The Grail’s Tale-a cruising blog

The Grails Tale 1,AT LAST

Twas two weeks before Christmas
                           and all through the boathouse
Not a creature was stirring,
                           neither barnacle nor mouse.
The bottom was scrubbed clean
                            and the zincs all renewed
At the Mexican boatyard
                            while the crew was enthused.
The sails were all hung
                             on the mast with great care
In hopes that the boat
                              soon would be "there."
With holds full of goodies
                               we sailed from the bay
For we long have been waiting
                                for this special day.

And so it was, eight years, five months and four days after arriving back in the U.S. from New Zealand with our old boat, Dulcinea. We sailed south across the Mexican boarder from San Diego aboard our new Holy Grail – cruising destination, The World, time schedule, as long as possible. As this is written we are slowly making our way down the Baja Peninsula, mostly waiting for wind or for storm fronts to pass. We plan to make a quick trip through Mexico to Costa Rica and Panama to cruise some of the unihabited islands we missed last time. Then we hope to visit Cocos Island, which legend says is hiding a fabulous boot of pirates treasure!

Calm and Comfortable

Then on to the Galapagos Islands for another look at that fantastic place, and Easter Island, which is our eastern most destination in the South Pacific. After touring those monolithic statues, we will point Holy Grail west to Pitcairn Island to visit the descendants of the Bounty mutineers, before sailing through the Tuamotus to Tahiti. This letter is lacking tales of exotic places, but that will have to wat until the next edition.

During the last three months, we were in the final panic sprint, the stage which might precede cardiac arrest, halfway between sigh and gasp. Steph was engaged in an insidious plot to prevent our departure by ensuring that the Grail sinks so deep in the mud that she will never be coaxed out of the slip. Every day for months, she returned home to the boat after dark with cart loads of grains, beans, nuts, seeds, wines, cans, and packaged foods of every description, intent on sinking the boat! Then she worked until midnight sorting, repackaging and hiding the stuff from ever being found… at least by me. She does, however, have her top secret black book of codes, which charts every nook and cranny to keep track of this mountain of supplies. In those final months, six thousand pounds of supplies and equipment were stowed on board!

There are many opportunities to obtain basic supplies in Mexico and Central America. But at the time, preferred organic and low fat health oriented products and many of the other foods we use are unavailable, including seeds for sprouting and whole grains to grind into flour. Most of those items are unheard of outside the U.S. intil one reaches New Zealand or Australia. We grind most of our own flour to avoid the bleached white variety and weevils. So the long distance cruiser needs to carry as much as possible to last at least until reaching “down under.” Supplies of any kind in the islands are very limited except in Tahiti where they are quite expensive.

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To illustrate the scope of this provisioning project, some of the quantities we hae, all in pounds, are: 60 of wheat berries, 45 of oats, 48 of honey, 40 of pasta, 50 of rice, 30 of popcorn, 50 about of assorted nuts (not counting Steph and Howard), about 100 litres of wine, and ten cases of tea (two gross bags to the case!). In addition to food, there was a major accumulation of spare parts, charts and resource material. We had upt on board and indexed over 900 charts (this was before the digital age) from around the world, all stowed neatly in geographic envelopes under our bunk mattress, which became six inches higher.

We love being back at sea and at anchor, with time to notice and focus on the marine and bird life. The luxurious simplicity of life not fragmented by telephone, television, internet, newspapers and othe “essentials” can not be comprenended unless experienced. We have each read several books a week since leaving, books that have been hoarded for years, while we thirsted for the time to read uninterrupted. Our fare has been mostly fish caught under sail. Hundreds and even thousands of miles from any city, the atmosphere is crystal clear and infigoration. And we are finally wearing shorts every day. We are only 90 miles from the official boundary of the tropics, the 23rd parallel, and already the giant frigate birds are wheeling effortlessly oerhead, and warm water fish are often available for our table.

Visiting small, remote Mexican villages where practically everyone gives us a broad smile and a shy “Hola,” where there is no influence of TV violence no paved streets, no hostility or fear, is a satisfying and centering experience. Isn’t this how the world really should be?

So far, the highlights of our cruise have been the scenic and peaceful San Benitos Islands which are western outliers of the Baja Pennisula, about 30 miles offshore. There are three “islas” which form a crescent shapped protected anchorage, so filled with marine life any city aquarium would be proud. West San Benito has a Mexican fish camp on it’s eastern shore which provides shelter for the abalone and lobster fishermen. The rest of the shoreline is home to giant elephant seals and sea lions, while etensive kelp beds hide striped bass. Every casual glance from the boat reveals teeming wildlife.

About halfway down the Baja is Bahia Tortuga, Turtle Bay, where we were hit with a 50 knot storm at anchor. Naturally, the worlst of it came on a black night, blowing striaght into the anchorage, turning it into a treacherous lee shore. With a four mile fetch across the bay, seas grew large rapidly. With radar and an engine powerful enough to make good speed against such strong winds and seas, we had no trouble moving to the windward side of the bay.

Finally looking backward, we learned how to sail all over again. Last year in September we sailed up to the Ventura/Santa Barbara area, about 175 miles north of San Diego. It had been almost 8 years since coming back from New Zealand with our old boat that we had done much sailing. The Santa Barbara Channel between the mainland and the northern Channel Islands is a rough patch of water, with winds often over 30 knots. We learned what the Grail could do, and how we needed to help her do it. We found our new boat capable beyond our imagination, comfortable and dry on dek, and far easier to sail than our previous 32′ sloop, which displaced almost half Holy Grail.

It was great fun to have the “Admiral’s” sister visit in Santa Barbara. She endured a romp stomping close reach 30 knot blowacross the channel to Santa Cruz Island. On another day, the rest of the family was nearly becalmed. We enjoyed taking friends sailing and visiting in practically every harbor between San Diego and Santa Barbara, renewed old friendships, and then sadly said our goodbys.

As we sailed away from San Diego in December heading south of the border, we knew we would miss family and friends. We were satisfied that we had done our best to prepare for our adventures, and pleased that we had just wrapped up all the city life details, which released us for the next phase of this wonderful life.