Bikini or Boardshorts: The Sex of Our New Sailor

 

Warning: The ballon picture is part of the story, and it may or may not be the final answer….

It turns out I just officially announced I’m pregnant by posting my first belly pic on the all telling gram of pictures. It surprised many to see I was pregnant, guess you all missed last months dramatic announcement story!…Written Here.  So, in this Instagram post I asked for a gender prediction and ALL guesses said boy! Now that I think about it, many people guessed “boy” when I was pregnant with Ella. With her I felt girl from the start which was confirmed around 18 weeks via ultrasound. But still, I would hear from old ladies at the grocery store, on the street, friends parents, everywhere, up until delivery day, people saying “o its definitely a boy! I can tell by the way you’re carrying.” A few times I would even tell them –no its a girl- and they’d say “O no honey, its a boy for sure” Haha, wtf? Ladies and their old fashion theories, prettttty cute. I imagined all the baby girl stuff I had for Ella not working and her being a surprise boy!

So this time, 8 technology years later… I know by blood test! I’ve known the gender for nearly 2 months now. Being a pretty intuitive person, I again felt it from the start, boy.  It could have been influenced by the fact that I kinda wanted a boy since I have a girl, right? Or maybe because again, anyone who knew early on said boy, except maybe one or two people, Trev and CJ (who followed her girl guess by saying she’s always wrong, so it’s probably a boy, ha). Even a nurse who was jabbing me with a needle while I was in the hospital said “O it must be a boy, they make you sooooo sick.” I started hearing boys make you very sick from many people. Honestly, I don’t think gender makes a difference, plus we learned I wasn’t just super sick, I was suffering from HG so that theory would be out the window anyways.

____________________________________

I just knew boy,  or did I just really want one…then there was a twist….

____________________________________

Just before the voyage I suddenly kinda wanted a girl. I started to think about how Ella just had a brother (on her Dad’s side) and it would be cool for her to have a sister. So now it wasn’t based on what I wanted, I really just felt it was a boy.

Soon the real twist came.  Day one of the voyage, just as we passed the south tip of Catalina Island, Portia screamed, “Tawn look over the side of the boat!!!” I propped up to find the 2nd piece of liter we’d seen (first was a chip bag a few hours previous.) There it was! A big mylar balloon that skimmed right up against the side of the boat. Pink, in the shape of a teddy bear, and said “It’s a girl!” Unfortunately, The boat was moving too quick to retrieve the liter or to snap a picture, but it looked exactly like this, only half deflated floating past our boat…

IMG_9137

This reminded me that a few weeks previous Francisco’s mother had a dream that his grandmother Violeta (who our boat is named after) was saying to her, “Norma, tell Francisco to open the door! A little girl is on the other side.”As the voyage continued, I am very happy to say we didn’t see much liter. The only other thing I saw the entire trip was 3 days later (about 4 days into trip). I spotted a regular latex balloon floating in the water. Solid pink about 50 feet away!

Now, to get the facts straight, it is not uncommon to see balloons in the ocean, sadly it’s quite common. This is why we shouldn’t release them into the air. But…this did seem a bit too coincidental that we saw these TWO balloons, 100’s of miles apart. One is U.S. waters, one in Mexico waters! So naturally a part of me switched and I thought, Oo! its a girl. A few days later, around day 6 while sailing, Ella woke up and announced that she had dreamt I was pregnant and it was a girl. She didn’t even know I was pregnant at the time! I was now {nearly} sure it was a girl. I did imagine Francisco with a baby girl.

_____________________________________________

But…we were still waiting for the call from the doctor with the blood results and always with out service while sailing at sea. 

_____________________________________________

FullSizeRender 2 copy 3

Finally, on day 8 of the trip while actually on land with service in adorable Bahia Tortuga , the doctor called with my results which would reveal the gender! I handed the phone over to Portia.

An hour later my sister in law, Rebecca, texted me out of no where — How is your trip going? I’m not sure if you will get this, but are you going to want Ella’s old baby clothes back? Love you — Almost 5 years later..!? I had only saved my favorite items and sentimental stuff to share with Ella’s little cousins, all others I had donated years back. I would want them if I was pregnant with a girl. Again, very random. I hadn’t even told my mom I was pregnant yet because I knew she would worry more than she already was about us at sea.

I responded  Honestly I will have a solid answer tomorrow. Fine timing to ask. I haven’t told anyone because I don’t want them freaking about me on the boat and also it is still early…but I’m 13 weeks pregnant!  They did blood tests at 10 weeks which show gender and called with results today. I had them tell Portia. She will tell me Francisco and Ella all tomorrow while at sea. Ella doesn’t know at all.  Now you’re stuck with the secret  That evening Portia went to the store and picked up 4 different colored BALLOONS (which we popped inside to make sure they didn’t end up in the ocean, although they weren’t filled with helium anyways 😉

_______________________________________

She wrote little poems inside each one that revealed not only the gender to me and Francisco, but also the fact that I was pregnant to Ella!  

_______________________________________

Let’s see if all of our boy intuitions or the signs from the universe saying girl were stronger this time…

The reality of life and emotions and parenting — As you may notice, Ella went through many emotions here. Excited for the “balloon game,” then attitude, silly, confused, denial, funny, shocked,  and …because we don’t fluff fairytales around here… she actually became pissed, hence the video being cut off here. I think it hit her that we were really 2 different families now. I’m sure the transition of being on our way out of the country added a bit of fear as well. Of course, she absorbed it and became filled with joy after processing on her own as well as with Portia, who as a child was also many years older than her first born and “half” sibling. Ella woke me up the next morning with breakfast in bed and kisses. She expressed how she had felt worried her new sister may replace her new brother and it wasn’t fair for him. Certainly not the case, just another modern family expanding the globe. Ella connects the two as siblings. She has been so so excited, loving, happy and the biggest help every day since.

Here on land she started packing me lunches while I was sleeping in the mornings. Her school box filled with my favorite bland foods to ensure I avoided the resort poolside food that induced nausea, resulting in bad moods.

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

.

Sea sick: Not the Motion in the Ocean (and a Mexican boob job)

by Tawnya Calvillo

It’s now been three weeks since we arrived on land and I’ve finally found it in me to share my side of the story. I’ve never been sea sick, I love sailing, but the sail down for me was NOT pleasant. To be quite honest it sucked. I hated the movement of the boat when we sailed, hated breathing the diesel when we motored, the smell of the food these crazy South Americans cook, the pictures being taken of me, everything.

I spent 98% of my awake time in the “dog house,” the small little platform at the front of the cockpit hidden behind the bimini. When it was cold I was there with layers of clothes and blankets, when it was hot I was there in a bathing suit with a towel pinned over the bimini blocking me from the sun. The dog house happens to be right above the galley (kitchen) so you’d find this life long vegetarian with a blanket over my face half the time to block out the smells of meat and fish being prepared below.

IMG_9157
Thrilled (not!) photo by Ella Jade

It’s a good thing Day 1 started off great or we may have turned around right then. I woke up around 6:30 am. We were about 2 hours off shore from Marina Del Rey. I went above deck just in time to see the sunrise over the Southern California mountains. It felt soooo good to finally see the rewards of our hard work and dreams coming true. We enjoyed the day watching dolphins, painting with water colors, snacking and relaxing. I may or may not have thrown up that day, I can’t remember, if so it didn’t matter, it was my happiest day in months!!

Day 2 was the exact opposite and the next few weeks were down hill for me from there. I woke up that day to gusts of nearly 40 knots, the boat rocking forward, backward, side to side over (and sometimes under) huge waves and rough winds. Everyone threw up at least once that day (except Captain), I certainly did multiple times. Luckily, we arrived in Ensenada that evening and we could regroup on land. It was a nice port, but I didn’t feel any better and hated land too. The town was stinky. Walking around was annoying. The cruise ships were loud. The restaurant food made me ill.

Back to sea….with a few stops in between that you may have or can read about in our previous (and more positive) posts, not a day went by that I didn’t throw up. I only made it to my usual favorite spot, the bowsprit, three times during the entire 17 day trip (11 days which were at sea). Each bowsprit visit for no more than 5 minutes, then back to the dog house and straight to bed by 7 p.m. latest. All the other adult crew took shifts each night, watching the beautiful and calm night sky (but also having to wake up for their shifts which went “A shift” 9 p.m.-12, “B shift” 12-3 a.m., “C shift” 3 a.m.-6 a.m. and “A shift” again 6 a.m.-9 a.m.). I would usually rise around 8:30 a.m. with Ella. Straight to the dog house. Holding back vomit. Totally useless. Ella certainly helped hoist more sails, coil more sheets, serve more snacks and clean up than I did. I did nothing. A useless body aboard. And I hated that too. I’m not that good at sitting still. The one thing I was useful for was navigating our course by chart and I often quit, forgot what I was doing, or slept through that, which sent us off course a few times. The dog house earned a new name “The Throne” as Francisco said, “The queen of the ship ordering people around from the throne.” I never really left the spot, except to lean over the side of the boat of course…posted up there only speaking to say things like “bring me a water, remember extra lemon, I want this snack prepared just like this, can’t you see that loose line, go grab it! Tighten the traveler, take us 4 degrees starboard, don’t talk to me I feel like shit….”  And bless their hearts they (mostly) followed orders day in and day out and even cleaned up after me when I got sick. Ella was cute and would say, “Francisco! Mommy’s throw upping again,” and he’d come to help. I didn’t want him to correct her wording ’til the very last day or two because I liked how she said it wrong. “Throw upping,”  at least it gave me something to chuckle about in between.

img_4671.jpg

Luckily for all of us, I only REALLY lost it once. Out of frustration, loss of hope and the feeling that no one understood and everyone was so normal and happy sipping their cocktails and laughing the days away while I tried to ignore the overwhelming discomfort, I screamed profanities as loud as I could at everyone, threatened to throw stuff overboard and stormed below to bed.

There was a half decent day for me around day 15 as we crossed the Sea of Cortez. The water was like a pool, not even a ripple. We stopped and swam, you can read about it here. EVEN I made it all the way out of the newly named dog house and into the water. I walked around the boat a bit that day and surprisingly laid on the deck for an hour or two instead of the thrown which I would ruthlessly tell you if you sat there, “Get out of my spot.”

T E Floating.jpg.jpeg

FLASHBACK to December while we were still in Marina Del Rey working hard for hours on end to prepare for the trip. It was Dec 8th, I walked down the dock ramp towards our boat slip. As I walked passed the pile of Sea Lions sun bathing on the dock the smell of these marina pets was extra strong that day. I instantly started leaning over the dock gagging. I went straight to the store that night and picked up a pregnancy test which read “best results first thing in the morning.” I woke up Dec 9th, my birthday, pee’d on the trusty stick and watched TWO lines appear. Happy birthday to me! I calculated the due date based off my last period…. Happy birthday to Francisco! Due August 9th, his birthday! That evening on this same lovely day of mine, our dear Kiran was brought into the world as well!!! Ella’s first little brother, born a month before his due date, on my birthday!

IMG_4595
Kiran and Ella

img_1196.jpg

The next six weeks of boat preparation leading up to our Jan 26th departure would be hell. I was sick with Ella, maybe a little more than the average morning sickness considering it lasted 24 hours a day for a couple months straight, but it was bearable and it diminished around 12 weeks. This time would be different. 24 hours of INTENSE discomfort and we had SO much to do to prepare for sea. We had originally planned to leave around my birthday, but as with most sailing journeys there’s no definite departure date between preparing the boat, ourselves and watching the weather, etc. I ended up in the hospital sometime around early January because I had become so malnourished and dehydrated from not holding anything down due to how sick I was. They kept me longer than expected and gave me more than double the fluids and medicine they had anticipated. I was diagnosed with HG (hyperemesis gravidarum), which is basically EXTREME and never ending sickness during pregnancy, a rare experience that blesses only 2% of pregnancies. I wanted to get out of the Marina already!

Great, now I had some rare acute pregnancy sickness that only this poor pirate and the Princess of England share. I was prescribed pills to take multiple times a day to help with the vomiting. I hate taking pills. They did help a little bit, though it was much more discomfort than just nausea I was suffering from, so I often day dreamt they were morphine pills. I very seriously say, I contemplated if I might need to check into a mental institute multiple times. I didn’t even want to see or talk to my best friends because it was too much effort and no one I knew truly understood the intensity, mothers or not. I tried anything and everything to feel better. I became depressed which I had never really experienced in my life. Finally, I spoke to one of my childhood best friends, Sheena who had HG with 1 out of her 3 pregnancies. Gosh I love that woman, the sweetest. It broke her heart to see me that way because she KNEW. I was directed to information and support groups online that basically said there’s nothing that helps, “All the advice people give you for morning sickness are not going to help you, this is not morning sickness.” It was suggested that the best thing was support, bed rest, and mental strength. I stopped reading the support site as I couldn’t stand to do anything at all. Portia researched many times in hopes of supporting me and finding anything that could help. She recently told me she had read many forums of women feeling the need to be institutionalized, and sedated, I wasn’t alone.  I hope some day I can put into words inspiration and advice that might calm another HG expecting mom.

On the BRIGHT SIDE, and not just talking about this hot Mexico sun…..last week at 17 weeks pregnant, I woke up a new person, feeling at least halfway myself!!!  Pretty good, not amazing, but super happy to be functional, to have an appetite and my mind not so blurred, enough to look at a computer and write this post. Enough to finally enjoy where we’ve journeyed to and walk my ass to the beach or day spa to relax. Being debilitated since the sea lion initiation and several weeks into my 2nd trimester, even having spent weeks back on land, was making me feel mentally insane again, a loss of hope that it would never ease up, and now I didn’t have the sea to blame for it still lingering! BUT low and behold….here I am! Feeling what I would say is normal pregnancy sick, which is a huge relief (although it would be really awesome if it would disappear completely), it’s really something to feel that way with out a minute of relief for that many months STRAIGHT. It’s like waking up with a horrible hangover, the kind where you want to die and say you’ll never drink again, contemplate going to the ER. The kind where you feel it all the way until falling asleep the next night, but you make it through and wake up the next day just a bit worn out, but the next day after that you drink a beer! Yep, that kind, only it never went a way for even a minute, no next day beer for me.

Because I was so sick I didn’t see anyone and chose to not tell many people that I was pregnant before departure. As far as I was concerned, their opinions on sailing while sick didn’t matter anyways and I felt, “Well f*!# it, send me to sea. I’d rather be suffering sick out there than stuck on land.” 

Did sailing make my diagnoses easier or harder? Probably a bit of both. I think it certainly eased my mental state, not having to drive around town taking care of errands or see anyone in public, etc. but it was physically harder being swished around at sea.

Would I still make the same choice? YES! (that is to this whole sailing thing)

So anyways… SURPRISE!!!  It’s a Mexican boob job! The more kids you have the longer it lasts!

ybob-oups-huge-boobs-denise-milani-mamsitas-sexy-pics-hatun-nice-big-breast-wow-incredible-awesome-exciting-moudy-hmmm-woman-sweet-new-album-bubby-album_large
Here’s a courtesy pic for anyone who read this in hopes of a nice boob shot.

(Yes I made a joke about Mexicans having lots of kids, yes I’m half Mexican, yes I love Mexico and Mexicans and all humankind) #theoceanhasnowalls

One last thing. While I’m on my rant, I hate these stickers..
imgres-1

But guess what…

imgres

Cabo to Puerto Vallarta Part III: A Rocky Arrival

By Portia Leigh

It was 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, February 12. For some reason I woke up 25 minutes before the alarm I’d set for my 6 a.m. shift— it would be the last time I’d watch the sunrise alone above deck for a while as we were nearly to our destination, and I intended to savor every last drop of it.

Thankfully, the universe had other plans– I did not spend the morning alone. If I had, we might have found ourselves in a perilously sticky situation.

I heated up some water for tea and poked my head above deck to say good morning to Francisco. “Good morning,” he said with a chipper smile. “We are off course, if we kept going through the night we would have run right into land.”

“Oh man, but we’re okay now?” I asked.

“Yeah, we caught it early enough,” he replied.

I climbed above aboard, wrapped myself in a blanket, and took a seat on the cockpit’s portside bench with Francisco sitting opposite, looking out over the ocean to starboard. It was still dark and the air was filled with dew, but it wasn’t overly cold.

“It’s crazy how calm the water is, it’s like we’re on a lake,” he said.

“I know. It’s kind of eerie. Just think how somewhere else in the world, this very second, another boat is being ravaged by the sea, the same body of water that is connected to us right now.”

Francisco looked up and saw a single cormorant circling above us. “That is the same kind of bird I saw a few nights ago, the one that freaked me out in the middle of the night as I watched it circle our mast hundreds of miles off shore,” I said. (I was quietly thrilled that someone else had a chance to see this peculiar pterodactyl like bird, it seemed otherworldly, truly).

“I see why it freaked you out, what a weird sight,” he replied.

“Hey, you know you can go to bed if you want, I’m up now so I can keep watch,” I said.

“I want to wait until we make this last turn,” he replied.

I smelled smoke from a fire and it was getting stronger, “Do You smell that?” I asked.

“Not really,” he replied.

“It smells smokey, like someone is burning trash on land, I guess the wind is carrying it towards us.”

“Maybe.”

We sat there for a few minutes, me keeping watch over the water from the bow to the portside of the boat, and Francisco checking our course on the navigation and looking over starboard.

It was barely 6 a.m. and the sun had yet to offer any light, but the moon, that magical full moon, was so unnaturally bright, it was almost bizarre. It was fate.

Looking out on the portside I saw a dark shadow about 50 feet in front of us—I rubbed my eyes frantically and thought to myself: am I still asleep, are my eyes playing tricks on me, WAKE UP!

And then I saw a thin line of water breaking on the shadow in front of us, this wasn’t a trick, “ROCKS, dead ahead,” I screamed, “Right, hard right, turn now!” (In the midst of panic my ability to differentiate between port and starboard flew out the window)… We literally missed a line of jagged rocks (about the length of the boat) jutting out of the ocean by less than 20 feet; we were headed straight for it! Had Francisco not stayed above board, had the full moon not shone bright and illuminated the path ahead, and had I not woken up 30 minutes earlier than usual, there’s a solid chance Violeta would have careened into an unforgiving jagged wall of rocks.

img_5275

Francisco and I looked at each other, half panting from the adrenaline and half laughing at the insanity of the seriousness of the situation we nearly missed.

“Portia, you just saved us all,” Francisco said.

“Thank god you didn’t go to bed, who knows what would have happened if you did—I might have gone down stairs to make some tea and then what?! We’d have been stranded on the rocks in the middle of the Sea of Cortez,” I said, shuttering at the thought of how the situation could have been altogether different had I been alone.

Francisco laughed and said, ”And we were just talking about how calm and gentle the sea is here, Ha! Maybe that bird was trying to give us a warning.”

“Maybe,” I said.

The depth meter was still occasionally ricocheting from 135 ft down to 35 ft, it was definitely best that we both stayed aboard and kept watch. Two mini rock islets, about 15 feet high, extended out of the sea a few hundred feet in front of us to port. At one point I saw another dark mass in front of us—again, unsure of whether my eyes had not fully acclimated, but after the last near miss, I told Francisco to make another hard right. I still don’t know if the second rock mass was a figment of my imagination or not, but I’m happy we didn’t have to find out.

We cruised for about 30 minutes keeping watch until we were back on course (unfortunately the first rock mass we saw was not marked on the GPS or physical map, although there was a symbol marking “shipwrecks’ quite close to the coordinates, but far from exact). The depth meter continually increased until the water was about 200 feet deep. The sun had finally come out and we both could relax. Francisco went below deck to make us some toast and another round of matte, and I kept my eyes peeled for potential obstacles. Instead of obstacles though, I caught sight of a massive spout of water being expelled several feet above the sea line, I screamed again, but this time with delight, “Whales!” Francisco was above board within seconds, and I ran below deck to grab my camera. We spent the next few minutes watching the whales splashing their tales around, about 20 nautical miles outside Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Flags).

img_5391

The rest of the crew woke up, and took turns looking through the binoculars as we neared land, everyone trying to spot the breakwater that borders the entrance to Paradise Village Marina—our new home! We found it. We got together and took our first group photo. Cheers to our first journey together.

img_5413

Welcome to Nuevo Vallarta!

Cabo to Puerto Vallarta Part II: Everyone Takes A Dive & Violeta Breaks the Wind Barrier!

By Portia Leigh

It was the first full day into the next leg of the journey and after our toilet victory (see last post), the rest of the day was all about relaxing— truth be told most days on the boat, other than a few wild curve balls thrown by the sea, have been about relaxing; regardless, we chilled harder that Friday than we had in the three weeks since we left Marina Del Rey. And it was glorious.

As we crossed the Sea of Cortez we instantly began feeling the heat of the tropics at a little over 22° N and just under 108° W. It was like night and day compared to the weeks spent in the Pacific Ocean to the west of Baja California—when, like clock work, we were layering ourselves in snow clothes from the time the sun went down until it was high up in the sky the next day.

Thankfully, it doesn’t look like we’ll be doing that again for many, many, many months! (Did I say many? Man is it hot here…)

By 11 a.m. that day everyone had stripped down to their bathing suits; and with mind bogglingly calm waters and little wind, the only logical thing to do was go swimming. Francisco turned off the engine, put out the swim step, and tied a few ropes to the port-side winches so we’d have something to grab onto if we started floating away.

fullsizeoutput_76f

The five of us stood aboard looking over the edge, all primped and ready to swim, but nobody made a move… It’s a bit unnerving diving into something so vast for the first time. After some back and forth deliberation over who was going to take the plunge, I flung myself overboard before I could think about it any more. I plummeted into the still waters with surprising force. Within a minute I was back clinging to the rope threatening to scale my way up the rope if someone didn’t join me—my feelings were equal parts bliss and fright—it was eerie being alone in such a massive body of blue.

Francisco, then Tawnya, and after much coaxing, Ella jumped into the ocean. It felt cool as you entered, the force of your body pushing the cold water to the surface only to abruptly settle back down and allow the few feet of warmth that naturally rested on the surface to return. It was perfect. We splashed around in awe of the water’s silky calm beauty.

ellajumpingoff

hangingoffv

Diego shook his head at us as if he wasn’t going to come in, and then he disappeared below deck. Right as we were crawling up the ladder, he remerged suited up with fins, snorkel and mask, and a knife strapped to his leg.

He and Ella jumped in together while the rest of us chilled aboard. They didn’t last long though, soon enough all of us were on board basking in the sun. Ella grabbed the purple wind inflatable couch my mom got me for Christmas and flung it open on deck, and Francisco put on Yo La Tengo’s “Summer Sun,” the perfect tune for the day’s vibe.

img_6981

The wind decided to bless us with a gentle breeze, so Diego and Francisco broke out the spinnaker. It was the first time she had been up on the trip (and only the second time since Francisco bought Violeta several years ago). In spite of its 80s tracksuit style print, the kind that brings to mind over exposed chest hair and a gold chain necklace, the spinnaker’s Sea of Cortez debut was a momentous event. It looked glorious the way it stretched from the bow to the front of the cockpit enveloping the wind like a kite.

img_7073

fullsizeoutput_773

We kicked it up a notch with Jamiroquai’s “A Funk Odyssey,” and soon everyone was moving and grooving around the boat, never tiring of the warm tropical sun and smooth waters. Ella helped me wash my hair in a bowl, which felt surprisingly luxurious (probably more so considering I hadn’t showered in two days).

fullsizeoutput_772

We cruised slow and easy at 3 knots. Nobody felt the need to rush and motor to our destination, everyone felt happy just being, patiently going with the flow and seeing what the ocean wanted to show us; and boy did we see a lot. We saw a plethora of dolphins, a few red jellyfish, a whale’s tale and a sea turtle the size of a small tire.img_5298

fullsizeoutput_774.jpeg

The following day was just as peaceful—calm waters all around. We put the spinnaker up again, this time with the mizzen, and that’s when we saw a bit of action, we were seriously cruising! Francisco called out, “Violeta broke the wind barrier!” It was true, we were sailing nearly two knots faster than the wind was blowing. Incredible!

I began to feel a bit of melancholia the closer we got to our destination, I just didn’t want to go back to land. The peace that comes with being surrounding by miles of ocean, with nothing solid in sight (aside from the boat), is one of the most freeing experiences I have had. The magnificent beauty of the sunsets, sunrises and star-filled nights, and their impermanence, filled me with a rare and simple joy– bringing into perspective all those that I’d missed because I was too busy doing something else with all the “luxuries” and distractions we have on land.

I told Ella about the magical moonlight and the way the clouds had turned into faces as I sat on my shift the night before, and she was so intrigued by this that she convinced Tawnya to let her stay up with me that night. We set up to cushions on the bow, watched the clouds and listened to a Norse mythology audio book— and she told me a story of creation, and how whales, dolphins and elephants are sacred animals because they made the earth. Needless to say, the last night sailing across the ocean aboard our lady Violeta couldn’t have been more perfect.

IMG_5275.JPG
Moon Rise over Sea of Cortez
img_7039
Mast in the Moon Light

The following morning we nearly stumbled into a perilous disaster, one that easily could have put the whole trip to an end! But we’ll tell you about that in Cabo to Puerto Vallarta Part III, coming soon! 

 

Cabo to Puerto Vallarta (Part I): Gas Station Rip Off, Sunset Magic & Hair Clips in the Head

By Portia Leigh

img_5179

We left our slip at Marina Cabo San Lucas around 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon, moving all of 20 ft. across the water to the marina gas station parallel to us. Despite being in Mexico, we knew we weren’t going to be getting any price breaks by refueling in Cabo; and as we expected, the diesel prices were equivalent to those in Marina Del Rey, CA. But what we didn’t expect was to be charged a $50 (USD) fee just to dock the boat at the gas station on top of paying for the actual gas—So what you’re saying is we have to pay you just so we can pay you? I don’t get it… One might assume that the $125 per night slip rental fee we paid would buy us the right to just pay for the gas and bypass that asinine additional fee (one which we weren’t informed of until we were already filling up), but it was not so. If you’re crossing by Cabo I strongly suggest not filling up your tanks at Marina Cabo San Lucas, the whole situation was disgustingly rude.

Just as quickly as we said a not so fond farewell to the tourist-saturated circus, we found ourselves peacefully enjoying an epic sunset over the famous Cabo San Lucas arch; and from then on, the evening was pure magic.

Ella and Tawnya whipped up a lovely stir-fry for dinner (one of their ultimate favorites) and everyone made their way to bed shortly after. It had been a long day packed with a monumental grocery store excursion, the refilling of ice, water and fuel, as well as the handling of multiple other odds and ends necessary for making the next leg of the trip as smooth as possible.

I’m on the 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift (and the 6 a.m. until someone else wakes up shift) so I sat up watching the moon shine down on the water, reveling in the unbelievable beauty of it all. I felt a noticeable difference between the Pacific Ocean to the west of Baja and the Sea of Cortez— which probably has more to do with the wind (or lack of) at the time, rather than any real difference between the waters. That night, as we headed southeast from the lowest point of Baja across the Sea of Cortez towards Puerto Vallarta, the waves rolled in parallel to the hull causing Violeta to rock dramatically from side to side.

The night was rather uneventful, until I went to the head and tried to pump the toilet… it wouldn’t flush. Ughhh, it was too late to ask Francisco what to do, so after my shift was done and Diego took over, I went to bed. Still, as Violeta rocked side to side, my mind ran wild with images of the toilet bowl overturning into a filthy catastrophe– I was sure a pee-soaked floor would inevitably be waiting for me when I woke up. To my astonishment though, not a drop spilled!

I went above board for the 6 a.m. shift, which has become my favorite part of day. Watching the moon’s final descent to the west as the rising sun paints the sky with color from the east is tragically underrated.

img_5190

This morning was particularly special though; the ocean was calm, quiet, and virtually without a ripple. It looked as smooth as velvet, appearing if a plaid-like pattern was superimposed upon the magical blue water — it’s hard to describe exactly how I felt gazing into it at dawn. My body felt physically different, as though the subtle current was moving into me and slowing things down with every breath… I felt like Jello, haha, calm, tingly, Jello.

I found a baby calamari deceased on deck and I hooked it to Diego’s fishing line, maybe this will help us score another fish! (It didn’t..) Soon Ella was up, and she joined me for a bit of yoga, pranayama and meditation.

img_6954

It was a lovely morning… and then I remembered the toilet situation. After pulling a pair of snug rubber gloves on up to my elbows and cleaning out the toilet with a red solo cup and a turkey baster, Francisco went to town. He got the Phillips and flat head screw drivers and some paper towels together, singing a song that went something like Get yourself a red solo cup we’re gonna have shit party, (something, something) Hey Mr. Hanky!

As he entered the bowhead he requested I put on Beethoven’s 9th to set the mood, it seemed most appropriate for the job. After having removed the hand pump, connecting plastic box housing and hoses—he found the culprit—a miniature and wildly unruly hair clip had gone astray and found its way into the toilet, the creator of all our subsequent woes. Lesson learned: No loose objects in the bathroom!

 **Stay tuned for part II of the journey to Puerto Vallarta and find out how Violeta broke the wind barrier!

Ensenada to Bahia Tortugas!

By Portia Leigh

Our time in Ensenada was brief, but delightful. We woke up Saturday morning and spent several hours cleaning the salt off Violeta as she had been thoroughly drenched from bow to stern the day prior by the rough seas. It was a major team effort to get the salt out of all the nooks and crannies, but the experience of working together to accomplish a task is both uniting and rewarding— a recurring theme any group of sailors inevitably encounters over the course of the journey, and one that makes life on a boat that much more fulfilling.

We made friends with several of our dock neighbors, and enjoyed some delicious local dishes at Muelle Tres on the marina boardwalk and La Jiba in town. Ella especially enjoyed playing with Bobocita and Barnacle, two of our neighbors’ dogs. She had fun running around the dock in her bathing suit hosing things down, including herself, and the dogs, and me! One of our neighbors even paid her to clean their dinghy. I’ve never met a kid who likes to clean as much as Ella, and she’s a pro!

Ensenada
Ella and Tawnya enjoying some Ensenada tacos at La Jiba

On the journey to Ensenada we incurred a small rip in the jib sail. As our luck would have it, we stumbled across a couple old sailors hanging out in the marina pavilion on a Sunday afternoon using their Sailrite sewing machine. We hung out with them in the pavilion for a while, shared a few beers and stories, and they were kind enough to let us use their machine to patch the jib– a fateful coincidence that made the following days at sea that much smoother, and noticeably more beautiful as we cruised full sail with the Jib guiding the way.

After making it our home for four days, we departed the Ensenada Cruiseport Village marina the morning of January 31. It was a lovely Tuesday, and we were excited to be cruising again. Diego caught a fish right off the bat, our first one, a beautiful Bonito!

img_6737

As we got further from the bay the moisture over the ocean began to thicken and we found ourselves immersed within a serious fog bank. We couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet in front of us so we all kept a careful watch. We didn’t know what else to do. We knew there was a small island about 10 miles from Ensenada bay, and while we mark our coordinates and have GPS, it’s still a little unsettling to not be able to see a thing. Eventually the sun came out and burned off the fog, bringing the island, and the breathtaking mountainous landscape surrounding Ensenada, into view.

img_4758

The cruise was exceedingly pleasant, no puking this time (that is except for one of us, but that’s a story we’ll get into later, but no seasickness!). Ella and I spent hours playing board games, and cuddling up on the bowsprit listing to audio books. She’s recently discovered her passion for photography, and while it makes me a little nervous watching her run around the deck with my camera with the 75-300mm lens fully extended, her shots are phenomenal. She definitely has an eye for it.

img_4830
Shots by Ella Jade
img_4876
Shot by Ella Jade

It took us about three full days to get to Bahia Tortugas in Baja Sur and we saw nothing but ocean for two days. We passed the beautiful Isla Natividad late Thursday afternoon as we approached the bay of Tortugas. Tawnya spotted a few spouts of water shooting out of the ocean and screamed “Whales at 9 o’clock!”

We had been praying to see them since we left Marina Del Rey the week before, and now we finally had our chance. Everyone sat on deck, eyes glued to the ocean in search of more spouts, fingers crossed that one might breach. All in all we saw more than 20 or 30 spouts, and we were lucky enough to see a couple breach! Tawnya told us a litany of whale facts that she learned from our trusty sailor friend Captain Kerstin, who she’s been visiting in Maui every year since Kerstin relocated there after leaving Venice back in 2011. Some of the interesting facts we learned about whales include that they sleep half of their brain at a time (cool! Can I do that?), their skin is significantly more sensitive than ours, and their gestation period can range between 11 to 18 months depending on the type of whale.

We arrived in Bahia Tortugas around 6 p.m. with a neon pink sunset lighting up the sky behind us, but by the time we pulled the sails down, we found ourselves deep in the middle of a foreign cove surrounded by darkness. Just off the shore to our right was a line of lobster trap buoys, and a few boats anchored ahead in the bay, but our physical point of reference (as described in Charlie’s Charts)—a ragged steel pier jutting out from the center of the beach, was nearly invisible.

As we tried to find a suitable spot to anchor the depth meter started to go crazy oscillating back and forth between 20 ft down to as low as 2 ft! Perilous! Tawnya jumped to the helm and steered us to deeper waters, Diego and Francisco grounded themselves firmly at the bow, using their muscles to free the anchor chain as Ella held the flashlight over the water and I kept an eye out for rocks.

We spent the night on board and woke up bright and early Friday morning on a mission to restock supplies and hopefully find a shower. We lowered the dinghy into the ocean, hooked up the propane engine and set off to shore. It took two trips to deliver the five us safely to the pier. “Bienvenido Bahia Tortuga”- Welcome to Turtle Bay, and Baja Ha-Ha was painted in big block letters on the neighboring walls along the beach.

img_6922img_6917

The town is small and everything is quite limited so if you’re on your way down the coast and looking to restock supplies there are probably better places to stop. It’s definitely a fisherman’s town, one that is probably best known as a stopping point for the famous cruisers rally that comes through every November.

Once ashore, we walked to Maria’s Restaurant, but there was no Maria in sight, we were greeted instead by Tom and Heather, an old sailing couple from Canada, who made the beachfront shack their home while in town working on their disheveled ketch sail boat, Magnolia. They ended up inviting us in and cooking us dinner later that evening and told us where to find a local hotel that offered hot showers for 60 pesos ($3 each), as well as directed us to the choice markets in town. Unfortunately for us the supplies at each market were quite limited, which meant we had to make several stops in order to get what we needed. Tawnya and I both had work to catch up on, so we stayed at Tortugas Restaurant, a small family run restaurant attached to the owner’s house. Alisa, the owner, had two beautiful grandchildren, who Ella spent hours playing with despite the fact that they didn’t speak the same language. As Tawnya and I worked on the computer they watched movies in English and Spanish, and braided each other’s hair.

Diego and Francisco made several trips back and forth between the markets, eventually loading everything into the dinghy and taking it back to the boat, before we all reconvened for dinner at Heather and Tom’s house. The meal was incredible, full of nourishing vegetables and greens, which was exactly what we needed.

Everyone was exhausted by this point, but we still needed to refill our water tanks—an interesting and tricky endeavor as the water had to be transported to our boat, which meant we couldn’t just put a hose right into the tank and fill her up as we would on land. Francisco and Diego found a local fisherman, Geronimo, who had a big water tank on his blue fishing boat, and they paid him to bring the water to Violeta, but the mission was not over. Diego spent the next hour using a hand pump to suction the water out of the big tank and transferring it into a small canister that Francisco and Geronimo walked back and forth emptying into Violeta’s massive water tanks. We were victorious, and beyond thankful to have water, but we all agreed that it would be better to start brushing our teeth with bottled water just the same.

img_5012
Geronimo bringing us water

 

 

 

 

First Leg to Mexico

By Portia Leigh

img_6611
Violeta leaving Marina Del Rey, CA

We left our slip in Marina Del Rey, California at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday morning and headed south towards Mexico. Watching the sun come up on the open sea was magical and it was incredibly calm so it was easy for me (Portia) to make breakfast for everyone without having to worry about getting seasick every time I went below deck. Ella stood tall peering out from the bowsprit with the wind in her face, courageously looking over the horizon as the boat gently rocked to and fro over the oncoming waves.

voyaging violeta
Ella on the bowsprit

The entire day was astonishingly peaceful. We set the autopilot for a 145-degree course, passing the cliffs of Palos Verde on our left and eventually Catalina on our right, and spent several hours relaxing in the sun, listening to music and painting with watercolors. Every two hours we unrolled the map and marked our coordinates, something Ella especially enjoyed; in fact, every time she got bored she would ask if it was time to make another mark on the map.

IMG_6656.jpg
Charting the course

I did a bit of yoga on the bow, Diego set a few fishing lines out off the stern and we all lit up with joy when a small pod of dolphins decided to join us, jumping and splashing alongside the boat as we cruised. The wind was minimal, but we put the jib, stay, main and mizzen sails up anyway and cruised at a steady five knots for about 20 hours. The seas were incredibly kind that day, so kind that we all managed to have three full meals without any issues. Ella and Francisco spent an hour singing and dancing while preparing a delicious sauce that they let simmer for several hours until it was time to eat that evening.

Overall the, calmness of the sea that day was a real treat, one we would truly treasure and know the value of the next day when things got rough. Diego, Francisco and I each took three-hour shifts that night keeping an eye out for oncoming traffic and wind changes. I took the 9 to midnight shift. The stars were so bright, I wrapped myself in a blanket and sat staring at them from the cockpit. It was so peaceful just feeling the motion of the waves and sitting by myself in the dark, the time passed quickly and before I knew it Francisco was there to take over. I went to my bunk, laid down, and listened to a meditation, but I began to hear new sounds beneath the boat (although it’s hard to say they were new, because I hadn’t actually slept on the boat while traversing the ocean yet). I felt a bit uneasy not knowing what was going on above board, and then I heard “the bell” ringing, the one you ring to call everyone up to say ‘all hands on deck’—I flew out of my bottom bunk so quick I’m surprised I didn’t bump my head. I dashed through the saloon and rushed up the stairs before my eyes could make out what was what and said, “What’s up, is everything okay?” It was then that I saw Francisco comfortably curled up in a blanket in the cockpit, he replied, “Yes, everything is fine.”

A little perplexed, I quickly realized that no bells had been rung on the boat, just those inside my headphones– there were bells at the end of the meditation I was listening to. (haha Dork!) I busted out laughing, feeling quite stupid, but equally entertained, and went back to bed. I still felt slightly uneasy though, as if something was coming, but I went back to bed anyways.

At 5:30 a.m. I sprung up as I felt the boat rocking, heeling over to starboard and the sound of the winds picking up to an un-ignorable howl outside. I got up, but didn’t anticipate the boat’s motion, I struggled to get a grip on the door as she swayed side to side, and while I managed to get the door open, I almost fell on my way out — thankfully the slamming door didn’t wake up Ella. I saw Francisco putting on his warm layers in the saloon and Diego perched over the navigation station taking our most recent coordinates.

“Good morning, what’s going on up there? Has it been like this for a while?” I asked. “The wind is starting to pick up,” replied Diego. I put on my snowboard pants, and as many other warm layers as I could, and followed the boys above deck. We each clipped on life vests and harnesses and hooked ourselves to the lifelines. Francisco went up to the main sail and I watched him tie off ropes for a good couple minutes before I made it out there to help—I guess I was still half asleep and it took a few seconds for me to realize Hello, you should be doing stuff!

We reefed the main sail, brought down the mizzin completely, and went back to the cockpit. We stayed there keeping each other company as the seas proceeded to get rougher and the winds escalated from 15 up to the 30+ knots. It was only about an hour or two before Tawnya and Ella were awake, strapped in and snuggled up above board—thank god, because Tawnya is significantly better than anyone else when it comes to mapping our course and we were a bit off.

Voyaging Violeta
Violeta breaking through the waves

I tried to go below deck at one point to go to the head, which was only slightly successful, and then opened the conjoining bathroom door to Ella’s and my V-berth to check on things (maybe find my phone)—everything was wet, water was definitely coming in. I reached my arm up to secure the top hatch, obviously it wasn’t closed all the way, but after only a few turns of the screw, the swaying of the boat really hit me and I was about to puke. I took three steps, gripping the sides of the walls and the doorframe, and leaned over the toilet, but the feeling soon passed. I was able to make it all the way across the salon to the ladder that led above deck and I hoped I would make it all of the way outside, but I didn’t. I stopped and hurled into the trash. First time in my life that I’ve ever felt better after puking.

Once in the cockpit I curled up in a blanket with Ella and Tawnya, each of us leaning over to puke at one point or another. The seas were rough and the wind started making its way up to 30 knots, which made for a bumpy ride. Tawnya took the helm and started cutting the waves at an angle, which smoothed things out a bit, but it was still quite intense.

Diego always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time– he kept announcing there were free showers and laundry if you sat near him, as he was drenched by the crashing waves at least four times, but he never lost his smile.

Francisco was the only one out of the five of us who didn’t puke. I managed to get some sleep in the hammock that hangs from the ceiling beside Francisco and Tawnya’s bed, even though it continually swayed a good 160 degrees from side to side with increasing force—I lined pillows down the left side of the hammock so it wasn’t so startling every time my body careened into the bed post. Getting in and out of the hammock was beyond awkward in the midst of the boat’s continuous motion, and I almost face planted down to the floor several times, but this was literally the only place I could be below deck without puking. I woke up frequently thinking someone might need something on deck. It was hard for me to tell if I was hearing the voice of one of our crew members or the squeaks from the boat.

Crackers and pistachios were the only things any of us managed to eat that day; that is of course, until we made it to the Ensenada Cruiseport Village marina and docked our boat. Having been faced with ravaging winds and intense waves non-stop since 5:30 a.m., we were all basking in sweet relief when we finally made it to the dock around 5 p.m. on Friday. The complexion of the wind and sea between Thursday and Friday were like night and day, but everyone on board remained calm and collected even when things got uncomfortable.