“We left Sänna in, of all places, El Salvador, which made one or two blink wide-eyed because of the high crime, the gangs and all that. It seems an okay place so far, there’s a small gathering of US and Canadian sailboats waiting out the hurricane season, they tell us there’s never any trouble…”
It’s a little late, but we’ve now gotten around to writing-up and updating our ‘Where Are We Now” part of our Sänna website. Lots of you have been asking. This describes our voyage south from Ensenada in a northern Mexico to Bahiá Del Sol in El Salvador back in 2018.
Much has happened in the last twelve months or so of this year. You know how it is, family, the lure of an English summer, music festivals, the cricket… so we decided to spend this last summer back in England.
La Paz is a nice place, there’s no doubting that, the harbour sits forty miles or so up on the east side of Mexico’s Baja Peninsular and is considered by most sailors to be the gateway to the fabled Sea of Cortez.
This eight hundred miles of smooth sea that’s landlocked on three sides had been the subject of much conversation between ourselves and American sailors ever since we’d sailed our way south from Alaska, eventually reaching the San Juan Islands to the north of Seattle’s Puget Sound in Washington State. In the truly sublime North American harbours of Port Townsend and Friday Harbor every sailor it seemed had spent some time or other in Mexico’s most well-known sailing destination.
As we then made our way south down the US Pacific west coast, their enthusiasm and perfunctory advice grew in intensity, we were not under any circumstances to miss out the Sea of Cortez…
Leaving Ensenada to make our way south provided a welcome relief from the trials and tribulations of bringing Nellie Cat from England to Mexico. Now we’d see how Nellie took to life on the big ocean which, let’s face it, would be a new experience for all three of us. Well, coming as a complete surprise our new ship’s cat was seasick. Neither Marie or myself had given any thought to the issue of cats being seasick, I think it’s fair to say we were as much stressed than we’d ever been since our time onboard Sänna… we were paranoid about losing our new ship’s cat overboard.
By the time Nellie herself overcame both her fear of the sea and her insufferable seasickness, we’d made the sixty-five miles south overnight to anchor in the tenuous shelter of Cabo Colonet…
I’ve made an adorable friend here in San Carlos, he’s a handsome Mexican cat who lives near the dustbin compound but he knows loads, he tells me I’m being robbed, that I should get myself a lawyer. I like him a lot, he tells me that one day he wants me to have his kittens, he’s all the time going on about that. My Mexican friend tells me lots of other things too… like, I should be paid the national minimum wage for the work I do because he thinks I’m being treated like a slave. Did you know there’s a minimum wage here in Mexico and it’s eighty-eight Pesos a day? I didn’t know that until my adorable Mexican friend told me. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a national minimum wage or even what a national minimum wage was. And now I’ve found out that back there in England the national minimum wage for a cat is three pounds and seventy an hour. Do you believe that? Did you know that? Me, on this ship I don’t even get paid any minimum wage.
I don’t get paid nothin’, nothin’ at all, I have to work all day and every day just to get my terrible food…
This is what happened. Don’t let anyone else say different coz I was the one that fell into the sea.
It was that dog from the other boat, the boat that was tied right next to us. I got bored so I went down through their hatch, the one they’d left open, I wanted to take a look around but of course that stupid dog thing wasn’t around then was it. I found some food left out in a bowl on the floor so I ate it. It was there doing nothin’ so why let it go to waste?
Then I found were they kept that food so I opened the little door and got it out, I ate that food too but what’s wrong with that? I have to catch all my own food on my boat.
“Why bring a cat all the way from England,” the Mexican Immigration guy asked, “there’s already ten million cats in Mexico.” I explained that Mexican cats could only speak Mexican… which would be of no use to us at all because we only spoke English. He nodded and excepted my explanation before waving us away, worryingly unconcerned. Dave.
Neither of us can remember who made the original decision, I think it was me. It must have been me if I think about it now, because I suggested to both Marie and Henry that we should have a ship’s cat, one that was grey to match the colour theme of our boat. It was a joke of course, I never expected either of them to take it seriously… but you should never make jokes like this around a pair of dedicated cat lovers.
Almost immediately I was inundated with internet links to cuddly little grey kittens. Dozens of them from all around the UK, from Inverness in Scotland to someplace I’d never heard of way off in Cornwall. Before I could say ‘Yikes, here comes Officer Dibble’ both Marie and Henry singled out a really cute looking male down in Ramsgate, a harbour town on the south coast of England… a very nice little sea port but quite a long distance to travel. Henry argued that with Ramsgate being a harbour and close to the sea any cat from there would already have its sea legs, which was a vague argument in which I did see some logic. Marie disagreed entirely, but she just wanted to cuddle a little grey kitten sitting on her lap.
So off we travelled down to Ramsgate… just to take a look of course because I already knew this was a really stupid idea…
“It took a while to find her but there she was hiding under the dinghy. We had to drag her out by her tail to sign the papers but right now she’s legal, Nellie is now officially the ship’s cat. She’s complained about one or two things but nothing we can’t deal with and, despite what she tells you, Nellie’s been given her proper rights under international maritime law. She’s gonna be on the night watch most of the time in charge of vermin and stuff like that, she’s not being overly friendly just now but even so, all the signs are looking good.” Dave
Nelly Nelson, Nellie for short, is now all official and legal. We had some explaining to do on the documents about why she was first called Nelson, but when we took Nelson there for the snip the veterinary said it might be best if we called her Nellie. That might not seem important but she needs her own passport and stuff like that.
Nellie has been properly and correctly inducted into the ship’s crew. She’s filed complaints about a couple of things, about being abducted and forced against her will, being press-ganged when nowadays that’s not legal but we’re dealing with all of that. She eats her fill every day so things aren’t that bad.
Now that she’s crew she’s got her own crew list profile, even though she’s a cat it keeps things legal. You can check this out if you want to, especially if you’re one of those cat people.
Hello. I don’t know who you are but me, I’m called Nellie. That’s what they call me anyway. They used to call me Nelson but I went five times to see that funny lady wearing the white coat, now they all call me Nellie. I think I’m supposed to be the ship’s cat.
Well I don’t wanna be the ship’s cat. The ship’s too small and it stinks, it stinks all the time of them and sometimes I don’t even know what’s happening. The floor of this ship moves around too much and I slide around hitting things I’d really prefer to stay away from, like the table leg and other stupid things like that. Yesterday I tried to jump from the couch, then the ship moved the other way and I fell in a heap on the floor.
If you’re a cat and reading this then you seriously don’t want to be the ship’s cat. Let me tell you why you don’t want to be the ship’s cat…
“At some point we knew it would be time to leave Alaska. Leaving Hoonah would be hard, we’d made so many good friends here in this part of the world that’s refreshingly faraway from mainstream living. Alaska is exactly what we’d been searching for really but, like everything perfect, it couldn’t be forever. ” Dave
Alaska to Mexico 2017
Somewhat belatedly we’ve now written up a transcript of our long voyage from Alaska to Mexico from August to November last year. This forms part of our ‘Where Are We Now’ section of our website that details everything since we left the Mediterranean in 2006.
Mexico is a new experience for us. We’re back in a third world environment to some degree although many Mexicans will argue with that description of their country, but compared to mainland America that’s perhaps what it is. We had to give up our plans for the Northwest Passage route home because of problems with our Volvo Penta engine, so Mexico is our only option considering that we have to make for Panama and the Panama Canal.
Ahead of us await hurricanes, salsa and that curious phenomenon called Donald Trump’s wall… something that many Alaskans are massively in favour of even when considering there are exceptionally few Mexicans in Alaska…
If you are interested in reading our rather lengthy transcript then please click the following link.
“Whilst I kneeled behind Marie to listen in on the speaker a guy walked around the corner of the building then stopped suddenly when he saw me kneeling right behind Marie on her hands and knees. “Whoa,” he said, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, it’s a free world and you guys should do what you wanna do.” He sheepishly disappeared back around the corner embarrassed. Marie and I looked at each other quite shocked.” Dave.
The Harbour Police office had a notice posted saying that all transiting vessels must use the communication kiosk located at the outside corner of the building. The notice said this provided a link to the main police office downtown for processing incoming boat traffic and arranging for the requisite vessel inspection… except the kiosk didn’t do any of that. There was a keyboard on the kiosk but some of the keys didn’t work, so when dialling any of the four numbers given we then received a message on the screen saying we’d dialled an incorrect number. After fifteen minutes of trying our luck with the keyboard we somehow struck lucky and got the number right, a faint voice on the line then gave instructions that we could not quite make out because the voice seemed to be coming from somewhere around our feet…