Where do we go? Voyage planning, dreaming, scheming

This past week has been full of dump runs, donation runs, selling what’s sellable and then, in the quiet hours of the late evenings, after the kidlets have gone to bed and we’ve watched the latest “episode” of our favorite cruisers (La Vagabond, Delos, Prism), we start talking about where we should go.

To be clear, we know where we are generally heading…. SOUTH.  But after we complete the Baja-Haha and make our way down the Mexican coastline… past Guatemala, Nicaragua, and on down to Panama… what should we do? Hang a left and brave the looonnngg passage to the Marquesas and spend our remaining months cruising the aquamarine waters of the South Pacific?  Or go right through the Panama Canal and endure what could be a somewhat punishing headwind/current through the Western Caribbean and explore the US Eastern seaboard (with hopes of crossing the Atlantic by way of the Azores and getting into the Med)? The pros of the latter voyage is safe harbor within a day’s sail during our entire journey, access to decent emergency medical care and proximity to major Level-1 trauma medical facilities in the US within a day’s flight.  (Not to mention always being close to your next destination without having to provision and prepare for a 3-4 week passage!) These factors are also the cons of the former voyage through the South Pacific. And while our hearts are pulled to the remote, pristine waters of the Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, the Line Islands and then circling back home via the Hawaiian Islands…. (i mean, seriously, check these out) we are all too aware of the dangers these remote places pose for our family in particular.

Choices, difficult ones, lie in analyzing and weighing the risks (and joys!) of each options and the implications of these decisions weigh upon us like a ton of bricks.

The South Pacific calls to us, both as individuals and as a couple.  I’ve always been a beach person.  Having spent more of my time during law school dreaming about or actually laying on the beaches of Hawaii than in class or with my nose in a law textbook, it’s just who I am. Who I’ve always been.  Every vacation/trip we’ve ever planned (with the exception of our “cold trip” to Vancouver and Whistler) has involved some iteration of beach, sun and sand.  Even our first trip to Italy “had” to include a swing through Southern Italy so as to spend time basking on the rocky beaches of Positano.  We’ve dreamed of visiting Tahiti and perhaps even vacationing in Bali, Bora Bora,the Cook Islands and beyond. But life has always kept us closer.

Unlike Ryan, who is a born and bred sailor and would love to experience going through the locks of the Panama Canal… I am a little less enthused.  While I think it would be super cool, especially for the kids to experiences…. when weighed against TAHITI… It’s pretty clear where I sit.  That said, the remoteness of these islands scares the bejeezuz out of me.  I mean, the locals of Tuamotu Islands (which, as I understand it, would be our first island and port of entry upon arriving in French Polynesia) rely on a once-weekly cargo ship for all of their essential supplies, including food, produce and other life essentials.  ONCE A WEEK.  Tahiti is probably our best and closest option for reasonable medical care and while there is far more air/sea traffic that occurs in/around this core island, we will have to educate ourselves on what our medical options are if we experience any true emergencies.

Like all sailors, much of what we decide to do will depend heavily upon weather, conditions and sailing seasons when we are, where we are, when we need to make these decisions.  But our research and relying on the thousands of sailors who have gone before us tells us that we essentially have 2 options:

  1. Haul booty from Cabo, where we will be in early November after completing the Baja-Haha rally, so as to get to the Panama canal by late November/early December for optimal conditions to get through the canal and sail the Caribbean before hurricane season, and seek shelter and fairer seas on the Eastern coast of the US or;
  2. Take our time from Cabo, enjoying all the amazing spots for cruisers (Mazatlan, Barre de Navidad, Zihuatenejo) in Mexico as well as parts of Nicaragua (with hopefully a land-based trip to Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America) and meander our way down to Panama.  Essentially waiting out the South Pacific’s cyclone season in the balmy waters of Central America during the winter.  Then, join the Pacific Puddle Jumpers and trek out to the South Pacific in early Spring 2017, safety in numbers, and hopefully with some other kid boats (and definitely with some boats with medical professionals!)

The smart thing to do, the safe thing, would be option 1. Always close (ish) to land and medical assistance. And given that we have two young children on board and two crew members with known medical conditions, that is definitely the safest option.  But it’s also the one that doesn’t make our hearts skip a beat.

We yearn for the South Pacific.  If we only get to do this ONCE, that is, if this is our only chance to cruise together as a family of four, we want to do our DREAM… and that, sigh, is the South Pacific.

So…. yea.  Choices are hard.  Luckily we have time, as we make our way down the coast of California, to see if the decision makes itself.  Do we love sailing together? Do we hate it? Are we not cut out for life afloat? Does one of us get unbearably seasick? If we love it, how committed are we to getting to Panama in about a month, just after getting to Cabo?  If we love it, how much do we want to slowly enjoy Mexico and Central America?

For now… let’s ponder this gorgeous view–arriving in the Marquesas (Fatuhiva) by boat… courtesy of Sailing with Mark and Vicki.


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