The times they are a changin'
17 April 2020
Boats lining the southern anchorage of Isla Coronados
When COVID-19 began to sweep across the United States in March we made the decision that we would stay here in the Sea of Cortez aboard Cetus since she is our home. At that point there weren't any known cases of the virus here on the Baja Peninsula, though we fully expected that to change as it had so suddenly in other countries.
By March 15th people down here in Puerto Escondido and Loreto were still cautiously gathering and pretty much going about business as usual but keeping some semblance of social distancing and doing a lot of hand-washing, but not feeling too much of the threat that we were hearing about in the States.
We had heard through the radio nets that many boats were heading up to Puerto Escondido this year because they thought this would be a safer place to be than the bigger cities and crowded marinas of mainland Mexico and even La Paz. In addition, hundreds of boats had to abandon their dreams of sailing to the South Pacific this year as those island nations were closing down to visitors, including cruising sailboats and many of those boats found themselves now looking for a place to stay.
So when we headed out to the islands on March 20th to self isolate for a couple weeks we paid for a buoy to insure we would have a place to return to if the crowds of boats arrived.
We had a great time out enjoying the wildlife and swimming and hiking around the islands and reluctantly went back in to the buoy on April 2nd to do some re-provisioning, empty our garbage and catch up with friends.
There was a whole new feeling about the marina when we returned. All of the workers were now wearing face masks and social distancing and sanitizing and disinfecting were much more pronounced. Grocery stores in Loreto were limiting the number of customers that could enter at one time and even having special early morning hours for seniors when the store was freshly sanitized. And now we were all getting cloth face-masks and wearing gloves. Our little world was changing rapidly, but we were still virus free in this area, though some cases and even a few deaths had occurred on southern Baja in Cabo and La Paz.
We were relieved to head back out to the islands on April 7th putting all the worries of distancing and disinfecting behind us. This time out we didn't go to shore to hike the islands as the government has closed the beaches.
Easter Week is a special time for Mexicans, who enjoy flocking to the beaches to camp and party -- so rules were made to keep people at home and safe, since people also come from mainland Mexico and the US to join in the festivities and they could easily bring the dreaded virus with them. So the Governor of Baja and the mayors of the towns have all been very proactive in trying to keep the virus at bay.
They also have an excellent web site set up for information on COVID-19 that tells everything you need to know to stay safe as well as telling the signs and symptoms with a phone number to call if you think you might have it and they will come to you. It also displays up to date stats on the number of cases and deaths by area on Baja. We feel fortunate to be in an area that is doing all it can to keep its population safe.
Here, as everywhere, it is devastating to the economy and especially at this time of year which is usually the high tourist season on Baja. Restaurants have closed or gone to take out menus and other non essential businesses have closed. They have even declared a dry state and liquor sales were first limited to certain hours and now are stopped all together.
Its heartwarming to see the community pulling together to help each other -- locals and gringos alike. We read about all of the acts of kindness being shown such as volunteers cleaning up, adding more beds and stocking up supplies at the small hospital in Loreto, restaurants donating meals to those in need, and on and on.
A couple days ago the small villages along the Baja started closing themselves off from visitors by land and Sea. Some popular anchorages are off of those villages, some are just asking people to not come ashore, but a few are politely asking boats to not anchor in the bays.
Loreto has now established a road block to keep non residents out of town. Those of us that have called Puerto Escondido home for sometime can get a letter stating that so we can be allowed to go to town for essential services (food and medical etc).
And we are also fortunate that the small Market in Puerto Escondido is keeping well stocked as well as acting as a shopping service to bring anything you need from town out to you.
The latest changes we've been hearing are that in addition to the beaches being closed they are closing the park lands off to anchoring. So far that isn't being enforced in this area, but it is in the islands near La Paz.
Yesterday, the Navy (who has a base just outside the marina) began tightening up the rules for Puerto Escondido. They have closed the port to coming and going of pleasure boats and now cruising boats. The new policy is that you can come in to the port but when you leave it has to be for another port as destination such as south to La Paz or across the Sea to San Carlos. No more going out to the islands for a week or so and coming back in.
So we will enjoy the next few days of freedom out here in the beautiful anchorage, then head back into our buoy and make the best of self isolation in there. Luckily for us, we've been preparing for this kind of life for a long time with weeks long ocean passages and will continue to comfortably weather this storm snug aboard the good ship Cetus.