Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thoughts on the Cruising Life: La Paz

The Cruisers’ Life

It has been said that the only difference between a boat owner and cruiser is that the cruiser chooses to fix their boat in a foreign country. Spending time around Marina Palmira in La Paz has only enhanced my gut feeling that we’ve all raced down here, as fast as we could, just to work on our boats. Living on a boat, especially a boat that moves frequently, requires a great deal of maintenance… that is for sure.

I almost had to laugh today as I scrubbed the cockpit of our boat, while one slip over, a woman toiled over some boat part: both on hands and knees and both in work gloves. This isn’t a site you would conjure if you thought Mexican vacation, but it is a very normal scene in the life of a cruiser. The physical labor of emptying our lazerette and quarter berth/stern storage space, with the mid-day heat and dry air, makes me thankful for siestas. Our to-do list is never endless… similar to buying your first home, expect this home is tiny, snug and open to the elements.

As a mode of exploration, it’s quite slow. I’ve had to mentally come to terms with cruising as a way of seeing the world. It requires so much maintenance and patience… it makes backpacking sound like a dream. Were I am on solid ground, relying on my own two feet to keep me standing, not a fiberglass hull.

But then, when we’re out on the water, moving gracefully through the waves, perfect warm wind: I know why people do it. It forces you to slow everything down. We cruise at jogging speed (4-5 knots on a good sail). We kept a quick speed walk down the coast. It’s daunting to think of all the couples and single-handers who keep up this pace all the way around the world.

We are open to the weather elements, but also have another force at play: the sea. Every day on the water is humbling, but also elevating. A day on the water can bring your mind into great calmness: a state of meditation, but can flip flop and become stressful and high-strung. It’s a life many love. It’s a life Clif loves. I am still learning to embrace many things about being on the boat.

I’ve been having vivid dreams of hiking, camping, swimming in fresh water, climbing mountain peaks, hugging trees (I know, you’re thinking… “Wow. It’s bad.”). However, I am extremely thankful for my journey at sea. A journey that still continues with more lessons to learn: more growing to do. I can always go back to the spruce trees and muddy trails… I know where they are, and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

While there are always infinite to-do lists, I somehow find myself antsy. My whole life I feel like I’ve been working towards something very specific. I’m used to jumping through hoops, completing papers and classes, grinding away rehearsal after rehearsal. Cruising has challenged me to do the opposite. What do I do with myself?! Write. Read. Do Sudoku. Clif and I really are retired. We’re getting old fast (Just kidding…. Not really.)

It will be nice to take a break this summer and work. (Ironic, no?)

The Anchored Life

Clif and I never intended to spend most of our Mexican time in marinas, mostly because they are so gosh darn expensive. The “anchor life” is a lifestyle chosen predominately by young cruisers, cruiser families and those who just don’t have stores of retirement money to spend in a harbor slip. However, we were glad to have our boat safe in a harbor while we traveled the past month. Marinas give peace of mind, security and the plush-ness of free showers.

Today we took off from Marina Palmira to anchor out, right off the beach of downtown La Paz. We purchased drinking water to store on the boat, completed a huge grocery run to resupply our dry goods and fridge (that is now running), and did every chore imaginable that required a hose attachment, electricity or a secure dock. We sailed gracefully downwind towards La Paz (Marina Palmira is just slightly north of the town center) and cozied our way into anchorage.

La Paz’s enormous year-round cruising community gives a whole new meaning to “anchoring up.” There are many boats anchored out, attempting to live as cheaply as possible, driving their outboard dinghies back and forth from the dinghy dock. Finding your own spot can be especially challenging, and requires a day, if not more, to watch your anchor and watch how close your boat swings towards others. The “La Paz Waltz” is a phenomenon that is happens in the Bay when the current and the wind are opposing, causing some boats to gently spin and touch one another if they are anchored too close. It can be a guessing game as to where other anchors are holding, how many chain or rope they might have out and how long the boat as actually been sitting there.

All that said, I think we found a good spot.

Being at anchor changes your life on the boat. There is more wind, more sounds, and more water flowing under the boat and lapping at the bow. Our Walker Bay had to be set up, sail kit and all, to sail into the closest marina and dock our boat while we ran a couple of errands. Grocery loads have to be small and simple, and anything in the dinghy needs to be able to get wet. No Internet or showers again… at least for now.

I liken anchoring to homesteading… although I’m not growing my own veggies (I should be though!). We are electricity conscious, water conscious, and cooking most meals on the boat. Now all we need is a chicken. My boat chicken dream still hasn’t manifested itself.

The most wonderful aspects of life at anchor are both the privacy and time it creates. It gives you the adventurous feel, while still being able to run in to the grocery store. We’re sitting on the boat now, brewing our new jamaica tea (hibiscus flower) and listening to a Mexican boy band sing in spanish on our All-band battery powered radio. The sun goes down, and so do you… unless you have a high powered, motorized dighy that you don’t mind running in the dark. Rowing in the dark isn’t quite as romanitic as in the daylight.
We still get to feel connected to the community without paying rent. It is also a lot easier to hoist the anchor and sail away, which is our plan this week! We made the decision to base ourselves out of La Paz for a bit, feel like we know the town, but still be able to get out and explore the islands. In late February we will leave La Paz for San Carlos and Guaymas, where we will keep the boat for the summer.

Our tracker will be on in the next week, and we will start sending “We’re OK” messages every night, once we are out on the water, outside of La Paz. If you need to contact us, message us via our InReach Delorme. We will most likely be back in La Paz next Sunday for a sailing swap meet, and then take off again for another couple weeks.

Until then...

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