Tortuga Bay

November 1, 2018 | Bahía Tortugas, Baja Sur, Mexico

27°41’21.4″N 114°52’36.2″W

“Are you ok to stand watch on the bow?” asked Captain Diane an hour outside of the anchorage. “Yes,” I answered as the wind steadily built to 20 knots.  With a high-powered headlamp in one hand I searched for fishing buoys, my other arm wrapped around the headstay, feet wedged in between the stainless extendable bowsprit.  Silver flying fish flashed through my light beam.  I focused on looking for hazards and not becoming one myself.  A few sailboats followed us in, relying on us to avoid all obstacles. Sustained vigilance takes energy, and talking yourself down from the “this is uncomfortable” spiral is a frustrating, yet fulfilling, practice. We arrived, the bay was calm, we anchored.  I tucked into my comfy lee-cloth sofa bunk and cherished the sleep to come.

Pano of clear blue sky, flat bay, desert mountains off the bow.

Sculptural desert mountains, an expansive clear blue sky and a fleet of cozy sailboats anchored in sun dappled blue water greeted us in the morning. VHF roll call gave the fleet members a chance to show off how many fish they caught and to lament what parts broke during passage. Our boat chihuahua Sofia dozed in the face of those human trivialities, she wanted to smell soil again. Ashore we went.

Me eating a paleta in front of a Mercado Roxana. Dog sleeping beside me. Two fellows sitting on stools in front.

First stop, coconut paletas (popsicles) at the small, but well stocked grocery store. Sofia found lots of new dog friends and we met a few people friends. We meandered around the town, enjoying land and practicing speaking Spanish. Kids chased each other on the beach wearing their Día de los Muertos face paint and costumes, cruisers gave them candy.

It felt strange to be a part of this group, of mostly older, almost all white people. The town set up the special beach party for the Ha-Ha rally, US classic rock blasted from speakers. I like to travel inconspicuously. Yes, I am white and I am a woman so I stand out in many places.  But being seen as part of this group made my cat whiskers bristle, and made me want to run off.

A hand painted ad for a flower shop where one woman gives another woman a colorful bouquet. It says "vamos a celebrar un party!"

We peeled away from the beach party and took a quieter walk through town. With no agenda, no boat tasks, no to do lists, we luxuriated in our dusty sandals to admire folks’ well-loved gardens and colorful homes.  Shells inlaid in the cement as a welcome mat in front of the library, alternating baby blue and white boards to form diamond patterns on a garage. After a few days at sea, all the creative human made details popped from the landscape.

Campbell's Sloop and Celtic Song crew standing in front of bright colored mural and and Abarrotes sign.
Candid of Anna, relaxing in front of a mural looking up at the sky.

Our toes relaxed in the sand for a beach taco, then lunch turned into a few hour hang out. We checked out the cruisers vs. locals baseball game and returned to our beach table until sunset. The muted blue and pink sky above the desert mountains, a church steeple silhouette, a loping black puppy trying to follow Sofia home on the rickety deck—Turtle Bay welcomed us to relax into the calm evening.

Baseball stadium with mountain in the background, the hand painted letters on the wall say "Estadio Esteban SKUTCH"

We convinced Enrique, the fuel purveyor, to deliver diesel to our boat just as the last light faded. Speaking Spanish and coordinating the fuel purchase put me more at ease. I think speaking English in Mexico clashed and threw me off all day. John and Anna courageously motored the deflating dinghy back while the rest of us hitched a ride on the fuel boat. We inflated it again and hoped it would still be alive in the morning.  A dinner onboard with proper wine and good conversation made Celtic Song feel like home.

Pano of the dock, looking out onto sunset hued desert mountains beyond the bay.

Desert wind howled across the bay and through our rigging as we closed our eyes to dream.  

spinnaker, swells and bad eggs

October 30, 2018 | Pacific Ocean off Northern Baja

30°28’06.6″N 116°26’43.2″W

Large swells from the north west and a white cushy cloud carpet broken up with blue greeted us on our first morning at sea. Diane made her signature oatmeal and we topped it with Chino Farm raspberries, pecans and maple syrup. It is special to provision a trip with food you and your coworkers have grown together. Adds another layer of richness to the daily eating ritual.  

Light winds picked up midday, so we decided to fly the spinnaker. We had to redo the fairlead and the pull down line got tangled in the snatch block. Anna muscled her way through while John slept soundly below. We got it sorted and the sail flew well, billowing out in its glorious shamrock green, cherry red and snow white stripes. At the crest of every big swell, the spinnaker collapsed so we took it down after a while. We enjoyed the quiet, motor-less time while it lasted. 

Shelly at the helm.

I offered to make lunch and chose egg salad from the list of options written on the ruled pad hung above the fridge. Diane had already boiled the eggs so I figured it would be an easy choice. My scopolamine sea sickness patch seemed to be working, but I didn’t want to be below deck for too long. Growing up, I’d dread that seasick feeling you get when you go below and can’t shake it for a few hours, even after sipping ginger beer and Top Ramen. 

“Where are the eggs?” I asked. “They are in the pantry cabinet,” said Diane. Oh dear. Not refrigerated?? Nope. I pulled out a tall deli container full of nine boiled and rotten eggs from the cabinet. And threw them overboard. Diane started laughing hard because she realized that is what she smelled last night, she thought someone had farted in the cabin. Thank goodness we found them early on, any longer and no seasickness patch could bring you back from that smell experience. 

Shelly and John enjoying the swells.

I made the crew my signature tuna sandwiches with crisp apple, Dijon mustard, greek yogurt and lots of vinegar. Diane regaled us with stories of life in the Peace Corps in Fiji. Any captain worth her salt is a good storyteller. She kept us in suspense, weaving together images and emotions about how she narrowly escaped a naked attacker on a midday run. 

Me happy to be surrounded by a beautiful sea and sky.

The afternoon sun streamed through light and dark grey clouds. A bit of blue sky highlighted their edges. Sunbeams hit each huge swell’s crest. The crests glimmered like liquid mercury hills—rolling and undulating across the horizon. Like a silvery Rhodesian ridgeback sea.  As if some giant raked their fingertips over downy indigo crushed velvet, leaving luster trails towards the sun.  

Sunbeams streaming through grey clouds over grey sea.

John and I enjoyed the quiet together, talking once in a while. We all tucked into a warming chicken and vegetable curry and slept soon after sundown.