We are presently in the Sea of Cortez (Mar de Cortés), heading north to Puerto Peñasco, where we will haul the boat out of the water for the summer. We will spend the summer visiting family and friends and maintaining the boat. In the fall, we will set sail south down mainland Mexico and into other Central American countries.
Our feelings about the wind have been a continued flip-flop, hypocrisy, battle of desires, irony, however you want to call us out. We complain tirelessly about our lack of wind when we are at sea and forced to rely on our temperamental engine. Yet we whine incessantly about the excess of wind that keeps us on anchor because it is too strong for us newbies to sail, it creates uncomfortable waves, and it ensures chilly days and nights in ports.
I have never known the wind as I know her now. I have wooed her as we bob along in the ocean, attempting to entice her to whisper a gust, a breeze, or even something more steady. I have learned a healthy fear and respect of her power as I sat in my boat feeling like the wind is tearing through us with only a chain and metal scoop, dug into some sand, preventing her from pushing us onto a reef. That feeling is worth sharing.
The precursor to a strong wind is a background noise, a buzz to which I fail to pay attention but know I should. It sounds like a ghost sucking the air out of the night. Then, it transforms from background into a powerful plane quickly approaching. The roar of the jet engine comes quickly and unavoidably. The halyards start to tap an eerie warning on the mast, which increases in pace and intensity, cementing my understanding that there is no escape. Then, the rigging starts whistling and a hole in the metal piece around the backstay begins to play like a flute performing a lonely dirge. The waves lift the boat up and let it crash down, creating a jarring thud against the hull as if the wind has soldered the water into something solid. The ropes, the wood, and the fiberglass start to creak with an increasing energy that transfers to my gut. When the jet plane arrives, the pressure from its force pushes down then pulls up on me, the boat, and the air as it passes over.
The power maintains like a fleet of jet planes continuing to fly by. The consistency allows my brain to adapt and accept. But then the percussion of the boat begins. A cabinet door, slightly loose on its hinges, taps; a jar slides back and forth in a cabinet; the companionway stairs creak; and halyards continue their knocks on the mast at an allegro pace. The tapping, sliding, creaking, and knocking drill into my head, reminding me of every nagging thing I said I would do, but did not. The incessant performance taunts that one of those things will be our demise. I think of the anchor’s set failing, the gear tied on deck escaping, and the lines and sail cover wearing through. Yet, the wind handicaps me in a way that prohibits any double-checking at that point. The sound deafens me. The rocking steals my sense of balance. The only thing I can look at, while standing on deck, are the white caps of the waves that are the wind’s army.
The wind keeps us in our boat-cell until it decides to release us or to allow us to harness its power with our sails. We were held by the wind in several spots along the Pacific coasts of the U.S. and Baja. It is those experiences that have kept me humble to and in awe of nature’s power. Now, on the east side of Baja, in the Mar de Cortés, we have not been held up by such extreme blows. Rather, we sit in anchorages waiting for the right wind. We are traveling north, so we want the wind to blow from the south to eliminate the possibility of the boat beating into choppy waves and to allow for an easier point of sail. And we want sufficient wind to allow us to sail, rather than motor. The luxury of being picky about the type of wind we want to travel under is not lost on us after our tough ride from Portland, Oregon, to La Paz, Mexico. Our experiences in the Mar de Cortés have been full of peace, beauty, ease, and new friends. More details of the Sea in the next post.
Waiting out the wind in Eureka, California
Watching the anchor through the wind waves in Eureka, California
Waiting out the wind in San Quintín
Catching some wind in the Sea of Cortez with our light-air sail
Motoring in the Sea of Cortez, just after the wind disappeared