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Don’t tell PETA, but it is beyond funny to watch the cats try and use their litter box during heavy weather. We ran out of real litter after failing to find some in San Blas and had to resort to using beach sand, the only positive aspect being that it is free, and even this does not make the resulting sand-covered cockpit  worth it. In order to stop the relentless spread, we decided early that the litter box was not going down below, at least not if we could possibly help it.

So, during the two days we beat furiously to windward, taking consistent spray over the bow which, with no dodger, continued unabated into the cockpit, the poor cats had to venture outside and somehow wedge themselves into pooping position on a bucking, bouncing boat while simultaneously not taking a wave to the face. Absolutely hilarious; not so much when the little missiles missed their target.

We left Mantenchen Bay on Wednesday, May 21st: weighed anchor under sail and set off into a freshening breeze. We made good progress, pirate-racing our friend Eddie on Disturbia for a while (result: Disturbia disqualified for using a motor), but we still failed to make our destination, uninhabited Isla Isabella, before nightfall and so naturally decided to carry to La Paz.

It was a hearty, six-day upwind journey to La Paz, excellent for giving the boat a good wash.  On the third day, in order to cool off on a number of levels, I jumped into the middle of the Sea of Cortes for a swim. During night number four we had a near miss with a tanker when Michael mistook the big ship’s running lights for the two masthead lights of a schooner because he thinks it’s the year 1853. Michael is now an expert at determining the nighttime course of these giant vessels using only their navigation lights, which came in handy as we dodged many more tankers while closing with the Baja coast. On the fifth night three dolphins led us in, sparkling green comets in the ubiquitous bioluminescence.

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It took three days for the mountain ranges of bug bites, souvenirs from Mantenchen Bay, to finally stop itching. San Blas and Matenchen, built on a swampy estuary, are notorious for vicious mosquitos and jejenes and we were told by virtually the whole cruising community to beware. We absorbed this information and proceeded to wear absolutely no bug spray, little clothing and made sure to do most of our jungle path walking at sunset, when the little biting beasties are most active.

Why present such a flesh buffet to the bugs? All in the noble quest of finding a good wave to surf. We tried but didn’t find any waves in Chacala, but in Mantenchen we quickly discovered that we could dinghy to the beach at Las Islitas, park, paddle in and carrying the surf boards around the corner to the more constant break at Stoners.

Amazingly, the first time we did this we totally forgot to bring shoes. Forgetting your shoes is a strange side effect of living on a boat, and after three scorching hot sand beaches into our journey we were cursing our forgetfulness and seriously thinking about turning back. Thank goodness for Mexican beach trash; a quick search turned up five discarded old shoes and with a bleached hiking boot on my right foot (thoroughly shaken out in case of scorpions) and barely-holding-together sandal on my left, we walked the rest of the way in relative comfort.

We now own three surfboards: an Al Merrick short board purchased from our neighbor Chance in Vallejo (we still have it, Chance!), a ‘Fish’ – a funboard we call the Watermelon, shaped and glued by our good friend Walter Graen in La Paz, and finally a nine foot long board, purchased from and still branded with La Escualita, the small surf shop run by our buddy Antonio in Punta Mita.

Learning to surf is a commitment, especially for two kids who grew up on powder and pack instead of water and waves, but, goddamn, it is an excellent sport. You have to learn to paddle and how to catch a wave before you even learn how to ride it; in the beginning you earn those few seconds of bliss with many, many tumbles in the washing machine. But time favors the persistent, and we are getting better.

The Mexican mainland pairs surfing and sailing like cheese and a fine wine; in Punta Mita one can anchor within a stone’s throw of a break aptly named El Anclote, and it is this proximity of good surf that we are already beginning to miss, especially now that Hurricane Amanda is sending up deliciously surfable swell up and down the coast. Ah well, we’ll be back next year and in the meantime we will have to mini-quest across the Baja in search of waves to ride.

 

About a month ago, after a ravenous week of surfing, Michael tore an intercostal muscle. Unable to lift, haul and hoist on a boat where every single one of his duties include lifting, hauling, hoisting, he grumpily settled down into a period of ‘rest,’ his undirected energy buzzing as he waited for his rib to heal.

Limited physically, all that potential spilled out into a sushi-making frenzy. Before leaving La Paz, our friend Scott traded us almost five pounds of sushi rice; when Michael discovered that we could buy kilos of sushi grade yellow tail tuna from the fish market in La Cruz for less than the cost of one Dragon roll at Hapa, then, naturally, Jenkins & Jenkins Juice & Sushi became open for business.

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Michael began with Nagiri (a strip of raw tuna on a cloud cushion of sticky rice), which we delightfully forced upon our friends James and Dominga on Nomatia as a thank-you for taking care of our cats while we ran up to Guadalajara. Ten points to Dominga as she has only recently began eating meat and fish. I can only image what went through her head as she came on board Azul and was presented with about thirty pre-made Nagiris next to two giant red medallions of inescapably raw tuna, Michael happily cutting off small pieces for the two little carnivores – both making efforts to take the whole steak – and occasionally tossing pieces in his own mouth and mine. We love raw tuna.

We then began to learn how to really make sushi rice (the key, among other things, is toasted sesame seeds) and tracked down some seaweed paper, eel sauce, panko bread crumbs and tempura batter in the local Wal Mart. We started buying shrimp to flatten, deep-fry then put into rolls; we sliced mangoes, carrots, cucumbers, avocados, strawberries, and they all found their way either into or on top of a Jenkins & Jenkins sushi roll. Michael is operating under the principle that ‘every day that one does not eat sushi is a day wasted’, which means we are all eating well, cats included.

And there is nothing like being served restaurant-grade sushi out on a passage in the middle of the ocean.

Who was doing all the lifting, hauling and hoisting while Michael was recovering? My attempts at hoisting the anchor are certainly better than they were, but the whole process takes skill, patience and a lot of brute strength; the whole time I pulled in that back-breaking, hand-slicing, finger-bruising rode and chain I was reminded how often I take Michael for granted when it comes to weighing anchor.

Bahia Banderas is small and consequently there are few anchorages; by far the one that needs the most skill is Yelapa. The town of Yelapa is almost exclusively a boat-in community and is a spectacular reminder of how small towns would be structured without first prioritizing the automobile.  Small, cobblestone paths crisscross in between beautiful houses and restaurants, demanding that you explore and get lost; where once you could only go as fast as the fastest horse, you can now travel by ATV, but the sleepy, other-worldly nature of the place prevails and of course, brings lots and lots of tourists.

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Anchoring is difficult. The walls of the bay come down to an underwater canyon; as you approach the beach you sound first an small, 80ft shelf, then a small, 30ft shelf and if you keep going any further you will have a broken boat on the beach, so be careful. Many moorings have been dropped, which limits the anchorage to a tourniquet-tight area off the south end of the beach where you can drop your hook if you indeed have the balls.

The first time we came to Yelapa was with the indefatigable Debbie and John and we picked up a mooring. It’s very civilized; a pilot boat comes to meet each sailboat at the mouth of the bay and you can pay $200 MXP to tie to a mooring. Fine, until the wind dies and the boats turn beam-on, tumbling from rail to rail in the NW swell that rolls, unchecked into the little bay. We survived that night – nobody even complained –all sleeping on beds that felt like they were attached to a child’s rollercoaster.

The next time we pulled into Yelapa was part of a birthday effort for the local La Cruz sail maker and distinguished fish-printer, Mike, organized by the sparkling Katrina Liana of Marina La Cruz. Mike, Katrina and Katrina’s girlfriend from the States planned to sail Mike’s open topped, 20ft-ish catamaran across to Yelapa, sleep on the stowed mattress that Mike built into the boat and sail back the following day. They put a call out on the radio for any other sailboats who were interested to come.

We arrived late afternoon, politely declined the usual offer of a mooring and made our way tentatively into the shallow water at the south end of the beach. We finally snuggled into a spot, dropping our main anchor in about 45ft and our stern hook in about 10ft. Satisfied with our position, we looked up just in time to see the a panga tow a little catamaran through the surf and onto the beach. Elated, we launched the dinghy and made our way to shore.

Evidently, the trip across had been slow, stifling and saturated with beer; Katrina’s friend, who was not used to the mental strength required for sailing speeds, was clearly never getting on another sailboat again, yet all this stress had momentarily been forgotten in coming ashore and subsequently getting some food. Excited to see familiar faces, we helped Mike winch the catamaran up the beach, out of the surf and out of harm’s way. Or so we thought.

Two other sailboats had made the trip across, yet after dinner neither wanted to stay out past sunset and they quickly said their goodbyes. Revived by a few beers and a whole fried snapper Michael and I were up for anything, and we joined the trio to explore the town. While making our way up to the main ‘street’ via a steep, winding stairway, Katrina cut her fingers when a bottle broke awkwardly in her hand. Only realizing it when reaching the lighted main walkway and seeing Katrina covered in blood, Mike put a pressure dressing (towel) on her hand and we proceeded on to the next bar.

At the end of the night we stumbled into a small performance by a local gringo group which always makes me want to get better at the guitar so I can bust on stage and maybe score some free beers. The leading lady was raging, and later the rest of the band made me smile with ‘Oo Oo Oo,’ the King Louis classic from the Jungle Book. After the show had finished, Michael and I were ready to call it a night and we made our escape as Katrina’s friend began talk of renting a hotel for the night. We picked our way happily back to the beach where Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride laid waiting for us, our trusted little burro.

“Where’s Mike’s cat?”

We could have sworn that Mike’s catamaran had been left almost next to our pangita, yet a quick walk down the beach revealed no catamaran, and a wide eyed young Mexican guy who was camping on the beach with his friend confirmed our fears:

“It was there earlier, and now it’s gone!”

Our hearts went out to Mike, still blissfully unaware that his boat had somehow drifted out to sea. We squinted to scan the horizon, but in the darkness we could see little past the anchorage. Either we needed to update him immediately of the situation or go and search for the catamaran ourselves; and so, even as this latter option felt like we were just delaying the inevitable, we pushed our dinghy into the water and set off into the bay.

It was a dark night, which made our recovery attempt seem even more impossible. Our spirits lifted briefly when we saw a mast – but it was only the small sailboat that belongs to John Tambor “John the Drum”, on a permanent mooring next to all the fishing pangas. Disheartened, but not done with our search, we took in the direction of wind and the small tidal current and predicted that any drifting vessel would get carried toward the western entrance of the bay. After we searched the point we would turn around and come back.

The bioluminescence that night was surreal; as we moved and disturbed the many schools of fish, their rapid escapes made it look like we were shooting lasers out of the dinghy. Feeling a bit like an X-wing, we scooted around the point and out into Banderas Bay proper, and there, against all odds, was Mike’s cat, floating almost bashfully, caught halfway out the window sneaking out into the night.

We tried once to tow the cat behind the dinghy and this did not work at all so we side-tied Mr. Toad to the cat and Michael jumped onto the engine-less boat to steer. Half an hour later, a bit giddy with our success, we sling-shot the cat back onto the beach to the continued amazement of the wider eyed young Mexican guy.

“You brought it back!”

As we tried to stabilize the cat in the surf the same panga that had earlier towed Mike and Katrina came and took the dinghy, taking it back onto a mooring. A bit of an anti-climax, so we set off to find Mike to update him of the situation. We followed the wolf whistles and shouts of success that pinpointed the new location of the dinghy and we found Mike on the beach looking bewildered. Ecstatic, we told him we had found his boat and he was so grateful but still scattered; later we would learn that upon finding out that the cat was missing Katrina’s friend became unmanageable and had stalked off looking for a hotel. While Mike tried to track down any hotel staff that was awake at 2AM, Katrina had wandered off and though we had brought him his boat, when we met Mike, Katrina was still M.I.A. We left Mike to deal and went back to Azul and to bed.

Yelapa: what to expect from a place with an established lack of law-enforcement and reputation for indulgence. We stayed for a few more days, burying our stern hook on the beach and using the anchor line to ferry the dinghy back and forth. We walked to the furthest waterfall on the main street next to the river and played in the novelty that is fresh water. When it came time to leave it took a Herculean effort to raise the forward anchor; it’s not enough that the boat kept bucking in the swell, the steep incline of sand kept catching the anchor while it is pulled up. However Michael, as usual, literally pulled through and we were on our way back to La Cruz.

After Michael’s injury and since I kept being so thoroughly destroyed by lifting the anchor solo, we developed a technique that saves both our backs and involves heaving the rode in together. Sunday, with a fresh NW wind we weighed anchor and left Punta Mita under sail. We were having some trouble raising the main beam-to the wind when all of a sudden, Ralph, the gasoline/diesel hating Punta Mita fixture who sails his dinghy with a wind surfing rig to and from his 30ft boat, Monkey, shouted:

“Release the traveler!”

And we were off. Never once turning the motor on, we made it to Chacala, 35 miles up the coast, about 9 hours later.

 

 

 

We have seen two types of clams in the Sea of Cortes. The white ones (Blancas) are usually rounder while the brown ones (Chocolates) are more irregular. Funnily enough, the Blancas have brown tubes and the Chocolates have white tubes, which are the only parts of the clam you can see as you dive down and dig them out of the sand. Michael and I usually start looking for clams in about 2-3 meters of water; you search for two round holes right next to each other – like the unluckly end of a shotgun – and you want to try and sneak up on them, which mostly means don’t touch the seafloor until you are ready to strike. Make your hands into shovels and position them about a foot either side of the little holes, take a deep breath (figuratively), and bury – quickly because those little dudes shoot back into the sand really fast once they know you are there.

Clam diving is even eaiser than fishing, and by the time we split from the fish magicians on Lunasea we fancied ourselves pretty decent fishermen. I mean, we had to be because we were almost out of cat food and the next restock wasn’t until Loreto. Sushi chefs would balk at Tigre’s diet for the month and half we cruised the Sea of Cortes: raw Tuna (especially the blood meat), raw Trigger Fish, raw Grunt (which makes him crazy), clams etc… we even fed him lobster when we were sick of it. He really liked raw Barracuda, two of which we caught in Agua Verde, trolling with the dinghy at sunset.

Agua Verde, our next stop after Puerto Los Gatos, is one of the sleepiest of the sleepy fishing villages and is desperately hard to get to by car yet relatively easy to get to by boat. We ghosted in under momentum alone until I finally broke and started the motor, not realizing that an afro of kelp that had gotten wound round the propellor during the steady sail from Los Gatos. We anchored under reduced power, fianlly dropping our hook in front of the main beach, new neighbours to our friend Kim on Philiosophy.

We were so excited to find friends in Agua Verde; when you live in a city, bombarded with people every hour of every day, it is easy to lose compassion and even affinity for your fellow human beings. Out on the ocean, stuck with yourself every hour of every day, a set of friendly sails on the horizon is always followed by a smile. We finally rendevoused with the tenacious Jay and Erwin on Windsome, who gave me an awesome receipe for No-Knead Stovetop Bread, we met Bernard on Simple Pleasures, we met the guys on Interabang, and Kim even gave us a few ducats to scrub the bottom of his boat. Azul, as a business, was doing well.

Unfortunately, the water was cold and green and Michael couldn’t spear anything, so we decided to go on a land adventure and got pretty lost trying to find some ancient handprints next to a cave. This is not unusual, Michael and I have gotten lost many times trying to find good climbing: we got so lost trying to hike up to Jah Man in the Utah Desert that we had to come back the next day and try again. Fortunately, our misdirection has taught us to always bring lots of food and water, so in Agua Verde we were prepared and simply toured the neighbourhood instead of the ancient art.

We stayed until the urge to move became too great to ignore; Michael pulled up our hook (just in time, too, as the anchor line had fouled on itself) and we sailed up the coast to Los Candeleros Chicos (Little Candlestick Cove), aka Mano de Dios (Hand of God Cove), a little scoop of water ridiculously protected from everything but due North. Local pangeros identify the giant, hand-like rock formation that marks the east wall of the little bay, hence the name Hand of God Cove. A two boat anchorage at most (and probably only if you’re having a rafting party), we had the place all to ourselves and, of course, we were naked the entire time.

The setting was exquisite, the water was getting warmer, and the reef was absolutely jam packed with fish; the only bad thing that happened during our stay in Los Candeleros Chicos was that Michael snapped his Grandfather’s old fishing pole in half when a large bottom feeder bit hard then swum under a rock. Devastating, but something a little 5200 might be able to fix, and I maintain that it’s was miles better to break the pole trying to land a monster fish than to break it while moving from storage unit to storage unit.

My spidey-sense was tingling; Mum was getting worried and expected a call in the near future, so we kept traveling. We wanted to avoid the beuraucratic black hole that is Puerto Escondidldo, so we passed the Hiddon Harbour in favour of the small town of Juncalito: another extraordinary setting, another sleeply collection of palapas. Here the Sierra Gigantas close with coast, the visible granite slabs making Michael all itchy and electric with the climbing potential.

Highway 1, the main road from Cabo San Lucas to Tijuana, joins the coastline at Puerto Escondido to pass through Loreto, and with the tarmac comes people in all their glory. The gentle ocean sounds were punctuated by the low fart of Jake Brakes as truck drivers thundered past, and, it being a weekend, the beach was full up with  the many locals who turn to their cars and tents for a few days away from home. Some brought more than others (we saw one family that brought an entire home entertainment system), but everyone was either fishing or diving for clams and clearly enjoying themselves.

We heard there was internet in Puerto Econdido, so we set off to find it.  We had a couple of false starts before we realized that it would be a longer walk than we thought, so we decided to explore Juncalito instead and see if there were any cold cervezas for sale nearby. As we picked our way slowly through the stoney beach (just like Wales) in front of the palapas, nodding in approval at the tranquility of the entire setting, a large pickup rumbled toward us, pulled up alongside, and stopped.

Larry, the driver, hasen’t had a proper job in over 30 years. He met Diane, his passanger, because she was the real estate agent who sold him a corner of land near Palmdale, CA, from where he makes his living being, among other things, a first-rate jerky salesman. They married a few years ago and rent a beautiful, mural-covered palapa in Juncalito, where they live about half the year, and moor their boat Sea Toy in the ellipse at Puerto Escondido, which, coincidentally, was where they were headed that very instant.

We hopped into car at their request, grateful for both the ride and the AC. Apparantly, Larry and Diane had anchored near us in Agua Verde; they remembered little Azul, and probably Michael’s shock of blond hair, and were excited to get to meet us after all. They filled us in on the endless shenanigans of Hidden Harbour: how much it cost to anchor where, what the best, most cost-effective way to get water was, the quality of the various tiendas. As they got to work laying up Sea Toy for the summer, we wandered around the strangeness of Puerto Escondido.

Puerto Escondido is possibly the best Hurricane Hole on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez, and in the heyday of the Southern California rafting parties (60s and 70s) it was untouched, a pristine, almost completely landlocked harbour at the foot of the Sierras Gigantas. About a decade or so ago there was a push from the Mexican government to take advantage of the popularity of the natural harbour, and the two organizations who stepped up to the challange, API and Fonateur, struggle to this day over who ‘owns’ what part of the harbour. What was once an isolated, enclosed anchorage is now pocketed with mooring buoys connected to moorings that were in good shape ten years ago but have been minimally maintained since. It costs something like $200 (pesos) a day to moor or anchor inside the main harbour which is controlled by Fonateur; API controls the outlying ellipse (the basin of a unfinished marina) and ‘waiting room’ and they only charge a dollar a day… but there is barely any room left for a ‘tourist’ to anchor.

So you get this phenomenon where the safer, more protected area is virtually empty while the outer, more exposed areas are absolutely jammed packed with stingy old sailors, pissed off and bitter about this ridiculous slide into regulation. It just doesn’t make sense. What’s worse is that a lot went into the development of the Fonteur complex, and there is nobody there. Puerto Escondido remained hidden to the world for so long because it was so much more accessible by water than by land; the locals didn’t come before and there’s barely any more incentive for them to come now, so you’re left with a sprawling sleek new marina complex complete with a giant parking lot, sprinklers for the lawn (in a DESERT), a yard with a travel lift, and there is nobody around except a few crusty old gringos. A strange aura of inefficiency sits heavy on what was once, I’m sure, a spectacular place to be.

After Larry and Diane were done with Sea Toy, they drove us back to Juncalito and we made plans to drive into Loreto the following day. As one of the oldest cities on the Baja, Loreto was once in contention with La Paz to be the capital of Baja California Sur. It’s a lazy, hazy city with it’s fair share of expatriots drinking away their social security checks, but it’s a functionning city the way that La Paz is and Cabo San Lucas isn’t. Totally our style.

One thing led to another, our relationship with Larry and Diane progressed, and one afternoon found Michael behind the wheel of Larry’s Explorer with me in the passanger seat; the directions we received from Larry were: “Take a left at the cemetry and go explore.” Little did he realize he was saying this to two kids who drove a Ford Escape all over the Utah Desert trying to find cracks to climb, and within minutes Michael was driving in the backcountry, through small houses and farms, then into the floodplain and by the dumps. It was awesome, it was beautiful, and we couldn’t believe our luck in meeting such a nice couple.

Unfortunately, Larry and Diane had to head back to the U.S., and all too soon we were the just the three of us again (Tigre!). By this point, there was no denying that we needed water; we were having so much fun fishing, hiking and meeting people that we hadn’t even thought of trying to install our watermaker. So, we got up really, really early (9AM) and began chugging our way around the corner into Puerto Escondido, passing through an incredibly large school of Dolphins who, for fifteen breathtaking minutes, became our delightful escorts.

API, who appears to be less well funded then Fonateur, is based out of an old, stone clubhouse type building which has a book exchange and two showers (though the girls shower has a special nozzle that uses electricity so you are advised to wear rubber shoes so you don’t get shocked). All the API employees seem more down to earth then their counterparts at Fonateur, and they have a water spigot by the clubhouse that you can use for about a quarter of what they charge you at the Fonateur fuel dock to fill up your water jugs.

So we motored up to the cluhouse, dropped our hook, and nestled back between two old stone pilings. Michael hopped into the dinghy and dropped our little Danforth anchor as a stern hook, then rowed to shore to sort out the water situation. Of course, as soon as he got to land the wind began to pick up, and our boat began to move slowly toward one of the stone pilings.

Clearly the stern hook was not holding us in place; I pulled us up on the main anchor so we wouldn’t hit the piling, but we were dangerously close regardless and we had to get out soon before the seas began to build. In the end it took three hoses to span the distance between Azul and the water spigot; as we filled our tanks we were simultaneously trying to keep this Dr. Seus-like hose run out of the salt water, trying to keep our boat from bumping these very solid-looking pilings, keeping an eye on our anchors and agruing aggressivly about all of the above. How does your drinking water get into your house?

We decided to ‘splurge’ and pay $1 to anchor in the ellipse overnight. We snaked a spot close to Sea Toy, took showers, picked up some literature, used the internet and drank some beers. The following morning we scooted out, around and back to Juncalito for some afternoon clam diving followed by some evening clam steaming which was delicious. Surprised at how easy clam diving actually is, we tried to shake things up a little and the next day we made possibly the best clam chowder ever (thank you Scott and Wendy Bannerot), and decided that we would mark Juncalito down as one of ‘Our Favorite Places.’

Most people sail on to Loreto after Puerto Escondido to restock, however since Loreto is a roadstead anchorage (no protection), you have to be done with your shopping early and be back on your boat before the wind picks up. Thanks to Larry and Diane, we were already fully stocked and didn’t need to come into Loreto, so we continued past to Isla Coronado, an old volcano with a low, sandy spit off the southwestern end that, from above, makes the island look like a sperm. I was determined to climb the old volcano: there is an established route up to what was once the crater, so we set off early one morning to find it. And guess what? We got lost – but not for too long as our inbred Colorado-boyscout instincts kicked in and we found the very well marked trail as soon as we sought highter ground. It was a spectacular view from the top, and an even more spectacular swim in the ocean once we hiked back down.

A rumor had spread that San Juanico, our next stop, was filled with clams, so we left Isla Coronado after only a few days and made our way north. Unfortunately, there was a choppy southern swell and NO wind, so we made rolling, flappy progress north, worried that there would be no protection in San Juanico from the south… which there wasn’t, so we went up, around in into the flat waters of La Ramada, a little north-facing cove, which, amazingly, was completely empty.

La Ramada was gorgeous, isolated, pristine… the perfect place NOT to run out propane, which we did midway through cooking lunch on our second day. San Juanico is about 10 dusty miles away from Highway One, and as we began to hike the road in search of a ride, the phrase ‘popsicle’s chance in hell’ came to mind every time I wiped the beads of sweat from my forehead.

The only buildings we could find were ‘NO TRESSPASSING’ vacation homes; we wilted in the face of such animosity and turned back toward Azul. At that point a car drove by and our spirits lifted, but it turned out to be the gringos staying in those vacation homes who informed us that they could maybe give one of us a ride in Loreto…tomorrow…but they weren’t coming back. Screw it, we said, we’ll eat cold food for lunch and do barbeques on the beach for dinner.

And that’s just what we did.

No one should die before they spend at least a few days where their lives are completely dedicated to gathering, cooking and eating food. For the next few days Michael and I ate ceviche for lunch, gathered clams all afternoon, built a beach barbeque as the sun slipped into the horizon and grilled our tasty little chocolates, all dopey from the sun-warmed seawater in our clam bucket.  We grilled them until the muscle released and the shell spring open, dipped them in butter and garlic, and squirted them with a squeeze of lime. One night we had clams for appetizers followed by a beach baked Perico, covered in veggies, wrapped in aluminium and thrown on the fire.

Other boats came and left, and one morning we stuck our heads into the sunlight to see Kaliroy, one of the old ladies of La Paz. Luckily for us we knew the chef, Jon, and this was to be the last stop before La Paz, so he unloaded all his extra food and booze into our eagerly awaiting arms. Cheers Jon – you crazy bastard.

This beautiful escape from ‘reality’ had been like taking home money on your last night in Vegas; an exquisite end to a stunning cruise.

Our new friend Don made us waffles on his boat the morning of our departure to Guaymas. Tummies full, one last swim in the water, and we were pulling up our anchor and leaving La Ramada, Azul pulling through the water under sail power alone. Our autopilot (Austin Powers) was out of commission due to a worn belt, and this was to be our longest hand-steering passage to date.

We hove-to in front of Guaymas to wait for the sun to come into the harbor. Tired from a restless night, we had started our engine only once, never engaging her into gear, before the wind suddenly picked up again and moved us through the night. So as the dawn broke and we started into in the bay with the shrimpers, we wanted to do it without a motor, making it not the first, but the SECOND time Azul will have sailed across the Sea of Cortes using nothing but the wind for propulsion. Turning up into the channel, the air still cool, the line sang and we caught, like an exclamation point, one more tuna. Turning again, we drifted in to the main harbour, arriving and feeling the familiar mix of thrill and relief, dropped the hook, ate our finale fish raw and passed out.

A week later and Azul is up, dry and sitting on stilts, a little bit tilted which is only noticeable when dealing with limes, measuring epoxy, or sleeping.

I cried when we left her, hoping we’d come back.

LIST OF THINGS TO LOOK UP WHEN WE GET INTERNET

Do fish have memories?

How true was Braveheart?

Where is El Gran Trono Blanco?

How do you make rice pudding?

LIST OF THINGS THAT HAVE BROKEN SINCE CABO SAN LUCAS

Engine has trouble starting

Engine failed to cold start in Frailes; would only start if we undid the cap on the vented loop, essentially bypassing the exhaust system and allowing water to flow into the engine compartment. We suspect the problem is due to high exhaust backpressure due to a poorly run exhaust hose.

 

Throttle seized

Since seawater flows over the engine every time it cold starts, the throttle lever has seized. Needs lubrication.

 

Autopilot belt worn

Autopilot is visibly having trouble turning the wheel. Needs replacing.

 

Anchor line is frayed

May have caught on a rock; needs resplicing.

 

Automatic bilge pump won’t switch off in ‘auto’ mode

Float switch jammed.

 

Manual bilge pump not working

Bellows has a crack; unable to create a vacuum. Needs replacing.

 

Compass needs adjusting

Nia thought that the two screws on the base of the compass were mounting screws and in an attempt to get to the throttle, unscrewed them and changed the compass orientation.

LIST OF BEST SONGS TO SAIL TO

Road to Nowhere; Talking Heads

For obvious reasons.

 

Cool Change; David Bowie

I have listened to the beginning of this song enough times for it to be legally referred to as torture; one of the only memories from a very, very drunk night in Cabo San Lucas on a boat called Southern Run. Epic Bowie song, great beginning, perfect for the splendid isolation of sailing.

 

Don’t Rock My Boat; Bob Marley

I dare you to come up with a better combination than Reggae and sailing. I’d double dare you, but I’m too busy sailing while listening to Reggae.

 

Cosmic Pulse; Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival is this funky bluegrass band from Nederland, Colorado yet many of their songs have Celtic and nautical themes woven into the music, plus the female vocalist, Bonnie is definitely a modern-day siren.

*Note: I have a tendency to choose more relaxing music because, obviously, it relaxes me in what can sometimes be a stressful environment. If, however, crashing waves coupled with a violin crescendo is more your style, listen to Elephant Revival’s song Ancient Sea. 

 

Spring Wind; Jack Johnson

“Love calls just like a wild bird/And it’s another day/Spring Wind blew my list of/ Things to do away.” Perfect for the timelessness of the ocean. Also it’s environmentally friendly.

 

Send Me On My Way; Rusted Roots

This awesome road trip song is also an awesome sailing song. I think you just need to be traveling to appreciate it, because I have no idea what any of the lyrics besides ‘Send me on my way’ are.

 

Float On; Modest Mouse

If things are just going completely to shit, this one always seems to make me feel just a little better.

 

Higher Love; Steve Winwood

Just put it on, I’m telling you, ‘this is boat music.’

 

Home; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

‘Home is wherever with you.’

 

I’m on a boat; The Lonely Island

‘I’m on a boat motherf#*ker’

LIST OF THINGS WE’VE FIXED SINCE CABO SAN LUCAS

Unclog forward sink

A problem that’s been with us for months; took about a minute to fix in the water with a screwdriver.

Engine has trouble starting

Re-routed the exhaust hose. Another ‘professional’ installation we’ve had to upgrade.

Throttle seized

Lewd or lube?

Anchor line

We replaced the frayed line with some extra rode because, after a splice, the existing rode would have been too short. We are thinking of converting to an all chain rode.

Automatic Bilge Pump

Compass

A classic, ‘you need to ask my permission before you unscrew anything’ mistake.

Amazingly, we never got around to replacing the worn belt on our autopilot, not even before our 100 mile crossing from San Juanico to Guaymas. Our boat balances rather well on a close reach so, even with a worn belt, Austin Powers (our autopilot) was able to steer a course for the first 30 miles of the crossing. As soon as we went on a beam/broad reach, however, we had to hand steer, two hours on, two hours off through the night to Guaymas.

LIST OF GOOD QUOTES

“The humbler job seems to produce the people most capable of dealing with the exigencies of life. The delusions that sometimes afflict business executives, philosophers, and even first-rate scientists are rare among fishermen, farmers, and sailors. These are people who are very careful not to deceive themselves for the simple reason that mistakes are often fatal. As a result, they have a wisdom that is made up of equal parts prudence, flexibility, perseverance, and resignation. And for that reason, it is often sensible to listen to them.”

Wick Allison, Condemned to Repeat it

One thing is needful. – To “give style” to one’s character – a great and rare art! It is practiced by those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan until every one of them appears as art and reason and even weaknesses delight the eye… In the end, when the work is finished, it becomes evident how the constraint of a single taste governed and formed everything large and small. Whether this taste was good or bad is less important than one might suppose, if only it was a single taste!”

Friedrich Nietzche, The Gay Science

“If I wasn’t humorous I would have been murdered a long time ago.”

Travis Rodgers, claims Longest Mechanical Bull Ride

“If we’re not helping people, then what are we doing?”

Larry, Jerky Salesman

Early one August morning, an old wooden boat named Libertatia started down the 4 mile channel into the main harbor of La Paz. Due to a broken propeller, she had to make 47 tacks before, a few hours after sunrise, she dropped anchor just in front of Marina Don Jose.

Her slow progress under sail created a stir. Libertatia is not your assembly line, Marconi rigged, fiberglass racer/cruiser, she is a grand old lady of a boat, and her entrance could not have been grander. Her hull was yellow/gold capped by a thick black toerail, with a stylized ‘Libertatia’ written close to the bow. She had both a bowsprit and a boomkin, so she looked menacing, ready to joust from either the back or the front. Her two masts were almost equal in height and she boasted an impressive array of canvas to fill the spaces in between. Think of a ketch rig, but instead of a big mainsail, she had a puzzle piece combination of upside down mainsail and mizzen staysail, which was cool and tetras-y. And, like the cherry on top, she had a huge yardarm aloft, from which hung a beautiful square sail.

Since all her sails are tan bark (reddish/brown), everyone thought it was Doug, the sailmaker, on his boat, Charity, who also flies a square sail. Doug’s sail, however, has the sigil of Eric the Red sewn in the center, which, I think, looks remarkably like the Tecate beer logo. After being hailed out of bed by quite a few people asking if he was out for a morning sail, he made a grumpy announcement on the radio verifying that, indeed, this boat was not his.

Such a janky boat logically meant an insanely interesting crew, and Libertatia did not disappoint. The principle owners were Emmett (sailor/banjo player/organic farmer), Lowell (engineer/voracious boat cleaner), and Vincent (I think he’s going into refrigeration), and they had turned the boat from a forlorn, empty hull into the she beast she is today. Along the way they picked up Vincent’s girlfriend, Crystal (no joke, she has a degree in robotics), in San Francisco and, later, Emmett’s girlfriend, Brooke (organic farm owner),  in Los Angeles, and together the five of them sailed Libertatia down the Baja.

It was Crystal, in the infinite wisdom of an open mind, who told us that on each fishing ‘trip’ you have to kiss the first fish you catch and toss it back for good luck. ‘Trip’ can mean anything from a day out sport fishing to a month long cruise from Cabo to Guaymas, therefore, we gently kissed the first little Mackerel that we snagged off the beach in Frailes and tossed him back into the surf. And, well, I don’t want to whistle, but fishing has been… happening… ever since.

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We caught another Mackerel pretty quickly after tossing the first one back and then Michael speared a meaty little Wrasse (small parrotfish) which absolutely made our day. We ate about a third of that little dude completely raw with just some salt and pepper seasoning, soy sauce and wasabi, then we grilled the rest. Delicious, delicious, delicious.

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After three days of bumpy southeast weather we turned and flew from Frailes up to Muertos, where we got to see, once again, our very favorite stretch of the Baja coast. At least this time we were with the wind and, once again, we marveled at what a 180 degree turn means for a sailboat. No fish, and no fish to shoot on the empty reef in Muertos; within a couple of days we were on our way up to Isla San Francisco.

Delightfully, it was a southeast wind again as we bobbed north, and since the funnel created by the Cerralvo Channel amplified the breeze, we screamed along at 6-7 knots in the magnificently rare combination of fresh, steady winds and smooth seas. Delicious, delicious, delicious.

Then the fishing line sang and chaos erupted. Turns out we had snagged not one, but two fish, one on the main fishing pole and one on the shock cord protected line we had attached to a stern cleat. I pulled in the tired Bonito that we’d obviously been dragging for some time, bashed it twice on the head with a mallet and set about gutting and bleeding it while Michael battled away against the bigger fish which, after a spectacular, shimmering leap through the air, was identified as a giant bull Dorado.

We hove to and Michael began pulling him in. He fought and fought, up through the air and then down into the blue, but with every turn of the reel we were more and more ecstatic to land what must have been a 40-50 pound Dorado. You know how I know he was 40-50 pounds? Because, at the very last minute, gaff in hand, I watched him pull away, the third Hail Mary escape attempt that somehow broke the 50 pound test line. Devastating.

Spirits broken, we slipped into El Embudo, the most northern cove on Isla Partida, for the night, then on to Isla San Francisco the next morning. About 40 miles north of La Paz, Isla San Francisco is a small, crumbly remain of an ancient volcano with a spectacular little hook of land coming out the southern end that is perfect for boats to snuggle into. Because of its clear, turquoise water and it’s sweeping, shell-strewn white sand beach, the anchorage is usually packed and this time was no different.

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The positive side of this popularity is that you are more likely to run into your buddies, and, a day later, our friends Alex and Naomi pulled in behind us on their birthday cake beautiful boat, Lunasea. Alex, an avid fisherman, wasted no time in getting a line out, and, the very same night they sailed in, hooked a beefy Pargo (17lbs) that gave him a hell of a fight. Since they were already fully stocked they gave us an entire fillet to fill our bellies, immediately promoting themselves to our best friends forever.

The next few days were luxurious; we snorkeled, fished, played on the beach and hiked all over the little island. We caught tough Trigger Fish, which make great ceviche, feisty Skipjacks and little Grasbies, which we threw back because we were spoiled and they don’t carry too much meat. One evening a panguero and his sons came to the boat and, in exchange for a can of beans and some fresh water, gave us some giant chocolate clams which we steamed, diced, then mixed with bacon, onion and garlic to make delicious delicious delicious clams casino.

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Amazingly we watched this panga go from boat to boat in the anchorage obviously looking to trade and having no success.  On our way to Azul we passed a charter boat who even warned us of these guys as if they posed a threat, not understanding that all they wanted was to trade their fresh catch for fresh water and any type of food that is not from the ocean.  As we made it to our boat, the panga pulled up and it was immediately obvious that it was a father and two sons that were camping in the fish camp in the next cove.  They asked for any amount of water and any amount of food that we could spare and then gave us as many chocolates as we wanted,  each one as big as your fist.  They were extremely nice and polite.  Proof that some Spanish and a little bit of understanding on our part as cruisers will often open the door to a really good experience.

Unfortunately, the daytime tranquility on Isla San Francisco was almost negated by the frustrating nights; the vicious Corumel winds blow all the way up from La Paz and jumble all the boats just enough to make you really regret not securing all the noisy crap on your boat. One night we both snapped, and Michael had to climb the mast at 5 in the morning to tear down our loose radar reflector which had been jangling with Chinese water torture-like irregularity for hours.

So we moved and anchored on the north side of Isla San Francisco, out of the bumpy nighttime weather and closer to Isla Pardito (Isla Coyote), the smallest permanently inhabited island in the Sea of Cortez. We took the dinghy over to Pardito, where we met the matriarch of the family who lives there and her son, Guyo, a fisherman. Since we had all the fish we needed, Naomi asked after lobster. Guyo said he’d go looking, and, sure enough, at 9 o’clock the following morning he pulled alongside Azul with these monstrous clawless sea bugs, the biggest probably weighing in at about 2kgs (4lbs). Michael, unable to resist, bought three and Lunasea bought two, so that night, further up the coast in San Evaristo, we all had an awesome lobster feast quickly followed by awesome lobster comas.

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San Evaristo is a sweet little fishing village with no internet and spotty cell service. There is a little restaurant, a tienda and a small desalination plant, but since we had already been to Evaristo with Debbie and John the previous year, we decided to leave the following morning and sail on to Puerto Los Gatos.

Los Gatos is also a popular anchorage, partly because of its remote location and mostly because of the beautiful, but crumbly, reddish/pink rock that frames the northern part of the little bay. In between relaxing and blowing the conch shell at Lunasea we fished, hiked, snorkeled and just generally had a damn good time. We caught a few Triggers and Michael speared a thick little Burrito Grunt (whose meat makes the cat go crazy), but the water was a little murky and green because of an algae bloom, so visibility was down and fishing was tough. A day or so after we arrived Manuel, a local panguero, knocked on our boat asking after a few liters of gasoline. We obliged (who hasn’t run out of gas?) and later, as a thank you, he brought us another Trigger and a Stone Scorpion fish.

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It was mostly southeast weather; the waves wrapped around the southern point and made the anchorage pretty bumpy. Alex and Naomi set a stern hook to keep their bow into the waves and we soon did the same, but even so it was bouncy. So we eventually decided to take advantage of the southern breeze to head to Agua Verde; Lunasea decided to turn around and had back to La Paz. They are blessed with unlimited time, and want to wait until warmer weather. I will miss them and their giant cat Luka, the visual reminder of the cat-beast Tigre will become if we keep feeding him raw fish every day. We’ll have some Tequila together when we meet again.

The slow drift north continues…

A few hours after finally, finally getting some much-needed sleep, I struggled into consciousness like a drunk diver swirling to the surface, feeling a like a cross between a cabbage and an old bag of marshmallows.

The sun was rising, celebrating our fourth day on what was quickly becoming the most epic ‘two day’ journey to Cabo San Lucas ever. I rolled myself onto the loveseat in the main cabin, marveled at how Michael was still awake and functioning, and raised my eyebrows, asking the question, the only question that sailors ultimately care about: where are we?

There is nothing like the smell of a broken spirit in the morning; we were still hove-to off the East Cape, way out to sea but about midway between Muertos and Frailes. Unable to go forward but too stubborn to turn back, we had been hove-to for close to 24 hours, and morale was low.

We left Isla Partida Thursday afternoon, planning to zoom down the coast on the 18-22 knots of wind that everyone was waiting to come out of the northwest. “The big blow tomorrow,” one lady called it, filling us with nervous excitement at the prospect of a short, quick passage.

Weatherman lie.

We needed this trip to be a quick one, too. Most people depart for French Polynesia between mid-March and mid-May. Leave too soon and you run the risk of hitting nasty weather in the Southern Hemisphere, where Hurricane Season spans November to May. Leave too late and tropical depressions start forming off southern Mexico in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. These disturbances travel west/northwest, slicing through the path to the Marqueses, making travel more hazardous for those without accurate weather prediction, a strong vessel, and a tenacious crew. It was the beginning of May, and it was time to shit or get off the pot. Well, we were trying, we were straining, and it was beginning to hurt.

What had we done to deserve this gauntlet of a shakedown cruise? Even the 20 mile journey from La Paz to Isla Partida had been annoyingly less-than-easy. We were hit with a nasty Corumel, a cool southern breeze that only comes up at night, and though I doubt there was more than 15-20 knots of wind, it kicked up these steep, short-period, boxy, choppy waves that rolled little Azul happily from toe rail to toe rail, knocking over everything we hadn’t properly tied down. We reefed and spent two hours hand steering our writhing, jumpy vessel into the anchorage of Caleta Partida, with the high whine of the wind generator keeping our heart rates high and our palms sweaty.

We spent the next few days doing everything else we should have done before we left La Paz: we finished sealing the toe rail, we scrubbed the bottom of both Azul and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, we hoisted our Mexican flag and our radar reflector, we reorganized the entire boat. There was just enough time for a brief dive with the sea lions on Los Islotes and then off to Cabo.

We waited, waited and waited for the wind to pick up from the north. It was like being stood up – we convinced ourselves it was coming until the sun went down and we realized that she wasn’t showing up. Tired, deflated, we resigned ourselves to motoring through the night, our little 6hp yanmar pushing Azul along at teeth-grindingly slow 2.5 – 3 knots.

In the morning we were just south of Isla Cerralvo, within spitting distance of the nice little anchorage in Bahia de los Muertos, about 100 coastal miles away from Cabo San Lucas. Rather than pull in and wait for the wind we soldiered on, bravely, and then, magically, in Alanis Morisette-esqe irony (i.e. your life just sucks), the wind picked up from the southeast – the very same direction we were headed.

We reefed and grumpily put Azul on a long, offshore tack. Against wind and waves, two 50 mile tacks can sometimes only mean 30 miles of upwind progress. This is a brutal realization for every sailor who has pitted themselves against the push of mother nature, and it takes some a lot of alcohol to come to terms with the kind of patience and tenacity involved. So by morning we were about 15 miles north of Frailes, the next established anchorage about 50 miles from Muertos. Then the wind started to pick up, and, like it’s confused dance partner, the sea began to follow in stead.

It was that stupid, steep, short-period, sharp, shitty box chop that is so characteristic of the Sea of Cortez. It was like the Sea was throwing little punches at us, and southern progress was difficult. Exhausted, and pissed off at the epic journey this was becoming, we pulled out our charts and cruising guides to try to find an anchorage, any anchorage that could be tenable in a southern blow. Patricia Rains (Damn you Rains!) mentioned ‘a small hope in southern winds’ in Punta Area de la Riviera, but, let me tell you, there is nothing in Punta Area de la Riviera for a deep draught sailboat, NOTHING, except despair.

So, it’s understandable that, on the morning of Day 4 we finally said, “Fuck this!” and turned around. Going about 7 knots under reefed main and working jib, we made it to Bahia de los Muertos before the sun was down.

While this debacle was going on, a tiny little nugget of worry began in the bottom corner of Michael’s gut. It started to crescendo slowly as we waited in Muertos, and continued to grow during our take 2, a pleasant one day motor sail around the East Cape and into Bahia San Lucas. By the second day at anchor what was once a little nugget of worry was now full-blown anxiety and he, and I, both realized that we had to something about our cutlass bearing.

Or what we thought was our cutlass bearing.

We were under the impression that we had inadvertently knocked our cutlass bearing loose during our engine refit in Mazatlan over Thanksgiving. Since a cutlass bearing is sort of like chafe protection for your prop shaft, Michael solved this problem by simply shoving the rubber bearing back into our boat’s little butthole. Problem was, the damn thing kept wriggling back out. It came out infrequently at first, but after nearly 60 hours of motoring in the shenanigans from La Paz to Cabo, the prop would now only spin for just about an hour before it developed the characteristic knock that meant the little rubber buffer had, once again, escaped.

Cabo San Lucas, the Vegas of Mexico, was the sailboat hangout in the late seventies. But, like any old, established gringo will tell you, things have changed, and with exorbitant amounts of money coming in from the giant, island-like cruise ships, the zillion dollar sport fishers, the daily boat charters and the nightly booze cruises, there is absolutely, absolutely no incentive for the port authority to cater to the transient, low-budget, notoriously cheap cruising community. So every day, at about noon, an API boat comes and does the rounds, attempting to extract about 20 bucks per boat per day to anchor out.

What’s especially galling is that the anchorage in Bahia San Lucas is shite. Absolute shite. It’s not a protected anchorage; any weather from the south, southeast or east comes in and creates havoc, as many learned in the fateful storm in December 1982. Also, the Bay is not a shallow shoal area, it’s a plunging underwater canyon, so all the sand and all the anchors buried in the sand are slowly falling into this canyon. 20 bucks. Enjoy.

So, naturally, most sailboats flatly refuse to be extorted, and then the fun game of cat and mouse with the API boat begins. We like to go with the ‘ignorance is bliss’ technique, where we are always, conveniently, off Azul between 11AM – 2PM. Richard (Rudderless) played the ‘sorryidonthaveanymoneywhatareyougoingtodoaboutit’ card, which is direct but requires confrontation. Our newest friends on Southern Run, John and Paul, simply weighed anchor and went on a day sail every day. An elegant, simple solution – the ‘we were never there’ approach.

We were delighted to meet John and Paul. They were one of only two boats in the anchorage when we first pulled in, and miraculously, they were headed the same direction we were. Naturally, this led to a soiree about Southern Run, and during the course of the night we found our that John firmly believes that all the fat women on jet skis are spies sent by API, and that Paul has not only ridden the fastest camel in Africa, he has also had sex on top of Mount Sinai, but couldn’t finish because of a voyeuristic goat. Mount Sinai being, of course, the Mountain on which Moses received the 10 commandments from God. At least, this is what I remember before the tequila came out.

The moral of that story is NEVER GO DRINK FOR DRINK WITH AUSTRALIANS. But suffice to say, after that night we were friends. So it was on Paul’s advice that we decided to haul the boat out to replace the cutlass bearing, a pretty routine job that needed to get done and wasn’t too expensive.

Of course, the cutlass bearing didn’t need replacing. It was something much more dramatic.

Turns out, most boats have a strut that supports the propeller shaft once it comes out of the bottom of the boat. This keeps the prop from knocking and saves wear and tear on the transmission. We didn’t think we had one because, well, we’ve never known Azul to have one. But she did, and it was bronze, but at some point in her sordid past this bronze strut degraded and rotted away.

We spent Monday through Friday on the hard in Cabo Yacht Center, where, uncomfortably, I had to walk through the entire office and say hi to all the staff before every morning bowel movement. In five days the boys pried out what was left of our old bronze strut, glassed over the damage and installed a new, stainless strut for our poor, unloved propeller shaft. Azul now looks great. Bikini wax great. But, despite our ‘nice person’ discount and the fact that we paid cash, the boatyard bill broke us. Reality hit us full in the face; we needed to make some money before jumping off to the South Pacific.

So we are off on a 6 week vacation cruise up the Sea of Cortez. We will haul Azul out in Guymas and attempt to make some money before going to the Marqueses next March. We are not giving up… we’re just going sideways for a little bit.

This is possibly the hardest decision Michael and I have ever had to make and we’ve had to put our dreams on hold, which, honestly, we’ve never really done before. So, to make us all feel better, and to celebrate Tigre’s return to Cabo San Lucas, his birthplace, here’s some pictures of our surprisingly seaworthy little gato man.

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I dare you to come up with a group of people more superstitious than sailors. Centuries of relying on something as temperamental and ever-changing as the wind as a primary means of power meant the creation of many, many superstitions: some logical, others inexplicable. Old sailors would get chickens and pigs tattooed on their feet, figuring if they kept the chickens and pigs beneath them, like they would be in the hold of a big ship, then they would never drown. Can’t kill an albatross, it could be the soul of a sailor lost at sea. NEVER whistle while things are going well – you are mocking the wind gods and they will not hesitate to send a gale your way. Pinapples are good luck. Bananas are supposed to be bad luck, as are women, but modern day sailing has moved past these two, opening the water up to potassium and women alike. Also – never leave port on a Friday.

Everyone has their Friday story, and if they don’t, they’re about to. We left San Francisco Bay on a Friday and hit the worst weather we’ve seen to date, gusts up to 35 knots and 12-15 foot seas. We spent the night white-knuckled, surfing the waves under a double reefed main and working jib. Granted, it wasn’t a hurricane, it probably wasn’t even a storm, but it was enough weather to keep us both awake and alert, hoping that it wouldn’t get any worse. By morning the wind had died down, leaving us in a sloppy, leftover sea in the middle of Montery Bay. “Never again,” we vowed, “never again.”

A private superstition which both Michael and I share is announcing our sailing plans to the general public. The permanancy of a departure date in the impermanent world of ebbs and flows, wind and waves seems slated for ironic failure, plus it absolutely, absolutely sucks to tell people your plans.

People will inevitably fall into four different categories when you present them with the information: “My boyfriend and I are going to sail our 30ft sailboat from La Paz to the Marqueses.” First are the Chicken Littles. These are the dream-crushers who know they are dream-crushers. When I told one customer about our plans, she responded, shocked, with: “Aren’t you afraid your boat will get swamped and you will die?” These people fear change the way claustrophobic people fear tanning beds, with skittish incredulity: “Yeah, I guess some people do it, but it’s a fucking radioactive death box.” It is statiscally safer to sail across the Pacific than to drive any car on the highway. But facts, and most logical arguments are lost on the Chicken Littles, who literally think the sky will fall if you do anything above and beyond their square of knowledge. Their faith in the vicious nature of all things outside their bubbles is complete and unshakable. They literally cannot be reasoned with.

Second are the Bobble Heads. These are possibly the worst type ever. At least the Chicken Littles are consistent in their fear, the Bobble Heads are the dream-crushers who don’t think they are dream-crushers. Because of this hypocritical short-circuit, they will initially be very positive, but very inquisitive. This initial curiousity will progress to a full blown roast where you will be grilled until the Bobble Head has found the one weak link, the one incompletely formed thought floating in your head and they will prove, empirically, that you shouldn’t pursue your dreams because they were, in fact, dangerious and ridiculous. Lots of nodding, lots of agreeing, but ultimate denial. Change, in this case, is still feared.

Third are the Toe Dippers. These people are the number one fans of the People Who Actually Do Stuff. Contrary to the Bobble Heads, the Toe Dippers approach with caution, hesitant about accepting anything too far beyond the social norm. But, over the course of a night, a magical phenomenon takes place. The Toe Dipper will get drunk and all the insecurity will melt away with the blissful exhale of released inhibitions, and they will realize there is nothing better than simply and unambiguously following your dreams and they will tell you as much, right before they pass out or try to do something stupid like a handstand on the bar, or something.

Last are the People who Actually Do Stuff. They will smile and nod knowingly, think, then give you one or two nuggets of wisdom: “Provision well.” “Spinnaker Pole.” “Save some projects for the journey.” “Over-sized bras are major trading items in the South Pacific.” They’ve done it. They know that shenanigans will ensue no matter how prepared you are, and the important thing is to be prepared enough and in the right mentality.

Michael and I are leaving La Paz. The plan is to spent a few days on Espiritu Santu decompressing, a last restock at Cabo, then off to the Marqueses. The journey from Cabo San Lucas to Hiva Oa is about 2,500 nautical miles, which for us means about thirty days at sea.

I won’t bore you with a list of extensive upgrading and rebuilding, sanding and grinding, painting and crimping, sealing and caulking, installing and re-installing and re-re-installing that we’ve been doing over the past year, but suffice to say I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my life, both on the boat and at the Shack, illegally, making pennies compared to what I made in the States working half as hard. We are ready. Azul is ready. Tigre might not be, but he doesn’t have a choice. And all we ask is to keep us in your thoughts over the next month as we venture out into blue isolation.

Having said that, we will not be completely alone. We have our SSB radio which we will us to check in to the various nets that take place daily, updating the net controllers on our position, speed and direction. We have a liferaft and EPIRB if things go completely to shit. We have enough rice to last through the apocalypse, we have enough water storage to last two months at sea, and we have enough diesel to motor 500 miles if need be. We have a collection of over-sized bras.

To those who remain incredulous, I leave you with the controversial words of Captain “Fatty” Goodlander, a prolific writer/sea gypsy who is currently on his third circumnavigation.

“A Special Note to Young Adults

I am now going to reveal to you something you probably already suspect. Since I am an adult, I’ve secretly promised my fellow adults to lie to you, to tell you what we think you should hear rather than the truth. That’s what we adults do and that’s why you think of us as hypocrites – because we are.

Thus, I am not at liberty to tell you to buy a boat, drop out of school, and sail away.

And this is good becasue I sincerely don’t believe most kids should. There will be plenty of time to go cruising after you graduate from college, get a job, get a spouse, have a kid, work forty hours a week for forty years, and retire.

I certainly won’t suggest that our society has it ass-backwards. Don’t even think about the absurdity of diligently working while you are young and playful. And then, later, maybe, attempting to play for a couple of moments as you’re dying.

No, don’t even think about any of this.

Just follow orders. School. Church. Work. Death.

…just skip the living part.”

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