within 5 degrees north or south of the equator and a storm within 10 degrees is rare.9
The area of Southern California (latitude 33 degrees north) in which I live lies north of the main hurricane grounds of the Northeastern Pacific. Two popular cruising destinations from Southern California are the Hawaiian Islands or Baja California and the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. These trips need to be planned with hurricane avoidance in mind; for this reason, the annual Newport to Ensenada race takes place in April; the TransPacific Race, Los Angeles to Honolulu, in July. On the East Coast, the Charleston to Bermuda Race takes place in May.
Normally, hurricanes that are spawned in Mexican waters track out into the Pacific toward Hawaii and then dissipate—but not always. They can curve back and cross over Mexico or Southern California, eventually blowing themselves out over the California and Arizona deserts.
In the year 2000, to celebrate the new millennium, I planned to sail to Guadalupe Island (Mexico), a barren, windswept island 150 nautical miles west of the Baja California coast and 300 nautical miles south of Newport Harbor, California. I scheduled the trip near the end of October, hopefully past the storm season. The weather had not been great, but it finally cleared, and with two crew members—Russ Spencer and Erik Oistad—I got under way on a Friday night at 2130 hours (9:30 P.M.). It was a clear, moonless night, and it was a wonderful feeling to finally see the coast slip away behind us after days of preparation. Dreams sailed all night, finally reaching San Clemente Island at 8:00 A.M. We spent the next two days diving, relaxing, playing poker, and doing last-minute boat checks. Before jumping off for Guadalupe (a straight run to the south of several days and nights, depending on the winds), we made a final check on the weather, using National Weather Service weather faxes obtained over the single side-band radio. (See example in Chapter 3.)
Alas, the weather reports were not good.
The outlook had changed suddenly as we relaxed at anchor in Pyramid Cove. Cold weather and rain headed our way from Alaska, and there was a small-craft advisory of winds at 25 to 30 knots and seas of 10 to 18 feet. In the other direction, a tropical depression was com-