Todos Santos and Pescadero

Todos Santos and Pescadero

We decided that this year, instead of exchanging presents for Christmas, we would have an experience. We placed only a couple of parameters on the search. We wanted to learn a new skill and we wanted it to be memorable. We immediately began scanning the internet for something interesting to do. When we stumbled across a National Geographic article ranking surfing in Todos Santos as one of the top adventure destinations for 2012 it seemed perfect – we wouldn’t even have to leave Mexico!

We traveled to Todos Santos by bus – a short 3 hour ride from La Paz. Upon arrival we had no room reservations, so we wandered through town, stumbling across a lovely little boutique hotel called Posada Del Molino where we spent the next two days. It turns out that Todos Santos is an adorable little art town filled with all the kitschy Mexico art that I have seen (and unabashedly loved) my whole life. It is an undeniably cute town, and very peaceful, but definitely on the expensive side, especially for food and drinks. A 12 peso ($1 usd) taco in La Paz is suddenly 30 pesos ($2.50 usd) in Todos Santos, and a jalapeno margarita at the Hotel California will set you back 90 pesos, but I won’t lie, that was the best margarita I’ve ever had in my life. By the end of day one Drew had already grown tired of wandering the same few streets, and honestly, by day two I felt the same. We decided to move on to the next phase of our adventure – surfing!

It turns out that National Geographic is mostly wrong. The good surfing is not in Todos Santos, but actually in the nearby town of El Pescadero. We checked around and it seemed like the Pescadero Surf Camp was the way to go. They had rooms and surf lessons and got really good reviews. We called ahead to make sure there would be space for us – the owner, Jamie, informed us that they had a room for us that night and could probably sort out something for the rest of the week. It turned out to be a lot of moving around over the next week (4 different rooms for 5 nights) including one night of dragging a mattress into the office and sleeping on the floor. Even with all the chaos, it was a fantastic time. We took surf lessons with the owners son, Ryan and his friend Coen, and they were wonderful teachers. They walked us through the basic process while on shore, then pulled us out into the waves and launched us time after time towards shore shouting “paddle, paddle, NOW STAND UP!”. Their genuine exuberance even after many failed attempts made it such a fun experience. Drew and I were both able to stand up several times after only one lesson and walked away feeling very proud of our baby steps in learning to surf. I couln’t have asked for a better Christmas and am now a full convert to the experience over the gift.

Yes, that is the real Hotel California from the song!

Yes, that is the real Hotel California from the song!

Drew serenading me with Christmas songs

Drew serenading me with Christmas songs

The resident horse at Pescadero Surf Camp

The resident horse at Pescadero Surf Camp

Going on a supply run with Angelo - he rode his motorcycle down from Toronto Canada!

Going on a supply run with Angelo – he rode his motorcycle down from Toronto Canada!

We spent a lovely evening around a bonfire down at a friends palapa

We spent a lovely evening around a bonfire down at a friends palapa

Heading to the beach with Coen and Ryan for our first surf lesson

Heading to the beach with Coen and Ryan for our first surf lesson

Surfing involves a lot of waiting. Drinking and waiting.

Surfing involves a lot of waiting. Drinking and waiting.

Mexican blankets sold outside our favorite fish taco stand in El Pescadero

Mexican blankets sold outside our favorite fish taco stand in El Pescadero

When it seemed to cold and cloudy to go to the beach, sitting by the pool made for a perfect substitute.

When it was too cold and cloudy to go to the beach, sitting by the pool made for a perfect substitute.

Alice the Ship Cat

Alice the Ship Cat

Our perfect scraggly Mexican boat kitten, Alice, passed away just 5 weeks after we brought her home. I loved her so completely.

Drew wrote a beautiful post about our time together: http://disengage.ca/2012/12/rest-in-peace-alice/

 

33 years of awesome

33 years of awesome

I celebrated my 33rd birthday this year. I have to say, I’ve had a good life. Even the bad and the scary and the heartbreaking seem to have given me something good to take along. I am, by nature, reflective and birthdays are the perfect excuse to ruminate about my life past, present, and invisible-future to come. There were a few bumps along the way, but this year, like most, the experiences were draped heavily with beauty, adventure and happiness.

By far the biggest change this year was the move from the land to the sea and the decision to sail south. The first 6 months on the boat were exhausting and hard. I didn’t consider the life to be mine. I considered myself to be vacationing in another persons adventure, not for my sake, but for theirs. It took me months to settle in to the small space and accept that I had a permanent place on board. However, at the point when I did finally accept that this was my home, I realized that it was also my dream. I stopped looking forward to when we would move back to land and started daydreaming about where we would go next, who we would meet and what we would see. These not-so-small realizations changed the whole dynamic of the boat and suddenly coming home meant comfort and safety. Now, nothing feels better than the gentle waves of the ocean rocking me to sleep.

I believe we make our own path. I also believe that if allowed, for good or bad, others can sweep through, hand-in-hand, leading us along a previously unimagined road. In the beginning, Tie Fighter was not my dream, sailing was not my dream, and living out at sea was certainly not my dream. But I took the chance and let myself be led and after a few wild swings of the pendulum I relaxed into the perfect spot somewhere in the middle. The middle looks good on me.

goodbyes

The backstory

The backstory

I’m not a sailor, or at least I wasn’t until now.

The first time I set foot on a sailboat was about two and a half years ago – June 2009. It was the S/V Tie Fighter, a 37 foot trimaran, anchored in False Creek, Vancouver B.C., owned and captained by Drew Smith. I flew in from Michigan with grand ideas of what sailing would be like. The first mission out was meant to be a 10 day sail, meandering along the islands near Vancouver B.C. The first few days out I was so sea-sick I couldn’t stand straight. I spent most of my time sleeping, waiting for the fun to arrive. Eventually, with the help of time and a powerful little scopolamine patch, I was able to come on deck and see what all the fuss was about. Almost immediately my mind quieted and my body softened. I understood. It was beautiful. Peaceful. Perfect.

 

That lasted a good 24 hours before the storm hit. Big winds, rain, waves crashing onto the deck, and Drew promising that this was completely normal (only later did I find out that this was definitely NOT normal). We made it through the rough weather, and back to Vancouver with only a broken shackle on the traveler and some frayed nerves. I went home to Michigan to finish graduate school, and Drew continued living on the boat. I didn’t sail again for almost two years.

In early 2010, I moved from Ann Arbor Michigan to Seattle Washington … proximity changes everything. Drew and I started dating more seriously, Tie Fighter was pulled out of the water and into a boat yard for several months of intense work, and in October 2010 I moved on board for the winter. Winter is not the best time to fall in love with living on a boat, especially in Vancouver B.C., especially when only one of the cabins has a heater, especially when I could happily live in 90 degree weather year around. I slept wrapped in wool and drank hot tea to keep my body temperature up. Everyday was like a puzzle: try to figure out how to not die. Even the cold eventually became charming. In January I had to move back to Seattle for work so I was back to weekends on the water and weekdays on land. During this time I learned a lot about living on a boat, but between the summer drydock and the cold winter, we were still not sailing much. Not much, as in, not at all. We motored a bit, but never got the sails up.

 

Then the spring came, and as it usually does, the summer followed. Weekend excursions on the water became the norm and my knowledge of sailing increased exponentially. We sailed alone, we sailed with friends, we sailed to festivals and we sailed just to sail. We caught crabs and laid in the sun and danced on the deck. Suddenly it was fun being on the boat. It was no longer constant work just to exist.

Drew and I are now preparing for the next step. Going offshore. I’ve packed all my things and arranged to work remotely. I’ve said goodbye to friends and made deals and pacts and promises for future assemblings. Today I am moving back onto Tie Fighter. Then we have 10 days to finish off the last of the projects. I’m nervous and excited.

September 12, we sail south!