Canadian Boating Stories / August 22, 2022

Conquering naviphobia, boating on the Sea of Cortez

A Canadian’s boating story from the Sea of Cortez*

Submitted by: Marcella Van Slyke
Location : Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Boat: Azimut 80
Year: January 2017

My very memorable experience boating was a trip to Mexico to cruise the Sea of Cortez with my sister and her family.I jumped for joy when I was invited, but I also panicked! I was terrified of boats; even though I could swim like a fish and I was a trained life guard. In my teen years I canoed with my sisters and spent time in small boats with friends at Elkwater Lake in Alberta, but somewhere in my early 30’s I developed a fear of boats.

Go big or go home

I decided it was time to face this fear and said yes to this awesome adventure! The 80 ft. boat was beautiful, had a captain and a cook and pristine beaches were just a half a day away from La Paz our home base marina. For someone who had never been on a boat this size even getting fuel was an adventure. Off to sea we go with the sun blazing and the wind blowing in my hair. It took a bit for me to get my sea legs, but with some good tips from my sister I was sitting at the back of the boat watching the horizon and loving the sunshine.

As we arrive in our first cove it was time to get in the tender to get to the beach. It was a bit nerve wracking when we all piled in, but I knew I could swim if we went over. And of course we all wore life jackets while on the tender. A tender was new to me, but not to my sister and brother-in-law who had lots of experience. Once we got to the beach I was in seventh heaven; beach, sun and exploring!

The first night in the hull of the boat was scary – the slight rocking and the waves against the hull was something to get used to. And by now I felt we were in the middle of no where. But I reminded myself that my sister and her husband had their boating courses, we had a captain with crew, and this wasn’t their first time out at sea. I made it through the night and woke a bit tired from tossing and turning and worrying, but all was going to be okay!

Wind apps are essential to boating

The next day, the January winds blew in but we set off to reach our next destination. Captain Juan had sailed these waters for years and was very familiar with navigating the chain of Islands that run north from La Paz. We wanted to head to Isla San Diego, where we could try to find the magnificent humped back whales. As we headed north, the boat began to pound the waves, the wind becoming more intense. The sea was rough and the swells high. It was then, that my fears were real, but I could not get off the boat. Cupboards were flying open, glasses were breaking, the kids were on the floor under the blankets and I had to hit the deck as sea sickness came on fast and strong. I joined the kids on the floor under the blanket! My sister went to the captain and asked, “How far are we travelling, and he said, “Oh about another three hours!”. Clearly, the captain was not worried, but my sister intervened and we decided that our search for whales would not happen that day!

Overcoming fears and enjoying boating on the Sea of Cortez

Once things calmed down, we were back to cruising more smoothly and found another beautiful bay, I had survived, and as they say, the best way to overcome a fear is to face it. Each day brought new food, new adventures – such as driving a jet ski, kayaking in the bays, watching dolphins and devil rays fly out of the water; and an ease that I thought I would never have on a boat!

It was only some time after that trip when I was back on land, did I share with my sister my great fear of being on a boat. Needless to say, she was more than shocked! But proud that I said yes to the adventure!

“Marcella’s advice to If you have naviphobia, “Go out with experienced boaters, and just like Nike, Just do it! You won’t regret it. And you will no longer have naviphopia – at least it cured mine! Also, if you have never cruised or sailed through the Sea of Cortez, I recommend to put that on your bucket list. It is a marvellous and wonderous part of our planet.”

Resources & interesting videos, boating on the Sea of Cortez

Unesco – Islands and protected area of the Gulf of California

Gulf of California Travel

Scuba Diving Sea of Cortés

Resources for boat safety

Top 10 safety practices to avoid injury while boating

Pan, Pan. Do you know your marine safety calls

Other Canadian Boating Stories

A fishing guide saves a life
Sailing to Hawaii

* Sea of Cortés – also known as Baja California, Gulf of California and Sea of Cortez


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