We reached our departure point for mainland Mexico, La Paz, on the 20th of Feb. My friends Steve and Ana were ever so kind to us, putting us up; cooking us many meals; allowing us to lounge around endlessly; and shuttling us back and forth around town to collect various travel accoutrements. Thanks again! I was also looking forward to collecting a pair of Specialized BG Pro cycling shorts from DHL while in town. I had called Mountain View Cycles in Hood River Oregon and talked with Julie a week and a half back. She was able to send me the shorts even though they had not typically mailed merchandise to Mexico in the past. Thanks again Julie, you really saved my butt! For anyone sending clothing to Mexico it should be noted that the customs office will arbitrarily assign duty to the shipment and as far as I can tell there is no appeal process. Shipping to Mexico is very expensive to start with. This single article of clothing cost me $75.00 shipping and an additional $104.00 duty from customs. On top of the price of the shorts, they are quite deluxe, the total comes to over $300.00. My hiney never had it so good. They have performed well so far and if they eliminate some of the, lets say, typical cyclist issues they will have been worth ever penny.
Our main goal while in La Paz was to find a ride across the Sea of Cortez on a sailboat. The ferry was also an option but we figured that a smaller boat would provide more adventure. We spent a couple of mornings milling around the local marina and posted a flyer stating we were looking for passage and could cook, clean, sail, and can fix computers. There were a few other competing individuals that had posted on the bulletin board, one of which had mentioned they had been waiting for a week. We spread the word we were on bikes heading as far as Panama and Antarctica with all whose ears would accommodate. I’m convinced that the story of our perceptibly epic journey gave us a leg up. A few days past and Ana received a call from Gregg, the owner of a ketch; a Morgan 41′, Sweet Dreams, which he was taking across to Mazatlan in the next week or so. We met him almost immediately and headed out into the harbor in his dingy to take a look at the boat. The interior was roomy, the living space extending almost fully to the hull. It boasted a large berth in the back with an accompanying head, and another in the front with yet another head. The kitchen was small but larger than others I have seen in this size of craft. We discussed schedules and agreed to leave in a few days after Gregg returned from a short cruise to the north.
On the 26th we said goodbye to Steve and Ana and loaded our bikes onto Sweet Dreams at the fuel dock. After much harranging, reworking, rethinking, and reshuffling, our cromoly horses found a home on the foredeck. Wheels were stashed below with the rest of our gear. I glanced at the trucker as we secured it with rope and strap, somehow expecting an uneasy grimace of a squeaky crank, a vibration of a fender, or an expulsion of grease but none came. I can imagine almost no place more troubling for a bike than a small boat.
The crossing took almost four days. We had fair winds the first day and only a short distance to go. The second brought choppy seas with 5′ swells, unfortunately perpendicular to our direction of travel. The winds picked up in the afternoon, sometimes blowing around 28kts. We made good time, flying the genoa, a reefed mainsail, and the mizzen. Amy and I took two watches, one from 6:30PM – 10:30PM and another from 2:30AM – 6:30AM during the two nights of the crossing. We passed the time by watching the luminous phytoplankton in our wake and keeping an eye out for other vessels. Unfortunately during the second night the wind died and we awoke for our watch to the sound of the motor. A little more wind allowed us to sail during the day but only for a short time before deciding to motor the remainder of the crossing. In the daylight, I passed the time reading Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez; cleaning up the kitchen; doing a little cooking; tidying up lines; and managing the genoa. Gregg, having left California a couple months back, was out cruising indefinitely. He had bought his boat, fixed it up, sold his house, and left to travel the world despite many naysayers.
A few days before La Paz, I met a couple of Alaskan crab fisherman at a tacqueria. We chatted for a while, discussed their profession and I eventually arrived at a question of employment. They said to keep in touch and made some of work. For days I thought about fishing crab in Alaska, somehow the heartiness of the work appealed to me. The idea of freezing my butt off on a boat, reeking of bait and crab, getting little sleep, and working until I can move no more all the while worrying about falling into the icy waters of the Bering Sea appealed to me. I put this idea on my short list of opportunities I seem to be collecting rapidly. After the crossing of the Sea of Cortez I know one thing for sure: I do not want to be a crab fisherman. The rocking of the boat, especially side to side, can become so tiresome I would not care to live that way. It is inescapable, a drain on ones freedom and self direction. It is the resonance of too much bass on the roof of a small car, the smell of the fish factory in Ensenada, and the weariness of hot wind when sweltering in the desert. At some point you just want it to stop. A day trip or two on a sailboat is one thing, but I can’t imagine days on end in the open seas bringing much joy. I assume you eventually get used to it or decide you can’t take anymore and jump overboard in the night.
On the 29th of Feb, we arrived in Mazatlan. We are now headed south towards Oaxaca where we plan to cross over to the Yucatan Peninsula. I had such a good time in Baja I was a little sad to say goodbye. So many great memories, it’s hard not to look back and treasure the wonderful people I met and miss already, the vast jaw-dropping landscapes, and the comfort of the Baja lifestyle.