• Jill

Baby's First Passage

As I sat on the edge of the cockpit, my arms wrapped around the side of the dodger (not unlike a small monkey), riding out the 6 (maybe 8) foot swells with Galapagos and blinking through the saltwater droplets on my glasses, I figured my experience in that moment was probably similar to someone with no horse experience at all going out on a long, hilly, backcountry trail ride. Our boat crew, Andrew and his parents, were clearly unconcerned; in fact, the gusts of wind that accompanied the rough seas were filling the sails and pushing us along at a speed that pleased them all very much. I have no sailing experience to go off of, so I simply must assume that the ones who know what they're doing will let me know if there's something to worry about. The terms being thrown around are completely foreign to me, but I suppose I'll learn them in time. "Reefing the sail" can't be much more complicated than fitting a horse with a running martingale, surely.

Sunday's sixteen hour passage from around Punta Chivato, Baja California, to San Carlos on the mainland side was my first experience with seas that big and a passage that long. We left before first light, and cruised into the anchorage well after dark. I wasn't sure what to make of all the pitching and rolling; I did take my seasickness pills again, and spent most of the passage laying down, but I wasn't fearful. Deeply uncomfortable, but not afraid. 

The passage also gave me a clear confirmation and prime example of my ability to do absolutely nothing. I don't mean the "doing nothing" of a lazy Saturday, watching Netflix and eating junk food, where "nothing" simply means "I didn't do chores or make money." I'm talking about actual, true inactivity: I spent hours in the v-berth, pressed up against the downhill wall and tucked in by pillows, staring at the ceiling. Hours. It was impossible to maneuver through the cabin without being thrown around, and reading was uncomfortable in all the motion. We had no cell service in the middle of the sea, but even if we had, I can't imagine I would have been able to stomach scrolling or watching a video. Sometimes I would go up into the cockpit and lay down there, but as the sun went down, the breeze and the ocean spray made it almost cold--hard to believe after more than three solid weeks of hot sun and humidity that keeps the heat around.

A bull dorado!

The good news was we didn't have to run the engine much at all, because the winds were on our side. Within maybe two hours of the sun coming up, Andrew and his dad had caught three Dorado--the most desirable eating fish in these waters--and then they had to bring in the lines so we didn't accidentally catch more than the freezer could hold. We had beautiful fish filets with rice and salsa for dinner after anchoring Sunday night, and now that we're back in town with access to a big grocery store, were able get supplies for some really yummy fish tacos tonight. 

It's been three weeks since we set sail out of San Carlos to explore the Sea of Cortez, and they were simultaneously action-packed and very lazy weeks. We got to see some incredible wildlife, including a pod of hundreds of dolphins swimming with the boat, a few whales, mellow whale sharks swimming just under our dinghy, plus colorful reef fishes, sting rays and eels while snorkeling. There have even been sea turtles, seals, and a couple of jumping mobula rays. We cooked clams the other night that we harvested ourselves (and when I say "we," I mean everyone but me) and ate them with pasta and pesto. (I participated in the cooking and eating parts.) While we were in the Bay of Concepción at Playa El Burro, we got to try two different little restaurants that were delicious, and both served strong and tasty margaritas. That beach also featured some petroglyphs just a few steps away. We met a few other cruisers, and it's always interesting to hear how other people are making this lifestyle work, and read a lot of books. One such book is called Harmony on the High Seas, and it was written by one of the cruisers we met.

First ever wild dolphin sighting!

All those dark choppy spots in the water to the left are dolphins.

That's the head of a spotty whale shark.

At the bottom you see the engine of the dinghy.

Our own harvested clams with tomato, onion, artichoke hearts, and pesto.

I found that I adjusted to boat living pretty well. I don't mind the small space or some of the minor inconveniences (most dry foods being stored in compartments under the couch cushions, for example). I could sleep just fine up to a certain amount of rocking. I tend to prefer to shower more, but the reason for our fresh water conservation had everything to do with being in remote areas away from a refill station and nothing to do with a lack of a shower onboard, because there is one. I'm also beyond desperate to do laundry; aside from washing our underwear in a bucket on the aft deck once, we haven't washed our clothes in a month. Again, this is because of "cruising life," not simply "boat life." I'm still a long way from getting my footing with the sailing part, though. If we do end up getting our own boat in Tacoma, sailing lessons will be in order for me. Knowing what all the parts of the boat are and what the different terms mean would be a great start, but will probably take as much studying as I poured into my horse books as a child.

Not what it will look like in the PNW most of the time, I suppose...

We're in a bizarre limbo right now, right on the cusp of our return home. We went out for dinner last night at a place called Chihuahua's here in San Carlos with a squad of cruisers Andrew's parents are friends with, and today we went to a beautiful ceramics craft shop and bought a boatload (haha) of gorgeous painted tiles that we hope to use for some cool project in our living space one day! It's time for Andrew and I to start sadly collecting our belongings from whatever crevices they flew into while the waves tossed the boat around and shove them back into our near-broken backpacks. According to the itinerary, we'll make a stop in Fresno to see my sister compete with her horse Kalle (if you haven't heard, they're in the top ten in the nation for eventing!) and help out at the show, and then head on home through San Francisco. Our closet of fresh clothes and shoes at my parents' house awaits us.

- J

Andrew and his mom, exploring abandoned hotels at Punto Chivato. 


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