I started this boat log while sitting in the cockpit of another boat. We often create work stations where we can, and that day, we used my data sim-card to run wireless internet on our friends’ boat for four of us. We focused on our individual projects with a view of a tropical beach behind our laptop screens. I recalled sitting at my former desk in a traditional office building, with its gray industrial carpeting and neutral-colored walls. The world behind my computer screen then was through a window—another building’s side-wall. One day, when I was pondering whether to leave my job (which I loved) for this adventure, I saw a man cut through the area outside of my window, wearing hiking gear and a large backpack. He squinted with no sunglasses, and I wished I was squinting from natural light and not from staring too long at my computer screen in florescent light.
People often ask me what cruising (long-term sailing) is like after the 18 months that we have been doing it. The answer is complicated. It is strange to be stuck between lifestyles—we are not working 9-to-5 jobs, but we are not living in a perpetual vacation. We still have work to get done, bills to pay, taxes to file, and chores to complete in order to maintain our home and selves. But we live freer than we did before, without consistent routines and in locations that are time-outs from the daily grind of most. I have a responsibility to others, who do not have the privilege of this lifestyle—maybe to enjoy this and to just be thankful, maybe something more. Still, I often find myself wishing for some type of routine that could add “normalcy” to this life. What that routine is, I have yet to discover. But I’ll let you know when I find it.
Mexico’s “Galapagos” Island
Since celebrating the New Year in Mazatlán, we said “adios” to that beautiful and vibrant city, and we left the bustle of people for the wilds of an uninhabited island. Isla Isabel is a small island, formed by a volcano and known as Mexico’s Galapagos. Part of Mexico’s designated conservation parks, the only manmade facility on the island is an old research center, which is still used today. Mapache and her buddy boat, Skookum, were the only boats anchored in the shadow of the island for the four days we visited that magical place.
We spent time hiking along the island’s lava-washed edges and into her lush interior to a lake in the volcano’s caldera. The island’s residents are predominantly frigate birds, booby birds (brown and blue-footed), green iguanas, and quick little lizards. The clicks, screeches, and flapping sounds created from those animals made me feel like I was lost in a prehistoric world.
We spied on baby frigate birds in their nests, surrounded by the red-balloon throats of their fathers. We watched the frigates soar like glide-planes with their long and slender wings above the steep island cliffs. We shared a beach with some-hundred blue-footed boobies, most of which guarded a single egg in a sand-pile nest. We cheered for humpback whales as they breached just outside of our anchoring spot. And we even listened through our hydrophone (underwater microphone) to those humpbacks sing.
En El Muelle de San Blas
After that welcome dose of nature, we sailed on to San Blas, anchoring just south of the city in Matanchén. We loved our time roaming the romantic streets and fort of San Blas, humming Maná’s song, “En El Muelle de San Blas.” We took a jungle-river tour of La Tovara Nature Reserve, which motored us, by panga, past sleepy crocodiles and colorful birds, and culminated with a Tarzan-style rope-jump into a (fenced from crocodiles) portion of the river. But that same beautiful jungle river is ideal for mosquitos and jejenes (sometimes called no-see-ums). And after suffering literally hundreds of bites (I counted), those bugs chased us out of the anchorage.
Easing Back to Big City Life
We next found ourselves in Chacala, a quiet little pueblo with beach-front, palapa-style restaurants, along with a street of brick-and-mortar shops and cafes. The anchorage’s ease and chilled-out atmosphere gave us a nice break before heading into our next big city of Puerto Vallarta.
Reunions and Road Adventures
Puerto Vallarta is a busy tourist destination, but it remains a beautiful city, with its cobblestone streets and muraled buildings. Its downtown is progressive, catering to an LGBTQ+ community of locals and tourists, and offering foodie-centric restaurants, mixology bars, and diverse entertainment (from drag shows to classical-music performances). We had several friends from home visit us there, helping us to explore the city through its terrace bars, taco stands, hidden restaurants, art walks, and a cooking class.
After lengthening our stay in Puerto Vallarta’s marina to allow us a trip to Ohio for Rob’s Grandmother’s funeral, we became itchy to move again—only this time, not so literally (from bug bites). But before that move, we paused our ocean travel for some road tripping. We piled into a rented minivan with our pals from Skookum. We traveled a diverse route, touring Mexico’s second-largest city, Guadalajara; the origin of Mexico’s famous beverage, Tequila; a surf-bum haven, Sayulita; and circular pyramids built in 300 BCE, Guachimontones.
Presently, I am finishing this log at a shaded table, beside a bright-blue swimming pool at a resort, where we paid the equivalent of five American dollars for a day-pass. Mapache sits behind the town of Barra de Navidad, in a comfortable and tranquil lagoon, where we get daily visits from a French baker selling his pastries out of his panga. I am very aware that this is a charmed life. And I think of a quote that has always stuck with me: “Routine is the enemy of time.” The quote is from a documentary about a man quitting his job and riding his bike from Oregon to Patagonia. I thought the quote was true, and maybe it is in a sense. But reflecting now, when I am feeling undefined, I realize the man, who touted that theory, had a routine—he rode his bike daily. He constantly changed his location, but there was a routine. Humans are said to be creatures of habit. We just have different habits. And they are often-necessary tools for learning and excelling at whatever we set out to accomplish.
Tomorrow, we weigh anchor and continue our journey along Mexico’s southern Pacific-coast. My current world is neither order nor chaos, and I am working toward the definition of my daily grind.
Our office for a day–Skookum’s cockpit, while anchored in Chacala
Frigate birds soaring above the cliffs of Isla Isabel
A pair of frigate birds on Isla Isabel–the males have giant red throats
A baby frigate bird–there were thousands of them on Isla Isabel
The research facility on Isla Isabel (notice the iguanas lined up in front of Rob)
Iguanas, sunning themselves at the research facility on Isla Isabel
Rob and I, whale-spotting from the cliffs of Isla Isabel
Humpback whale breach!!! (view from Isla Isabel)
Blue-footed boobies on Isla Isabel
A blue-footed booby with its egg on Isla Isabel (their nests are more of a space on the sand or dirt)
Streets of San Blas
Inside the ruins of the church that serviced La Contaduria Fort in San Blas in the 1700s
La Tovara jungle river
A lounging crocodile in La Tovara
Streets of Puerto Vallarta
One of the many murals in Puerto Vallarta
Terrace Bar in Puerto Vallarta with friends from home
Cooking class in Rosie‘s home in Puerto Vallarta (we highly recommend her classes)
Lunch with a view and friends from home at Ocean Grill
The only way to access remote Ocean Grill restaurant is by panga ride
Rob’s favorite tacos in Puerto Vallarta came out of this truck, which conveniently parked one block from our marina every morning (the man cooks the tacos over a propane griddle in the truck bed)
Beautiful Puerto Vallarta
A view of Guadalajara, second-biggest city in Mexico
Public art in Guadalajara
Rob and his new buddy in Guadalajara
More art in Guadalajara
Guadalajara is a mix of new and old
Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady (Guadalajara Cathedral), built in 1541 — notice that two of the three carriages in front are electric, rather than horse-drawn (it is part of a movement in the city, because pulling carriages through hot, paved streets is typically bad for the horses)
Our guide and his electric carriage for our tour of Guadalajara’s center
Tequila’s central plaza
Streets of Tequila
The gang (Skookum plus Mapache), ready for our Tequila tour in a giant cantarito (a traditional tequila drink served in a clay cup)
Welcome to the Tequila tour!
Blue agave fields abound throughout Tequila and its surrounding valleys
Stop-off at Sayulita
Sayulita is filled with street art and drink/snack stands all the way into her beach
Archeological site of Guachimontones, circular pyramids built in 300 BCE by the Teuchitlán culture
Barra de Navidad–the boats sit anchored in the lagoon behind this coastal town (at the top left of this photograph)
Barra de Navidad’s French Baker, who delivers fresh pastries and coffee to the boats anchored in the lagoon