Sea of Cortez is my teacher

Nov 20 Friday

The Sea of Cortez is my teacher, and she has been a harsh one.

On Wednesday midnight we left the sanctuary, beauty and friendship of Los Frailes and the evening friendship of the Banyon family at the cantina to set out for La Paz. A mixture of adventure and desire to get to La Paz trumped my wisdom, and I say with a mixture of embarrassment and humility that I know better. But I didn’t connect the dots between the current wx conditions and my own wisdom. When we rounded our bite into the open Sea of Cortez we were met with inky darkness and 6 to 8 foot seas, gusts over 30 knots and short interval waves —

a combination very hard on the equipment and on the crew.1117_SeaOfCortez_9285-1

I search my mind for why I simply did not turn back? There was a  Ha Ha party coming up on the 19th, and we were supposed to rendezvous with our newest crew member, Jim Cody on the 18th.   The scant weather forecast  indicated continued improvement and I hoped that the wind and waves would gradually lay down and we would have gotten a jump start on our goal to get to La Paz. The winds did not lay down, and RD rose toward the sky and then plunged down the trough of the wave splaying white water and foam to either side of her bow.   Her speed would drop to zero as she shuttered and parted the wave. Then her speed would rise to 2 knots or so and she would repeat this pitching relentlessly. Enough punishment!

We headed for the nearest safe harbor, a resort named Marina Cabo Riviera. It had not been placed on our Garmin chart-plotter, so my anxiety level was high, and I read the Guide several times and studied the scant info as not to miss a single piece of data. I called the Marina on the VHF several times, hoping for advice or assistance, with no response. The harbor faced directly north, meaning rollers were surfing us as we entered between the breakwaters. I have experienced worse entrances and RD was not easily pushed around so soon we were out of the wx and in calm water between the breakwaters.

Instead of the friendly welcome and nearby docks portrayed in the Guide we were meant with a Spanish-speaking employee who told us from his breakwater perch on the VHF that we could not land at this facility. Lisa talked to him on the VHF and then translated it into English. “He says we will run aground if we continue on, and that we have to leave.” I told Lisa to tell him we were in distress and needed to anchor. He said we needed a permit (or maybe permission – we were not sure), and if we would wait five minutes he would contact his boss about it.   I had no intention of leaving the safety of our position!   After two five-minute waits he gave us permission to anchor in the basin, which we did. And here we sat, Lisa and I, marooned on RD between two breakwaters, on the edge of the channel to the marina, and unfortunately in a rolling condition that kept Lisa “woozy” for the next 24 hours.

I spent the majority of my time reviewing my actions and ruing my decisions, feeling guilt for my responsibilities to Lisa (who struggled mightily with sea sickness and showed herself as the best sport in the world — no whining here).

What drives a man to continue on in the face of an adversity he can avoid? I can speculate on answers like “a sense of adventure”, “an innate desire to intentionally fashion a challenge and then overcome it“, or (gulp) lack of judgment?

Years ago a mariner friend of mine sent me the following wish-me-well email.

“I have two wishes for you. the first is the traditional “fair winds”.
And the second is that you face a storm and come through it
stronger than you ever thought you could be.”

As uncomfortable and anxiety-producing as it all was, we have succeeded through the storm and now sit in reflection in smooth waters stronger than before.


3 thoughts on “Sea of Cortez is my teacher

  1. Did not read this until after I wrote to you yesterday. So glad you’re safe. Weather, is indeed, an important consideration for boaters. I will keep studying my text and weather classes! Fair winds ahead, I hope.


  2. So, the Sea of Cortez is your teacher; don’t overlook the fact that you are — if not the perfect student — a very good one. What really counts is what you learn AFTER you think you know.


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