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

LOSING YOUR PASSPORT IN MEXICO

On the last night of a 10k kilometer USA/Mexico tour, ending in La Paz, we realized that my husband’s passport was missing. While we don’t believe it was stolen, we remembered clearly the last place we had used it and when we saw it. 

Fast forward – we knew we were sailing to Puerto Vallarta, and since there isn’t a consular office in La Paz, we planned to visit the consulate in PV to determine how to get out of/into the country. 

STEP 1:

Fill out all online forms in advance online reporting when/where your passport went missing. This triggers the next steps. 

Fill out the form DS64 found on this page:  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/forms.html.  

Be ready to fill out the form and have it printed at your hotel/internet cafe.

Get passport photos in advance to speed up the process. 

STEP 2:

Visit the Consular Office in Nuevo Vallarta, inside of Paradise Village. It’s inside the Plaza shopping center where the bus stops/taxi turn around is, just outside of the area’s only Starbucks. Proceed inside and go to the far west corner office of the 2nd floor.  The office is open at 8:30am and closes around 2pm each day. You are not allowed to use cell phones inside, so if you have information on your phone you will need to access, print that information in advance or write it down on a piece of paper. You do not need an appointment as this is determined an “emergency”. 

You can take the forms (along with a passport sized photo) to the US Consular Agency found here:  https://goo.gl/maps/VjzWoSJrb24KRLyz7

USA Consular Office in Nuevo Vallarta

STEP 3:

What to bring: new passport photos without glasses, copies of the forms filled out online, color copies of your passport if you have them, details about where you lost the documents and/or police reports if your passport was stolen. Check in with security and meet with the very helpful staff there. You’ll likely need to fill out additional paperwork, but if you have copies of materials, it will go very quickly. We arrived at 8:35am, and we were the first ones in. We were out of there by 9am. 

STEP 4:

If you are flying within 24 hours, you’ll receive a letter that will get you out of Mexico and into the USA. If you are flying within a few days, you’ll likely get your temporary passport, valid for 1 year, the next day via Guadalajara.  The agent will give you a piece of paper indicating when/who to call and what time/where to get your documents. 

STEP 5:

Call the number given on the sheet of paper to get your FedEx tracking number (this is not a regular tracking number) which is required to pick up your new documents. Likely the next day, you’ll travel to the office indicated to pick up your new documents. Ours was delayed two days, and when we went into the office downtown (after the consular office said it had arrived), they people at the FEDEX office said they didn’t have it. Press them. It will be in a different location as it’s a security document, and you may need a manager who knows this. You will have to show ID and also pay for the overnight package. 

Waiting in line to pick up the passport – this process took 4 hours

STEP 6:

Go to the Immigration office inside the airport to replace your Mexican Visa (if that was lost as well). It will cost about $25 USD and is needed before going through immigration in Mexico. 

STEP 7:

Apply for a new passport before your temporary one expires in one year. Recommend ordering a passport card with your new passport – keep your passport locked up when not traveling by plane and only use your passport card, so you won’t be locked out of a country (easier to replace if it’s lost/stolen in the future). 

STEP 8:

Don’t lose the new one!

Characters, Crusaders & Criminals

Living an expat life, on a boat, in a developing country brings out all sorts of characters, crusaders and criminals.

The Characters, as you can imagine, are as varied and diverse as they are interesting. Salty sailors (mostly men) whose wives have left them or who refuse to live this life full time, the ultimate in bachelor pads. Wearing the same Hawaiian inspired print shirt day after day complete with some sort of shell necklace and a well-past-its-prime straw hat, these characters claim they are seeking solitude, but when you get them out for a beer, you cannot shut them up; they have more extroverted vs. hermit tendencies, who would give that Hawaiian shirt off their back to you if you needed it (along with well worn advice about weather, hurricanes, and Mexico culture). 

Scary one-legged clown in La Paz

The Crusaders see the Sea as something to be conquered or endured. They boast of their year-round living aboard in a heat index that averages 112 degrees in these summer months, and they often have a story of saving a whale, a boat or life during a storm. Theirs is a badge of honor to endure the conditions and often loneliness of sailing. Both the Characters & Crusaders are generous with their time and resources – bestowing fresh fish, engine parts or advice as needed. 

Then, you have the Criminals. These are the people who couldn’t make it in the “real world” or who are escaping something sinister and nefarious. Like our neighbor here (about 100 yards away), who, immediately after meeting him, claimed theirs was a “Naked Boat”, and so it is….morning, noon and night, this guy and his younger “caregiver”, who is looking after his 80 year old mother with dementia, are naked as the day is long. We’ve since learned this guy has a sordid and ugly past, and his host of stories must be true because you cannot make up the things he says. Kirby tried helping him one day with his anchor, and the minute they got to his boat, he dropped his pants and climbed aboard his boat, leaving Kirby with a Junk-In-The-Face moment that I’m sure he won’t soon forget….

The Naked Boat – as seen from Lodos

You’ve gotta be a little crazy to live this life. I’m leaving out the rest of the “normal” people here because in comparison, they/we are all just incredibly boring…