One hundred twenty-four days ago, we waved goodbye to our family and friends in Seattle and sailed into a September sunset beneath the Olympic Mountains. In 124 days (September 30 – January 31), we traveled from Seattle, Washington, USA to Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico. I figured this would be a perfect time to crunch some numbers and summarize some of the quantifiable and experiential aspects of our journey thus far.
Average speed: 5.19 knots (or roughly 6 miles per hours; decent speed for a sailboat)
Hours underway: 559.25
Engine roaring: 209.75
Sails soaring: 349.50
Number of countries visited: 2
Where we spent our nights: We had owned The Red Thread for two years and four months prior to our departure. It was important for us to get comfortable anchoring, so during that time, we enjoyed 51 nights on the hook. Before we left, we had also spent 21 nights in marinas (not including Elliott Bay Marina) around the Puget Sound and British Columbia, as well as a single night at sea. We were very green when it came to night sailing. As you’ll see below, most of our nights were spent at anchor or on passages since we departed on our voyage.
At anchor: 67
In a marina: 21
At sea: 22
On a mooring ball: 2
Return trip to Seattle: 12Marinas are expensive and making a habit out of staying in them could quickly drain an already-tight cruising kitty. As a result, we do our best to avoid them. Coming down the coast of the US, we had no option but to stay in a marina on a number of occasions (e.g., Ensenada, MX) or decided to get a berth when storm surge would have made anchoring unbearable for us or for our guests (e.g., Monterey, CA). We haven’t stayed in a marina in well over a month now!
Total fish hooked: 14
Albacore tuna: 1
Big eye tuna: 2
Yellowfin tuna: 2 (released 1 because we misidentified it…oops!)
Striped bonito: 9 (released all but 3)
Wildlife watching: So far, we’ve seen five species of dolphins (i.e., spinner dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and northern right whale dolphins and two types of whales (i.e., gray whales and humpbacks). We’ve seen a host of other critters as well, including numerous bird species (e.g., frigates, blue- and brown-footed boobies, sooty terns, brown pelicans), fish, sea turtles, sea lions, seals, and rays.
Total books read: 15
Neil: 6 (Neil reads the long ones)
A few things that surprised us
- It has taken us longer to relax than we expected. For the first couple of months, we found ourselves riddled with nervous energy. Only in the last couple of months have we felt more acclimated to this lifestyle, but even still, I’m not convinced we’re fully adjusted.
- We have exceeded our boat maintenance/repair budget. More pricey things have broken than we anticipated (e.g., watermaker, chartplotters), and during the first couple of months, we made a number of last-minute but essential purchases, including the lofty investment of electronic charts for Mexico, Central America, and the South Pacific.
- There are many species of dolphins. Anyone else out there envision all of the dolphins in the sea looking exactly like the character out of Flipper? Well, this is simply not so! We spotted several species of dolphins in our first couple of months, which influenced our purchase of Guide to Marine Mammals of the World, which is excellent! We strongly recommend for cruisers or sea-curious people out there.
- Mother Nature is our dictator (whom we adore…lest we not tempt her wrath). This sounds silly, I suppose. We travel via the wind, so naturally weather is a key component of our journey. Obviously we expected that to be so. What we didn’t anticipate was how often we’d be slowed down by light winds or held up for storms. This wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t trying to maintain a quicker-than-ideal pace. We departed the Pacific Northwest with something virtually all cruisers frown upon: a timeline and a plan. We now appreciate the challenge of trying to force a cruising experience to adhere to a schedule.
- We motored more than we thought we would. As a result, this is another area in which we’ve exceeded our budget. The irony is that we’ve motored less than most (perhaps even all) of the cruisers we’ve met who’ve come from the Pacific Northwest to Mexico this season. Either way, we’re not a fan of having the engine on, especially since we have excellent solar and believe that if we didn’t have those two nasty words mentioned above (i.e., timeline, plan), the engine roaring to sails soaring ratio would lean more in the direction of the latter.
- Jessie’s seasickness is a nonissue. After our first overnight sail to the San Juan Islands in which I spent the vast majority of the time between sunset and sunrise feeding the fish, if you will, we felt certain this would me a major problem for us. Initially, I was especially cautious and used the scopolamine patch or meclizine, depending on the duration of the passage on which we were embarking. However, the longer we’ve been out here, the less I’ve relied on medication. Thanks to advice from Natalie on s/v Astraea, I now put on anti-nausea pressure-point wristbands at least 24 hours in advance of a passage. I only take medication if we are expecting particularly tumultuous seas. I’ve noticed that nausea fades after a day or two and is less apparent if we’ve been on the hook for a while, particularly in a rolly anchorage. Perhaps my body is acclimating to the motion of the ocean? Either way, this has been a wonderful and unexpected surprise for us!
- Mexicans really love fireworks. Over the course of eight weeks in Mexico, we have seen seven fireworks displays! Really good fireworks displays. To our knowledge, only one of them was for a designated holiday. Who knows what cause for celebration precipitated the others. We love this about Mexico.
Crests and troughs
This experience has been laden with moments of splendor and punctuated by experiences of intense grief and frustration. We have come to appreciate Glenn Maddox’s adage that blue water cruising involves long periods of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror. Below are some of the specific experiences that embodied those attributes for us during the first four months of our journey.
Jessie’s top 10
- The sunrise over Neah Bay the day before we made our first major ocean passage
- Catching my first tuna!
- Sailing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge
- The memories we made and the laughter we shared with s/v Namaste and s/v Sarita
- Laughing at Monterey’s sea lions with my mom
- Hiking on Santa Cruz Island
- Hoisting our Mexican courtesy flag after checking into Ensenada
- The passage from Turtle Bay to Cabo San Lucas
- Photographing the remarkable creatures in Isla Isabela with Neil and Gail
- The countless fiery sunsets
Neil’s top 10
- The scare of having a gray whale surface right next to the boat off the coast of Oregon
- Crossing under the Golden Gate Bridge
- Sailing out of San Diego bay toward Ensenada at sunset, beneath a full moon, with four other boats
- The passage from Ensenada to Turtle Bay
- Hosting the Umbrella Dumpers for fresh tuna aboard The Red Thread
- Dinners, drinks, and game nights with s/v Namaste
- Seeing a manta ray back flip
- Our time in Isla Isabela
- Watching my mom’s reaction to whale sightings
- Reconnecting with s/v Sarita
Bottom 5 (the nitty, the gritty, and the shitty)
- Losing Neil’s dad to cancer, and hearing the very sad news as we were boarding our flight to return home. We didn’t make it home in time to be at his side.
- The moment in San Diego when we realized we needed to send our chartplotters for repair in New Hampshire, which would delay our departure from the US by a month. This moment was followed by a good, hearty meal and a couple of glasses of wine, after which we decided to throw caution to the wind and just use paper charts like sailors of yore.
- The debacle of trying to get our chartplotters shipped into Mexico, which involved roughly 20 emails to Customs, trips to two banks to pay duties, at least 10 phone calls with DHL, and Neil putting on his stern voice after Customs delivered them to the wrong city and initially refused to reroute the package. Some 51 days and 1,266 miles after mailing our chartplotters in for repair, they were reinstalled and seem to be working.
- The accumulation of breakages that left us feeling overwhelmed and worried about finances when we arrived in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.
- The reefing fiasco during the passage between La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Bahia Chamela.