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Flashback Posts

Some of our posts are out of chronological order. That is because we are catching up on some missed logs from earlier parts of our adventure.

Minimalism

We are downsizing again.  We recently moved all of our worldly possessions (apart from a couple of boxes stored at my parents…thanks, mom and dad) from Mapache to Mapache 2.0.  After selling a significant amount of house/boat-ware at a swap meet, we packed 18 dock-carts (about the size of a wheelbarrow) of stuff from the original boat in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle into a rented cargo van.  We then drove it across Mexico and unloaded those 18 dock-carts-worth of stuff, one cart at a time, into Mapache 2.0 in Ensenada.  Our original goal was to get the two Mapaches side-by-side in Banderas Bay, but the active hurricane season canceled that plan.  So now, we are splitting time between two boats and two cities.  

The living space in the new boat is much more open.  We have space to stretch without bumping into a wall or each other.  But, because the new Mapache is the same overall size as the original, we lost storage space.  So, after returning the rented van, we started the process of organizing and purging.  

Goal: Open Spaces

At the time of our first major downsizing from a house to the boat, the tiny-home obsession had just started and minimalism was trending.  Minimalism was touted as a movement toward decluttering and, thus destressing, one’s life by reducing the quantity of possessions.  Before that, minimalism was a term used for a genre of art (painting and visual, then music, film, and architecture).  And, perhaps predictably from that history, the movement has moved toward a goal of attaining a specific image, rather than its simple mental-health purpose.  The rich and famous often show off their minimalist décor in their not-tiny homes. 

I grew up learning that you don’t throw things out, not in a hoarding way but in an anti-waste way.  Many of us cannot meet the minimalist aesthetic, even in our tiny homes.  We cannot afford to buy throw-away items when we need something, only to buy it again later.  And when we do buy something just because we like it, that item represents more than something pretty, it represents the hard work that went into obtaining the money to pay for it, even if it is a simple tchotchke.  

But I understand and aspire towards the concepts of having fewer belongings to worry about, focusing on experiences over possessions, and enjoying open space.  And all of those are part of the original minimalism art and the original minimalism movement.  Living on a boat helps (and sometimes forces) us to meet those goals.  This lifestyle grants us access to the widest open spaces—the world’s oceans, beaches, and coastal wilderness.  Still, not every day allows us to explore those spaces.  And that’s when the space inside the boat becomes important.  We like having open space inside, but it forces us to reduce the quantity of our personal belongings.  Our method in doing so is the same now as it was when we moved from a house to Mapache.  

How to Declutter

We started with a pile method—three piles in our living room: gift, sell, and keep.  Any items we consistently used went in the keep pile and the rest was split between sell and gift.  The visual of the piles and the physical size of our keep pile motivated further and necessary paring down.  We sold the handful of big ticket items on Craigslist, and we had a weekend-long garage sale.  We donated everything left from the sell pile to appropriate nonprofits.  Of course, it was nice to see some green to reward us for our efforts, but the sale-price was never as much as we valued our property.  The more satisfying reward came from the gift pile.  Giving something we cared about to a person who equally cared about it was gratifying, and thus the easiest way to downsize.

We gave blankets and sleeping bags to people without homes.  We gifted art and household items to friends with similar tastes to us.  The thought that went into pairing items with recipients was not insignificant.  We even gave an old globe to one of our favorite local bars that displayed a collection of globes above their liquor bottles.  Everything went to the person who would most appreciate it.  

Our Tiny Home

People often ask how we can live on a boat.  Our boat serves all of the purposes of a bigger home.  We have a living-room, a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and even a private outdoor space with a BBQ and (usually) an ocean view.  It’s just that the places are within a few feet of each other.  With that limited space, the most important tool is organization.  Even with fewer belongings than the average American, organizing those belongings in a way that keeps them in their designated places is key to preventing our small space from becoming overwhelmingly cluttered.  But, as in any living space, another important tool is purposeful decorating so that, while we clean dishes or work on our computers, the things around us inspire and uplift.  

Now, we get to work on our piles.  Mapache 2.0 will soon have all of her compartments packed, but organized, and her living spaces filled with the art, photographs, and plunder that remind us of good people, places, and experiences.  Then, our focus will turn back to Mapache, the Original, and her sale to someone who will care about her as much as us.  

The rented cargo van, loaded with all our worldly possessions

Meet our rented cargo van.

Roadtripping across Mexico–first leg, first state: Nayarit

Roadtripping across Mexico–first leg, first state: Nayarit

Roadtripping across Mexico–first leg, second state: Sinaloa

Roadtripping lessons: this is how you pass in Mexico–make a third lane between semitrucks

Roadtripping across Mexico–second leg, third state: a very wet Sonora

Roadtripping across Mexico–second leg, third state and The Wall (with an open door that this saguaro seems to be celebrating): Sonora

Roadtripping across Mexico–second leg, fourth state: Baja California

Unloading our belongings into Mapache 2.0 –one of 18 trips with this dock cart

Captain Rob welcoming me to our new tiny home, Mapache 2.0

Inside Mapache 2.0, before we unloaded the cargo van

Inside Mapache 2.0, after we unloaded the cargo van (not pictured: the full cockpit and the full bedroom)

The ramp struggle is real. Meet our Ensenada Marina neighbors. They are lovely.

Cruise ships dock behind our little marina every other day. It’s a nice to see Ensenada back in action after the COVID pandemic.

Ensenada is as vibrant as ever.

The maneuvering of giant cruise ships provides regular entertainment at the Ensenada marina.

Our VIP seats for the Ensenada marina entertainment

Turns out that new boats still come with boat projects.

We are currently back with the original Mapache in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (near Puerto Vallarta), working to sell her.

Hurricane Kay pushed some big seas over the sea wall in La Cruz.

The sea wall in La Cruz doing her job against the big swell caused by Hurricane Kay.

Our neighbor to the apartment we are renting in La Cruz while we sell the original Mapache

Hurricanes

Hurricanes.  They occur in the Atlantic and the East Pacific oceans (they are called cyclones in the South Pacific and Indian oceans, and typhoons in the Western Pacific).  Mapache and I are sitting on the edge of the eastern Pacific, and hurricanes happen here.  They start in areas of low pressure, caused be warm water and humid air.  The air rises and rotates, and new air pushes into the low pressure, following the rising-and-rotating pattern.  If conditions continue, the wind grows in strength and a tropical disturbance becomes a tropical depression, becomes a tropical storm, which becomes a hurricane when winds reach over 74 miles per hour.  

When reading about hurricanes, I found that most forecasters’ sites say they are rare.  And in prepping for this particular season, I read that, because it is a La Niña year, the hurricane season will be light.  However, the season just began and already we have seen three named storms (two hurricanes and one tropical storm) close to mainland Mexico’s Pacific coast.  The height of hurricane action is historically the end of the season, not the beginning.  So this seems alarming, right?  

Yes, because this is an indication of how the world’s climate is changing and that historic predictions are not as reliable.  No, because we have tools besides history to help us predict storms, we chose a safe harbor, and we properly prepare our boat.  

Staying Ahead of the Storm

The first hurricane in this area and season was Hurricane Agatha.  She struck southern Mexico’s coast near the Bahías de Huatulco only a few weeks after we left there to come north to Banderas Bay.  Her winds were powerful (over 110 miles per hour), but the devastation to communities was caused by the torrential rain she poured down.  She landed at Puerto Ángel, just up the coast from Huatulco, and her impact spread from there.  She took at least 11 human lives (plus over 30 people are missing); destroyed bridges, roads, and homes; wiped out farm crops; and isolated communities, preventing access to power, water, and food.  Organizations continue to assist the people affected and to rebuild the infrastructure.  If you would like to donate toward delivering water to isolated communities, Mapache is collecting money for the Huatulco Rotary Club, who is heading a water-delivery project in Oaxaca State to communities affected by the hurricane.  Go to our Donate page for information on how to send money for that cause.

We are now safely docked in a well-protected marina in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.  La Cruz is a small coastal town tucked inside Banderas Bay.  The bay acts as a hurricane hole for two reasons—it has a mountain on its southern edge that depowers storms coming this way; and the bay’s under-water topography creates pressure above the sea surface to push storms away.  Still, I wake up every morning to check multiple sources for weather forecasts, plus the local weather expert’s daily report, given over VHF radio. 

I’m on a Mexican Radio

The VHF weather report is part of the local “cruisers’ net.”  Cruisers’ nets are organized virtual gatherings of boaters via VHF radio that inform on the local events and news in most popular cruising locations.  Rob and I have mostly avoided them, because they can be repetitive, long-winded, and focused on gringo activities.  But they are important tools to tune into when you are watching for weather.  I have found that I actually do not begrudge turning on the VHF every morning to hear the Banderas Bay net, because it is efficiently run with helpful information…or maybe it’s just that I am finally turning into a “real” sailor.

Before I get out of bed and listen to the net each morning, I open one of my weather forecast applications on my smart phone.  I watch as the future minutes tick by on the bottom of the screen and the colors of the prediction model morph and swirl like a digital lava lamp.  The slow-burn suspense is waiting to see whether the color blobs spin into ominous reds and blacks anytime soon, or if they dissolve into cheerful blues and greens.  I then verify on at least two other weather applications (and of course with the net’s weather report).  In the past week, two nearby spots have spun into red and black, becoming Hurricane Blas and Tropical Storm (predicted to become Hurricane) Celia.   

The prediction models daily showed Blas, and now Celia, tracking west, avoiding Banderas Bay. But I know that predictions are not always truths, so I made sure the boat is prepared.   

Swab the Decks

Mapache sits on a sturdy inner dock, cross-tied to it with double lines, each of which is protected with chafe guards.  I have cleared her deck and stored almost everything inside, including her sails.  This reduces windage and limits the things that could fly away.  And, just to be sure, we have followed all of the good juju protocols, from the official naming ceremony to a boat blessing to occasional sage-burning. 

Last Friday, Hurricane Blas passed by Banderas Bay, but we had little more than intermittent heavy rain and lightning.  And Celia should be well clear of us by the end of this week.  My eyes are on new low pressure areas, waiting for them to turn more violent colors.  But until then, I’ve sewn and mounted some shades, because Mapache’s interior is getting hot! 

When I see the signs of a potential high wind storm, I will take the shades back down.  But, without them, the interior of the boat is in the high 90s when I go to sleep at night.  The shades reduce that temperature by 10 degrees.  I made the shades out of tarp material that I found at a local fabric store.  It is large blue and white stripes, typical of fancy resort awnings and umbrellas.  I thought it would keep Mapache looking classy while covered up, but the design is reminiscent of a circus tent.  At least I can quickly identify my boat in the marina.

Where in the World is Capitan Rob?

Rob is also daily watching weather, but from San Francisco Bay, because he is there prepping to deliver our new boat to us. He is waiting on a weather window with waves smaller than 9 feet at 7 second periods (if you aren’t sure, that’s bad to dangerous) to sail the new boat to La Cruz.  

The new boat, Rob’s late-father’s boat, is a 1996 38-foot Hunter 370.  We took her over one month ago, and Rob has been in California tirelessly working that entire time to repair and upgrade the boat, making her safe and ready for their long passage south.  Don’t worry, nobody has to buy a new shirt or hat (although you can on our Merch page), because the new boat’s name is also Mapache—Mapache 2.0.  And of course, our original Mapache is for sale, please let us know if you are interested or know anybody who might be.  You can check out her complete listing HERE, and marvel at all of the work we have put into making her the amazing boat she is.  

For now, we are wishing fair winds and flatter seas to Rob, followed by cold beers, which you can supply him HERE if you are so inclined (and if you’ve already donated to the hurricane relief fund).  

Mapache bashing north from Huatulco to Banderas Bay, away from what would become Hurricane Agatha

A quick fuel stop — delivered by panga — in Zihuatanejo, on Mapache’s way north for the summer

Our final destination for the summer hurricane season —the marina in La Cruz (Spanish for The Cross) de Huanacaxtle

The sea wall of the marina in La Cruz, which will hopefully protect us from any large storm swell

Rob repairing our dock lines before he leaves Sarah and Mapache for California, where he will pick up our new boat

A weather model, showing Hurricane Blas as it passed by Mapache (the white dot) on Friday, June 17

Frigate birds on storm watch above the sea wall at the marina in La Cruz

A typical summer evening in La Cruz with the thunderstorm clouds rolling in

Mapache’s new shades, aka the Clown Tent

The new boat’s name — Rob put on temporary stickers

We stuck with sailor tradition and held a naming ceremony for the new boat before the stickers went on, although it was just the two of us, via a video call

Meet Mapache 2.0

She needed quite a bit of work before she was ready to sail south — this is just one electrical project that Rob worked on

And here is our friend Mike from SV Algeria, helping rig the headsail furler. Rob would not be able to get Mapache 2.0 ready and south without Mike’s help. Thanks, Mike! Thanks also to Point San Pablo Yacht Club for the dock space. And thanks to Art for his garage space for receiving packages necessary for the boat’s repairs. These things take a village.

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

The Daily Grind

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.

Cruising Life

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.

Charmed Life

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

It’s Been a While

It’s been two months since our last boat log.  Mapache spent half of that time in Puerto Vallarta, most of which was due to a non-boating emergency.  Rob’s grandmother passed away, and Rob and I flew to Ohio to help his grandfather with all that comes with that.  Luckily, we were in a safe marina, blocks away from an international airport, so we made it to the midwestern United States with speed and ease.  All is well now, and we are back aboard Mapache, ready to untie the dock lines tomorrow to head further south.  

The next boat log describes our stops from Mazatlán through Puerto Vallarta, including some quality beach time with blue-footed boobies and visits with friends from the United States.  It is almost ready to publish, and I promise to have that up later this week.  For now, click on the Garmin tracker and follow us as we sail to Tenacatita Bay, before heading on to Barra de Navidad.

Night Watch

On December 23, we left the Baja coast and the Sea of Cortés for the final time.  We crossed 238 miles of ocean to the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico.  The trip took almost 38 hours, and we arrived just before midnight on December 24 in Mazatlán.  Our friends, wearing Christmas hats, welcomed us by catching our dock lines and handing us beers. 

Ocean Crossing at Night

For overnight passages, we keep a watch schedule, allowing us to take turns sleeping.  Rob prefers the evening and early-morning shifts, while I prefer the middle of the night.  The ocean is different at night.  It is both quieter and louder.  It is lonelier but also more familiar.  And, while usually peaceful, it always seems on the edge of releasing something terrifying.

This most recent night watch (December 23-24) was comfortable and sparkly.  The water formed gently rolling hills, and the breeze pushed us (with the help of the motor) at 7 knots per hour (a brisk pace for our boat). After Rob retired to the settee (couch) inside of the boat at 1 a.m., I listened to a book from the captain’s chair, keeping an eye on our radar screen for unexpected boats crossing our path, and occasionally standing up for a direct look around.  Those looks were futile, because the moon had set, making it nearly impossible to tell where the dark sky stopped and the black ocean began, let alone whether any pangas, longlines, or stray crab-traps lay in wait to interrupt our trip.  But that same darkness allowed more stars to shine.  The sky was filled with bright pinholes, and I watched several asteroids splash across the sky, while bright blue-white bioluminescence spiraled across the water as the boat stayed her course. 

Sounds are much louder at night and the thud of the water hitting the hull was distinct, like a bass drum in a marching band.  My tether’s carabiner clanked against its attachment when I shifted my weight.  And a pitch change in the motor’s drone caused an immediate Pavlovian reaction, as I recalled our engine struggles over the past year.  But the pitch change this trip was merely the alternator turning on to recharge the boat’s batteries.   

Night Visitors

I thought about our last overnight passage from the Baja coast to mainland Mexico (that time, to Puerto Peñasco).  On that trip, I started my first night watch at sunset.  During that first shift, our radar screen showed a large blob eight miles ahead of us.  The strange thing was the blob’s size—it was 30 times the size of our friends’ 38-foot boat, which the radar screen reassuringly showed three miles to our port (left).  No land masses existed in front of us for 60 miles.  I assumed the radar was faulty, possibly seeing a reflection from the water in the humid air, or a group of boats fishing close together.  Still, I redirected our course to avoid the blob.  Rob took over at the helm at 10 p.m.  His shift brought us past the mystery location.  The redirected course allowed our boat to pass half of a mile from the blob.  As the boat passed, a massive glow of bioluminescence quickly rose from the depths underneath the boat.  Rob braced for a collision with a whale, but nothing happened.  Then he saw 10 other large glowing lights under the water.  They all disappeared along with the blob on the radar screen.  The image that had maintained at a location for two hours completely disappeared from the screen as if it had never existed.

I took over for my second shift at 1 a.m.  Rob described the glowing encounters before retiring to bed.  I kept a pensive watch, half hoping I would see the large glows and maybe that they were giant Humboldt squid (which live in the area), and half hoping I would not.  Then, streaks of bioluminescence shot through the water, like underwater missiles around us.  Dolphins!  I recognized the sound of their splash as they leapt around the boat.  I whistled at them, and they responded with more leaps.  On the lonely nightshifts, the sight and sound of dolphins are a welcome comfort.  It feels as if they are looking out for us in the darkness, reassuring that we are going the right way and that no obstructions are in our path.  The dolphins disappeared, leaving a trail of green glow behind.  The air was heavy and sticky, it smelled warm almost like a campfire without the smoke.  Just as with the most recent passage’s night watch, Mapache and I floated along through space, with the stars above and bioluminescence below blending into one sparkling blackness.  

New Day, New Year

I always know that my night shift is nearing its end when I see the sky on the horizon softening.  It starts an hour before dawn, and it looks like an eraser is smoothing and lightening the ocean, spreading from a single point on the horizon to circle the entire thing, and leaving stars and the dark sky in only the center, directly above me.  The approaching sunrise burns orange into the horizon and the water changes from black to a silvery blue, like the body of a Bonita fish, which thrive in this Sea of Cortés.  I hum the song that, as a kid, my dad would wake me with—”Here Comes the Sun.”  Then, Rob walks up the companionway to take over, and I take a morning nap.

Now, after a week at a marina that is joined to a resort, where we have all the pool, buffet, and spa amenities, it seems appropriate that it is a new year.  We have had a relaxing (and luxurious) reset here.  And this is the starting point for the next portion of our adventure—exploring the Pacific coast of Central America, as we track toward the Panama Canal.  The trees, weather, animals, and food are already markedly different from our Baja experience.  It’s tropical here.  There are palm trees instead of cacti; humidity instead of the blow-dryer heat; slow green iguanas and soaring frigate birds instead of small sand-surfing lizards and stalking buzzards.  The streets and plazas are lined with colorful colonial buildings and filled with vendors and people in search of those vendors’ wares and food.  There is an energized pace here, as compared to the laid-back Baja vibes we enjoyed last year.  

We loved Baja, but we are ready to experience this new part of the world, and we will do our best to bring you along in the boat log.  Salud to 2022! 

Sarah at the helm

Our last look at Baja

A hitchhiker–this little squid jumped on board during my night watch. I’m glad he was not the Humboldt squid I was half-hoping to see.

A look around as we get closer to mainland Mexico

A bird taking a break on a turtle’s back in the middle of nowhere (sorry for the poor camera focus)

Land-ho! Mazatlán as we approach at night

We made it just in time to celebrate Christmas

And we did celebrate…with friends and food…

…and the appropriate hats and shirts!

A giant green iguana

The Mazatlán Cathedral

Rob strolling the streets of Mazatlán

Inside Mazatlán’s central market

The plazas are brightly decorated

El Faro lighthouse–the tallest natural lighthouse in the world

The view from the Observatorio 1873

Our marina-resort

Pool-side office at the marina-resort

‘Tis the Season…

… for a little reminder that Mapache shirts and hats are available HERE. And to convince you that purchasing one is a great idea, see the above photo of adorable kids sporting our shirt!

Thanks to all of our friends, who were fine with their kids being child models.

It is also the season for the Mapache crew to say what we think all year long:

Thank you for following and supporting us. We wish you the best for the approaching New Year! Cheers.

Community Help

Rob has been training at Seven Ronin Jiu Jitsu, a small gym in Puerto Peñasco, and the people there have become good friends. They have been generous with their time for and support of Rob and I, and they have been a real refuge for Rob when he needs a break from the boat work. Seven Ronin does an excellent job of teaching Jiu Jitsu, but their facility is at risk of losing its mats and the building needs repairs. We have set up a fundraiser to help keep the gym going. If you have a few dollars to spare, please help out.

Muchas Gracias!

Click Here: FUNDRAISER FOR SEVEN RONIN JIU JITSU

Seven Ronin’s current building

Inside the gym

The interior ceiling needs repairs, because it continually crumbles onto the mats.

Some of the Seven Ronin students–they work hard, but also know how to goof off together.

Community

Having the boat out of the water has felt like a reset.  This is our second time in a boatyard with a mountain of upgrades, changes, and fixes to complete.  The boat sits unnaturally out of the water with her insides askew, and we live in a temporary space off of the boat.  The first time was the start of this trip.  We spent three months in the boatyard in Ilwaco, Washington, before heading out of the Columbia River’s mouth into the Pacific.  

In Ilwaco, we spent days in a giant metal barn with Mapache, a handful of sparrows, and an extended family of pigeons.  Every day brought a new scavenger hunt because, despite our efforts, nothing remained organized.  Somehow the DeWalt cordless drill was always missing when you needed it.  And to this day, I do not know how the large screwdriver ended up underneath the dinghy in the far corner of the barn for a month.  Each morning, we pumped ourselves up with coffee and music.  We worked nonstop until our end-of-day routine of shuffling down the road to the marina showers to watch paint, fiberglass, and sweat wash down the drain.  At night, we slept in a tent below our boat.  The air was usually chilly.  And the blues and greens of the Pacific Northwest’s forested landscape was just outside of the yard.  Apart from our bird roommates, we saw squirrels, raccoons, and black bears, and we gained comrades in the others working on boats.

Our second boatyard experience is similar with the daily plugging-through of the to-do list that ends in the boat’s dust circling a shower drain.  I spent time at the top of the mast and behind our sewing machine, while Rob spent time underneath the boat and squashed into the engine compartment.  A noticeable percentage of our days was spent searching for a necessary tool amongst the disarray.  But this time, we breathe the hot desert air of northern Sonora, Mexico, surrounded by its landscape that is painted from browns and oranges and filled in with tiendas.  Lizards and street-dogs comprise our animal guestlist.  Again, we have built a solid community of people, who are also working on their boats.  That community helps each other with projects that need another set of hands or brains, as well as with spare parts.  Instead of a cup of sugar, neighbors ask for a stainless steel bolt or a size-10 zipper slider.  The community also provides company for a few warm Tecates under the shade of our neighbor’s catamaran.  Instead of a tent under the boat, we have an apartment a few blocks away, which is now filled with boat stores and sewing projects, leaving us to wonder how it all fits back inside of Mapache.

Our time here is almost over.  Hurricane season has officially ended in this part of the world, and most of our to-do list is complete.  We have plenty left undone, because boat projects are never over and there is always something that does not work quite right.  We are set to go back in the water on November 15 20 23, pending whether that is the “mañana” that the boatyard (and Mapache) intends.  Over the last week, engine parts revised the “mañana” of our splash date. Rob rebuilt our engine while in the yard. Part of the rebuild included a purchase of a refurbished long block. When we went to test the engine this week, it had no oil pressure. After some investigation, Rob determined an oil-pump gear was missing–a gear that is not available for purchase due to the age of that style engine. Meanwhile, a local recycler had collected our old engine to take to a metal recycler in Mexicali. Rob hustled on his bike to the man’s storage yard and luckily discovered that our old engine had missed the most recent truck to Mexicali. Rob was able to pull out the necessary piece. But when he went to install it, he found that another component of the oil pump was incorrect (it was a component made for a car and not a boat). After much internet searching, Rob sourced the correct piece from Ebay and overnighted it to the gas station in the closest U.S. border town, which accepts packages for a $12 fee. Today, Rob is catching a ride from two of our boatyard neighbors (muchas gracias) to collect the piece. And with any luck, our mañana for Mapache’s splash date will not change again.

Our planned route from here is to cross back over to the Baja side of the Sea of Cortés, sailing south to La Paz, where we will pick up our new-to-us, smaller dinghy (which will give us more room on deck, where we store her).  Then, we plan to cross back to mainland Mexico, hitting Mazatlán to continue our trek south.  Over the next year, we will follow the Pacific coastline of Central America toward the Panama Canal.  

When we left Ilwaco, we had planned to go west around the world, crossing the Pacific from Mexico.  But the COVID pandemic has heavily impacted many of the small South Pacific islands, limiting their accessibility to visitors.  Of course, COVID has impacted everywhere, but much of the Caribbean and Europe is opening sooner and safer.  So, as with most boat plans, we are changing it up, heading east around the world.  And a bonus to the new plan is that we have gained a buddy boat, who has a similar eastward route and schedule.  Cruising in the Sea of Cortés gave us a lot.  Along with beautiful and abundant water and the stark and mystical land, the Sea brought us a community of like-minded adventurers on boats.  And four of those adventurers intend to cruise with us for the next couple of years, hopefully including an Atlantic crossing.  Of course, this will likely change again . . . it is a boat plan. 

Boatyard Beer Break!

“Organized” tools

Before and after bilge cleanup

Rob, in the engine compartment

Rob bead-blasted all of the engine parts

Shiny, clean, and painted engine parts

New shaft and seal installed

New engine block mounted

New engine close-up

Luck=finding your old engine, when you really need an impossible-to-source part out of it, sitting inside of a recycler’s storage warehouse.

We had to re-run a lost halyard through the mast. We did so by using a small line, with several small nuts as weights, to lead the halyard through.

Sarah, re-running the halyard from the top of the mast

One of our yard-dog companions

Sarah, working from our apartment

Mapache’s bottom, scraped and sanded

Boatyard friends (the daughters of our friends with whom we intend to buddy boat), supporting Mapache with their t-shirts and inspecting Mapache’s new bottom paint

Rob’s foot, after painting the bottom of the boat, while wearing his “safety” flip flops

We took a break to watch the local ocean conservation group release baby sea turtles.

We took another break to watch Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers perform in a dirt lot, down the beach from the boatyard. They even played “Leaky Little Boat.”