TRUST YOUR GUT Keep Calm & Sail On

I’ve always said that intuition was born of wisdom, and this couldn’t be more true in these days. While most of our friends and family are in quarantine in the USA, navigating the frustrations and heartbreak of this new life, we also have unique challenges being in another country, out on the sea.

We deliberately left corporate jobs, sold companies, sold our house, downsized, started new digital nomad careers, and sailed away – relying on a retirement portfolio and new reduced income streams to fund our new way of life. We don’t have any regrets, but it’s created a new host of uncertainties we hadn’t expected. In truth, I was worried about the following things happening when we took off two years ago – two of which have already happened:

  1. A rogue wave
  2. Getting caught in a hurricane
  3. Boat breaking down in the middle of the ocean (happened twice)
  4. Hitting a whale (already happened) 

We certainly didn’t have Zombie Apocalypse on our global Bingo card!

Like most natural and human made emergencies, nothing is a problem….until it is. Mexico was late coming to the emergency of COVID19 and still is pretty sleepy compared to many other parts of the USA and the world right now, but if you believe it’s coming, then you have to prepare. And, while we have it pretty good on a house that moves (our sailboat), there are still many restrictions that limit our mobility.

social distancing
Social Distancing at Marina Palmira w/ friends aboard Agave Azul

In the past 48 hours, Mexico has locked down whole cities and towns, making it impossible to go in and out unless you can prove residency. They have made it illegal to do any kind of recreational activity, and this means sailing. Mexico has also locked down national park islands and coves where we normally anchor, and some ports have now made it illegal to enter/exit unless you can prove you are transiting to another port or entering for fuel or provisions. Something that has never happened before. So, we are now locked down in a marina – sailing season is effectively over.

And, this brings me back to trusting your gut. 

When you start to gain knowledge, stay calm and listen to your inner voice, it almost always tells you what to do. I’m not just talking about a Fight or Flight mechanism. I’m talking about what is right for you and when – even if no one else seems to be following your lead. Kirby and I have watched enough pandemic, apocalypse films and TV to know that you must keep moving forward – at all costs. If you stand still or freeze up, you have a greater chance of something worse happening. Yes, I know it’s TV, but I also believe it to be real life, and it’s served us well over the years – even during times of much less strife. 

So, when we decided to leave Puerto Vallarta 2 months earlier than planned (after my trip to Turkey was canceled) to get back to La Paz, where we have our car and a safe marina slip reserved for our boat this summer, we decided to do it. Some people told us we were overreacting, we should wait for a better southern wind weather window, and that it would be fine. Now, just two weeks later, as anchorages and ports are closing, with the coast guard patrolling daily broadcasting warnings, we feel so much better to be snug as a bug in our boat in one of the safest marinas in the southern Baja. If things get a lot worse, we can always jump in our car and drive north or sail north…

The Mexican Coast Guard patrols La Paz waterways and marinas daily with recorded broadcasts to “Quédate en Casa” (Shelter in Place)

Staying and being present is the only way to live right now. A wise friend gave some advice when I start to feel out of control – take these 6 steps:

  1. Breathe deeply for at least 1 minute
  2. Ask yourself: “Am I okay RIGHT NOW?”
  3. Stop negative spiraling thoughts by refocusing your brain on what you see, hear, smell, or taste
  4. Try to live your life and carry on as normally as possible
  5. Empower yourself with knowledge
  6. Be grateful
Making the time to reaquaint ourselves with old passions & hobbies

We are still happy to be on a sailboat looking out at the water, enjoying the sunshine, and watching the sunset, even if we cannot really leave our boat. As long as our internet holds out for us to continue to do work and communicate, we’ll be just fine. And, in the meantime, the wildlife here reminds us that the Earth is healing herself.

Stay Home, Stay Safe!

HOW CRUISING IS LIKE PREPPING FOR A PANDEMIC

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance*

It’s occurred to me over the past week as we are inundated with MORE bad news of a global pandemic, that there isn’t much we need to do. We are ready, my fellow sailors. We. Are. Ready.

Enjoying a beautiful virus-free day at sea

As fans of The Walking Dead, we have also joked for years that we are readying ourselves for the Zombie apocalypse. And we are….unless the zombies swim or float (which they don’t, in my expert opinion; you always have to fear the living, not the dead). We aren’t survivalists by any means, but good preparation for long passages has a similar look and feel as compared to what the CDC or WHO has currently advised.

Kirby in La Cruz, contemplating a few maintenance repairs and the sunset

Our “home” floats and travels – using wind and solar to get us just about anywhere, and within less than 20 minutes (5 in a real emergency) we can be off and away from land. It’s completely self-contained if need be. We have a water maker on board that makes 30 gallons/hour from seawater, and my general paranoia for running out of food means that we always over-provision (how long should I keep those bags of dried nuts before I acquiesce to their actual expiration date?!). Just last month, I inventoried and restocked our medicine cabinet with just about everything you can think of that you may need if you’re stuck in the middle of an ocean (or escaping a global pandemic). 

Pantry 1 of 8 on the boat

Cleaning out and inventorying some of our lesser used cabinets the other day revealed a literal treasure trove of virus-useful equipment: e.g. seeds for fresh sprouts, 4 full boxes of anti-bacterial wipes, and face masks. And, of course, this excludes our Ditch Bag supplies, which are supposed to keep us alive for several days in the event the Zombies do take over the boat.

Contents of our Ditch Bag emergency kit

But, this is no laughing matter, and experts say it’s about to get a whole lot worse. We have been traveling via plane a lot lately and visiting a few big cities, going about our lives but with a heightened sense of our space around us. We also recognize that we healthy adults have a community responsibility by not being innocent carriers to others whose immune systems may be weakened or otherwise compromised. As a reminder, these rules of safety should be our norm, not our new exception, but it deserves repeating:

  1. Wash your hands – and your phone – frequently
  2. Wipe down the areas around you on planes, at home, and on your boat with anti-bacterial wipes, a soapy bleach solution or alcohol of at least 70%
  3. Refrain from shaking hands and avoid touching your faces
  4. Keep 3-6 feet from people in groups/crowds if possible
  5. Listening for coughing or sneezing nearby from which we can inconspicuously and quickly move away
  6. Share your anti-bacterial wipes with your neighbors and strangers in close quarters
Treasures of the Bilge….

Stay safe out there, friends.

*SOURCE: POLLY BICKEL WONG’S MOM XO

A LODOS VACATION IN 2020: What to bring (& what to leave at home)

You will be living on a boat. That means, you should pack very light. A soft-sided carry on is ideal if you can swing it! 

Lodos at Isla Isabel with a Blue Boobie

CLOTHING:

  • Former guests say even though they brought very little, it was still too much! You can do laundry if needed, and the dolphins don’t care if they see you in the same outfits!
  • Loose, lightweight, breathable, easy fabrics that dry quick are best (avoid denim and heavy cotton)
  • Swimsuits & coverups, 2 pair of shorts, summer dress, 3-4 tees
  • Depending on the time of year, packing layers is a good idea – a long sleeve shirt or fleece
  • Comfy clothes to lounge around in throughout the day (e.g. yoga pants, sweats, leggings)
  • 1 nicer outfit/shirt to go out in the evening or while on shore/in port – wrinkle resistant ideal, collared shirt for the guys
  • 1-2 hats (ideally something with a strap, so you don’t lose it in the wind – Neptune already has more baseball hats and sunglasses than he needs!)
  • 1-3 pair of shoes: non marking, non skid soled shoes (e.g. light weight tennis shoes or treaded sandals), shoes you can get wet/flip flops for marina showers, hiking shoes/sandals, and something to wear to a nicer dinner. We don’t recommend going barefoot on the boat when it’s moving, but feel free to be barefoot while lounging. Inside the boat, we ask you to remove your shoes.
  • Personal items (e.g. chapstick, toothbrush, moisturizer w/ sunscreen)

LUGGAGE:

  • Duffels or backpacks are ideal, something compressible/malleable to fold into smaller spaces
  • Small tote or dry bag for marina showers, dinghy-ing to a shore destination, keeping your phone/camera safe, going on land adventures, etc. are better than a bulky purse

PERSONAL/ENTERTAINMENT:

  • Motion sickness meds, patches and sea bands if you get sea sick 
  • Downloaded music that can be played on bluetooth without wifi 
  • Books/Kindle and/or magazines
  • Puzzle books or other non-wifi entertainment vehicles (we have games and cards on board)
Relaxing in the Cockpit

THINGS TO LEAVE AT HOME:

  • Sunscreen, soap, shampoo, bug spray, towels, jackets, life jackets, binoculars, other extras you may have forgotten
  • Basic medicine/first aid
  • Solar charger or external battery (we have iPhone/solar chargers on board)
  • Goggles/snorkel gear
  • Makeup, curling irons, hair dryers, heeled shoes, big purses, lots of jewelry
  • Headlamp/flashlights
Sailing on a close reach in the Sea of Cortez

Dodging the Wind

On a mooring ball, looking northwest, at Puerto Escondido

I know we are supposed to seek wind since we are on a sailboat, but the weather plays such a huge role in where we can travel, how fast, how safely and how comfortably. Luckily, there have been no signs of hurricanes yet – they are just on the “E”s (Erick) and “F”s (Flossie), and they are still far south and west of us. August and September ups the risk, so we are trying to stay close to hurricane holes and/or places we are get to in a day in case of the worst news. 

Aside from hurricanes, there are other wind/weather conditions we have to be mindful of: 

  • Coromuels – SW wind that usually howls during the night (making for a very unpleasant sleep and rocky, swelly anchorage)
  • Elifantes – Big winds that sweep off the land and last 6+hours making it dangerous for passage making and anchoring.
  • Chubascos – A fast tornodo/hurricane like storm that lasts minutes but can pounce unannounced with winds that could rip the boat apart or toss it onto rocks. 

All of these things make us cautious where we go and where we sleep at night, obsessively checking the weather while trying not to let it interrupt our fun – we try to follow the 7 Ps: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance 🙂 

Video of Puerto Escondido Mooring Field

I have a business trip mid August and mid September, so I will hopefully be able to leave Kirby and Lodos safely in one of the hurricane holes on the west side of the Sea.  That current place is Puerto Escondido (click on link for more info and a video of the area). A reinforced natural bay that is protected from mountains on nearly every side and curves inward to a protected anchorage on mooring balls with a small marina. Every year in May, they have a huge fishing tournament which brings people here from all over the world.

A good place to work on the boat and tick off those maintenance projects!

Puerto Escondido boasts the most expensive marina in the Sea – reinforcing why they call it the Gringo Coast. The marina fees here are higher than marinas in southern California. When we were here last time, the daily fees for our boat were 4x what we paid in San Diego, so we stay out on the mooring ball.

They have decent internet, a little restaurant that makes amazing pizzas in an outdoor oven, the best air conditioned luxury bathrooms and showers, a little store (tienda) and easy access into Loreto that has an international airport with direct flights to San Diego/Tijuana. They also have a cruisers net on VHF Channel 22 at 8am daily to keep people informed of weather and other happenings – always ending with a silly sailing joke (the one today was about a pirate). Cheesy, yes, but with a dash of earnestness that even the most cynical person can embrace.

Making guacamole with the best avocados in the world: ugly outside, perfect inside!

Back in the Sea of Cortez – during hurricane season…

I love the familiarity with the sea, the anchorages, the wildlife and impending challenges we will no doubt encounter while sailing. The big difference for this 2 weeks, is that we don’t have internet, and I feel that I need it for work, which has created a new set of problems or anxiety – needing to be in a specific place for a phone call or meeting isn’t exactly the safest way to sail/travel, as it forces you to make potentially compromised decisions on weather that you might not have otherwise.

Sunset in Caleta Partida

We started this trip with a few days in Caleta Partida – an anchorage that divides two islands, and which has a narrow channel that we can take our dinghy through to get from one side of the island to the other. It’s one of our favorite places because it’s sheltered and protected but also because it’s the home to dozens of turtles.

Kirby cleaning the hull
Jodi snorkeling with sea lions

On our way to our next anchorage at San Francisco Island, we made a quick stop at a couple small islands that are home to hundreds of sea lions. The pup season ends in July. Kirby anchored the boat in a deep rocky islet while I jumped off and swam with them. They warned me to not get too close by barking at me – they were adorable and fun to see up close, and of course swimming with sea lions is pretty special.

Heading north to Isla San Francisco, we happened upon a group of 5-7 giant manta rays feeding at the surface. We stopped the boat to watch them eat, and then saw them soar under the boat with wingspans of more than 10 feet, mouths open, breathtaking….

After arriving in Isla SF, we stayed at two separate anchorages – we found some fantastic dive/snorkeling sites and appreciated the rich variety and diversity of the fish – so many we’d never seen before and that are indigenous to the Sea: Golden phase puffer fish, Cortez round ray, Cortez angel fish, and dozens of others – including 4 types of parrot fish.

Bahia Agua Verde

Our next stop was one of our favorites – at Bahia Agua Verde – but we had to scoot up to Puerto Escondido (where we are now on a mooring ball) as our refrigeration is on the fritz, we need to do laundry and dump our trash 🙂 We’ll be here for a bit while we catch up on work and projects, and I plan for my next trip to the USA for work.

And, it’s hot. So hot. ~100 degrees and nearly the same in humidity. We are having trouble keeping the fridge and freezer working properly it’s so hot….but, we are swimming and relaxing and doing our best to breath our way through it as the benefits outweigh the annoyances.