After a surprisingly windy and choppy night at Isla San Francisco, we headed North and across the San Jose Channel to the protected anchorage of San Evaristo, a fishing village on the West side of the Channel. This was the second time that we were surprised by these Westerly winds that arose in the middle of the night and could reach 25-30 knots. It’s not good to have those conditions anchored up against a “lee shore” meaning that the wind is blowing the boat towards shore. The anchorage at San Evaristo opens to the East, so would not be a lee shore. As we were heading up the channel we encountered some pretty localized westerly winds up to about 25 knots. Because the wind was blowing across the channel there was no fetch for waves to build, so lots of whitecaps, but no big deal. It was still blowing when we turned into the anchorage. We at first sought shelter in the North cove, which was protected from the North and somewhat from the west. The cove had a small shelf with easy anchoring depths in the 20-25 foot range but then sloped down to 50 ft or so further out. We also realized that while the wind was (temporarily) coming from the west, the swell was coming from the South, which was exposed. We were not satisfied with where we were sitting, so we moved over into the northern part of the main cove, with much more swinging room and shallower depths. The beach here was lined with houses and pangas were actively coming and going to unload their catch at a buyer setup in a tent on the beach.
I was wondering about the unexpected westerly winds that we experienced both in Isla San Francisco and again in the morning here at San Evaristo. The guidebooks that we have describe these as Corumuel winds, said to be mostly in the La Paz area and Elephantes, said to be mostly in low lying areas in the Northern Sea. In both cases, nighttime winds from the cool pacific air crosses the penisula into the Sea. Since the weather forecasts cover such large areas, these localized events are not called out, and we didn’t see obvious signs of them from the low resolution wind maps that we have been downloading on our Iridium GO!
So, I downloaded one of the higher resolution wind forecasts from PredictWind and saw that it did, in fact, predict these localized westerly winds. The model showed the wind we experienced in the morning, and predicted an overnight Westerly in San Evaristo that night. And sure enough, we experienced several hours of 25 knot winds overnight. It was noisy, but since we were protected from the west, we had no waves/swell, and therefore, not a problem. Now we know that it is worth downloading these higher resolution wind forecasts, even though they take about an hour to get at the snail’s pace of the Iridium GO!.
More of these westerlies were predicted through the week, so we planned accordingly, looking for anchorages that would have the best protection for the conditions. We decided to leave San Evaristo the next morning and continue North. Honestly, it felt a little weird to be anchored here in what was people’s front yards. We didn’t even go ashore.
We experienced these localized winds three more times heading up to Puerto Escondido, and each time the forecast was pretty accurate on the start and duration and the maximum wind speeds. And, armed with this information, we selected anchorages that seemed to have the best protection from the West.
The other weather pattern that we were already familiar with is the Northwesterly winds that funnel down the Sea of Cortez pretty regularly in the winter months. These occur when there is High pressure in the Great Basin of the US and lower pressure down in the Sea. These are called Northers, and bring 25-30 knot winds that can last several days. We had already experienced a number of these during our month in La Paz.
A quick update – the Norther is here with a vengance. We arrived at Puerto Escondido on a lovely calm afternoon. The slip they had reserved for us was way too small, so they put us on the long breakwater dock… on the outside. When the Norther hit, we realized that was a BIG mistake. We saw 25 knot plus winds all day with gusts exceeding 33 and probably 3 ft wind waves. We have all 13 fenders out, and several of them look like they are about to pop. If the winds drop down at all, we will see if we can get quickly around to the other side of the breakwater dock.