January 1 - January 4, 2002: New Year's in Ensenada and Trip to San Quintin... and Beyond
January 1st, 2002: New Years Day
Last night, New Year's Eve, we celebrated in Ensenada at the same place we have for several other New Years... at a beautiful old and traditional French restaurant in downtown Ensenada called El Rey Sol. It was only a 2-3 block walk from the marina where we are staying, so quite convenient. The menu was superb, as usual, with 6 courses, accompanied by a pianist and a 9 piece mariachi band, hats and noisemakers at midnight. Also at midnight they serve 12 grapes to each person, a Spanish/Mexican tradition that has something to do with having good luck (one grape for each month) in the new year. Every year I ask a Mexican working at the restaurant (they all speak good English), exactly what the 12 grapes symbolizes and never have I gotten a clear answer except "good luck..." (Buen Suerte!) So I guess, who cares, we sure could use all the good luck we can get so, of course, we ate each and every one! (And the grapes were a lot better than the awful Hoppin' John (that my dear Dad makes every year for "good luck) that I usually am forced to eat for New Year's!
We did very little else yesterday, and absolutely nothing today, but piddle around the boat as I think we were both running on low energy and needed this time to "re-fuel." The last few months really drained us. I have been exposed to flu's and colds galore in the last month (including Joe who was sick in December), but held my own. But I know my resistance must be down now (probably from exhaustion mentally and physically!) as today I woke up with a knife in my throat, a vice around my stomach, and a head full of snot! Hopefully whatever this is, will be short-lived, as tomorrow we have a busy schedule and in the next day and a half and I need to be at 100%. Early tomorrow we will need to be checking in and out of customs, checking in and out with Port Captain and Immigrations, and making various other stops doing what is called by the Cruisers, "the Mexican Paperwork Cha-Cha-Cha." (All of these offices we need to visit have been closed since we got here Sunday and yesterday and today a holiday, so we have to both check in, and then immediately check out!) We will soon get used to this as we will have to do this almost everywhere we land in Mexico. Anyway, we will be up early "cha-cha-ing," and then immediately on our way to our next destination (which includes an overnight sail) to San Quintin, further south along the west coast of Baja.
January 4th, 2002: Michele's evening watch
Well it's been a good beginning to our adventure, and we are still alive and mostly well. (I'm still suffering, day 3 of this dang' blasted cold/flu, that has gone from my throat and nose to my nose and chest, and I feel like one of those cartoon characters that has been fed through a wringer and is now "wrung out" and running around as a 2 dimensional version of Michele... i.e., not all here! So who ever gave me this... and you're probably out there reading this now, thanks a lot!)
We left Ensenada around noon on January the 2nd, without too much problem. Everything in town other than "tourist businesses" had been shut down for 3 days for the New Year's holiday, so we had to both check IN and OUT of the Immigration and Port Captain's office at the same time. We also made time for a quick a trip to the Fish Market and gobbled up some of our favorite fresh-off-the boat fish tacos and bought some fresh shrimp, limes, and ajo (garlic) for tomorrow's dinner and then headed off for "leg 2" of our trip to Cabo: Ensenada to San Quintin.
This leg was timed to be an overnight sojourn, our very first of pulling watches. Our goal was to time each leg of the trip to leave and arrive during daylight hours, so our departure time each day was dependent on the expected travel time. We have a really great electronic navigation system of Charting called "The Cap'n". We draw our preferred route in it and it does the rest, right on our laptop, which now sits at the Nav (navigation) Station. It also logs as we go all of the pertinent information, such as course, speed, and our location minute by minute. (We also have paper charts, which we have bought for the entire trip... very expensive, and we'll probably never use them, but they right here and grab-able as a necessary back up in case The Cap'n decides to malfunction.)
We ended up motoring the entire 2nd leg, partially because the wind wasn't where we needed it to go in the direction we wanted, and partially because we were lazy and didn't want to do sail changes all night long on our first over night sail together. And I was sure happy for the decision. As much as I hate the constant rumble of the engine, this cold/flu had quite worn me down and all I wanted to do was set the auto pilot and go to sleep after my watch was over (at midnight, when Joe took over).
But let me tell you what it's like to sleep on a boat in blue water seas, especially a sailboat with no sails up (sails help steady a sail boat so she's not quite so rocky.) I'll try and describe it: Our bed goes lengthwise (i.e. parallel to the length of the boat), but the boat (with the waves and 8-10' swells) was really rolling back and forth from side to side, so I tried to first sleep across my bed so I could put my feet against the side of the boat to keep from sliding (rolling) out of the bed. Well that worked for a while but then the boat was pitching up and down also. So essentially my body was doing a 180-degree log roll, first rolling all the way to the left and then my entire body 3 seconds later would roll to the right. Ohhh and I was sooooo tired and all I wanted to do was sleep. Even the Nyquil that I had just taken for my cold wouldn't knock me out. Finally I devised a solution. I got on my side and smashed by back and butt against the side of the boat, and then formed a barricade (like sand bags) in front of me with about 4 pillows to keep me from rolling forward. Then I pulled my great big down comforter over me, put another pillow over my head (to drown out some of the noise), and voilla! Sleep at last. So for those of you picturing the gentle rolling and pitching of a boat rocking you to sleep, that happens only in marinas, tied to a dock - - not out on open seas! (And for those of you reading this who are ol' salts, you can for sure identify with the dilemma of getting a good night sleep at sea!)
The next morning, yesterday, January 3rd, we arrived at out intended anchorage in Bahia (bay) San Quintin, which at the time of arrival was somewhat calm. Then out of nowhere, as soon as we dropped anchor, we were surrounded with 25+ knots of wind and shortly after, it started raining and was freezing (to me!) cold. So much for my visions of a sunset sherry and putting the shrimp (that I bought in Ensenada) on the "barby" in a peaceful warm sunny WARM harbor. I've been in my down, micro-fiber, thick, fur, hooded Eskimo jacket almost ever since we left, except the first evening in Ensenada. We have something called weather fax aboard -- a computerized program from which we can download weather maps of where we are and where we are going... what ever that front is that went through in Bahia San Quintin, it wasn't on the map! Oh well, at least the anchor held and we're safe and sound.
Actually across from where we were anchored the area of San Quintin looks like it has beautiful white sandy beaches and a hotel and trailer park, and might have been fun to explore. Further in the bay is an estuary for fishing and hunting. However between the shore and us were some humongous breakers, which would not have been fun taking us in our little rubber dinghy across. (That is a skill we haven't practiced yet, which I'm told from the shore can provide some amusement to onlookers, i.e., watching cruisers trying to get to land from their boats by coming across the huge waves breaking close to shore without flipping or getting drenched in their dinghies.)
Anyway, for the rest of the day, we just closed the hatches, hunkered up and both of us read, studied our Spanish lessons, and catnapped for the rest of the day. (Despite my solution for the "log rolls", the sleep I got last night was far from peaceful, and Joe had even less rest than I, so a scheduled "rest day" was just what we needed, before setting out again.)
This morning we awoke to glassy seas and blue clear sunny skies, and began our day with a beautiful brunch of my "Jewish Eggs Benedict" (bagel, cream cheese, tomato, green onions, lox, poached egg, topped w/ hollandaise sauce and dill) [Hmmm , what are the other cruisers out there eating?], And then we actually SET SAIL (versus motor) as the "glass" soon turned to wind lines on the water. So ... yes, Mi Gitana DOES sail... and we took off around noon for our next (3rd leg) of the trip: San Quintin to Cedros Island, which if all goes as scheduled, should be 26-28 hours, so it is again an overnighter and twice as long as our last 2 legs.
It's been a good day of sailing, but still very rocky, with high swells, and far from smooth sailing. I'm pretty careful how I move when we're at sea, but I still have bruises everywhere, from bumps and crashes as we move along our way south, but somehow our moods have improved since the engine is turned off. Finally, there are only the noises now of the waves lapping (and occasionally crashing) and the creaks and groans of the boat as it moves through the water, instead of the loud and obnoxious engine. And now the stars are out full blast on a clear moonless night (it hasn't risen yet). I even just a few minutes ago saw 2 shooting stars. Joe is asleep now, and I'm on watch again until midnight. Every 10 minutes, I go outside and look around for about 5 minutes (observing for other boats, checking the sails and instruments, look at the radar, etc.) and then come back in. The Cap'n is right next to me (we have 2 laptop computers) so I can write in between checks, and watch our course at the same time. My turn to sleep comes again at midnight.
And so that catches you up to where we are now. I hope you don't mind my descriptions and ramblings, and I'll try not to be too repetitive about life at sea, but since this is all so new to me, I wanted to capture my thoughts and experiences now while they are fresh. I'm sure eventually, I'll adapt to the rhythm of the sea and living aboard and it will all be so natural in the near future. But for now that rhythm is more like "rock-n' roll" (and hard rock at that), rather than smooth jazz.