I was a sailing newbie, somewhat clueless but eager to learn. And the captain, John Spicher—the only other person on the boat (his boat), the SV Time Piece—was someone I barely knew (story re: how we met here). The plan: to sail the Sea of Cortez for a week.
A lot could have gone wrong, right? (I was, if you think about it, kinda sorta couch surfing on someone’s boat.)
But it didn’t. Phew. In fact, it actually went well and turned out to be another cool ChickyBus adventure, just as random and unexpected as the others.
Sure, I was nervous the first few days–afraid to hurt myself (by getting hit by the ‘boom’ or tripping over the large ‘winch’–I know, it sounds like another language–LOL) and hoping not to be in the way (there’s 200 sq feet of space inside). But once I relaxed and got into the sailing groove–and saw what it was really about–I loved it. So much that I’d hang out on a sailboat again anytime.
The Route We Took
The original plan was to sail from La Paz to Isla San Francisco, but that changed since the wind was not in our favor. Instead, we stayed near Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. Here’s the route we took and a list of places where we ‘anchored’ along the way.
Night 1: Caleta Lobos
Night 2: Caleta Partida
Night 3: Caleta Partida
Night 4: Ensenada La Galllina
Night 5: Puerto Ballandra
Night 6: Caleta Lobos
Night 7: La Paz Harbor
15 Highlights of My First Sailing Experience
In random order, here are the most memorable moments of my week out on the water…
1. The Beauty of the Sea
The Sea of Cortez is gorgeous, with numerous colors that are hard to label. Turquoise? Absolutely. Pale green? Yes. Azure? Sometimes. And often, the sunlight seems to dance on and under the surface of the water, making it sparkle and glisten. And throughout, there are patterns—nature’s designs—with subtle fractal-like images mixed in.
2. The First Time The Sail Caught the Wind
The first time the sail caught the wind was cool. It had been still for a while, then the wind picked up. John shut the motor off and got the sail ready, making preparations that I can’t quite explain (since I don’t know the jargon). Once the sail was up and in the right position, the boat was moving on its own. No motor. Just the wind propelling us.
What a feeling! Being moved by nature…literally and figuratively. I felt a sense of freedom that’s hard to articulate.
3. Steering the Boat
A few times, my help was needed, so I ‘took the helm’ and steered. It was fun! All I had to do was fix my eyes on a spot on land to make sure we were going straight, turning the wheel to keep the boat on course. (Sometimes, I had to turn it quite a bit, which surprised me.) I definitely enjoyed this part of the experience.
4. The Feeling of Being ‘Out There’
When we arrived at the first cove and John dropped the anchor, I got a sense of what it was like to be ‘out there.’ Although we weren’t technically that far from La Paz, it felt as if were. Most nights, there were one or two other boats nearby, but sometimes no one else. And the two islands we were near, Espiritu Santo and Partida, are uninhabited (except for a few seasonal fishermen).
5. Gorgeous Sunsets
All I can say is…wow. The sunsets were all incredible! I was in awe each and every time I saw one. I can’t imagine tiring of them.
6. Kayaking Adventures/Having the Beach to Myself
I kayaked quite a few times, by myself, and it was great. I love kayaking anyway—and especially when there are no other people around—so this was wonderful for me.
I also enjoyed the sense of adventure I felt each time I ventured out on my own. I loved these mini journeys and what it felt like to arrive on the shore and then go for a swim. Most of the beaches were gorgeous and I had nearly all of them to myself.
7. Getting to Know John, the Captain
Like many ex-pats, John is unconventional and thus, interesting—especially because he lives on his boat. That gives him a unique perspective on life. He’s also very bright, a serious sailor (a purist who will wait a long time for the wind to pick up vs. using the motor) and an excellent captain—and I admire and respect him for it.
He also has a humorous side. He jokes around about being a ‘super hero without a cape’ (he even has a book about how to become a super hero). I’m not sure if he’s one yet. He didn’t save me, but he did keep me safe on the boat, so maybe he has potential.
He also says he’s ‘fluid’ in 5 languages: American, British, Canadian, Hawaiian and Spanish. I agree re: the first 4, but he may need to work on the last one. When I first met him, he pronounced the second syllable of malecón as ‘con’ when it should sound like ‘cone.’ I worked hard to teach him this and recall that by the time I left, he was almost there.
8. Getting to Know the Boat/Sleeping On It
I don’t know a lot about boats, but I know that the SV Time Piece is a special one. ‘She’ was custom-made by the previous owner (took 7 years and 12,500 hours of labor) and is beautiful, with Burmese teak and a lot of attention to detail. It feels very homey and comfortable. It also has lots of storage space, which is great.
Sleeping on the boat was quite nice. I liked how it swayed and rocked gently. I found it to be relaxing. One of the final few nights, the water was a little choppy, and the boat seemed to move up and down a bit, but it didn’t bother me.
9. Eating When Hungry
Sailing reminds me of camping in that you’re responsible for making your food and there’s a certain amount of additional effort involved. Space is limited, so certain meals (like pasta with primavera sauce, which I made one night) can be tricky to prepare. But…just as with camping, when the meal is ready, you’re hungry and it’s truly satisfying.
10. Drinking Cold Beer
Out on the water—in the heat—beer is often the drink of choice. I more of a wine drinker, but I found myself drinking Pacifica, the local beer. It wasn’t about getting a buzz; there’s something satisfying about it, the way it quenches your thirst. John definitely likes his beer and whether he was on the deck or down below, that first beer of the day always put a smile on his face.
11. Being Unplugged/Being in the Moment
The first day of being offline was a little challenging, but then I got used to it and rather liked it. Because of it–and being out in nature–time slowed down and put me more in the moment. Although I was on the boat for just one week, it felt like much longer.
There was a lot of quiet time, so I got some reading done, which I rarely have time for. I put a major dent in ‘Shantaram,’ a book I’ve attempted several times and finally finished it a few days after returning to land.
12. Quirky Stuff/Recurring Jokes
At one point, I thought there was a fake pelican on one of the buoys. That turned into a recurring joke. Later, after hearing John refer to the inside of the boat as ‘down below,’ I asked, “So what’s down below actually called?”
There were quizzes, too, re: parts of the boat. Many times, I wanted to search for ‘sailboat diagram’ on Google, but couldn’t (see highlight 11.)
13. (Cheesy) Sailing Movies
Ever watch Captain Ron? It’s fun, but cheesy. So is Pirates of the Caribbean (but OK due to the eye candy—Johnny Depp, that is). Some of the other movies I watched were excellent and not cheesy at all (hence, the noncommital parentheses)—eg, ‘Master and Commander’ and ‘Morning Light.’
14. Beating John at Cribbage
Learning to play this game was grueling. Lots of rules and John’s been playing since he’s a kid, so he’s great at it. To my surprise, the last 3 times we played (after the training ended), I won twice. That means I won–for real–per Cribbage rules (best 2 out of 3). This made me happy because I didn’t think I had a chance in hell.
15. Meeting Other Cool Sailors/Dinghy Jokes
There’s more to sailing than being on the boat; there’s meeting other sailors when on land. There’s a pretty cool scene in La Paz—quite a few people from Seattle and some from elsewhere (who live on boats) who have relocated.
I had the pleasure of meeting several, including Tom and Jeannie, whom you see in the photo below (check out their blog here). Awesome folks I’m happy to have hung out with. It was great doing happy hour with them at The Shack (a popular hangout with a fun happy hour and good burgers) and enjoying tacos nearby.
Somehow, this silly word–‘dinghy’ (small boat carried by larger boat)–kept coming up in our conversations, and it cracked me up each time. No matter what, it’s a silly word. Use it in any sentence and you’re bound to laugh.
Have you ever gone sailing? For a day? Or longer? As a passenger or did you actually sail the boat? If yes, where were you and what was the experience like?
If you’ve never sailed, would you like to? As a passenger? Or would you want to get more involved, maybe learning how to handle the sails, etc.? Would you want to try this somewhere local or maybe in another country?
By the way…
I enjoyed this experience so much that I’ve been fantasizing about sailing again! Sure, I’d love to return to the Sea of Cortez and see more of it. No doubt. But I’d also love to go somewhere far away, like Indonesia—maybe near the Gili Islands or elsewhere.
Sounds like a cool adventure, doesn’t it?