Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cruising at 100 mph

It's been almost 2 months since we headed south aboard Empyrean. We said farewell to friends and family and officially untied the lines.  It wasn't an eloquent departure worthy of cheers and praise, in fact we actually snagged the dinghy (that was hanging on the davits) on a sign posted on a pylon on the dock and pulled away with a great burst, a burst indicating that we had in fact put a hole in the bow of our only tender.  Oh well, keep moving, we can fix it in San Diego.  San Diego would be our first stop as we began our journey south.  This was our first overnight sail and it was beautiful.  Everything we had dreamed of, calm waters, light winds, the moons reflection and dolphins swimming by. Our confidence in our decision to leave was renewed. And so we arrived, elated and ready to repair the dinghy and settle into cruiser life, you know the slower pace escape from the rat race.

Over the next 6 weeks we worked on boat projects, made last minute purchases and ran countless other errands in a mad dash sort of fashion. We did not slow down and some days there seemed no end to the workload. We were tired, exhausted actually, but overall we were happy. The days were going by so quickly and our departure from the States was fast approaching. During our last weekend in San Diego we filled our tanks, finished our laundry, attended a few kickoff events for the Baja HaHa, had a nice evening with friends and then it was time to leave.

We lined up for the Ha Ha parade with all of the other boats and made a beautiful exit from the harbor. There were some 150 boats with over 600 crew heading out with us, we were excited and could barely contain ourselves. We had a little wind so we set the sails and all was good. We were truly on our way. And then things changed. We found ourselves in 25 kn winds, 10-15 ft swells and total darkness. For the next 24 hrs we would manage with almost no sleep as we pushed on keeping up with the rest of the fleet, listening to reports over SSB and VHF that the weather would get a little worse before it got better. We were once again exhausted and feeling a little defeated. On the second night we opted to stop in Colonet, a small anchorage with little protection. The wind was again howling
and we didn't want to be out in the 40 kn winds at night. It was a good decision as many boats that continued on had lots of problems, including one boat breaking their boom and tearing their sail along with a couple of boats being totally disabled. Although we were safe, we were now a day behind getting into our first stop at Turtle Bay. We arrived and dropped our anchor in the dark, not advised but we did ok. We spent a day in Turtle Bay and then it was time to head out. We wish we could have stayed longer and explored, the town was quaint and the people friendly, but there wasn't time. The rest of the trip was smoother. We saw hundreds of dolphins that would swim with us and entertain us, the weather was overall better and we were able to do a little fishing. We spent two nights in Bahia Santa Maria and loved it there, I would have enjoyed a few more days to explore the amazing estuary.
  Our last stop was Cabo, not our favorite but the people were
very nice and the backdrop was pretty, however it was loud and crowded and touristy. We took care of checking into the country and making sure all of our paperwork was correct. And now the rally was over, it had been a whirlwind. We definitely had gained a huge amount of experience in the 750 nautical mile journey. We made some great friendships and amazing memories. We have tested ourselves and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones. The experience will remain a part of us for life.

So what about the cruising part? The slowing down? The cold drink in hand at sunset? Well we are still working on finding that balance. We left Cabo San Lucas on Sunday and headed to San Jose del Cabo. A good number of boats from the Ha Ha have stopped here to wait out weather and after three days many are departing as I am writing this. I am here lounging in the cockpit with my cup of coffee watching as the fleet departs one by one. We are staying behind, slowing down and just catching our breath. It was a a tough decision to make, breaking away from the herd and going on our own. But our goal is to become dependent on ourselves and be able to trust our own knowledge and abilities. There will be a few boats staying a little longer here and that is nice too. But we have decided that one giant rally from port to port was enough for us. Cruising at 100mph just isn't what we are dreaming of. We want to embrace the places we come into, meet the people and learn about them and their way of life. 
So as the harbor that has been overwhelmed with this huge fleet begins to empty, we will head into town and explore. And in a few days we will move on, feeling like we have accomplished more than just arriving, achieving more than just another nautical mile and deciding this is when the cruising life begins.