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Sailing the western coast of Baja California, Mexico (Day 1).

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It’s about time I got to this. The 12-day, 1000 mile sailing trip in Mexico.

The trip in which we almost died… but I helped saved the day.

The trip in which we could have died a second time… but didn’t.

The trip in which pods of dolphins, possibly in the hundreds, swam with us. The trip which we landed on a barren beachhead, with zero footprints, and collected a couple hundred sand dollars the size of our hands. Where we landed on an island inhabited by 4,000 people.

And much, much more.

This is the trip that changed my life, and not in that cliche way. It transformed my worldview, perspective on traveling, and altered my risk/reward calculus.

Prologue: why has it taken so long for me to write this, and why now?

This trip took place from July 6-17, 2010. I was founded this blog in June 2010. Why didn’t I write about it then? Why now, five years later?

I tried to write about this several times. Each attempt I got stuck in every minute details. I tried to craft the perfect story and got caught up poeticizing every word. I only got as far as writing a draft of the first day of the 12-day trip.

No more excuses now. Trim the fat, keep the substance. Maybe I’ll still transform this into a book. But it is not this day; this day we fight! (Aragorn reference). Today we simply want to share a story worth sharing.

How did we get to go on a sailing trip in Mexico?

In April 2010, one of my closest friends at the time, Alex, called.

Alex: I saw a job listing to work onboard a cruise ship this summer, in Mexico. It sounded sketchy, but I called the captain. He seemed legit, so I went to his house for an interview. He asked if I knew anyone else who would be up to the task. Thought of you, would you be interested in doing this with me?

Me: Uhhh… I mean it sounds cool, but I’d need to learn more. Need to also check in with my parents. When will this be?

Alex: Sometime in July. Still a long way out. I’ll give you his contact information and you can reach out.

Reached out I did. Went to the captain’s house for the interview, in an upscale Fullerton neighborhood.

His name was Captain Kenneth Graham. He was 72 years old, Stanford grad from the class of 1960, former First Lieutenant in the United State Navy, retired for nearly 20 years, and needed to hire a temporary crew of three to bring back his 47-foot keelboat from Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, to Long Beach, California.

We chatted for nearly an hour.

Me: Why are you willing to bring on board inexperienced people?

Captain Graham: First off, most of my friends have their own sailboats and have their own way of doing things. We tend to argue whose method is “more” right. That defeats the purpose of this trip, which is to have fun. Second, my friends and I are old. We need strong young men like yourself who have the stamina to do the all the work for us. In return, you’ll get a great experience; this isn’t for the pay. Don’t take this job if you’re in it for the money.

I left a bit disappointed. A small 47-foot boat, not a cruise ship? Didn’t sound so exquisite.

Two days later, Captain Graham emailed Alex and I, congratulating us on getting the jobs. We appealed to him because the two of us were friends, which he believed would result in better team chemistry.

Meh, despite not being on a cruise ship, we both agreed. What were we getting ourselves into?

Trip logistics: fly first day, gear up second day, sail third day.

Several months later, Captain Graham bought Alex and I e-tickets that flew us from LAX to Los Cabos International Airport. The fourth crew member couldn’t make it at the last minute. He had some ear infection and wasn’t clear to fly on an airplane, unless he wanted ruptured eardrums from cabin pressure.

On July 6, Alex and I flew down.

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In the LAX terminal on July 6, 2010.

The Alaska Airlines flight was about two hours long. We took off an hour late due to delays.

Upon landing and going through customs, I noticed a bunch of missed calls from Captain Graham. He was worried sick, having waited at the airport for an extra hour. When we finally rendezvoused, he breathed a sigh of relief and said that past crew members had ditched him before.

The three of us saddled up and taxied into the city.

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The road didn’t look too different than a California desert. When we drove by the coast, it looked the same as driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, just without any residential areas.

There weren’t many opportunities to restock on food and goods once we left Cabo San Lucas port, so we made a stop at a supermarket and stocked up on some food and booze. Captain Graham loved his vodka and Mexican beer, so we got plenty of that.

We then drove into the city. Our taxi driver was incredibly skilled and backed our huge van through a tight alleyway, straight to the dock entrance.

Meeting the Pacifico for the first time.

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Dock H, where the boat was docked.

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Dock H, the other view.

IMG_6416And the Pacifico!

“I didn’t name her after the beer,” Captain Graham said. “I wanted to name it after my wife, but she wouldn’t allow it.”

We unloaded and compartmentalized the food in the galley.

First night of fun: dinner, bars, and clubs.

This first day was meant to be relaxing, so Captain Graham took Alex and I to dinner. He treated us to a lobster tail and shrimp meal, along with plenty of booze.

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He then took us to a tourist bar called The Giggling Marlin.

This was a highly entertaining bar, in which the workers would play drinking games with the tourists. The workers would compete three vs. three with the crowd, on who could finish a beer quicker. The crowd lost so badly; the workers were able to down the beer in about two seconds flat, out of a longneck bottle. How the hell…

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The losers had to strip dance on top of the bar. Crowd went wild. All fun and games, especially when drunk.

Two more Pacifico beers and one tequila shot later, I was pretty drunk. Captain Graham headed back to the boat to sleep, but gave Alex and I 500 Pesos each and told us to have fun. “Just don’t bring back a hooker. That has happened with a previous crew member before.” Aye aye, Captain!

Alex and I walked around the city. Solicitors throughout approached us and asked if we wanted to go to a strip club. I had never been and was curious. With one simple nudge from Alex, I happily obliged. We said yes to the next solicitor and followed him to a club.

It was quite fun. We had some good conversations with other tourists. I recall a couple being from Texas — cool that they were comfortable enough going together. The dancers were hot; I went through a mental marriage and divorce with one in a span of 30 minutes. I received two private dances.

Alex and I then headed back to the boat and slept. The next day would be filled work boat preparation and plenty of manual labor.

Part two talks about boat preparations, dinner along the waterfront, and the beginning of our sailing journey.

MAP

Part 2

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sailing Mexico, part 2: I helped saved our lives. | Andy Cheng

  2. Pingback: Sailing Mexico, part 3: the “night of terror” where we almost, could have, and should have died. But didn’t. | Andy Cheng

  3. Pingback: Sailing Mexico, day 4 & 5: barren marshlands, remote beaches, and giant sand dollars. | Andy Cheng

  4. Pingback: Sailing Mexico, day 6, 7, & 8: remote Mexican towns of Turtle Bay and Cedros Island | Andy Cheng

  5. Pingback: Sailing Mexico, day 9 & 10: The Sea of Vizcaina & Ensenada. | Andy Cheng

  6. Pingback: Sailing Mexico, day 11 & 12: home sweet home in San Diego and Long Beach. | Andy Cheng

  7. Pingback: How I got accepted into UC Berkeley, and why it doesn’t matter (that much). | Andy Cheng

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