Sailing S/V Dakota

In 2016, we took a leap of faith . . . Christina quit her Big Law job and Ryan took a leave of absence from his job to go sailing and travel the world with our kids, Elliott and Finley.  Was it always pretty? (No) Was it a vacation? (Hell no) But it was the adventure of our lifetimes!

We boat/worldschooled our boys and although we quit our 9-5 (or 6, 7, 8, 9, 10pm) jobs, we added a few new jobs living and sailing our home: full-time educators + parents, cooks, sailors, navigators, sailboat repair people, translators and travel planners, to name a few!

We sailed our home (S/V Dakota, or sailing vessel Dakota for the land lovers) from our home port in San Francisco and headed south . . . for awhile!  We cruised the Pacific Coast of California, Baja California (Mexico) and then crossed the Sea of Cortez and continued our journey down the Pacific Coast of mainland Mexico. Our most southern port of call was Barre de Navidad.

After 8 months of adventures living on and sailing our home, we brought her back North at the end of the sailing season, made a pit stop back in the States to visit family (and get some weather-appropriate gear) and then took off for the last leg of our yearlong journey–travels through Europe!

Cruising with Kids aboard S/V Dakota

Here you can follow our journey living and sailing our home.

Mexico Leg 7: Tenacatita

More Adventures Along the Mexican Gold Coast: Tenacatita Our time anchored in Tenacatita is one of the highlights, and probably our first or second favorite anchorage (tied with Isla Isabel). Not only was the sail down lovely (and uneventful/stressful), the anchorage itself was perfect. Quiet, protected, spacious, *not rolly*, close to shore with plenty to see and do, and we could surf and paddle right off the back of the boat! There was lots of marine life surrounding our boat, dolphins all the way down (and we think some sneaky dolphins swimming in the anchorage at night) and lovely boat neighbors (who once rescued our down duvet after it fell in the water off our boom while we were out exploring in La Manzanilla!)

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Life aboard SV Dakota – Then and Now

Since our last post, I’ve started our next post at least three times – the now-familar post indicating where we’ve been and what we have been doing while there. And there has been plenty to report on! But the thing I think you all might find interesting at this point in our adventure is a little more of the “day in the life” part of our adventure and how it is shaping us as both individuals and a family now.

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Mexico Leg 6: Chacala + La Cruz

Passage from Isla Isabela to Chacala (En route to La Cruz) We left the amazing anchorage at Isla Isabel (85 nms from Mazatlan) on Saturday January 7 and headed on a short overnight passage to Chacala – a lovely little beach town about 40 nms on the mainland, basically a straight shot from Isla Isabel.  The passage was mostly quiet (little to no wind) and uneventful and we kept the pace slow so as to arrive in Chacala right around daybreak, about 6 am. We had heard it was advisable to set both a bow and stern anchor to keep the boat steady in the little bay, which offered some (but not tons) of protection from the swells. And after arriving and scoping out a good place to drop the hook, we found the advice was sage and decided to set a stern anchor once the morning winds died down. Chacala is a quiet little Mexican beach town with one “main” road running parallel to the beach and the beachfront sparsely populated (but pleasantly so) with palapa restaurants and a big beach for walking and play in the sand.  The spot to bring the dinghy to shore happens to be right in front of the port captain’s office but since we arrived on a Sunday, it was (as expected) closed so we were free to explore the beach and town and get little feet onshore to get out some wiggles.  

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Mexico Leg 5: Isla Isabela

By way of Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra) After almost a month at the marina in Mazatlan (most of which was planned) we finally threw off the dock lines once again to make our way South.  With a plan (etched in sand as always) in our back pocket, we decided to make the short hop over to Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra) on the south side of Mazatlan, then make the bigger jump over to Isla Isabel on an overnight passage. Stone Island, as it is commonly referred to by yatistas and turistas alike in Mazatlan, is actually not really an island. It’s really a peninsula that juts off the mainland coast but is more easily accessible by boat (panga or private boat).  In fact, it’s a perfect place to anchor but for the fact (or fiction?) of wily thieves that target cruising boats and are known to slash your dinghy off your davit in the middle of the night. In order to avoid that chaos, we opted to day-anchor there and go ashore to visit the sites. Approaching the small bay that comprises this anchorage was an interesting experience, with cargo and cruise ships arriving and departing all around us as we crossed the entrance to the commercial channel. We made it safely though and dropped the hook in 20 feet of sandy bottom and promptly dropped in our (newly acquired) inflatable kayak and SUP for the short paddle to shore. Stone Island, while definitely geared towards tourists (both land and sea-based), is a long gorgeous beach with plenty of palapa restaurants, vendors and musical libations (the good kind, from live musicians rather than the oompa-oompa we typically encounter from amplifiers). What a fabulous day!  We devoured some fresh fish at one of the beachfront restaurants and then mosied over to where we parked our inflatables on the beach and people-watched, played in the sand, and took a little walk down the beach. We loved the laid-back feel of Stone Island and enjoyed mixing it up with “local” tourists (i.e. Mexicans on vacation).

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Mexico Leg 4: Crossing the Sea of Cortez

Passage from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz (er, scratch that, Mazatlan) We arrived in Cabo Thursday December 1st feeling overjoyed, overwhelmed, relieved, happy and very excited to return to a place where modern amenities were not only available, but abundant.  After a week on the hook in a remote anchorage, our senses seemed heightened and we felt the joie de vie of Cabo in a way I would imagine a sight or hearing-restricted individual might.  It was quite a shock to our systems to take in the zipping around of pangas/water taxis, the gargantuan cruise ship in town, the many jet skis, motor boats, personal sailboats and tourist vessels on the water all at once.  

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Reflections in Mag Bay

While we weren’t sure how long we’d be in Mag Bay (specifically at Man of War Cove where we anchored), we sure didn’t bet on 6 days waiting for a do-able weather window to make the non-stop jump to Cabo San Lucas. At first, we found the town quaint and charming . . . the 1 dirt road invoked feelings of awe and the neighborliness of the restaurant owner, Jose, and the town Sheriff, Antonio, made us feel like we stepped back in time to when people actually had time to stop and talk with passersby. But with each passing day, the high-wind system that forced us to stay put started to feel more and more like an exercise in isolated restriction and the quaint pueblo started to lose its luster. The final nail in the proverbial coffin was when we learned from our neighboring sailboat Golden Hind that, on the same afternoon we had finally been able to convince Finley to go ashore via our dinghy, the sole restauranteur Jose had packed up his casa (including his mattress and bedding) and left for San Carlos via panga. Like LEFT. Finito. Moved out. For what we could only assume was the rest of the season.  So, the carrot we had dangled for 2 days to get our crew to shore (fish tacos and beach play!) had disappeared, leaving us, once again, stranded on the boat–and me, the galley chef, wondering what on earth I would scrounge up to feed our insatiable crew.

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Mexico Leg 3: Bahia Magdalena

While we enjoyed our time in Turtle Bay, we decided to take advantage of the good-sized weather window to make the long jump to Bahia Magdalena (Mag Bay, as its commonly called), which would be our longest passage ever, 250 nautical miles.  We calculated a roughly 36-42 hour passage, departing Turtle Bay on Wednesday, November 23rd at 4pm and arriving inside Mag Bay on Friday, November 25 at 12pm (ish).  Since that meant we would be underway during Thanksgiving, I bought some tilapia in Turtle Bay and planned to cook up some yummy fish with baked Kabocha pumpkin with asian-inspired shitake mushroom rice.  I also put together an activity board of things we/the kids could do on the passage to pass the time and make best use of our Thanksgiving sail.

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Mexico Leg 2: Bahia Tortuga

Passage from Cabo San Quintin to Bahia Tortuga We departed from Cabo San Quitin on Saturday November 20 and after a 28 hour passage (190 nms) arrived in Turtle Bay on Monday mid-morning, around 12 noon. Our time in Bahia Tortuga was our first anchorage in Mexico and provided the first opportunity to really experience the quiet desolation of the Baja Peninsula.  Bahia Tortuga gains its notoriety from the Baha Haha, an annual influx of sailboats arriving on their first port of call on the 9-10 day rally to Cabo San Lucas. As such, everything on the waterfront is geared towards yatistas (boaters). Maria’s restaurant provides excellent free wifi for patrons along with a view of the bay and all the fresh tacos one could want. In town, we found a pretty nice grocery market with some limited produce, any number of non-perishables and a small meat counter. Interestingly, there was no fish market in town (that we could find) nor were there fish for sale at the grocery store. Our best guess was that all the fish was sold directly from the local fisherman, or there was no need for sale to others because everyone in town *was* a fisherman.

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Adventures in SoCal III: San Diego

It seems like eons ago that we first arrived in San Diego from Avalon (Catalina Island) on Saturday, October 22.  The overnight passage from Avalon was quiet and lovely, and most importantly, uneventful. Coming into San Diego, we rounded Point Loma, giving wide berth for the abundant kelp paddies that gum up the area, and headed for the Police docks tucked in just past the channel at Shelter Island. We had planned to be in San Diego for a little over a week to complete the battery project, the internet project and finally the solar panel installation project (which we had not, at that point, taken off the table).  But first, my parents were coming down from Sacramento to join us in celebrating Finley’s 4th birthday.  We had planned to take the boys to Legoland for Finley’s birthday, and Finley being a late October birthday boy, we found that Legoland had a special event, “Brick or Treat” the weekend just prior to Halloween, fun! The boys happily donned their newly-acquired Star Wars costumes (Elliott as Kylo Ren and Finley as a Young Jedi) and hopped, skipped and jumped through Legoland’s entrance.

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Adventures in SoCal II: Catalina Island

Anchoring at Two Harbors + Avalon Oye vey! Time has flown and every time I hope to post an update, I’m pulled away by a kid emergency (typically a fight), boat issue or life admin that needs my immediate attention or I’ve just done one of those things and am too wiped to post. Needless to say, much has transpired aboard Dakota since our last post.  As you may know from our short updates on Facebook and Instagram, we left Marina del Rey and headed toward Catalina Island.  By design, and upon advice from our friends and fellow cruisers, we were visiting Catalina Island in the off-season which meant we were able to take advantage of the “stay for 2, get 5 nights free” rate they offered after October 15th. So, all in all $100 for a week anchoring in Avalon, yay!  But first, we wanted to stop in Two Harbors.  So glad we did!

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To continue reading about our adventures cruising with kids, click here.

For more on our travels through Europe, and other air/land travels, click here.

For more on our thoughts on boat/worldschooling, click here.