It’s an interesting time. Understatement of the century, right there. We’re still here at Marina Puerto Escondido, just south of Loreto, watching the world unfold around us.
One of our reasons for being here is connectivity – WiFi and cell service. The primary reason for this is so that Kevin can support his company’s entire team back in Seattle. And so he can navigate the PPP small business loan program from the U.S. government. Having access to information is of course is a double-edge sword. Kevin hid my cell phone for awhile the other day. The Facebook march of unhappiness got to me. In addition to the overall news, we see a lot of chaos, rumors and confusion from cruisers, people in Mexico, people not in Mexico and the general media around the subjects of safety and how Mexico is handling this pandemic. While the president of this country has been off his rocker regarding this deadly virus, so was the president of our country as COVID-19 began to take hold (in my opinion). We are now seeing action around us here in Mexico. And we are glad to see it.
Mexico is under a federal, 30 day “stay at home” order for the entire country, expiring April 30. The governors of the individual states of Mexico have also issued orders. Here in Baja California Sur (BCS), there is a keen concern around the upcoming week, “Semana Santa” which is the holy week around Easter. Easter is an incredibly important holiday in this country, and in the past, families headed to the beach. Not this year. The beaches are closed in BCS, and I believe throughout the country. Hotels are closed. In La Paz and Loreto, the police patrol the Malecon (waterfront boardwalk) and beaches. People even walking on the beach are told to go home. As a number of the Mexican police segments carry M16 rifles and the like, people tend to take them seriously.
The lock down does allow for “essential” businesses to stay open, which is a very limited list of organizations. The grocery stores in Loreto only allow 6 to 10 people (depending on the store) in at a time. There are special early morning hours for individuals over 60 when the stores can be certain that they have maximized cleaning and disinfecting. One person per family can shop. In fact, in BCS, only one person per household can leave the house for groceries, pharmacy, once a day at the most. That’s it. As of today, alcohol sales are banned (what, what???). Never fear, Red Rover is stocked – a veritable floating bar. We’ve seen reports that gas stations will be closing, roads are closed in and out of key beach areas and more restrictions are announced every few days. The goal is to keep people home. One of our friends went into town last week to visit the grocery store (wearing her mask and gloves) and saw Mexico’s version of the National Guard stopping people on the streets and telling them to go back to their homes.
The marina staff here notes that they are considered essential – the grocery store, the fuel dock and the marina itself. The restaurant is closed to dine-in but does take-out. We have seen the staff adjust with the federal and state orders around COVID-19. They are wearing masks and gloves, have hand sanitizer everywhere, are constantly cleaning and keep a good distance when talking with guests. They remain kind, thoughtful and welcoming.
Last week we watched a Facebook Town Hall with the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and his staff, based in Mexico City. We expected to hear more of the same – U.S. citizens are urged to come home. That’s not exactly what he said. Rather, he underscored the idea that now is not the time to be a tourist, and if you are on vacation, get yourself home. Now (so yes, you are urged to come home immediately). However, if you live in Mexico, take a good hard look at your personal risk level, your ability to be out of the U.S. for an undetermined amount of time, your support systems, both here and in the U.S. and make the decision that is right for you. We don’t technically live in Mexico, but we aren’t tourists on vacation either.
What’s the right decision? That’s a hard thing. There are lots of unknowns here in Mexico. At the moment, this is also the case in the U.S. As the Ambassador stated over and over, answering questions, the right decision is unique for each person.
We continue to see friends and fellow boaters head back “home,” leaving Mexico behind. For us, well, we are home. We don’t have a house, a car, a piece of dirt. Our home is of course moveable and if we feel we need to move back toward the U.S., we will do so. In fact, we topped off our fuel tanks to ensure we are completely capable of doing whatever we need to. That only seemed to make sense. With full tanks (2,450 gallons) at 7 knots we have about a 4,000 nm range. We are probably 1,200 nm from San Diego right now but we want to be prepared for whatever comes our way. Side note on fuel – with the rise of the value of the dollar, the exchange rate for pesos is at historic highs, just shy of 25 pesos to the dollar. When we added fuel in La Paz we paid just under $5.00 (USD)/gallon. When we filled up a couple of days ago we paid $3.63 (USD)/gallon. The price hasn’t changed at all – simply a value adjustment.
About 10 days ago, there was a ruling passed down from the federal government to the Port Captains, that appeared to close all of the ports and mandate that boats must stay in harbors. This was later clarified (or adjusted) to focus on tourist oriented boats (booze cruises, fishing boats, etc.) and it was noted that private recreational boats can continue to move between harbors, but that when in a port, the captain and crew would be under the same rules as everyone else – stay at home, practice social distancing, etc. So as of right now, we can move about if we choose to. But we continue to hear rumors of this changing. Until we see official paperwork, they are just that – rumors. We are hearing that the Mexican Navy is stopping boats coming into and leaving La Paz, south of us, asking what their destination might be. We know that other countries are freezing cruisers in place, and we know that this could happen here. Mexico is currently at “Stage 2” of the coronavirus, and when it moves to “Stage 3” which I recently saw an article stating that this might be around April 19th, we expect that there will be further rules and requirements for cruisers.
Reading all of these directives is good Spanish practice. But often I ask our friend Hilda to read it for me…
We’re in a fairly remote location in a small marina with very little shoreside development surrounded by people in our same situation, the largest percentage of whom have been in Mexico on their boats for months. We come into contact with very few individuals each day. And we spend much of our time in our boat or on our dinghy, by ourselves, much like our friends and family in the U.S. are doing in their homes. So what have we been doing? We went for a hike with other boat-bound friends, enjoying personal space out in the fresh air. Dog walks, dinghy happy hours (everyone in their own dinghy), baking (this is a new idea for me) cooking at home, boat projects and Kevin’s margaritas each evening are plentiful as well! We may gain the “freshman 15” before this is over with all of the great eating we’ve been doing. We clean and disinfect the boat constantly. The marina staff notes that we can walk (or scooter) around the property without restriction. And we’ve been enjoying a tiny boat-access only beach at the entrance to the marina. We think it is part of the marina property… I guess we’ll find out if the Mexican Navy comes and tells us to leave. Oh! Speaking of the Navy, they are here too with a rescue outstation located at the mouth of the harbor. We see that as a positive.
In the past few weeks we’ve also found it reassuring to have our Nordhavn family back together again. At the moment there are five Nordhavns here at Marina Puerto Escondido. Three of us Taco Runners (N60 Last Arrow, N55 Gitana and Red Rover), N76 Seacret and N60 Ship Faced (in this case, the boat is here but the owners are not). We also have newfound friends in the lovely 55 Selene, Bella Luna. Together, yet apart, we can talk through the current situation and help each other out.
A few fun videos…
As with any situation, there is the practical, linear thought process and also the emotional line of thinking. Kevin tends to own the practical process and I tend to wear the emotional label. As with everyone else, I find this situation to be unsettling. In his Town Hall talk, the U.S. Ambassador closed a speech with “Viva Mexico, and God Bless the United States of America.” That made me cry. Lots of things make me cry, and to be fair, always have. But at the moment, the feeling of being unsettled, and a lack of clarity about what might occur next add to my emotional response. To be clear, I am not fearful of our personal safety in Mexico, other than somehow contracting the coronavirus, which we are being quite thoughtful about. Rather, I have a myriad of thoughts about what might happen if we get “stuck” and hurricane season comes along, if we can’t get into a harbor, if we can’t get into the U.S. (unlikely), etc. So, I turn to my level-headed, always-calm-in-a-storm husband and together we create a plan.
Here’s our plan, as of today, which of course could change at any moment. We have paid for our slip here at Marina Puerto Escondido through April 17. We will likely take day and weekend trips out to clear our heads, but will otherwise stay connected as Kevin works with his team through the new federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP) process. As of today, we think that we’ll be floating elsewhere after the PPP loan is finalized, focusing on anchorages in the Sea of Cortez and leveraging our satellite phone/email connection to stay in touch. We are concerned about having a negative impact on small Mexican communities – whether real or perceived. Food on the Baja peninsula comes from the mainland. The marina staff told me that the governor assured them that there would be food…. that was the first time I thought about that. In addition, small communities need the small amounts of food in their tiendas. Most Mexican families buy food as throughout the week and do not do a “big shop,” some for financial reasons and some for cultural reasons. We do not want to be the big American boat that comes in and buys out the store of fresh produce. We also do not want to be perceived as potentially bringing the virus to a small community that does not have medical services. I can understand how this could be a concern, and in watching the resident-formed roadblocks to keep outsiders out in towns such as Sayulita, I can imagine how the presence of a larger boat with a big U.S. flag might feel. So we will likely search out locations without towns, simply wilderness.
That’s if we are allowed to. The rules can change at any time. We may choose to pay for another month of moorage here if we feel that having a home base would be beneficial. If things are looking more positive in California in May/June we will begin a journey back to the U.S., bashing up the Baja peninsula to San Diego to be north of Ensenada by hurricane season. This assumes we can bring the boat into the US, which as of right now, as U.S. citizens in a U.S. flagged vessel, we can. If it seems more prudent to stay anchored out in Mexico, we will have a long conversation with our insurance broker and find a solution that allows us to stay, albeit in a “safe” hurricane hole harbor. But we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. At the moment, we realize that all plans are indeed, “written in the sand at low tide.”
In the meantime, we’ll continue to monitor the situation around us and ensure that we are fully prepared to be off the grid whenever we feel we need to be. While we are not religious people, we do believe in the power of positivity. Stay positive and stay healthy everyone.