the journey

december 2006: California and Baja, Mexico

December 28, 2006

Current Location: Cabo San Lucas
Current Position: N22deg 53.028', W109deg 54.610'
Next Destination: Los Frailes, Sea of Cortez, Baja

I wake groggily to Gar's voice. "Nic, it's a little crazy out here; I'm going to need your help." I drag myself out of my cozy sea birth and into this startling new reality. We are now players in a live video game. Boats of all sizes zip across the channel with no predictable speed or direction, crossing when there is an opening. There is a cruise ship anchored at the entrance. A beach beyond a magical outcropping of granite rocks is swarming with people. There are at least eight boats towing Para-sailors in the air while water taxis cruise through the chaos, bringing people everywhere. Jet skiers slice through the bay at full throttle, many of them with screaming passengers, some of them loaded.

We safely maneuver through the madness to the beckoning fuel dock. It is now 11 and we are hot and sweating, as hot as we‘ve been yet. We are officially in Mexico. (Well not really, that's why we're here- to check into to the country.) The fuel dock is spotless and run with such precision it is clear the other players keep these docks busy throughout the year. I step into the air-conditioned shop to pay for our fuel and am distracted by the ice cream cones beckoning to me from the freezer. I linger for a second and walk away, knowing they would melt before we could reach our slip.

As we enter into Marina Cabo San Lucas, we are strangely aware that there are no other sailboats here. We pull in next to an empty slip and a big boat named Marlin's Run. It has 23 poles off the back and three guys are meticulously washing every inch of the boat. The owner must be really anal I say to myself. Little do I know, in a few hours all of the 11 empty slips around us will be filled with towering fishing boats, all being scrubbed with the same detail.

These boats are the ones I carefully avoided off of Golden Gate Banks 15 or so miles from Cabo this morning. When I first saw them, there were 11 boats but by the time we reached the Banks there were 26 and another 22 approaching on the horizon, appearing to be commanded by some invisible force. They come for the fish that congregate in these Banks, a shallow spot some 200-360 feet deep in the middle of the big blue ocean. Cabo boasts the self-proclaimed title, "Marlin Capital of the World". With over 40,000 Marlin caught each year, let alone the additional take of Dorado, Roosterfish, Shark, Sailfish, Tuna and Wahoo, it’s clear the hundreds of sport fishing boats lining the harbor actually go somewhere.

It was really hard for me to witness what looked like an assault on an extremely ecologically important area. The boats just kept coming. After talking with our neighbor who takes his boat, KW’s Karma, out everyday we learned that most boats practice catch and release. This is good for the fish, Cabo’s economy, and the simple knowledge that there are still big fish in the sea.

After scrubbing the boat free of her 2-week accumulation of salt and dirt, we again step into the game. This one has different rules. There are men at every booth along the waterfront trying to sell something. Que quiere? What are you looking for beautiful? Little girls play turtle whistles with 20 or so wrapped around each wrist. Men wave silver jewelry on sticks, good price they promise. Every restauranteer is trying to lure us into their seats with promises of happy hour and two for one margaritas from 10am on throughout the day. It is Christmas in Cabo, maybe everyday in Cabo.

Adjusting to our strange new role as pawns in this game, I am struck by the excess of it all. Having been living simply on the boat, making our own power and water, conscious of every drop and light turned on or off, the food we eat, how many times we open the fridge, and the fact we spent $73 on fuel in two weeks, I remember one of the many reasons I chose this new life. Simplicity, a smaller footprint, connection to myself and to the natural world, clarity about what is really important…

Remembering my new mantra "let it go", I shift my mindset and delight in the opportunities in Cabo: Delicious food cooked by someone else, easy access to the internet, an ice cold margarita, a hot shower, washing machines, ice cream. The highlight… getting up really early so we can visit Lover's Beach, empty except for the footprints left from the day before.

December 24, 2006

Current Location: Punta Belcher, Bahia de Magdalena
Current Position: N24deg 34.860', W109deg 54.610'
Next Destination: Cabo San Lucas

December 23, 2006

Current Location: Bahia Santa Maria
Current Position: N24deg 46.3',W112deg 15.5'
Next Destination: Punta Ascension

Bahia Santa Maria is what we have been waiting for. At last, we are sweating in our fleece. The sea is calm and beautiful shade of deep teal green. Silver fish dart beneath our hull as pelicans dive bomb nearby. Our backdrop is of a long sandy beach stretching beneath a desert mountain. We are almost alone; there is only one other boat in this bay which is big enough to fit hundreds of boats.

Once anchored we are at last relaxed and hot. Sporting my bikini, my skin is breathing again without being smothered in polypropylene. And Gar is flexing his muscles that haven’t seen the light of day since summer. After soaking up the sun a bit in the cockpit we decide to launch our dingy and say hi to our neighbors, Cat and Rich on their boat, Anna. They are the only people we’ve talked to other than ourselves, my mom and a motor vessel named Loupe, in the past 9 days.

We decide to brave another surf landing, this time with a promise of a warm walk on the beach. Cat and Rich join us. Their mission is to try to take a look at Magdalena Bay also known as “Mag Bay” just over the dunes and try to rustle up some lobsters. We don’t know if they’ll be successful with either but we are perfectly content soaking up the sun, walking the beach, and enjoying having our feet on land.

The beach is decorated with sand dollars I swear are on steroids, so puffy and big they are almost surreal. Fish line up and are lifted in each wave. It is deliciously warm.

Launching the dingy back through the surf proves more complicated than last time as I feel I have to wrangle my way up into the bow of the dingy like a cowboy on a bull as Gar punches the engine to get through the surf. I need more practice.

Day 2 in Santa Maria. We were hoping to surf some and go on a long hike to a lighthouse. The wind picked up early this morning and the swell is bigger. We skipped the surf landing and cooked, slept, read, and relaxed. Another perfect day even if it wasn’t as planned. Cat and Rich invited us for dinner if they got any lobsters. No luck yet.

Day 3 Last night was miserably sleepless. Flies from land decided to hop on our ride and buzz at us throughout the night, but most challenging was the wind. It picked up throughout the day and by midnight was gusting to 30 plus knots depending on whose wind anemometer you trust. As the wind increased we let more chain out. At least 3 times we let out another 30-60 feet. This helps keep our anchor holding and gives us more weight across the sandy bottom.

We foolishly kept the wind generator on as we were sucking more juice with the instruments on. See, I wanted to set an anchor alarm, note our lat and long and watch the boat in case our anchor decided to drag. Gar wanted to make electricity to feed the batteries that I was draining. Mistake! The wind running through the blades of the generator sounded like we were getting ready for take off and dramatized the conditions so severely that even Gar could not sleep. Thankfully by 1:30 a.m. we decided to turn off the wind gen and we slowly drifted off to an unsettled sleep. By 4:30 the winds were back down to 10 knots and we slept soundly till morning.

We were awakened at 8:30 by a call of Buenos Dias. Fisherman had arrived offering lobster. We sent them over to Anna as they had been on the prowl. In 10 minutes the fishermen, Marcos and his buddy, were back asking for batteries. Here, there is no use for cash. All is bartered for. For 4 D batteries and 2 C batteries we had 8 lobsters. I was a little hesitant about this as I am not sure how healthy the lobster population is here in Baja as so much is fished out. While I was wrestling with my conscience Rich called on the VHF inviting us over for a late lunch, 4pm. Lobster.

We spent the rest of our lazy day catching up on the rest we didn’t get last night and cooking and doing boat tasks. We both went for our first swim. Gar scrubbed the bottom and freed our prop of a line that somehow, somewhere found its way around our shaft. I jumped in and out and then rinsed off on deck with a warm sun shower.

Off to Anna at 4 for a scrumptious meal of lobster pasta, cabbage salad, and potato salad with wine and a fun game of cards and conversation. Cat and Rich are great people and we appreciated the opportunity to connect and play. A delightful end to a beautiful day.
December 20, 2006

Current Location: Punta Abrejos
Current Position: N26deg 42.8',W113deg 34'
Next Destination: Bahia Santa Maria

It's been 8 days since leaving San Diego. I stupidly joked with my mom that she shouldn't worry if she didn't get an email or call from us in 4 days but in 8 she could start worrying. Today is day 8. Our sat phone hasn't worked in days and the Mexican cell phone we bought has didn't ever have any minutes on it. Sometimes it's just a lot simpler without modern technology. Huge lesson, never tell anyone when I will contact them, only where we are going.

We are in the middle of what seems like nowhere. Anchored alone in 35 feet of water, exposed to the sea and wind from the northwest. The wind is building, the seas are choppy and to get to land to try to make that phone call or purchase a phone card is going to be tricky, wet at best. The landing and exit are through the surf and it's our first attempt with our dingy and 15 horsepower engine.

We’ve been watching fisherman wheel their pangas to the water from the beach and launch through one spot on the south side of the line of pangas not going out to sea today. We can't wait any longer, the wind is increasing; it's time. We hop in our dingy, rev up the rpms and speed towards the beach. We look back as the set rolls in to time our approach as best as we can. Ride it in, hop out, lift the engine, and pull the boat to the line of bull kelp waiting to soften our landing. Breathe. Attach the wheels and get the dingy above the tide line.

On the beach, five guys hunch under layers of scarves and warm hats between a tractor and a dilapidated sedan watching our approach. It is only after landing that I notice them and wave. They wave back and I return to the task of figuring out how to raise the dingy high enough to attach our wheels. Wheels on, we haul the dingy up the beach until the locals tell us its good where it is.

Now its time for me to pull out my rusty Spanish and explain we are looking for a telephone card or telephone. Do they even have that here? The tower is the giveaway. After a little while and rapid conversation they agree there might be a guy selling phone cards, otherwise known as Amigo cards. His name is Tui. How do we find Tui? Well he lives to the right of the antenna in the middle of the village in a house that is what color? Green or blue they think.

We begin our quest walking past so many photo opportunities I am killing myself for refusing to bring my camera and not being able to spend an entire week in this village. On power poles along the beach there are 4 monster osprey nests artfully made of old rope that dangles in the wind. Building representing every color of the rainbow line the sandy streets with signs that say se vende cosas naturalas, se vende pan. What natural things do they sell here and too bad we don’t have pesos to buy bread. My feet are wet and freezing and the wind is still picking up.

After asking a few old fisherman if they know Tui we arrive at what looks like it might be Tui’s house. It's Tui's brothers house. Lucky for us, his adorable 8-year-old son Estevan will take us to Tui. We arrive at a green house. I peer through the hole in the screen of Tui's front door and I say excuse me, hoping I’ve used the right word and that this guy is actually Tui and he has what we need. Heis and he ’s got an Amigo card. It will cost us twenty US dollars. Hopefully we will make a call today.

Sitting on the bulkhead along the beach watching the wind increase I call my mom. We are both relieved. We talk for 15 minutes yet I am a bit distracted by the wind and increasing surf. Getting off the phone I remind her it may be at least 2 weeks before she hears from me again. This gives me what I think is at least 13 days leeway. I am learning.

Getting back to the boat is trickier than the landing but we pull it off without too much damage unless you count me standing up to my mid thighs in cold-water damage. The hardest part now is raising the 100 plus pound outboard and 100 pound dingy back onto the boat as the boat surges with the increase in waves and wind. We make it.

By 10:30am we raise sail and give thanks for a mission accomplished in Abreojos. At last we are actually sailing. We stay on a deep broad reach moving at 6.5-7 knots most of the day and well past midnight. Throughout the night I play games with myself to stay awake, adjust the sails, guess how faraway the two boats are that I can see, recalculate our ETA every time the wind speed changes, talk to the boat, watch the night sky, and wait until light. At one point I didn't need to keep myself awake as a wave broke into the cockpit and flooded it up to my calves. By six am I am longing for bed again. I crawl in, sleep, really sleep, and by 9:30 Gar is waking me for arrival into Bahia Santa Maria.

December 18, 2006

Current Location: Punta Ascension
Current Position: N27deg 8',W114deg 17'
Next Destination: Punta Abrejos

I see a large white motoryacht coming up from behind. Since we left San Francisco, this is the first boat that has "passed" us close by. As he pulls up next to us, he opens his big white motoryacht window and shouts through his handheld loudspeaker for us to turn on our vhf. We've had our vhf off these last couple of days as we are out of "vhf range" from most boats and weather forecasts down in this part of rural baja. We switch to channel 72, and our motoryacht friend starts chatting about anything and everything. We realize he must be starved for chatty-talk and has probably been trying to hail us on the vhf for an hour or more. We crack smiles at each other, as we realize we are a bit less social then many cruisers. Cruisers tend to chat on the vhf about everything....what they are doing, thinking, eating, pooping, etc...It really is pretty humorous sometimes.

Our friend, the white motoryacht's name we think is something like "Lupe", pronounced "looooopaaaaayyyyy" in a guttural german accent. We humor "looopaaaaayyyy" for a little while with small-talk, until lupe get's tired of us and says his adios. Adios Lupe. I'm sure we will run into "Lupe" again somewhere in Mexico, as the circles are small, and the "cruising circles" even smaller.

We are now anchored off a small baja fishing village after an 8 hour day sailing south from Turtle Bay. We had some decent wind today, 10-15 knots, and spent some enjoyable hours coasting through the waves with the sun shining on our bodies. As we continue south, the desert hills have also come alive with red and orangish hues lighting the steep and jagged peaks that line the shoreline. We are now truly in the land of Baja and are appreciating the reality that we have arrived.

December 16, 2006

Current Location: Bahia de Tortuga
Current Position: N27deg 44',W114deg 53'
Next Destination: Punta Ascension

You know how our website is "s/vdreamkeeper"?? In case you don't know, the s/v stands for sailing vessel. Well, after this passage i'm considering changing it to m/s/v. Motor sailing vessel. Oh yeah, we had our old faithful stinky diesel humming away for at least 30 hours of this 60 hour passage. We had 2 choices. We either wait for the wind to blow our direction getting caught by the oncoming pacific coast storm heading in from the big blue, or we rev it up and run like hell south with all means possible. For us it was the best of available options, not wanting to get sucked into an ugly coastal weather epic if we didn't have to. So we have earned our new letter no matter how much we dislike the reality. FYI, our marine diesel engine burns around 1/2 gallon per hour as we travel around 5-6 knots/hour. So it's all relative when you compare it to driving a car.

We woke up in Bahia de Tortugas (no, there are no more turtles around as they have been over-harvested in Baja for many years now) with sunny skies and calm blue water. Laying in our v-berth together, after 3 days of sleeping one at a time in our "seaberth"(couch in salon) because one of us is always on watch while on a passage, we hear a loud "Buenas Dias" outside. I jump out of bed, it's 7:00 a.m., and see a panga beside us with two extremely cheery Mexican men wanting to sell us diesel. I don't waste a minute, as i am now fully aware that we are now a "m/s/v" and need to consume our smelly diesel liquid like good Americans, and race to get the filter out so we can fill-erup! At first, i only see some blue drums of fuel and some pvc hose in their panga and begin to wonder who is going to suck the diesel to get the siphon to work. Realizing i am the "customer", i'm feeling pretty safe.

As I begin to ready the filter, our friends pull out a small electic fuel pump and we plug in their power cord into our outlet and start pumping. Absent is a meter to tell how much fuel we are taking on, but they have hashmarks on the barrels and know every liter that gets sold. Our new friends pump the gold as they drain a cold cerveza for breakfast. Welcome to Mexico.

Our passage was fairly uneventful. We spent our time getting used to the boat again after 5 days in a slip. The routine consisted of eating, reading, trimming sails, checking weather forecasts, and sleeping. The highlight for us was during the last day of the passage next to Isla Cedros, where we were surrounded by hundreds of dolphins swimming and leaping in all directions! We also spotted a handful of grey whales and a couple of humpbacks, as they are all travelling south to their breeding grounds close to where we are now. You just never get tired of dolphins and whales.

So here we sit at anchor, not wanting to do anything but catch up on lost sleep and lay in the warmth of the sun that has finally come out to greet us!
December 11, 2006

Current Location: San Diego, CA
Current Position: N32deg42.355',W117deg14.040'
Next Destination: Turtle Bay, Baja, Mexico

Eyes are sleepy at 8 a.m. 8 a.m.!!! Can't believe we slept in, AGAIN!! Our old routine of getting up at 6 or 6:30 a.m., having a cup of coffee and tea, reading the paper, listening to NPR and having some nice 'morning' time before the day begins, is over. When we can now, we sleep. Why? We must be tired...bodies readjusting to our new lives and catching up from the months of hectic craziness preparing for this big journey. When we are on passages we only sleep at 3 hour increments, one of us always on 'watch' trimming sails, looking for ships we might hit, or might hit us, and just making sure everything is cool. So when we get the chance to rest, especially at a marina slip, where we are now, we can shut down our "watch" attentiveness and sleep peacefully.

San Diego has been treating us well for the last 4 days. Our days being spent mostly running around getting all of our last "United States" errands taken care of before heading south to a new country, where some things will be a little more difficult to make happen. We've also been adding some new gear inventory to our line, lures, and a shiny new gaff hook to pull the succulent mahi and wahoo out of the big blue. We just paid for our mexican fishing licenses the other day, and so we are now legal and prepared to troll down the coast of Baja!

Another gear addition to our floating world is a new fishtail surfboard! Yes, i splurged, and added one more board to our quiver we are beginning to acquire. It is a pretty sweet little toy and i am extremely excited to play with it down the coast of Baja! We are hoping to stop in a few different bays with good surfbreaks as we head down the coast, so if we catch the swell on some good days, we will actually get our first chance to play in the water and waves on our journey!! Finally, a break from errands and a chance to appreciate some of the reasons we are doing this journey in the first place!

We've also been doing a few boat maintenance jobs. Nicole has been a trooper dealing with cleaning and servicing the last of the winches, and i've been sanding and varnishing our cockpit table. Both jobs we couldn't finish in Sausalito, but finally making the time while we're here to get it done. Oh yeah!

Tomorrow morning we leave for Turtle Bay, Baja, Mexico. We should be on passage for around 3-4 days and the weather outlook is looking pretty mellow to start out...about 10knots of wind, variable from west to northwest. Swell looks pretty mellow too, but as we always find out, you never know until your're out there!!

Turtle Bay is about half way down the Baja peninsula. There is not much there, except a protected bay, a small town, and possibly some good surfing. We will have a rest there, maybe get some fuel, and then head south to another bay called Bahia Santa Maria, right before Magdalena Bay. Bahia Santa Maria is supposed to be a beautiful, remote bay, with lots of marine life and sometimes good surfing. Then into Mag Bay where we hope to spend a little time with some of the many whales that come there every winter to give birth. That's the plan, but you just never know what will really happen on an adventure!!! :)
December 4, 2006

Current Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Current Position: N34° 34.520', W119° 41.230'
Next Destination: San Diego, CA

It was midnight, a huge moon lighting up the way as we neared Cape Horn of the California Coast, Pt. Conception. It was one of the most feared capes on the west coast with winds usually gusting heavily and seas rolling through big and sometimes scary. We were ready for anything and prepared for the worst. I looked out on the ocean, double checked the charts, and asked myself, are you kidding me???? The seas were almost flat, and the wind was shifty from the east to southeast at around 5 knots or less. It was a relief, but also pretty funny. It reminded me of how much energy people spend on fear, instead of on optimism and positve manifestation. You just never know what will truly happen to you and our only options are what we choose to focus on...we can choose to never put our self out there, always worried about what could, would, or might happen, or we can seize life and manifest the positive, seeking out and realizing the dreams we create.......

So here we were, motoring around Point Conception under a full moon, on our adventure to sail around the world. We had left Morro Bay in the morning with a nice 10-12 knot breeze from the east. It had looked like it was going to be a nice downwind day, maybe a day for the spinnaker.....sunshine, peaceful....just us and the hundreds of sea lions gliding around us on their way out to have breakfast. After a couple of miles, the wind died, we turned the engine on, pulled out our books and enjoyed a mellow day on our way to southern california. We rounded Pt. Conception and motored across the Santa Barbara shipping lane, respected by mariners alike, as most of the container ships, cruise boats, and all other huge scary pieces of metal that motor to/from southern California use this "virtual freeway" to get to their port destinations. We crossed it easily and the weather was still mild and almost eeire. We were heading towards Santa Cruz island, hoping to get to the channel between Santa Cruz and SantaRosa Island, on our way to Catalina Island. All of a sudden the wind came up from the east, right on our nose, the way we were headed. Within an hour it had built to 15 knots, then 20 plus. It wasn't too bad with the wind, but the resulting sharp, steep, choppy seas that came with it, became rough and ugly. We were pounding forward with our engine going full steam, and a small double-reefed sail up for balance and so we didn't roll as much. All night long this was our reality. Sleep??? Yeah right. We both fought our upset stomachs. Nicole won her battle. I lost mine.

The sun finally came up and to our demise, it brought with it more wind and more rough seas. We had hoped to make it to the lee of Santa Cruz Island and into the channel, but realized as we got closer that the wind was probably whipping over and down from the island's valleys, creating a rougher world then what we had hoped for. By this time, we were both feeling worked. Neither of us had slept for almost 24 hours, and we had been taking a beating all night, plus the forecast was a bit disconcerting, as we had just heard that Anacapa Island, the next island over we would be passing by, had sustained winds of 49 knots, with gusts to 65 all night. Yuck! We really didn't want to seek out any of that business today....

So we took a quick look at our charts, and saw that Santa Barbara was right back across the channel, only 3-4 hours away. Perfect! As we changed course, put up our staysail, and headed back for the shipping lanes on a close reach in 25+ knots of wind, a pod of spinner dolphins, the little cute ones, decided to say good morning and swam with us for the next half hour or so. They were launching out of the waves all around us, darting like little torpedos, and putting big smiles back on our weather-worn faces again. It was a special moment, the kind that always remind us why we are on this adventure in the first place.

The tack across the channel was pretty painless, as the waves and wind subsided after each closing mile to Santa Barbara. As we rounded the corner into the Santa Barbara harbor, it was hot, still, and everything that happened the night before seemed so out of place from the new world we had just arrived in.

Today we have been catching up on our rest and doing all those boat things we have to keep up on. Getting fuel, filling up water, doing laundry, etc... The sun is out and southern Califonia has brought warmth to our bodies again. It looks like tomorrow we will be off on our way to San Diego.
December 1, 2006

Current Location: Morro Bay, CA
Current Position: N35deg 22.270',W120deg 51.500'
Next Destination: San Diego, CA

We are blessed! Leaving Monterey in the cold crisp moments of twilight I was reminded we actually have begun our journey. I am grateful to be alive and part of such a beautiful world. Sailing at 7 knots in 10 knots of wind through Montery Bay Marine Sanctuary I have seen a glipse of what it used to be like before the overharvesting of creatures. We saw at least 10 otters playing, hunitng, and eating spider crabs (I know before there were thousands). There were hidden surprises in the ocean, at least 40 times within a couple of hours our depth sounder went off not because we were suddenly over a submerged shallow rock but because there were big schools of fish between 4.8 and 6.2 feet of water. For ten seconds something was at 16 feet. I'd like to think it was a whale. I am glad there is still the unknown. The wind died off Big Sur, motoring now. I hate the smell of diesel but I am grateful for the engine. The sunset is simply stunning, brilliant orange sun sinking into the sherbet colored sky dipping into midnight seas as the first stars appeared along with a visit from a pod of dolpins. They played in our bow wake, barely visible in the fading evening light. Delightful dinner entertainment and a great reminder of one of the many reason's we've come.

Arriving at 10 pm we hesitantly approached this unfamilliar anchorage. We chose a spot in shallow water with enough clearance from land to sleep comfortably or so we thought. Land wasn't a problem but sleeping sure was. It was a rolly, rolly night. I can't think of a time Gar and I have slept seperately when under the same roof. We did in San Simeon. I dragged myself out of bed and into the cocoon we use as our seaberth. After a sleepless night we awoke to a chilly morning, record breaking lows and a beautiful anchorage. It is quintessential old California, simply beautiful white sand beach, eucalyptus grove, grassy hills, and tall peaks. We would have loved to have stayed had the seas not been so confused. (to be continued...)