I thought some of you might enjoy this article by my friend Lee
1000 MILES TO WINDWARD IN MY Westsail 32 “Patience”
CABO SAN LUCAS TO SAN DIEGO CALIFORNIA
So it was time to put up or shut-up. I had been contemplating getting my Westsail 32 Patience back to the US from Mexico by sailing her offshore to windward. I had been discussing the passage with others and I mostly received blank stares from them either not knowing the difficulty that is involved in such a passage or the blank stare as in you’re crazy man. When talking it over with David King (Westsail 32 superman) last summer in the boatyard at Brookings Harbor Oregon, He rubbed his chin and with a glint in his eye said “it could be done“. In fact I knew it had been done by another W32 back in the 70s from reading old issues of “Windbag” a Westsail newsletter from that time period. This is not a new idea as the sailors of the past used this route to work their clipperships up the pacific coast. After careful study of my pilot charts for wind strengths, wind direction and currents, I picked November as the month to make a run at it. This would put hurricanes at a minimum risk and provide the possibility of an early winter “low” to back the wind to the south.
Patience was stored for the summer at Marina Seca Guaymas Sonora, Mexico. I returned there mid October to get her refitted and ready for the run north. Boatyards are full of “experts”. People who “know” about things and are happy to expound their knowledge on you. While working on my boat a guy came by and asked my plans. I told him I was going up the outside of Baja to San Diego. Oh doing the Baja Bash huh? Take plenty of fuel with you. No I said it would be an offshore passage under sail, not a motor bash to windward. Since he “knew” about such things he told me that I wouldn’t make it and furthermore my boat could not do it. We Westsailors are used to people that have never even been on a Westsail bad mouthing our boats so this did not bother me it just made me more determined. I have owned Patience for 19 years with two trips to Hawaii and back, two trips to Mexico and numerous trips up and down the pacific coast so I felt a little more knowledgeable about what she could and couldn’t do. I went ahead quietly preparing the boat knowing that every detail would have to be right. This would be a difficult passage at best.
Patience went back in the water on November 10th and I was ready. First I needed to make the passage down the Sea of Cortez to La Paz and from there down to the cape at Cabo San Lucas. We caught a good norther blowing and rode it down to Espiritu Santo island and then into La Paz. While there I had a very nice family style dinner provided by Steve and LuLu Yoder (Westsail 28 Siempre Sabado). Next morning I headed over to the fuel dock at Marina Costa Baja. Decision time. How much fuel to take on? Since I still had another 150 miles to go to the cape with the fickle Sea of Cortez winds to deal with, I filled the main tank which holds 38 gallons and filled two 5 gallon jugs to get me to Cabo. As it turned out I needed the two jugs of fuel to get there. Now still having a full main tank when arriving at Cabo, I just waved and sailed on by headed for Cabo Falso. Filling more jugs there wouldn’t amount to a spit in a bucket where I was headed and would just make the boat sail poorly.
This was it, the moment of truth, where BS stops and reality sets in. Sailing out from behind Cabo Falso the 25 knot northwesterlies laid us over on the beam. Rolled up the jib, put a reef in the main and sheeted in the staysail. Patience stood up and took off. I set the self steering wind vane at 60 degrees to the wind and this would be my course until I went to port tack into San Diego. The staysail would remain up the entire trip while adjusting the main and jib to keep her balanced. I fully expected to loose some miles to the south before I could make any progress to the north. It turned out that I lost about 18 miles to the south. A small transistor radio provided my weather reports offshore with reports from Don Anderson of “summer passage” and also hi seas weather radio. The next day found me in the middle of a freighter freeway. Between 0300 and 0800 four of the behemoths passed close by. Swallowing my pride I started the engine and burned a few gallons to scurry across the shipping lane like a squirrel crossing the highway. Back on course and sailing again I hear on the radio hurricane Kenneth is 500 miles below me with winds at 150 knots headed northwest. Hurricane? November? 150 knots? Holy Crap! Enough incentive for me to get north as soon as possible into cooler waters. My course so far was just north of true west and it would remain there as long as it took to gain some latitude. The difference in longitude between Cabo and San Diego is significant so I wanted to go west out where the wind would veer a little. She stayed hard on the wind with that little staysail pulling like a locomotive engine. For the next week we would battle into it gaining a little here a little there with one days run of 118 miles to windward. Downwind you can easily do 140-150 mile days. Beating into it, a 100 mile day is pretty good. The 10th day out the weather says strong gale forecast for southern California. Great just what I need a gale from the north. At this point I’m at my location to go on port tack- 180 miles southwest of Guadalupe island. We made the first and only tack of the passage to port and a few hours later the gale hits with considerable force. Down to double reefed main and staysail we slogged into it always going north refusing to give up any miles. After two days the seas had built up so Patience was climbing up the faces and slamming down the backside still gaining north. At one point she failed to make the crest before the sea broke and she was slapped off that wave like a surfer and fell down the face to crash with roar and shudder. At this point you really like that your boat has a hull thickness of 1” of solid glass at the waterline. Later I heard on the radio they had winds of 90 miles per hour in southern Calif. Two days of gale force winds and then it went light then died. I had enough diesel to power in to San Diego in about 12 hours.
Some notes on the passage:
When I say “we“- I’m referring to the boat and me. The passage was single-handed.
Total miles sailed from Cabo 1208 nm
Diesel used 12 gallons
Total time 12 days 6 hours
FINAL THOUGHTS: As sailboat owners if we are going to “talk the talk” we should also “walk the walk” by getting our boats to as many places as we can under sail instead of motoring. I would encourage anyone with a sound properly rigged boat to sweep the jugs of fuel off the decks, hoist the sails and bugger off out there.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN: Absolutely BUT only in my Westsail.
Westsail 32 #175
Brookings / Harbor Oregon