We got our first taste of the storm season with Tropical Storm Lidia in late-August/early-September. The communication among cruisers in the Sea of Cortez relative to weather is impressive. There are a couple of radio nets, single side band/HAM and VHF, that we use to pass along information, but there’s one guy in particular, Jake, who gets the gold star. Jake has a boat down here on The Baja (although he spent a lot of the summer in the States), and everyday he gathers weather data from multiple sources (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, National Hurricane Center, Passage Weather, Windy TY, etc.), summarizes it, and distributes it to the sailors who have SSB/HAM licenses so they can relay it to the rest of the fleet who are crazy enough to hang out in the Sea of Cortez for the season. We don’t have SSB, so we get the word over VHF, but we also have our own means of pulling in weather via PredictWind/Iridium GO, which we’ve been using all along on our travels.
TS Lidia gave us plenty of warning as she spooled up well south of the Baja peninsula. All the cruisers in the area took heed and spent a couple days in the village buying fuel, water, and plenty of food so we could all hunker down together in the local hurricane hole that is Puerto Don Juan. This is really no “port” at all, but a nearly 360-degree protected natural harbor with no facilities to speak of, but a good clamming beach and decent fishing. In all, 13 sailboats (plus one 85-foot power yacht – more on her later) gathered in DJ. Despite our preparation – lashing down sails, readying the secondary anchor, squirreling things away inside da boat – internal anxiety reigned. At least for Jody. But once Lidia reared her head, and our ground tackle held fast, we could relax at bit and enjoy the ride.
Lidia was a very broad, unorganized storm, and as she made her way up the Sea and back across the peninsula, the effects were felt across many of the small (and large) Mexican towns (we never heard about any of the Pacific-side pueblos, like Abreojos or San Juanico though). Cabo got hammered, Puerto Escondido saw 80 knots, roads were damaged in and out of Loreto, and one of the boat ramps here in BLA collapsed.
For us in DJ, the only real danger came from the 85-footer, M/V Mercedes. This boat has been in BLA for the whole season, too (don’t know if she’s here permanently or what – rumor has it that Carlos Slim, monopoly man of cell networks and landownership in Mexico, is the owner), and every time there’s a good blow, either a chubasco, elefante, or just an afternoon breeze, she drags anchor. Well, Mercedes was the last boat into DJ and dropped right in the middle of the fleet. True to form, once the winds piped up, she started dragging. Oy. There were only two crew aboard this big-ass boat, but they did the right thing – they up-anchored and moved away from the rest of the boats. They did, however, have a hell of a time for the duration of Lidia, and after trying to hide from the worst of the wind, motoring in circles for hours in the lee of the mountains at the mouth of the harbor, they bailed out at dawn and returned to the village. The thing is, all of us cruisers and the crew know that the ground tackle on Mercedes is inadequate, otherwise they wouldn’t have so many problems staying put whenever the wind blows. So, why the hell doesn’t Carlos, if in fact Carlos is the owner, invest in a bomber anchor (an Ultra, for instance) and anchor chain that is appropriately sized for the behemoth that is Mercedes? Who knows.
Anyway, the day we wandered into DJ, the wind was already howling (20+ kts), but the sky was clear blue. We thought it might be the beginnings of the storm, but things went dead calm later that evening. The following day saw the sky turn dark and it truly was the calm before the storm. S/V Volaré treated everyone in the anchorage to homemade, pre-Lidia chocolate chip cookies, then the rain started, followed by the ramping up of the wind. For the next 30 hours or so, we were pelted by a driving rain and winds up to 40 kts. Everyone’s anchors held though (well, except Mercedes) and we all enjoyed a thorough boat soaking, and a handful of us (including FL) discovered some leaks in our boats.
Over the course of those 30 hours, we managed to devour some books, play a lot of cribbage, watch too many movies, and scrub da boat (yes, in the pouring rain and 20+ kts). We also got sucked into the Black Sails series and now, weeks after Lidia has passed, continue to binge watch this pirate anthology. Sheesh! Lidia finally dissipated, the sky turned blue again, and the fish gods sent dorado into the anchorage, one of which Rand caught upon first cast from FL (and, just to rub it in, none of the other fishers caught one that morning)! The final night of the blow, Rand made scrumptious, post-Lidia macaroons for the fleet, which we distributed right after filleting the dorado. That afternoon, we enjoyed a Lidia Survivors’ Party on the sand spit in DJ. Every boat, except Mercedes, was represented and each of the survivors was interviewed (see the vid below) to describe their experiences over the past few days. The bottom line? Lidia was awesome.
An aside: Remember our friend, Simon, who runs the UCSD outdoor leadership program and delivered our new water tank to BLA? Well, a group of his kids kayaked into DJ the day the storm broke (after delaying the start of their paddle by a day due to the weather). So, we dinghied over to the beach where they were camping just to harass them – oh, and of course, to take a photo. Small world stuff. Awesome.
As an extra bonus, check out the old Groucho Marx vid as he sings Lydia the Tattooed Lady – thanks, Tom and Annie on S/V Tappan Zee – for turning us cruisers on to this little nugget!