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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

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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.

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Moon Rise over Sea of Cortez
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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

First Leg to Mexico

By Portia Leigh

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.