Twelve years ago, on this very weekend, I nonchalantly extended a, “How do you do,” to the Sea of Cortez. It was Columbus Day weekend 2002. I was happy to meet her, because she had something I wanted. Salt, waves, sand. Five months of ocean-free living was turning out to be harder than I expected, after Captain Chameleon and I switched lanes and moved from a little island in the Florida Keys to the big, dry, metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona. No regrets for moving away from paradise, where every day my view was of not just one, but two bodies of water (the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico), and yet I was literally feeling like a suffocating fish; on her last impatient breath to have someone drop her back into the ocean- in time for a Columbus Day Regatta.
My new co-workers, full of good intention tried to mend my homesick heart by suggesting I rent a houseboat on Lake Pleasant over Columbus Day weekend. It was the last straw. Go to a lake to celebrate Columbus Day? For pity-sakes, have they no respect for Chris? Or empathy for an ocean junky-island dweller-Frangy-Pangy-Key Lime snob? When an invite came to join Captain Chameleon’s sister and her family at a beach, one hour south of the border in Mexico, I was in!
“Are you sure that if we leave our house at 7:30 a.m. and drive south, south west, that by noon we’ll be sitting on a beach in Mexico?”
“Yep, I’m sure of it. We’ll be sitting on the beach, drinking Dos XX with lime, and sucking salt air in through our nostrils,” replied Capt. Chameleon.
“Yippy. In that case, I’ll take my Dos XX with Key limes!”
Our VW Bug was packed to the gills with every beach item that we owned, plus a Key Lime Cake, when we headed to sea. Our only regret was that it was just for one night. With only six weeks into new jobs, neither one of us were comfortable asking our bosses for time off to go hang at the ocean. It would be 11 years before we worked up that kind of courage.
I adore the Sea of Cortez but admittedly, my feelings for her were pretty nimble at first. That’s often how it goes for me though, guilty of judging a book by its cover. I’m wiser now, from years of being delighted by books with ugly covers. Now, when the urge to judge a book; Captain Chameleon’s travel plans; or a bargain hair salon send my snobbish chin to the skies, I’m usually able to find the where- with-all to pause, get my nose out of the air, and turn to the first page.
“What do you think about pulling a camper down there and making it our second home?” Captain Chameleon was smitten with Puerto Penasco (aka Rocky Point) on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez.
“No thank you.”
I didn’t say it, but I found the town ugly and dusty. Except for the beautiful beaches, it had nothing in common with the picture I was carrying around in my head. My “second home” picture was of Coastal Living homes, Martha Stewart gardens, and Bon Appetite cuisine.
But then something magical happened (or maturity, practicality, and down to earth thinking) and magazine living gave way to figuring things out as they came and on a boat budget. Saving, so that one day we would have options; options to buy another boat, go cruising, or just sit by the ocean and dream of more Columbus Day’s to come.
Favorite times celebrating Columbus Day with Capt. Chameleon:
- The Annapolis Boat Show! It was my first boat show and first time in Chesapeake Bay. It was spectacular. We drove from Florida to Maryland with a cooler of fresh stone crab claws. Arriving first in Bethesda to visit family, we cracked the claws and opened a bottle of regional Chardonnay. The wine was to die for. Lucky us, after the boat show we returned to family and spent a weekend wine-tasting our way through Maryland and Virginia.
- Columbus Day Regatta off Eliot Key, (Key Biscayne) Florida. My first time to sail longer than a sunset cruise, we headed up the coast from Marathon to Elliot Key. What an experience. I was not prepared for the bodacious crowd but it was fun! To this day, when I serve up Red Beans & Rice and cheese bread it takes me back to that weekend.
- Weekends at Corona Del Mar, our little oasis by the sea. It’s what kept us optimistic and committed to working hard, saving, and planning for our next boat adventure. It’s also the place we’ve forged incredible friendships with other adventure seeking people.
- Twelve years ago on our trip to the Sea of Cortez where Capt. Chameleon looked over longingly to a man windsurfing. Without saying anything, Capt. Chameleon reached into the cooler, pulled out 2 beers, and walked down the beach to where the man sat resting. In several minutes the man lay stretched out in the sand, drinking a beer, while Capt. Chameleon took the guy’s windsurfer for a ride. Excited, I watched him slice through the waves, the colorful sail the brightest thing for miles around. Then, the sail went down and Capt. Chameleon sat on the board. Far off shore, I was worried he was injured. Silly me. He was sitting there enjoying a beer and his spectacular luck of windsurfing on Columbus Day. The board that hangs in our guest room reminds me of that day.
- Shelter Island Boatyard in San Diego. Wow, has it been a year? This time last year, we cruised in from Catalina Island and hauled Seamore Pacific out for a bottom job, thru-hull, and electrical work in prep for the Baja Ha Ha XX.
From Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Columbus Day 2014