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bajalera
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[*] posted on 8-11-2008 at 03:04 PM
Sailng question


I'm trying to write a general account of conditions affecting sailboats on the Gulf of California, and need some help since I don't know zip about ships.

Reports of the expeditions of Ulloa, Vizcaino and other Spanish explorers include occasional problems--anchors lost when sudden gales break their chains, sails so badly torn that even the captain helps out in the mending, ships stranded in port because of contrary winds (mostly from the northwest). And supplies sometimes ran short at Jesuit missions because ships couldn't make it across the Gulf from the mainland.

I once crossed from Mazatlan in January on the ferryboat La Paz, which was said to have stabilizers, but the sea was so rough that by the time we arrived in La Paz the restooms were a yucky mess--a lot of passengers, so seasick they couldn't wait until a stall was available, just barfed in the sinks or on the floor.

Are gale-force winds and heavy seas equally hazardous to sailing ships on, say, the Mediterranean or the Gulf of Mexico? Or is the weather prevailing in the Sea of Cortes unusual?




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Udo
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[*] posted on 8-11-2008 at 03:32 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by bajalera
I'm trying to write a general account of conditions affecting sailboats on the Gulf of California, and need some help since I don't know zip about ships.

Reports of the expeditions of Ulloa, Vizcaino and other Spanish explorers include occasional problems--anchors lost when sudden gales break their chains, sails so badly torn that even the captain helps out in the mending, ships stranded in port because of contrary winds (mostly from the northwest). And supplies sometimes ran short at Jesuit missions because ships couldn't make it across the Gulf from the mainland.

I once crossed from Mazatlan in January on the ferryboat La Paz, which was said to have stabilizers, but the sea was so rough that by the time we arrived in La Paz the restooms were a yucky mess--a lot of passengers, so seasick they couldn't wait until a stall was available, just barfed in the sinks or on the floor.

Are gale-force winds and heavy seas equally hazardous to sailing ships on, say, the Mediterranean or the Gulf of Mexico? Or is the weather prevailing in the Sea of Cortes unusual?


Quote:
I have sailed the Sea of Cortez many times in small crafts as well as larger 40'+ sail boats. The Sea is fairly tame most of the time, but there are sudden and unpredicatble storms that show up all over Baja called CHUBASCOS. These have incredible winds. I have had the bad luck of being on the water on two occasions in a sailboat. Once we were knocked down, the second time we reefed :?:(took most of the main sail down). If caught in one of these storms, an old wooden sailing vessel would have an extremely difficult time in reefing any of their large sails because the blowing dust makes it almost impossible to see anything.
The Northwinds, or Santa Anas, don't blow anywhere near as hard as the CHUBASCOS.
I hope that answers some of your questions.




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[*] posted on 8-11-2008 at 04:03 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by bajalera
Are gale-force winds and heavy seas equally hazardous to sailing ships on, say, the Mediterranean or the Gulf of Mexico? Or is the weather prevailing in the Sea of Cortes unusual?


Gale force winds are rare, perhaps 2-3 times a year we encounter gale force winds and usually those are associated with predictable weather, with warnings on the radio and weather nets.

The sea of cortez has relatively predictable conditions though local conditions prevail. The winds tend to be north to north west or north east much of the day during November through April. However Southerly winds can occur at night as well as off shore through valleys and southerly or easterly on rare occasions in the daytime. The wind is generally 15-30 mph and rarely above 35 though winds may increase to 50 or more during northerly chubasco storms. During May-October the wind is generally less strong and can be southerly or any direction.

Generally when looking back over the course of a year it is quite rare to have wind exceed 35mph in the winter windy season and there are often long periods of light to almost non-existent wind during the warmer spring-summer-fall months. We generally suffer from lack of wind as opposed to too much.

The conditions that cause problems are sudden changes, downdraft, storm related winds that arrive quickly and catch sailors fully rigged with no reefing when unexpected strong gusts occur over a period of 5-15 minutes, sometimes accompanied by rain.

Sea of cortez also can and does receive Hurricanes which may include wind up to 100 mph or more typically during mid Aug-early Oct. The sea of cortez has received many hurricanes, at least 5 over the last decade which caused extreme damage to those who were in its direct path. Boats at anchor, in port or on dry dock suffered when other vessels became loose and caused damage to them. So you see it is not entirely a case of your mistake as much as likely another vessel unattended that causes the most damage.

Because of advances in weather tools, predictable conditions and local knowledgeable it is quite unlikely an attentive person would be at risk of unexpected storms however the question remains, will you react. So trouble is unlikely for a person who was able to move their properly rigged boat out to sea on their own and reef on their own.

Other problematic issues on the Sea of Cortez relate to the distance between safe ports, finding comfortable anchorages, often more than 50 miles apart, and perhaps the type of swell which can be large, fast arriving and close together causing a great deal of stress to some whose vessels were not prepared. We have seen 30 mph winds for 30-60 days straight and no wind for same period. Both are unpleasant for boating in general. I think I recall the winter of '92 had especially light wind and '07 had especially strong wind.Neither bothered me but many others complained incessantly. Flexibility is key, let the wind decide your schedule and your itinerary.

So you see, the Sea of Cortez is quite safe, yet for those who are unprepared with vessels that are not in good condition, without weather forecasting info, lacking local knowledge, a plan and the skill to maintain the boat you will easily find yourself in trouble, aground, with a damaged boat far from resources to help. Things go wrong fast when you run aground and in general if you do the chances of trouble in strong wind are high that you will forced to abandon your vessel and lose it.

On the sea of cortez, one doesn't see many sailboats out and about either in Winter windy season or Summer calm season. They are in general at anchor or in port. It is a case of either too hot and calm or too windy and cool for most, so a larger boat with engines, air conditoining, easy reefing and self furling sails offers pleasant cruising.

Many boats have been lost in recent years by experts who just weren't paying enough attention and trouble happens quickly when you are unprepared. An open hatch, a fully rigged sail, and shorthanded crew, all add up to trouble when fast moving whitecaps and huge swell suddenly arrive from the north. Of course you should know the wind is coming, its predictable.

That said, the sea of cortez is an excellent place to cruise and offers endless anchorages in remote locations and many harbors as well. Unfortunately when you look at the sailing cruiser population they are largely a sedate group that rarely go anywhere and few have any real experience sailing for the aforementioned reasons. Therefore you should ignore the cruiser fleets, and their incessant harbor chats and stick to cruising info in books, and actual cruising logs like those one would find in latitude 38 which is considered an excellent resource among many others. Latitude38 hosts the annual Baja Haha which doesn't actually include the Sea of Cortez though many participants include the Sea of Cortez following the annual event.

Other events are the La Paz sailing week and the Loreto Sail fest, again these are not hardcore sailing events, like one might find in most regions.

http://www.latitude38.com



[Edited on 8-11-2008 by gnukid]
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rolleyes.gif posted on 8-11-2008 at 04:24 PM
Udo, most people think a Chubasco is a hurricane which of course isn't the case


Gnukid, I'm wondering what latitude 38 knows about what happens below 26 July thru sept. Nobody in their right mind would venture across the gulf that time of year. More misinformation to get people killed. The 38 boys should stick to the Castro street bathhouses with their rubber ducky's

[Edited on 8-11-2008 by bancoduo]
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[*] posted on 8-11-2008 at 04:30 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by bancoduo
Gnukid, I'm wondering what latitude 38 knows about what happens below 26 July thru sept. Nobody in their right mind would venture across the gulf that time of year. More misinformation to get people killed. The 38 boys should stick to the Castro street bathhouses with their rubber duckys


Quote:
HEAR HEAR (sp)


In all my Baja years, I've been through two chubascos at sea and three while on land. Quite an ordeal!




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[*] posted on 8-11-2008 at 05:17 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by bancoduo
Gnukid, I'm wondering what latitude 38 knows about what happens below 26 July thru sept. Nobody in their right mind would venture across the gulf that time of year. More misinformation to get people killed. The 38 boys should stick to the Castro street bathhouses with their rubber ducky's

[Edited on 8-11-2008 by bancoduo]


Yep, I know a fine captain who was required to make the passage and he was shothanded slowly the conditions worsened but so gradually no one reacted he went down below and a side port hole had broken its latch, water was pouring through with each swell, he tried to close it but it smashed, so he took a floor board and held it against the broken porthole, the crew had to take turns holding it there to make it to safe port and the entire forward cabin was nearly destroyed as well as a foot of water in the boat. He was really scared with no place to go.

....

Well I am reminded of another story, many sailors in the region of La paz lament the circular changing breezes, coromuels or southern breeze blow at night and in the morning til they switch around to northern winds sometime mid morning to 11 or so with a slight glass off in between. The sailors curse the changing wind making anchorages unpredictable. But, locals praise the winds for their cooling and pleasant change.

It took me a while but I finally caught on by listening to the ol panga fisherman who, when conditions are right, typically in early and late winter, leave even before sunrise with a sail hoisted on the pangas heading out on the southerly until they encounter the glass off and then enjoy the northerlies to return back home. No motor, no problem, no tacking no gybing, just pure and enjoyable sailing and fishing.

I explained to my crew we need to leave before sunrise and expect to hoist the spinaker immediately to sail out the Bay of la Paz, if we are lucky we''ll round the island of Espiritu Santo to port, never having gybed and reach back down into the Bay with reaching off wind the entire way. We did it.

The Master of the Circular Winds of La Paz
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[*] posted on 8-12-2008 at 07:58 AM


From

"The Log From The Sea of Cortez"

From the information available, a few facts did emerge. The Sea of Cortez, or the Gulf of California, is a long, narrow, highly dangerous body of water. It is subject to sudden and vicious storms of great intensity. The months of March and April are usually quite calm and dependable, and the March-April tides of 1940 were particularly good for collecting in the littoral.

- John Steinbeck




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[*] posted on 8-13-2008 at 12:59 PM


Thanks for all the answers.



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