This is my 5th voyage down the outside of "The Baja". Every single one of them has been different! Relatively speaking, this cruise down was a 'piece of cake'! Glossy seas gave the opportunity to see lots of birds, whales and dolphins. Minimal swell provided the advantage of being able to anchor in more open roadsteds and explore places we had not yet seen.
Yet, the one thing every thing every trip down the Baja holds in common is Transition- yes, with a capital T! I guess it could also be Initiation to the cruising life.... with a capital I!
First there is the obvious transition of life from a house to life on a boat. From a home that never moves to one in constant motion! There is the scaling down of spacial requirements. Being that there are three of us on this trip, we each have about 16 linear feet of space per person or maybe 28 square feet per person to call our own! the first thing to learn is to take up less space when you stretch, spread out your project or get emotional!
Of course there is also remembering how to use the boat itself! How to connect on the radios (a very important emergency tool), how to program the GPS, operate the radar, make water, check the engine oil and gauges, start the genset (generator) to charge the batteries, raise and lower the windlass to set the anchor- you get the picture! Everything (for me) just requires a little more muscle- climbing up and down the ladder in the companion-way, pulling in the sails, steering in rolly seas.....
As one sails south down the "outside" it is like sailing in the desert! We leave the beautiful oasis of irrigated so-cal and enter a landscape of stark beauty- treeless mountains, windswept beaches and eroded cliffs and plateaus covered only by scrub brush and occasional cactus. Life on land is not obvious as it takes cover during the day from the scorching sun, mostly to emerge in the evening and night under a bone chilling marine layer. I know that it is there... I see the coyote tracks....
Reading the water becomes critical. Change in water color indicates change in depth. Ripples show where there is wind, churning may show a fish boil, a plume of spray in the air: a pod of whales or a blow hole in the rocks. A dark spot on the surface of the water may be a shark sunning itself. As important as are our eyes, our other senses begin to be more importantly counted on- the smell a village occurs before it is seen, listening for the differences in the wind- the sound of wind howling in the rigging tells its velocity-, feeling the difference in sea motion indicates if you are on or off course.
This Transition time is important in the life of a cruiser. It's like a gestation period where you leave life as you know it and are born into a realm where mother nature rules supreme and you jockey position with the wind and the waves..... Every day is different and every day is new! On this passage down the Baja I remember I am on my own for entertainment, fullfillment, a lift in spirits or courage for what the next weather system or anchorage may bring.
So after 850 miles (at 6 knots per hour) I pretty much have my sea legs! I've remembered what I have signed up for! I am again Initiated! I have completed a rite of passage and have earned my Right to Passage!