Embrace the boring

Totem recently made landfall in Baja after a placid passage of a little over three days: north up the coast of Mexico’s mainland from Matanchen Bay, then across the Sea of Cortez to anchor a few skips south of Loreto. Placid. Placid? More like plodding. We motored the entire distance. When the engine finally went off, happy sighs escaped the crew. This was a pretty boring passage.

Flaking the main after the anchor was set in Baja.

Sails helped pull occasionally, improving fuel efficiency. It just wasn’t enough to shut the Yanmar down. One sure thing about weather is that it changes. Better sailing conditions would eventually come, but after how long? But this time of year, conditions which aren’t adverse can be considered a good time to go as much as those which are actually favorable, and we waited for not adverse for about two weeks. Meanwhile, local restrictions to mitigate Coronavirus were ticking ever tighter, and we felt it best to make our move towards that place we can hunker down for a while before the possibility that being in transit was not an option. And so it was a motorboat ride, for 441 nautical miles, 80 hours, and about 75 gallons of diesel.

The elapsed days and nights included nighttime fog (unusual!) and hazy mornings, but largely blue skies. Totem’s main was up for the duration; reefed twice to minimize slatting, which is harder on gear than big wind.

What the passage did offer was among the most stunning bioluminescence we’ve ever seen. “Most stunning” is admittedly a strong statement and not made lightly: the waters glowing off the coast below Mazatlán on our first night at sea were so brilliant that I was able to capture a video with my phone.

Books were read. Cribbage was played. And on one spectacular evening, scores of dolphins leaped and played while silhouetted in the sinking sun.

It began with that dark line: see it? Hundreds of dolphins, southbound off our port side.
A number broke out from the pod, heading our way
A magical sunset visit, before they peeled back to rejoin the pod

On the final day we passed a whale that paced near evenly next to Totem from several boatlengths away. Easily bigger than our 47 feet, we watched the fine edge of the dorsal ridge and lumpy blow hole, and with it’s size suspect a Blue… any guesses from the better informed?

Whale watching from the cockpit
Just like the passage: no theatrics from this massive whale… a Blue?

Perhaps this wasn’t so boring, after all. Yet when I caught up with other cruising friends after landfall, ‘boring’ was usually the first word I used to describe the passage. Boring because there was no drama. Boring because nothing broke. Boring because…. everything worked pretty much the way it is supposed to, and there were no surprises.

Perhaps boring is the goal.

Totem is anchored at Ensenada Blanca, also called Bahia Candeleros – probably for the candlestick-shaped rock pinnacles nearby. The view is stunning, sunrise and sunset.

This spot that offers advantages in uncertain times. One of those is an excellent internet signal, so although confined aboard for the government’s strict stay-at-home order we’re able to readily keep in touch with family, friends, and developments.

That signal also means – time to take TOTEM TALKS forward! We dipped our toes in a couple of weeks ago; it was a lot of fun and the response was encouraging. So…

TOTEM TALKS: Sundowners in Baja edition. Saturday (yes, probably tomorrow) April 25, 5:00 Pacific / 8:00 pm Eastern. Advance registration required: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwvdeqqrTkvG9LHLpfItkdfGznuznMbol8l

We’ll be talkin’ about:

  • How to provision when you’re not allowed into town
  • Cruising Baja and the Sea of Cortez
  • Forward look at the impact of Coronavirus to cruising
  • Whatever you want to bring up!

Hope to see you there! This will be good, but it will not be boring.

On the bow last night: picture by Siobhan Gifford

So that was a LOT of fun! If you register for Totem Talks, you’ll be able to watch the replay – whether you attended or not, the info is there for you.

Want to know about future TOTEM TALKS? Subscribe to be notified!

18 Responses

  1. “Boring because nothing broke.” Odd times indeed. Likely what we are experiencing is the toughest passage of all. Unknown unknowns & a test for which few have studied.

    Regarding the diesel burned, can you get to a fuel dock where you are now?

    Very best to all & Cheers!

    1. Hi Jim! There is a fuel dock here, but we’re fine – we have plenty of diesel left on board and no plans to use it. We’ll probably need to get gas next month, and propane by July.

  2. Hola from Peg and Don, S/V Interlude. We are still in Hawaii and Interlude is on a mooring ball in Puerto Escondido. Hoping to return to her in June or earlier to then take her back to La Paz before hurricane season.

    Jake and Sharon, S/V Jake posted a rejection from the Bodega in Loreto because of their age. It appears that only the two markets will allow those over 60 and at early hours. If you anchor out, you will be turned away at the marina thus only taxi rides are allowed into town.

    I would love to hear about the changing restrictions and what the cruisers are doing about provisioning. The return drive up the Baja might also be quite a challenge if all the hotels are closed.

  3. For 3 months of our trek north from Fiji to Marshall Islands we fought the NE trades and strong east setting currents against the NE winds. Boring can be good! We look forward to being able to join the Totem Talk tomorrow! We are pretty fortunate to be in the Marshalls during the COVID19, but will not gloat over our blessings.🙂

    1. Marshalls does sound like a sweet place to be! We are pretty happy with our location, too. And I think that’s a lot of it: the capacity to be happy in place. The restrictions here are intense right now, but we’re dealing!

    2. SV Manna,

      Enjoy the Marshalls. It can be a bit of a slog to get there but worth it. We spent something like 11 months there over two visits and we loved it. I hope you had a chance to get to the outer islands before they closed inter-island travel. Say hi to SV Seal and Double Trouble for us who I believe are there too. If you go to Rongerik do not forget to join the exclusive Rongerik Yacht Club. We paused there for a few days to wait for better weather on our way to the Aleutians.


      SV Fluenta

  4. We too prefer boring a passage (but also like you prefer to sail). Fun timing as we did another media interview today and we pointed out that the aim for our passages is to not be worthy of a magazine article i.e. a no drama filled stories of storms and such.

    Enjoy the Sea of Cortez. We loved our time there.


    Max and the crew of Fluenta

  5. “What is the biggest storm you have been in and how often?!” Is the typical question non-sailors ask. I am always proud to say … “not very often” because picking your weather window and avoiding bad weather is good seamanship LOL
    But motoring on a sailboat is pretty boring! Glad you got there safely and nothing added to the To Do list
    Note – the caveat is that a smooth sea never a skillful sailor did make. So it can be beneficial to deliberately go out into harsh conditions just outside your comfort zones with an exleriemced sailor for assistance so when one does, and you will, get caught out in a storm you are prepared.

    Love the posts!

    1. This exactly! There is this assumption that we must have to deal with storms and bad weather aaalll the time, and it’s just not like that. We have (technically) never been in a storm, in fact. Squalls, yes. Squalls are not storms! It’s not semantics, and it’s a common misconception. That said, I will differ with you on “beneficial to deliberately go into harsh conditions” so you’re prepared for what-if later, and we can agree to disagree on that point. Meanwhile, I like the version of boring we had on this passage much better than the boring of, say, motoring on the ICW and being pinned to the helm… this was easy to enjoy!

  6. We were lucky enough to see a Blue just north of Agua Verde two years ago; the distance between the blowhole and the dorsal fin was just….absurd. I mean, it just kept going forever. The tail came up when it dove, so we feel pretty confident about our ID based on the flukes. Such an amazing moment.

  7. The dolphins!!! Amazing pics. That last one is super cute too.
    Hope you guys are having a good bash.
    We made it back to Kauai from La Cruz. It was a really nice sail.

    See you out cruising again someday!

    Aloha, Katie on Kalewa (ka-lay-va) the lime green cat 🙂

    1. Hey Katie! That’s awesome to know, I’ve been hoping you all had a good passage to HI! No bashing here, we’re just hanging out in the SOC.

  8. Ugh, I was hoping to make your Totem Talk on Saturday but… life happens. Did you happen to make a recording of it or did someone take good notes?


    1. hi Eric! I am keeping recordings available for each session as long as possible. Our account on Zoom really only holds one, so that’s generally until the next session is ready. Details to replay the most recent session (May 10) are in the latest blog post and on our Events page. The next session is this Saturday 5/23, hope to see you there!

  9. It is difficult to separate the two things that are happening simultaneously. The Pandemic and the Panic. The first is caused by a pathogen that is new to humans. Being new it was poorly understood– indeed it still is. But as time passes we are learning that it is no medieval Black Death. Most who contact it never even know they have it. The number of asymptomatic carriers in places like the US is likely many times the number who have been tested and diagnosed with CORVID19 disease. Only those who have sought medical care or testing form the base number from which the infection rate is calculated. Thus the real fatality rate from the disease is likely .05% or far less, rather than the 3.7% that was initially believed. The probability of people the age of your daughters dying from the disease after contacting it is so low as to be statistically insignificant. Closing the schools was exactly the wrong course of action. Children in school classrooms will certainly infect each other and as a result develop antibodies and resistance just as if they had been vaccinated, but very few would die. Not that we understood this in March when lock downs began.

    And then there is the Panic. As someone who was trained in Social Psychology it has been as morbidly fascinating as the spread of the virus itself. There is no limit to human irrationality. Case in point— cruisers being held by Panamanian military patrols and forbidden to come ashore, re-supply or leave. In the BVI, the bareboat capital of the world, that country has prohibited entry of all non-citizens until Sept. 1 and instituted a draconian requirement that all boats be placed under the financial responsibility of designated local agents. Essentially seized and held for ransom. And this in a country that has generated at least 50% of its income from the yacht trade. Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

    Before the Coronavirus pricked the Finance Capitalist bubble the USA had an increasingly irrational and unjust economic system based upon global just-in-time specialization of supply chains and financial markets serving as Casinos for Billionaires using millisecond computer trading and insider fraud instead of price discovery.

    In the course of two months Humpy Dumpy has fallen off the wall and cracked into pieces. Leaders tried to apply Medieval lock downs to complex integrated societies, unemployment is higher than during the Great Depression, oil is priced at less than zero and Main street business has been swallowed by the Anaconda. The broken eggshells of the old order can’t be SuperGlued back together. Aircraft Carrier diplomacy to enforce Dollar as the means where the USA can buy or steal anything it wants by merely hitting a computer key and creating fake money is as dead as any carrier group that dares challenge hypersonic cruise missiles.

    The world that cruisers will return to once lock downs end will never look the same unless you remember 1917.

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