It’s been a year packed full of learning, moving to a new country, learning a new language and culture, making new friends, all this while learning to sail and figuring out the whole slew of things that come along with owning a sailboat. In 2018, Echo traveled over 1,500 nautical miles, thoroughly exploring the sea from La Paz to Bahia de los Angeles. Where we once thought the sea was going to spoil us with calm, we realize now it’s a pretty technical place to learn to sail. The Baja, a 900-mile-long peninsula dividing the Sea of Cortez from the Pacific, is extremely mountainous, making the Baja mainly inaccessible for terrestrial travel, and offering a variety of unique, small, beautiful, and remote anchorages for cruisers. The combination of mountains, desert, and sea that meet here create strong, funneling winds that make it challenging for ocean goers year round. After a few sleepless nights due to unwelcomed swells, we quickly learned that weather plays an enormous factor on how well you sleep at night, and picking the right anchorage and travel days are paramount. We’ve been thankful to hear from circumnavigators that say if you can learn to sail here, you can sail anywhere. Despite the steep learning curve, our time spent on the water has been magical.
We hauled out our boat in early February to have a custom hardtop dodger made by a pair of the hardest working and best people you could meet. We’re incredibly thankful for this relationship, as now we know the best guys around for any project and we’re lucky enough to also call them our friends. With family and friends around on April 5th we were beyond excited to splash Echo once again. She was feeling more and more like home with each passing month. We provisioned and set sail south, making our second night crossing with comfortable conditions, 120Nm to Isla Carman. After only a few days in the area we had already experienced more nature than we could have imagined. From big horn sheep (on an island?!) to a massive curious school of manta rays that completely surrounded our dinghy. Gorging ourselves on chocolate clams and fish. On numerous occasions we had dolphins playing in our dinghy bow and even saw them swimming at night in the bioluminescence. During the year, we’ve seen countless turtles, dolphin megapods, sea birds and whales. On more than one occasion, Echo was engulfed by an enormous school of mobula rays and for a few moments the beautiful turquoise anchorage turned black.
In late October, we anchored in a small cove in the northern sea, near a group of what we found out later to be a resident fin whale population of over a dozen whales (the fastest and second largest whale species). This was a nerve-racking experience, we were the only boat and during the night the 80 foot whales’ loud breathing seemed to be only feet away from Echo. We even had a few too-close-for-comfort experiences in the dinghy when they surfaced within 15 feet of our little bow. However, upon reflection, it was an amazing experience and one we hope to have again.
In our first hurricane season, Echo sat through three named storms. It was intense but interesting to watch them develop and follow their courses. Listening to our SSB radio to get storm updates, we were thankful for the radio community and enjoyed that experience as well. We learned through these series of storms and other strong isolated wind events that Echo is outfitted for such weather and thankfully handled them all with grace. However grateful for Echo’s performance, as new sailors (and I’m sure experienced sailors alike) knowing a storm is close and could/would/will hit takes a lot of mental and physical preparation. There is a lot of strategy involved in choosing where to drop your anchor, how much chain to put out, to put out a second anchor, wind direction, depth, other boats, other boats’ gear and position and the list goes on. Then we all hunker down and hope for the best. The storms were always followed by a survival of the hurricane party. We even went to one where boats that drug anchor, also known as drag queens, passed around a dress. A scary thought!
Over the year, besides being together, being on our boat, and seeing all the amazing wildlife our main highlights have been, (but not limited to!!!) Meeting and learning from other sailors, the full moon lagoon float in the northern sea, incredible visibility for snorkeling and exploring the underwater wilderness. Hiking around several of the anchorages, climbing to high peaks to view our little home. Swimming for our showers, learning to hold our breath and become better free divers, fishing and the array of fish we’ve caught and seen. Realizing our favorite food is a fresh sashimi platter with a heap of avocado, cucumber and jalapeños and our favorite drink is a cold ‘michelada’ (Beer with fresh lime, clamato juice, and a few other sauces, drank over ice). Having our first guest on the boat, crew- Larry (Lauren’s dad), who sat through the developing hurricane Bud with us. We loved having his company and look forward to sharing more with him and others who come aboard. But above all we have loved being in Mexico. From every place we’ve been, fish camp to city, the people have been inspiring in their inviting, humble nature. And we’re proud and excited to call this country home for a few more years to come.