Sailing to Your Wedding …and other ill-advised feats

You may have noticed the quiet state of this blog for the past few months. This is not because a meditative calm has pervaded throughout the Pacific, or because we have stopped sailing and settled down in the mango-laden mountains of Central America, or even because we have found the perfect wave for Josh.

Josh in his happy place.

Josh in his happy place.

 

All of these things have happened for brief moments in time, but we have been on a different mission. For the past two months, in addition to collecting interviews and observations on coastal climate change, we have been sailing our butts off trying to get to our own wedding on time – all while trying to plan said wedding from the open ocean. This isn’t exactly a story of climate change. But it’s part of our journey and I want to take you with us.

After Josh proposed on Christmas Day in Guaymas, Mexico, we reveled in that for a while and then thought, huh, how the heck can we plan a wedding with our uncertain sailing schedule? In sailing, you can meet someone at a time or a place, but you have to pick one. We really wanted to get married on our journey, but we couldn’t figure out a place where we could be assured to be there on time.

But we did know one (general) place we had to be: Costa Rica by June. This is the safe zone for boats and the companies that insure them: hurricanes don’t hit Costa Rica, so this is where we had to be for the start of the hurricane season, June to November. Since we had to be in Costa Rica anyway, we figured that would be a logical location for a wedding.

Josh had visited Costa Rica before, but I hadn’t. I had some misgivings: my heart belongs to Mexico, I insisted, and thus I wanted my friends and family to experience the magic of Mexico’s Pacific coast with us. But with a looming hurricane season, we couldn’t make that happen fast enough.

So I started reading about ‘practical weddings’ online, I googled ‘10 bedroom house in Costa Rica,’ and it all began to fall into place (thanks to a group that canceled at our chosen villa because of fears of the Zika virus.)

Wedding planning, much like sailing, is self-illuminating. I thought I wanted a simple, bare bones wedding. But when it came down to it, I really wanted to create a special treat for those people who got on the flights and crossed international borders just to witness this rite of passage and share a moment in our lives. I can’t even tell you how many emails were exchanged about food, and who knew I even cared about tablecloth colors and textures. And after insisting that I wanted a rustic location, I ended up finding a house steeped in luxury. Turns out when you camp on the water for two years (and regularly camp in your truck for fourteen years before that), nice sheets sound like a dreamy change. Plus I realized I wanted to show all our friends, who have given me more beers and good ideas than I can count, a piece of appreciation.

The top story hot tub where we ended up staying for the wedding!

The top story hot tub where we ended up staying for the wedding!

 

Venue, band, food, having the boat in the photos: these were my main concerns. Somehow, actually getting there hadn’t dawned on me yet. As a Costa Rican wedding planner found us band, food, and flowers, we realized that we were in Puerto Vallarta in the beginning of April and still had to sail about 2,000 nautical miles in two months. We finished pulling and re-stepping the mast (much of which Josh busted out while Shannon and I went wedding dress shopping in Mexico City!,) and set out down a coast with dwindling anchorages. We were in hot pursuit of Prism, who left a couple weeks before us. I’ll write more about these anchorages, but it was exhausting to travel at the pace we had to set: we pulled in, slept, and pulled out. Many of the anchorages were not much more than roadsteads. On this stretch to Zihuatanejo, I finally realized one of the major merits of the overnight sail: traveling a lot of ground in one day instead of three. Although I’m glad we were able to see each anchorage, it tugged at my heart when we had to leave in the morning instead of exploring.

We were only able to visit Punta Ipala one morning. This magical, tiny town was tucked into the windy cape south of the Bay of Banderas and very seldom visited by sailboats. The people were kind and very proud of their tiny town etched into the steep headland.

We were only able to visit Punta Ipala one morning. This magical, tiny town was tucked into the windy cape south of the Bay of Banderas and very seldom visited by sailboats. The people were kind and very proud of their tiny town etched into the steep headland.

 

In the meantime, there was no blog writing.

Once we caught Jon and Shannon, we popped into Zihuatanejo (long enough for Jon and Shannon to find and adopt the street kitten, Benita,) busted out my first triple overnight sail to Huatulco, crossed the dreaded Tehuantepec, visited a coffee plantation (one of my favorite places on earth) in Chiapas, Josh survived his last 5-day bought with Montezuma’s revenge, and we set sail for Central America. Phew!

With less than three weeks remaining, we had to carefully figure out where we could stop, and although we knew we would bypass Guatemala because of a lack of Pacific anchorages, we watched sadly as we left El Salvador to the massive thunderstorms that consumed its coast every day. It still pains me that we weren’t able to stop there. Despite a poor reputation in the international news, El Salvador is famed for sheltered anchorages and marinas and incredibly friendly and generous people, not to mention delicious and inexpensive food. But the only two places we could have stopped require a bar crossing – breaking waves would carry the boat over a shoal to a protected estuary. We’ve surfed Oleada through waves before, so although that would be exciting, the possibility that we could be trapped by a swell once we were inside kept us away. If the swell is even moderately big, the bars become impassable. Filled with regret, we sailed by. Could we have spent less time somewhere else so we could visit this country? Of course. But it didn’t work out that way. We compromised for a chance to see the Gulf of Fonseca and Nicaragua.

Isla del Tigre, Honduras, in the Gulf of Fonseca. This perfectly conical old volcano is perfect if you are a cruiser or maybe a reclusive evil genius.

Isla del Tigre, Honduras, in the Gulf of Fonseca. This perfectly conical old volcano is perfect if you are a cruiser or maybe a reclusive evil genius.

 

Meanwhile, I put out small wedding fires and organized airport shuttles for every guest.

After Honduras and the unexpectedly magical Gulf of Fonseca (I’ll write about them, I promise!), we sailed to northern Nicaragua, one of my favorite stops in all our travels (it deserves its own blog as well, as do the stories behind this mad dash.) We had to tear ourselves away after a week and sail to Costa Rica’s steep and lush green shores. Once in Costa Rica, we did an unplanned night sail night on what ended up being our most exhausting overnight, thanks to the thunderstorms protecting the Nicola Gulf all night long. But after a stop on the remote and charming Nicoya peninsula and two more easy day sails, we dropped the hook in Quepos, home of our wedding ceremony.

We finally made it! The Quepos anchorage, Oleada in the background.

We finally made it! The Quepos anchorage, Oleada in the background.

 

The relief washed over all four of us like a tsunami. (Jon was the wedding photographer and Shannon a bridesmaid, so they were on the same breakneck schedule.) Josh and I went to Mexico City to pick up my wedding dress, and Jon and Shannon watched Uly. When we returned, we left both Oleada and Prism in the marina and threw all seven of our surfboards on the roof of our rental car, destined for land life and visiting friends for a few days. I’ll tell the wedding story soon…

Loaded up and ready to live on land for a few days!

Loaded up and ready to live on land for a few days!

 

Lessons learned? Well, if you ever sail to your own wedding, here are a few ideas. It’s a pretty ridiculous premise – but here’s what I learned, from the practical to the philosophical, distilled.

1. Hire a wedding planner. I could have NEVER pulled this off without an advocate, an ear, and a person who knows the local scene.

2. Go ahead, try to plan out a sail for four months – we didn’t sail it that way in the end. Boats break, and some places just sucked us in. We had to be flexible – this meant enjoying places even when it felt like we were stuck there. I even ended up teaching a few yoga classes to friends we made in La Cruz—and rekindled my desire to both practice and teach. Although I still feel a pang of regret that we spent more time in La Cruz at the expense of El Salvador, this time was an important and memorable part of our journey, even though I didn’t plan it that way.

Tor, Jess, Lars and Odin Bjorklund sailed their homebuilt 32' foot steel ketch from Seattle and were our neighbors in La Cruz--best neighbors ever!! They set off for Hawaii together around the time we left.

Tor, Jess, Lars and Odin Bjorklund sailed their homebuilt 32′ foot steel ketch, Yare, from Seattle and were our neighbors in La Cruz–best neighbors ever!! They set off for Hawaii together around the time we left, and have since crossed back to Alaska. You can read about their passages at svyare.blogspot.com

 

3. Planning a wedding brought out sides in me that I had no idea existed, that I had never even seen before. Somehow, I thought that, because I’ve chosen a different lifestyle, I was exempt from wedding planning stress. In a word: nope.

4. To make distance while sailing, overnights are key. And they are beautiful. I will never forget standing on the bow with Uly for half an hour on a moonless night as tens of dolphins rode our bow, streaming with bioluminescence.

Josh rigged the GoPro off the bow for some of our underwater escorts.

Josh rigged the GoPro off the bow for some of our underwater escorts. This from our four-day passage, 25 miles offshore in southern Mexico.

 

5. To an opposite point, although exhausting, stopping (instead of sailing overnight) at least gave us an ocean-side peek into life on the coast, even if we didn’t have time to go to shore. We could still glean the character of a place from the pangas, the huts on shore, the quiet darkness at night.

6. Mexico holds a huge part of my heart. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t have space for the rest of Central America. My love for this part of the world, turns out, is infinite, and one country does not bump out another as we travel. My heart just swells even more.

7. The interaction of dolphins and dogs is remarkable, and once again, having a dog along for the journey provided us with endless entertainment and laughter on those long passages. Watching the dolphins on the bow with Uly makes sleep deprivation bearable.

8. If you want to have a wedding or family reunion or corporate retreat or yoga retreat, go to Punto de Vista in Manuel Antonio. Not only is the house and location and amazing, it’s the people there that make it the most remarkable guest experience of my life. How can a person intuit what I want before I even know it myself? Just…remarkable.

The incomparable Jossue, who makes it all happen at night at Punto de Vista.

The incomparable Jossue, who makes it all happen at night at Punto de Vista, and is just an excellent human.

 

9. The one thing I wouldn’t do again: plan the wedding shuttles for all our guests. People often missed their flight, driver, or both, and it meant that I was getting 20 texts and messages a day right before the wedding.

10. There is no more tortuous relief than pulling into a roadstead (read: anchoring in the open ocean) right before a storm. So nice to be anchored for a storm! So terrible to spend the night with all your possessions and body parts flying around the pitching boat!

11. Best piece of advice I got as I was fretting about my vows: this is just the beginning. What really matters is the marriage.

12. I had NO IDEA how it was all going to come together—but it did. Although I wish I had been able to get all carefree the days before the wedding, I at least got to have that DURING the wedding—which was so short! Only six full hours for all that planning?! And yet, I get it now: it’s a rite of passage, a life marker that, amazingly, we got to share with our friends–who will most likely never be gathered together in that group again (nor in the jungle by the ocean together, for that matter.)

13. People that I would have never expected to step up and help out did so in surprising ways. And seeing the huge grins, the happiness and exuberance that people were able to experience, whether relaxing at the villa or crashing through the surf, made me feel so full of love and life.

14. I have an amazing group of badass girlfriends. Tough, intelligent, generous, hilarious, and full of heart and compassion. And they all recognized their amazingness in each other and bonded. Best gift EVER.

Who can go wrong with a group like this.

Who can go wrong with a group like this. And this doesn’t even include the other incredible ladies who attended who are ALL in my heart’s bridal party. I LOVE YOU.

 

15. I was very, very opposed to spending money on a wedding. And while I didn’t spend money on centerpieces and we made our own bouquets, it was great to spend money on our friends–without whom we wouldn’t be who (and where) we are today. Memories of everyone gathered and eating, drinking, and making merry for days was worth every last cent. Thanks Mom, you made it all possible!!

16. Marrying the captain means that I have found the person that sees me through boat work, long nights, rough seas, food poisoning, injuries, downpours, hunger, really really really bad anchorages, wedding planning offshore, destination wedding planning offshore, deadlines, lightning, international logistics, and endless open ocean conversations about life and love. I had my doubts about the wisdom of sailing to our wedding, but never questioned the person with whom I did it. And in the end, I wouldn’t change any of it for a second.

Wedding Kiss

11 Responses to Sailing to Your Wedding …and other ill-advised feats

  1. Lindsay August 19, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    Such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. Megan August 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

    Congratulations! <3

  3. Heather Leslie August 19, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    Yay! So happy for you both. Hope to meet up in Mexico or Maine sometime soon.

  4. Caroline George August 20, 2016 at 12:53 am #

    Love love love… so inspiring!

    • Jess October 10, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

      Thanks Caroline–that means a lot coming from some who leads a very inspired life as well!

  5. Svetlana August 21, 2016 at 12:40 am #

    Beautiful!! Congratulations and well done.

    • Jess October 10, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

      Thank you Svetlana!!

  6. Jeanine August 28, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    Congratulations Jess! I love your story!

    • Jess October 10, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

      Gracias Jeanine! Are you keeping a blog of your adventures?

  7. Delphine October 5, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    Love this post Jess. Hope Wahkuna and Oleana get to meet again some days.

    • Jess October 10, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

      We do too!!! Lots of love to all the two- and four-legged Wahkuna crew!

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