boat, coming up for air several times and giving us a good look at his awesome proportions. Playful seals came alongside, and an entire pod of dolphins came to play in the waves off our bow. A warm front had just moved in, and we changed into our shorts and t-shirts to bathe in the sun and take in all the wildlife in the bay. Rather than go directly to the marina, we circled the bay several times to watch dolphins and look for more whales. Around noon we tied up at Marina Coral. We had arrived and had the most remarkable day. After all that sailing, 665 nautical miles, we had reached our destination and we were beaming with happiness even if a bit exhausted and landsick.

Look for the next update on our time in Ensenada. If you're enjoying the posts and want to continue to follow Echo's voyage across the Pacific Ocean then I encourage you to sign up to be a follower of the blog. You'll get an e-mail every time I make an update, and won't be subjected to any spam. If you already are a follower and aren't seeing any e-mails then make sure to check your spam filter and flag the messages as not spam. I've heard that not everyone is getting the e-mails and it seems that certain spam filters want to weed them out.


  1. oh dude, that looks and sounds amazing! very nice.

  2. Rob,

    I caught your updates recently on Facebook and have been enjoying reading about them. Hope all is well and you enjoy your trip across the Pacific.