This posting is being written as we sail down the Pacific Coast, and will be posted in the first town we find internet access. After our glorious summer in the Sea, we stayed in La Paz for another week or so until we found what we thought was a good weather window to cross the Sea of Cortez: a full week of winds in the right direction at a reasonable speed. We calculated that we’d be able to mke it all the way to Banderas Bay in four days, assuming the conditions held. This helped us decide to go directly there rather than heading straight across to Mazatlan and hopping down the coast. The first two days of our travels went according to plan, and we sailed along beautifully day and night. As expected we made it halfway across in the first 48 hours. However, the winds petered out after those first two days, and we bobbed along slowly for the next five days, occasionally getting an hour or two of nice breeze. This provided a nice opportunity to reflect on the contrasting perspectives of life as a journey or as a race to reach a goal. As we had hoped, our relationship with time is changing and evolving.
Rather than despair or turn on our motor, we pulled out a home renovation project. 🙂 We unbundled some flooring planks that we had purchased in Portland two years ago, and redid the floor in the master stateroom. We also began laying out flooring on two other surfaces in that room, but ran out of time before this part was finished. It’s looking quite nice, and we’re enjoying having the extra space on the deck where the bundles of flooring have been sitting ever since we left Portland last year.
On the 6th day of our trip we noticed that there were lots of fish swimming alongside the boat, including half a dozen dorados. Dan wondered if we could catch one by hand (because they didn’t seem to be biting on our fishing lines which are continually being trailed behind the boat). First we tried to gaff one, by lining the hook up underneath it as it swam within arm’s reach of the boat and then quickly pulling up on the long handle of the gaff. Although Dan touched one, he was unable to hit it quickly enough to hook it. Next he pulled out the spear-gun. He carefully sighted one and pulled the trigger. The spear shot out and hit the fish squarely on the side of the head, a perfect shot. The fish jumped and with a huge surge snapped the “keeper line”, then swam off taking the spear with him. Somewhere out there is a dorado with quite a headache! Although we were unsuccessful in figuring out how to get a fish using these unconventional techniques, we did happen to catch a large dorado on a regular fishing line a couple of hours later. It was by far the largest fist we’ve caught to date – 48 inches! It’s the kind of fish that deep-sea fishermen might take a prize photo of, hanging alongside them on the dock, but we weren’t set up for that. So here’s a less dramatic photo of the critter on our deck, before it had completely given up the ghost. Dorados are spectacularly beautifully colored, with shimmery blues and greens and brilliant yellow tails, especially when they are excited by the hunt. The moment they die, though, the color drains out of them, turning to drab silvery greys – even the golden eye goes silver. They are also amazingly delicious. We cut this one into fillets which we popped into the freezer, and we’ll enjoy them at half a dozen meals over the next few weeks.
We stayed in contact with the ham radio network, and heard of a story brewing that we soon played a small role in. “So there was this guy, see…” who was sailing across the Pacific. He started in Australia in June if I remember right, but ran into some troubles on the way, mostly of the lack-of-wind variety, but also including dead batteries, torn sails, and eventually low supplies of food and water. Since he only had an electric motor for propulsion, the dead batteries left him at the mercy of the winds. He detoured a few hundred miles to Hawaii in August (with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard) to regroup, and resumed his travels in September – only to repeat the story. As it turned out, we were about 5 miles from him on the morning of the 7th day of our trip. He was becalmed again, but then we had been too for several days. We decided to make a minor detour, for humanitarian purposes. So we started our motor and put together a care package of enough food and water to get him through the next few days in case the winds didn’t pick up. We powered over to his boat and pulled up alongside him long enough to toss two bags of food and two jugs of water. He says we brought the wind with us as well. As we pulled away, we turned off the motor and put our sails out again. As it turned out, the winds delivered us all safely into the Bay that evening – and then died out again once we got in the shadow of the hills. We were glad to drop anchor and get a good night’s sleep. Except for this minor diversion, we sailed for 8 days continuously, our longest passage so far. We enjoyed the time together, and we’re glad to be slowly ramping up our level of experience.
The next day we moved the boat into a marina, packed our bags and the following morning we flew to New York to visit Dan’s family for Thanksgiving. We spent most of our visit with Dan’s mother, in her new apartment in New Jersey. We helped her with the last of her unpacking and hung some artwork. We found some surprisingly good local restaurants, and satisfied (temporarily) our desire for foods we’re unable to find in Mexico, especially Thai and sushi. Who knew Hackensack, NJ was such a culinary mecca. The weather was chilly of course, but mostly clear and mild. We went into New York City a few times, once to listen to Dan’s sister Beth read a few selections from her newly published collection of short stories. We visited B&H Photo Superstore, which was quite an experience. It’s two stories in the heart of Manhattan packed with electronics and customers speaking every language you could imagine. The place must be owned by a Hasidic family, because all of the employees wore yarmulkes and many spoke with a Hebrew accent and wore the traditional garb, including tassles, underneath their work-shirts. We bought ourselves a pair of Android tablets and of course a few other items. Wisely we also got the extended warranty insurance, because one of them already got damaged when it fell off the bed later in the week. It’s on its way back to the manufacturer for repair, and we hope to see it again in February when Kathy’s sister Jean comes to visit. We also spent a few days in up-state New York at Aunt Nancy’s big old farmhouse with 16 lively family members. It was a wonderful time, from catching up on everyone’s news to enjoying the wonderful meal to the traditionally contentious annual Scrabble game. Back at the apartment in New Jersey we visited with a high-school girlfriend of Dan’s, now a professional photographer, and collected together all of the packages that we’d ordered on-line before heading back home to our boat. (For those keeping track, we also received the mariner’s credentials – captain’s licenses – that we applied for in San Diego in July!)
Now that we’re back in Mexico, we’re heading south down the Pacific coast for a few months. We sold our motorcycle. It turns out it doesn’t do all that well in salt-water, and Mexico has a really good bus system which we use frequently. Down the road when we wish we had it back, we can purchase another bike. We installed another two 235 watt solar panels. It turns out we didn’t have quite enough to keep up with our power demands when up in the warmer waters of the Sea of Cortez, mostly because of our large refrigerator and freezer; life is full of trade-offs!) Now we are ready for some new adventures. We’ll start with Christmas in Barra de Navidad (seems appropriate, doesn’t it?), along with a dozen of our newest best friends. Who knows what else the winter will bring…
>> Kathy & Dan