Tomorrow El Gato will begin the journey that we have dreamed of for…well, not for that long. A year ago, this trip wasn’t even on our radar. But since buying a boat in California, we decided to sail around Mexico and Central America before crossing the Panama Canal towards the Caribbean and back to the East Coast. The plan is to circumnavigate, but but that is several years off.
The Pacific Coast of the Baja Peninsula is roughly 800 miles long. Now, if you were in a car driving-like we do-about 85 mph, that would take about 20 hours. On a boat, however, considering pit-stops, rest days and weather delays, that 800 miles can take upwards of 2 weeks, if not more.
There are no marinas between Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, and very limited access to fuel, fresh water and well-protected anchorages. There are also, much to the chagrin of Roxie and Chance, few places to safely land a dinghy for on-shore pit-stops. I say safely because, out here on the West Coast, the breakers near shore can do lots of damage to unprepared sailors, pets and dinghies. In fact, it is recommended that one installs wheels on the dinghy in order to pull it far enough, fast enough, to escape the often roaring surf.
Since there will be several overnight passages involved in getting between anchorages, Jeff and I made the call to find crew to make this portion of the trip with us. We figured we would enjoy sharing time time with another married couple, and it would have to be someone that could take the time (2-3 weeks) off of work. Ocean sailing experience required, some cooking and turns at taking the night-shift were expected. (This is an unpaid position, just split expenses.)
So we put the word out to our cruising friends on the West Coast, and also placed an ad in Latitude 38, the main sailing and marine magazine on this coast. Within hours, we had a grab-bag of folks offering up their services. Some obviously neglected to read the part that said “married couple”, sending in pictures of salty senior sailors smoking cigars or nearly nude nubiles. Others ignored the time allotment required, stating they could spare a weekend here and there. Still others, taken by the pictures we posted, and smitten with a beautiful sailing catamaran, 2 adorable dogs and our alluring good looks, begged to spend the rest of their lives with us, peeling grapes and scrubbing our feet. Wait….hmmmm….
After culling through and responding to all of the applicants, we decided on a couple from Sacramento Ca. We liked them as soon as we saw their letter of introduction. Jim and Jess are a bit younger than us (but married longer), spend lots of time sailing on the SF Bay, world travelers, and have control of their schedules. They meet all of our requirements.
We made a conference call and talked at length. Jim is a firefighter/paramedic and Jess is a professional photographer. They also have 2 dogs. They like to cook, and we eat pretty similarly. And then The Subject Of The Day was broached.
Yes, this is an election year, and we will be on the boat together before, during and after the election. It was important for Jeff and I to fully vet anyone spending this much time with us, since we feel strongly about this election and its candidates. When we brought up the subject, Jess let out a laugh and thanked us for getting that out of the way. We are all on the same page.
But here’s the catch. After hearing horror stories from other sailors about their failed ventures with unknown crew, we wanted to meet this mystery “perfect match” for real. In the flesh. Hell, they could be con artists with a good game for all we knew.
Remember Vincent Bugliosi’s book “And the Sea Will Tell”? The true-crime story of Mac and Muff, young, idealistic sailors who befriend another sailing couple and then disappear, but the other couple is found living on the boat, and the eventual gruesome discovery of……
Well, I didn’t want Jeff and Jules to be Mac and Muff, so we all agreed on a face-to-face. Jim and Jess took a plane, bus and 2 taxis to meet us across the border and spend 3 nights aboard El Gato. That right there says something. These guys are committed. And probably not so poor they’re gonna murder us for our money, since everybody in the marina was aware that they were here.
It was a fun and very productive 3 days. We took El Gato out for two day sails and ate at several of our favorite local restaurants. We laughed a lot got to know each other about as well as you can in 3 days sharing a small space. We knew it was a confirmed “go” when they left some of their stuff on the boat instead of schlepping it back and forth. I figure if they do bag on us, I’ll get some shoes and a cute hat out of the deal.
We even named ourselves. Jeff, Jules, Jim and Jess are officially sailing as “J Cruise”!!
Tomorrow Jim and Jess arrive!!!! We’re excited to see our new friends again! We’ll have about 24 hours to provision and wrap up loose ends before casting off. The weather looks fine. Not much wind, but better than the alternative of too much, since it is still officially hurricane season.
We invite you to follow along on our journey. We are also on instagram as #jcruise. Please feel free to make comments, or ask questions.