I know in the big scheme of 2020 to say that my life is stressful would be laughable to some. I have been safe, well fed and healthy. So when I talk about stress in this blog I do acknowledge that it is in no way comparable to what many people have endured this year - pandemic/illness, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, food scarcity, hurricanes, and social isolation to name a few. I am thankful for all that we do have and try to keep this all in perspective when I am feeling overwhelmed. Stress can largely be a perceived element. What stresses one person out another can handle without pause. So what was the stress aboard Gypsy? The act of moving to a new home port.
Moving is something I know well. To prove that all you have to do is look me up in my mother's address book. There are pages and pages of addresses for me. Even though my mom has passed away her address book still serves my family well in its traditional use. For me I refer to it when I want a stroll down the memory lane of my life. Moving stress is something I never considered would be an issue when I embraced this 'live-a-board' lifestyle. Everything you have is on the boat so you just turn the boat key on and shove off - right? Hmmm. There's more to it than that.
We are in La Paz, Mexico now and happy to be here. Happy but with all the questions that come with discovering a new neighborhood and the changes that make the process challenging. We got Gypsy, and ourselves, safely in her new slip at Marina Palmira after a 24 hour passage heading north along the eastern coast of southern Baja. The decision to go straight through from Puerto Los Cabos to La Paz without anchoring along the way was mainly based on the weather and how fast Gypsy can move. This time of year the northerly winds that come out of the US Rockies can blow pretty hard down the Sea of Cortez. The wind and the waves can really slow a boat down.
Our first attempt to get here the prior week failed due to these winds and the waves caused by them. No matter what a weather forecast predicts you just don't know what it will be like until you get out on the water. In this case the predictions were wrong. We motored Gypsy into a strong headwind for three hours before deciding to turn back. It was just getting worse and we were only moving about 2 knots/hour as we slammed into waves 5-6 feet high. At that rate we would have taken us too many hours to get to the anchorage where we had planned to spend the night. It was a good decision as we heard after the fact that it only got worse out there.
The return trip to Puerto Los Cabos was of course easy with the wind and waves now on the stern. Back in the same slip we had left about six hours earlier I felt that comfort of coming home after a long day. Bob hooked us back up to water and power, we got the grill going and it was life as it had been - safe and familiar. We were able to take a big deep breath, at least for the rest of the day and next. The weather didn't look good so we would have to sit and wait. We had returned the car, we were fully provisioned, nothing pressing to do but sit and wait. That in itself of course is stressful.
While we waited Bob tweaked boat stuff so we would be best prepared for our next attempt. Long walks helped him dissipate stress but watching the weather and anticipating the passage was a challenge. I made good use of the time by doing a couple of things that were quite enjoyable and a good way to really say goodbye to San Jose del Cabo. I throughly enjoyed a beach walk to the estuary, of course with my camera and ready for a swim. On another visit to the estuary we got watch volunteers help newly hatched turtles emerge from their sand covered incubation spaces. There was a picture of the fenced off area in the last Gallery album. I didn't get great pictures of the new hatchlings but I included what I have in the new album - "Adios Los Cabos, Hola La Paz". Other distractions included a return trip to the outdoor organic market. This "organico mercado" had just opened a few weeks prior and is quite delightful. We walked there and filled our bags with fresh veggies for the next attempt to La Paz.
Monday morning finally came around and at 8:30 a.m. we once again said good-bye to our neighbor Syd and his dog Capone. This launch did turn out to be our last one, for now, from San Jose del Cabo. We stayed long enough for it to really feel like home. Onto our next home. This passage started out a bit rougher than we would have liked, again because of those headwinds, but we maintained an average of 5 knots/hour so we kept going. The forecast had called for the winds to settle back so we were hopeful it would not last all night. Sometime after dark they did finally calm down and it turned out to be a fairly uneventful trip. We motor-sailed which means we used engine power the entire time along with the mainsail raised to catch what wind it could. We reefed the sail, setting it about 3/4s of the way up. This is a safety precaution in case, in the middle of the night, a strong bit of wind whips up unexpectedly.
We had two channels to pass through on this journey. The first was the Canal de Cerralvo that lies between mainland Baja and Isla Jacques Cousteau, formerly known as Isla Cerralvo. This channel is 4.5 miles across at its narrowest point and 25 miles in length. Wind and steep waves, currents and tides, rocks and reefs, and boat traffic all can make it a tricky passage. Luckily we had no troubles. The only caution we had to allow for was two boat-transporting tugs who were heading south. We came across them of course at the narrowest point in the channel. These vessels aren't the quickest to maneuver so we had to be sure there was plenty of space to allow for current drift.
The second channel, Canal de San Lorenzo, is a much smaller passage in between mainland Baja and Isla Espiritu Santo. The same story applies to this one as to what makes it potentially dangerous but has some additional challenges. It is short but its most narrow point is less than a mile wide. That may seem like plenty of room but with a strong current, wind waves and passing ferries and tankers it can get dicey. Bob perfectly timed the passage through the second channel. It was just before 6 a.m., on a slack tide (not moving fast), with no wind or waves and not a single other boat coming or going.
I am relieved to be here now. During the passage I was once again confronted with the challenge of overnight boating and it's confirmed - I don't care for it. Although Bob is doing all the important work like staying awake, constantly monitoring the horizons and making sure the boat is running properly, it is stressful for me. On this passage I managed to nap only a little bit because I wanted to be available for support. When I was younger I could manage all-nighters but at this time in my life they set me back. The next day I had a migraine, then fatigue lingered and now a bit of an earache. My immune system took a hit. I will recover fine as I can cozy up and do lots of self-care. Overnighters are a means to the end, so to speak. As for those people who sail single-handed around the world? They must have a different constitution than me. I just don't see why a person would want to put their body under so much stress. But I digress.
While I cozy up and take care of myself, Bob is out exploring our new surroundings. There is a much larger cruising community here. It feels more familiar. The majority of sailboats around us are from the States - lots of friendly English speaking sailors who are more than happy to share their knowledge and help us figure out all those moving related questions.
The malecón, a waterfront walkway to La Paz's lively downtown, starts close to our marina. It is a peaceful, scenic 2 mile walk. I did drum up some energy to go check out the biweekly organic market downtown. I wasn't disappointed. I found a gluten-free baker, homemade blue corn tortillas and a fabulous organic farm stand. That was just what I needed to help let go of my moving stress. I now know how I will feed my body and soul. The name "La Paz" translate to "The Peace". This peace is starting to permeate my being and carry my stress out to sea.
Be sure to check out the new album with pictures of both our final days in Los Cabos, a few of the passage and some of our new home port. Stay safe and enjoy a quiet, loving holiday season!