A large joy of cruising is the people you meet along the way. How cruisers meet other cruisers has changed over the years. People do meet old school by rowing over to other boats at an anchorage or crossing paths at dinghy dock or at the local laundromat (as we did with a couple in Ensenada). But nowadays sailors just as often meet online first and then connect IRL.
When we sailed into Morro Bay, an Instagram follower reached out to me offering local knowledge and a ride around town if we needed it. We took him up on the offer and discovered we not only had mutual sailing friends here in California, but a direct connection to a guy my dad knew in Australia in the ‘60s! (That’s a whole other fascinating and intriguing story - listen to the ABC documentary on Vern Todd and the Drug Grannies for more).
Not only have we met people along with way, but thanks to WhatsApp and Facebook groups we’ve already connected with multiple families plying the same waters. Some of them headed south earlier, some are in our wake, and some are on the same schedule as we.
When we met up with Adam and Daniela - a couple cruising their Swan 46 Easy Day with two boys aged four and eight - we’d already been corresponding for weeks via WhatsApp. We knew our paths and timeline were similar and we decided to start heading south together.
Having a buddy boat for passages requires adjusting plans and sails to keep a similar course and speed. But it provides comfort of company, the security of knowing someone else is close by.
For example, Easy Day, a faster boat, shortened sail during multiple passages to keep in our company. And halfway through our four-day passage from Ensenada down the outside coast of Baja California to Magdalena Bay, when Easy Day’s autopilot stopped working, we were close at hand to provide moral support as Adam and Daniela hand-steered in difficult conditions for 15 hours to a detour destination of Bahia Tortuga. (They resolved the issue with some help from a local machine shop and you can view that whole story here).
A buddy boat with kids provides all of our children opportunities to play legos or board games together. Or better yet, as they did today, spend hours on the beach together splashing in the waves and exploring tide pools.
Having a front row seat to amazing beauty nature has to offer, the excitement of exploring foreign ports, trying all kinds of new food, and being self sufficient all contribute to the joy of cruising. But in the end it’s the people you meet and share the journey with along the way that make it so special.
Hola Mexico! We're finally here and it feels good. Colder than we imagined, but good. We're wearing parkas and beanies, and two days ago it snowed for the first time in Cedros Island (200 miles south of here). Fortunately the spicy tacos are keeping us warm.
Arriving in a Ensenada has really made it feel like we're cruising. We're in a new country. The language, the currency are different. We've connected with other cruisers at the marina, at the laundromat, at the local taco stand, and at the bar -- the two-for-one margarita night pulled in all the gringos!
After two days of bureaucratic wrangling -- which mostly consisted of sitting and waiting, singing our names, and paying fees -- we and the boat are now officially in the country.
We're sharing the harbor with multiple cruise ships, and Ensenada is geared towards tourists, with lots of security and blocks and blocks of gift shops. But tucked between the tee-shirt stands are some astounding taquerias. A highlight has been the mole tacos at La Comadre. They were so mouth watering we lunched there two days in a row.
If the current weather window holds, we'll be headed south in the next day or two, hopping down the Baja coastline on our way to Cabo and Puerto Vallarta.
Yesterday we anchored in a little harbor on the north side of Santa Cruz Island next to a catamaran. We paddled over to say hello and met Kyber and his 7-month-old son. Kyber is from Santa Barbara and has been cruising aboard his boat for 17 years. Along with some local knowledge about catching lobsters and scallops, he gave us a multi-tool called a Lighterbro, which he invented and sells around the world.
Kyber told us about a nearby spot called Pirates Cove, a magical little cove tucked behind some cliffs where a waterfall trickles into the sea and seals splash in the water. We dinghies over and it was just as special as he had promised. Both girls decided to write journal entries when we returned and asked me to post them here.
Pirate Cove by Alexandra Shaw
Pirate Cover is a magical place!!! There are seals swimming in every spot and urchins on the rocks in every space!!! Anemones twirling everywhere. The water is super warm!!! It is very calm!!! I felt sad when we left because I loved it there!!!
Pirates Cove by Norah Shaw
The warm water was glistening. Fish swam around us. We were in Pirate Cove. There was sunshine streaming down into the cove. Baby seals spalshed and played with clams and other sea life. A waterfall trickled down the smooth rocks. There were all kinds of sea creatures on them. Not many people know about this place, but if you look hard enough you may come across Pirates Cove.
A lone dolphin streaked through the dark water, leaving a trail of phosphorescence across our wake.
My first night watch on our first overnight passage was nearly over. In the glow of the red cabin light, Lauren got ready for her midnight to 2am watch. I heard a low grumble or growl. It sounded like a bear, but that was unlikely; we were ten miles off the coast of Northern California, halfway between San Francisco and Monterey.
I dismissed the noise as a strange new boat sound - of which there were many that I was getting used to - made while Lauren moved around below.
Again I heard a low growl. This time closer and immediately followed by a loud exhale. I looked to port, from where the sound had come, and no more than 100 feet away was the unmistakable low, long form of a whale slipping above and below the waves.
It was a magical moonlit moment. Now off watch, I snuggled into my bunk and drifted to sleep high on the joy of being back out at sea.
But I didn’t sleep long. I was soon awoken by sails flapping in a dying wind and got up to help douse and stow them. I went to start the engine, but when I turned the key nothing happened. Here we were floating in the middle of the ocean motionless. No wind. No engine. We were in no danger, but my heart was racing and I fought to calm myself and think of next steps.
Inevitably things break or go wrong on a boat, and that’s double or triply true on shakedown passages when systems are being used for the first time or haven’t been used for a bit. In the back of my mind I knew something — likely many things — would go a little haywire on this first outing. The engine not starting was par for the course, but it quickly brought me down from the elation I’d been feeling moments before.
Diesel engines are mechanical beasts, but most need electricity to get started. Something was off in the wiring, but I wasn’t able to immediately identify the problem while rolling around on a dark sea. Instead, I figured I’d circumvent the problem by jumping the starter - connecting two wires and providing 12-volt power directly to the part that starts the engine. But that didn’t work…. Now I was stumped.
Luckily, we were still in cell range and I had a lifeline: diesel mechanic Dick Vosbury in Annapolis, Maryland. He’s more familiar with this very Volvo engine than almost anyone, having sold it to my father when the Dovka belonged to my parents. Fortunately, I caught Dick in his office and he was able to explain what I was doing wrong and how I could successfully jump the starter. A minute later the 3-cylinder was purring along.
It was a relief to again be making progress through the water with a working engine, but the root electrical problem is still to be resolved. I've added it to the growing “to do” list, and have spent a lot of time mulling over solutions.
It was a first night of highs and lows. I can think of no more appropriate welcome back to this life at sea.
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