Waiting out the weather north of Point Conception burned a few more days than we would have liked, so the morning after our cathartic surf session we pulled anchor and pointed all the way for Oceanside, a town a short day-sail north of San Diego. We are headed there to begin provisioning for Baja and to meet Jon, a lifelong sailor and surfer who Jakob met back in Santa Cruz. Jon has over twenty Baja passages under his belt and is most recently back from a Trans-Pac sailing race aboard the 50’ sailing vessel Horizon he captains. Jon has invited us to his home in Oceanside for an evening of fish tacos and schooling about the Mexican coast. It sounds like an invaluable opportunity for story and meet a like-minded person with decades of experience to share. We press on through the day and evening, excited to meet Jon and learn what’s in store for us on our first international leg of the trip.
Night shift, only one awake – check the GPS: trajectory, shipping lanes, zoom in, zoom out. Radar: set the alarm, what’s that dark spot? Tanker? Island? Trust the eyes and look outside, it’s a half moon and a bright one. A scan of the horizon is clear, relax and take it in. Shimmering Socal water, scattered lights from Point Mugu to Point Dume and over to Malibu. Hazy Santa Monica in the distance. Trim the sails, squeeze out another a knot of speed. Curious dolphin have arrived to check us out and steal some momentum from our wake. They run off up ahead so I clip in to the tether line and run forward. They drop back and flirt with the bow as it silently cuts through the water. I could reach down and touch them! Magical playful creatures. You can feel their friendliness and playfulness from the boat. Their energy and presence brings an instant peace of mind, as if signifying that everything is ok in the world because animals have time to play and though they know all of the atrocities we’ve committed towards them, they are still willing to forgive and be our friends for a moment.
The next day we watched the Socal coast slide by and lazed about the boat. With a light following breeze we poled out the jib and ran wing-and-wing in comfort. A pod of 500 dolphins passed by, clearly on a mission and all on the same page. When a couple of them veer off to say hello to us, several others slap their tails on the water in objection. The curious ones re-join the pack and in several minutes they have all passed us by. All day we have been dodging kelp patches, but around mid-afternoon our luck runs out and we mow one down. After a close match of drawing straws, I accept defeat and don my wetsuit. A quick dip and couple breaths underwater spent clearing the rudder and prop shaft and I’m back on the boat. It feels nice to get wet I think passingly and change back into clothes. Back on deck a few minutes later, we dodge a similar patch, but before we can feel
satisfied at having missed this one, we notice a shark mulling around, tail sloshing from side to side as it picks its way through. Putting any bad thoughts out of mind, I think how of nice it is that those two events happened in that order.
Sadly, this coast is not a pristine and natural playground for us, the sea birds or any of the creatures that call these depths home. With drilling rigs now peppering our view, we come upon oil patches and slicks. It stinks an industrial, man-made stink. We think about private enterprises cashing in, unaware consumers guzzling the product, a complicit government, doling out permits for this, and, finally, the wildlife that silently suffers the consequences. Suddenly we are self conscious of our diesel jerry cans on deck, and feel a deep guilt and regret. Shocked that this is considered acceptable, and that it happens so close to home, we try to remain optimistic: at least we are here to see this and pass the word along, awareness being a meager, but necessary first step towards improvement.
The day ages slowly and first hints of boredom even strike. Never to worry, pick up a book. Maybe one about sailing, with short stories of the ancient craft through history, or a thrilling one filled with storm stories and heavy weather tactics. Or perhaps let some talented author transport us mentally to land with enthralling and absorbing prose. When not studying charts, some favorite reads onboard have been the short but poetic Call of the Wild and John Kretschmer’s crazy tale of sailing from New York to San Francisco, Cape Horn to Starboard. I seem to be struggling to finish Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, though it’s a thought-provoking read. We’re always looking for to update our library aka bookshelf, so drop let us a line and let us know what you’ve been reading lately. And then reading about something purely practical is always an option: maybe learn about deep cycle battery banks and the theory of electricity, or how our self-steering wind-vane actually functions and why it doesn’t seem to work while sailing downwind. We may try, but it always seems that the real learning occurs when something stops working. The cycle is as follows: something breaks, we learn about it every way possible, patch it up as best we can and wait for the next thing to break. It’s a great system, save for repeatedly subjecting ourselves to the feeling you get on a sailboat when something goes wrong and you have no idea what it is. But, at least for the time being, everything is in working order.
Nearing Oceanside, our food stocks dwindle. The constant motion on the boat has our bodies working hard to balance during every waking hour. We work up
voracious appetites, with breakfast, dinner and three or so lunches in between being the norm. We’ve become quite creative with our cuisine. After gourmet fare is no longer an option when stocks are thin, we’ve turned to such delights as saltine and lettuce sandwiches, or a more filling option of bread, cheese and mustard open faces. That last sentence is only partly in jest. On one hand, we are trying to take an objective, humorous perspective with any lack of creature comfort brought about by our new lifestyle – a defense mechanism to be sure, but such an entertaining one.