Saturday, December 29, 2012

Overnight Passages and Bahia Magdalena

Pacific sunset after leaving Bahia Tortugas.
We left Bahia Tortugas a little after 2:00 pm for another overnight passage on our way to Bahia Magdalena.  The winds varied throughout the afternoon and into the night allowing us to sail at times while other times it was necessary to motor in order to put some miles under the keel.  I had made a chicken stew which basically consisted of opening the refrigerator and cutting up everything in sight and adding it to a pot with some cut up chicken.  I hate to let anything go to waste on the boat, especially fresh vegetables since they can oftentimes be hard to find.  I have been in the habit of making a large pot of something right before we leave on overnight passages as it is far easier to heat up something pre-made than to try and cook a meal while at sea. 

Night watches can be very dark.

For those of you who are interested, when Richard and I are on multi-day, overnight passages, we adhere to a watch schedule of three hours on and three hours off.  I take the midnight to 3:00 am, 6:00 am to 9:00 am, noon to 3:00 pm, and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm watches and Richard takes the watches in between.  This schedule worked for us when we sailed to and from Hawai'i back in the summer of 2010 so we decided to stick with it on this trip.  That doesn’t mean that if it doesn’t seem to work at some point that we won’t change it, but at this point in time, it seems to work pretty well for us.

A welcomed sunrise off the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
I am a total grazer when we are on long passages.  I will have my breakfast, usually oatmeal (instant is sooo much easier than stovetop) or cereal at the beginning of my 6:00 am to 9:00 am watch, along with a small glass of juice, to wash down the vitamins, and black tea.  Then, when Richard relieves me at 9:00 am, he usually heats up some banana bread (or whatever breakfast bread we have on board…Richard is a great baker!) and I eat that before doing my off-watch chores.  I usually make lunch right before my noon to 3:00 pm watch and lunches are usually sandwiches, chips, fruit, if we have it, and cookies.  Right before my watch ends, I usually eat an apple or some nuts/trail mix (I love wasabi peas and cashews!).  Dinner is heated up and served before it gets dark, so usually around 5:30 pm right now.  My watch starts at 6:00 pm and I usually allow myself one piece of chocolate per hour of watch on this watch and my midnight to 3:00 am watch.  Currently we are indulging in a selection of Seattle Chocolates and Godiva Gems, provided to us by our friends Matt and Julia…thanks guys!, along with some Dove Dark Chocolate.  At sunrise when my 6:00 am to 9:00 am watch starts, I just repeat the whole thing over again.  Oddly enough, actually, luckily, I haven’t gained any weight despite Richard insisting that I am eating way too much chocolate (ask my mother, eating too much chocolate is IMPOSSIBLE when it’s good chocolate, and life is too short to eat anything but good chocolate).

This skipjack tuna wasn't very tasty,
but made pretty good bait.
So you might be wondering what we do when we are off-watch?  Well, every time you get off of a watch, you have to log specific information into an off-shore log book that we put together.  A lot of the information contained on the log is really reminders to check the various systems to ensure that things that should be off are off (like the gas for the stove, water pressure, inverters, etc.), water isn’t building up in the bilge, and to record certain weather conditions (wind speed/direction, barometric pressure, and cloud cover), as well as trip information (course, speed, total miles during period, etc.).  Oh yea, and after all that is done, you usually try to sleep.  Sleep comes in less than three hour blocks; each watch equals three hours so your sleep time equals three hours minus the amount of time needed to complete all of your off-watch chores.  You also have to find time to bathe, brush your teeth, change clothes every now and then, fish, blog, clean the cabin, repair stuff…the list goes on and on.  On the small overnight passages, meaning about two to three overnights in the passage, this can result in significant fatigue as your body needs some time to get used to this new circadian rhythm.  But on the longer passages, after four or more overnights, your body gets used to the schedule and as a result you tend to feel less tired.  Then again, everyone is different when it comes to adjusting to these kinds of schedules, this is just how I have experienced it.

View of mast with deployed headsail on left.
We arrived at Bahia Magdalena late afternoon on December 11th.  We were tired from the overnights we had just finished so we pretty much just stayed on the boat and tried to decompress.  A panga came by and asked if we had any trash (basura) that we wanted toted off of the boat and we informed him that we didn’t have any today but perhaps mañana.  The panga driver then wanted to know if we had any t-shirts for him.  This becomes awkward, more for us than for the one asking.  Here we are in an expensive yacht, flying the American flag, with digital cameras, cell phones, iPods, laptops, and oodles of other stuff that just reek of conspicuous consumption.  And here’s this guy in a panga in rural Mexico, who comparatively has very little.  It’s a situation that every cruiser must face at one point in his/her travels and how you handle these types of situations is very personal.  As a cruiser, I can’t be expected to clothe the world or give something to every person who asks for something.  It’s just not feasible.  On the other hand, I understand that I am very fortunate and that comparatively I do have more than my fair share.  So what do you do?  My solution is to know who and how I want to help.  I will always pay some nominal amount of money to someone who approaches my boat in his/her dinghy and who wants to offload my trash for me.

Fishing village in Bahia Magdalena.
Generally speaking, I will pay for any services that I need; and I’m not talking about regular services like you get at a store or mechanic, I’m talking about unsolicited services; those services that you weren’t thinking about until someone cruised on over and asked “Hey, can I take your garbage to shore for you?”  I have also decided that the way that I want to help out in the world as I travel about in it is to supply school supplies (pencils, erasers, pens, small notebooks for students and spiral bound notebooks for teachers, etc.) in those areas that most need these types of supplies.  In addition, Richard and I have decided to stock our boat with toothbrushes and small tubes of toothpaste to distribute, again in rural areas that are possibly dependent on supply ships that have long periods of time between visits.  I am also carrying balloons for kids, and Richard stocked up on razors for men, and I have “hotel toiletries” to distribute to the women, in addition to monofilament and fishing hooks for the men.  You do what you can and have to understand that you can’t help everyone and that this is not the purpose of your trip.  If the opportunity arises, I will help build a school, clinic, library or other such long-lasting infrastructure that goes way beyond supplying any one individual with a t-shirt.  Not that the panga guy who asked for a t-shirt was wrong in asking; he wasn’t and he should ask if he needs a t-shirt.  Someone will supply that t-shirt; karma works that way.

Sunset in Bahia Magdalena.
We ended up spending three nights in Bahia Magdalena.  On the day after we arrived, Richard and I took the dinghy to shore and proceeded to report to the harbor master’s office as it is required that all cruisers who enter a port that has a harbor master must report their arrival.  When we got to his office, he wasn’t there so Richard took out his Spanish/English dictionary and a piece of paper and documented our arrival.  After we had dispatched with the formalities, we walked around the town of Puerto Magdalena.  At the time we did not know that it was an “optional” holiday in Mexico being the Feast of Guadalupe.  That night, as we sat on the boat having dinner, we heard traditional Mexican singing coming from shore.  We surmised that the town must be celebrating the holiday and doing so in song.  It was really cool to sit on the boat and listen to this music float over to us from shore.  With a better command of Spanish, we might have attempted to join in on the celebration, but with our limited comprehension of the language it might have just seemed intrusive so we enjoyed it from afar and it was wonderful just the same.


  1. Mmm chocolate. I think you could safely increase your dosage to 2 per watch hour if the conditions warrant it.

    1. And often I do! Hope all is well in Alaska! Just Google chatted with Nicole from s/v Bella Star and we are excited to meet up in the South Pacific. When are you joining us?! Isn't it a straight shot from Alaska?! HA! Take care and stay in your comments!


      PS...I think it's a tad warmer here in Mexico than what you are experiencing. Just saying!