After losing our long awaited shot at a free ride across the Gulf of California, we decided to finally get out of La Paz and go for the ferry to Mazatlan. We were a bit bummed that the sailboat thing didn’t work out, but were ready to get on with life. However, about halfway to the ferry terminal we passed a dry dock shipyard and serendipitously saw the S/V Skabenga – a boat we had heard was looking for crew. The 44 foot catamaran was quite a sight raised up out of the water. The captain, Bruce Harbour invited us aboard to check out the boat, and let us know that he was heading to a place called Isla Isabella, and the mainland soon after and could take two of us, if we wanted. It was a tempting, yet conflicting offer, since our group was currently at four people. But the chance to sail across the sea on that boat was too good of an offer to pass up.
That night we camped halfway between the ferry terminal and the shipyard where Skabenga was docked. After deep contemplation, we decided that fate must dictate our future. In an epic series of rock-paper-scissors tournaments to decide who would call and who would flip, we tossed an American quarter to see who would sail and who would ferry. Chris called tails as the coin flew through the smoke of the fire and landed decisively with George Washington looking up into the stars. Kanaan and Kaitlyn, Team Bausler, would be sailing to the mainland.
The next day all four of us went back to the shipyard to tell Captain Bruce the news. Luckily, he and his first mate Mouse took pity on Chris and Max and said, “Sure, why not?!” Since it was such a short journey, squeezing two more on wouldn’t be that big of a deal! We were very relieved and excited to hear the good news. But they also delivered an additional piece of news. Due to the weather system rolling in over the weekend, we wouldn’t be leaving until next week. After a bit of debate and reassessment, we decided that it was worth the wait, since this boat seemed more dependable and they would be taking us further south than Mazatlan anyway. With a ride across secured for next Thursday, we took off for El Pescadero, 100 km south of La Paz.
Kaitlyn was feeling the need to justify her “bike trip” so her and Kanaan pedaled across the Baja peninsula while Chris and Max stashed their gear and hitchhiked. Team Bausler was stoked to get out of La Paz, although it wasn’t easy. The commute through the city was a bit intense but luckily they got taken in that night by a generous man named Fili, who was caretaking a deserted resort in the middle of the desert. After an early wakeup call the next day they made it to El Pescadero in good time to meet up with Chris, Max, and our Argentinean friends that we had split up with two weeks earlier.
Chris, Max, and half of the Argentineans went mountain biking with the owners of the house they had been staying in. They were stoked to get a bit more aggressive than our usual touring bikes allow, and luckily only managed to crash into cacti a few times. Meanwhile Kanaan and Kaitlyn hung out at the Baja Extreme Surf Camp, playing ping pong and tasting some smoked sierra fish that brought back memories of home brewed salmon. That night the Bauslers attended a unique multimedia event consisting of a slideshow of local surfing, fishing, and fiesta photos while the husband of the photographer tore up the air waves on his electric guitar. At the event, they met Brady, Troy, Dan and Ben, two pairs of brothers from Kansas who had rented a beautiful home next to the beach at El Cerritos, one of the best surf breaks in the area. Fellow adventurers themselves, they invited us to come stay at their place to enjoy the good life for a few days.
Our time at El Cerritos was pretty ideal. Ten minute walks to the beach with borrowed surfboards gave us some awesome surf sessions in fun waves with very little crowds. When not surfing we visited the El Pescadero farmers market to get a good taste of localized living in Baja. We helped host a carefully planned and perfectly executed multicultural party at the house where half of the attendees were English speakers and the other half Espanol. Everyone spoke slowly and deliberately to ensure successful communication. We made a bonfire using “fire by friction” techniques, shared some delicious dishes, and got a tour of the constellations. The next morning we got a free yoga class from Dulce the movement specialist, waking our bodies up for a day of waves. On our last night at the house, Brady showed us a film that he actually helped create called Within Reach about a couple that toured the States on bicycles looking for sustainable communities (sound familiar?). It was great to reflect on and share our experiences with the Kansas crew in El Cerritos. Thanks for an incredible time dudes!
After El Pescadero, Chris and Max bussed back to La Paz while Kanaan and Kaitlyn pushed for two days against a gnarly headwind (that one that we were trying to avoid in the sailboat). Other than the wind, the ride back was largely uneventful other than the giant scorpion that was crawling on the tent as it was getting packed up in the morning. Chris and Max prepared the boat and bikes for the journey and the Bauslers arrived at the shipyard just in time to celebrate Captain Bruce’s 48th birthday. After a raging party with a variety of travelers and ruffians, the next day was spent getting the boat in the water and making final preparations. Two weeks after arriving in La Paz, it was finally time to get off the Baja!
With 10-20 knots of Northwesterly wind and 2-5 foot seas, the conditions were almost perfect for our first multi-night sailing trip. As the mountains of Baja got smaller and smaller, S/V Skabenga ripped past three or four different mono hulled sailboats going menos rapido in the same direction. We raised the spinnaker and dropped the fishing lines, searching for dinner and speed. Everyone took shifts at the helm, keeping an eye on the course at all times. It was quite a sight coming out of wheel watch on the first morning to see that we were completely surrounded by water, no land in sight. Of all of us, only the captain had ever seen that before.
Those days crossing the gulf seemed so eventful, but other than the fish we caught there doesn’t seem to be much to write about. Between changing the sails and the skipjack, horse-eyed jack, and marlin bites, we all spent a lot of time playing card games, reading books, and watching the wind, waves, and clouds. As Isla Isabella came within sight, Chris pulled in a big old ~80 lbs. sailfish who welcomed us to the island.
Within minutes of dropping anchor, the beards were in the water. Surrounded by frigates and boobies overhead in the air, and perched on shore, the ecosystems below the surface were equally as lively. Visual memories from Blue Planet and Finding Nemo came to mind as we explored some of the best snorkeling zones we’d ever encountered. After a deluxe dinner of beer battered fish tacos we awoke the next morning fully inspired to find more fish. We followed Bruce around with flippers and paddle boards as he speared a couple of triggerfish for lunchtime ceviche and a horse-eyed jack for dinnertime steaks.
After an epic snorkeling session listening to whale songs and diving into caves, we took Skadinghy to the Island to visit the birds. As a nationally protected heritage site free from invasive species, Isla Isabella is smothered with wildlife. Every tree has at least a few families nesting in it, but the minefield of nests cover the ground between the trees as well. Boobie and frigate eggs, hatchlings, juveniles, adults, and deceased elders lay, sat, squawked, and flew in all directions. In addition to the birds was a resident population of iguanas, lazing about in the afternoon sun. It was exciting to be surrounded by so much energetic life.
That night we watched a lightning storm on the horizon from clear starry moon skies while playing pirates dice. Max came one game short of winning the required five for a pirates dice champions t-shirt. But after watching a humpback breach fest and catching a mahi mahi en route to the mainland, Bruce and Mouse gave us our official Skabenga crew uniforms.
We were originally planning on sailing to Puerto Vallarta, but Bruce got word that his son would be meeting him in San Blas so our time to jump ship had come. After some great times aboard the Skabenga, it was hard to pry our butts off those cushy padded seats. As we shuttled our gear to the beach through the humid heat of the evening and got attacked by no-see-ems for the first time in six months, it was clear that we were definitely somewhere else. Time to see what tropical cycling through mainland Mexico is all about…