We’re going to try something a little different to finally find the ending of this big crazy trip that started three years ago. Harmony still has a final series of Passage Notes percolating in her brain from the month-long trip up north from Zihuatanejo to Guaymas, but it’s funny how a person wants to hang on to those final memories for a little while longer.
You can click on the first picture and scroll through using the arrow keys, and if you mouseover the pictures, the captions will appear.
Prepare for a rapid transformation in 3. . 2. . 1
Zihuatanejo bay from the air as Harmony returned to Mexico in April. Harmony had also managed to acquire a car and drive it as far as Arizona where it would be more immediately retrievable from Northern Mexico. In the time we were apart, we had already sold Serenity and completed all the ownership transfer paperwork from afar. Now all that was left to do was move out of our apartment and sail 1,000 miles north to Guaymas in the Sea of Cortez for the in-person handoff. Craigslist is the best.
At its peak around February, we counted upwards of 45 boats in the bay. Zihuatanejo is the southernmost stop many people make in Mexico before turning back north for hurricane hidey holes, continuing south toward Central America, or turning west across the Pacific. It was a good place to call home for 3 months but we were eager to get on the move.
Our apartment on the second floor, about a block from the beach, great view of the hills. The Shawshank Redemption restaurant and bar was two doors down, complete with enormous hand-painted mural of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman from the movie poster. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear to be the tourist draw that one might hope.
(P.S. – If you want the hookup for a great apartment with the friendliest landlady in the perfect location, hit us up.)
One last look at our apartment. To move out we had to pack all of our stuff in dry bags and push the inflatable dinghy in several trips up and over the tall surf break in between gnarly sets and swim it out to Serenity in the bay. One time on the way back to shore to reload a breaker flipped the dinghy with me in it. The onlookers on the beach were kind enough to help me gather the stuff that had scattered along the shoreline. Harmony preferred to swim out with a packed dry bag while I paddled. I can’t say whether it was the best move we ever had or the worst.
Tack will definitely miss this apartment.
A bucket of beers on the beach in Zihuatanejo. I mean, we couldn’t work every day. Have you seen the guys with the water jet boots? That looks awesome, not that we need to spend more money on new and exciting modes of transportation.
Leaving Zihua bay for the last time, heading north against the prevailing winds and currents. I can sum it up in two words…lumpy and slow. The farewell journey begins.
Late afternoon on calm seas, after the sun has lost its cruel strength. A light breeze carried us steadily along. When you read Harmony’s passage notes, you’ll see how rare this was in the first half of our trip. We routinely clocked less than 2 knots under full sail. We were in need of serious recuperation whenever we could afford to stop.
On a sidenote, the brand new solar panels I’d just installed worked wonderfully (Renogy 100W). Amazing what just three years have done for solar technology and manufacturing.
Harmony getting clean and becoming one with everything somewhere off the coast.
FYI, the position pictured is recommended as the superior method of body skiing for the following reasons: 1) it is extremely comfortable to let your body go limp and simply take the ride; 2) there’s no standing wave pushing directly in your face; 3) if you think sideways, it feels like being lifted into the sky by a big red balloon; and 4) there is a significantly lesser chance of wrapping jellyfish around your genitalia.
Contemplating existential mysteries.
Final shout-out to the outdoor kitchen. We both love and hate you. What will dinner be like when there are no longer stairs between the prep area and the stove? I’m going to miss watching Harmony Jazzercise a hot meal.
Harmony watching the water. This is probably the activity we have done more than any other over the course of the trip, challenged only by the number of hours we spent playing nerd games on the iPad or talking about the future.
Lest you start feeling a lack of sunset photos. What the coming photos won’t show you…the time diesel spilled and pooled in the back lazarette and Harmony had to clean it all up in sloppy seas, the myriad creatures that came to bid us farewell, the many many times we spent bashing into waves at an achingly slow pace, the brilliant red hue of Venus as it set in front of us every night, the hours we spent reminiscing and dreaming of the future, the time we dove on Serenity to clean 3 months of growth from her belly and emerged with gaping wounds from barnacles, the kiss of the morning sun on bare skin, the time we blew out the main (again) in 14 knots of wind, the deep quiet and serenity that consumed us, the time we came terrifyingly close to freighter at night, all the friends we ran into on the way north (by pure luck and chance).
As mentioned before, the passage North was painfully slow and oftentimes uncomfortable. In order to salvage our sanity, we had to stop and get our drink on in several locations – Bahia Tenacatita, Bahia Chamela, Punta de Mita, and Mazatlan.
There’s something unspeakably satisfying about swimming to shore from a boat to drink booze out of a pineapple. Memories of bad passages start to fade at the edges and everything is pretty okay.
Islas Marietas in Banderas Bay. We picked up an old friend from high school and his main squeeze for a sailing tour around the bay. Our day on the water was followed by a bonfire on the beach with cruising friends, old and new.
I will miss the sea in all her moods.
We had a visitor one day while traveling. Harmony plotted for hours to prevent Tack from realizing the presence of the stowaway, but eventually he caught on and kept trying to sneak up to the bow when we were preoccupied (sneaky little bugger). Eventually we had to shut him in the cabin until our little friend had rested enough to continue on his way.
The hill marking the channel entrance to Mazatlan. We missed this port on the way down, so it was good to include it in our gastro tour in search of Mexico’s best tacos. We made new friends and we saw old friends here too — the first boat we connected with on our trip — and were reminded how lucky we were to have met them.
Wandering around Mazatlan before meeting our friends from S/V Tardis for an afternoon of reverie and reminiscing. We met them on the radio on a stormy night in Turtle Bay two and a half years ago, our first friends in a new land, and here we were again right as we neared the end. The universe works in mysterious ways.
Old town Mazatlan.
Both of us were eager to be back in the Sea of Cortez for many reasons: we both really missed the desert, the people are rugged and resourceful and friendly, the sunsets are unrivaled, but most importantly the forecast showed south winds…which meant downwind sailing for us.
Sunsets that just keep giving.
I took hundreds of pictures of this sunset…every time I put my camera down it got better and beckoned me to take another…and another…and another…
Our final port before we reached Guaymas. Neither one of us was quite ready for the end.
Sea of Cortez sunrise. This place is magical.
A pair of fishermen, both older, one deaf, stopped by to see if we would fill up their water bottles (2 2L Coke bottles). They initially declined our offer of goodies (canned pork, tortillas, cookies, grapefruit) but we both insisted and loaded them up. The next morning they woke us up at day break with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And just like that, we were back in the Sea of Cortez. It was like landing on an alien planet. With new perspective, we got a whole new appreciation. This day we hiked up an arroyo to see what we could find. The answer was both ‘not much’ and ‘so much’.
This is my best attempt at Harmony’s book jacket photo.
And this is my best attempt at Jeff’s book jacket photo.
We both made a rookie mistake on this hike: shorts and sandals in the prickly desert. The scratched up legs and occasional cactus spine were worth it.
We sat and marveled at our old beauty for awhile…our home, our vessel, our adventure machine. We miss her.
Guaymas! A dock! Holy wow, this is it. We’ll never take her out again.
Side note: that dang outboard is still running after several drownings. Goonies never say die.
Our trip post Delorme purchase. That’s a lot of miles right there.
The process of cleaning every nook and cranny took almost a week. We also found a way to get to all those “honey-do” projects we’d been putting off for months or sometimes years. By the time we finished, we were ready to take her out all over again. Dangit.
An introductory sailing outing with one of Serenity’s new owners and his one-armed crewmate. They went on to have a summer packed with adventure in the Sea of Cortez. It made us mostly happy and nostalgic (sometimes a little blue) to click through the Flickr feed.
We were so glad to know Serenity was going to be in good hands.
2,000 miles in 2 days. Harmony performed a logistical ballet to get the car to Guaymas, and we tested the suspension with as many possessions as we could fit inside. We had to unpack the whole car once at a Mexican checkpoint, but in all the drive was far more pleasant than the originally planned bash up the coast.
Back in Oregon! The drive was long, but short…2,000 miles in 2 days? That would have taken us at least three weeks aboard Serenity.
Within a few days of our return home, we bought a travel trailer and camped out in my parents’ backyard until a better idea occurred to us. Don’t ask me why we thought it was a good idea to share a tiny space again — Stockholm Syndrome I guess. Harmony still had a part-time research gig and a slew of job interviews, and I had the whole summer before my grad program was scheduled to start. Here began another new adaptation.
Trying to keep is small and simple…but simple is never as simple as you think.
Tack hanging out in his “tunnel” under the couch between the living area and the pet door. One of the first trailer projects was to make a special panel with a pet door in it. The poor cat had been cooped up for long enough.
The fleet, stopped to rest along I-5 on the way to the Columbia River Gorge. We kept Tack in the trailer for the first leg of the drive, and when we checked on him here, he was sitting at the head of the bed as regal as you please. After Serenity, nothing will faze this cat ever again.
This is going to be a little jarring, so bear with us. During the last month-long sail up the Mexican coast, we were already planning how the next boat would fit in our lives. Our theme was, “Trading the macro exploration for the micro in our home waters.” We couldn’t imagine a life without the ability to be on the water, so it wasn’t long after we got home that the Craigslist trolling began. We looked at a few boats that didn’t meet our expectations, then on the day we were set to take our trailer up to the Gorge, this little Northwest 21 appeared. We drove to Tillamook the very next day, and this is what we saw after the tarp was snatched dramatically away.
The boat had been a part of the seller’s family for 35 years, and the love showed.
Bathroom with a door? Check. Room for 4? Check (if you’re close). Well thought-out kitchen? Check. All fiberglass? Check. It’s perfect.
Final criterion: Is it super cute? Check. All right then, it’s settled.
That is a wood stove. I know. It’s amazing. This is the first thing that’s made me excited for an Oregon winter.
We bought Puffin on the spot. Less than a month after we got home, we were boat owners again. The previous owners had loved Puffin so dearly but age was conspiring against their ability to sail her. We were inspired by their stories and are supremely honored to be her new owners.
Tack monitoring the neighborhood at the RV Park. It was a very cat friendly park. Once again he had adapted to his environment.
The fleet is complete.
I think it’s love.
On our fourth anniversary, returned to the Great Pacific Northwest. What a ride it’s been. This stream was in our “backyard” and we hiked up there at every opportunity.
The walk between the RV park where we spent June and July and the Chevron with the Mini Mart, which gave the best provisions for 10 miles.
Our summer cruising grounds on the Columbia River.
Proof that we are still together. Living in less than 30 feet for 3 out of the first 4 years of marriage is intense…ly rewarding :).
Our first attempt at launching Puffin in Cascade Locks on the Columbia River. The wind was very strong that day, the river was low, and we were not fully mentally prepared, so this day ended up being just a dry run.
The second attempt. Harmony is figuring out how we’re supposed to raise the mast.
I see your butt shot and I raise you a butt shot.
Happy girl with our new little boat. Funny story: our friend Jared from SV Reisender – cruising friend from our earlier days in Portland and one of the first cruisers we saw on our trip south (along with his captain Scott) – was working on the sternwheeler pictured here. We caught up with them over brunch on Hayden Island. It comes full circle.
Puffin on the river. One of the first lessons was how to maneuver in a tight marina in a boat we hadn’t yet learned how to steer. I felt like a beginner all over again.
Hmm, that’s a little more wind chop than we were expecting. The wind in the Gorge is famous and blowy. On the average afternoon it would be 17-20 knots with gusts to 25…a little too much wind for a relaxing day on the river. Some days we clocked gusts up to 35 knots…”damn, the wind is really nuking today” is a common refrain on high wind days. Puffin is definitely more of a light wind boat…
We’re sailing again! Let the next exploration begin! For the record, downwind sailing in 17-20 knots is fun…it’s the going back upwind part that really sucks.
Super blowy conditions combined with a new boat that behaves completely differently means that it took us three outings just to feel comfortable enough to put up full sail. The highschoolers in these little race boats passed us like we were standing still. So much for badass ocean sailors.
Watching kayakers and SUP boarders ride the standing wave from the sternwheeler like geese in a draft. There is a lot of activity on the Columbia River.
Aboard Puffin, our niece trying out our favorite pastime from Serenity’s cruising days. Less relaxing to be dragged through a cold river than a warm ocean, but few things beat the essential pleasure of wind and water enacted on body. Plus she’s like 9 so it’s not that hard to entertain her.
“That gust was strong!”
–Harmony B., scientist
Thinking back and dreaming forward.
Moving the boat from Cascade Locks to Portland involves locking through Bonneville Dam. Don’t tell Panama, but we think these locks are just as cool.
It’s a significant drop.
We were tied up next to a tug named Dauby pushing TWO barges full of sawdust downriver. I bet it’s pretty cool to be a tugboat operator on the Columbia.
Downwind sailing on the second day of our trip downriver. If this doesn’t make a person feel free, then I don’t know what will.
Columbia River Basalt. Totally mesmerizing.
Gentlemen sail with their feet.
Cruising down the Columbia toward Portland enjoying a perfect summer day. This is the point in the trip where the wind stopped blowing from the east (downwind conditions) and started in from the west (upwind conditions). We sailed the rest of the 25 miles upwind, downriver to Portland.
Dragonflies abound on the Columbia. Once Harmony found her dream job down in Salem, we pulled up stakes in the gorge and migrated closer to our new life. Puffin will be our city apartment…our retreat…a reminder of a different kind of life.
Sailing with friends on the river, back to the beginning.
Portland, where our trip began. It’s a different boat, and we cheated a little bit, but it feels good to have made it home.
Now when can we leave again?