My mother recently found one of the journals I kept during my wanderings in the 90’s, buried at the bottom of one of my old tin trunks that had been sitting out beside the woodpile at the lodge for a few years, and mailed it to me. Reading it has flung me back into the sweet mad whirl in which I lived for so many years, and brought back a peacock fantail of good and bad memories. Here’s an excerpt :
December 28 1992
Latitude N 21°50.51
Longitude W 105°52.89
After an overnight cruise south from Mazatlan, the shakes from the exhaustion after 2 or 3 hours sleep are chased away momentarily with a little caffeine.
At sunset, we had 5 sails up in a vain attempt to catch what little wind there was – jib, stay, main, mizzen staysail (which was actually the old chute from Taiping), and the mizzen. We must have looked magnificent in the fading light. But as the sun went down, the flukey light winds said ‘f–k it’ and went to bed. We dropped everything except the main and mizzen, tried in vain to get some speed, then gave up and sheeted them in tight and turned on the engine.
About three in the a.m., orange dots began to show up like measles on the radar. A veritable flotilla of fishing boats, all overlapping their nets in continuous lines miles long, raking everything alive out of the water. Miserable bastards. No running lights to speak of, of course, and the few there were obeyed no patterns, so we had a few tense hours winding our way amongst the boats, hoping like hell that we wouldn’t hit any of their nets. At least the sun-bright squid boats with their spidery armatures of lights pointing down into the water were easy to avoid.
Michael retired before we were through (a little worse for the beer I suspect) but we managed, Dale and I, to steer us through. Iron Mike, the autopilot, did most of the work – but we watched damn close, adjusting every minute or two. Came within a few hundred feet of a couple of them, which out on the open water felt close enough to smell their farts.
sh-t! Whales – I almost forgot. Not only was there a humpback in full breach not 200 feet from us as we approached Mazatlan a couple of days ago, which was my first glimpse, but shortly before sunset last night, while I was steering under sail, two more humpbacks surfaced and blew about 100 feet off the starboard beam. Curious, they turned to approach. The sheer size and majesty of those magnificent bastards terrified me. They came within about 20 feet of the rail, then, sounding, dove. Michael worried aloud that they’d ‘fall in love’ with the boat and bump it a little, rub against it some. They do that sometimes, he said. Maybe he was just messing with me. But they were at least as big as us, and we’re 71 feet LOA. I was all over the compass, heart pounding.
The whales surfaced again about half a mile off the port beam, having dived beneath us, then turned north and headed towards Mazatlan. We sailed on, slowly, sniffing for winds.