Picture Perfect

The link between social media and mental health is no secret.  Extensive studies conclude that the use of social media distorts people’s perceptions of their self-worth and reality.  And despite the Mapache crew’s intentional flee from social norms, we are no different. 

Social media is a tool that we use to stay in touch with people, and we have yet to find an adequate replacement.  In our use, we see other cruisers’ posts, which generally show happy people effortlessly sailing across beautiful oceanscapes.  We subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) compare ourselves to those chosen photos without considering the bigger picture.  And when we feel uncomfortable, annoyed, overworked, stressed, scared, lonely, sweaty, and dirty, we forget that all of those same feelings are in the cropped portions of other people’s social media images.  Knowing that we all experience times that are unworthy of social media “likes” helps us stop feeling wrong, anxious, and sad.  The “imperfection” that is missing from so many posts is common and it is valuable, because we learn from our battles, and without the battles, we would not realize our wins.

The Wrong (and Right) of the Way Down

We have been continuing to have amazing times, but lately, we have been struck with a feeling that we are doing this whole sailing thing wrong.  

We made it from Puerto Vallarta all the way down to Huatulco, which included our longest passage without stopping yet.  The places we did stop were beautiful and unique.  An overnight passage took us to Bahía Tenacatita, where we rode our dinghy up an estuary, though mangroves, and discovered a white-sand beach with some palapas serving beer and ceviche.  We caught up to several cruising friends, anchoring next to them in the shadow of vibrant Zihuatanejo.  We visited the markets, ate at rooftop restaurants, rode bikes through a nature reserve, and had an island beach day, then we parted ways.  Some of our friends headed north, while the rest of us followed Mexico’s coastline down.  

Our next stop was out of necessity.  We pulled into the small fishing village of Papanoa after our motor stalled on the way to Acapulco.  To our surprise, the tiny harbor was lined with palapa restaurants and large water slides that shot people into the harbor water.  We couldn’t resist and, after repairing the engine, we paddle-boarded over for an afternoon of micheladas and water slides.  The next day, we sailed to Acapulco, where we refreshed supplies, scrubbed the barnacles from the bottom of our boat, and checked out the city’s famous cliff divers.  

Finally, we made our longest passage of 235-miles to Huatulco Bay, where we left the boat for a couple of weeks.  We roadtripped to Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido to get a sample of the state of Oaxaca and its cultural, culinary, archeological, and natural treasures.  And those treasures are rich.  We walked amongst historic cathedrals and colorful murals, we learned about the craftsmanship of making alebrijes (brightly-painted wood-carved animals), we ate too much Oaxacan cheese and mole, we explored the 500-BCE ruins of Monte Albán, and we swam and hiked along beaches surrounded by massive cliffs.

Through all of that way down Mexico’s coast, we consistently looked towards getting to places and getting off of the boat.  And that seems wrong.  We are supposed to be enjoying not only the amazing places we stop, but the boat and the ocean, because that is where we spend the majority of our life.  But with too many reminders in the last year of the shortness of life, we started discussing alternatives to this alternative lifestyle.  

Two Boats

Well, it seems that Poseidon heard our whispered disappointments and is not through with us yet, because an opportunity to purchase (within our budget) another boat presented itself.  The boat provides the larger cockpit, bed, and living space, as well as the speedier sail set-up, that we have been dreaming about.  And the boat happens to be previously owned by Rob’s now-deceased father. 

We love Mapache.  She is beautiful, and we have put hard work into every inch of her.  We have made her our own from the top of her mast to the bottom of her keel, the depths of her anchor locker to the cave of her engine room, the shades around her cockpit to the settee cushions, every added cabinet and storage basket to her rebuilt deck and rails, and her updated solar panels and lithium batteries to her water maker and auto-helm.  She is the exact image of a boat I want to live in and sail on.  She is a classic, salty, piratey, romantic boat, dressed in greys, blacks, and wood.  When people think of me, I want them to think of Mapache.  But we are no fools.

A New Image

And we are not afraid of change.  The time has come to pass Mapache on to a new family, and to take up a more comfortable life aboard a faster-sailing boat.  We will have one last cruise on Mapache, retracing our route along the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico, then crossing back over the Sea of Cortez to La Paz.  Rob and a friend from S/V Alegría will fly to San Francisco in June to sail the new boat down to meet Mapache.  We will make the final move from a La Paz marina, and we will get back on course to the Panama Canal by the fall of this year.  

Of course, the opportunity of the new boat is much like a social media post, there is more than the good fortune and excitement for change.  The bigger picture includes the sadness of leaving Mapache and all of the sweat and blood we poured into making her who she is.  (Big thanks to Juan at 7 Ronin Jiu Jitsu for the Mapache replica that we can keep with us even after we sell the real Mapache.) The bigger picture also includes that, with any boat, we will still experience engine trouble, sea sickness, and other discomforts.  But hopefully they will be different.  

All of the bigger picture—this life, right now—is all that we have.  And remembering that life is short, we embrace both, the ups and the downs, as our adventure.  So, today, we go back into the engine room to repair a leaky diesel hose, not with heavy hearts, but with a happy ones, knowing that we have this time and this experience, even if it is not the one we imagined based on a pretty picture. 

Dinghy ride up an estuary lined with mangroves at Bahía Tenacatita

Our dinghy tied up with a panga at the end of the estuary at Bahía Tenacatita

The beach at the end of our estuary exploration at Bahía Tenacatita

The anchorage at Zihuatanejo

How professionals land a panga on the beach at Zihuatanejo

Rooftop dinner in Zihuatanejo with fellow cruisers (Skookum and Alegría)

Zihuatanejo is filled with statues, palm trees, and brick-paved pedestrian streets

Zihuatanejo’s central church–we appreciated the mariner tribute

Street art in Zihuatanejo, up-cycling plastic bottle-caps

Our lunch stop at Zihuatanejo’s market

Bike-ride through a nature reserve outside of Zihuatanejo, in Ixtapa, with some of our cruising friends

A stop/break to check out the animals along the bike trail in the nature reserve

We saw a lot of roseate spoonbills in the nature reserve

One of the many sleepy crocodiles in the nature-reserve

Hanging on S/V Lusty, anchored at a small island off of Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, with some of our cruising buddies

The small harbor of Papanoa, and all of its shoots and ladders!

Engine repair at Papanoa

Sarah paddle-boarding and Rob floating (on an inflatable crocodile) from our boat to the palapas and slides in Papanoa

Rob and Skookum enjoying Papanoa’s facilities (notice the slide behind the pool fence)

Minor sail-repair at Papanoa

View from our boat in Acapulco’s bay

Fuel delivery in Acapulco

Acapulco’s cliff-divers

Streets of Oaxaca City

Political street art in Oaxaca City

Street art in front of Templo de Santo Domingo in Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City is filled with beautiful and colorful murals

Another Oaxaca City mural

Oaxaca City mural

We could not get enough of the street art and murals in Oaxaca City

A horse (and Rob) in front of Catedral Metropolitana de Oaxaca

The gang (Mapache and Skookum) with our food-tour guides in Mercado 20 de Noviembre (we highly recommend looking up Betsy Morales and Oaxaca Street Food Tour if you visit this beautiful city)

A mural at the entrance of Mercado 20 de Noviembre in Oaxaca City

Hot chocolate in Oaxaca

One of several fancy dinners we enjoyed in Oaxaca City. This one is at El Catedral. The food scene is off the hook in this city.

Rob and I at another fancy dinner–this one at Casa Oaxaca (rooftop view of Templo de Santo Domingo)

The restaurant surprised Rob with cake and a “candle” (firework) for his birthday.

The gang at a hip food court in Oaxaca City (look up Na Nena restaurant to find this place)

We took a classic Oaxacan cooking class with Mimi. She shared her beautiful house, knowledge, family, and food with us.

Surrounding Oaxaca City are several pueblos, each known for their own specific craft. Pueblo San Martin Tilcajete is known for the alebrijes (these colorful wooden figures).

Another example of an alebrije

An alebrije at Jacobo & Maria Angeles Art Gallery in Pueblo San Martin Tilcajete

A very large alebrije still in progress at Jacobo & Maria Angeles Art Gallery

A tour at Jacobo & Maria Angeles Art Gallery educates you on the paints used on the alebrijes. The paints are all created from wood bark, fruits, insects, honey, and minerals.

Artists at work at Jacobo & Maria Angeles Art Gallery

An artist at Jacobo & Maria Angeles Art Gallery. All of the alebrijes are initially carved using a machete

A mural in Pueblo San Martin Tilcajete

A view of Oaxaca with one of the Monte Albán ruins in the foreground

Mapache and Skookum at the Monte Albán archeological site, originally built around 500 BCE

Some celebrations in front of Templo de Santo Domingo

We had a lovely visit with some friends from home at Puerto Escondido — we spent several days at this beautiful spot, Playa Carrizalillo.

Another wild beach in Puerto Escondido — Playa Bacocho

18 thoughts on “Picture Perfect

  1. Beautifully written. Love your path. Not that y’all need our approval. Hopefully we can meet up at some point. Either way, we’ll keep admiring and following you from our path

  2. Wow, just WOW I sure enjoyed this adventure with you. Looking forward to the next chapter. Love and Hugs from the (Ugg) 🌵 deserts of Arizona

  3. Congratulations. I feel those words you wrote so deeply as we are looking for something different from Rowena. Love following your adventure and hope to meet you in a tropical harbor one day on…

  4. That sounds great! I know you didn’t want to pull that engine again, but it sounds like you were going to have to. And the new boat has emotional attachments as well. Not the same, of course, or as strong, but that’ll probably come. As far as social media goes, the sweaty pictures of the daily grind are always more entertaining. (Well, maybe not the seasick parts.) Oh sure, you get to barrel down water slides and eat at interesting restaurants, but you also get to bump along slowly with little wind and leaky diesel hoses. It’s more interesting that way. At least for us. By the way, I am definitely going to have to visit Oaxaca City. These folks take their art seriously, but not too seriously.

  5. Thank you for sharing your adventures! I’m happy that you will soon be sailing on a larger boat. Can’t wait to see it! Safe travels!❤️

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