We arrived in La Cruz, in Banderas Bay next to Puerto Vallarta, nearly a week ago. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and so we’d arrive in time for a nice big helping of turkey and mashed potatoes we sailed nonstop: south from Bahia Magdalena, past the taunting lights of Cabo San Lucas and then 275 miles across the southernmost portion of the Sea of Cortez. 450 miles, four days and nights of sailing.
When I think of the distances it’s possible to travel nonstop on a small sailboat, our little trip was like a daysail. But for us, it was the longest passage so far on this journey. Along the way, I thought of so many things I wanted to write down but usually I was laying in front of a fan and didn’t feel like getting up. Now, it’s like looking back at a dream: some of it I strain to remember while other parts are unforgettable, details totally clear in my memory.
We left Bahia Magdalena in the late afternoon and inched our way south to Cabo that first night and day and night slowly, two and three knots at a time. We flew our spinnaker during the day then took it down at night and poled out the genoa to catch the very light following breeze. We rounded Cabo Falso in the early morning hours and were happy to have the wind pick up with us as we scooted around the cape, pointing the bow more easterly.
Once clear of Cabo the wind died down to nearly nothing so we took the opportunity to charge the batteries, depleted in the overcast skies. Then only an hour or two later the wind turned on like a faucet; a light norther was blowing down the Sea of Cortez, 20-25 knots forecast at times, and we were now in it.
Here is where the dream really starts: 20 knots of wind just slightly aft of the beam for days and days, or so it feels like. Our main is double-reefed, the genoa furled in a touch. Wondertime just romps along, delighted. This time, we are just passengers, reefing and unreefing as the steady northerly winds rise and fall slightly over the next two days. Miles and miles passing under our keel and all we really have to do is hang on and eat and play.
I’m trying to remember details but mostly it’s just feelings that come back: nausea and tiredness from holding on as the boat rolls to starboard again and again with the waves rolling down from the north; dry mouth trying to chew cheese and crackers (the only thing I can manage to serve up to my hungry crew for dinner that first night across), dripping with sweat in the humid, tropical 85-degree interior cabin, trying to keep my heavy eyes open during my 4 am watch.
The third day we are halfway across the sea, nearly 150 miles from the closest land. That’s when the magic happens.
It is night, the clouds have cleared, the crescent moon is not yet up and the sky is a mess of stars. The rest of the crew is below asleep, I am outside in the cockpit, Ulrich Schnauss on the iPod, gazing around in the blackness which is lit up by our phosphorescent wake. The boat is romping along through the night on the same port tack we’ve been on for a whole day and a half. Shoooosh, shoooosh, shoooosh. I feel like I am floating. Happy. Suddenly this seems so very easy. We could do this forever.
Maybe we will.