Snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez is usually so great that there isn’t much motivation to scuba dive (other than to clean the hull of the boat!), but this past week, we did a great wreck dive that we’ve been wanting to do since we arrived in Mexico.
The Fang Ming is important to Mexico as it was the first intentionally sunken ship to create an artificial reef in all of Latin America. This ship has a happy ending, but a sad tale overall.
The Fang Ming was a 180′ Chinese fishing vessel that was seized by authorities after discovering that they were smuggling almost 100 Chinese migrant workers trying to reach the USA. There were 88 men and 7 women kept aboard this very confined space. Everyone was rescued, processed in the USA and eventually returned to China; it was sunk in November of 1999 and currently sits in 65′ of water.
We anchored just north around the corner at Ensenada de Gallina and took our dinghy to the dive site.
It’s marked with a yellow buoy, which isn’t attached to the ship, so it’s a bit confusing if you dive it alone. You have to follow the buoy line down and travel south on the bottom for another 40′ or so until you reach the hulking shadow of the ship.
Today, the ship is host to an abundance of wildlife, and there are cool swim throughs and dark corners to explore. It’s in remarkably good condition.
On the day we dove it, we were the only ones there, and we were going to anchor our dinghy near by, but the water was rough, and our dinghy anchor wasn’t holding in the sandy bottom (we likely need some chain rode for our dink anchor), so we just tied off to the buoy on the surface. We saw 8 large Loggerhead and Olive Ridley turtles, parrot fish, box fish, puffer fish, wrasse, hog fish, trigger fish, grunts, angel fish, grouper, jacks and more!
Coming up was a bit of a challenge because the visibility was only about 25 feet, and we overshot our dinghy location, so we had to swim a ways back, but it was a fun afternoon adventure!
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:
A rogue wave
Getting caught in a hurricane
Boat breaking down in the middle of the ocean (happened twice)
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.
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…
Stop negative spiraling thoughts by refocusing your brain on what you see, hear, smell, or taste
Try to live your life and carry on as normally as possible
Empower yourself with knowledge
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
Wash your hands – and your phone – frequently
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%
Refrain from shaking hands and avoid touching your faces
Keep 3-6 feet from people in groups/crowds if possible
Listening for coughing or sneezing nearby from which we can inconspicuously and quickly move away
Share your anti-bacterial wipes with your neighbors and strangers in close quarters
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)
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
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)
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)
Makeup, curling irons, hair dryers, heeled shoes, big purses, lots of jewelry
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.
Fill out all online forms in advance online reporting when/where your passport went missing. This triggers the next steps.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).