10/30/2009, Bahia Tortuga, MX
San Quintin was not one of the two scheduled stops on the Baja Ha Ha route, but here we are, along with about 19 other boats so far, with more arriving. Weather coming down the coast, mostly big seas and winds, has brought us to this safe anchorage about 1/4 of the way down Baja from San Diego. Some of the boats have continued on, sailing with spinnakers flying or motors straining, to gain ground ahead of the weather and keep somewhat to the "schedule." Being rather new on this boat, sans spinnaker, and trying to conserve fuel, we chose to nest for a day or two and let the weather pass.
Also here in San Quintin and anchored a few hundred feet away, is the Iron Maiden and my mother Margy. Iron Maiden is not among the Ha Ha-ers, but belongs to some friends who are journeying south to the Sea of Cortez, and eventually off to the Pacific. My mom was invited to join their trip to Baja, and knowing it would coincide with our path and timing, and also being one to never say no to a very cool experience, especially on that involves a 70-foot ship, good people, and a beautiful stateroom all to herself, she jumped at the chance. We'll pick her up in Baja and continue on to La Paz, she will fly home when she's ready.
San Quintin is beautiful in an other-worldy way -- scrabbly trees and bushes line the beach, soft brown humps of sand serve as low hills with a short mountain range behind. As I write the clouds have moved in and the wind is picking up, making the water in the bay choppy. The crew of the Iron Maiden, Bill, Laurie and Margy, headed for the beach a few hours ago, as we were napping after our journey, and Bill called on his hand-held radio to report that it was worth the trip. I hope we can squeeze in a dingy ride before the seas really kick up, because no doubt when they ease we'll be readying the boat for a swift departure.
On the way down we picked up a freeloader - a small gray finch, who entertained us the entire day with her aerobatic moth-catching. She hopped all over the boat, taking advantage of every square inch, sometimes including our shoes and shoulders. In Michelle's words: "...a small bird, using the boat as observation deck, watching for moths, dragonflies and other insects;, a launching pad, taking off for battle and capture of her prey; and dining table to munch her buggie morsels." She tucked away somewhere for the night, and by morning she was nowhere to be seen.
We visited with Iron Maiden a few times during our short stay, and were glad to be given a bag of fresh tuna, one beautiful sushi-grade chunk of shoulder, and another perfect for tuna steaks. I'm pretty sure they came from the 60-pound fish my mom caught the day before. As we were happily eating, Michelle said, "See, you're 51 years old and your mom is still providing for you!"
Since I'm ganging 2 blogs together, consider this a clumsy seque to the next one, which is more interesting.
After a raucous day and night in 14-18 foot seas and up to 35 knot gusts, we are now quietly sliding inside Cedros Island, in light winds and much calmer seas, 6 hours or so from Turtle Bay. Ironically, it seems the very weather we were trying to avoid by leaving early out of San Diego and then ducking into San Quintin is what we ended up encountering. It was actually quite fun, challenging, and again, satisfying to see how well the boat and crew performed in continuously uncomfortable conditions. The picture above does not show the height and intensity the waves deserve; at times the sea was bearing down on us from behind, but always Fly Aweigh rose gracefully up the wave and surfed down the face with nothing but the sound of slight waves breaking all around, and the core-strengthening yoga moves we made all day to maintain our balance.
The Baja Ha Ha fleet monitors Channel 69 on the VHF radio, and there were some exciting moments to distract us: one couple was seriously snagged by a Mexican "long line" which wrapped around his keel and prop, and could make little headway under sail, and was of course unable to start the motor. With aid from several boats, for which they deserve great credit, since this occurred at the height of the tough weather, he was eventually cut free from the long line itself (they are very thick, and go for hundreds of feet between small buoys) but he still had a tangle around his boat. Ultimately, as he was limping back to San Quintin, a big wave came from behind and washed the line free. Gleefully, he rejoined the group, then turned back again to San Quintin when he decided his engine didn't sound right. To top off his bad luck, we heard this morning that in all the fuss in the high winds and seas, trying to cut the line free, his boom was broken in a bad jibe. Hence, he's headed back to San Diego.
We learned this morning on the Baja Ha Ha Net that another boat was repeatedly rammed by a whale and sunk in the night! By now you have no doubt heard this, as the story hit national news. The crew abandoned ship into their life raft and was rescued 4 hours later by the US Coast Guard, all are safe and well. Yet another boat was "pooped" by a wave, flooding the cockpit, down the companionway and into the cabin. No injuries but the dodger was damaged (the cockpit cover) and they had some soaked logbooks and guidebooks. (We're listening to the morning Baja Ha Ha Net now on the VHF, and one guy checking in just said "Yesterday was the toughest sailing I've seen in 15 years, made me a believer again!") As for us, we whooped and hollered and actually had some fun, until I tried to poison Michelle at dinner with too much spice in the soup. She's back to normal today and is presently recording the entire experience in the journal. We've been laughing because when she was invited to join us as crew, her immediate response was "Hell yeah!" so we've come to say "Is this the 'Hell Yeah' part or the 'What the Hell?' part?"
We're bound for a 48 hour respite in Turtle Bay, looking forward to naps and quiet and some time in town. A massage and a hot bath sound good ... dreamer that I am ...
(Later) -- Today we are doing laundry and Internet stuff, then joining the Ha Ha gang for a beach party at 1pm.
I'll get this off while we have cheap wireless available here in Turtle Bay, a cute little town that looks more like a movie set than reality -- tiny little houses and stores, old rusty cars, everything covered in fine, soft brown dust. Tomorrow we leave with the fleet for Bahia Santa Maria, another 25-ish hour leg, with a much calmer forecast for the rest of the trip.
Welcome to our blog!
This is the beginning of the Adventures of Fly Aweigh, our Catalina Morgan 440 sailboat, on which we will live and explore for the next 2 years. This is also the beginning of a dream held by many, to shelve everyday life for awhile and fly away, sail away, even walk away. And somehow, we suddenly have this chance. So ready or not, we're on an adventure.
But when does an adventure begin? Is it when we were young, sailing and fishing with our parents? Was it, for me, that our family started sailing when I was 10, and then later my parents lived on a sailboat for 26 years? Was it, for Allan, a life on the water in fishing boats, windsurfers and sailboats? Or did it start on our first date, a boat show (of course!), clambering on and off bigger and yet bigger boats, dreaming in that first-date way of cruising the Seven Seas?
Whatever the genesis, here we are: new to the cruising community, new to the blogging community, new to all that looms before us, and going boldly where, it turns out, many have gone before, and yet, we feel as if this is all our idea...
As far as we're concerned, this is the first time anyone has extended themselves financially in a questionable economy to pursue a dream; the first time anyone has bought a boat and equipped it with stuff they can't even pronounce, let alone know how to use. The first time anyone has packed up most of their belongings, rented out their home, and moved onto a floating fiberglass bubble. This is the first time anyone has headed to Mexico, or along the Latin American coast, through the Panama Canal, and into the Caribbean. Yes, as far as we're concerned, this is a first, and I hope to keep it that way; an exploration of things newly experienced and discovered, as though for the first time, because for us, it is.
So we have decided that, arbitrarily, it starts today. Today we sailed our Catalina 34 from Channel lslands Marina in Oxnard, CA up a few miles to Ventura, where it will return to the slip on the Catalina Yachts sales lot where we first saw it almost 2 years ago.
Although we are sad to see it go, we're excited about what it reperesents: the down payment for our new boat, for which we signed loan docs today. God willing and the tides don't rise, or something like that, we'll have the new boat in Ventura August 1st, where, in the ensuing weeks, it will continue it's outfitting, provisioning and fine-tuning; efforts to turn it into a true cruising vessel - a home, a self-sustaining planet that can produce it's own fresh water, generate energy from wind and sun, move through the sea via it's powerful sails, and hold enough stuff to keep two humans and one feline happy for 2 years. We will officially leave in mid-October for San Diego, and then join the Baja Ha Ha Rally to Cabo San Lucas October 27.
Enough for a first entry. Today, it begins. Tomorrow, it continues.
Respectfully submitted, the Blogger aboard Fly Aweigh, Alison Gabel.