Reassurance from Baja’s bounty

Cruisers obsess over food sourcing and long-term storage more than the typical person. Over-provisioning is one of the classic new cruiser mistakes that even seasoned cruisers are prone to make. But the early weeks of covid brought concerns about food security. We were headed to Baja, a region already on relatively thin distribution networks. Any disruption to supply chains would be felt in Baja sooner, and harder, than other parts of Mexico.

Jumping rays: one of the joys of the Sea of Cortez

Uncertainty was the norm for weeks as we all wondered how covid would play out. We happily paid a premium for a shopping service that delivered a grocery order by panga, and the Puerto Escondido marina provided good service. As weeks wore on, we connected with more direct suppliers in the area we’re sequestered in: the town of Loreto, and fringing anchorages in the beautiful Loreto Bay national marine park. Instead of reduced options, our access to fresh food is better than ever.

One week’s bounty of beautiful produce

Now, we have a routine: on Friday, we head for town to recieve deliveries from various suppliers to the town dock in Loreto. The rest of the week, we tuck into one or another of the protected anchorages in close range (the town is an exposed roadstead anchorage). In each source of this bounty, there’s a story to tell.

San Javier Farmers Collective

Community supported agriculture – or, CSA – was something we missed from our pre-cruising life. Not anymore! A local service has sprung up to help connect farmers in the cooler mountains behind Loreto with buyers at sea level. Every Friday, a surprise mix of the freshest fruit and vegetables are delivered to the dock. They come from plots high in the Sierra de la Giganta, adjacent 320-year-old Jesuit mission San Javier. A dozen ranchers collaborate in the effort, but it’s Luis Bastida we get to thank every week for the gorgeous deliveries. He’s often included a special treat (last week: wild plums! Prior week: candied mango!). We pay about $13 per box for these organic, often heirloom beauties, a delectable value.

Rancho Quest

Complementing produce from San Javier, the husband-and-wife team behind this ranch brings a selection of goat cheeses; their cajeta – a dulce de leche caramel based on goat’s milk – is complex and delicious. With advance notice, Richard and Mayte are also able to provide meat; if not through the rancho and friends, at a modest (10%) markup from a Loreto carneceria. We’ve enjoyed cabrito (young goat), rabbit, and beef tenderloin. I seem to “need” more of their delicious, affordable goat cheese every week! They time a delivery to the town docks with the San Javier CSA.

Selecting goat cheeses from Rancho Quest’s cooler

The primary business at Rancho Quest? Horseback adventures…until covid dried up the trailride tourism business. Like many they are adjusting to seek new markets and income streams.

I love the perfect imperfection of fresh rancho eggs

La Carretilla del Abuelo

A picture in social media of our CSA cornucopia elicited a recommendation to the services of La Carretilla del Abuelo, or, the grandfather’s wheelbarrow. Run by Don Juan and his wife, the initial lure was for the honey and olive oil. These local products are delicious, and senor Juan helps us buy a range of produce and other groceries. But the olive oil? It’s truly some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Don Juan delivers to the Loreto waterfront! Jenn from Yatra gets weekly vegetables

We chat through a translator app, mostly, to get beyond my limited Spanish. Like others: this family’s income was impacted by covid. But they’re using their service to help others; they’ve teamed with other producers. One woman bakes baguettes and bagels, another offers organic cleaning products, a third has seedy granola and fiery salsas; this week he introduced a vegetarian specialty vendor. Don Juan will deliver any day by arrangement; we are spoiled.

Elena Gonzalez

If it’s available for purchase in Loreto, Elena can source it! Her personal shopping service has been invaluable. Originally from Spain, she’s called Mexico home for seven years and works as a dive guide and kayak tour leader in the Loreto Bay National Marine Park. “When I discovered what [Loreto] had to offer, I fell in love with it. I was looking for a place like this: islands, ocean, sea lions, canyons with fresh water, small town, a big city not too far away, a place where the biggest animal in the world come every year.” Normally she’d work through the spring, then visit her family in Spain for the summer. Not only did business evaporate this spring, she can’t fly back.

Elena kayaking in the Sea of Cortez

Cruisers who knew Elena through dive tourism who suggested she look .to the cruising boats – who in April were barred from entering town here – as her customers for a shopping service. Work for her, goods for cruisers, a win all around.

We meet her first thing in the morning to give her shopping bags (or propane tank, or as last week – our jerry cans to fill with fuel). We send her our shopping list in advance, and hand her a copy of it at the dock. If she has questions about anything in the store, she texts us for clarification. We pay cash at the dock (or PayPal her directly); her fee is 20% of the receipts, all of which she provides.

Heavy matters

Thanks to these producers and suppliers, we are probably eating better than ever. You’ve heard about the Freshman 15? We could be dealing with the Covid 19 here, and not just because our daughters have cranked up their galley game.

Aside from eating well, we have the great feeling that comes from being able to help someone else. Everyone we are working with has changed their mode of business in order to find new income amid the shortfalls directly resulting from covid restrictions.

Elena diving in the Revillagigedos

Even if covid magically disappeared next week (ha!), we’d continue buying much of our food this way for the quality, range, and joy it has offered. When we eventually range beyond Loreto, I’ll actively seek similar resources, whether it’s an entrepreneurial shopper like Elena, a farmer like Luis, or businesses that pivoted to serve customers 1:1 like Juan’s and Richard’s.

Details for local cruisers

  • Elena Gonzalez: this multi-talented woman is looking for yacht crew work – ENG1 and STCW there! – but until she lands a position (or a chance to get to Spain and visit family) her services are available in Loreto. WhatsApp: +52 1 984 129 9439
  • San Javier Farmers: contact cecilia_fischer@yahoo.com.mx about availability; deliveries on Fridays to Loreto.
  • Rancho Quest: Richard and Mayte are available at 1-805-207-9566 (WhatsApp), email ranchoquest@gmail.com or http://ranchoquest.com/  
  • La Carretilla del Abuelo: Don Juan and his wife operate through WhatsApp +52 1 646 148 7835. We coordinate deliveries with others on Friday, but they can come on other days too

TOTEM TALKS: this weekend, with Matt Rutherford!

We’re very excited to be joined by Matt Rutherford: the first person in history to complete a non-stop, single-handed, voyage around North and South America. Today, his Ocean Research Project seeks to support science campaigns learning about ocean health.

Registration required; please feel free to send your questions in advance!
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUsfuyrpzwoHNKuxqoTTJDG62WdVficj7al

This also means just a few more days to replay our recent TOTEM TALKS on piracy and dream destinations. Find them at https://www.sailingtotem.com/events.

8 Responses

  1. Behan, Thanks for showing us that pandemic or not, there are still ways to cruise, help others and have fun. Your positivity and ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances are nothing short in being inspirational. Hopefully Polynesia will reopen for next season. Jim and Joann

  2. Thanks for this wonderful update.
    It has been decades since we cruised on Mexico’s Pacific coast and stories like these of Mexico’s bounty and beautiful people strike home. Our thoughts are with the Mexican people.
    Safe travels to you!
    Jayne & Mike – Loon’s Lace

  3. this is a heart inspiring article.. we in the USA only focus on rising covid case in Texas. thanks for broadening our vision and showing the creative spirit and grit of our neighbors to the south.

  4. The connections you have made in Loreto and the sharing of them with others is wonderful. I absolutely drool when I see the gorgeous bounty available to y’all. So thankful that you and the other cruisers are in a good place at this delicate/difficult/unusual time!
    ❤️ Auntie Glennie

  5. Your latest article has my taste buds alight! Looks to me like you have better produce than are available to me here in the US! I live in a farming valley rapidly transitioning to a second home subdivisions of toy ranchettes. While a few organic farmers try to make a living selling produce, potatoes and grain are the only crops really suited to our 6,300 foot altitude. (Our last snowfall was on Memorial Day) There is a single large supermarket which does a reasonable job of keeping their shelves stocked with imported commercially grown produce, but they have raised their prices 20+% on many items since the Coronapanic began. (Washington Rainier cherries on the shelf today for $9.60 a pound)

    Isn’t ironic that the signature goal of American foreign policy for the past three years has to been to build a wall between the US and Mexico! And now “we” are getting our wish, as Mexico denies entry to all American passport holders at the border between Arizona and Mexico . Canada as well. I know one broker in New Brunswick who is selling boats to US buyers based upon videos since they can’t come to inspect them, and then delivering the boats by leaving them at anchor in a bay exactly on the dividing line between the two countries.

    By the way I recall you had thoughts about cruising in Cuba when you were in the area but passed it up because the US government policies made it a risky choice. Are you aware that (according to Worldometer) Cuba has experienced only 86 deaths and is essentially virus free? In New York City, with about 2/3 Cuba’s population, over 17,000 have died. Cuba doesn’t treat COVD19 patients by inducing a coma and cramming an intubation tube down their throat. They rely upon masks and strict border controls, but most critically upon immune system boosters and antiviral medicines developed over long experience treating tropical virus epidemics.

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