Should we stay or should we go?

May you live in interesting times… well ain’t that a curse and a half!

The following are thoughts written down as we moved from La Paz to Loreto, taking in the news as it became available… and how we eventually processed it all and made a very hard decision. Not as cohesive a blog-post as I would like to present, but it does give a sense of our journey through this whole pandemic experience.

I guess it was bound to happen, and it’s wreaking havoc with the world and causing everyone to second guess the future while they search for answers in lots of wrong places…like from the mouths of certain politicians and FACEBOOK, for goodness’ sake.

A pandemic… “this is not a test, I repeat, this is not a test”..only people of a certain age will get that reference and that would put us into the highly susceptible category for getting (and not surviving) this disease. There is indeed a pandemic and we are out of our country. Governments are shutting down borders, airlines are cancelling flights, people are hoarding as if there is no tomorrow ..(people…toilet paper? Really?) and here we are in Baja Mexico which at this point has very few cases.

Do we fly home? drive home? Leave the boat and the truck here? Find ourselves in our own country with more cases and a two week mandatory quarantine policy?

Or stay in Mexico and hope for good or at least decent medical help should we need it.. and self-isolate ourselves up the sea. Away from cities and people. With hopefully supplies that will see us through.

We don’t have a crystal ball and we don’t know what will happen. Our health is good although we are in the age bracket that they label dodgy…elderly? bastards! However to drag ourselves through airports, or drive through the states and B.C. to get home…and all the chances to come in contact with someone who has covid-19 are way better if we leave than if we stay.

What happens in two weeks? A month? Hard to tell.

We are working our way north, spending a night or two at our favourite anchorages. There are a number of boats here in San Francisco, charters full of families or couples or sweet young things… lots of water toys and jet skis and tubers racing around, not our idea of fun but it’s a long weekend here and they are enjoying themselves. Time to wander north away from the madding crowds! That’s the plan! Avoid people!

getting some exercise and checking out the boats in the bay!getting some exercise and checking out the boats in the bay!
even with clouds San Francisco is gorgeous!even with clouds San Francisco is gorgeous!
so is Northern Ranger II!so is Northern Ranger II!
sunset at San Fran... beautiful, clouds are good for something!sunset at San Fran… beautiful, clouds are good for something!
heading north with lines out. Ever the optimist!heading north with lines out. Ever the optimist!

March 18th…well talk about up and down. One minute we are planning our extraction and the next we are discussing survival 101 covid edition with other boat owners. After a lovely (but fish less) trip north with a stopover in Agua Verde ( a few sailboats, people coming and going) we are finally in Honeymoon Cove on Izla Danzante, Red Rover is coming out of Ballandra to head over to Puerto Escondido but is planning to do a drive-by to say hi, and Varnebank is missing in action, still dealing with last minute business in La Paz….which is starting to show some signs of the effects of covid 19.

practicing good social distancing, boat editionpracticing good social distancing, boat edition

It’s raining with a side of sunny… boat is cleaned of salt though. We are alone here, which suits our isolation theory very well. Red Rover has offered grocery shopping when we arrive at PE, or we can go to the store at the marina with a lot of hand washing and care… pick out some stuff I need and come back.

I have done an inventory of supplies. Hard to say if it will last two months, I did not shop for that long a period of time because past history indicated I always over-stocked and wasted a lot of food! How ironic! And having a smaller freezer sucks. I haven’t pulled that apart yet but I guess I will. I have receipts for latest shopping so have a reasonable idea of what I have… but…may have to pick up the fishing skills. Skip-Jack anyone?

It’s great being able to talk via WhatsApp to son Andrew every morning, he fills me in on what’s going on. Val sends me all the dirty details, which gets my heart racing and blood pressure up. Lawrence’s doctor says staying put is a viable option… but who knows if we wait will we be totally stuck??? Stay put for what? Two weeks? A month? Two months? A year?????

Certainly don’t have enough food for that! Hopefully Varnebank will come soon and we can raid their pantry… the floating Costco store!

We left Honeymoon after the weather decided to kick up and threaten to push us into the beach. We woke up to rain and 25 knot winds and four foot waves… definitely not our idea of a Honeymoon. First thought was to head up to Ballandra but I really wanted to spend a few days at the marina, and hang the expense… so marina it was . They had room … why not?

Our initial slip assignment made sense until we arrived… 30 foot slip with starboard tie turned into a port tie as we arrived at our appointed number.. luckily dock hands and Red Rover crew were there to help us land, and then after I changed all the lines and threw fenders out on the fly, we were told to go park behind Red Rover- yay! A port tie, bow in, on a nice long dock… close to friends. Perfect. Not our finest hour but we didn’t hit anything.

don't come any closer, I'm being safe!don’t come any closer, I’m being safe!

We tied up, settled in, and after we had everything organized Kevin and Alison came over with the Hurricanes they had promised us earlier. We practiced our maximum separation and they stayed well away from us on the dock and we stayed on the back deck and we had our drinks – I brought out chips (separate bowls ) and we enjoyed our sundowners in the new reality that is Cruising with Covid. And wow those Hurricanes….

safe sundowners, Hurricane edition.. thanks Kevin and Alison!safe sundowners, Hurricane edition.. thanks Kevin and Alison!

Ideas and thoughts were exchanged on what to do, what other people are doing, and how we plan to manage in the next few weeks, months, and onward. It is a confusing, scary time that is made a bit more manageable by having other cruisers around going through the same thing.

March 20 – welcome spring…. which feels just not much different than winter down here in Mexico…warm. Not hot. Just right.

Yesterday I went out for a walk which is definitely good for the soul – ( behind the marina are several miles worth of never-developed roads and bird-infested forests of shrubbery…)

pretty cool cactus gardens everywhere, all well tended!pretty cool cactus gardens everywhere, all well tended!

People new to Puerto Escondido are blown away by its beauty … and I never get tired of it. I may have to drag down one of the bikes and do some more exploring…

I also took the kayak around the bay, which is about a two hour paddle and lots of fun. There are maybe 40 boats out in the mooring field, some are obviously just there in storage and others are occupied. Would be interesting to know what everyone’s plans are.

looking towards the Puerto Escondido marina and mooring field from out in the baylooking towards the Puerto Escondido marina and mooring field from out in the bay

Last night we did another safe-distance dock “party”, this time including Bella Luna..we put our own chairs out, I had made Bob Senter’s Fabulous Chocolate Chip Cookies and shared them on a brand new plastic disposable plate as we drank wine and talked about our situation. Didn’t solve anything but everyone liked the cookies and not a little wine was consumed.

This morning I headed out for a quick early walk and chatted with one of the sailors from the mooring field (giving him a wide berth of course!) He is presently on the hard getting a rudder repair. His plan, and many of his friends’, is to head over to Guymas and ride the pandemic out there. He has other friends, some from Canada, who have left and are heading home by car… he tried to get hold of one who was near the Mexican US border to ask if he had any idea about crossing into the US. Nice guy…didn’t hear back but maybe he’ll let me know if he gets an answer. We aren’t sure if we were to drive home whether or not we would actually be allowed to cross the US border. Not something we want to chance…stuck at the border with nowhere to stay. Ugh.

Other boaters plan to head over to Ballandra for a month or two. That was our original plan, and maybe we will still do that. As much as I am enjoying being at the dock, once we are reprovisioned I think the whole premise of staying here is to be isolated and safe from covid. There still aren’t many cases yet but as people continue to come across the border or fly into Mexico for holidays I am sure more cases will appear and then it will just be a matter of time before it gets much worse.

So yeah… should we go north while the going is good….or wait and chance that Baja will be much much worse than it is now…

Stay away from people as much as we can and hope we have enough food to ride it out?

Rice and beans… maybe I need to find some good recipes so I am prepared for when we run out of fresh food!

News flash… being inundated with internet is a blessing and a curse. Docked here at Puerto Escondido I have loved getting back in touch with far-away friends and family and finding out how everyone is doing back home. Lawrence has become fixated on news and reports from various groups he belongs to. He’s seeing the world and possible future scenarios a little more as I have been seeing them….. and yesterday morning when I started to feel overwhelmed by the thought of staying in Mexico and losing our ability to travel if we needed to, and perhaps losing it for months and months… not pretty…

Well I took a time out and ended up talking to Alison and Kevin who are absolutely the voices of reason and calm. We discussed being in this together, what the future holds – the good the bad and the ugly…and they ultimately talked me off the ledge and made me see that we had each other’s backs and I am strong. I am.

But back at our boat Lawrence was sliding down into “this might not be the best thing to do”. I had given Red Rover a shopping list that would stretch our supplies to another month with careful rationing. Lawrence started looking at flights out… and found one on Air Canada next Saturday that is a non-stop (super important in my mind)… he filled out the reservation form and his hand hovered over the “send request” button … I walked away thinking wow… we are going home… sadness was there, but it didn’t engulf me. I felt more like a weight was lifted from my heart. I got another cup of coffee and went back up to the pilot house, where – he hadn’t sent it. He was now in the second guessing stage. We discussed it, I drank my coffee, and wandered back to the saloon. Now the stress ramped right back up and I realized that…. yup. I wanted to go home.

I told Lawrence how I was feeling, he brought up the reservations again, and this time he hit send.

I am sad for a world gone crazy through no fault of its own, and the suffering world citizens and especially the frontline workers in the medical community will be experiencing. I am saddened by the fact we have to leave Mexico and its people when they are in for a very trying time and could use all the support they can get ( they run on tourism here in the sea of Cortez).

I am sad to have to leave the boat early and will miss my friends down here.

But I realized that, unlike some of those friends, we do have a house to go back to which is already pretty isolated, and family, and friends, up north. And if things are going to get as bad as they are predicting, our place is with them, up there.

This morning I was told that flights out are getting cancelled even as people are lining up waiting to get on. Planes are mostly empty. I recognize that this is a possibility..we could get to the airport to find we have no way out… and I suppose if that’s the case, there is a plan B … plan “isolate in the Sea of Cortez..” bet I’d lose weight…. hmmmm….

We have a week. Pretty sure every day will bring some new fresh hell through the internet – but it’s sunny, and calm, and we are going to have a few days to wander back down and pretend we are just on a holiday before we park ourselves smack dab in the middle of reality.

Sunday March 21

What was going to be several days worth of travel to get to La Paz ended up being one long leg, from Puerto Escondido to Isla San Francisco. We bypassed Agua Verde with thoughts that if the wind came up, being closer to home port was better. It was pitch black when we arrived in the bay, almost nine o’clock, and there were only three vessels at anchor, which meant plenty of room for us! As we motored in the whole bay exploded with life, fish and perhaps squid leaping out of the water in droves as we aimed our flashlight around making sure the way was clear for us. I have never seen so much action!

a carpet of grebes looking for action..a carpet of grebes looking for action..
sunrise on the tail-end of the Giganticassunrise on the tail-end of the Giganticas
ubiquitous bees... harmless, they are just looking for water. Best to give them what they want... somewhere away from where you want to swim!ubiquitous bees… harmless, they are just looking for water. Best to give them what they want… somewhere away from where you want to swim!

The next morning dawned clear and bright and quite windy. Darn! I made a vow to do nothing all day but after I finished reading my book and decided it was just a bit too cool for swimming to appeal to me I decided to start working on food cupboards. Everything was going just fine until I opened an older container of tea and found little brown bugs. I’ve seen them before – on NR I …out came ziplock bags to dump everything that could have become infested, and bleach to clean all the cupboards that may harbour any residual unwelcome visitors.

So the contents of the galley are now spread out on the floor, the counter, and halfway through the saloon.. the wind is dying and I’m actively contemplating jumping in the water, to heck with cleaning.

This week is about trying to use what I can in the galley, which means three squares a day and no dieting! That evening I made a Mexican meal, and Lawrence made margaritas, and we finished off two bags of chips left behind when our guests left. It was marvellous!

We made the decision to leave San Francisco and go to Cardonal, at Espiritu Santu. There was one other boat which upped anchor as soon as we arrived (something we said?)… we are seeing fewer and fewer boats out now. We threw my kayak in and I paddled and took pictures for a couple of hours. My travels took me right out to the mouth of the anchorage, and when I turned around to come back I realized I had a long way to go and the wind was really picking up. Another sailboat was steaming in, and I decided I had to beat him to the anchorage… which I did but only just. I stopped a few times to watch a couple of Ridley’s turtles napping on the surface… no pictures, just memories!

from the beach out to the boat, we are the only dot out therefrom the beach out to the boat, we are the only dot out there
a message from the beach to be kind to one another!a message from the beach to be kind to one another!
most beautiful place to be right now...most beautiful place to be right now…

Made it back, and had a short swim, the water is still not warm!

The wind picked up dramatically, gusting over 30… we were surrounded by small fish, so much so that when you looked down it appeared we were on the bottom! Amazing! And the pelicans were everywhere feasting on the bounty!


So hard to think about leaving here and all the tragedies around the rest of the world… but it feels like the right decision and I am loading up on good memories and happy times before we bug out and fly home.

This morning we decided to go back to the dock a few days early. Varnebank is anchored behind an island just around the corner so we swung by to say goodbye – hard to imagine that seven months ago we were on board her, provisioning for our adventure coming down the coast with Cubar 2019, and joking about how we must have been provisioning for the apocalypse. Not so funny now. She is the perfect boat for it, and we are wishing we could be staying behind with her, but this is the right decision.

hello Varnebank!hello Varnebank!

It was nice to tie up in our slip, always good to know it’s there for us, and we are surrounded by helpful staff and friendly neighbours… just like back home…..

Or is it?!?

I was somewhat surprised today to read that we may not be all that welcome back home… some locals in our community who live there year round are putting it out on Facebook that they don’t want travellers and people who spend time down on the lower mainland (Vancouver and surrounding areas) to come up to their cabins on the lake, threatening the health of the old timers who have lived there forever…buying up the meagre supplies in the local grocery store, and perhaps utilizing the limited health care we have available. Boy that made me pause!

Hopefully they don’t lump us in that group, and I am saddened to think we could be. I guess this is a side effect of this kind of crisis… in some cases you see an outpouring of caring and togetherness, and in others… an effort to slam the door and lock out “others”.

Unprecedented times … unpredictable results. But we are going home and I believe it is the right decision.

Ask me again in 20 days after we have been isolated for two weeks, and we are out of quarantine and hopefully healthy and happy and looking out at our frozen lake, surrounded by snow. Son Christopher is there now stocking up for us, (when he’s not building his snowboard park in our back yard!) with the help of our wonderful neighbours if need be!

well it's beautiful... going to take a bit of getting used to though!well it’s beautiful… going to take a bit of getting used to though!

Good news is it is spring… we can enjoy watching the ice break up and start planning garden chores and trout fishing.

And dreaming about when this all over, or at least managed, and the start of next fall’s cruising Sea of Cortez season.

Let us hope!