In my old 'some-day we'll be cruising again' day-dreams we were always anchored off a white sand beach with gin-clear blue water below us and a sun setting astern. In the mornings we'd wake-up and stroll on the beach, burying our toes in the warm powdery sand-and then look out and admire our boat as she bobbed cheerfully against the endless shimmering blue.
The reality is we rarely anchor off white sand beaches. Sand beaches mean wind and swell. Sandy beaches are created by the prevailing seas which pound against the shore until it submits and disintegrates into dust. This is why surfers flock to sand beaches and why boats typically tuck away in rocky coves. Sometimes though conditions are just right and the calm water off a long white beach is so inviting we can't help ourselves.
Alcatraz was one of those beaches. When we arrived the three remaining kid boats and Katydid were already there, looking like a pretty advertisement for a retirement savings plan. We spent the afternoon diving on a near-by reef, and the evening on shore roasting nasty Mexican marshmallows at a bonfire. The next day was more of the same, until the prevailing northerly wind kicked in. First it was just an irritating swell on our beam. Then the wind came. It wasn't strong, but the fetch was miles, so the seas piled up until they were steep, and close, and really quite uncomfortable.
Dusk had hit at this point, and the option was to grin and bear it, or head in through the dark to a more protected anchorage. Then the weather report promised continued northerlies in the morning. Because we weren't in danger and conditions were relatively benign we could have gone either way. But being fans of a good-nights sleep, we decided to practice our night time navigation skills and head the 10 miles south to a wide open anchorage with good northerly protection.
It was an exhilarating sail south. We knew the route and Evan kept a careful eye on the radar and our previous GPS track. Maia was disappointed we were leaving her friends behind-but I really liked being out at night. There's something wonderful about sailing under the stars, through phosphorescent waves. There's more room for introspection at night, somehow daytime sights crowd out my thoughts.
When we pulled into La Gringa about an hour and a half later, the seas were flat and the wind calm. We dropped the hook and settled in for a long silent night. This morning we moved again--to a rock-ringed anchorage far from sandy beaches: My new cruising fantasy.
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