Sunday April 5, 2020
Sailing Vessel Estelle left La Paz Mexico this morning for Hawaii: destination Hilo Harbor on the big island. While it was always the plan to leave Mexico in April, the days leading up to departure have been stressful. The marina has been fraught with rumors of the Port closing. The Port of La Paz did close to commercial tourist boats last week (no whale shark tours or cruise ships). Meanwhile the cruising community has been crossing its fingers that the Port does not close to personal recreation boats as the Port of Ensenada, and other smaller Ports up north have done–effectively trapping boats in the harbor for an unspecified length of time.
With one Covid 19 case confirmed last week, the atmosphere in La Paz has changed rapidly. The Harbor Master stopped issuing exit papers (ZARPEs) about a week ago, and our favorite islands north of La Paz (they are Mexican National Parks) are closed to all visitors. A road block has been set up on the highway into La Paz where all car passengers are having their temperature taken, before being allowed to proceed.
The Baja California Sur (BCS) governor issued a two-week shelter in place order to all but essential services, effective immediately and continuing through the traditional Mexican Easter holiday and spring break. The malecón is deserted as the local police shoo folks off the beach and boardwalk. Shops are mostly closed, grocery stores are full of staples and produce but all clerks are masked and gloved. Customers are let into the grocery store one at a time, with a clerk wiping down the carts and offering hand sanitizer.
Despite the Covid 19 measures, Estelle’s Mexican departure has been especially difficult for the light weight sailor (LWS) as she made a tough decision to give up her Hawaii passage spot to sister Wendy. Sis is a great cook and doesn’t get seasick—unlike the LWS. The LWS will instead be monitoring the passage state-side and hopefully meet the boat in Hawaii—if Hawaii lifts its 14 day quarantine.
Speaking of Hawaiian quarantines…the 14 day quarantine is for all in-coming island visitors and is in currently place through April 30. It is unclear whether the State of Hawaii will expect the crew of Estelle to quarantine in Hilo Harbor after their 20 day passage. El Capitán did call Customs and Immigration in Hilo and the Feds assured us that Estelle would be allowed to enter Hawaii — an American registered vessel with an American crew.
And speaking of crew… Estelle is leaving for Hawaii with a crew of four: El Capitán, the Bits (Rob & Wendy), and Puerto Escondido mooring neighbor Gregg from SV Koper Kabana. Estelle is well provisioned and the 4-person crew will get plenty of sleep and down time with a 3 hours on/9 hours off rotation–two 3 hour watches per day per crew member. Easy Peasy.
Predict wind is showing relatively light wind (15 knots) and calm seas for the first week out. And our weather routing service (Commanders) has given a thumbs up for the departure. The crew will have plenty of moonlight to get adjusted to night watches this week—the full moon is April 7. Looking at Predict Wind this morning it looks like once Estelle rounds the cape she’ll be on a lovely broad reach all the way to Hawaii.
This last week was very busy on Estelle with the LWS and Sis stocking up on provisions for the passage (and more important, figuring out where to stow them). And just in the nick of time the new hydrovane arrived into La Paz and was installed on Thursday! Koper Kabana has one and El Capitán is looking forward to learning the ins and outs of hydrovane fine tuning from Gregg and running the generator much less than on the passage down the coast.
For the non sailors out there—a brief explanation.The hydrovane is a self steering auxiliary rudder that uses wind power from a small sail to steer the boat. Estelle has an autopilot on board that she used on the passage down the west coast. But the autopilot runs off the batteries. And to keep the batteries charged the diesel generator must be run periodically. Using the hydrovane instead of the autopilot means Estelle uses less fuel during the passage and the noisy generator is run much less– making for a more comfortable ride for the crew.
We also managed to squeeze in an afternoon sail on Estelle this week to train crew: multiple man overboard drills, reefing the main, double reefing, spinning Estelle around and putting up the downwind pole and jibe preventers. All agreed it was an afternoon well spent.
It’s seems like our time in the Sea of Cortez went incredibly fast, in spite of our December arrival. We loved the beautiful uncrowded anchorages, the gorgeous Baja sunsets, the Sierra Giganta, the friendly people, the wonderful weather and delicious food. We have lots of exploring left to do in Mexico and we hope to be back.
Meanwhile our year cruising Estelle continues with the passage to Hawaii followed (fingers crossed) by summer in the Pacific Northwest. The LWS will post updates on the Hawaii passage as they become available. In the meantime, chart Estelle’s progress across the Pacific by returning to the sailingestelle.com menu and scrolling down to the bottom where you will see the chart link. Stay well! We wish you all fair winds and following seas!