WOW! What a difference a month can make in our cruising outlook! To leave the “feels like 109 degree” weather of hurricane season with a boat unable to leave the dock due to an engine that just wants to blow black smoke, and return to the glorious cool breezes of a new season with repairs underway on the exhaust system (the ultimate cause of our black smoke), we find ourselves renewed and ready to get cruising again! Spending a mere 36 days at anchor fell quite short of what we envisioned for our second summer in the Sea of Cortéz. Our “summer of savings” quickly dissolved into a “summer of soot” as we embarked on an exhaustive and extensive diagnostic search to isolate the source of our black smoke and lack of power. We were disappointingly stuck on the dock, knowing that beautiful cruising grounds were calling to us just outside the channel. We are now refreshed and renewed after spending some time away, able to see clearly and move forward on repairs of an issue that would have reared its ugly head at no doubt, a much less convenient time. These old boats have a charming sense of timing.
Due to the heat and potential turbulence of hurricane season, many cruisers take a time out for the summer, either heading back to their homeport or taking care of more extensive boat projects in the boat yard. We had neither of these plans in sight, but found that taking a break from the wondering game was definitely the right move for us. My summer mind was filled with a constant barrage of “How long? How much (time, money, patience) do I have?, What’s the root cause and can we fix it here? Should we sell her or keep her? What is the likelihood that both my kids will get full ride scholarships to college?” and my favorite, “IS THIS MY SIGN TO QUIT?” The break made all the difference in our spirits and showed me the extent to which I had allowed myself to become a product of my environment and circumstances. Shame on me…we’ve had the most glorious surroundings and have been in the company of some great people! And further putting things in perspective, we’re safe on the dock. We just had a gnarly hurdle in our way….you know, the kind with spikes and fire balls shooting out of it – ‘tis the life!
So what’s a family to do in the sweltering heat of Baja with a boat that won’t go? ROAD TRIP! Only this was not just your average cross the border to see family and friends kinda road trip…nah…been there, done that. We were in need of a serious time out and how better to do that than seat belted in with the same 3 people you’ve spent cozy moments of joy with all sweaty summer, covering over 7000 miles of beautiful terrain in an adventure wagon!…How do you spell quality family time? We had a blast!
The funny part about taking this vacation was that I had never quite envisioned taking such a long break from our boat once I became a cruiser. I had committed myself to the lifestyle and after all, I was already ON vacation living aboard my boat in beautiful locations. (Cruisers, please laugh out loud with me here). This life is great! Why would I ever need a break from it? Well, reality will hit you like a ton of bricks out here. You’re not ON vacation when you’re carting your home around and the unexpected, but really critical system seems to malfunction just when you need it most. Ask any cruiser, they all have stories. You’d think we’re crazy (some still do) to choose this lifestyle if it weren’t for those beautiful, glorious moments that are interlaced with the dreadful ones. To each their own, but for a us, we needed a perspective change that came about from camping in beautiful green forests and enjoying the sights and smells of autumn. Awkwardly layered up in clothes we hadn’t seen in years, we quickly refined our tent assembly skills, getting better at it with each new site. We camped up and down the Pacific coast of the US, went horseback riding, hiking, looked at a few boats and wine tasting. We saw elk, deer, a bear, possibly Sasquatch and even snow….what a change. Before we knew it, our boat woes had disintegrated into the campfire with our focus shifted to more important things, like the fine art and skill involved in creating the perfect s’more.
When you don’t own a car or air conditioning anymore, a road trip is a novelty to be thoroughly enjoyed. We love enjoying the views and stopping at the unexpected sites along the way. It was equally liberating and exciting not knowing where we might lay our heads to rest from one evening to the next. We had a general idea of where we were heading each day, but sometimes we drove further and others, that campsite that we had looked at online just wasn’t what we were looking for. One day our clear indicator that it was time to stop for the evening was the cacophony from the back seat. The origin was the kitty chorus singing AC/DC…yup, it’s time to stop! Many of the campgrounds were sparsely populated as it was the end of the season and other days we just lucked out with timing. I’m reminded of why people retreat to the great outdoors for clearing their minds. I also can understand the lure of the Pacific Northwest, from where many of our cruiser friends hail. We get plenty of time in the great outdoors as cruisers, but sometimes we long for a change of scenery and that’s just what we got.
The trip back to the boat was virtually seamless. We have the route down by now so we have heads up on the checkpoints (that may or may not still be manned), have toll fees ready and know when to anticipate tight mountainous turns with no shoulder. With recent rain, the terrain is greener than we’ve ever seen which also injects the occasional cow, horse or burro crossing the road….stay alert. I look back on the mix of apprehension and excitement with which I embarked on our first roadtrip up the Baja peninsula. Volcanos, untouched coastline, salt flats at the northern tip of the sea, and lush palm tree oases that pop up out of nowhere amidst the endless desert vistas – so much to take in. Now our mentality is… press on and get there. We still enjoy the drive, but we’re on a mission to get back. We keep ourselves occupied while waiting at the military checkpoints by trying to determine the scientific algorithm that determines who gets searched, for what, and to what degree, but continue to fall short. We’ve always been treated with respect at the checkpoints and frankly appreciate the way they break up the drive. As we round the bend and look down at Loreto Bay, the tense reality of our unknown engine predicament returns. The wondering game begins to plague us again as we start up conversations about timelines and potential outcomes. Even so, we admit we’re now in a better place to approach the unknown. We needed the mental refresh and reset. The arrival at Tripui Hotel just outside the marina is a welcome relief. We’re back. One more night to splurge in the A/C before returning to our home. My lobster dinner, as always is incredible, the pool is inviting, the puppy is growing up, the butterflies are everywhere, and the cows are loudly mooing outside the gate – I LOVE IT!
As I wrote this, I felt like I wrote a similar post in the past: We planned to do this and then this unanticipated maintenance thing really stymied our plans, but things happen for a reason, and we are all better for it despite that fact that I’m growing poorer and more frustrated by the second yadda yadda yadda….oh wait, I have written that! As a new cruiser I seriously thought we might stick to a plan of scheduled preventive maintenance and bouncing cove to cove following weather and friends in a timely fashion as we proceed on our intended path. I clearly had not yet been introduced to COVID-19. Nor had I accepted the all-encompassing highs and lows of this lifestyle. I was so frustrated by one thing after another on this boat malfunctioning, all the while feeling like everyone else was enjoying cruising. The harsh reality is that other cruisers had similar or even worse boat woes, but had accepted them as a natural part of the lifestyle, while I was still in denial. Our aged lady Tulum V is a beautiful work of art and a safe, stout sailor with rich history and tales to tell, but she comes at a cost. She’s our home that is subjected to salt water, UV rays, constant movement, and a family of 5 tromping through with our day to day meanderings…so of course she’s going to throw some curve balls our way! Through it all, this lifestyle does indeed reinforce tenacity and ultimately resilience, but I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t seriously thought of bagging the whole lifestyle several times this past summer. Now, we’re getting over our gnarly hurdle and have finally cleared mental space to look forward to travels further south than we’ve been in prior years. As always, poco a poco we’ll make plans for this season…that will likely change – such is the lifestyle. Don’t get too married to any schedule or destination out here. Instead embrace humility, humor, adaptability, and irony as it gets laid on pretty thick out here – thank you Mother Nature and thank you my dear old boat! Most of all, thank you fellow cruisers who keep me laughing through it all!
As a brief instruction if you have not read her posts before, the HelmsMistress does the helming on our 51′ foot Aleutian Ketch, including all docking maneuvers. She’s also homeschooling our two girls and keeps the Captain in his place as needed. We live full time on our boat with our two kids and a Great Dane, happy to be able to connect with all of you with our website and posts. If you would like to support us we would love to have you FOLLOW our website. Got Questions or Comments for the HelmsMistress…..send em to us, we’d love to answer-