11-2-2011 – La Paz, Mexico

We’re close to the one year anniversary since starting this adventure.  This time last year we’d left Portland and traveled down the California coast.  We crossed over the border into Mexico in late November.  We were excited and nervous and waiting to see how the cruising life would play out for us.  Some of that edge has worn off, but we’re still excited – and occasionally nervous.  So far, the cruising life has offered an amazing combination of experiences, and we’re still happily curious about what lies around the next corner.  In some ways we feel far more experienced than we were a year ago (and not without reason), but we also recognize that there’s still a lot for us to learn: about sailing, boat repair, weather, radios, fishing, Spanish, and the list goes on.

One thing that’s a bit of a surprise is the balance that cruising strikes between being on vacation and living an everyday life.  Cruising offers us the opportunity to live in some amazingly beautiful places, and to change the location periodically and spontaneously.  We get to see wondrous natural events, and have the time to notice the wonders that are always happening around us.  We have been lucky to have a number of visits from people that we care about, and when they come they are undoubtedly on vacation.  We share that vacation mindset and spend a bigger part of our time “playing”, which usually means snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and fishing.  This last month we had two sets of visitors: first was 12-year-old Noah with his father Adam, organic farmers from Colorado, followed by Cap’n Ron and Ashley, long-time friends of ours from Portland who run a boater’s assistance business and a boat-cleaning service.  Both visits included a few days of lazy recreational fun.

The other side of the coin is “everyday life”, which apparently creeps up on one no matter where you live or what you do.  You still have to deal with taking care of your body (eating, sleeping), your home (laundry, shopping), your possessions (maintenance, repair, new purchases).  These activities can take more time and energy (and money!) when you’re in unfamiliar places and don’t know your way around, don’t have “regular” sources, don’t have a personal vehicle, don’t speak the local language, etc.  But that’s also part of the fun, not knowing how it will all play out.  I’ve probably already mentioned the boater’s quip that the definition of cruising is “boat repair in exotic locations”, but it’s definitely a fact of life.  When Noah & Adam came to visit, we had them bring a replacement circuit board for our watermaker and then spent the better part of an afternoon getting it installed – but the simple pleasure of having clean water again made it worth every minute!  When Ron & Ashley were here, our windlass stopped working after a brass key sheared.  Another couple of hours and a new one was in place.  Every time something needs attention like this, it makes us appreciate the role that it plays in keeping up the life that we are choosing to live.  Kathy spent most of the week before our visitors arrived making “chaps”, a cover for the dinghy to protect it from the sun.  This might extend the life of the dinghy by as much as a decade.  It might also protect it from stray fishing hooks and chafing from docks and other boats.

Every day presents this contrast between luxurious leisure and mundane maintenance.  Perhaps that is just what we wanted to experience when we left.  The relationship between the work we do and our quality of life is so much clearer than it was when we worked in cubicles.  We still have to make choices but we are choosing between various labors of love.  Do we go skin diving and get dinner or do we replace a fraying mizzen sheet or just lay on the deck with a good book?  Either way our life is richer as a result.  Vacation or “every day life”?  The lines are blurring deliciously.

No matter where you go, a frequent topic of conversation seems to be the weather.  That’s certainly true of the cruising world as well.  This summer has been the wettest they’ve seen in the Sea for several years.  The climax to the season was Hurricane Paul, which came barreling through the area in the middle of our visit with Noah & Adam.  Although the forecast kept showing a predicted track that turned north and then northwest before hitting the Baja peninsula, each time they updated the forecast the track was a little bit further east – and closer to us!  We’d hung around Loreto, and inched closer to Puerto Escondido for a few days, but on the day it was due to come through, we decided to run the last couple of miles for cover, arriving less than an hour before the winds kicked up.  It was kind of odd, running directly towards the storm, but that’s what we needed to do in order to get through the tiny entrance to the hurricane hole.  We got in safe and sound, and sat out a few hours of gusty winds and sporadic rain.  Lungta handled it beautifully, increasing our confidence in the vessel we’ve chosen to keep us and others we love safe and sound.  Eventually patches of blue sky appeared, and we wondered if this was the eye of the storm.  As it turned out, the storm hit just a little bit north of us and then turned to the left as expected.  We got some of its edge, but didn’t get winds much more than 35 knots.  It was an exciting experience, and we come out of it somewhat more knowledgeable and confident that we know what to expect and to do, but all-in-all it was “the hurricane that wasn’t”.

The weather is changing here, as with the rest of the northern hemisphere, rapidly turning from summer to fall.  The hurricane season is essentially over, as the last of the tropical storms spins down well south of the Baja peninsula.  The temps have cooled into the 70’s at night, and we’ve finally put a blanket back on the bed.  The water temperature has also dropped notably in the last few weeks and we’re swimming far less often.  The change of season brings about a new chapter in our travels.  We’re preparing to head back across the Sea to spend the winter on the mainland coast.  We’re in La Paz now, waiting for a good “weather window” to sail over.  This year we plan to head further south, not staying put in one place for so long.  We hope to get as far south as Zihuatenejo (Ixtapa).  But first we’ll leave the boat for a couple of weeks while we fly up to New York to visit Dan’s family for Thanksgiving.  Should be a nice vacation!  🙂


>> Kathy & Dan

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