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Pacific Crossing, Days 0
The anticipation is half the fun, right?
We’re supposed to leave La Paz today to sail slowly to Cabo San Lucas where we’ll start our 30-day crossing. Alas, because of the 40 kts of wind blowing from the North, the Port Captain won’t give us permission to leave the port.
It feels like we’re about to play Game 7 of a tied 3-3 World Series and there is a rain delay.
Like baseball players chew tobacco, I am chewing Tums…sticking whole wads of them in my mouth, trying to dampen the heartburn shooting up from the ball of anxiety that seems to have set up permanent residence in my stomach.
The winds are lightening after 3 full days of blows. If the Port Captain opens the port today, we can still catch the ideal weather window we see forming West of Cabo.
The Port Captain won’t make the official announcement on the VHF radio until late morning, but maybe someone will ask him ahead of time. We wake up to the early alarm we set and I stumble out of the vee-berth to turn on the VHF and bring the handheld radio back to bed.
Not quite asleep and not yet awake, we listen as the ferries call in. No help as they aren’t subject to his restrictions.
Finally, we hear a fishing panga ask timidly and hopefully, ‘Is the port open?’ ‘No, port is closed until tomorrow.’ Welp. There goes our ideal weather window. We’ll have to wait another 5 days.
Day 0…no, really this time!
At last! We’ve cast off from the dock to the chorus of well wishes and celebratory fog horn blows from Patrick and Christine on s/v Clare de Gouet.
Not off to a great start as the autopilot becomes demon-possessed as we exit the La Paz channel. Visions of hand-steering across the ocean nearly make us faint, but a little fiddling with the compass and it seems to be all right.
We’re anchoring tonight in Espíritu Santo island so that we can have a downwind-only sail tomorrow. Today is the day we’ve been preparing for 5 years and yet we find ourselves more hesitant than excited.
It’s like that day when my friends, Ashley and Leah, and I decided to go to Six Flags St Louis. All summer the average attendance at the park had been 9,000. We picked the day when 20,000 other people showed up.
We waited in line for over an hour to ride our first roller coaster, chatting merrily, until we were next in line. ‘Uh oh, we’re not youngins anymore. Are we too old to ride a roller coaster? Are we going to be able to walk afterwards or will we have to crawl off the ride thanks to vertigo?’
The thought comes, ‘No one is forcing me to do this. I can just walk away right through the exit.’ It’s tempting…but you stay. You just waited an hour in line for this ride.
You hop into the seat, lock the seatbelt, check the lock, check it one more time. The 16-year-old theme park employee comes by for a cursory check of the locking mechanism. ‘Uhhh don’t you want to check it one more time?’ You want to call out to him but it’s too late. He’s pressed the big green button.
Ready or not, here we go!
We’re getting thrashed in the Cerralvo Channel headed south to Cabo where our 30-day passage actually starts.
30 kt gusts with 8 ft seas every 6 seconds. Every once in a while a 10-ft wave will hit our stern sending us surfing violently down the wave.
We have read several accounts of the pacific crossing where the max wind sailors encounter is 30 kts so maybe these are the toughest conditions we will see.
My arms will be sore tomorrow from holding onto the boat so tightly. You know when you’re in a car with a teenage driver and you keep patting your chest and your lap to make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened? I find myself doing that on instinct all day, but there are no seatbelts on a boat. Another wave hits the stern and I think. ‘Shouldn’t I be strapped into a jump seat or something?’
Today is a day of great relief.
For one, we have much better conditions. The waves are half as high as yesterday.
Secondly, we have ruled out an imminent threat to our voyage. The bilge was full of water last night when we checked. Andrés Jacobo settled on 2 possible causes: a leak in the rudder post packing gland or a crack in the skeg.
We felt sick as we considered our predicament. If it’s a crack, it could get a whole lot worse as we cross the ocean. The right fix would be to return to La Paz to haul the boat out of the water, drop the rudder, and do a proper fiberglass repair. Alternatively, we could try to epoxy it in the water.
Andrés Jacobo captured our doubts about an epoxy fix perfectly “It’s like finding a rip in your parachute right before you jump out of the plane. You cover the rip with duct tape and think ‘the tape is going to hold, right?…Right??’
We may be dumb enough to cross the world’s largest ocean on a tiny boat, but we’re not stupid enough to cross it on a sinking boat.
In despair Andrés Jacobo asks me, ‘Can we do this?’
I learned this summer in Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown that when we’re overwhelmed with anxiety about uncertainty, we strive to make decisions that will bring certainty. Unfortunately, it’s when we are so overwhelmed that our decision-making abilities are considerably handicapped.
I imagine us motoring back to La Paz, putting the boat on a cargo ship, and shipping it to back to Bellingham. That feels certain. But surely we’re not in a good place to make that kind of decision.
‘Let’s wait. We’ll watch tomorrow, see if we can’t pinpoint the source of the leak.’
Today, only a couple hours into our sail we spy water gushing from the rudder packing gland as we surf the waves.
Yay!! A relatively easy fix with materials we squirreled away for just such a repair and we’re back on our way.
We made bets on when we would arrive and when we would cross the equator. We both chose March 22 for arrival in Hiva Oa. I say we will cross the equator on March 14…Andrés Jacobo thinks March 15.
Our thriftiness with fuel has paid off. We’ve used less than 2 gallons of diesel to travel 120 miles so we can skip the hassle of a stop in Cabo San Lucas. We’ll jump off from our anchorage here in Los Frailles.
I find myself back on the roller coaster, on the excruciatingly slow climb at the beginning. You can hear the gears and pulleys ratcheting, yanking you up higher and higher.
Don’t look down.
Don’t look down.
Whatever you do, don’t look at the 2700 nautical miles to go until Hiva Oa.
And finally you reach the top. Your stomach begins to drop as the train cars gather speed and barrel down the rails.
Only thing you can do now is hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Thanks for reading and being on the adventure with us!
You can track our daily progress and read the Captain’s Log at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/AnaMaria/