Big Big Plans

Here we are again: at anchor in San Carlos, ready to rumble but the weather is giving us no love. We splashed Galapagos bright and early, taking advantage of a two hour window of calm before the next blow came through.ast night, on the hard in the boatyard, we shivered under comforters and blankets, nothing but our noses open to the air, as the boat shuddered on its stands in the wind.

We’re in Mexico. We don’t have our diesel heater ‘ready to go’, as it were, but it sure would not have come amiss as the temperature on the boat plumeted to 51F. This being our third season in Mexico, we’re getting a little thin skinned when it comes to cold weather. Between the unnatural shimmying and shaking of the boat in the wnd and the cold weather, it was a restless night.

Painting the bottom of the house.

Just before first light we got up to prepare for launch. I wore a tshirt, a polar fleece pullover, and a light sweatshirt with a hood on top of that. It was my very first time wearing jeans in Mexico. I held my coffee with both hands, grateful for a bit of warmth as we watched Galapagos trundle down the road on the trailer.

The water was flat calm and there was no wind as we approached the boat launch. This is always good because they launch the boat stern first, which means you have to back out of the fairway and into the main channel. It’s not far, but let me tell you this: if you never seen a full keeled sailboat try to back up in a straight line, you haven’t lived. We’ve launched here 3 times and each time it’s been a no drama event because we always schedule first thing in the morning. And because we were lucky.

This was not the case today. The calm of the water belied the currents of an outgoing tide under the surface and as Mike gave Galapagos a little reverse, just enough to get her moving slowly, the current grabbed us and soon we were almost sideways in the channel, in shallow water. There is no room to turn around in the narrow channel so he brought her up to the dock and tried again. No bueno. Meanwhile I’m running back and forth with our biggest fender hanging over the side, making sure I can fend us off, giving Mike a calm and detailed running commentary about how far off he is from the boat or dock behind us. We’ve got that swim step on the stern of the boat, and at the helm it’s tricky to know just how much room you have when you need every bit of it. (We use those Sena bluetooth headsets ALL THE TIME and will never, ever boat without them by choice.)

It’s best to always be prepared for these scenarios, even when things look like they will literally be smooth as glass. My anxious brain had worried about just this very thing so before we cast off I had that fender out and ready. I used it three times to keep our boat and others safe, dropping it down between the boat and whatever it was we might have hit without it. Three. Who says an overly active amygdala isn’t useful sometimes?

Sporting his ‘naps’ tshirt and his ‘boatyard guy’ look.

After many attempts of forward into the middle, backward too close to the dock, then forward again, we worked our way to the main channel where somehow we had turned just enough for the current to push us in the right direction and off we went, cheers all around from the guys on the dock, no harm, no foul. And now we sit here at anchor listening to the wind howl again and blocking all the ways that cold wind finds to get into the boat. It’s great to be aboard again and we have BIG plans for this season.

Last season was a turning point for us. We had spent two seasons in the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Mexico and we needed to decide what was next. This turned out to be a pretty hard decision. In a nutshell we had three choices: stay in this area for another season, go further south and across the Pacific (which was our original plan), or return to the Pacific Northwest for awhile.

Boatyard horse. Mike shared his apple.

As much as we like the Sea of Cortez, and we do like it, we feel like we are ready to move on for now. So many people leave their boats here all year, returning to their home country during the heat of the summer and coming back in the winter to enjoy the (usually) beautiful weather and the sea. We’ve met lots of cruisers who have been in the Sea of Cortez for 10-20 years. But we aren’t ready to be those people. Maybe later.

After cruising for this long we both realize that the things we love about cruising are only marginally available here in the sea due to weather and water temperature. The cool temperature of the water and the generally marginal visibility (with lucky exceptions) make snorkeling a catch as catch can endeavor, and we both really love to be in the water. We love being able to swim off our boat and not have to don wetsuits. This luxury is available for only a brief time in the Sea of Cortez unless you stay through the very hot months. By the tme the sea is warm enough to enjoy just jumping in, the daytime temperatures are beginning to really heat up. Hiking is beautiful here when you can find a trail or scramble up an arroyo. But not when the weather starts getting hot. The summers are brutal, and we just cannot tolerate them without air conditioning. It’s a beautiful place, really absolutely stunning in so many ways, but for now, after this season we are done for awhile.

Just behind the boatyard, a trail through the desert.

Pacific Mexico, while interesting with all its cool animals, just didn’t make our hearts soar. We enjoyed La Cruz a great deal, but that was mostly due to the community of cruisers there and the excitement of everyone getting ready to do the Puddle Jump. This year we’ll probably be giving that area a miss, even though we have friends who are there and we’d love to see them again.

Our second choice was to go further south and cross the Pacific. This is what we really wanted to do and we began to make plans and get excited about it. Down in La Cruz we went to many of the seminars for people doing the ‘Puddle Jump’ and we had Jamie Gifford come aboard and do a thorough inspection of our rig. As we became more educated about what was required for that kind of extended voyaging, and as we took a long hard look at our boat, we decided this wasn’t our year to cross. There are too many things we feel like the boat needs before we set off for that part of the world.

The things we need to do, like pull the mast and completely refurbish it, replace all the rigging, put in a water maker, do some interior remodeling including replacing the salon cushions, install new radar and anemometer, possibly replace a toilet, get a different dinghy and bigger engine, and a few other bits and pieces, could certainly be done here in Mexico, but it’s harder and many times much more expensive. What’s cheaper in Mexico is labor, but we do our own labor almost all the time. Sourcing things is not easy here and we no longer have a car so we’re either relying on other people or taking local transport. In addition, these things cost money; money we don’t have at the ready without dipping into our retirement savings, and that doesn’t seem prudent at our ages. I know some people claim you can live this cruising life on a wish and a prayer, but we have found that to be completely not true if you want your boat to be safe. It’s just so much easier to work on the boat back home where we will have money coming in, get it really ready, then go.

So that’s what we are going to do. Go back and work for awhile, fill the cruising kitty, get Galapagos better prepared, and then get going again. That’s our plan for now.  If you are reading between the lines and sense a little conflicted heart on my end, you read that right.     This was not an easy decision. If our kids weren’t there, I’m not sure we would have decided on this path. But when it comes right down to it, we need to put money in the kitty.

Now that hard decision has been made there is some excitement about the choice, even as we do not look forward to living on board in the Pacific Northwest winter again. Both our kids are in the Puget Sound area now, and we’re looking at staging the boat in Olympia, WA, close to our Claire and Dan. Andrew and Jill live in Tacoma now and plan to buy their their own boat and live aboard at Foss Harbor marina, where our family has kept boats for well over 10 years.  It does our hearts good to think of being available for that process. I mean, what young couple DOESN’T want mom and dad looking over their shoulders as they dive into the trenches of boat ownership? I mean, we have LOADS of unsolicited advice just waiting to spring forth from our, parental bosom!

We had Christmas this year with all of our Washington family. Claire and Dan had just moved into their house in Olympia and we had no decorations. So Mike made this fireplace mantle and we put on a Youtube fire. It was terrific. Our tree I made from wire garbage cans Claire had. Zip tied together and lit up, it was just about perfect. Cheap Dollar Store stockings completed our decor.

We also have a lot of excitement about how we are getting home! Now the real adventure begins! We are currently applying for our permit to visit the Villagigados Islands, a few hunded miles offshore from Puerto Vallarta. These remote islands are completely protected  by the Mexican Government and offer the opportunity to see some really amazing wildlife, including giant manta rays. We are dead excited to go there and spend a week or two snorkeling.

After that we will begin our trip home. Rather than doing the bash up the coast, which to be honest, I was REALLY not looking forward to (as in “How much would it cost to truck this boat home? Answer: WAY too much.) , we’ve decided to do the ‘Clipper Route’ and sail across to Hawaii, then from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest. That’s not as long a passage as the south pacific and we feel like the boat is ready for that journey. We’re both excited to get to do a passage of this length without pulling the trigger on the south pacific yet. Actually, we are very stoked about this!

We will be hiring a professional weather router for both legs with a focus on staying comfortable while continuing to have enough wind to sail. Depending, as usual, on weather, our tentative plan is to begin the journey to Hawaii in April, spend some time in Hawaii doing whatever the boat needs for the next leg of the trip and hanging out, and then begin the journey back home in late May.

Gratuitous photo of Claire’s cat.

Until then, we still have another season in the Sea of Cortez and we are ready! We’re going to hang close to San Carlos for a few more days then head across when it looks good.  Our first scheduled stop is Santa Rosalia where we will be putting Galapagos in the marina for a week while we go do some visits with grey whales over in Guererro Negro. I am dead excited! Send us all the good joo joo for a mama whale introducing us to her baby. I might swoon, even with the inevitable whale breath. Baby whales! Oh, my heart!

S/V Galapagos, Standing by on Channel 74




23 thoughts on “Big Big Plans

  1. I haven’t gotten to read this wonderful blog, yet, but first-things-first. Just last night I wondered how you two were, and now I see you answered my question.

    Now I can sleep properly, after I read the update.

    • We have been so remiss in posting lately! It’s completely due to laziness and being in the middle of such important decision making. Glad you didn’t give up on us!

  2. I was looking forward to your Puddle Jump posts, but I’m also interested in how the Hawaii passage goes.
    Keep living the dream.

    • Indeed, we were looking forward to writing those Puddle Jump posts! It just didn’t feel right this year and kind of fell apart. We just want the boat in tip top condition before taking on that kind of passage, but mostly don’t want to spend our time doing boat work in exotic locations unless we can help it. So doing our due diligence. However, that being said, it’s a bit scary to go back. I don’t want to lose our groove.

  3. As is so often the case in cruising, “success” may be measured by your willingness to change the plan to fit your circumstances! Our last four years have been almost entirely different than I’d envisioned, way back in the dreaming stage, but we’re here, still, and doing what makes sense now. Living vicariously through you, my friends!

    • Yeah, you have to go where you need to go. I’m not going to say I’m completely happy with our choice, but I do want to be near our kids for awhile. And we do need to make some significant maintenance repairs to this old boat. So let’s just hope we can get going again in the future. We will certainly miss many things about Mexico.

  4. I appreciate the insight into your decision making process about Mexico. Very exciting that you’re doing the Hawaii to PNW route! Can’t wait to hear about it. Do you think you’ll spend the summer cruising around the PNW or going straight to Olympia? We’ll be starting northbound in April, will keep an eye out for you.

    • We’re pretty excited about the Hawaii passage. I guess if we can’t to the south pacific this year, then this is second best. How much time we spend cruising in the PNW before going to Olympia depends entirely on how soon we get there. We plan to take our moms to Ireland in the late summer, so we need to get home before then. And then there’s the possibility that we won’t want to leave Hawaii…

    • We will unfortunately be pretty far south by April. Darn it! By that time we should be in the Revilligigados Islands and preparing to cross to Hawaii. You’d think it would be easier for us to meet up here in Mexico.

  5. That sounds like a great plan. Your Clipper Trip will be exciting a prove you can later do the Puddle Jump. How wonderful your kids will be close. Hope to see you!

  6. Mike, Melissa- Check out Crazy Love–Seems these people are taking the same route you all will. They think maybe 29 days. They, too, are giving a blow by blow. I won’t even say ‘be careful’. Mom

  7. Hey Mike and Melissa,

    What a great spring and summer you have planned!

    Should prevailing conditions on your return from Hawaii push you further north [as they often do that time of year…] it would be great to meet up with you guys…

  8. Wow, sort of sad you are heading back, kind of excited you are doing the Hawaii route (something I would like to do…I think) and just plain enjoying the tale.

    Looking forward to the rest of the story as it unfolds!

    • Well, I feel that, Bruce. You and me both feel kind of sad. I don’t know, there are days where I just think ‘what the hell, let’s just stay in Mexico’ but then I also want to go further than this. I kind of get moss growing under my keel, to mix my metaphors a bit, after too long in one place on a boat. I think my worst fear is that somehow we will decide not to leave the dock again and this will have been it. That makes me glad we are sailing to Hawaii. Hey, maybe that will be enough for me! But somehow I doubt that. Truly, this is a hard choice to have to make.

  9. In 1977-78 on our way from Boston to Seattle, we sailed from Acapulco to Hilo, 3250 miles in 30 days in Velella, a Rhodes Chesapeake 32. We had lots of fancy navigation gear – a plastic sextant, AM shortwave receiver for time checks and Wx, and a quartz wrist watch from Sleazy and Robabuck. The first two weeks were rather slow, our worst day was 47 miles. Went over the side one day to clean off the gooseneck barnacles. I had just gotten out of the water, grabbed a towel to dry off before the salt dried when I heard a crash aft. Looked over the side and saw a half dozen five foot sharks milling about the self-steering gear. Last time I went swimming.

    We caught the trades a few days later and barreled along, 120-140 mile days. Self steering, self tending jib and reefed main all the way. Had good sunsights every day, did not need the stars unless our DR did not agree with the solar fix.

    We spent a month in HI, then 26 days back to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Brisk winds until 41 N, beating all the way. Had water on the house top handrails at 0300 one morning, squall on top of a gale. Caught several albacore tuna on a hand line. Westerly winds, mostly, the rest of the way. Only missed one day of celestial sights due to weather.

    We did six and six watches, never dogged. Got into the routine easily. I would do this route again.

    • You guys have had such grand adventures! We definitely have different navigation equipment now, and I’m not sure it’s better. Just different. Based on your experience, and others I’ve read about, I can say there will be almost no chance of swimming overboard during this passage. I just say ‘no’ to big sharks. Mike had talked about that possibility early on, years ago, and I came out against it mighty quick. Hope we catch some tuna! Yum!

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