Phil Collins

There’s something you should know about us. We are slaves to tradition.

“A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past.”, is how wikipedia defines it (with a recent download of the entire wikipedia database on the boat, it’s basically our source for everything), but within the Saltbreaker society, it should read, “A tradition is something that occurs one or more times, either accidental or intentional, which is then repeated ad nauseum.”

We’ve got a lot of traditions. Living with 2 other guys on a 32 foot boat for the past 3 months, we’ve had a lot of time to weave together a web of rituals that determines what we do at any given moment.

Our oldest nautical tradition is probably the secret phrase, “Hard to port”. In sailing, this is a direction to the helmsman to turn the boat as far to port (left) as possible. On Saltbreaker, a mere mention of this phrase means everyone aboard needs to take a shot of hard alcohol followed by a swig of port. We’re extra careful not to let this phrase slip before noon.

Then there’s Phil Collins; a perfect example of a nausea inducing tradition. None of us can recall the fateful day that Phil was blasted on the way out of an anchorage, but our best guess is that it happened somewhere around the channel islands, and has continued ever since.

Phil Collins

Time to go

At this point, the tradition has been repeated to the point that cause and effect are intertwined; it’s impossible to separate Phil from the process of weighing the anchor. We’re still waiting for the day we pull into a perfect tropical anchorage, drop the hook with intentions of staying for several days only to have Phil come accidentally on the radio. We’ll be 20 miles away before we realize we had no intention of leaving at all.

As anyone with ears can tell you, Phil Collins can wear on a man. If we’re anchoring in a new place every night, nobody is particularly excited to turn on the stereo. On the other hand, when we stay somewhere too long (which has happened in both Puerto Escondito and La Paz while waiting out heavy winds) we find ourselves hearing pieces of “Against All Odds”, and “Another Day In Paradise” in the melodies of every ranchero and romantica song we hear coming from the cantinas at night.

Neighboring boats have commented further down the line, “Were you the guys blasting “In The Air Tonight'” on your way out at sunrise?”. Yes. That was us. We don’t even know why anymore.

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2,000 miles (and a farewell to baja)

Earlier today we officially marked our 2,000th (nautical) mile! Not bad. And to think, it only took us three months. If it were a little less windy we’d set off one of Aunt Mary’s lanterns… but on our 1,000th mile we learned never to set off a flaming flying lantern while going downwind.

We’re currently right in the middle of the Sea of Cortez (our home for the last month) crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan. So far the crossing has been excellent. Fair consistent winds are currently pushing us along at a pretty constant 5 knots (6mph which we consider fast). We just pulled a baguette out of the oven, and a gigantic 3.5 foot sierra caught while leaving La Paz has been keeping us well fed. All in all, its hard to complain.

Tomorrow we’ll show up in the tropics. Technically we’ve crossed the tropic twice now (first time was just outside Cabo), but the climate there is more desert than tropical. Baja is in general been dry, dusty and cactus ridden. The sort of place that makes you look around for tumbleweeds each time the wind blows. In Mazatlan we’ve heard rumors of coconuts, banana trees, and warmer weather. I think we’re all excited for a change of pace.

There were easily hundreds of noteworthy events from our stay in Baja, but radio email is slow, so we’ll just give each a few short words. Apologies if none of this makes sense, but we have to save at least some stories for when we get back.

Juan’s Turtle Bay borrachera, an accidental kill and release, ha ha party and subsequent beach stranding in Bahia Santa Maria, farewell to Dosh, hello Dad, Dad gets to experience the most uncomfortable night of our trip, a forced stop in San Jose del Cabo, a coin flip seals MerSea’s fate, Dad’s “cab” ride with Jose Napoleon, a bagpipe concert from friends on Tahnoo, wind from every direction, Omar meets us in La Paz, our first island stop at Isla Partida, snorkeling and a party on Koh-Ring, donkey chase in San Evaristo, perro bravo, birthday backflips, the best homemade pasta ever made on a boat, Pedro introduces us to 1.2 liter Pacifico bottles, Loreto, farewell Omar, a hike up Steinbeck Canyon, a pig roast for Thanksgiving, waiting out a blow in Puerto Escondido, a trip to the oldest mission in baja, meeting a mountain shamen, a night nobody remembers, four dudes in romantic honeymoon cove, beach campfire, everything smelling like beach campfire, a giant moray eel steals two freshly speared hogfish, coolest (kind of rolly) anchorage yet at Ensenada Grande, Linus in La Paz, Lucas the Argentinian fire dancer and the traveling family, fish tacos, fish tacos, and an accidental pufferfish spearing.

-Alex and Nick

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My Journey with the SBB

This gallery contains 36 photos.

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 … Continue reading

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Taxi Please

Jose Napoleon drives by on a 4-wheel ATV.  He’s wearing ear-buds and a sweatshirt that says “Security”.  Alex waves him down and asks directions to some landmark where in 18 hours, and with considerable luck, I am to meet a taxi to the Airport.  Jose drives off.

We are at Los Frailes (The Friars), an anchorage at the far south eastern tip of Baja.  We are walking back to what we now know to be the main road when Jose makes a return appearance and asks what the Taxi is going to cost me.  He likes the answer and volunteers that he has a green Ford Explorer and is off work at 6:30.  We have a deal.

We take the dingy ashore early so we can cross the surf-line in daylight and then head towards the local’s fishing camp where we are to meet Jose.  Seems they fish at night and we watch them push and tow their open boats off of the sand with pickup trucks and see their lights move offshore in the gathering dusk.  Another guy on an ATV flags us down.  He knows Jose and says he’ll be by in a “minute”, one of those 45 minute minutes.  Jose shows with his explorer and I manage to fit my bags in the back around this giant subwoofer while he and Alex discuss what sort of Hotel I should end up in.  We are off.

Jose points at the stereo and says “Ingles ?”.  I try to assure him that “Espanol” is fine but we end up with Bob Marley and head down the main road.  The road is dirt.  I expect to hit some pavement but it never happens.  Jose has some internal cruise control that maintains his speed at “harrowing”.  If 25 mph would feel safe he does 28.  If 40 is doable we’re at 45.  Washboard and shoulder to shoulder.

The stereo sounds great.  Jose tires of Reggae and I hear.. is that Marvin Gaye ? .. wait, no, it’s Creedence!  Grapevine! Perfect! 

The dome light comes on from time to time because our shared vocabulary is about 100% body language and hand signals.  How many boats he asks.  This many fingers I answer.  Now we are dodging cattle.  At one point we slow to a crawl and creep through about 20 head on the road.  There’s essentially no one else around.  For the entire trip I see only two oncoming trucks and we enthusiastically pass another two heading in our direction.  From time to time there are spectacular views of a full moon over the ocean.

After about an hour of this we emerge on Mexico highway one right by Los Cabos International airport.  Jose picks a hotel located behind a convenience store right on this highway and hangs around to get me checked in.  The room is impeccably clean and I find a bag of Fritos and a six of Tecate in the convenience store.  (This fine meal will only be outdone by my next morning breakfast of coffee and chocolate covered Oreos.)  As I head back to the room I wonder how my bags got so incredibly dusty.  Then I look in the mirror.

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Baha Ha Ha according to Dosh Part III (or Dosh is finally done)

I have decided to post my experiences with Saltbreaker in three parts and in relatively rapid succession since this is sort of past due and I just had too much to say for one post. I thank the permanent Saltbreaker crew again for letting me contribute to your blog and of course for allowing me to join you for this leg of your trip. Parts I and II are further below, read, or don’t read, at your leisure.

Game plan for final leg: wake up at 4:45 am, pull up anchor and be on our way to Cabo by 5 am, way before the other boats. Easy. No problem. Done.

When I am awoken by Kleeman the next morning he tells me its 6:30 am and we have to go, we slept through Dave Green’s alarm. Well, that didn’t work quite as planned but not to worry as we will still leave the anchorage around 7am with all the other boats and be in Cabo in plenty of time for the scheduled ‘Get Squiddy’ party at Squid Roe in Cabo the following night. We leave the anchorage, throw up the sails and we are on our way.

But something seems wrong, something is missing, what could it be? Oh, there’s no wind. We hear that there is wind further out to sea though, so slowly we make our way out. However, the further we go the less wind we seem to encounter. But we push on, driven by the notion that if we sail this full last leg we will have sailed the entire way from San Diego to Cabo, not including harbors or anchorages, and we will be instilled with a pride that can only come from the notion that you are a ‘pure’ sailor who only travels with the wind. Several hours pass and our speed continues to decrease along with the wind, 3 knots, 2 knots, 1.5 knots. Our spirits continue to diminish but just as we start to lose all hope we hear the words, ‘screw this let’s throw on the engine and get to Cabo.’ Indeed, screw this; let us throw on the engine and high tail it to Cabo for the much anticipated ‘Get Squiddy’ Party.

The throaty thump of the engine is not quite as quiet as relying only on the wind for propulsion, but our speed increases significantly. With any luck we’ll be in Cabo in 24 hours. And, as luck would have it, just as the sun is setting over the horizon and hunger is setting in our stomachs the fishing pole pulls and whizzes loudly, fish on. I’ll let the details of how this sea beast was hauled in to the permanent Saltbreaker crew, but needless to say there was a lot of yelling, assurances that ‘this must be a marlin, ‘ and the end result of a 48 inch Dorado and some of the most delicious and freshest fish tacos on earth.

The remainder of our voyage to Cabo encompassed eating lots of fish, partaking in our fare share of rum, not too much, wearing only a bathing suit for night watches, and observing the water temp rise to over 80 degrees while the color of the water turned to an incredibly vibrant blue. Not too shabby.

We arrive in Cabo with full bellies and healthy tans with just enough time to grab some tacos before heading over to Squid Roe where we will surely ‘get squiddy.’ But as we enter Squid Roe we realize that we may have been mislead into how much fun this actually would be as the drink prices here appear to be nearly 3 times more than some of the more local establishments, surely they must be joking? New plan then, we’ll buy our own drinks from a grocery store and sneak them in, genius, what could go wrong? Needless to say 10 people sitting in a booth and all drinking cokes at Squid Roe probably stuck out like a sore thumb, and we were politely asked to leave by the bar’s manager. At least he was gracious.

In the end we were better off, and had a great night perusing some of Cabo’s other establishments. We’ll take some solace in the fact that we actually ended up in a respectable second place in our division for the Ha Ha rally as well.

Looking back on this trip I can say with certainty that these guys are in for one over the top grand adventure that will likely shape experiences that will be carried with them for the rest of their lives. I hope I’ll get a chance to join you again in the future for more jokes, sleepless nights, and memorable moments.

-Dosh

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What it really means to Saltbreaker something (Or Baha Ha Ha according to Dosh Part II)

“I’ve got all these squid biting at my lure but they don’t seem to grab, does anyone know how to catch these things?” This was a question presented to all the Ha Ha boats over the radio during the second leg at sea. Our response? “Yeah you pull your line in close to the boat and the squid will follow, then you gaffe the suckers and pull them up into the boat.” Now that’s how you Saltbreaker something. Then some joker came on the radio and said “Uh, those are the endangered Humboldt squid that you are catching.” Pfft, whatever, they make great calamari steaks. And for the record they were not endangered squid, far as we know.

We departed Turtle Bay at dawn and were escorted out of the bay by over 100 dolphins slicing through the water and skillfully playing tag with the bow of the boat, a moment that will stick with me for some time no doubt. We were on our way to Bahia de Santa Maria, our final stop before proceeding to Cabo. Winds were pleasant, spirits were up, and the water temperature continued to rise and the color become noticeably bluer as we moved further south.  Our first day out at sea we were fortunate enough to nab a 3 foot squid using the Saltbreaker method described above, and enjoyed some fresh calamari steaks for lunch. This leg of the journey was relatively uneventful, in a good way, and included memorable moments such as the first night watch with no pants or jacket, going so far out to sea that no possibility of seeing land existed, and the development of our shtick, which included telling other boats to change their course because we may collide if they don’t. That’s a good shtick.

Now the town of Bahia de Santa Maria was quite a bit different from expected, as there really was no town at all, simply a collection of brightly painted seasonal fishing shacks strewn about in an arid desert coastal landscape. Turtle Bay in relation could be considered a bustling metropolis. But don’t let that fool you, as with all things encountered in Mexico to that point this town was full of surprises. Our first night in the bay was spent taking the dinghy and Harvey, the name given to the temperamental outboard engine for the dinghy, to various boat parties and capably maneuvering the dinghy through all the anchored vessels whilst taking a moment to reflect and perform doughnuts in an overloaded small inflatable craft, thanks Nique. The bay was lit up with 150 or more anchor lights and appeared as a floating city when viewed from the beach.

Day two was spent first eating a killer scramble with the crew of the Mer Sea and then attending a Ha Ha organized party that was described by another boat as ‘gringo beach party No. 2,’ brilliant. The promise of fish tacos lead us to wander down a dirt path through the colored shacks, most equipped with a satellite dish, past a man selling an assortment of shark’s fins and to the end of the road overlooking barren sand dunes, but no fish tacos (we later found the tacos being sold directly next to where we originally started our walk on the beach). As night fell we left a blazing, well, smoldering, beach bonfire and grabbed a panga, water taxi, back to the boat. Although Nique and a few brave souls continued on with the beach party, foregoing the final panga on the promise that there was a guaranteed ride back to Saltbreaker from a local and his beached boat. Perhaps Nique will share the full story of his adventure back to Saltbreaker later if you ask nicely.

Oh well, onward to Cabo.

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Baha Ha Ha according to Dosh Part I (or Juan Part II)

15 days. That is the amount of time that I was aboard the vessel Saltbreaker, a 32 foot fiberglass sail boat with tight quarters, a finicky head, only one lee cloth, and a crew that can be described as unsightly, hairy, smelly, and some of my best friends. My journey aboard this cruise was at times refreshingly breathtaking and awesome while simultaneously exhausting and unwieldy. I joined Saltbreaker for a rally called the Baha Ha Ha, in which we would depart from San Diego, California with 150 other boats and eventually all arrive in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a trip that would encompass nearly the entirety of my time aboard and include stops in Bahia de Tortuga and Bahia de Santa Maria, or is it Marina, who can really say for sure? This leg of Saltbreaker’s adventurous voyage surely could not be covered in its entirety through one blog entry, nor should it, but I will do my best share my experiences in as engaging and fulfilling a manner as possible as the crew was gracious enough to let me post here.

Our first leg of the trip, the sail from San Diego to Turtle Bay, included 4 days and three nights at sea, the aforementioned tuna catch, a spinnaker pole incident in which we got the boat speed to 9 knots not without casualty, and a final night at sea that was described by others as “caught in the washing machine.” To give you a sense of what people mean by the “washing machine”, there was a moment during that final night where I was trying to get some semblance of sleep in the port settee when the boat met a swell that sent dishware crashing and caused the settee to move into its full, open position. At the time I had forgotten that that particular settee had the option of opening into a full position such as it did. With this information missing I assumed the worse and jumped, or perhaps fell, onto my feet, nearly knocking Nique over, and ran to the cockpit to make sure that we had not just hit a whale or other some such nonsense. But when I saw Dave Green, currently on watch at that time, it was business as usual and I think he was a little confused as to why I was so concerned with his safety. Needless to say I did not get much sleep that night.

Oh and to go back to that spinnaker incident, there was a moment when the spinnaker was flying in light winds and all was well. The wind gradually started to gain steam and the boat speed, at which point we noted 9 knots while surfing a swell. Now, I truly believe that we all had similar thoughts, which included but were not limited to ‘maybe we should take the spinnaker down.’ Alas, we were blinded by those 9 knots and that did not happen. Long story short, a gust blew in with the eventual result being a spinnaker pole bent at a 90 degree angle. No one was injured during the ordeal, and the pole was fixed, but we used the experience as a measuring devise for future apprehensive moments, whether on land or sea, when we could look at each other and say ‘lets go ahead and take that spinnaker down.’

As was the case with this trip, those sleepless nights and anxious moments were balanced quite well by experiences unlike any that I have had before, such as our meeting of Juan, or El Loco as he was known to the locals, at Turtle Bay. What can be said about Juan that has not already been said? Probably quite a bit actually, but I’ll provide just another snippet as I imagine that the others have more to say on the matter. Juan went completely out of his way to ensure that our two days spent in Turtle Bay were as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. That is really what it seems to boil down to. He chauffeured over ten people in the bed of his racing pick-up truck and took us wherever we desired to go. At times providing terrifying ‘let’s take the spinnaker down’ moments, but at times providing insight into someone who I truly believe was actually one or two steps ahead of us at all times.

Here’s one example: on the second night in Turtle Bay after a beach party that included dozens of people helping to push a beached catamaran back to sea we loaded up in the back on Juan’s truck and moved our way back to Jaun’s restaurant. Oh yeah, did we mention that Juan is the proprietor of ‘El Loco’ Tacos? The night carried on with tacos, drinks, and many games played next to a circus tent and a running generator. First game played was ping pong, a local Mexican game in which two opposing players standing on opposite ends of a table use paddles to propel a small hollow plastic ball over a net in order to attain points. Unfortunately during the course of an hour or so we managed to fatally damage two ping pong balls, leaving us void of them. Not to be deterred Juan ran to his house to grab a box with a badminton set and volleyball. Upon frantically returning he removed the ping pong table using his back, to clear the area of course, and handed out 4 rackets and a birdie, with no net. During the badminton rally there was a moment when the birdie flew away and landed on the roof of El Loco Tacos. Again Juan sprang into action, climbing an adjacent palm tree in rapid fashion and using his reach to grab the birdie and save the day yet again. At the time I am thinking Juan really is El Loco, but then we look over and see him move to the volleyball to inflate it, because he knows that that birdie won’t last forever and we will surly need another game to move onto when the time comes. That’s when I think we were all thinking, ‘who is this guy?’

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Juan (part 1)

The taste of Tecate is still fresh in my mouth as I decide to stand up. The wind is strong, really strong, so much so that when I open my mouth my cheeks begin flapping around as if I were skydiving. I take a look around, there are 9 of us (more if you count dogs) crammed in the bed of a pickup. We’re doing 88 down an abandoned runway, surrounded by barren mountains of brown dusty earth. Presumably we’re in search of a surf spot, but only the driver Juan (El Loko) actually knows where we’re going.

We’ve been on mexican soil for exactly four hours.
juanchos racing

The runway came to an end and Juan slowed the truck down to a crawl as we left the pavement and began the off-road portion of our journey. Just over a small hill the dirt path opened up into a large plateau which must have served as the village’s landfill years ago. Now all that remains are acres of uniformly distributed plastic bottles. Another small hill and we pop out on perhaps the most pristine beach I’ve ever seen. We fly up the beach to the northern end and we all pile out. The sun was beginning to set and the light bathed everything in a red glow. In the distance we could see a few of the remaining boats in the fleet as they rolled in late to Turtle Bay. Juan points out the surfing spot and we all hang out and soak in the view, chase the dog around and pile back in his truck.

estoy loco

How exactly we found ourselves in the bed of his truck is still a bit unclear, but like most things in Mexico it started (and ended) with a craving for tacos. Tacos, which lead to beers, which lead to a search for sombreros, then a failed attempt at asking directions, which lead to an offer to pile in his truck to search for the sombrero shop. After the sombrero shop was a bust (they didn’t carry a single hat) we assumed our time in the back of Juan’s truck had come to an end. It was only ten minutes later, barreling down the runway, when it became clear the adventure with Juan had only just begun.

Stay tuned for our continued adventures with Juan.

-Alex

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Return of the Sea Beast

“Grab the gaff! … and a club!”

We’ve been catching a LOT of kelp. Everywhere we’ve gone we keep hearing about how great the fishing is. The Channel Islands had reports of schools of tuna in 40ft of water, Catalina Island is well known for its fishing, and in turn just about anywhere we’ve sailed there’s been a tuna jig trolling behind our boat. So far, all we’ve caught underway is kelp.

Until this morning.

It started with all the familiar signs. A tug on the line that causes the reel to give off an angry whir of line. Nique grabs the pole and starts hauling it in.

“I think its more kelp” … but this time it starts veering. We slow the boat down to make things easier. Then Nique sees a flash! Its a fish! A dorado!? Maybe a Tuna?

“I’m sure its a tuna”, Dosh says.

The fish is closer now, and Nique confirms it. “YELLOW FIN!”

I jump into the cabin and grab the gaff, then scavenge for something to club it with. A live tuna in the cockpit would be … well, interesting. Our fishing book reads: “Thump the fish hard on the head with a large heavy club, metal baseball bats work great.” The best thing I can come up with is two foot length of steel tubing which is handed to Dave Green.

After a bit of patience and swift pull on the gaff we have the tuna by the gills. It’s heavy, I need both hands on the gaff and with its violent writhing I struggle to lift it within reach of Dave Green and the steel tubing.

PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING PING.

It sounds like metal on metal and takes well over 30 blows. Nique grabs a wrench to finish it off. This is not bass fishing, this is man versus beast.

We don’t have a scale, but comparing it our anchor concludes about 25 lbs and 3 ft long. One hour later (took a while to clean) we’re having seared tuna snacks. Next on the menu:

Hamachi Kama (early afternoon snack) Terriyaki Tuna Rice Bowl (lunch) Sashimi (snack) Grilled Tuna Burgers (dinner) (Tuna) Steak and Eggs (breakfast) Fish Tacos (lunch) Ceviche (dinner)

-Alex

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Bear Mace Bear Maze

“Naw, that’s not nearly enough!”

“Three bears is plenty, you want to make sure you can still get out of the maze!”

We’re in San Diego and we’ve just finished painting the deck (another story there). Everyone’s pretty tired again.

“I don’t know, you want to make sure there’s enough bears to make it challenging…” Nick is adamant.

“Well, that just seems way too hard. You’re supposed to do that with just two cans of mace? How big is the maze?” I wonder.

The fumes of paint and solvent are pretty heavy in the cabin, with the deck painted we can’t really get away from it. I think I’m getting a headache.

“Do you get any respirator or anything?” Alex wants to know.

“No, no way. That’d be too easy.”

“OK, OK…twenty bears.”

“Twenty bears?!”

“Twenty.”

“I can live with that,” I say, “but you gotta have infinite cans of mace.”

“But as soon as you set off even one can you’ll be incapacitated! You gotta give them a respirator with that many cans.” says Alex, looking ready for a nap.

“Not if you run away while you spray! I mean, you gotta strategize…”

“Yeah, that way you can only spray when you really need to. That’ll keep it tough.”

“OK, perfect. Yeah, I would watch that reality TV show.”

“Freaking I’d go on that TV show, as long as the prize was worth it.” I say, really imagining it now.

Alex starts lying down, Nick and I still talking loud across the cabin, him in the bow, me sitting in the companionway.

“So…what are we going to do for the prize?…”

-Dave

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