Interview: John Bridenbeck sailing in the Sea of Cortez
It’s 8:30 in the morning and John Bridenbeck, a classical violinist, is playing Bach’sSonata No. 1 on the deck of his boat Rosalita. He’s anchored in El Burro Cove in Bahía Concepcíon, Baja California, and his plans are to start heading south to Puerto Escondido today, so I asked him if I could capture him on video before he leaves.
An accomplished violinist, John, until a few months ago, had been playing in the Bart Stations in San Francisco, but while he spends the next few months single handing Rosalita in the Sea of Cortez, most of his performances will be taking place on the beaches and streets of Baja.
John is one of the most interesting people I’ve met while cruising this season. He’s only 27, his sailing experience is limited and he’s incredibly engaging. A few days before his early morning performance on Rosalita, I interviewed him for an article for examiner.com. At that time he was about three weeks into his cruise. Here’s what he had to say.
Tell me how it came about that you are in the Sea of Cortez on the boat?
This boat is owned by a family friend whom I have known since I was a little over 10 years old. He’s a good friend of my dad’s. I think he saw me as a college student who was really stressed out—as many college students are. He said, man, you should go on this adventure. He’s just a really, really cool guy [who’s] out there to help people professionally and philanthropically.
A couple weeks leading up to this, I was sending him e-mails: I don’t really know what I’m doing. Sure, I sailed as a kid, but I’m only 70 percent sure I’m not going to sink your boat. I don’t speak the language. I don’t really have much money saved up and I don’t know what busking will be like. I also have a shoulder injury. I came up with a million reasons not to do this and he kept saying, “Man, this will be an adventure you’ll measure all future adventure’s against.” Those were his exact words. So far he’s right.
What did you do to prepare for this trip?
Most of it was trying to get rid of my stuff; a lot of it was trying to save money. As far as preparing myself to live on a boat, I took an online boat-safety class. A lot of mental preparation. A lot of back and forth between this is going to be the greatest thing ever to what the fuck am I doing.
One thing my friend said that really stuck with me—that hadn’t occurred to me until he mentioned it—was, “Your job is with people. You see thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of faces a day.” I talk to lots and lots of people. While I like to live in a cave for my peaceful times, I’m a social creature and I’m going to go from San Francisco, a city shy of a million people, to go live on a 29’ boat, a lot of times with nobody around. I was just sort of trying to prepare myself for that.
How has that been so far?
Not a problem at all. One, I’ve been doing very constructive things with my time by myself. I’ve got friends on boats. I’ve got you on “Harmony” and I’ve met plenty of people along the way. And It’s so friendly in Baja.
What is your biggest fear?
Dragging anchor when I’m asleep, that’s what’s mostly scary…[waking] up on the beach. This isn’t my boat. I dread having to make this phone call: Hey, Andy, your classic boat—I think it was his first boat—I sunk it. God, I’m terrified of that. Or bumping into another boat. Now I have to say, Hey, Andy, I damaged your boat and you and your insurance company are going to have to deal with this other one that I destroyed. I don’t want to drag anchor in a storm.
When you left San Carlos you made a night crossing to Bahia Concepcíon. How was that?
I left about six or eight hours before another boat so I knew that in a little bit of time I would have somebody coming up and passing me. I had somebody on the VHF for all but a couple of hours. It was good to have company. It was really great to have company when we got to the other side and we saw lightning and thunder and so much rain. It sucked. It was definitely scary. It would have been much more so had I not had people on the radio saying, “We are in it, so let’s just deal with it.”
What are your plans for cruising in the Sea of Cortez?
My time frame is to stay here until it gets too hot to be bearable, take off back to San Francisco or wherever I can find a place to figure out life for the next six or seven months and then unless I do something major—start a life that I can’t walk away from— I’ll be back here next November. Rosalita will have had some repairs—the tabernacle area and the bulkhead need some things done. And then I don’t know where I’ll take Rosalita, but maybe on a grand adventure. The owner keeps sending me pictures, saying, well, this is a place in the Caribbean we were at. It’s a really nice anchorage. You should really think about going there. I’m like, yeah, shit, that’s really cool, but I should probably try and get through a season before I plan on the Caribbean.