Summer on Terra Firma

Our first summer as real cruisers – that is, we’d left the relative stability of living in a marina and working in the States for the wilds of Mexico and beyond (well, someday we’ll go beyond Mexico) – we spent aboard Free Luff in the northern Sea of Cortez with a handful of hearty souls. We loved getting ensconced in the tight knit community of sailors up there. We rode out chubascos and elephantes together, we floated the tidal currents on the full moon in La Gringa, and we fawned over whale sharks in Bahía de Los Angeles. We endured Tropical Storm Lidia as a group in Puerto Don Juan, then had a survivor’s party once she cleared out. Lots of fishing, swimming, happy hour noshes, and sundowners. It was great fun.

Our second summer as cruisers, we left Free Luff in La Paz for two months, while we tootled around San Diego, Alaska, San Francisco, and Thailand. It was a total blast, but it was really strange leaving our home for what seemed like forever, and relying on hired hands and fellow sailors to look after her in our absence. Once we returned from our various journeys at home and abroad, we still managed to sail up into the Sea for a few short weeks before making the fall/winter crossing back to the southern climes on the mainland, then returning once again to the southern Sea in time for spring and the dreaded haul-out in Mazatlán.

Over the first couple of years, we learned about the annual migration patterns of many of our fellow sailors. There is a pretty definitive sailing season, which is largely based on weather and prevailing winds and, wait for it…health care. Because it is scorching in the summertime in Mexico, many folks depart around May/June, leave their boats in marinas or on the hard in boat yards (mostly) protected from storms, and head to the States to seek respite from the heat (even though a lot of them live in Arizona – but it’s a dry heat!). In the case of many Canadians we know, they’re obligated to be in country for at least six months of the year to maintain their health care back home. Yep. Then they all return in the fall for beautiful sailing and fun with other cruisers.

So, for our third summer as cruisers, we decided to take a page out of the part-time-cruiser’s playbook, and leave Free Luff for nearly five months. What?! We’re currently two solid months in, and it is weird. We’re definitely having a wonderful time being home with friends and family, but it’s as if a part of us is missing, like we’ve lost a limb or something. That said, being surrounded by our nearest and dearest, and visiting some of nature’s finest terrestrial places has been the best consolation for missing da boat. So, what have we been up to for the first couple of months on terra firma?

Well, as per usual, our first stop was San Diego to check in with Jody’s brethren. This always includes a little golf, a lot of eating and, this time around, watching as much Women’s World Cup Soccer as we could, and babysitting our guide baby, Jack. Then, believe it or not, we got in a big van and were transported back across the border to attend our dear friends’, Erin and Simon’s, wedding (boda) at the Rancho La Bellota in the Guadelupe Valley, just north of Ensenada. The setting among coastal sage scrub and chaparral in full bloom was like a dream come true for me. And the Rancho La Bellota itself was fabulous! The owners were so gracious; they offered horseback riding, hiking, target and clay pigeon shooting, roping (a small metal cow on wheels), and home-cooked Mexican meals. Plus, we got to hang out with fun-loving people the whole weekend. Totally awesome.

After we got back to San Diego, we packed up the Civic and headed east – destination: Traverse City, Michigan. We took about a week to get there, with stops in Escondido to check in with the crew of S/V Ellie, followed by a couple of days at The Resort in Cathedral City (e.g., Flea’s house), Bryce Canyon National Park, Lake Powell (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area), the Four Corners, Mesa Verde National Park, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Wilson State Park, and Niota, Illinois (e.g., Vanessa’s brother and sis-in-law’s house). To be clear, a week was not nearly long enough to cover the ground we did, but, as usual, we had a target date in mind, so we forced ourselves to keep the pedal to the metal so that we could meet our self-imposed deadline.

The highlights were, of course, seeing our friends along the way, but laying eyes on and hiking among the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon was a bit mind-blowing. It was my first time to this national park and, despite having to weave in and out of a few other visitors, I was awestruck by the scale and beauty of the area. We opted for the Peekaboo Loop hike, which starts at 8,300 feet – a little high for us given we’ve been moseying around at sea level pretty consistently for the past 3 years. Turns out I’m a little out of hiking-at-elevation shape, but I didn’t die and we thoroughly enjoyed the smells, the sound of a gazillion cicadas clicking and the wind through the pines, and the vast colorful views. Just stunning. The photos simply don’t do the place justice.

Another fav was the ranger-guided tour of the Balcony House at Mesa Verde National Park. It was fascinating to learn how the Ancestral Pueblo people lived high above the valley floors in the cliffs by excavating/building multi-room dwellings for about 100 years early in the 12th century. They endured extreme weather at elevations between 7,000 and 8,500 feet, and farmed on the mesa tops, scrambling up and down multiple steep pitches to reach their dwellings. A pretty incredible existence.

The most eventful part of the road trip was when we were driving through Missouri, heading into the teeth of a severe thunderstorm. We were toolin’ along in a torrential downpour at about 50 mph (everyone else was doing 65 quite comfortably, whizzing by us), when our tires let loose. We hydroplaned, spun a smooth 180, and came to rest in the median, facing oncoming traffic. It was like it all happened in slow motion. Both of us kept waiting for the car to flip, but luckily it didn’t. The grass in the median was up to the windows and it was a muddy mess, but we were able to drive right out of it and pull over, going the right direction, to inspect the car. All good! We made it to Illinois to visit with Vanessa and her brother, Ron, and his family for a night, then we were off to Michigan. Whew!

So enjoy the pics and the vid, which, unfortunately, is a little choppy for reasons I can’t figure out. If anyone has any ideas, please get in touch!

San Diego Gallery
Erin and Simon Boda (Wedding) Gallery
Road-trip-to-Michigan Gallery


  1. Rob Armstrong

    Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

    1. Jody Fraser

      So great to connect with you in LPS! Can’t wait to see you out on the water!

  2. Your wipe-out sounds like a puckered moment in time. Glad you two are still carrying on as usual. Get in touch if you make it up to the PNW!

    1. Jody Fraser

      We’re a-comin’! Made it to MN!

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