Destinations, Deliberations, and Decisions

Between the weather and the sailing resources available, we always knew we would linger in San Diego. But as the fates would have it, our time here has coincided with the start of the fair weather window to cross the Pacific. Keeping in mind that our first season in the South Pacific has some time restraints involved—we would need to be in New Zealand by November to be south of the tropical hurricane season—the decision of how to spend the next few weeks quickly became the decision of how to spend the next year.

It's part of the typical 'milk run' to sail south to La Paz, across the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan, and then across the Pacific. However, one thing we've already learned is feeling rushed is a significant source of stress for both of us. Doubly so for Dominic, who feels the pressure of keeping pace compounded with the pressure of trying to get Helios outfitted to be as comfortable, safe and efficient underway as possible.

As a result, rushing through to Puerto Vallarta and onto New Zealand by November of 2015 was beginning to sound way too hectic for us. From this realization we were faced with two very enticing options: do we spend a year in Mexico? or head west toward the South Pacific?

Here were the main points of our deliberation:

  • We've heard AMAZING things about cruising in Mexico. Multiple cruiser friends that have done the Pacific crossing ended up spending two whole years in Mexico, and their stories include hopping in the water and picking up a lobster off the sea floor and grilling it for dinner. The whales would be in season in the Sea of Cortez, and there are great white sharks to dive with in Cabo San Lucas.
  • Sailing in Mexico is known as 'cruising with training wheels' because supplies and well equipped marinas are easily at hand. Friends have also indicated that cruising in Mexico offered a great opportunity to learn to work together as a crew and build best practice routines aboard.
  • I've been lucky enough to cruise the Sea of Cortez previously with my family; and between the two of us, this would be our sixth trip to Central America (cruising south to Panama was a potential option, in addition to Mexico).
  • There isn't usually a whole lot of wind to speak of. Cruising Mexico generally means motoring Mexico, which is pricey at six miles per gallon of diesel.
  • There is a more diverse group of cruisers in the South Pacific, both in terms of age and nation of origin.
  • Hurricane season in Mexico poses a huge complication. We would need to find and fund a hurricane safe marina. It's impossible to get insurance, and many boats were destroyed in the storms that passed over Baja this fall. Yikes. 
  • From our home base in Northern California, we can explore Mexico with relative ease in the future, whereas getting to spend a second or third sailing season in the South Pacific, North Pacific, or Australia feels like more a once (or twice!) in a lifetime experience.

So, in the end, we've decided to take our time between San Diego and Ensenada, optimizing the resources available in both places to prepare Helios to cross the Pacific as soon as possible. Once we're ready we'll have to wait for a good weather window, but another advantage to this plan is that departing from a more northerly latitude will yield a shorter passage to the Marquesas overall and fairer winds upon our departure.

We're tremendously, stupendously excited to have so much time ahead of us in the Pacific islands. We're also feeling in awe of the fact that our next overnight passage will be overnight for some 20 plus nights. It does feel like a shame to be so close to so much fun in Mexico and sail right passed it, but there seems to be another lesson to learn. Despite the adventures in store, Mexico will be the first of many beautiful places we won't have time to see.