FWIW in 2005 my wife and I, as relative newbies, undertook our first extended open ocean cruise
going from Victoria BC to Mazatlan.
We left September 15 (about 2 weeks later than we had intended)---took us 3 tries to get out of Port Angeles to Neah Bay.
After that we turned straight south (180*T)--we had planned to carry on without interruption to south of Cape Blanco (to maybe Brookings or Crescent City) but a storm made us take shelter in Coos Bay ---we had wanted to get as far south as possible before the fall/winter storms started blowing in earnest (like they are doing now!).
We found in the NW part of the trip (until south of Cape Mendocino) that generally a storm front would come down from the North every 4-5 days or so and that if we left our harbour/anchorage riding on the tail of a front after it had passed us that thereafter we would have good sailing for the next 3 days or so until the next front arrived and we would then put in at the next harbour or bay until it too had passed
Also in this Northern part of the trip you WILL encounter very large swells and waves usually on your starboard quarter or from behind which sometimes your autopilot
may not be able to handle and which in turn requires some extended periods of hand steering
(and a crew that can relieve you)
We chose to go harbour-hopping rather than take an extended straight run for 3 reasons: (1) we were in no great rush and wanted to do some sight-seeing along the way (2) our research
indicated that those who went or stayed offshore
(say non-stop to San Fran or San Diego) usually got beat up or had boat damage and (3) voyaging can be tiring
South of San Fran we generally stayed about 10-20 miles offshore
On the way down we always had good access to current
weather forecasts which helped a lot.
The rest of the trip down the USA was relatively uneventful and fun ...with us stopping from time to time either to sightsee or to shelter from bad weather--
Many times we encountered fog (sometimes very, very thick especially N of San Francisco
but even down to San Diego) so radar and a good chartplotter
are IMHO essential along with some good cruising guides
about end of November, overnighted in about 3 or 4 places, and reached Cabo San Lucas about 10 days later and then reached Mazatlan Dec 15th
Made the usual rookie mistakes---overloaded with provisions in San Diego (not necessary...they do eat food
in Mexico) and had some unnecessary boat work done in San Diego (bottom paint) but should have waited until we were in Mexico
where boat work is much less costly (although I was glad that I had loaded up with boat parts/consumables such as oil
, filters etc as they are expensive in Mexico).
Only thing I'd do differently is that for the last 350 miles down the west coast
of Baja to Cabo San Lucas there are a series of undersea mounts that create confusing waves and which makes that part an uncomfortable twisting rolly ride so I might consider going further offshore rather than following the rhumb line.
Cabo San Lucas is VERY expensive, EXTREMELY touristy and hardly Mexican at all.
Depending on the winds you will likely have to bash north from Cabo for a while to get the right angle to go to Mazatlan ---not necessary if you are heading further south (say to Puerta Vallata)
So generally speaking if you go in the fall it is a down-hill ride all the way (both wind
and current) with cold, large waves and fog in the northern part.
So FWIW here IMHO is what we did right:
1. had checked, repaired and outfitted the boat (no weak points, aged lines, questionable machinery etc ---we had NO breakage/breakdowns on our voyage except for our watermaker---see below)
2. Harbour-hopped and did sightseeing along the way (it is unlikely you will be sailing back along that route)
3. had lived on our boat for weeks at a time and had explored it from one end to the other, taken things apart and learned how to repair/maintain it
4. had reliable operating radar, chartplotter and knew how to use it
5. had a reliable and not underpowered autopilot
6. had good groundtackle (along the way you will be anchoring
in harbours and bays)
7. had a reliable crew
8. got away before the autumn storms started rolling down from the NW
9. had access to weather forecasts/reporting en route
10. had became comfortable at night sailing and docking
in the dark in new locations
11. had previously experienced big seas (not overwhelmed with fear when encountered 30+ foot seas)
12. didn't enter Mexico until after October (hurricane season) had ended
What we did do wrong:
1. left later than I would have preferred (ideally would have wanted to leave 3rd week of August)
2. Installed a watermaker
3 days before we left so had no chance to fully test it in operating conditions (same probably goes for any new equipment--make sure it is well-used before you leave
3. installed a watermaker
4. re-installed a watermaker en-route
5. had cosmetic and non-essential boat work done in Canada
or USA ---should have waited until Mexico --warmer, cheaper
Just an outline of our trip ---hope it is of some help.
If you do go to Mexico, look us up ---probably will be at Marina el Cid in Mazatlan between mid-January to end of March