The flames from our bonfire lick skyward, lighting up a secluded beach while the last vestiges of daylight bounce off mountain peaks behind us on Cedros Island. Yahtzee bobs offshore with our buddy boat, the J/120 SUR, nearby. Laughter fills the air and four boys dance around the fire, roast s’mores and toss on more driftwood. Accordingly, the adults celebrate by hoisting cold drinks. Cheers indeed, we made it to Mexico!
In the moment, my mind flashes back through the short time since we hopped south across the border. Six days earlier we’d landed in Ensenada where we checked in our boat and crew, did some provisioning, completed a few boat projects, and ate some delicious tacos. The folks at Baja Naval marina and boatyard were super friendly, helpful and accommodating, making it a perfect place to start our Mexico adventures.
Shortly after our arrival we got an emphatic green light weather window to make a move south, and off our two-boat flotilla sailed. A strong northwesterly flow pushed us 25 miles to an overnight anchorage at Santo Tomas and then on to the volcanic Isla San Martin 70 more miles down the way. Running under blue skies, bright sunshine and full sails, we ticked off the miles and our family quickly got back into the routines of sailing and passage making.
Then, about two miles from the anchorage at San Martin, I looked back and saw a fish hooked on our hand line. An emphatic “FISH ON!” was called out and we soon had a good sized skipjack tuna on the boat ready to be cut into steaks. That night, the crew from SUR joined us and we feasted on the delicious catch seared in coconut oil and lime juice. Mmm…
Besides a small camp of lobster fisherman on the east side of the island, San Martin is uninhabited wilderness. Ashore we hiked through cactus-lined paths to sandy beaches and rocky promontories overlooking the ocean. The boys swam in the lagoon and a huge colony of seals watched our every move, seemingly not used to so much activity.
With the northerly still pumping, we hoisted anchors and sails and took off for an overnight passage 140 miles south to Cedros Island. Wanting to sail as much as possible, the engine was off quickly, the sails were set wing-and-wing and Yahtzee settled in on a fast run. Averaging 7 knots in the building seas, our crew kicked back to enjoy the ride. The boys did school work, read books and played in the cockpit. At this point in our sailing lives, little hops like these are becoming routine and are mostly done with ease.
That night, a clear sky and full moon made standing watch an amazing experience. Sitting under the dodger, I scanned the empty horizon and then saw dolphins chasing Yahtzee, their movements stirring up swirls of phosphoresce and the sound of their spouts punctuating the rhythmic noise of the boat as they drew near. It was truly a surreal moment.
When the sky started to brighten with the first glimmers of dawn light, Cedros Island hove into view fine on the port bow. I gybed to put the island on our starboard side and then watched the sun rise and strike four-thousand foot tall mountains, casting shadows through steep valleys. Our friends on SUR were just ahead of us and we dropped our anchor next to them and promptly got the dinghy and standup paddle board in the water to kick off a day of explorations.
Porter was quickly in his swimsuit and paddling his surfboard to shore alongside his buddy Chase. The rest of us followed and the gin clear sea begged to be basked in before we set out on our first hike of the day. The northern portion of Cedros is uninhabited and our two families had the cove, trails, mountains and water all to ourselves. Days like these are what we’d dreamed of during the cold, dark, snowy months of winter in Alaska, and a wave of happiness overcame me when I thought about how far we’ve come from there.
After the beach fire that night, Jill and I chatted in the cockpit about being in our favorite type of cruising pattern. That we were back in our groove and feeling the flow of nomadically wandering under sail again. Though the cities and towns in California were fun to visit, this pace and routine, similar to Alaska, is what we prefer. Sailing, fishing, reading, crafting, exploring, swimming, working and making delicious meals aboard is what we love. And living life together in concert with the changes in weather, tides, and sunsets and sunrises again is who we are.