behind the beauty.
We have been on this sailing journey since August, 2017. Almost seven full months. I have had a few texts and emails asking me about the trip thus far. I have had some opportunity to explore these experiences and feelings with a few of the new friends I have met along the way. While each has a different story, I find comfort that many have felt like I have at some point. I find it difficult from day to day to solidify where I stand. Like the water under me, each day, each thought and where I think I stand, is fluid.
“I would love to hear your perspective on how the trip has been compared to what you prepared for or expected.” Like a huge tree, each leaf represents a thought and they scatter like leaves in a brisk fall wind of my mind. I am sure in a year from now this will look very different. How do I feel about the boat was prepared for our trip so far? My skills? Living a cruising lifestyle? What would I say versus what John would say? Sitting outside of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, I can say this – we prepared the boat well for most of the trip and the trip has been better than I imagined AFTER we made it past Santa Barbara and into warmer weather. My mood is much better in warmer climes. So about the trip so far. It still has that feeling of being surreal. People describe cruising as a lifestyle. I still feel like I am on vacation. More like a sabbatical. Take my non sailing friends out of the equation, most of my sailing friends have years of experience on me. I wonder if I will ever feel that level of confidence. I have to laugh when occasionally I hear someone comment on how much I know about sailing. I will refer to one of the notable nursing theorists on learning, Patricia Benner and her book ‘From Novice to Expert’, where I would place myself on the continuum of “just breaking even for the employer”. I had theory before but now I have some application. Sometimes your action in theory is not the same as you did in application, and you have to come to terms with that. I still see myself as novice. I haven’t reached the stage where I instinctively know how to act or can even teach. I have so much to learn and sometimes it whelms me. I am more uncomfortable with my lack of confidence and yet confidence and ability aren’t always congruent. How long will it take to get there I am not even sure. A few sailing friends have shared that they still do not feel confident and even dislike the discomforts of some sailing which leaves them feeling as if it impacts their ability. I do feel I have a better understanding overall of how our boat sails and mostly, trust. I have a trust in this boat that I did not realize until this trip. I look forward to a greater trust in myself.
I anticipated the sail from Seattle to, let’s say, San Francisco to be more sailing and warmer than what it was. I thought we would have more consistent wind and have more sailing than we did. It seemed we motored a lot. The winds were playful. Not consistent. Originally we planned on going further off shore than we did as we planned for 100 miles, however we were usually less than 30 miles offshore. I didn’t realize how many lobster or crab pots we would have to be watching for on the trip down. We settled in to watching our depth and staying just into the ranges of depth that pots shouldn’t be an issue. Of course I then was thankful that US regulations are brightly colored floats instead of dodging clear soda pop bottles loosely strung as found in Mexican waters. More than once, I thought I had everything sighted only to sit comfortably and turn to see a view and have a damn bottle go by. Thank you Poseidon, we never caught any lines as we certainly could have. I wondered what the trip would have been like had we gone further offshore, such as the 100 miles. We found a couple of sailboats who did just that and they shared that they had ferocious winds of 30-40nm, 20-30ft seas, and made the entire coast from Canada to Ensenada in seven days! One boat shared that it was the scariest of times. I no longer wondered if we should have gone offshore further. I am sure I would have hitch hiked back from Ensenada.
We spent more money than what we would have liked on foulies (heavy waterproof outerwear) and yet I was so thankful we did. We do not have a fully enclosed cockpit. We have a great dodger, a bimini with a connecting bridge to the dodger, and even some slight “wingurtains” but the rest is open to the night, the waves, the dampness, and the outside temperature. Coming down the coast we experienced more fog, cold, damp than I thought and was so thankful to be warm. Now, we have vacuum sealed most of our cold weather gear. I was very happy to have it and happy to not have to use it now, even though it is taking space and was expensive. It was more expensive in other ways than we planned as we came down the coast. The marinas are truly a treat as we try to manage a very tight and limited sailing kitty (budget). Eating out is easy but can be expensive – even in Mexico. It is easy to talk myself into eating out. I hoped I would have hit the Mexican border being able to cook up a swarthy 4 course meal while heeling at a 25 degree angle and look like I just stepped off of a Vogue magazine cover. Well, I can tell you THAT never happened! Neither cooking a great meal OR looking like a Vogue cover girl! Obviously we spent more in fuel than we planned due to the winds and our time frame. Of course the upgrades or fixes for the boat that weren’t planned are always costly, even with someone who know how to fix things. This boat is solid and strong. A blue water sailboat. There were a couple things that made me wonder how it was done thirty five years ago on this boat or was it just me being accustomed to the advantages of living on land. One important item that required a fix was our freezer. It worked great in the PNW, where the boat was in 55 degree water…. Now in 85 degree water, it could barely put a frost on the fish we caught. Boat fixes cost and that bites hard into our sailing kitty. The old adage of a “boat buck” being a $100 or even $1000, or the acronym “BOAT” meaning Bring On Another Thousand rings pretty true. It is true in the marine world, that add “marine” in the description is akin to adding an extra zero on to any price tag. So we added a stand alone Engel freezer as well as insulating our current fridge/freezer box to prevent cold loss. We added more solar as we really have sun now and it makes sense on our boat. Those two necessary advances bit the kitty again. A different outboard for the dingy. We wrestled with this expenditure, however in the end, we were able to justify it not just in comfort but safety as well. In Mexico, we are finding that we need more shade covering for the boat. That is our next project as well as chaps for the dingy. I don’t want to live so cheaply that I cannot enjoy things. Sometimes it is just reframing my thoughts of how I enjoy what I have. Isn’t that part of what this adventure was about? Could I have saved more money before leaving? Sure, but how much is enough? One of the biggest surprises was time, in that I really thought I would have a lot more down time. I haven’t really. The guitar that I thought I would be playing back up for the Avett brothers by now? Not even close. Those books on my shelf? Still waiting for me to open them. My Spanish skills? Still only able to order a beer. Great, I don’t drink beer. No, it seems that during the passage down the coast, if I wasn’t sleeping, then there is always something that needs to be done on or with the boat. My time seemed even more divided. I am hoping this will align more to my original plans as boat projects lessen.
Here are a few more questions.
“How do you feel about your adventure now as opposed to before you set sail.” I am still excited but maybe less outwardly so. I prefer being at anchor for the peacefulness and privacy but being at the dock is often more social. I love looking at boats and am thrilled to be invited on other boats. You would think that all sailboats are pretty much the same. Quite the opposite. I have had the opportunity to visit other Passport 40’s (same as our sailboat) and to see the differences between the years of design changes as well as customization by owners. Yet I notice that after a period of a week, I start to get impatient or antsy. Part of me doesn’t want to rush through this journey but the other part says I am starting to settle in or become sedentary. There are parts of this sweet country (Mexico) where I think I could settle but not right now. Before I left, it felt as if I was just telling a story to everyone as opposed to now, where I am living the story. It is definitely a lot more work to live the story. I even thought that maybe spending a year in the Sea of Cortez, exploring the pacific coast down through Mexico, Costa Rica etc. would be fun as I don’t anticipate we will ever be this way again like this. I feel like I missed some of the adventure during the time I returned to see family and yet I would not have traded that time for the world however. I feel like we spent a lot of on the move and yet at the same time, I did not want to become part of the “rubber band that pulls people back” to La Paz or La Cruz.
“How is your health, mental and physical, then to now?” Let me start by saying this – no Starbucks! Well, yes, I have seen a Starbucks in Puerto Vallarta. And there was one minor indiscretion in Cabo San Lucas. I am sure my daily ‘frothy million calorie hot beverage poorly disguised as a coffee’ habit wasn’t ideal. I am sure I shed a few pounds simply by removing myself from the country where they line the streets like fire hydrants. So physically, that’s great! Financially it is superior! What does that do for me mentally might not agree! Seriously however, my eating habits have changed. I am eating better foods for me, fresher foods and no junk foods to speak of. Totopos? (Chips) Sure. But only loaded with fresh salsa or guacamole. More fish in my diet, especially if you count coconut shrimp dinners! My coffee in the morning is harsher but I still use a creamer. We typically eat one large meal a day, preferably around noonish but often around dinner time. I still have my same eating habits in that respect. It seems to work well with this lifestyle. If you are underway, three big meals feels like a lot of work. At anchor, snacking seems to feel better especially in the heat. I feel better about what I am eating and I have to put more effort into cooking. It is challenging as I don’t have the storage capacity that a house affords you and in the heat, food can go ripe to bad pretty quickly. I want it noted for the record- my chocolate consumption has dramatically declined! I know, that will shock a few people. Give this a moment to settle in. IF we go to a large market for provisioning, I might sneak a snickers bar into the total purchase. This might happen once every 2-4 weeks! (I usually have to share it with someone who doesn’t like chocolate and that annoys me.) I, myself, savor every melting bite. My go to for a chocolate fix is Nutella, which now comes in a 950gm jar, thank you Ferraro!
Physically I feel soft. Less in shape than I ever was really. We walk wherever we go as much as possible. We actually finally sold the bikes that we didn’t use. Between my fitbit and my phone app, I usually log walking 5-7.5 miles every couple of days, more if we are anchored, less if on passage. I need to find a way to do more weight bearing exercises on the boat or with use of resistance bands. So physically, I feel “soft” but overall fine. I do have a couple of resistance bands on the boat but have yet to use them or turn the boat into my outdoor gym. I use my kayak when I can. I will say that I have lost at least 10-15 pounds.
“Is life on the hook what you thought it would be?” Sort of? It reminds me of how we used to sail on the weekends with the 26 foot sailboat. A lot of quiet time. There seems to be more intention with any activity, maybe even more planning. I think it has been easier for me than it has been for John, who is used to filling up his day with a checklist of things to do. I am quite content not doing that. The difference from before, again, is it was short term. Being on the small sailboat for the weekend, for the week as a vacation was more similar to living on this sailboat at the dock and continuing to work. It was a gentle preparation but in reality, nothing really compares to once you are doing it.
“What do you miss most?” Family and friends without a doubt. The ease of ringing them up, meeting somewhere. I feel like I am missing out on the day to day stuff and when I come back, it will be a lot that I have missed. Having cell service and access to social media helps heaps, but the cell service along the way has been poor, which makes me appreciate when I do get cell service and even wi-fi. I miss having a steady income but I don’t miss what it requires to have it. I think there has to be a balance.
“What do you enjoy the most now on the hook?” I like the quiet time really. It has been forever that I made reading an option and look forward to doing that now. There were always “other things” that I needed to be doing. I enjoy being on the water with the sights and sounds. I enjoy my mornings with coffee and seeing activity in the water. In La Paz, it was the dolphins on their morning feeding ritual. In La Cruz, it was watching for whales. I do enjoy the nature sounds. I have enjoyed going on to desolate beaches and always hopeful for finding a sweet shell or a taking a great photo. I love going into the small towns and exploring as well as people watching. Many lead very harsh lives and without the comforts of 4G internet, smart phones, or even family having left the village. I wonder if they truly are the lucky ones. I enjoy being away from politics. Doesn’t matter which side. Enough said.
”We are in more contact now than ever before, is that the same with most of your close contacts?” Time has a way of passing quickly without a calendar or schedule in front of me. Often, a text from someone is a welcome reminder that I should probably be in better contact. Some are always in my heart even if I don’t text frequently. There are a few however, that I am in more contact than ever because of shared interests.
“What would you like to have most that you do not have now?” The winning lottery numbers. Financial freedom. Me, and everyone else, right? I love what I have now, I would love to be able to share more of it with family and friends. And a good chocolate bar.