Cruising '93 - '98

The Romany Star left San Diego in December '93 with two young neophyte cruisers aboard. Barbara and I had $8,000 in our pockets, and figured we might be out a year or two.

Over the next five years we visited many beautiful destinations, made some friends and a little money along the way.

Actually Barb was the far more accomplished sailor when we started out. She had lived aboard for many years and had sailed to Hawaii and back. I learned plenty from her.

Our cruise started by sailing from San Diego to Zihuatanejo Mexico, with an unplanned stop in Cabo San Lucas for repairs. This old bridge was the only way to get into town from the dinghy dock. Today it has been replaced by a beautiful new concrete one.
As hurricane season approached we moved back up the coast into the Sea of Cortez. By the middle of the summer we were only a couple hundred miles South of the Border.
Summer in the Sea was HOT but the fishing was good. The small group of cruising boats formed a strong community, helping with problems, and sharing meals for company and entertainment.

Note that this was the first fish I caught on a spear. Not tasty and when not held at arms length pretty small too.
By Thanksgiving we had moved back South to La Paz. This potluck was amazing, especially since I had just stepped off a 24 hour bus ride from San Diego where I went to make and spend money.
There were a couple trips up to San Diego to work on the software that powers Downwind Marine. Chris (the owner) kept me fueled up on M&M's since I had to work all night, and have the system ready to go by 8AM every day I was there. The income was small, but since it was in boat parts at cost it made a huge difference in the Cruising Kitty.
The biggest part of our income in the first couple years of cruising came from delivering boats from paradise back to the US. When the cruising dream meets up with the reality of living in a small space a long way from the nearest laundromat, owners often fly home and have the boat follow. Since Barb has a Coast Guard license, and we were recognized as competent, we were able to get a number of these well paying jobs.

On the delivery of the Ivory Goose from La Paz to San Francisco, we took another crew and the owner along as far as Cabo San Lucas.

We spent the Spring in Mazatlan where we hauled the boat for maintenance in a yard more accustomed to big steel shrimp boats.

We attended Carnival festivities, and Paul sold some software work to the local bus cooperative.

We thought we would spend at least another year in Mexico. We were having a good time, and we were actually money ahead. I was negotiating a long term software job in Mazatlan.

Then the Peso crashed!

We decided to turn our cash into food, loaded the boat down, and headed South toward Costa Rica.

Along the way we saw the cliff divers in Acapulco, and Barb had a birthday party at sea.
Our next stop was in El Salvador where I rode ashore in a motorized dugout canoe.

Later that day we traded some clothing for the beautiful shrimp they were gathering with hand nets.
As we got more familiar with Central America we began to realize that the daily beautiful sunsets would all to often be followed by the nightly lightening show. When you hear the sizzle before you see the lightening you know it's too close.
An evening get together would always have a few that tried to stay dry, as we all tipped a glass to the Rain Gods.
We visited steaming volcanoes in Costa Rica, and resorts in Nicaragua that had hosted Fidel Castro for government conferences.
The money making opportunities continued to present themselves. We delivered this boat from the Pacific side of Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, and up to Florida.

Little boats share the locks with BIG boats, and they get REAL close. Yes there was lightening to raise the tension.
Our next job was working aboard the dive boat Inzan Tiger. We had the privilege of diving at remote Isla Malpelo with some of the premier dive photographers in the world.
Our trips were two weeks long to Isla Malpelo, where there is not even an anchorage. We had to drift away from the island all night, then motor up close in the morning. The attraction there was primarily the huge schools of Hammerhead Sharks.

Many times we would swim within arms length of these beautiful creatures that were up to ten feet in length. There were also turtles, Manta Rays, and huge Moray Eels to draw the divers attention.
When our time in Costa Rica came to an end we made a quick trip to the Canal Zone to provision, and then began our adventure into the South Pacific.
Stopping in the Galapagos was one of the high points of our adventures. Though we were restricted to one anchorage and only allowed a ten day stay, the memories are indelible. Of course we saw tortoise, and finches, but for me it was the raw nature of the landscape which felt little touched by man that made it so different.
From the Galapagos to the Marquesas in French Polynesia is one of the longest stretches usually sailed by small boat cruisers. The 3,000 miles along the equator has the prevailing winds and seas directly behind the boat.

We found that pulling the Mainsail down and using two jibs opposite each other worked best. Nothing would help with the particularly uncomfortable motion the boat has on this point of sail.
When we made our landfall at Nuka Hiva we were so exhausted we forgot to take a picture. One of the biggest treats was having a friend from Mexico come racing up to the boat to hand us a fresh baguette.

This is our second stop at Ua Pou. The most remarkable thing about approaching these lush islands after a month at sea was being able to smell the vegetation from miles at sea.
On Ua Pou we met a young family who had no pictures of their children! The Polaroid camera and film that had been carefully stowed all these years came out and made us fast friends.

When it was time to depart we were treated to a load of exotic fruits that would have been worth hundreds of dollars in Tahiti. Barb is holding something that looked like an apple, had the consistency of a pear, and the flavor of an exotic perfume!
Next along the way was a stop at Tahanea in the Tuamotus. This low lying atoll has plenty of coconut, but not much else above the waterline.

Under the gin clear water was the most beauty we had seen anywhere.
Weather chased us out of the Tuamotus way too soon. Our next stop was Tahiti.

This is the Point Venus lighthouse on the spot where Captain Cook made astronomical measurements of the planet Venus as it passed in front of the Sun.
Tahiti is the biggest city within thousands of miles, yet the law is that the tallest building can not be taller than the tallest palm tree.

The culture is everywhere, a true tropical paradise.
Since we had to hang around waiting for boat parts we decided to find a quieter spot. On the other side of the island we found an anchorage in front of a botanical garden. We spent a month in there enjoying the calm anchorage and daily walks ashore.
Bora Bora was our last stop in French Polynesia. The lagoon here is known for it's beautiful color.

One of our few nights on the town was at the Bora Bora Yacht Club where we celebrated my Birthday.
Arriving in Hilo after three weeks at sea was welcome. We passed through the Southern Trade Wind Zone, the Intertropical Convergence Zone and the Northern Trade Wind Zone. This made for plenty of changing weather and lots of work keeping the boat on course.
Since the cruising kitty was looking slim we moved quickly along to Oahu, the only place in the Islands we could hope to land work.

This proved easier for Barb than Paul. Her skill set in inventory management was in far higher demand than mine as a programmer.

I did manage to trade some Y2K work for a slip at the Hawaii Yacht Club, a highly sought after berth.
After a year in Hawaii we were ready to get back to the mainland US. Because of weather patterns it is almost easier to go to Alaska than directly across.

We spent a summer in SE Alaska, enjoying the sites, but missing the tropical weather.
Alaska was the only place we had visitors on the boat. Would they come to the tropics where we could enjoy the beaches and the big cockpit on the boat? Nope, here they are, in the rain and we all managed to stay friends inside this little boat for two weeks!

Seeing the glaciers up close was an amazing experience. When the sun came out the grey went away and the colors were glorious.
We saw whales, up close, and this brand new totem pole that didn't even have it's paint job yet.
Our last foreign port was Victoria, BC. We stopped for a few days enjoying a slip in front of the Empress Hotel. We put some beers on the credit card since the funds were getting thin again.

Soon we would arrive in Seattle and return to the world of work, and cars, and shoes, and phones, and what was this new internet thing anyway?

Our cruising was difficult because of the tight budget, but being able to appreciate the places we got to visit at our age was worth every bit of the compromise.