Hard Decisions

It is Sunday March 22. We are back in La Paz, where we intended to start exploring the Sea of Cortez. But life as we know it has shifted dramatically in the last few weeks because of COVID 19. We have had a lot of difficult discussions here on Miss Miranda as we worked to a mutual decision on what to do.

The bottom line is that we have decided the best course of action for us is to shut up the boat for the season here in La Paz on the Baha Peninsula and return home. This was our original plan, it’s just being put into action earlier than we hoped and planned. We plan to return next season to fully explore the Sea of Cortez.

We made a whirlwind trip to San Diego in the last few days prior to making this decision. Fuel system parts had been shipped to us there to replace the Racor dual filter system, and we had time sensitive bureaucratic details to address. The night we arrived, California was placed under a stay at home order. We were lucky that mail seems to be an essential service, so we were able to take care of our business while trying to stay 6 feet away from other people. We flew back to Cabo San Lucas airport on an Alaskan flight that had one passenger other than us. Flight attendants reported that flights are about half full at the moment with people returning to the US.

One of many sites we plan to return to next year.

You may be saying to yourself – “why would you go back to a hotbed of the virus?”.

Here’s why:

1. Our 20 year old college sophomore daughter is there, currently alone without any family support. I cannot imagine isolating ourselves here in Mexico for potentially months and not be able to reach her. She already went through the mess in France and we had to fly her out on a moment’s notice when Trump declared travel from Europe was closing (which had to be clarified later, after many people, including us, had panicked). Flights do continue to and from Mexico for now, and we understand that Alaska Airlines is unlikely to completely shut down flights. But, we have observed Canadians having a difficult time getting flights home and they’ve told us there are no flights in April from our region to Canada. Who knows what is going to happen.

2. Mexico is a wonderful country, currently with a low number of cases. This will change. No country is exempt from this virus. The healthcare system here will have even more challenges than we are already seeing with the US healthcare system. I am immunosuppressed because of medication I take for rheumatoid arthritis, therefore at higher risk of getting severely ill if I do get sick. I prefer to have access to the system I am familiar with, even though it is far from the best in the world.

3. I am a doctor, currently on a year sabbatical. I can’t stand by and not do anything to help.

We have talked to many boaters here, both from the US and from Canada and heard many second hand reports of more, all of whom have struggled with the same decision. My observation is that the majority are taking the government advice/demand (for Canadians) that they return home. This has been particularly hard for those who planned to take longer voyages, such as to the South Pacific. Many countries are now closed to all foreigners including boaters, and many are also not allowing boats to check out of the country if they are already there. There have been reports here of boaters not being allowed to check out of Mexico on their boat. The situation is very dynamic and difficult to predict where things will be in the coming weeks and months.

Something that makes me happy to think about seeing again.

Some are making the choice to hunker down in this beautiful place with 2-3 months of food and supplies and stay away from people. I trust they are going to have a wonderful solitary time in nature. There is no right or wrong answer, everyone has to do what fits with their situation. Only time will tell how things will turn out for all of us.

I hope you all are staying home and practicing excellent hand hygiene. If you have masks or other personal protective equipment at home, please donate them to your local hospital. I have many colleagues working without adequate masks to protect them and the US is in dire need of these supplies.

Social isolation saketini while in our hotel during whirlwind trip to San Diego to pick up parts.

We look forward to virtual happy hours and phone conversations with many of you when we return home.

Los Cabos

Sunrise offshore of Cabo San Lucas

We had a smooth 24 hour passage from Magdalena Bay to San Jose Del Cabo, which we timed to arrive at the marina on Sunday morning.  We were treated to a beautiful sunrise just outside Cabo San Lucas. 

The marina is outside of town in a fairly newly developed resort area.  Lots of fish were jumping in the marina bay, and multiple osprey hang out in the sail boat masts.      

About to have a well-deserved beer and taco lunch!

We relaxed with well deserved beers and lunch at El Marinero Boracho, or the Drunken Sailor.  Wonderful rooftop palapa on an apparently unusually hot day.  It was Sunday when we arrived, so not much happening around the marina and we needed to wait until Monday to check in with the Port Captain.

The marina hosts a “Swim with the Dolphins” location. Many of us on CUBAR were quite unhappy to see the small pens positioned inside the marina right across from the fuel dock as the home for dolphins. When we checked in we were informed that part of the next evening’s events would be a dolphin show. Many of us decided we would abstain.

The view across the marina from the bow of our boat.
The Port Captain’s Office
The osprey who arrived every morning to perch on the sailboat mast and plaintively call out to mom, or someone, to bring him food (at least that’s what it sounded like to me!).
Mexican Coast Guard boat fueling up.

The big excitement of the 3 day stay unfortunately was my adventure in dentistry.  I had been medicating myself for a tooth abscess in a previously root-canaled molar for most of our trip, knowing I could get it addressed here.  So, after checking into the Port Captain on Monday morning, we headed into town.  We had a stroll around the town plaza, which had this cool tribute to Frida Kahlo as part of the Day of Dead decorations still up.  It was quite a touristy area though, filled with shops and restaurants, and tourists (which includes us). 

Tribute to Frida Kahlo in the town square.

I left Larry and Sean to hang out with the crowd and ultimately explore tequila at a local shop, while I had the first of two visits to the dentist.   More on that in a different medical related post.

Fancy pharmacy I was sent to for medications inside the gigantic La Comer megastore in the “American” section of town.

That night the marina, Puerto Los Cabos, held a great party for us Cubaristas, which had to be changed to a covered venue at the last minute due to highly unusual rain storms.  Fortunately this meant we did not have the dolphin show. 

All we kept hearing was “It never rains here this time of year!”.    Unusual weather seems to be the norm at the moment.

The next day we said good-bye to Sean, the best crew member we could have asked for, as he flew home to his family and below freezing temperatures and snow in Boston.  Now it’s me and Larry until we see Miranda in December!

The crew preparing for our last overnight passage together.

Turtle Bay – Giving Back to Mexico

The waterfront of Turtle Bay.

A week or so ago, our first anchorage after a 36 hour very smooth run from Ensanada was Bahía Tortugas, or Turtle Bay. This has been by far the best and most rewarding part of the voyage for me to date.

I was looking forward to this stop because I had organized a medical supplies donation from CUBAR participants to the town as a way of giving back to the community.

Bahía Tortugas is very remote on Baha. They are at the end of approximately 100 miles of deserted partly gravel road. The community is about 3,000 people and their livelihood is fishing and lobstering. There is no official firehouse or emergency services, so they are on their own in emergencies.

The dock at Turtle Bay. Pangas tie up and you scramble up the ladder.

About 10 years ago a group of citizens formed an association to work on improving the health and safety of the community called the Asociacion pro bienestar Bahia Tortugas.  They are a group of about 17 men and women who have gotten firefighting and EMS training on their own in order to support their community.  About 10 years ago an old American ambulance was donated by Russ Harford, an expat living in the community, but they had no supplies, no funding and also no place to acquire supplies from easily even if they did have money for it.  A new ambulance was provided by the government recently, but still without supplies. 

They help a lot of folks with serious injuries make it to the hospital.  CUBAR brought them some basic supplies two years ago, but they really needed all the basics for accident care, and during that CUBAR visit one of the participants had a head injury and was delivered by the ambulance to the hospital. 

Through conversing with Turtle Bay native Isabel Harford and her husband Russ in San Diego as my liaisons, we developed a list of needed supplies, collected financial donations from the CUBAR fleet and I ordered up the supplies to be delivered to stage in San Diego.  The Montecito Fire Department also donated a bunch of equipment and uniforms.  It took about a half dozen boats to carry the stuff to Turtle Bay. 

I got quite the Spanish workout communicating by text to coordinate our dropoff visit through texting in Spanish with Esdras, my local contact.  On the day of the visit, we were greeted at the boat by a group of the Bomberos, or firefighters, and the President of the Association, Señor Jose Ignacio Perpuli, by panga.

Unloading supplies onto the dock with the bomberos. You can barely see me and Christy in the panga below – the ladder is steep. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
Some of the supplies in front of the ambulance that they will fill up, and the bomberos! Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
In front of the station. They don’t have a firetruck but the ambulance lives here. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.

Through my and Christy’s Spanish and their enthusiasm, we had a wonderful time visiting with the group and touring their station. They were excited also because Esdras had invited us out to see the Lobster facility where he was working that day, and to host us to a big meal.

We crammed into their van for a 45 minute trip on the dusty gravel road to Punta Eugenia to visit the Lobster Cooperative where lobsters are received from the fisherman. The Cooperative has 35 teams of 2, and the holding facility prepares them to be shipped live to US and then to China. The facility looks out on massive kelp beds, and also houses an Abalone Nursery where they are breeding abalone and working to repopulate the bay with juvenile abalone.

A live lobster. Now I know how to hold one! Esdras is both a bombero and works here at the lobster facility and the abalone nursery. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
The view from Punta Eugenia of kelp beds where the abalone live.
The abalone larvarium where they are bred.
An 5-6 year old abalone for breeding. They are slow growing. They wait until the abalone are 1 year old before putting them into the bay.

The absolute topper of the day was the journey out to a fish camp where one of the bomberos was living and working for the season. They put on an incredible lobster and fish feed for us, complete with gorgeous views.

Preparing the bountiful feast.
House with pangas at anchor in the distance.
The fish camp.
Larry and Larry fixing the seafood cocktail drink that makes you go “wow!”
Larry, me and Sean at the fish camp. Photo Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.

Our group videographer Justin is preparing a video about the whole experience that I will be able to share soon!