When the World Goes Crazy
18 January 2019 | Banderas Bay, Mexico
Politics. The wall. Government shutdown. The Russia investigation. Hurricanes. Volcanoes. Fires. Mudslides. Syria. Gun violence. The Me-Too movement. Murders and kidnapping. Climate change. Brexit. A little child, no more than three years old runs along the highway. She is barefoot and crying. She is lost and alone and it is freezing outside. It seems the world has gone crazy.
A bus driver sees her. She stops. She runs across the street and picks her up in her arms. One of the passengers gives up her coat and wraps it around the child. The little girl is found sleeping in the bus driver’s arms when the authorities arrive. Kindness and human decency prevail.
In this day and age when we are flooded with minute by minute news via the airwaves and social media, it can all be too much. One must find a way to break free and find some peace to keep from being pulled into the vortex of negativity. One way Jay and I find our peace is through sailing.
It was Saturday, the twelfth of January and after only two weeks of being here in Mexico, we were ready to take Cadenza out for her first sail in eight months. As usual, we had to put the boat back together. Everything was stashed inside. Boat cushions, sails, our extra ladder, the wagon. All that had to come out again. We put everything back in its place, attached the Genoa and took down the canvas covers. Jay reconnected the electronics and tested the anchor windlass. Everything inside, absolutely everything inside had to be washed. Sheets, towels, any clothing that we had. All the dishes. Cabinets had to be emptied and cleaned. Suffice it to say, it is a lot of work to put her back together but finally, we were ready and anxious to get back on the water.
Banderas Bay is a great place for day sailing. The sea is generally calm and flat. The wind almost always picks up in the afternoon. And, there are whales. The bay is surrounded by mountains, lush terrain and white, sandy beaches. In January, the mornings and evenings are filled with soft, cool breezes and in the afternoon the sun heats up and warms the skin.
Our first sail went well. Everything worked. Hah! Everything worked! How rare is that? However, the wind was lazy that day but we didn’t care. We ghosted along on six knots and felt the gentle waves lull us into a serene relaxation. All was quiet. Peaceful. That is what we do when the world goes crazy.
Confessions of a Switch-Hitter
03 January 2019 | Martha's Vineyard
“What is a switch-hitter?” I asked Jay the other night as I was falling asleep. He was reading.
“In baseball or sex?”
I laughed. “In baseball.” I said.
“It means you can hit with either your left hand or your right.”
Now, I’m not a baseball player, nor am I ambidextrous, but just go with me on this…
Six years ago, Jay and I sold our home in Malibu and moved into a two-bedroom apartment while we finished preparing Cadenza for cruising. We had both lived in California for over twenty years. We had our careers there. We raised our children there. With the children either married or off to college, we decided to cut the lines and head south. It was exciting, daring, and a little bit scary. Initially, we weren’t sure how far we intended to cruise. Mexico for sure, probably not to the Marquesas, definitely not around the world, but Costa Rica was a possibility and even Panama and through the Canal. One thing I was sure of, I didn’t want to get “stuck” in a marina in Mexico. Well, if there is one thing we can count on in life is nothing stays the same.
Selling our house and moving onto a boat means downsizing. That was both liberating and challenging. What to keep? What to throw out? (See our very first blog, “Cruising and the Second Noble Truth.”) I found it interesting, how many material things I was attached to. What I didn’t foresee (and please don’t think bad of me) is how attached I was/am to family.
At the time, I was yearning for adventure. I was always a bit of a dreamer growing up. I got that from my father. We traveled constantly, moving from house to house, apartment to trailer to house again. We moved from city to city and state to state. We even moved out of the country, living in Bangkok for a year. So, after staying put to raise my children in one city, I longed to venture out again and see the world. I longed to challenge myself, to get out of my comfort zone, so to speak. When Jay shared with me his dream of cruising, I jumped at the opportunity and together we made our dreams come true.
We are “living the life” as they say. But there are downsides. The main one is, of course, being so far away from family. I think that was the biggest deciding factor – at least in my point of view – in not cruising any further than Mexico. Sailing in the Sea of Cortez, I learned what it is like to be in a remote area with little ability to communicate. We were missing out on their daily life accomplishments and struggles. And what if something happened to one of our children? How would we know? I realized then, if we went further south, we would be even more removed and I started second-guessing our choices.
Some people sell their house, move onto their boats and cruise the world. Others, like us, live in two worlds; one on land and one on the sea. We chose to keep our house on Martha’s Vineyard and make it our land home. Our sea home, our west coast house, is Cadenza, our sailboat. We spend four to six months on Cadenza and the other half of year at our home in Massachusetts. We are still far away from our children and grandchildren, (most living in California) but it is easier now, to stay in touch. We visit as often as we can.
This year is the first year in six years we spent the holidays at home, and I must say, I was very happy to nest and decorate and cook for family and friends. And we aren’t really “stuck” in a marina. Last year we sailed over 700 miles. When we returned, I asked myself how will I ever say goodbye to cruising? Now I understand. Like with everything, when it is time, we will know. But for now – we both love living our life on land and on sea.
The Sun and the Sea
24 May 2018 | Edgartown, Massachussetts
It was April. The weather was heating up. The humidity too. Most of our cruising friends had already left. Some had sailed south to El Salvador or the Panama Canal. Some did the Puddle Jump, crossing the Pacific to the Marquesas. Some sailed north to spend the summer in the Sea of Cortez. And others, like us, were putting their boats to bed in Mexico and heading home.
We always have mixed feelings about leaving. Our cruising life is exciting, challenging and fun. Sometimes it is terrifying. Always, it leaves us with a sense of accomplishment. The downside is being so far away from home and family. I was homesick and ready to close out the season. Jay, not so much. “Why do we want to go where it is so cold?” He asked me on more than one occasion.
“I like weather.” I replied. “Sunshine every single day is nice, but it gets boring. Besides, it won’t last for long.”
In the first four weeks of being home on Martha’s Vineyard, the sun came out only two days. Two days! It was rainy and cold. The sky was overcast constantly. I woke up one morning and looked out the window. The fog was a thick white sheet hovering over the green grass and wallowing between the trees. Dew dripped from the leaves. The newly-planted flowers were stifled by the chill. I wondered if somehow, we had been transported to England. The depression that takes over from lack of sunshine and vitamin D had long since gotten to Jay. Finally, I too, succumbed.
Mother’s Day weekend Talia arrived and with her, the sun. We enjoyed the afternoon at our favorite local hang, Coup de Ville, overlooking Oak Bluffs Harbor. Our moods were enhanced both by the sunshine and Talia’s beautiful smile. There are certain traditions we adhere to when we come back to the island and each time we say, “Now we are home.” Hanging out at Coup de Ville is one of them.
The rain and cold reared its ugly head again the next morning. Just in time for our 5K along South Beach. Oh well. It just made us move that much faster.
When Talia left on Sunday afternoon, she called us from the ferry as we were driving back to Edgartown. “Did you know your boat is in the water?” We immediately drove back to Vineyard Haven.
There she was, Skipjack, our 18’ Herreshoff America catboat we keep in Martha's Vineyard. She was sitting at a mooring, gently rocking and just waiting for us to pick her up and take her back home, to Katama Bay. Jay and I were elated. Until we checked the weather. Cold and rainy for the next week. “What happened to spring?” Jay wanted to know.
“I think this is spring.” I said, sadly. “An endless spring.”
One week later, we were on our way to pick up Skipjack. We were on the bus, traveling on the road between State Beach and Sengekontacket Pond. “The island looks so different.” I said. For weeks everything around us had been a dull gray. Now, with the air dry and crisp, everything was perfectly clear. The water, on both sides of the road, was a vibrant blue. The shoreline, covered with the barren gray trees, contrasted nicely with the pond’s reflection of the sky. That is just one thing that is so special about Martha’s Vineyard; the ever-changing light.
On board Skipjack, we dropped the mooring and headed out of Vineyard Haven Harbor. I would like to say we sailed her home but the sea was flat and there was no wind. What little wind that came up, was on the nose. Of course. It didn’t dampen our spirits, though. The sun was shining. We were back on the water, on our boat. “Now we are home.” We said as we smiled at each other.
09 March 2018 | Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
Punta de Mita anchorage.
It was late February and we were in Barra waiting for a weather window. It seemed like we had one norther after another after another. Finally, in three days' time, it looked like one might open up.
Meanwhile, Jay was checking the engine, checking the oil, checking the transmission, checking the coolant...wait! What? "There's no coolant in the reservoir." Jay told me. "It's empty."
"How can that be?" I asked. He checked the hoses. One of them had a leak. This was certainly a downer as there is no easy way to find boat parts in Barra.
We immediately called "our guy," Pancho. (Everyone needs a "guy" in every port. No! I know what you are thinking. Not like that. We need a guy who has local connections. A guy who can fix things and when he can't, he knows someone who can.) Pancho and his nephew went out on a search.
While they were looking, Jay made a few phone calls himself. He called some businesses in Manzanillo (a forty-minute taxi ride), and he called some friends who then gave us some numbers and names of friends. No luck. Our one big hope was Jonco. He is one of the few guys we know in Barra that works on boat engines. He gave a lazy laugh. "There are no 1 1/8" exhaust hoses in Mexico. They don't exist." He told us. I looked at Jay. "Seriously? Now what?"
Here was the problem. Our weather window was closing in, but there was no way we were leaving without replacing the hose. Getting a hose from the United States to Mexico would be no easy task and could take weeks, even months. My kids were flying into PV on the 14th of March so we needed to be back. I know two weeks sounds like a long time, but considering the dilemma we were facing, the odds of that happening were looking pretty slim. We were quietly panicking.
Leave it to "our guy" Pancho. He couldn't find a 1 1/8" exhaust hose, but he did come up with a 1 1/8" heater hose. At first, Jay was hesitant to use it, but after talking with a few people who all agreed it should work, he installed it. He tested it. And tested it again. Believe it or not, it worked!
On March 1st, we headed north with the open weather window, albeit a small one. With that in mind, we decided to skip Tenacatita and motor sail straight to Chamela. We arrived to find another twelve boats in our same situation, all wanting to head north around Cabo Corrientes. (Corrientes means "currents" in Spanish. The wind and seas can get rather fierce there if you don't time it right.)
We spent the evening listening in on Channel 22 on the VHF as the cruisers kept checking with each other. Everyone wanted advice to the timing of rounding Corrientes. Some were leaving at four in the morning. Others, five. Some at six. One was leaving at 11 am. We decided on six am.
We slept outside in the cockpit and at 4:30 am, I woke up. I sat up and watched a boat's stern lights head out of the bay. I was wide awake. I decided to wake Jay and suggested we go ahead and leave. At 5:50 (the sun rises at 7:15ish), we weighed anchor and were on our way. By that time, there were already five boats in front of us.
We left with the attitude that we could either motor sail the 50 nm to Ipala and anchor for the night, leaving at four the next morning to go around Cabo Corrientes or, if Ipala was crowded, we would keep going. Fortunately, the winds were down and the sea was relatively calm.
About 4pm, just outside Ipala, we saw there were only two boats anchored there. Even though it is a small cove, we could have fit in easily. But the conditions were such that we decided to keep going. If all went well, we would arrive at Punta de Mita around midnight. All went well. However, it was quite confusing between all the different lights. There were lights on the Marietta's Islands to our left and city lights all around the bay, in front of us and to our right. To add to the confusion, fireworks were going off sporadically throughout the evening. And we couldn't discern anchor lights from the town lights until we were right up on them. Eventually, it all became clear and we dropped anchor in 35 feet of water under our spreader lights and a full moon. We tucked in for a good night's sleep.
Later in the afternoon the next day, Jay looked at me and said, "I'm glad you suggested we stay here for another night. It gives us time to decompress." Not long after that, a whale came up, leisurely swimming alongside our boat! Literally, about twenty feet off the port side. It was a great way to end a successful voyage; lounging around on the boat at anchor, reading, eating, napping, even whale-watching.
I'll be honest, though. I was nervous about this latest trip. Before leaving, we heard from our friends who had to abandon their boat on their way from Cartagena to Jamaica in twenty-foot seas after three days of storms that took out their sails and engine. Then we heard of two other experienced sailors who lost their lives just outside Ensenada when they hit a storm while on their way home to San Diego after seven years of cruising. They never found the boat. Just two bodies washed up along the shore. I was spooked. So, this trip was good for us. Despite some of our hardships, we spent two months cruising, traveled 726-miles, and we were fine. Cadenza was fine. We were back in the saddle.
The Sounds of Mexico
27 February 2018 | Barra de Navidad
When I was a little girl, my friend, Lisa, and I would take listening walks. We would walk around the block and write down everything we heard and then compare to see who heard the most sounds. That person would win the game. What is particularly interesting about this (other than I have never met another person who played this game) is that when I became a TV producer, one of my responsibilities was to oversee the sound mix. On Star Trek: DS9, we had three mixers; one for dialogue and Foley, one for music, and one for sound effects. Their job was to create the best sound for their individual parts. My job was to listen to the mix as a whole. My comments were something like this: raise the dialogue, add more walla, we need a bigger explosion. So, it was no surprise, that as we were walking through town one day, Jay said, "You should do a blog about the sounds of Mexico. Too bad you can't record it and put it on the blog." Actually, there must be a way, but I am not technically savvy. I am a writer, so with my words and your imagination, maybe you will hear the sounds of Mexico.
To begin with, I must mention the birds. Every morning and every evening their songs fill the air. They are not the sweet, musical tweets of New England birds in spring. Many of these birds' vocals are harsh. They caw and whistle and cluck in succession. However, the white egret is silent as she moves gracefully along the dock. Her eyes peer down intently at the water waiting to catch her next meal.
There are many sounds emanating in and around the ocean too. The waves hitting the shoreline, of course. Small fish jumping, running away from some other bigger fish. The dolphins' breath as they swim alongside our bow. Rays doing belly-flops as they dance across the sea. And if we are lucky, a whale might breach, jumping clear out of the water, making a big, thunderous thud as he hits the water.
While we are on our boat, we leave the VHF radio on. That is how we cruisers communicate. In Barra, at 0830, six days a week we hear, "This is your French baker. I am entering the marina." He says this with an authentic French accent. He is here to deliver fresh baked goods to our boats by panga. Ding ding. Ding ding. This is the bell he rings as he passes our dock.
Pangas are everywhere. They are the main mode of transportation along the coast. They are used for tours and for fishing. It is common to hear their motors charging by at all hours of the day and night. Many times, we hear music blasting from their boats. Once, in Zihuatanejo, a panga driver passed our boat and we could hear an opera playing from his radio. He stood tall, (Panga drivers often stand while driving.) with his hand on the tiller and sang along at the top of his lungs. He had a beautiful, deep voice. A baritone, maybe?
The many sounds make us laugh as we walk through the streets of Barra. Fresh water is delivered in five-gallon jugs by truck. The hatchback drives along very slowly. There is a loudspeaker on the hood. Out of it a man's voice bellows in Spanish. I don't know exactly what he is saying, but I'm sure he is advertising his water. It echoes through the town. Propane is delivered this way too.
Mexicans love their music. And so it goes that you will hear it coming from homes, businesses and cars as you walk by. The other day, we were on our way to the Port Captain. We turned a corner and heard loud music. We looked up to see three young girls dancing and singing on the second-floor balcony. When they saw us, they giggled and ran inside. And one Monday night, when we were leaving our favorite restaurant, we ran into a block party. Thirty, or so, people were gathered around in a circle, sitting on chairs in the middle of the street. There was a band playing and some people dancing in the center of the circle. Gail and I just naturally started moving to the music. They saw us and called us over. At first, we were shy. But, as they kept insisting we thought, oh, what the heck. We ran over, entered the circle and danced with them for a few minutes. There were no words spoken, only laughter as two cultures joined together in song.
Motorcycles are another staple in Mexico. They are an inexpensive way to get around. They putter through town. It is not unusual to see a mother with her two children; one on her lap and one behind her, holding on. They wear no helmets. I worry for them.
That same day we walked to the Port Captain we saw two horses clomping down the road. Clickety-click, clickety-click. No one was with them, other than a dog following. A rooster crowed. And they don't just crow in the mornings, either! They banter back and forth day and night.
On the way back through town, we passed the elementary school. We could hear the children's laughter and shouts as they ran around the playground. A child's joy always makes me smile.
Next, we passed the Catholic Church. Three masses a day are celebrated here. It was noon and the parishioners were singing hymns they know by heart. Many years ago, a hurricane hit Barra hard, causing part of the church's roof to collapse, breaking the arms of Jesus. Legend has it that this coincided with the wind stopping. The broken crucifix still hangs in the church, a constant reminder of their faith.
The sounds of life are universal and yet, at the same time, unique to individual cultures. These are some of the sounds of Mexico.
Living in the Slow Lane
19 February 2018 | Barra de Navidad
A young girl helps her mother at work.
February 16, 2018
Approximate location: Punta San Telmo
It is three-thirty in the morning. I am munching on Cheese Puffs and staring at the radar screen. There is a flashing light four miles to starboard and a tanker twelve miles to port. We are on our way from Zihuatanejo to Bahia Santiago and I am on watch. Our friends, Tony and Diane from s/v Dolce, are sleeping below. Jay lies next to me in the cockpit, resting. The wind is light. The seas are calm. The sky is filled with thousands of stars but no moon. There is nothing much to do but relax and enjoy the balmy night air. I think back to our days in Zihuatanejo.
February 13, 2018
One hundred gallons of water had been delivered and syphoned into our tanks. The laundry had also been delivered and put away. We scrubbed the boat inside and out (including 50 feet of smelly-fishy anchor chain) in preparation for our guests who will be crewing with us. We recharged the battery and put the charger away. Put out the jack lines. You know - boat chores. Our last chore for the day was to go to Telcel in town. But first, prep the dinghy.
Poor Patches. She is on her last legs. She is taking on water. She isn't holding air. One tire has a big bubble in it and the hose to the gas tank split yesterday. Jay fixed that. Still, every single time we use the dinghy, it is bail and pump. Bail and pump.
We arrived at the beach and, as usual, the dinghy valets were waiting for us. They are a welcome sight. For a few pesos they help us in and out and watch our dinghies twenty-four hours a day. They are a friendly bunch and will help with anything if we ask. After visiting with them for a few minutes, we found our way to the Malecon. It was 85 degrees with 70% humidity. We were both exhausted. Sailfest had kept us busy and living at anchor takes work. Jay suggested we stop at the coffee shop and I readily agreed.
All coffee connoisseurs love this place. The owner not only grinds and brews each cup fresh, but he roasts the beans to your liking. It is a tiny shop with a few tables out on the street. Jay orders a mocha for him and an iced green tea for me. Weary, I sat down outside and observed this little corner of the world.
Zihuatanejo is different than we expected. Well, it is and it isn't. We expected a small, sleepy beach town. And along the shore that is what we found. What we didn't expect was how big the city is and how it stretches out in all directions from town Centro.
Centro is unique too, in its design. The Malecon runs along the beach as always, but it is shaded with palm trees. Shops and restaurants line the walk along with the local fish coop on one side. It is absolutely charming. We didn't ever come upon the usual town square with the church on one side of the street and the civic center on the other with a park in the middle. What we did find were diagonal streets interlaced between the horizontal and vertical ones. Only foot traffic was allowed on the diagonal streets and the restaurants set up their tables and chairs outside. Evenings, these streets come alive with customers enjoying their meals under the stars.
I had a view of the beach from where I sat at the coffee shop, but it was the town streets that attracted my attention. Few cars passed this way. Across the street, a gringo sat outside his shop, sipping a beer. Paintings and photographs hung on the outer walls, as well as dresses. It seems he sells a little bit of everything. This is typical. Merchants sell whatever they get their hands on.
Another gringo, a tall, slender man with long hair and a beard, walked up to the shopkeeper. He wore swimming trunks, a tee-shirt and flip flops. He held a dog in his arms. The two conversed in English. From what I could overhear, they had just met. They chatted. They chuckled. "Don't be a stranger." The shopkeeper yelled as the tall man walked away.
A few minutes later, a young woman walked by. She was moving faster than most. Her blonde hair was pulled into a loose bun. She was barefoot and eating the last of a sandwich. Her eye caught a young Mexican man. Her friend, perhaps? She called him over. They spoke in fluent Spanish. After a few minutes, they bid each other goodbye and left in different directions.
This is how it goes here. The pace is slow. People take time to stop and visit. There is no rushing about. It is a much different lifestyle than the one I led when I had a career in Los Angeles and was raising two children. Here, the children walk home from school. We see them at their parents' work. If old enough, they help. If too young, they sit outside and play on the sidewalk. There are no nannies. Just family. They might not be rich in pesos, but I'm thinking they are rich in other ways. Different lifestyles for different folks. I'm kind of liking this one; living in the slow lane.