Putting on the miles

watching the water rush past

Logging passage miles


THE FIGURATIVE WINDOW which held our weather forecast stood wide open, but nonetheless I was anxious.  Prior to last week, I frolicked in the blissful ignorance of never having felt the contents of my stomach instantaneously liquefy while every inch of my skin erupted in icy beads of sweat.  Never felt the boat launch wild figure 8’s beneath me until direction became relative and a vigilant eye to the horizon was the only thing reaffirming my faith in gravity.

Up until last week, I had not experienced sickness at sea.

Fortunately for me (and perhaps more fortunate for Erik) not a hint of sea sickness threatened to thwart our beautiful 300 mile sail south from Bahia de Tortuga to Magdalena.  We were the picture of health, although I have to admit our stomachs did mildly protest at the immense volume of pork stew we were forced to consume over our 5 days at sea.  Dreading another round of sea sickness and learning first hand how much food is prepared and consumed when one member of the crew is on watch for 36 hours and the other one is drooling into the stitching of the settee cushions, I decided to prepare our meals in advance.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of assuming, similar to our last sail, we would be ecstatic with anything edible as long as the minimal effort required to consume it amounted to ripping off the lid of a tupperware container and digging a utensil out of a drawer.  I was wrong.  On day 4, Erik fished the last rubbermaid out of the fridge, still brimming with a chilled concoction of limp vegetables and sinewy meat, and spooned it into a large stainless steel bowl at the bottom of our companionway steps.  At least Nikka appreciated my meticulous over preparation.

On the morning of our 5th day at sea, the brown rocky headlands of Bahia Magdalena materialized out of the limited range of blue hues we had grown accustomed to over the past week.  We were at once struck by the bay’s uncanny resemblance to a body of water we departed one sunny afternoon, over 3 months and 1,000 miles earlier.  It felt as if we had been hurled back in time, catapulted by the Tardis, to a San Francisco Bay similar to the one the Spanish first encountered over 240 years ago.  A time before resplendent, awe-inspiring bridges and clanging trolley cars, a time when the riches of the Sierra Nevada still lay concealed under the meandering water of rivers and thin mantles of vegetation.  Catching a ride on the powerful tidal currents, we serendipitously arrived during flood tide, speeding through the entrance and finding ourselves on the outskirts of a vast, shallow bay.  The strong northwesterlies followed us inside while the pesky ocean swell vanished, reminding us how lucky we were to have a large protected bay like San Francisco as a playground for an entire year.

We were flying through the water, it was good to be back.

After spending 24 hours in Magdalena, 20 of those hours spent horizontal, we were refreshed and eager to sail the final 140 miles to Cabo San Lucas, where we were hoping to replenish our stock of fruits and vegetables that had run out days earlier.  On the way south we found ourselves battling that common cruiser’s adversary, time.  In 48 hours our friends were landing in San Jose del Cabo, and we were cutting it close.  Two days may have been no problem for Resolute close hauled or reaching, but Cabo lie directly downwind, and even with the wind blowing a steady 15 knots, we were moving slooooow.  Not to mention the motion of Resolute on a monotonous downwind run in choppy seas is like a screen door flapping wildly in the wind, swinging squeakily on its hinges and crashing to a tumultuous halt at the limit of its springs before starting back again in the opposite direction.  What we lacked in comfort was more than made up for in beauty, and instead of spending my night watches like I usually did, nestled into a book combating sleep with the aid of my watch alarm, I hung from Resolute’s stern arch awake and in awe of natures spectacle.

The moon shone round as a lollipop as it dripped a shimmering trail for us through the dark turbulent water, creating a scene more reminiscent of driving down a rutted Alaskan backroad than sailing the open ocean.  The clouds were tiny puffs, flowing white in all directions until finally melting into the sea in the distance.  The stars momentarily peeked out from behind the clouds, rewarding the patient observer with a quick glimpse before dissolving into the background.  As I hung there with my mouth ajar, I was filled with an overwhelming appreciation for soggy foul weather gear, safety harnesses, and crushing exhaustion.  I knew if I had not been on watch in the middle of the night more than 20 miles from the nearest land, I would have been sound asleep on some cozy pillow top mattress oblivious to the simple fact that a full moon hung heavy in the sky.

Magdalena bay

Entering Magdalena bay


Dawn over isla santa margarita

Dawn over isla santa margarita


Mares tale clouds high in the sky

Mares tail clouds on a calm sea


dead down wind

Dead down wind


Rough stomach on an unsettled sea

Excitement swirled with apprehension in the rigging above our heads, our emotions palpable, like dense fog on a windless San Francisco morning.  As we motored out beyond the sanctuary of Ensenada’s protective sea wall, the tranquil waters of the harbor were abruptly replaced by jarring short period swell and erratic, splashy wind chop.  By the time we had coerced the sails into place, the slightest hint of a grumbling began down in the deepest reaches of my belly bringing with it the nagging sensation that started approximately 1 hour earlier, as the last bite of fried fish taco passed my lips.  The rough seas and greasy street food paired well with the intense pain that had been radiating outward from my eye sockets for the past two days, the result of a tenacious sinus blockage.  Exhausted and overburdened with emotion and sickness I wearily succumbed to my first bout of sea sickness approximately 10 minutes into the 4 day, 360 mile sail from Ensenada to Bahia de Tortuga.  While Erik propelled us into the restless sea, I curled into a tight ball in the back of the cockpit, my arms like jib sheets wrapped tightly around our port side winch, clinging and hugging it to me while my head rested lazily on top.  I huddled there for hours, unfolding myself intermittently to crawl clumsily over the cockpit comings and while desperately clasping Resolute’s beefy toe rail return the contents of the taco to the sea.  At some point during my delirium, Erik disappeared down the companionway, returning several minutes later with a plastic Ikea cup brimming with a fizzy white substance.  He shoved the cup in front of my nose and suggested rather authoritatively that I consume its mystery contents.  I hesitated for a moment, realizing that my pitiful groaning and melodramatic mutterings of “kill me now” may have been enough to lead any man to murderous tendencies, especially one trapped on a 36 foot piece of real estate with access to a profusion of toxic boat chemicals.  I sniffed at the milky liquid, trying to weed out the presence of any exotic contaminants.  Finding the smell mildly pleasing and for once not in any position to argue with him, I weakly dislodged the cup from his grasp and poured the chalky liquid down my throat.  Within minutes, I lay sprawled and snoring in the crisp folds of our new lee cloth.  Drugged and happy with, Erik informed me later, two nighttime Alka-Seltzer tablets coursing through my system.

A day and a half later (I know, I know, I am very sensitive to antihistamines) I peeled myself away from the settee and stumbled out into the moonless night, just in time to watch Resolute surf down a massive wave at a hull speed crushing 10.2 knots.  Green water spat and foamed from threatening heights as the waves fitfully alternated between hurling us forward on their crests and stalling us in their troughs.  I turned toward Erik, huddling from the Beaufort force 7 winds under Resolute’s sturdy hard dodger, his eyes bloodshot and swollen, no doubt exhausted from his 36 hour watch.  Less frightened than I should have been since my head was still a cumulonimbus of drug induced euphoria, I nonchalantly inquired, “do you think we might want to reduce some sail?”  He abruptly snapped out of his own delirium and we hove to for the rest of the night, permitting Erik to catch up on some much needed shut eye, and myself ample time to awaken from it.

The monstrous waves and howling winds accompanied us for our remaining two days at sea, and when we finally limped into Bahia de Tortuga we were completely and utterly exhausted.  However, five minutes into our visit to the sunny, placid bay we had half of a gorgeous (25 lb) Yellowtail filleted and delivered to our boat for the minimal cost of 50 pesos (an equivalent to 3.5 US dollars) and two cold beers.  We smiled and lit the barbecue, already forgetting about the tribulations of the last four days and excitedly planning our next jump down the coast.

storm at night

Night watch during storm