We’ve crossed the Sea of Cortez 4 times. Twice in a straight line from the Baja peninsula to Manzanita. Twice in the longer crossing, with a more diagonal line from Cabo San Lucas straight to Bahia de Banderas – the bay where Puerto Vallarta can be found.
Our trip took us from Mazatlan, Mexico to Baja California South, Mexico (contrary to popular belief in my family – Baja is NOT in California, no I don’t know why it’s called that, yes it’s confusing, yes it’s in Mexico, ok – I’ll tell them you said that). Unlike motoring, sailing often decides where you go specifically depending on how the wind blows. With winds coming from the South-West – the direction where we wanted to go – it looked like we may end up in La Paz or even further North from there. Although a detour in La Paz would be cool (my bike is locked up there, plus I’ve got mail waiting for me) it would be a 4-5 day detour. More or less.
At our time of departure, our GPS told us it was approximately 200 miles to our destination with an ETA of 26 hours. The GPS doesn’t adapt for speed modification and wind shifts. Stupid machine. Plus it doesn’t even know how to spell Mazatlan (Mazatlkan?) It was depressing when after ooh-ing and aah-ing before our first sunrise with close to 24 hours into the crossing to have the GPS tell us we had 36 hours to go!
Leo, Captain of the boat and of my heart (I’m so tacky I should work for Hallmark) appointed me in charge for the first day. It was my duty to maintain our speed and direction and react when the sails started to flutter in the wind. I immediately accepted the challenge and kindly reminded him that I was also the ship’s Director of Communication which also included being ships’s writer, photographer, blogger and head of all social media activities. I was after all already quit busy. First he snickered. Then he dozed off.
I took my new role very seriously. I positioned myself to maintain a good view of the ocean before me. Made sure I was comfortable enough to not get numb nor fall asleep. In case he asked, I took a picture of myself proudly taking on all extra responsibilities. This is serious proof that he can rely on me and depend on me when he needs to rest.
For many reasons, I feared this crossing. I was shaking all morning prior to leaving. But look at me now. Brave. Confident. In charge. Smiling away all my fears. Plus I was reading a really good book from an author I did not know (until I found the book – obviously), discovering new authors to love gives me the giddiest of sensations!
I saw the first sea turtle. As it bobbed along our boat I debated if this was newsworthy of waking the Captain from his deep lip fluttering sleep. My head went from the turtle to Leo back to the turtle as I pictured the discussion as to why I chose to wake him up. And then I kept my mouth shut.
Until I saw the DOLPHIIIIINS! Hundreds of them. They surrounded us. They jumped around us. They taunted us with their spots and their bottled noses. Apparently they love to swim with the bow of the boat. I sat in the pulpit and filmed them. I was so tempted to jump in… They swam along us for nearly an hour. As we both stood there clinging to the head sail, the waves were hitting us head on. The boat pointed upwards as it climbed over the 6′ wave then dove into the water. And the entire time, the dolphins stayed with us. It was so exhilarating.
And then we looked at our GPS confirming us we still had over 24 hours to go.
All in all it took us 38 hours to cross the sea. We witnessed 2 sunsets and 1 sunrise. We crossed hundreds of DOLPHINS, 4 sea turtles (one of them may have been ran over by our boat – no pictures due to laziness), and 1 shark (no pictures due to quickness of the entire event). Our crossing ended in San Jose del Cabo – a suburb of Cabo San Lucas yet 4 hours sailing time away from Cabo.
I woke up after a deep 4-hour sleep. Wanted to check on our anchor and go back to bed. But when I saw this – I couldn’t sleep anymore. I am looking forward to more of these perfect crossings.
Leavin’ Mazatlan! Trying to sing that to the tune of Leavin’ Las Vegas just doesn’t work well, does it?
I’d show you the wind and wave maps, but… Weird stick figures. Max 2-metre waves coming from the South-West (hitting from the side with that slight sense of discomfort) and winds mainly from the South at 15 knots – tops. Looks good. (Ohmygodohmygod I accidently wrote god instead of good – hope it’s not a sign of who I’ll meet on my way. Goshdamit now I’ve just jinxed it. I may as well just stay here where the prediction for the next 2 months is thunder storm. Daily. Lightning. Sailboat. Long mast. Attracts lighting. I’mgettingoutofhere NOW!)
I won’t hide it from you – these crossings scare the bejesus out of me. Wish I could tell you how brave I am. Wish I could tell you I’m all calm, cool and collected. Wish I had a million dollars and a golden lab puppy. But – let’s face it: I’m a chicken-shit, frantic, delusional, loca, shaking-in-her-shorts, puppyless, broke, and jobless chick with nice breath (what can I say – I floss daily).
There. I said it.
Sorry to disappoint you. I’m scared. And will be doing what I always do: face my fears yet again. Wish me luck and keep your fingers and toes and eyes crossed for me for the next 48 hours. Hasta la vista baby! (That last sentence is for my Mexican amigos y amigas. Not that they read my blog. They don’t. I don’t think so. Eeek! I’m rambling. I really am nervous aren’t I?)
“If you’re going to leave – NOW is the time!” Said our nearby wind & sail expert whom I will not name. But as I was at the grocery store buying provisions for the trip back to San Diego, the friendly store owner (who has nicknamed NewMix) had an entirely different reaction “¿Hoy? ¡Hay tormenta!” He thought we were crazy to leave on that day with the storms.
We decided a wind and sail expert knew better than a grocery story owner.
The winds were so strong, the current was unbelievable – our auto helm couldn’t hold on, and our boom vang broke. And that was within the first hour! Things got worse as the day drew on.
“I highly recommend a straight line to Cabo from here” was another wise suggestion from our wise wind and sail expert. Waves 6-9 feet high slammed us sideways if we sailed directly to Cabo. Have you ever sat in a boat where waves hit you sideways? It must be the truest definition of discomfort. If we sailed North-East towards Mazatlan rather than the previously planned on North-West, the waves would be nearly 100% behind us.
It’s an uncomfortable sensation anytime the waves are above 5 feet. But when they are pretty darn close to 10 feet? And here is where we debated – do you measure the height of a wave from behind or from the front? I know, men around the world debate about such technicalities but about another topic… Ahem.
When you see the wave coming AT you, the valley that dips in front of it is very impressive giving the wave even more monsterly height. But when you see it leaving you it’s just not as bad. I decided a story based on a 5-foot wave is nowhere near as incredible as a 9 footer. So nine it is. And as Leo always says: “Don’t ever let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
We made an executive decision and targeted the bay of Jaltemba for our first anchorage, only but a few hours away from La Cruz. As we got closer and closer to the bay we noticed a wall. A wall attaching the clouds to the ocean. It was a messy wall of rain and something rather scary. I got an amazing picture of it but being the klutz that I am – I deleted ALL my pictures rather than import them to my computer.
My camera even asked me if I was sure I wanted to delete all these pictures – stupid question to which I confirmed an even stupider answer. You would have been so impressed by this wall of storm! And it was really close too!
Oh boy! I cannot wait to see what happens next! I bet you can’t either…
p.s. No French-Canadians were harmed in the making of this story.