The terrestrial travels in southern México are complete. Tomorrow the pelagic travels resume. I am sitting in the shade near the water. A light breeze keeps me cool during this warmest part of the day. It is a tranquil Sunday afternoon. Frigate birds glide silently overhead, never flapping their wings. The water in the marina is calm, with just the hint of a ripple from the breeze. The palm trees sway ever so slightly. The jungle covered hills are dark green in the afternoon sun, the sky a light blue, the water a shade or two darker. In a few minutes I will walk to the beach, swim a mile or so straight out to sea, past the people playing in the surf, past the jet skis and parasail boats. Just a mile from shore it is a different world, quiet, calm, serene. I will float on my back out there for a few minutes, then swim back to the other world, refreshed. Tomorrow I will sail further out into the sea. Why? What is the reason, the purpose? I’m not going anywhere in particular. I’m not doing anything in particular. Or am I? Some of us swim, some of us sail, some of us play music, dance, farm, paint, cook, build, create, make, repair. Why? Because it’s what we do. It’s our part in the game, in the grand opera. Of course there are twists and turns in the plot; I’m not the same person I was yesterday, and I’ll be someone else tomorrow. What will I do then? In this moment I will swim.
I departed Marina El Cid in Mazatlán on the morning of Sunday 20 January 2019 headed towards Bahía Banderas. Sunday was a beautiful day of sailing with light winds, calm seas, and warm sunshine. That evening as the sun set in the west the full moon rose in the east, and a phenomenal show began. As I sailed along the full moon lit up the sea, reflecting off the calm waters. Then the earth began to eclipse the moon. At full eclipse the orange moon looked close enough to reach out and touch, and in the darkness the stars became bright and began to twinkle, flashing in the sky. Shooting stars blazed across the heavens. I listened to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald as I watched the show, then as the eclipse came to an end the wind died and I fell asleep.
And that was the last of the wind until early Tuesday morning. I drifted generally south, sometimes catching a whisper of a breeze. When the breeze picked up for a few hours Tuesday morning I was able to sail to the harbor entrance at San Blas, then I motored up the river when the wind died again and docked at Marina San Blas for 3 days.
After enjoying village life in San Blas and meeting an interesting group of sailors, I left on Friday 25 January for a short sail to Bahía Chacala, arriving there late in the afternoon. I anchored in the bay and not wanting to inflate my kayak I decided to swim to shore for dinner. Things look closer from a boat than they actually are. I know this, but I was still surprised at how far from shore I actually was. It was a long swim, and the swim back to the boat with a full stomach and darkness closing in was even longer. In the morning I still didn’t feel like inflating the kayak so I swam in again for breakfast.
Bahía Chacala is beautiful with volcanic cliffs covered in jungle dropping to the sea and palm tree lined beaches. Unfortunately the anchorage can get uncomfortable in certain conditions, and that started to happen Saturday night. So Sunday morning I hauled up the anchor and sailed to Bahía Banderas, arriving late in the afternoon at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful sail to finish my journey south. When the winds change I will be sailing north.
If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, Quaint little villages here and there… At the River, Groove Armada
I motored out of Marina Los Cabos on Saturday morning, 12 January 2019. The sky was blue, the weather warm with a hint of a breeze. Once clear of the marina breakwater I raised the sails, shut off the outboard, and sailed for Mazatlán.
I’d had a wonderful time in San Jose del Cabo. It has a relaxed coastal California atmosphere, beautiful weather, a charming old town with art galleries and great restaurants. But I was at the end of California and could not go north until the winds change in the spring.
The 180 nm passage to Mazatlán was expected to take about 45 hours – a nice, slow, and comfortable beam reach. I’d selected a weather window with moderate winds from the north as I didn’t want to be rolling around in in steep wind waves on the beam. At just 4000 pounds Barchetta Veloce can get a little uncomfortable in disturbed seas.
Barchetta Veloce is also a fast little boat. Saturday afternoon and night the conditions were fantastic, pure Zephyr whistling on a wine dark sea. We sped over the swells, all through the night till dawn sailing on, and by morning we were two thirds of the way to Mazatlán and had raced through the carefully selected weather window. The wind increased, the swells became breaking wind waves, and Barchetta Veloce raced on, unable to slow down now, even with just a scrap of sail raised. We surfed down the waves, accelerating to exhilarating speeds, then crashing into the wave ahead, sending water cascading over the little boat.
All morning and afternoon we surfed on, and at sunset we were at the breakwater to Marina El Cid. I started the outboard, furled the sails, and motored into the marina, the little boat covered in salt and squid. The little boat and I were both beaten up and bruised, but after a good cleaning and some rest we are ready to get back out there.
I sailed out of Bahia Santa Maria at 9am on Sunday 9 December 2018 and arrived at Marina Los Cabos before noon on Tuesday 11 December, exactly two months after leaving Alameda.
The final 3 days and 2 nights of my journey south were amongst the finest sailing days I’ve ever had – a warm gentle breeze wafting me along on a run or reach over smooth azure seas.
What a finish to a sensational voyage! For 2 months most of my power has come from the sun and wind. I’ve met the most interesting people from around the world. I’ve sailed the coast of California from San Francisco to its southern terminus at Cabo San Lucas. I’ve anchored in nearly deserted bays and docked at luxurious marinas. I’ve visited beautiful villages with the friendliest people you can imagine. I’ve sailed my little boat alone for hundreds of miles.
A few weeks ago another sailor was asking me what I had on my boat – a watermaker, refrigeration, radar, AIS, a liferaft – and I answered no to everything. They said well, you must have a dinghy to get to shore. I said no, but I have an inflatable kayak, and they said wow, you really are a minimalist. I replied no, if I was a minimalist I would swim to shore.
There is a theory of design that perfection is reached not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. In many ways this trip has proven that theory. With next to nothing I’ve had a wonderful time. Barchetta Veloce has nothing extraneous, but sails phenomenally well. I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life.
I’m taking a break for about a month.
I pulled up the anchor at 10am on Monday 3 December 2018 and sailed out of Bahia Tortugas under jib alone on a moderate breeze from the north. Around noon I raises the mainsail as the wind speed dropped. By morning I had passed Punta Abreojos, 100 miles south of Bahia Tortugas. The weather was warm, the sea calm and a beautiful azure.
The nights were moonless and with no other lights in sight the stars were brilliant, lighting the cosmos and reflecting from the sea. Sailing before a light breeze, far offshore, at night, listening to Waters of March is an unforgettable experience.
On this leg of my journey I was accompanied by a plethora of sea life – whales, dolphins, marlin, tuna, many species of birds. For a short time I was taking waves over the boat, and afterwards there were a dozen squid stuck to the deck. Thirty miles offshore from Bahia Santa Maria a sea lion followed me for an hour, probably debating if she should come aboard for a rest or not.
I dropped anchor in Bahia Santa Maria at 4pm on Wednesday 5 December. It is gorgeous. There are a dozen fishing shacks on shore, but other than that it is undeveloped. There are mangroves along the north shore that are teeming with life. I’ve been swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking most of each day. Several boats I’ve met in various places before are here. They all check on me and make sure I make to each anchorage.
I plan to leave Sunday for San Jose del Cabo, where I will take a break for about a month.
I departed Ensenada on the morning of Saturday 24 November under overcast skies. It was dead calm so I motored across Bahia Todos Santos. As I passed between Punta Banda and Islas de Todos Santos the wind picked up and I raised the sails. From there there it was a beautiful downwind sail along the coast then outside of Isla Cedros and into Bahia Tortugas. I dropped the anchor just off the village on Tuesday morning, 27 November and slept all day.
I’ve had a wonderful time here. There have been 6 other boats here in the past week, today just one other boat and me. Thursday night we went to a fiesta for the new priest. We naively thought it would end by 9pm. Dinner was served at 10pm, and music and dancing were still going when we left at 1am.
Other boats here have been from the Bay Area, Victoria BC, the Yukon, Coeur d’ Alene, and Ventura. I went to high school with the aunt of one person I met here.
The locals are incredibly friendly and generous. On Tuesday night I was wandering around town with a couple from another boat, looking for an atm, a market, and a restaurant. We asked a policeman for directions and he drove us all over town showing us where things were, waited while we bought some groceries, then drove us back to the dock.
Tomorrow morning I will sail to Bahia Magdalena.
Athena called a favorable wind, pure Zephyr whistling on wine-dark sea. Telemachus commanded his companions to seize the rigging; so they did, and raised the pine-wood mast inside the rounded block, and bound it down with forestays round about, and raised the bright white sails with leather ropes. Wind blew the middle sail; the purple wave was splashing loudly round the moving keel. The goddess rode the waves and smoothed the way. The quick black ship held steady, so they fastened the tackle down, and filled their cups with wine. They poured libations to the deathless gods, especially to the bright-eyed child of Zeus. All through the night till dawn the ship sailed on.
– The Odyssey, Book 2
I’m leaving. I’ll be in La Paz in about 2 weeks.
As I entered the breakwater to Marina Coral on Friday 9 November my outboard motor started making a loud grinding noise. I motored for another minute before it quit, and was able to glide into my assigned slip. A mechanic looked at it later that day and confirmed that it was now an anchor. Since then I’ve learned that it takes one day to drive to San Diego and buy a new outboard, and one week to complete the paperwork required to import it into Mexico. In my case it also involved driving the wrong way into oncoming traffic towards the border crossing, once at the direction of a Customs officer and once at the direction of some car window washers who rode on the bumper of my rental car and moved a concrete barrier so I could take a shortcut which saved me 3 hours of waiting at the border. I bought full insurance on the rental car and thought I might as well put it to good use.
The queue at the border is horrendous because of the additional security to protect us from the women and children in the migrant caravan from Central America. When I was at Customs, every few minutes there would be a rumor that the caravan was approaching and everyone would run outside to see it.
On the way back to Ensenada navigation wasn’t working on my phone and I got really lost in Tijuana. It was like Mad Max or East Oakland out there. I decided it was safer to drive through stop signs and red lights than to stop. Apparently everyone else thought the same thing. The full insurance on the rental car turned out to be a real bargain.
My new outboard is installed and I’m ready to sail South. I love Ensenada and I’ve had a wonderful time here. I’ve met so many people and everyone is incredibly friendly. The marina is very quiet and peaceful. The weather has been beautiful. But it is time to go. I will restock my provisions tomorrow and take care of a few other things, then when everything feels right I will say goodbye to my friends and sail away.