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Leaving Pam, the cats and dogs all alone to guard the Ranch, I set out for Puerto Penasco late Saturday morning, the 14th of December.

Wow, they’ve ripped up a goodly portion of the main drag in town, forcing a detour onto the dusty side streets. After some trial and error attempts to rejoin the Avenida de Benito Juarez, I arrived at Safe Marina by late afternoon.

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Arturo was in charge there, and the first to receive a small loaf of banana nut bread, baked up by Pam on Friday afternoon.
Matter of fact, she’d baked up about 12 small loaves for me to distribute to all of our contacts here in town. Feliz Navidad!

I refused a quick launch of my boat, knowing what kind of winds were forecast for Sunday, upwards of 40 knots. No, thank you.

So I busied myself with clearing the cabin and cleaning/setting up the boat. Long about sundown, I headed over to Mary’s restaurant for a shrimp cocktail and a couple of tacos. Excellent seafood in this town.

The place was fairly empty, and the competition for business was fierce. The malecon is very crowded with restaurants of all stripes, and the hawkers doing their darnedest to entice you to eat at Jose’s.

Here at Mary’s, the staff had purchased a pay-per-view event for their big screen, some Ultimate Fighting. So, in between bites, I got to watch two guys beat the living s*** out of each other.

Back at the marina, I shared a little Jack Daniels with the night watchmen, and then went to sleep in my boat there in the yard.

Day 2-

I thought it would be a good day to go over some concerns that have been gnawing at me recently. The keel cable and cable wear tube should be inspected, so I set about pulling out the companionway bulkhead, and unwinding the cable from the winch drum.

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The cable removal required a lot of climbing up and down the boarding ladder, as I was working solo. The cable’s condition wasn’t too bad, a couple of meathooks and deformations due to overwrapping itself on the drum, so I figured it’d make it through this upcoming foray. I do have a new cable on order.

The wear tube was also in pretty good shape, but I made the mistake of loosening its fixing nuts, thinking I’d be replacing the whole thing. This caused a very small leak that I had to keep an eye on for the rest of the trip. I should probably invest in an automatic bilge pump pretty soon, huh?

To reinstall the cable, I asked another recipient of a loaf, whose name escapes me at the moment, to hold tension on the cable from below, while I cranked it back onto the winch drum. I tipped him 50 pesos for his trabajo, about 4 US dollars. Mille grazie!

Sometimes I get my Italian and my Spanish a little mixed up, but I think he understood.

All the while, I was checking the flags near the harbor mouth, watching them get blown straight out from their flagpoles. I’m happy to be off the water today, getting these little maintenance issues checked off the to-do list.

That evening, I prepared my own dinner, there on the hard in the yard.

Day 3-

It’s time to put out, so after a leisurely breakfast, let’s do this thing.

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Out onto the wide bay, and jeez, Louise, there are some swells to contend with, the remnants of yesterday’s winds. I’d forgotten about this possibility, and with the addition of a fairly strong current, my little boat was bashing up and down on confused seas.
Looks like this cheap version of WordPress won’t allow me to upload a short, poorly focused video, but take it from me, I have never been out in such daunting conditions before.

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I had filled out a form for the Capitain de Puerto, stating my intended anchorage to be Cholla Bay, so I tacked West, then North, finally arriving in the completely unprotected bay about mid-afternoon. Watching my depth gauge, I headed further in, until the gauge suddenly said I was in 12 feet of water, at high tide! Well, with a 3.5+ meter drop in sea level expected, this ain’t gonna work. Turn around, and get out to around 25 feet or so of depth.

Going up on the foredeck to drop my anchor was looking kind of dangerous, so I put on my harness and hooked up to the jackline.

The boat wanted to lie with the current, not the prevailing winds and waves, and this phenomenon is certainly new to me. The lightweight MacGregor was rolling to beat the band, tossing me around the cockpit and cabin like a rag doll. For the first time in quite awhile, I started to experience a bit of sea-sickness. Watch the horizon, boy, and maybe eat a little something, so you’ll have something to throw up…

I tried to soften the blows by hooking up a bridle to my anchor line, and it would work for a bit, needing adjustment about every 10-15 minutes to put my bow back into the relentless swells.

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Sure would be nice to have a gimballed stove to cook up a decent dinner upon, but I don’t, so I’m just gonna have to go with a cold ham and cheese sandwich, washed down with a Rolling Rock.

The moonrise was pretty.

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I made my first attempts at getting a “timed” exposure with this old camera, without using the flash. Here’s my best effort:

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The boat’s just going nuts, and the anchor bridle’s needing constant attention, so I haul back in on the bridle, and untie it. It could possibly wrap itself or the anchor line around the keel, or even worse, the rudder.

Setting up the anchor drag alarm on the little Garmin eTrex 20 GPS unit, I tried to get some shut-eye. Yeah, right. I was able to stay in my berth, but not without some degree of whiplash.

Day 4-

I don’t think I slept more than a few minutes, if that.

Looking at the eTrex’s little screen, my nighttime movement described an almost perfect circle around that Manson Supreme. Dang, I love that anchor. Still batting a thousand with it!

It had calmed down considerably though, to the point where I could use the stove without fear of it crashing to the sole and setting the boat afire. Strong coffee, scrambled eggs and sauteed onions make for a quick breakfast, and it’s time to weigh anchor.

Today, I’ll be heading West-Southwest in much better conditions. Now, where the heck are all the dolphins, whales and sharks?
Not here, I can tell you that. I did get to see one dolphin yesterday, but he was too quick for my camera.

Noting the direction of the prevailing wind, I positioned Sovereign about 10 nautical miles upwind of the harbor entrance. This is the furthest from shore that I’ve ever been, alone.

I rigged up my spinnaker, and flew it for 8+ miles towards Rocky Point, a new record! By the time I got within a couple miles from port, the wind died.

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Although the color scheme’s kinda ugly, it’s my favorite sail of all.

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Seen enough photos of it, yet?

As this was to be my last night here in Rocky Point, I headed in to Marina Fonatur for all the amenities they provide, and to pass out the last of the banana nut bread to all the marina staff.

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That’s Jesus, Alejandro and Eduardo, who work the day shift. Louis (not pictured) works the night shift. Everyone gets a loaf, including the head honcho, Milton.

Ahhhh, a commode, hot showers, and for thirty extra pesos, the use of the laundry facilities. Luxury.

Whomped up some dinner in my slip, and hit the hay.

Day 5-

Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam! Boom! Boom!

I’m hearing large helicopters, but it’s 0530, and too dark to see them. I know I should’ve been able to spot them, but they were flying with no navigation lights. What the heck’s going on, a military exercise? I see a red arc, shooting up from ground level. Tracer fire???
Now, everyone on the dock is awake, and through some channels, we soon learn that there’s an anti-narco-trafficking operation in full swing, about a mile or two from our position.

Full-on .50 caliber automatic gunfire is raining down from two Blackhawk helicopters onto a public thoroughfare and resort hotel.

This was supposedly happening around Sandy Beach/Cholla Bay. Holy crap, I’m glad I forwent anchoring out there last night!

A few days later I learned that there were about 10 vehicles that had ran a checkpoint set up for them, one of which was carrying a bigshot of one of the cartels laying claim to the region. I hear a bunch of them were able to escape, but 5 died in the hail of bullets and a crashed car. Yow!

The morning’s excitement slowly drew down, and I was pleased to meet my dockmates, Carl and Cordina.

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They were delightfully kind, even offering to share their breakfast of chorizo and eggs. Invited aboard their spacious Sea Ray, we watched as the action wound down to the evacuation of the dead and injured. A Blackhawk brought at least two narco-traffickers to the small navy yard just across the harbor from us, to be taken away in ambulances.

But enough about that stuff.

Carl, Cordina, thank you again for your hospitality, conversation and breakfast. It was a pleasure to meet you!

Well, it wasn’t getting any earlier, and I wouldn’t mind being back in Tucson before zero-dark-thirty, so, getting a hug goodbye from Carl, I cast off and drove the 1/4 mile over to Safe Marina, and hauled out. The guys in Safe Marina were all abuzz, too.

Got the mainsail down and packed, then turned my attention to the outboard, opening up the cowling to drain the carburetor. Paid Miguel for another month’s rent, and he warned me that in 2014, prices will be going up about 6%. I understand, sorta.

Got on the road, and was met with a military checkpoint at the edge of town.

I think the whole Mexican army was there, with body armor, helmets and automatic rifles. Nobody was getting out of town without a look-see.

After learning that my Spanish was not so good, the guy with the gun asked “Drinking?” They’d found the few beers I had left in the cooler in the back.

“Me? Drinking? No”, I said.

He asked again: “Drinking?”

I stepped out of the truck, opened up the cooler again, and handed him a Rolling Rock, plus another one for his buddy. They waved me through, all smiles.

About 50 miles up the road, I remembered I’d left the cowling off my outboard motor! So I turned around, wondering if I had enough beer to get through the checkpoint two more times.

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