Dispatches from the Sea

What follows are (non-chronological) snippets of thought from time here in the Gulf of California. For intermittent large swaths I’ve been out of touch with the world and between the isolation and the sun and the sea water, I’m willing to listen to arguments in support of my having pickled my brains a little.

sunrise at Agua Verde

Water rationing aboard is in high effect. Not because I’m running low, but because I prefer to remain in good practice. My two main water tanks collectively hold about 320L. I have two plastic garrafones that each hold 20L. Four 10L water bottles and five 5L bottles. A few other odd bits and I last left port with ballpark 425L (112 gallons). Dog and I can make that stretch several months. Water tankage is used for drinking exclusively (ok, and for some cooking). Material for all washing of self, foods, and dishes comes harvested from a bucket dropped over the side. I should be able to re-water somewhere, but we are taking these precautions in case I’m turned away. Being rebuffed from port after port is not the likely outcome, but it is a possible one, so we kind of have to plan for that, right?

It’s the end of the ice but not the end of the cheese. Dog and I stoically press on.

Dog’s idea for sporadic bathing of the cheese in lime juice has proven to be a good one. It was particularly generous of her too, since the practice has rendered the cheese too tart for her own liking. I remain undeterred.


Day 10 without ice. The cheese is now enjoyed in different–certainly not better, and arguably not worse–fashion. Differently. I can’t spare it any more limes but I have plenty of salt water with which to bathe it. Added bonus: cooking times on my quesadillas have never been so efficient.


Red rocks at Los Gatos

My own efforts to catch fish remain half-cast. Without ability to keep its flesh cool, it needs to be a pretty small fish (a pretty, small fish wouldn’t be so bad either) in order for me to not toss most of its life away. However, today I was just shared richly with by a boat I first crossed paths with back in Bahia Santa Maria in early December. Kyle, a fisherman from Hawaii, had just speared a 120 pound grouper and was very generous reparting hunks of it around the various boats at anchorage. I whipped up a ceviche habanera and also grilled some for Dog and I. Delicious, and a welcome change of pace from our culinary ruts.

Isla San Francisco

Swim and snorkeling camp. I very literally have no more excuses remaining at my disposal to punt proficiency in these activities. 

Initial returns are not promising. Further investigation reveals that yes, I am irrationally terrified by breathing through a snorkel tube. I feel like I’m drowning after three strokes. The camp counselor is unmoved by my fears and unrelenting in his criticisms.  

Significant progress has been made at swim camp. At least for one of us, Dog remains circumspect. It turns out that I’ve known how to swim all along, I’m not sure when I came to believe that I couldn’t. High salt concentration in the water isn’t hurting these efforts at sustained buoyancy and motion, either. I think I’m significantly more impressed by my strides than is the counselor, but at least the vitriol has quieted somewhat. 

I caught Dog shirking her assigned laps. Turns out she preferred sitting on the beach chewing the dried cranium of a hammer head shark, washed up on the sand. Soon after, camp was suspended for the day, no explanation given.

A desert of all the colors

Under no circumstances would I deign to call myself tan. However, this unending sun has done some measure of work on me. I’ve been diligent about avoiding deep sunburns (although a neighbor at a recent anchorage did refer to my robustly red and white swim trunks as “flesh toned” so…) Perhaps I’m protected by the thick layer of salt that patinas my body. I can only imagine that in any other vein of life I’d come across as quite the fright. The matted corona of sun bleached blond utop my head juts out with a frenetic fervency that would quicken the heart of my 18 year old self. I can’t remember the last time I wore shorts that weren’t first pants in our relationship. I then do my boat chores with the cut-away legs, joining the raggy ranks of numerous plaid flannels that I’ve had to at long last repurpose into multi-use towelettes. It’s been a hard year for my clothes. Some might say a long time coming, yes, but many of the shoes and pants and shirts that have been with me over the past decade are finally moving on to that happy-sounding farm upstate. I suppose the silver lining is that I’ve never been more on top of my buffing and polishing and oiling: turns out even a crusty nut like me succumbs to nostalgia with regularity. If I’d have only had the idea to parse these cherished articles thread by thread, maybe I’d finally have gotten over the hump and become a regular flosser. Good fodder for thought until next decade’s purge comes around.


Dog and I find canyons to walk in

“Al término del almuerzo experimentó la zozobra de la ociosidad.” I’m in awe of this sentence; it is poetry, or at least lyric. It might be translated as, “After lunch, he experimented with the unease of idle hands.” I’ve been re-reading Cien años de soledad by Márquez for the first time in maybe fifteen years. Generally I have no qualms re-reading or re-watching ad infinitum, but this, along with perhaps Delillo’s Underworld, Le Clezio’s Onitsha, and Bolaño’s Detectives Salvajes were such fundamental tomes to my formation that I’ve had a moratorium on revisitation. Not necessarily out of disquiet over the possibility of no longer appreciating them (although there is that) but mostly because I’m reticent to disturb my associations with them. These works, far more than most, vividly revolve around memories from (respective) times in my life, and I’m very wary of interrupting those beautiful little orbital dances. With regards to this recent reading, what can I say? Perhaps my 40ish year old self is (slightly) less wont to ride a lovestruck rollercoaster with every beautiful woman who graces a page than the teenage Zach, but the writing remains as jaw-droppingly florid as ever, in the best of ways. I remember this novel as the work of fiction that convinced me decades ago that I needed to study Romance literatures in their own languages, and maybe I haven’t exactly gone about that trajectory in the manner I’d expected, but I’m immensely gratified by the pleasure those amateur endeavors still give me.

Oh those Baja skies


The future is uncertain–we all share that commonality across the globe. What makes sailboating in these waters somewhat befuddling is that the present is also very uncertain. Rumors and heresays abound, as will happen when you’re 15 days out from your last cell/internet/wifi signal. Some “news” is no doubt the dirty work of gossip mongers, some the honest truth, but how to tell which from which? The port of Guaymas is said to be closed to all arriving marine traffic, Puerto Penasco to all departing. Loreto and Mulege (main centers of reprovisioning along the inner Baja peninsula) are not allowing entry to non-residents. Armstrong’s moon landing was a staged production, and several sleepy but cordial fishing communities–long welcoming of cruising sailboats in their waters–are purported to be throwing rocks at all would-be anchoring vessels to move them along (I don’t believe this, so I won’t perpetuate the slander by naming those communities). Islands Espiritu Santo and Partida–explored at such gleeful length by the denizens aboard Shearwater–have banned both personal watercraft and commercial outfits. Certainly Baja California del Sur, and possibly all of Mexico, have, by emergency decree, halted all sale of alcoholic beverages. (Happy Dry Season to all! I’m not accustomed to being so ahead of the fashion curve). La Paz harbor is both open and not open to traffic, depending on who you ask. People, it seems, have an infinite capacity for certainty, never to be deterred by a pesky truth or two.

Always something to stare at

For obvious reasons, I’ve largely been sticking to Dog’s company in recent times. Still, with a sea full of boats, most of whom are all reading the same informational books and subscribing to the same informational services, it is common to share an anchorage with at least a couple boats. In anchorages with excellent weather protection from multiple directions, it can be much more. The cruising population of this Gulf of California is also awash with the peergroup of would-be cruisers to French Polynesia (whose red carpet was rolled up and stashed away) so occupancy in these parts is high. Thankfully by now, even the most unrepentant COVID deniers have gotten the message and there isn’t a lot of socializing therein. In the melee, I have crossed paths with some old friends (read: boats I’ve seen before, even if from afar) and have done a nice bit of buddy-boating with an ‘81 Pacific Seacraft dubbed, Indy, who I first anchored next to a lifetime ago in San Diego. Just having a couple of fellow young cruisers (Emma and Daniel, in this case) to have a row-by chat from the dinghy from time to time does wonders for my sanity. (Do not take this to infer that most of my marbles aren’t still scattered along the sea bed somewheres.)

Agua Verde? More like Agua Llena amiright

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