Cruising World - - Underway - —Becca Guil­lote

It was over­cast, but the threat of rain did noth­ing to dampen our en­thu­si­asm. My hus­band, John, and I had pulled into a new an­chor­age at a new is­land, and we were ea­ger to ex­plore. The crew per­formed a clumsy dance as we col­lected shoes, wa­ter, cam­eras and rain jack­ets in an­tic­i­pa­tion, oc­ca­sion­ally paus­ing to take in the dra­matic jux­ta­po­si­tion of emerald-blue wa­ter, crim­son-red rocks and a low-hang­ing gray sky.

Formed by vol­canic ac­tiv­ity mil­lions of years ago, Isla Espir­itu Santo looked hag­gard and beaten, tucked be­hind the Baja Penin­sula in the Sea of Cortez. The red sand­stone strata jut­ted for­ward from dark cliff bands like poorly healed scars. Ridges were dot­ted with in­trigu­ing black caves and topped with weath­ered shrubs that de­fied all odds of life as they clung to the crum­bling rocks. Com­ing from our home wa­ters in the lush Pa­cific North­west, an en­vi­ron­ment teem­ing with life and fresh wa­ter, I was amazed at any liv­ing crea­ture carv­ing out an ex­is­tence in this in­hos­pitable world.

John and I dragged our dinghy up the beach and parked it next to two oth­ers. Af­ter we ex­changed hugs and tales with fel­low cruis­ers from the two boats we’d been sail­ing with, we all headed off up a wind­ing goat trail. Soon, the small path dis­solved into a field of boul­ders, and the easy walk­ing be­came four-limbed scram­bling. The seven of us clam­bered along, chat­ting and laugh­ing to­gether as the rain quick­ened and the land­scape trans­formed around us. There were a thou­sand new shades of sand­stone red and a de­li­cious fresh smell that came from a timid plant we had com­pletely over­looked. It was a va­ri­ety of spearmint, we de­ter­mined, and it was heavenly. Ev­ery turn of­fered new per­spec­tives on the shift­ing clouds above and emerald bay be­low.

The group spread out as we each chose our own route over and be­tween boul­ders, up the scree and around cac­tuses, in­di­vid­u­ally de­ter­min­ing the least in­tim­i­dat­ing ap­proach up the steep hill­side. There was noth­ing di­rect about the paths we chose, noth­ing fast or ef­fi­cient about our pace. We stopped to peer into caves, to take pic­tures, to lis­ten to a funny story. We whis­tled and hollered to hear the sounds echo back and forth through the canyon. It felt like the hills joined in our fun, re­peat­ing our laugh­ter and silli­ness across the is­land.

Cruis­ing of­ten presents op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­lin­quish plans weighed down with ob­jec­tives and ex­pec­ta­tions. This life­style en­cour­ages us to em­brace the un­known, to slip past the pre­dictable and gather un­ex­pected en­coun­ters, in­sights and re­ver­ber­at­ing laugh­ter. It re­minds us reg­u­larly that Mother Na­ture is in charge, not us. We could have let the rain can­cel the hike; in­stead, we ob­served how it en­hanced the colors, brought our at­ten­tion to a mod­est plant and cooled us down.

I paused, closed my eyes, and soaked up the sounds of the rain and the chat­ter­ing of friends nearby. This is what life is all about, I de­cided. It’s about ex­plor­ing with­out agenda, fol­low­ing Mother Earth’s cues and lis­ten­ing to au­then­tic laugh­ter. Above all, it’s about wan­der­ing to­gether.

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