There we all were, excited and ready to get underway! The Port Captain had already received our exit paperwork (we hired an agent to take care of all the paperwork - our Spanish isn't what it should be by now) and we expected he would have it signed and returned to us no later than about 10am. While we waited we finished up our final preparations.
First and most importantly was a safety briefing and making sure we all understood the expectations (not just ours, those of the crew also - a happy comfortable crew means a happy comfortable 2 weeks on board). It's vitally important everyone knows where the fire extinguishers are, how to use the emergency tiller, where the ditch bag is (the ditch bag is what we grab if we need to abandon ship. It has things like money, passports, water, emergency food, first aid, anything of value we wouldn't want to lose), where the First Aid kits are and what they contain, how the life raft works, emergency beacons and how to operate them - all those things one needs to know if the worst happens 20 miles off the coast.
Eric and Kimberley practicing their plotting skills while we wait for exit clearance
We also sorted out our shift rotations as we always want at least one person on watch at all times. We each had 2 three hour shifts each day, and I don't know how I scored the princess shift but my watches were from 7 - 10. I may have scored it because I was also the galley wench, responsible for making sure the crew were fed and watered appropriately, and we didn't want the crew to feel they had to cook or clean - they weren't there to be galley slaves, we wanted them satiated and well rested to help us sail the boat. We did insist we all eat a hot meal together at night though, and that was a great way for us all to be together and chat about the trip and how things were going, both mentally and physically (the importance of this became apparent later when we learned about a crew member on another boat literally went insane 10 hours out of Ensenada, resulting in a return to port as all onboard were in danger at that point).
After the briefings we had lunch, double checked everything was ship shape and Bristol fashion, ready to leave as soon as we had the paperwork, but by this time it was 2 hours later than we expected to be on our way. I called the marina office but they just said nothing had come back yet. So we faffed about doing a few more boaty things. Still nothing. At 1pm my impatience got the better of me and I went to the office and just sat there, waiting for our stuff. I don't know what I hoped to achieve by this, the staff must have been rolling their eyes at this impatient gringa taking up space in their office, but of course they were way too nice to let me see that! All the other captains were starting to mill about in the office as well. The Port Captain was the big fat fly in our ointment, delaying our departure. Finally at 3pm, paperwork was delivered and hey, only 5 hours behind schedule. Ah Mexico, we love you!
We could go! Our dock friends came down to see us off and wish us well and without further ado we were motoring out of the breakwater, excited to join the rest of the fleet as we made our way down the coast to Bahia de Tortuga, a two night/two day journey. The sea was calm with a small swell, we put away dock lines and fenders, and as the sun set we had dinner and settled into the next 50 hours of life onboard.
Our course was to take us about about 20 miles off the coast, deep enough that we won't get caught in fishing nets and not to be pushed onto the land by the prevailing westerly winds, even though winds were light. The sea was a little smoother out there too.
It was dark as I started my watch at 7pm, chilly enough to wear a coat and moonless, with millions of stars exquisitely bright against the inky black sky. Everyone else was settled in below to prepare for their shifts and get some sleep, Eione settled into her gently rocking rhythm as she moved up and over the swells. The only sound was the ocean against the hull and I felt so very very tiny peering into the enormity of sea and sky around me. My mind turned to introspection, the incredible journey so far that had led me to this moment in time on the ocean, far from the sanctuary of land, family, familiarity. If someone had said to me ten years ago that this is what I would be doing, I'd have told them they were smoking crack or something equally as hallucinogenic. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid of sailing down the coast of Mexico in the dead of night, but along with that frisson of fear it also felt liberating, like I was truly alive and not just existing. It's so hard to explain and I know I sound like some kind of hippy-dippy zealot spreading universal enlightenment, so I'll leave it at this and perhaps sum it up by saying “it felt great to be out there.”
My watch passed uneventfully and I slept like a log, the rocking of the boat and the hum of the engine lulling me into a deep sleep. I didn't think I'd sleep at all well to be honest, I thought my fear would keep me awake, but not at all.
The day dawned with a few of the faster boats that had left San Diego scooting past us overnight and Kimberley, my new best friend, making me coffee first thing. I can't even describe how spoiled I felt! We spent the day watching for whales and dolphins, napping, doing odd chores around the boat, nothing too hectic, quite relaxing really.
Our second night at sea passed much like the first, and we were looking forward to our arrival to Bahia de Tortuga later that afternoon. We'd be spending three nights there and we knew there would be a cruisers party on the beach and a cruisers/community baseball game in the town.
We were looking forward to beachside Bahia de Tortuga fun!