26 March 2020 | Port Coquitlam
24 March 2020 | Undisclosed Location, Port Coquitlam BC
04 March 2020 | Zihuatanejo
26 February 2020 | Zihuatanejo
11 February 2020 | Tenacatita
03 February 2020 | Mazatlan
01 February 2020 | Mazatlan
26 March 2019 | La Cruz de Huanacastle
19 December 2018 | La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
12 September 2018 | Santa Cruz
19 August 2018 | Eureka, CA
12 August 2018 | Coos Bay
Freedom in Various Forms
14 April 2020
I have been a little concerned that either our government officials don't have a plan, or if they do have a plan, they aren't sharing with us what it will be. I watched an interview with Malcolm Gladwell on life after Covid and was disappointed that even the forward thinkers seem reluctant to share a vision of the future. So I'll take the liberty of laying out what is going to happen in the US and Canada in the next 6 weeks. By May 31st:
There will emerge a new class of people who shall have special privileges. They will wear green arm bands (or the digital equivalent). They will number about 25 million. Serological tests will demonstrate high levels of Covid19 antibodies in their blood. They will walk the streets without masks and demonstrate what freedom truly is. New York will have the greatest population. These people will be the Truly Free.
The rest of the population will watch and listen as their leaders babble on about testing and tracing to get the economy back on track. Testing and tracing be the new weapons in the war on corona virus. We'll hear less about PPE and ventilators as defensive weapons and more about testing and tracing as the new offensive weapons.
Mandatory testing and tracing will go against the notion of personal freedom and what some believe wars have been fought for. Most objectionable will be the little mentioned mandatory quarantine for those whose tests indicate pending True Freedom. The populace will grip their guns tightly. The administrations will be quietly envious of China and how flat an authoritarian curve can be.
The Electronically Free will enjoy life much like the Truly Free except with residual fear.
The old and the compromised will remain inside waiting for the vaccine. These people will remain the UnFree.
Widespread clinical trials of different vaccines will be announced. 2/3 of anti-vaxers will begin to believe in science by May 31st.
Version 9 will have a vaccine prioritization status live tracker, but it won't be released until September.
So there you go. That's how it will be in the next six weeks. You're welcome.
Next up, I'll let you know what is going to happen to your retirement portfolio, your Covid benefit eligibility, and what it will be like to fly on airplane again.
27 March 2020
Today is a day of hope.
There is a guitar just outside our door in the hallway. Sometime soon we'll be brave enough to touch it and disinfect it. Nobody risked anything to put it there. The upstairs people had it all along. I hope I'll be able to play it. But that is mostly what the guitar is for me: a symbol of hope more than really an instrument to make beautiful music with my great talents.
And today I bought some cheese. Oaxaca cheese. I bought it from Bernardo the Cheese Man of Zihuatanejo. He, for me, symbolizes all the good of Zihautanejo. He has a beautiful smile and he coils up long strings of cheese and sells them to 3 out of 4 tables in any of the restaurants he visits on Playa Ropa. Everyone wants his cheese. When his five gallon cheese pail is empty, the women line up to dance with him. And believe it or not, he is also a full blown Caballero with a horse.
And when all the people left Zihuatanejo and the restaurants closed down, there was nobody left to buy Bernardo's cheese. And that is sad for Bernardo and all the people of Zihua and the other towns who make their living in tourism. And sad for me. I asked somebody to post a picture of him so I could remember his happy face. One thing lead to another and Eli Brady found a way to buy a few kilos, leverage up matching donations and get Bernardo's cheese safely into the hands of people who need it through the Zihuatanejo food bank.
It's a difficult time everywhere in the world. Our own friends and families and food banks in our own towns no doubt have greater needs than any of us can fulfill right now. But it also seems so important to reach out and help our friends in faraway places even if it is only a few symbolic kilos of fine Oaxaca. People of the world need to know that we are all in this together and those feelings of fear and desperation will diminish.
I pick cheese on the beach over soldiers on the border.
And I had a call today from a couple of my favourite engineering students. They've been looking for open source projects to contribute engineering design talent or manufacturing capability to provide critically needed medical equipment to hospitals in need. Turns out there is a huge gap in knowledge on real time demand and medical vetting of open source ideas that companies want to manufacture against. So Foster and Noah are putting together a project platform brief and want to get this idea in the hands of a benevolent CEO very fast. So if you know Jeff or Elon or perhaps Bill, get back to me. This needs to happen fast. My boy gives me hope.
And the most interesting tale of hope for me today comes from our friend Donna down in Zihuatanejo. She has a loaner copy of I'll Shave My Head Too and tells me she is really enjoying it and hasn't skipped ahead so she's very hopeful. I've heard other people say as they read the book how hopeful they are. What the hell?
And that is the triumph of the human mind that allows us that hope. That makes me even more hopeful.
(Photo credit: Stolen from Stuart Cooper in low res - forgive me Stuart there's a global pandemic)
A Thousand Bad Decisions
26 March 2020 | Port Coquitlam
I mentioned while we were packing up the boat that we were about to make a thousand bad decisions and that I hoped to make them as quickly as possible. This wasn't actually hyperbole. We probably did make a thousand decisions.
None of them were bad decisions in that sense that we reached the wrong conclusion based on the available data, only bad in the sense that we would likely have chosen the other option when given the chance to look back retrospectively once all the unknowns become known.
I know there were some dirt dwelling folks who didn't really understand what I was talking about. Anybody who has packed up a boat to lay it up in the tropics for months has an idea.
Some of these decisions were really big ones. Should we stay on our boat here in Mexico, or should we go home? Big decisions like that have a bunch of different dimensions. What is the status of our travel medical insurance? How likely is it to do any good if we actually get sick? How likely are we to get sick? In which country? What happens if we only make it part way and get stuck in the United States? Mexico is perhaps a couple of weeks behind Canada and the US, what will it be like here a month from now? Where can we put the boat? Will it be insured? Who will look after it? Is going back the right thing to do? Are we a burden or a help to those in our host country? All of these variables were given consideration as we motored north from Zihuatanejo.
By the time we reached Puerto Vallarta, we had already made the big decision. We were going home. But we still had more decisions to make. Can we get into a marina in Banderas Bay? Which one do we choose? Do we give up the spot in La Cruz marina that was relatively unprotected for the promise of the spot in Paradise Village which is supposed to be vacated tomorrow by a boat headed for the South Pacific? Do we even ask the marina operator if we can keep the boat there all summer or just get the boat in the spot and ask questions later? Should we just drop Ken and Cheryl off at Sedna and press on to Mazatlan against a building north wind? Should we fly back? Should we drive back?
Those issues resolved and we got busy with the 1000 bad decisions. Do we remove the mainsail or wrap it and lash it? Unbolt the solar panels and stow them below? Leave the thru hulls on the engines open allowing them to easily start the engines? Wash the jib before we stow it? How do we get rid of the food? Who do we hire to look after the boat? Stow the outboard or leave it on the dingy hanging on the davits? Pickle the water maker or hope for the best? Cockroach bait deployed? What do we pack? What do we leave? Should we organize with triage bags so we can shed non-critical ones if we need to rapidly shift transport modes? Where do we rent a car? Can they deliver to the marina so we don't need to go the airport?
All of these decisions, and there were hundreds of them, were processed and acted upon in rapid succession. Normally it takes a week or more to do a good job putting the boat away and the decisions about where it is stored and how to get home are made well in advance. We did it in a day. Obviously not a good job, but it got done.
And you know what? We could have screwed up. Potentially in very big ways. If we get sick here in our quarantine, it was probably really unfortunate that we went anywhere near a Nevada hotel. But if we didn't stay in a Nevada hotel we might have ended up like the folks from Saskatchewan whose rig was a smouldering ruin north of Mazatlan as they raced to beat a border closure.
We already know that all the shortcut decisions taken were unnecessary. We had time to wash the sails. We could have done a deep cleaning. Could have put the splices in the new dock lines. We could have done a lot more. But once we were underway we learned that the US/Mexico border was being closed to non-essential traffic, so we were happy with our choices at the time. It turns out that Canadians going home is essential. Who knew?
But really, this is not a time for regrets. All kinds of people in all kinds of positions are faced with making choices now with poor data and huge uncertainty. For thoughtful people, going to Safeway to buy vegetables involves a careful calculation of the risks vs. rewards. Buying groceries is literally a life and death decision right now.
The point of all this is to give ourselves a break. There are really no bad decisions. There will be some bad outcomes. It is not the time to second guess our choices. It is our next choice that matters. And it is definitely not a time to be judging others for their decisions. (Unless of course they are out wandering around with symptoms or violating their quarantine. Have no mercy for those folks.)
Anyway, I am going to go and have a look at my retirement portfolio and my toilet paper inventory and make some bad decisions.
Good Question Kirk
24 March 2020 | Undisclosed Location, Port Coquitlam BC
I am just going to write this here in a quiet corner of the internet.
On March 12 we decided it was time to move the boat north. The message from Canada was clear: “It is time to come home” So we started moving, ultimately completing a journey that involved sailing north 400 miles, decommissioning the boat, renting a car in Puerto Vallarta and driving to Hermasillo, hiring a driver to take us to our car in Puerto Penasco, driving across 2 borders to arrive at our new home in Port Coquitlam where we now live in isolation. 5608km total. 130 hours driving time. 9 days travelling. No restaurant meals.
It’s a very challenging time for people in the cruising community. Cruisers live on these glorious isolation platforms: fully self-contained and really designed for independent living for weeks or months at a time. It seems like perhaps the dream scenario when viewed from land, but it has it own challenges: access to ports, access to health care, provisioning, unknown reception by locals. Every choice is a difficult one as people try to figure out their next move.
Yesterday, I had a note from Kirk, (currently offshore somewhere between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan) asking: “So now that you are home are you more worried about giving the virus to your family or getting it from them??”
This is such a really excellent question.
The answer is yes.
I don’t want to give the virus to anyone. I would rather not get the virus.
I would not want Foster to get the virus. He is young and healthy with an excellent chance of survival, but we should understand exactly what that means. He is not immune to having a bad response. Survival means that if he does have a bad response and he is put on the ventilator his body is stronger and more able to fight on while his immune system deals with virus. Survival means that he is more likely to be given access to the ventilator than the 63 year old man who arrives on the ambulance next to his.
We are conflating these ideas of young healthy people surviving and mild relatively asymptomatic cases of the disease and thinking it is only old, unhealthy people who suffer.
Survival is skewed towards the young. Suffering is universal.
The virus is spread by people that don’t know they have it. So although I wouldn’t want Foster to get it, I also wouldn’t want him to spread it. So though he may be fine, his girlfriend’s grandmother may not. So let’s keep her alive. Her name is Adena and she is a wonderful person.
We didn’t take the groceries off our boat when we left the marina. We weren’t actually sure we would be able to cross into the United States so we wanted food to be there if we had to turn around and come back. So Jeff and Jules on El Gato agreed to take our groceries once we crossed the border. I am particularly pleased about this because Jules is on like her 5th round of chemotherapy preparing for a mastectomy. Her immune system is like 3 white blood cells right now. The fewer trips Jeff has to make to get groceries, the better. So please stay on your boat. Don’t go out. Don’t kill Jules. She needs to be alive to beat her cancer.
The virus is also spread by people that know they have it. 2 days ago in Coquitlam, there was a 65 year old asthmatic women with Covid19 seen at the grocery store and in Starbucks. She has the virus and she is happy to kill other people. And make no mistake, that is exactly what she is doing. Though I am sure she has some elaborate justification in her own mind why it makes sense for her to be out of her house. I am sure she doesn’t think of herself as a murderer, but she is trying to be. Please. Let’s educate people, shame them if we have to, but for God sakes stop the willful killing.
And don’t assume it’s safe out there.
Our public health officials are working hard to try and create a set of rules for us to live by that will stop the spread of the disease and keep us safe. For us, that means we are required to self isolate for 14 days. For the general population, that means they are advised to stay home and go out only for essentials.
We humans are incredibly smart, creative, social, people. So we may be respectful of what the government is trying to do. But we all interpret the guidelines and try to apply them to our situation and make the best of it. So if groceries are essential, doesn’t it make sense to head out each day and check out 2 or 3 stores and see who has toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or a decent meat selection? You’re not violating any rules.
Here’s an idea. No. That lady with the Covid19 is trying to kill you. Or your girlfriend’s grandmother.
I am sitting here in isolation and I think it would be really great to have maybe some pasta, or rice, or beans, or eggs, or a steak, or canned food or a guitar. But we have some turkey and vegetables, milk, tea, breakfast cereal, cheese, nuts, and coffee. We are fine. So although I could probably start ordering stuff from Amazon or the groceries from Save-On, should I? Should I reach out to friends who might have a spare guitar? No. There is no need. We’ll get more food when we need it and our friends are already going out to make a trip to the grocery store out of necessity.
If we all just sit tight for a month, this whole thing will be over. Every little opportunity we have to interact with one another, or move around, move things around, or order something on line that makes others have to move around, is a problem right now. Let it rest. In a couple of weeks we will all figure out what is the best way to get the economy going again. In the meantime if we just stop, we’re going to be OK.
So Kirk, the answer it yes.
04 March 2020 | Zihuatanejo
Steve Dolling | Clear
I dove into the water near sunset. It was beautifully clear. The perfect warm temperature. Some sort of silky smooth saline añejo. Absolutely refreshing without being bracing. Perfect.
We are sitting in our catamaran looking at the lights twinkle across the bay in Zihuantanejo. There are no bugs. I am lounging in t-shirt and a pair of work underwear. The temperature is maybe 23 degrees or something wonderfully comfortable. The satellite radio is on one of those chill stations, and somehow, it's not cutting out like it normally does as we hang here on the southern fringe of the transmission footprint. A gentle swell lifts the boat up about four feet and drops it down on 13 second intervals.
The sun shines every day. The solar panels top up our batteries and we have enough energy left over to run the desalinator, do a load of two of laundry, and heat water for a warm afternoon shower.
We had a call on VHF Ch. 22 from Ishmael, the local concierge on the main dock downtown. A package has arrived. Amazon Mexico has delivered my new swimsuit to replace the old one that crumbled last week.
Tracey works on gorgeous watercolours of jellyfish ready to declare that she may have achieved boredom: our sacred but unattainable cruising goal.
I took one of those sunset pictures, the kind we take just to post on social media and mess with people back home who might be freezing their asses off.
I have imaginary hardships. Cutting new mesh fabric for the trampolines and realizing I don't have a ½" punch and a die set to hammer in the #4 spur grommets. The half day of my life forever lost to disassembly and rebuild of the sewing machine motor so the stiches can keep flowing. Pulling out the guitar and trying to play "Here Comes the Sun", but the notes are not flowing. Not only am I rusty, but my guitar strings are literally rusty. There is oil to change. Not just one, but two engines.
I place an order with Amazon for new guitar strings. Ishmael will have them delivered to our boat in a couple of days. Tracey's challenge of what to get me for my birthday is solved.
We really have nothing to bitch about.
We snorkelled off the back of the boat and saw hundreds of fish and hung out with a giant sea turtle for a good long while this afternoon. The next watercolour subject is identified.
If we were looking for paradise, it might be something like this.
If we were looking.
But we're not.
Paradise is following us around. We know it. We are extremely fortunate.
But it is not like we won the lottery. We sacrificed to get here. We saved. We gave up our security, our jobs, our house, our cars, our toys. We made choices. Not all of them easy.
This is not the easy path. Sometimes it is even a bit scary. But oh my is it worth it.
And the more we gave up, the freer we became.
We leave the planet with nothing. No point in gathering up a big pile that we can't take with us. Running out of money is a problem. Running out of time is the end of all problems.
Are you in paradise yet? Why not? Maybe you're already there but don't recognize It. Paradise could be following you around. Maybe there are some choices to make. Find your turtle. Amazon can deliver guitar strings there.
The Great Pacific Turtle Patch
26 February 2020 | Zihuatanejo
Steve Dolling | Sunny
Plastic is messy.
On our way from Manzanillo down to Zihuatanejo we encountered plastic debris in the ocean. Floating on the surface, we found exactly one Size 8 navy blue Croc, left foot, with the strap missing. We brought it aboard for a picture before releasing it back into the wild unharmed. We saw no other plastic in an otherwise pristine ocean.
We did however encounter between 80 and 100 sea turtles. We brought none aboard for pictures.
So the ratio of plastic to sea creatures was 1 to 100. Except we all know that is a Croc. There were a lot of other sea creatures we couldn't see. There was also likely a whole lot of other plastic.
The messy part about the plastic is we have a lot of beliefs that are unfortunately not necessarily based on reality.
For example, we are often reminded of the islands of plastic that are out in the oceans. The "Great Pacific Garbage" patch is purported to be an island of plastic twice the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The problem is that it doesn't exist. At least not in any form we would recognize as a plastic island.
There is a higher density of plastic debris in the gyres including microplastics that are measured by dragging fine nets behind boats and then counting the number of particles per cubic meter of water. These "islands" are not visible by satellite, conventional photography, or human eye. They are a construct in our imagination that can only be observed one widely spaced floating net or microparticle at a time. The plastic is there. It's just not an island in any sense that we imagine an island to be.
But if we call them "Plastic Islands" then we need accompanying visuals, so any news story or article will inevitably use some footage of a seriously polluted bay in Indonesia or the Philippines where plastic has collected. It is nowhere near the location of the "2 times Texas-sized plastic island" that we all hope to see. Google "plastic island" you will see land in the background in many of the images. It is a small lie that we hope helps people understand how serious the problem is.
Unfortunately, this conflation of two ideas (the higher density of plastics in the gyres with the localized trash island) undermines the credibility of the whole message. People take it literally and start inventing solutions to fix the problem based on images they see of things that don't exist in the form that they think they do. We see giant booms (made of plastic) that are deployed in the ocean being broken up by seas and not actually working. Any solution is unlikely to discriminate well between sea life (whales, plankton) and plastic. If a turtle can't tell the difference between a plastic bag and a jellyfish, what is the giant boom going to do? It's either not going to catch the plastic, or it's going to take a lot of sea life with it.
Other organizations have much more active efforts. One group promises to scoop a pound of plastic from the ocean in exchange for your purchase of a plastic bracelet. Oh good, we solve the problem of plastic in the ocean with the distribution of more useless plastic. Once you read the details of their efforts with a 100 foot plus ship with a 48,000-gallon fuel capacity, it is actually difficult to figure out if you sent them $20 would you be improving the world or making it a little bit worse. Seriously I don't know and there is not nearly enough data shared to make a decent assessment.
The biggest problem with giant ocean plastic scooping solutions is that we humans will put our undying faith in technology into them. There is no need to change human behaviour if some do-good organization is going to fix the problem. If you know that some machine is going to scoop the plastic out of the river are you more or less likely to toss your water bottle off the bridge?
Or worse, we have some misdirected notion of what is important. A turtle in Costa Rica got a plastic straw stuck in his nose and became a viral internet sensation. Governments introduce laws banning plastic straws. New fortunes are made in stainless steel straws. I have had no fewer than 4 different types of organic biodegradable straws delivered to me in restaurants.
They all came in plastic wrappers.
There are what? One or two turtles in the world with straws stuck up their noses? Maybe a hundred? There are thousands upon thousands of turtles that are consuming jellyfish-mimicking clear plastic. We kind of missed the point on the whole straw thing. The turtles might actually be better served with a plastic straw in a paper wrapper, but we are all happy we are doing our part.
Many of us can't imagine deliberately throwing our plastic into the environment. Not everyone thinks this way. Our dingy ride into the dock on the day the cruise ship was here in Zihua involved stopping no less than 3 times to pick up plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups. And we could see dozens of others in all directions. People do throw their stuff in the oceans. Or places near the ocean.
On our way to see the sea turtle release yesterday, we rode in the back of a pickup truck with a bunch of school kids who were on their way to Barra de Potosi. One boy was having some flavoured milk that he picked up from Cremería la Vaquita right where the truck picked us up beside the highway. The milk was served in a plastic bag with a plastic straw. As we drove along, the warm moist air was condensing onto his bag and then blowing droplets back into my face. And then as he slurped the last of his milk, he artfully slipped his hand down over the cab of the truck and released his bag and straw into the wild so they would be free to blow around the Guerrero seaside. No more droplets spattered my face. He knew enough to be very discrete so that nobody would notice he threw his plastic into the environment, but he didn't feel it was intrinsically bad enough behaviour that he ought to hold onto the bag until he got to town.
For all the plastic in the oceans, it is hard to imagine solutions that are going to clean it all up without causing more problems. And even if they do, it is likely to be a human-happy surface- level cosmetic solution that does nothing about the vast quantities of plastic deeper in the water column and on the seafloor that scientists believe are really the vast bulk of the problem.
So if all this sounds a little depressing, it may be. There is no techno-fix that is going to undo this problem. We might just have to stop buying so much plastic and throwing it into our environment. A beach cleanup is good idea, but please don't post any more pictures of plastic islands and tell people it's the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That makes it somebody else's problem begging for a technical solution.
Stop worrying about straws. Don't throw your bag out of the truck. Teach a kid about turtles.
Plastic is messy.