Our first Taste of Boat Life

With anticipation for Milagros and the first days together on our ship, we travelled to Mexico for a two-week taste of the boat lifestyle over Christmas (2019). We wanted to get to know Milagros, but actually expected to sit on deck completely overwhelmed and clueless at first. But as we all know, 1. it always turns out differently and 2. as you think.

But from the beginning

We had booked perfectly timed flights from Zurich to Frankfurt and on to San Diego. Due to a delayed departure in Zurich, we missed our connection in Frankfurt. After a long queue at the service counter were rebooked on two flights: Frankfurt – Washington and Washington – San Diego. This meant that we did not arrive in San Diego until 8 p.m. and therefore could no longer travel to Mexico. We would not have arrived at the marina in Ensenada until 3 a.m. in the middle of the night. And David knows from his own experience that it is not sure whether the gatekeepers actually let you into the marina.

Learnings from the past

So, we booked an Airbnb in San Diego near the border. The next morning, strengthened with pancakes from iHop, started our onward journey to Mexico. Without any noteworthy incidents, we crossed the border and took the direct bus from Tijuana to Ensenada.

We made it to Mexico

Once there, we dragged our heavy suitcases through the broken and uneven streets of the city with some difficulty. The marina is not to be missed. A huge flag (it takes 50 men to hoist it) shows the way there. Although David had done everything in advance to prevent it, the guard at the marina entrance did not let us in. The ship was still registered to the previous owner. But one phone call later the problem was solved. Welcome to Mexico again! And welcome to the unpredictabilities of boat life!

Hello beautiful!

Milagros sitting in the marina

And there she layed, on Dock E at the very back, as if in a deep sleep. Beautiful. The utopia of our future boat lifestyle slowly took shape. We quickly found the hidden key and curiously opened the ship. It was somehow … cold and empty. Logically. Nobody heated the ship (it was only 5°C at night) and the previous owner took all his personal belongings with him. We would only find out later what other things he had taken with him.

A bumpy start to boat life

A quick check in the kitchen showed that at least the basics were there: Plates, cutlery, pans, glasses. There were no blankets and pillows (luckily, we decided to stay in San Diego !!!), so we set off for the errands. Invigorated with Starbucks coffee and after a stop at the taco women from “Las Brisas” we walked along the beach to Walmart. There we bought far too expensive inferior synthetic blankets and took care of our physical well-being.

Failing Milagros for the first time

Back at the ship we stowed everything and first explored every corner of the ship. It was a totally unreal feeling: So, this is supposed to be our new home? Will this where we’ll spend our future boat life? Beautiful and strange at the same time. During testing, we immediately flooded one of the two toilets because we didn’t understand how the vacuum pump works. Fortunately, nobody saw that. We couldn’t cook food or make coffee either because we didn’t immediately get how the gas system works on Milagros.

Befriending fellow sailors

We spent the next two days with getting to know the local sailing community. Such as Steven and Susanne from SV Tranquila. Together with them, we took a close look at the ship. We could benefit a lot from Steven’s vast experience (and we found out how the gas system works).

Checking the bilge
Steven and Fidu checking out the bilge

A plan is formed

We were also introduced to Raul. He’s local all-rounder of our age with a lot of sailing experience and great English skills. Jackpot. 😊 All of this led to the decision to go on a day trip with Milagros.

With the help of Raul, we started preparing the ship – clueless sitting in the cockpit was over. For example, the bottom of the ship was scrubbed by a diver whom we paid $ 65 for 2 hours. With the Mexican average wage of $ 4 / h a very lucrative job for him. But since there was only one diver to hire and we really didn’t want to bathe in the dirty water of the marina, we were happy to be basically ripped off. Together with Raul, we also checked and polished the rigging, started the engine, filled up gas, inspected and washed the sails, etc. Boat life had started.

Removing a sea beard is a constant challenge of boat life

Enjoying the mexican way of life

When we weren’t “at work”, we explored the city on foot and feasted on cevice tacos, sailed around the harbour with Raul and his mini sailing boat, examined the pirate ship in the harbour and tried to figure out how washing clothes works (easier said than done). We weren’t spared the hustle and bustle of Christmas either. Christmas is a big deal in Mexico which lasts about a month. Decoration up to eye cancer, endless “Feliz Navidad” wishes, Christmas market, ice skating on wood, Christmas always and everywhere all day long. A “potluck” was organized for the sailing community in the marina. You meet and everyone brings something to eat, no matter what. Our European guacamole was gone in no time. We even had a classic Christmas dinner with Steven and Susanne and turkey and discussions about the American Parliament.

mmmmh Cevice
One of the best things about boat life is enjoying the breakfast with a view
Could get used to that… 🙂

The big day had come

We could sail Milagros for the first time! Together with Raul, Susanne and Steven we sailed in the Bahia Todos Los Santos off Ensenada, a week after our arrival, we left the harbour under motor. Hoisting the sails went smoothly. And the weather was really nice too. From hardly any wind to a lot of wind from all directions, we had everything (unfortunately the wind indicator was broken). We could get a good look and feel of the ship. We even hoisted the staysail and found out that it was brand new and unused. Raul was gripped by sailing fever. He pushed the ship and we even reached 8 knots (15 km/h). That’s is very racy, but is partly due to the fact that our ship is simply empty. All in all, an exciting day and already half time!

A taste of the boat lifestyle

In the days that followed, we tackled other boat projects, and we experienced a classic. An old rule of boat life says that a job always takes three times as long and contains three times as much work as planned. Actually, we only wanted to “quickly” lay the anchor chain on the dock to check its condition and measure the length. When we tried to pull the chain back in with the electric windlass, it didn’t really have any power. Then we started troubleshooting. Was it corroded electrical contacts? Were the batteries too weak? Does the winch only run under motor? Does it have enough oil? This short check became a day project.

How to work without tools?

And that’s when we really noticed it: there was no tool on board. And our Victorinox multi tool couldn’t keep up with the imperial units. Our neighbour (who drove into our solar panel with his trawler) kindly provided us with his equipment, with everything a craftsman’s heart could desire. At the end of the day, the alternator belt began to squeak again – a sign that the winch was now really pulling power. Unfortunately, the belt was already stretched to the maximum, which meant that it had to be replaced. Well, this will be a project for another time.

The good thing about it was that we found suspicious fraying and damage to the steering cable and now have to replace it as soon as possible. In addition, we could not loosen the rusted screws of the blocked solenoid from the gas safety switch. We now have bypassed the switch and we have to close the gas bottle each time after use. Safety first!

We couldn’t be happier

The time flew by. Contrary to expectations, we could have stayed two more weeks and boat life would never have been boring. As expected, the community in the marina was warm. Of the boat owners’ willingness to help many could take a leaf out of their book. But our visit was slowly coming to an end.

Help! A boat worm.

Putting Milagros back to sleep

Before we left, we put the ship back into sleep mode. We stowed the sails, of course, not without an incident. One sail accidentally fell partly into the water. We had to wash and let it dry again so that it did not go mouldy folded in the sail bag. Finally, we drove with Raul to the local flea market. We were looking for cheap used tools. Of course we also had brilliant fish tacos at Raul’s insider tip.

We’ll just hide from you that we found out on the bus back to San Diego. David was wrong about the time of our departure and that we almost missed our flight again.

So, we returned to cold and gray Switzerland. The trip was a great experience and made us want more!

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