Breezing down Baja

December 2014#Passage_The Red Thread sailing

Skies were blue and winds were light when we left Ensenada on the morning of December 7th. Most of The Umbrella Dumpers departed for Bahia de Tortuga that morning as well, a destination several hundred miles south. Dolphins danced in our bow wake, escorting us out of the bay. By noon, we had caught and released four striped bonito, holding out hope that we’d hook a tuna, dorado, or wahoo at some point during the passage.#Passage_Pelicans soaringSeas were beautifully calm, and I crawled atop the cabin to soak in the sun and to take in the views of the desert bluffs along the Mexican coast. Neil joined me there. We were working our way into the lower latitudes, and the warmer temperatures were proof that we were covering significant ground. We weren’t missing the heavy winter storms that have riddled our home port of Seattle over the past few weeks. I stretched my legs out before me and my eyes wandered from the turquoise waters to our crisp, white sails to the desert wilderness of the Baja coast to the salty face of my husband. We were living one of my favorite moments of our voyage thus far, a moment Journey captured as s/v Namaste cruised alongside us…can you see us there on the cabin-top? Thank you so much, Journ!#Passage_Cabin-top cruising During long stretches of the daytime, the colors of sea and sky often feel muted. My favorite parts of the day are those when light arrives or departs. The sky comes alive and reflects off the sea, painting the ocean panorama into a colorful, dreamy haze. The desert coast was still chilly after dark, and Neil and I continued to don our foul weather jackets and thermal underwear during our respective night watches. A nearly full moon lit the sky, making the 12 hours of darkness feel less ominous.#Passage_Sunset


Snuggled behind the lee cloth, I try to relax into sleep, a high priority with only two crew members. One of us must be awake at all times. I feel tired, but my mind is spinning. I remind myself to breathe mindfully; to focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly. We lunge into the trough of a wave, and the jib sheet cars clang loudly as our head sail deflates. The sail snaps back to attention as a gust strikes it, rattling the entire vessel. “These sounds are normal”, I remind myself. “Nothing is wrong…except that you are being paranoid.”


Sounds below deck have a far more dramatic and unnerving character than they do from the cockpit, and it takes getting used to. By day 2 of a passage, the sounds seem less intrusive (or fatigue is more pronounced), and sleep comes more easily. We haven’t had a multi-day passage in roughly six weeks. I know my nerves will pass.

On day three of our passage, our wishes for fishes were granted. Like the striped bonito we had caught off the coast of Santa Catalina Island in California (turns out they were striped bonito, not Pacific bonito, as we’d initially described), we hooked two big eye tuna simultaneously! They were 25 and 26 inches long, and we elected to keep both, knowing we’d be meeting our fellow Umbrellas Dumpers in Bahia de Tortugas in less than 36 hours. We could share King Neptune’s bounty with friends!#Passage_Neil w-dos tuna

#Passage_Jessie w-dos tuna(2)


It’s 4:21 am, and I’m standing watch and passing the time by gnawing on saltines and sipping a Red Bull. At least once on every night passage, I reach a point where any queasiness related to seasickness is swapped for nausea from eating too many snacks. If there’s one thing that never fails me, it’s my appetite. I feel as if I’m on the verge of exploding. This happens every passage. Every. Passage.


We pulled into Bahia de Tortugas at 11:15 pm on the 10th of December. The weight of the night sky made a broad channel into an enormous bay feel uncomfortably narrow. S/v Namaste, s/v Astraea, and m/v Adagio had arrived ahead of us. We were thankful for a bright moon and s/v Namaste’s guidance into the bay over the VHF. We anchored next to our fellow Umbrella Dumpers and fell into sleep, our second longest passage complete!

Our passage from Ensenada to Bahia de Tortugas was among my favorite thus far. The weather was delightfully uneventful, with consistent winds (only a few tricky moments when things piped up); the fish were delicious (I made beer-battered fish tacos for the first time!), and we motored less than 10% of the time (we only fired up the engine to travel in and out of harbor and for 90 minutes to beef up the batteries). And, in case you’re wondering, Bahia de Tortugas is actually not known for its turtles…

Passage perks
Point of departure: Ensenada, Mexico — 12/07/14
Point of arrival: Bahia de Tortugas — 12/10/14
Distance traveled: 337 nautical miles
Total time: 61 hours
       Engine roaring: 6 hours
       Sails soaring: 55 hours
Average speed: 5,5 knots
Max speed: 8.4 knots
Jessie’s musings: My favorite part of this passage was the time Neil and I spent sitting atop the boat beneath the sails. I had a feeling that we had truly “arrived”, whatever that means. The sky was amazing and the breeze felt warm. I felt a sense of contentment and peace, with the only sounds being the wind and the sea. We are moving toward more tropical destinations, and I thoroughly enjoyed consuming the barren desert scene presently before us.
Neil’s reflections: Taking the left turn out of Ensenada bay was momentous and left me with a similar feeling as when we departed Neah Bay. There are few safe harbors down the coast of Baja, and I felt myself open up to what would be several hundred miles of rugged sailing; we were entering yet another chapter of our voyage. The sailing was about as perfect as it could get and we tied with s/v Tappan Zee for the fewest hours running the engine and were the fourth to arrive into Turtle Bay. Just north of Cedros Island I had a double take moment as I looked west. Less than fifty yards away a giant manta ray jumped out of the water and executed a spectacular back flip. I thought I was seeing things until just seconds later this beautiful creature, easily six feet across, did it a second time, as if to make sure I saw it.

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13 thoughts on “Breezing down Baja

    • We hear there is a fair amount of debate about whether people like them. Off Santa Catalina, we bled two of them quickly, ate them within a few hours, and found them to be delicious! That said, if we have the choice of bonito or tuna, we’ll take tuna any day! ~Jessie

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  1. What a wonderful journey on this passage. You guys are having so many beautiful lifetimes together of journeying and arriving. Makes me want to do a manta ray flip 😉 beer battered fish sounds yummy indeed. Good luck on the next passage. Love from SF.

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