On Monday evening at around 9:30, Call of the Sea’s schooner Seaward retied her dock lines in Sausalito, three months and 15 days after sailing out the Gate on her way to Mexico. The vessel’s welcoming party was a small but enthusiastic group of Matthew Turner’s crew who had assembled to catch lines.
The crew’s blinking eyes and zombie-like stares were indicative of the journey the five sailors had just completed. Certainly, there are those who have undertaken more arduous voyages, but for this crew the landing signified the end of 14 days at sea as they made their way through a range of ocean and weather conditions from Cabo to San Francisco Bay.
“I’m looking forward to hot showers and internet!” exclaimed Natalie Grose, who had joined the vessel in La Paz expecting only to enjoy a week-long vacation on the Sea of Cortez. She had not counted on spending the following two weeks delivering the vessel.
“I don’t want to leave you guys,” Natalie said while debating her options to fly home or sail roughly 1,700 miles north.
Two additional hands who had planned to meet the vessel in Cabo and supplement her crew were unable to make the journey, and Seaward’s crew was looking like being a four-person delivery team.
However, in true sailor-like fashion, Natalie chose to stay with the boat and take her share of the four-on-six-off watch rotations. “Your grandfather will be proud,” one crewmember exclaimed in relief. Natalie’s grandfather, Alan Olson, is a lifelong sailor and one of the founding members of Call of the Sea. “He taught me to sail,” Natalie shared.
So it came about that on Tuesday, March 31, three months and one day after departing Sausalito, Seaward left her dock in San Jose del Cabo and embarked on what for three of the crew was the longest voyage they had ever undertaken. “Six days and six nights offshore is my record,” said Monica Grant, Seaward’s cook for the Mexico season. By contrast, Capt. Jay Grant and Mate Jessica Bucklin had each crossed the Atlantic.
Anyone who has sailed the Baja and US West Coasts north in April will know that the passage is often called the Baja Bash. “Can we not call it that please?” Monica asked. “Perhaps we’ll get lucky and have a southerly wind all the way.”
In order to avoid the traditional coastal ‘bash’ the plan was to sail about 400 miles west of Cabo and catch the trade winds north. “These should take us right up to the Bay Area and then we can tack and head straight in,” Capt. Jay said.
As with all ocean sailing, the weather and sea conditions could only be forecast, not guaranteed. After her first 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. watch in which she steered Seaward through high seas and 20-plus-knot winds, deckhand Thanie Pesavento issued a high-five to her watch mate. “We made it through the first night! Woohoo!”
However, after several days of sailing in a northwesterly direction, it became apparent that the weather awaiting the vessel farther north would not be conducive to a comfortable journey. The three least-salty crew, by now in various stages of seasickness, were somewhat relieved to turn and head the boat northeast toward the coast.
From here it was simply a matter of motorsailing north, with a pause in Cojo Anchorage, north of Santa Barbara, while a gale blew offshore. “There’s a fishing boat here,” Jessica noted. “If the fishing boat is sheltering, it must be rough out there.”
The last two days of the voyage brought little wind and lots of rain. Despite this, the crew remained cheerful and kept their sights on home. “We’re nearly there,” was the cry from several lips as various familiar landmarks came into view.
But as Seaward turned her bow toward the Golden Gate Bridge, the vessel was instructed to wait outside while the Coast Guard determined her entry status. “I was worried we’d have to turn around and find somewhere to anchor for the night,” Monica said.
Thankfully it was only an hour or so before the order was given, “Bring her in,” and Seaward and her hearty crew felt the warmth that accompanies arriving home.