I’ve got to get some milk at the corner store today. We ran out last night and had our coffee black this morning. There is a cold front passing over, so for almost the first time this season it feels like winter. I am reluctant to leave the boat. This bit of nastiness here in Alta California comes as Kristin and I prepare to fly to Baja California on March 2nd. There we will meet our friends on S/V Wondertime in La Paz. We sailed down the west coast of the U.S. at the same time as them last summer. When we put down roots in San Francisco they kept going south, and are now preparing to take on the next logical portion of the compass: west.
I offered to crew on their trip from Baja to the Marquesas Islands, and they accepted. Which is good of them, since I am resource intensive at 6'4" and 19 stone. You really want Pygmy crew. But I do have the undeniable merit that I can take a shift, so that the remaining 2 adults on board can have 8 hours off. For my part, I gain tremendous experience for the crossing that lies a few years ahead for Kristin and me. Although Kristin will get to do some sailing in Baja, she must return to San Francisco when I leave, to keep us fed and in the black.
The trip from Mexico to the Marquesas islands is the longest one that a reasonable person would contemplate. Sure, you can go in circles, or skip land all-together… but if you are trying to get somewhere 3,000 miles is about as far apart as choice bits of land lie. And land, as they say, is where the stuff is.
The route is blessed with trade-winds and few storms. It starts with the NE trade-winds on the north side of the equator, passes through the doldrums over the equator and then finishes in the SE trade-winds. The route is often called the “coconut milk run”, for the easy sailing it often provides. But few boats carry enough fuel to make it the whole way, and a boat disabled 1,500 miles from anywhere is not on a milk run. These waters have hosted the worlds most well known castaway stories, from the life of Andrew Selkirk that inspired Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe, to the pitiful fate of the men of the whale-ship Essex. What they wouldn’t have given for an EPIRB.
The trip will be an odd one for me. I’ve been sailing the bay frequently since we arrived, but it will be a double shock to first arrive in the tropics and shortly thereafter leave land behind entirely. Others are eased into the prospect by the cruise down the coast. But I also have little responsibility, not planning or captaining the trip, which is a relief. I am trying to figure out simple things, like what to wear. It doesn’t make sense to bring bulky and unnecessary clothing aboard, but the issue is not addressed in the literature because every boat will have plenty of warm clothes stored away somewhere anyway.
To try to get into the mood I am reading the accounts of others. It seems like the experience varies a lot, even in good weather. Consider the logs of Maajhi-Ré and S/V Felicity.
I am excited to go to Baja and sail and swim in warm water. I am super excited to see my friends. I am not excited to sail the open ocean. Not exactly. The feeling is more one of inevitability. And at the same time I don’t know what it is that is inevitable. I can’t really imagine it, so I am just going to do it and see what it is.