Continuing the Voyaging with Velella series by ASA writer-at-large Meghan Cleary. Meghan, Prescott and their cat Nessie are concluding an extended cruise along the coast of Mexico.
We are anchored amongst a thicket of sailboats in La Paz. The sunsets here are look like a forest of masts on fire, trailing red smoking clouds across the evening sky. We’ve returned to the flock.
As daunting as it is in some ways to re-enter “society” after weeks in island isolation in the Sea of Cortez, I’ve always loved being in the company of other boats. We row to shore during the morning and appraise each one, walk along the yard fence and comment on the shape of that one’s underbelly and this one’s prow. As usual with any gathering of boats, the range of personality is huge—from the cruiser who has every current convenience and spotless canvas coverings for it all, to the floating piece of (steel? wood?) that has lawn chairs strapped into the cockpit, propane tanks rolling around the foredeck, and hanked-on Kleenexes for sails. And of course we note their names: Wandering Puffin, Murre, Arctic Tern, Rocinante, Gypsy. . alongside Neener Neener Neener or You Got A B Kiddin Me. Almost every single day I turn around as we’re rowing away and pridefully tell Velella that I think she’s the prettiest girl at the dance.
People love cruising for different reasons, I know that. Some are fueled almost completely by the desire to travel, so they are content to navigate in anything that stays afloat. That’s cool. Others are racers are heart, and above all else yearn to make mile upon mile under wind power alone, teasing every inch of speed out of their well-tuned rigs. Good for them. We fall into a third category: We just love living on our boat. Regardless of where or how far the boat ever travels, the liveaboard lifestyle alone is a strong enough pull to the water.
Living aboard is like owning your own island. We get to row out to our home, surrounded by a moat of privacy. On our island we bake fresh bread. We crank whatever music we want to without disturbing the neighbors. We shower in the sundrenched cockpit. We have only our own creative projects to keep us busy, and only the weather reports to tune into on time. The physical distance from the rest of the world makes you feel like you can control your own life, at exactly the pace you want it to be. It’s like inhabiting a small cabin on a cliff, overlooking a city stretched out in tiny silent frenzy beneath you.
It’s unbelievable real estate, no matter where you are. I’m convinced that we’ve stumbled upon the most brilliant, best kept secret on the market.
I woke up from a dream last night and the air was unusually calm in the bay. I pulled on my bathrobe and peeked out into the cockpit to see that all was well. As I inhaled the salty still air and scanned the horizon, I caught my breath on a surreal vision. The rising moon had etched the black silhouette of a sleeping schooner into its enormous glowing belly, like a huge gold coin stamped with a proud sailing ship. That is the picture of this lifestyle’s currency, I thought, as I crawled back into bed with a skylight view of swaying stars.
Next week our overhead view will be much the same, but we’ll have traded our sunshowers for flannel sheets and Pacificos for hot cider. After soul-searching for a long time, we realized that two major ocean crossings this summer in order to get the boat home to the Northwest via Hawaii was simply not our idea of an enjoyable honeymoon. So we’re headed home with Velella the expedient way (via Yachtpath carrier ship) to take advantage of the stunning Pacific Northwest sailing season in the San Juan Islands. Although we’ll have to leave behind the tropical heat in Mexico, the things we love most about our little private island know no season.
In the Northwest, coffee in the morning will be all the more welcome, our well-sealed decks more appreciated, our propane fireplace and glowing oil lamp beacons of creative coziness. And the pale spring Northwest moon ascends through night air crisp with cherry blossoms. When we exchange our gold moonrises for silver ones, we will still be just as rich living aboard.
The Voyaging with Velella series will continue with the crew’s sailing adventures in the Pacific Northwest, so stay tuned!