On a brisk and cloudy Sunday in late October I met the ‘Saltbreaker Boys’ in a West Marine parking lot. Marc, my captain on the Mer Sea, introduced me to Alex and Nick Kleeman, Dosh and Dave Green (whose name is always said in full, but I never understood why). How to tell the tale of my time with them and how quickly they nestled themselves into my heart without sounding corny? I will attempt to note just the best of it all, and share my version of the adventure. Please excuse the length.
From the beginning they seemed like nice enough guys, but frankly I was a little unsure. Waving to us from the Saltbreaker as the Baja Ha-Ha fleet sailed out of San Diego Harbor, these guys with their matching boat logo t-shirts, sombreros and broad earnest grins, looked a bit too put together, too slick. Perhaps Marc in his speedo was the reason for those silly smiles, yet still they seemed an over-eager bunch, full of intelligence, confidence and optimism. Very rah-rah. And then I heard they were eschewing motoring, with plans to sail the whole way to Cabo. Definitely overachievers.
We arrived in Bahia Tortugas, Turtle Bay, a ‘town’ that provided our first bathroom and a lesson in the value of befriending the right local. While half-heartedly trying to find the Ha-Ha softball game, we bumped into The SB crew at a body shop…long story. As is typical with these guys, they were hungry, so we found a place that had good fish tacos and chatted up the proprietor. Next thing I knew I was in the back of this small white pickup, meandering through this dusty outpost in search of beers, a certain white hat and adventure.
Thus began the Borrechera de Juan, and my love of the SB Crew. Of course we found beer, but the sombrero remained elusive, none of the liquor stores seemed to sell hats. Regardless, off we went in search of a surf spot. As we flew over bumpy roads at high rates of speed that I’m sure aren’t safe for a truckbed full of passengers, we were jostled up rocky ridges and swept down steep gullies and lunged over huge bolders. Did I mention we were speeding? Our driver, Juan, seemed intent on shaking out those not fully committed to the adventure. As I held on for dear life, laughing hysterically, one of the SB guys grabbed onto the front of my jacket so I wouldn’t be bounced out of the truck …or so he wouldn’t be, one couldn’t be sure, but in any case it did the trick. And I was saved from the fate of dying in a 4-wheeling accident while sailing in Baja.
That evening, and many beers into our spree, I learned that the SB guys could only dance when they donned Dave Green’s white sunglasses. Not sure why, but these shades were indeed magical, enabling each in turn to miraculously cut the rug like the hippest cat ever. I tried them myself, and damned if they didn’t put the boogie in my booty. Even the musically gifted, yet two-left-footed Nick began to move like James Brown with the glasses on!
At the next stop, Bahia Santa Maria, I became forever in the debt of this crew. We’d been on the Ha-Ha for a week, without a shower in sight. After anchoring, we dinghied over to the Saltbreaker and enjoyed our first swim of the trip. To my delight, Alex offered me with a dollop of concentrated, biodegradeable ‘shampoo’. I’m pretty sure it was repackaged Dawn dish detergent, but, no matter, I lathered up and washed in the ocean and it felt like a spa treatment. Then (surprise!) they offered me a freshwater rinse from their solar shower! I was in heaven and fully enamored with these four guys. As the icing on the cake, they shared warm PBRs with us and a shot of (something) to toast their first 1000 miles!
Thus far, the SB crew had introduced me to so much:
– How To Murder A Fish. Basically, it’s a bloody bludgeoning
– How to Murder Fish Less Messily. Vodka and a brain scramble
– Donuts In A Dinghy
– One Big Cookie
– The Importance Of A Man’s Belt Buckle
– The Beauty Of Garish Tourist T-shirts
The first part of our time together ended in Cabo San Lucas. There, even as we kept losing those we were looking for and missing Ha-Ha events entirely, we somehow always ran into the SB crew and then there always seemed to be tequila.
Or foo-foo drinks to share at breakfast. We did make it to the awards ceremony, where everyone was a winner. Mostly I remember that between Nick and Marc the majority of the donated Modelo made it back to our area.
Our last night with the Saltbreaker guys was sweet sorrow as we were set to part ways. When I awoke the next morning and saw their boat gone, something tugged wistfully at my heart strings. A sense of loss, a deep saddness.
But wait! Our parting was not to last. A day later, when Marc and I finally left Cabo en route to Mazatlan, I learned that there was a magnetic pull between the SB and the Mer Sea. We tried to go on separate paths, we truly did. Plans were set, goodbyes were bid and departures were made. But the universe has its own agenda and sent us seas such that the reunion was inevitable. The Mer Sea, a hearty but light and spry boat, worked doggedly to get us through huge swells. And my fearless captain kept on, finding us a break from ‘The Perfect Storm’ swells closer to the coastline. At one point we heard Alex on the radio explaining that the same system had stymied their attempts to reach Los Frailes. But we sailed past Puerto Los Cabos where the SB guys had pulled in the night before, intent on our course for the mainland. At the tiller, however, I soon spotted a dark line in the sea, before which the water was a softly rolling aqua, and after which it was the same dark and angry mess of froth and hills of water that had battered us all morning. This would not do. We made a u-turn. And so fate put her deft hand into our afternoon and determinedly steered us towards the warm embrace of the Saltbreaker boys.
From then on no attempts were made to go our separate ways. Well, there was that one coin toss, which had to be reenacted for the GoPro…three times, each with the same result, “Go up into the Sea of Cortez with the Saltbreaker.”
As if to punctuate the epicness of this reunion, the next morning we sailed out of San Jose del Cabo side by side blasting Bohemian Rhapsody and Marc’s joy was apparent.
For the next 15 days of my tenure, we were always with them. Good thing too, as it enabled Marc to teach them more fully about the art of the scramble and us to enjoy their unbelievably delicious cooking. They also got a nice dinghy tow from us in La Paz (Harvey was being testy).
In turn, we were introduced to Laura Veirs and Beirut, and they to 99.1. I learned to make pasta by hand and catch mackerel. Nick and Alex were tireless in helping me with my lame Spanish. Marc got his initial lessons in breadmaking and pizza making, and I was tutored in how to read the stars and got to enjoy holding onto the Saltbreaker’s thicker shrouds when I peed. We saw first hand Dave Green’s absolute crush on ‘Jurassic Park’, and Nick and I figured out how to finish a 40 by ourselves (keep the others engrossed in the internet).
The Saltbreaker boys, this collective of hale and hearty seafaring men, morphed over time. During my tenure on this adventure, we said goodbye to Dosh in Cabo (thank you for your sweet awe at my youthfulness, and for so adeptly videoing the fish murder!); welcomed Tom (the coolest dad ever, who proved very good at collecting beers at the Awards party, taking drunken midnight dips in the Pacific, stoically sailing through HUGE swells, appreciating scrambles, and hailing a cab in the middle of absolutely nowhere);
and picked up Omar (a dashing gentleman, who with help from DG, provided much-needed assistance in my headlamp-less descent from the northern crest of Espiritu Santo; he was also a jinx to mackerel fishing), and proceeded to party/sail/snorkle/flip (boys only) /eat/drink and make merry with for a week.
By the time I left these boys, then down to the permanent three of Alex, Nick and Dave Green, in Puerto Escondido, I reveled in how much we had enjoyed together: a Borrechera, CCR, fish tacos, washing machine seas, fish tales, seeing each other’s keels,
bagpipes in the night air, magical places, god skies,
fording rain flooded streets, fish tacos, frosted donuts,
sugar cane drinks, what happens when one says ‘hard to port’ on the saltbreaker, the coolest book store, fish tacos, serious hikes, ballenons with deposits, one nose bleed, a thanksgiving pig roast, singing whatever we (sort of) knew the lyrics to,
rum drinks, tequila drinks, tequila and rum drinks, a taste for warm beer and many, many a ‘best meal ever’. It came to me then, that these guys who I had been leery of at first, were, in fact, some of the most fun and inspirational folks I have ever met. Full of zeal for discovery, daring, laughter and adventure…truly, for “being out there.”
Sometimes the people we meet change us forever. I’ll never again be able to flip aimlessly past “Deep Blue Sea” on late night TV, or watch a sunset without the sweet strains of Dave Green’s voice, Nick’s melodica and Alex’s uke in my ear.
The stars have a broader meaning now. And as I experienced the native spirits alive and well in Steinbeck Canyon with this group of openhearted (you do pay it forward Dave Green, even if the concept is irksome), amazing guys, I had a real sense of the broader ‘whole’. My soul was nourished and my appetite for exploration sufficiently whetted. My heart is full of admiration and warmth for you guys.
Muchas Gracias Saltbreaker Boys! May the wind be at your back and keep the wet side down!