Migrating for hurricane season in Mexico

Cruising has seasonal rhythms; weather is the dominant factor, and for cruisers in Mexico it’s time to be in – or well on your way to – an area to spend hurricane season. From Mexico’s “Gold Coast” on the Pacific, the primary choices are south to El Salvador or beyond, north towards the Sea of Cortez, or the big passage to French Polynesia. We’re headed back to Baja and the SOC, and can’t wait to immerse ourselves in the stunning desert landscape again.

This morning, dolphins played in our bow wake as Siobhan and Mairen looked on: yes, that IS Siobhan, there’s a purple hair dye event happening. (Follow our track!) Uplifted to be on the move again, poetically escorted out of Banderas Bay by dolphins. Our departure is much later than the norm: by mid-April, after most boats have made their move, we were gearing up to fly north for the Annapolis spring show. Barely a week later, I had a quick trip back to Seattle to check in with family. And then, there’s the dozens of presentations we’ve given since January, a lot of fun, but put us behind on work we needed to do on Totem. Compared to our more typical pace, this is frenetic!

Seminars and travel are just part of the story. La Cruz is a hub for bluewater prep and cruiser karma; Jamie’s helped nearly two dozen boats this season. Most had rigging-related questions, but five of them had notable steering system problems, ranging from bent sheaves to broken strands in steering cable. He provided weather routing for several South Pacific bound boats we well, helping make their passages safe and comfortable.

Meat canning clinic! raw-pack pork going into jars; pressure cooker on the left
Jamie does pre-departure weather check with the JollyDogs crew

Less fun: four times Jamie helped boats dragging at anchor in the blustery afternoon thermals characteristic of this bay. Most of those were “someday it could be us” situations, but there was one cluster*@^# of stupid (boat anchored a few lengths off the lee shore beach on a choppy day with insufficient gear and anchor rode fouling the prop… I could go on) that could have gone very badly. I try not to fret with my stomach churning back on Totem, worrying that someday Jamie could be seriously hurt trying to fix someone else’s shortfall.

Bloodied up and not even “thanks” from the owner of the boat he and Mike saved from being tossed on the beach

The trip north was a solo jaunt to visit my parents, who are traversing new chapters in life. My mother has dementia and has been in a full-time memory care since December; after nearly 52 years of marriage, this is a jolt to my father’s everyday life too. I’m grateful that Mum is safe and comfortable, that Papa is happy, and that we’re close enough that I can be there pretty much at the drop of a hat.

The flyby visit to Puget Sound was a chance for fleeting visits with a few good friends, and memories to cherish. Ten years ago, the Capaz crew was preparing to sail south to Mexico, our buddy boat to the South Pacific; dinner at aptly named “Totem House” near their Seattle home was more than I could resist.

The next family visit we’re looking forward to is Niall’s return to Totem for a couple of weeks in June. He had a great freshman year in college and is working this summer as a licensed deckhand in Alaska’s Inside Passage with Uncruise Adventures. It’s hard work: 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. But he raves about his mates, the bosun, the captain, and the guests he entertains on shoreside excursions. We’re all a little jealous of the scenery, which couldn’t be more different from ours. His boat in the boutique line is Wilderness Adventurer, plying weekly trips between Juneau and Glacier Bay in Alaska. Orcas, humpbacks, otters, and bears are part of this lucky guy’s everyday.

Arcing over Seattle, but looking like it’s shooting out of my father’s head!
The view from Niall’s ride this summer: MV Wilderness Adventurer

With a busy season in hindsight, there’s time to refocus on Totem. Some of the recent routine maintenance on board is insight into how much time goes into boat work, and how DIY skills contribute to successful cruising:

  • Replaced 10 year old Dyneema lifelines with new
  • Rebuilt vacuflush head
  • Replaced primary winches
  • Repaired watermaker about 100 times (OK it as four or five time, but at this point feels like 100)
  • Started a big project to clean up wiring
  • Replaced midships cleats
  • Replaced a half dozen late-in-life / end-of-life hose clamps
  • Reinforced lazarette bulkhead with fiberglass work
Jamie stars into middle distance and contemplates the total awesomeness of this winch upgrade

It’s not all work: sometimes it’s a lot of hours riding the bus to knock off postponed tasks. Our mechanical clock hasn’t worked in a number of years; the last attempt to repair in Malaysia proved short lived. We couldn’t swing the high cost of sending it back to the manufacturer, Chelsea, to fix. Learning about a clock repair shop in Puerto Vallarta was exciting, and well worth the six hours I spent bussing this week to deliver it to Jesús’ capable hands! Our trusty clock is reinstalled on the bulkhead, and crew delighted to hear ship’s bells ringing again.

Jesús, the clock whisperer. I might have hugged him. This is a special clock.
I celebrated with a 13 peso ($0.69) taco de cabeza (head taco: you can choose eyes, lips, tongue, etc. or “assorted”) around the corner

It’s not all work, II: still time for fun! Birthday season is over now, the best treat was arrival of old friends (we met in Malaysia nearly six years ago), the Aussie family on Utopia II, arriving in time for Jamie’s birthday – our seasonal capper. Talk about a gift!

Jamie’s birthday! Utopia II’s back! And what’s this, parents from two more teen boats making awesome company?!

Tonight we’re anchored off Matachen Bay, a few dozen boatlengths from where we anchored in 2009. Looking forward to more sailing and a relaxed pace, the open spaces of Baja anchorages, the mix of solitude and friends that await. For all that this has been an exceptionally hectic stretch, it’s one filled with good memories and no regrets. Our scenery this summer may mellow significantly, but we’ve got some exciting plans percolating that I can’t wait to share…and finally, the time to put them in action! But more on that another time. For now, a few more favorite vignettes from this season.

Family time on the La Cruz malecón.
Jamie and Mike’s rigging seminar was so popular – they did it three times!
Final seminar in La Cruz for the season: informational session about hauling out in Puerto Peñasco, and SOC cruising
Thumb war in Annapolis with an extra special human
My morning view in Annapolis, home-away-from-home
Meeting the newest member of the Carey family (aka MorseAlpha Expeditions) in Annapolis
Hiking near Punta de Mita a few days before we left

7 Responses

  1. Perhaps they were so embarrassed, traumatized, exhausted, humiliated, scared, etc. so as to be rendered temporarily speechless. Too bad they didn’t follow up when they got their wits back.

  2. Sweet update!! Sooo bummed we won’t get to frolic through the SOC with Totem this summer…enjoy it for those of us who have to head north for a few months!!

  3. Great write-up!!! How you find the time to compose & edit along with everything else needing doing aboard… which is lots… plus seminars, plus being mom & wife & daughter is beyond knowing.

    We have our 8-day Chelsea ships clock still ticking from 1959! The hour/half hour strikes are more than a part of the day & night rhythm . Briefly semi-waking in the middle of an off-watch nap, the chime seems to say “all’s well”. Best to all & Cheers!

  4. I have followed you for awhile–since before we decided to start sailing! We are in the Sea of Cortez and would love to meet you all in person! Maybe our seas will cross as we head North (though currently in La Paz fixing our motor).

  5. Nobody prepares us for the likelihood of dementia in our parents. My mother just passed 3 weeks ago after 2.5 years of progressive dementia which seemed to begin just as we returned from sailing. Lori’s mom now lives with us so we can give her proper care in her final years. I believe aging parents are not something cruisers take into consideration when they depart from Mexico westward. 5-10 years of cruising will witness drastic changes in our family members that we leave behind. Glad to see everyone on Totem is still doing well and living life to the fullest!

    1. aw Ken, I am so sorry about your mom. Fortunate timing with your return to the US! I agree, it’s not something cruisers often anticipate. Although I think the majority crusiers don’t have parents at that stage at home, either; they are long since lost their parents or are young enough that elder care isn’t an issue. Lingering in Mexico to help see my parents comfortable and happy and safe has been a gift.

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