Obnoxious Hawaiian shirt? Check. Bob, the captain whose boat we’d be moving on to had agreed to meet us at the airport to show us the way back to his boat. He was standing at the doors of the small balmy Ixtapa airport in short-shorts and a bright pink and blue button-up T littered with hibiscus flowers. Though he told us he’s 72, his mustached face looked closer to a decade younger. Surprising for someone who has spent that decade living on a boat. In any case, he didn’t give off any murderer or sex-trafficking vibes so we walk up and introduce ourselves. We timed it to land at the same time as another new crew member and Charlene arrived within minutes. She couldn’t be more different from Laina and I. She has been sailing for 15 years and is close to Bob’s age though she too looks much younger. It was immediately apparent we would be able to learn a lot to learn from her — and once the stories started they didn’t stop. But we need all the advice we can get, and if that starts on the collectivo ride to the port, all the better. Plus, her chatter and previous experience sailing with Bob granted us a level of comfort that may not have existed if it was just the two of us being picked up by a strange man.
We were met at the beach by a man-bun toting guy who looks like he could have been at home in a rock climbing gym in Arcata, just add a tan and midwestern accent. Seth loaded us and our belongings into the dingy and began to make his way through the sailboat-filled harbor towards the catamaran with the words VIVA printed across the side. Hanging off the side of the boat as we approached were two mermaid-like young women, waving and cheering our arrival. They assisted us as we stepped onto the boat and greet us with hugs, introducing themselves as Lauren and Maca. The young women’s warm welcome and Seth’s familiar character gave the boat a homey feel even as it rocks gently beneath our feet. We were shown through the cockpit and lounge area to a central kitchen with steps that descend on either side to two cabins and “heads” — boat lingo for bathroom. Laina and I would be sharing a room which also doubles as a laundry room, but of course for the two of us sharing a bed in a small space is nothing new. We were excited to settle in and stash our belongings in the odd assortment of cupboards in our room.
Even as we are unsure of how long we’ll be staying, it feels good to move in and imagine ourselves living in the little room with a window just big enough to see the bay and beach from our raised bed. The first challenge will be adjusting to boat life, but we learn we will have the benefit of being able to do this with an escape route on hand — VIVA will be staying in the harbor for the coming week to stalk up on provisions, make repairs to the water pump, fix an alternator and get ready for a stretch of sailing in which we won’t expect to stop much in the coming weeks. Despite my eagerness to see if I can stomach sailing, the idea of getting to know the boat and get a better sense of the crew before we commit to our first stretch on the water is comforting. Plus being in a harbor surrounded by other boats introduces us to a community we didn’t even know to expect would come with sailing. Just like any other outdoor sport, “the cruisers” as those making the coastal journey call themselves, all seem to know each other and like to get together to drink and talk about close calls in the language of sailing that we understand about as well as Spanish. But thankfully they also seem more than happy to invite the new clueless California girls aboard and show us the ropes — literally and figuratively. In typical form, they combine tails of rough seas that have me considering swimming to shore while I still have the chance with reassuring us that we will be just fine and love life on a sailboat.