I’m finally catching up on the blog! I left off with our time in La Paz, in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, so that’s where I’m starting up again.
That last post ended with us leaving CELESTE in early March to go back to work for a couple of months. We returned in early May to find her almost as we’d left her, and to find Baja much, much hotter than in the winter! It was very pleasant to be able to stroll around in shirt sleeves at night, but the days were pretty awful… sweltering…made me yearn for Alaska!
CELESTE was almost as we’d left her, but not quite. The hot sun and extreme dryness of the Baja desert had caused her wood to shrink and had opened up leaks that had never been there before. This was inevitable given that she’s spent most of her life in the temperate rainforest conditions of the Pacific Northwest, but it meant we had to get to work caulking the worst of them.
Also related to this novel hot climate in which we found ourselves was the need for a sun awning in the cockpit! We spent a good part of a day making one – measuring it, cutting it out of rip-stop nylon (we wanted it to pack down small for easy stowage when we weren’t using it), hemming the edges, sewing in a zipper that could zip to the dodger, reinforcing the corners with Dacron, and finally grommeting the corners so that we could tie it up.
Next on the list was our Cape Horn wind vane. By this point in our voyages, it had steered us somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 miles (we also use an electronic autopilot, so I’m not sure exactly how many miles the wind vane has done compared to Otto). It had also steered CELESTE for a good number of miles with her first owner – probably another 10,000 would be my guess. So we wanted to give it some TLC before taking off on our ocean crossing. We dismounted it from the stern and took it all apart, lubricated the moving parts, and replaced any worn parts. When it was all put together again and re-mounted, it moved beautifully and silently! Ready for the Pacific!
I also spent a full two days canning meals in anticipation of the crossing. A big part of me thought I was doing unnecessary work: surely we’d have a beautiful “milk run” crossing with a long, smooth swell – time in the galley would surely be easy and enjoyable. But something in the back of my mind made me do it anyway. The weather charts were showing strong headwinds south of the Equator, and it had been months since we’d made a passage – I’d be happy to have the pre-made meals if I did feel seasick or the pitching of the boat made it difficult to cook. So I cooked and canned away, despite the 105 degree temperatures in the cabin! (Yuck.)
[For the cooks in my readership: I made Bolognese sauce (all I’d have to make en route was the pasta), boeuf bourguignon (complete with the pearl onions, of course!), ratatouille to have a tasty veggie dish (yes, I admit to being a Francophile), and two chilis – con carne and black bean (we were in Mexico, after all!)]
And, of course, we did a TON of provisioning. Food is affordable, diverse, and plentiful in the Mexican supermarkets – pretty much the exact opposite of what it is in the South Pacific. The isolation and small population of the South Seas islands means that food is very expensive and lacking in variety. For example, “cheese” in the South Pacific usually means a type of ultra-processed “cheddar” that’s so pasteurized and rubbery that it doesn’t need refrigeration. The hidden joys of paradise… So we made many trips to the supermarkets of La Paz to stock up on everything from staples like rice, dried beans, pasta, oatmeal, UHT milk, canned tomatoes, etc. to more luxurious items like spices, chocolate, jams, fancy canned things like artichoke hearts, and of course cheese!
We also spent some time playing around with photography – Baja is a very photogenic place with all the bright colors and clear, dry air. The La Paz waterfront was a fun place to capture images in the evening light after a day’s work:
And the beaches a few miles outside of town were a great spot to be really nerdy with both bird-watching and photography!
The empty desert also made the perfect place to practice with the newest addition to our photography arsenal: a small drone! It took some practice learning to fly it (I’d say we’re still learning) but at least we got to try it out in perfect conditions on the first attempt: on empty, open land in a calm.
Finally the moment came (only a week after our arrival back in La Paz!) when we cast off the dock lines and headed out into the beautiful Sea of Cortez!