As I write these lines, our stay in Switzerland is almost over. We worked a lot, have recharged a lot of energy, enjoyed a lot of home. In a few days we’ll be back on the plane to Mexico. Our second sailing season on Milagros begins. We want to head south, out of Mexico. Direction El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama. We might even catch up with Iñaki and Carmen on Anila. Almost two years late! Time for me to look back on 1.5 years of life on a sailboat that passed like in a rush.
I don’t really know where to start and where to stop. It’s completely crazy how many memories we’ve been able to make in the last year and a half. Looking back in my mind’s eye, I’m almost a little overwhelmed. The many scraps of memories and images overload my brain a bit. Life on a sailboat also overloaded my brain. Positively as well as in the negatively.
A little pride
One feeling I have is pride. I’m proud of myself and of Pati. What we have achieved in 2021 and 2022 is really awesome. Without any prior knowledge, we undertook a huge refit of a 44-year-old sailboat, went through ups and downs and just kept going. Even at points where others would have stopped. We have shown perseverance, persevered and have been rewarded. Because everything that came after the conversion often made us forget all the hardships. The wind on our face, the water beneath us, the stunning scenery of the Sea of Cortez all around us. The time we put into rebuilding Milagros was worth every second.
Major and minor incidents
Something else that I have to emphasize is that we were also have spent half a year at sea without any major incidents. It seems that during our refit, we drew attention to the right places, and so far we haven’t noticed any major weaknesses that we overlooked or built in ourselves. If we ask around, we actually started off with a reasonably problem-free season. Apart from our engine failure at the worst possible moment, in wind, weather and waves, of course. Since the injection pump was repaired, we haven’t had the slightest problem with our Burrito (which is what we call our engine). Let’s hope it stays that way for a long time. Because you never know if an incident is lurking around the next corner. Life on a sailboat is full of surprises.
Life on a sailboat is a back and forth
I could describe sailing in the Sea of Cortez like this: Engine on, anchor up, sails up, suddenly not enough wind, sails down, engine on. As soon as the engine is turned on, the wind picks up, sails up. When everything is set and trimmed nicely, the wind direction suddenly changes. We have to adjust the course, but the course no longer suits our route. At the same time the windspeed is increasing, we have to reduce the sail area. Just when that’s done, the wind shuts off completely. So, we take the headsail in, turn on the engine and motor along. Suddenly there’s wind again, we are sailing again. It was often back and forth, up and down, forward and backward. Where the heart of an inveterate sailor soars, the whole sailing thing gets on my nerves at some point.
Me and the sailing thing
Maybe it’s the lack of experience on our part to make the right decision at the right moment, maybe it’s just the Sea of Cortez as a sailing area with unsteady winds, the irregular topography and what else. I can’t say that I not enjoy sailing at all, but at times I was just plain annoyed. Life on a sailboat, I guess. But here too: We didn’t experience any major incidents and were very conservative and cautious on our voyages. This will also be the way in the future. And when everything is going well, the conditions are ideal, the sails are trimmed correctly, the wind pilot has the boat under control and Milagros just wants to stubbornly move forward, then it’s just pure pleasure. Then I’m in full flow and don’t want it to stop. But whether I will become a die-hard sailor or not remains to be seen.
What I am enormously grateful for is that we found Milagros here in Mexico and were able to take our first steps in Baja California. The Sea of Cortez is completely overlooked by the entire world (including the sailing world). And that’s a good thing. This little piece of paradise is a giant playground with countless bays for water sports of all kinds, each new corner, every new anchorage is more beautiful than the last. It’s just magical. The wildlife is incredible, the scenery is breathtaking. We met so many people who had big sailing plans and ended up just getting stuck here. This place has everything a sailor’s heart desires. Still, I’m ready to move on. I’m looking forward to moving south, where there’s a little more change in weather and vegetation.
I would like to highlight a few very special moments. They’re the first ones that come to mind when I think back. Places, people, short split seconds, encounters, nature, the wind and the water – the list of moments is endless. Still, I want to pick out a few special memories. And I’m not going to talk about our time at Cabrales Boatyard here. We could fill an entire book with memories from Cabrales.
The big reunion
A very important moment was the big reunion with our friends from the Boatyard in Puerto Peñasco. While we had managed (albeit with a great delay) to sail the entire Sea of Cortez, our fellow sailor friends were slowly returning to the Sea of Cortez from their season on mainland Mexico. We arranged to meet at Bahia Bonanza, an endless sandy beach. Cavu were there, Alegria, Boomerang, Empyrean. A gathering of many great people in a dreamlike place.
Party in paradise
We had a couple of great stays on Isla San Francisco. However, there’s not only the famous, horseshoe-shaped southwest bay, but there’s some more anchorages. For example, on the east side of the island. It was yet another rendezvous with friends on other boats. Cavu, Alegria and Boomerang, plus Perspective and Peep. Since we had to follow the spotty Sea of Cortez internet for Patricia’s online work, Cavu Dave’s birthday party was brought forward and so, after a boat crawl (everyone gathered in turn on each other’s ships), the party continued waaaayy into the night. All of this in one of the most beautiful anchorages we have had the privilege of visiting.
We didn’t want to leave at all
Another highlight was our stay at Refugio or V-Cove. We now had Starlink on board and therefore Internet à discretion and no longer had to hop from Internet hotspot to Internet hotspot. This was and is a huge game changer for us, so we just stayed in the same place for as long as possible. The V-Cove anchorage was our home for almost two weeks at a time while other boats came and went. The only permanent roommates were the pelicans, the seagulls, the fish and the dolphins. In the morning we worked on the computer, in the afternoon we just enjoyed the surroundings and our life.
We have finally made it
How we have met Marga on Dogfish, also a Kelly Peterson 44, is for the history books anyway. But the fact that we actually managed to anchor next to each other in a beautiful, hellishly hot bay was still special. Our two KPs on a crystal smooth water surface, a visit from two humpback whales, a trip with a rental car to visit Mike, Katie and Rosco on Alegria, morning coffee deliveries by dinghy – our time in the Bahia Coyote had everything that makes life on a sailboat beautiful.
The second half of our horror ride
Anyone who has been reading along for a while will remember how our maiden voyage turned into a horror voyage. An engine failure near the coast with winds of up to 30 knots and meter-high waves was not cool at all. Nevertheless, a veritable shitty moment turned into one of the memories that is one of the most important to me. Because when we had the boat and ourselves under control again, it became apparent that we can call an absolute monster of a sailboat our own. We always felt 100 percent safe on Milagros in these adverse conditions and we learned to sail her in those very moments. Simply because we had no other choice. Milagros showed us that she’s made for exactly such situations. That she’s made for the high seas and does not become stubborn and uncomfortable even when her owners are stressed and make mistakes.
Up and down, and up and down
In this way, a moment of maximum stress became a moment of maximum enjoyment. High and low are so incredibly close when you live on a boat. This was never more impressive than on this crossing. No book, blog post, article in the world’s sailing magazine could have prepared us for the emotional roller coaster that is life on a boat. In the blink of an eye, a beautiful sunset can turn into an absolute washing machine as unexpected waves come around the corner. Calm turns to insomnia because the wind suddenly picks up and throws the boat around. I have to say, sometimes the ups and downs and the backs and forths were a bit too much for me.
It can go on like this
But after a few months break and a little distance, I can say – let’s do this again! The anticipation of returning to Mexico and Milagros is growing and growing. We have big plans. First, we have to tweak the boat a little, then we want to head south. To mainland Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama. Or anywhere else. In the end, everything always turns out differently than we expect. But that’s the great thing about life on a sailboat. We can start each day from scratch because we have no idea what’s going to happen. And that’s the way it should be.
We’ll be back on Milagros soon with new stories! Feel free to offer us a beer by clicking on the button! You can also become a monthly contributor by heading over to Patreon if you want! Thanks a lot!