Bahia Magdalena: Reflections

While we weren’t sure how long we’d be in Mag Bay (specifically at Man of War Cove where we anchored), we sure didn’t bet on 6 days waiting for a do-able weather window to make the non-stop jump to Cabo San Lucas. At first, we found the town quaint and charming . . . the 1 dirt road invoked feelings of awe and the neighborliness of the restaurant owner, Jose, and the town Sheriff, Antonio, made us feel like we stepped back in time to when people actually had time to stop and talk with passersby. But with each passing day, the high-wind system that forced us to stay put started to feel more and more like an exercise in isolated restriction and the quaint pueblo started to lose its luster. The final nail in the proverbial coffin was when we learned from our neighboring sailboat Golden Hind that, on the same afternoon we had finally been able to convince Finley to go ashore via our dinghy, the sole restauranteur Jose had packed up his casa (including his mattress and bedding) and left for San Carlos via panga. Like LEFT. Finito. Moved out. For what we could only assume was the rest of the season.  So, the carrot we had dangled for 2 days to get our crew to shore (fish tacos and beach play!) had disappeared, leaving us, once again, stranded on the boat–and me, the galley chef, wondering what on earth I would scrounge up to feed our insatiable crew.

It’s an interesting thing, experiencing the combination of dwindling food supplies and forced encampment on your vessel (and mostly indoors due to high winds and bumpy seas). I, for one, started to feel like I must be living how many of the folks around us live regularly. I was basically in rationing status–metering out each apple, lettuce leaf, cheese slice, and all of my root vegetables (my more perishable veggies were long since gone)— and I was having to really dig deep in my shallow cabinets and storage areas to come up with things I could make into meals. For example, I turned our leftover baked kabocha pumpkin from Thanksgiving dinner into a salad topping, and since I had little vegetables to work with other than lettuce, I topped the romaine with almonds, sliced oranges, the last of my feta cheese and the last bit of my cucumber and tossed in a citrus vinegarette. Since we had also run out of red pasta sauce and only had about 1/2 cup of processed parmesan cheese and 2 eggs left, I fried up our last animal protein (bacon) and made spaghetti carbonara. We’ve run out of everything we traditionally eat and are down, today, to our last apple… so eyeing the weather twice daily became ritual, so we could figure out when we could get to a town (Cabo) to buy some food. But again, it appeared to me that was how most of the town locals had to live as well. San Carlos, a small town with a larger commercial fishing enterprise, is the nearest town and the only place, i mean the ONLY place, to buy groceries. And given that Man of War Cove is (for all intents and purposes) an island–although it is technically a peninsula with no bridges to get to the mainland–all of the residents, about 250 of them, have to buy their food weekly (or longer) and ration until the next available opportunity. Further, with San Carlos inaccessible by road, residents must wait until appropriate weather (or at least good enough) is available to make the 40-minute run by panga to town. For us, San Carlos was not an option because it is a port of entry (meaning, we’d have to clear port authorities) and they do not allow anchoring without incurring a charge and requiring someone to stay aboard. That, coupled with the fact that the town of San Carlos is a 5-mile jaunt from the water, made us hunker down and work with what we had on board until we could get to Cabo.

Needless to say, when the weather reports consistently showed that we could leave Wednesday (Nov 30) morning, *everyone* on board was ready to hit the road, and perhaps none more so than me. 🙂 In addition to laundry and much-needed groceries, we have some fires burning back home that we need to tend to and I have some Santa-ing to get done before my window of opportunity to receive shipments or go into a big-box store locally, dries up.

Another big life event is approaching, my entrance into my fourth decade. Indeed, I am turning 40 while we are gone on our adventure and that has made me give pause to think about what that means. In reality, the passage of another day out here is somewhat insignificant.  We are still out here, doing our thang, and the changing of a calendar page has no real impact. But it is interesting to think about how the difference in how we approach this milestone out here versus back home. Back home, I would likely be preparing for some big shindig whether it was a gathering of friends or a fabulous weekend away. I might be treated to some fabulous meals and/or a bauble to mark the occasion. But out here, the only things that sound indulgent and worthy of a change in our daily routines are a land-based hotel room with abundant hot water, perhaps, gasp!, even a luxurious bath! A nice meal with my man and conversation uninterrupted by the needs of little ones. It’s funny to think about the contrast of those two scenarios, in my mind a little cariacature drawn side-by-side. But I suppose that’s what this is all about, for all of us on board. Distilling life down to the basics, stripping away all the distractions, including the necessary ones of work and school, and seeing what this life looks like and what we want it to look like

I also sometimes wonder, not negatively or positively, whether my musings about life ‘here’ versus ‘back home’ will ever really recede from the forefront. I often wonder if we will miss things from our life afloat once we move back home. Like now, when the boys are out on the bow spotting turtles and dolphins and in awe of the deep blue clear waters that surround us, and later tonight during our overnight passage to Cabo San Lucas when there will be no unnatural lighting to hinder our views of the zillions of stars–I wonder, will we miss this? Naturally, we will miss seeing wild dolphins ride the bow of our boat and spotting sea turtles in their natural habitat as we pass through their homes. But will we miss the other parts of life afloat that, right now, seem so hard? Will we miss all the time spent together as a family? When I could formerly book a babysitter for a night out with my man filled with quiet conversation and a lovely meal, while now such quiet moments are reserved for the last couple hours (or minutes) we are awake after the kids go to sleep–will I miss it? When we are separated most of our weekdays by school and work and perhaps only get to catch up at dinners or on weekends (if they arent booked with birthday parties, sports or other extracurricular activities)–will we miss each other? When we move back into our cavernous home with separate sleeping areas for more people than are in our family and abundant space, will we miss bumping into each other in the galley and on the way to the head?

I suppose we will and I also suppose these are the kinds of questions faced by cruisers, long-term and short-term, who have come before us. Those who planned to be gone for a short time and end up shedding their former lives entirely to call the sailboat home permanently. Likewise, with those who thought they’d be gone for years and end up coming home in a fit of nostalgia and missing the ease and abundance of life back home. To be sure, we miss those things as well. And we felt those yearnings more acutely this week being anchored off the coast of a small pueblo whose entire night-lighting system is run by a generator that shuts down at 1030pm. A pueblo that is quite literally a stranded peninsula by which cars have to be brought to the “island” on planks strapped between two pangas. A small fishing village with no real connection to the outside world, except perhaps by intermittent cell reception and/or news recieved from relatives in San Carlos or elsewhere on the mainland.

Indeed, being on the hook this week has afforded us the opportunity to, not only clean out Dakota and organize our life admin, but clean out some mental space to reflect on life afloat and life ashore. (ain’t nothin’ like no internet to buy you back some time!)  While we don’t know when our journey “out here” will come to and end and what we’ll do with Dakota once we know we are headed home, we consider ourselves lucky to be on the journey at all.  And for now, those questions can remain that–questions.  Now, back to turtle spotting before a sundowner and a clear (and hopefully uneventful) overnight passage to Los Cabos!

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