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From The HelmsMistress: Transitioning Between Diverse Worlds

Four months ago, in the homestretch to finalize my packing and purging in anticipation of cruising life, I prepped as if I was immediately crossing an ocean never to see modern civilization again.  I envisioned having little to no access to the things I needed and being entirely self-sufficient.  In hindsight, my mindset was correct, but I had no idea that we would be bouncing between such diverse worlds, each with vastly different challenges and joys.  My framework was built over months of reviewing the Baja cruising guides and cruisers’ blogs, envisioning myself in endless remote anchorages or transiting between them.  Only a few months into cruising, I never dreamed we would’ve spent this much time in a marina, but whether boat work necessitated it, weather made it a much more attractive option, or we just desired the break, we’ve found ourselves enjoying more time at the dock.  In this short period of time, I have come to realize that cruising for us means we transition between three distinctly different worlds – one rich in resources, one of eco-tranquility and one of primitive survival and utter vulnerability to Mother Ocean.  The focus, priorities and mentality changes within each world.  We shift gears from being obsessed with power, water and fuel to living dockside in a marina with restaurants and nightlife where I might actually (wait for it) put on some makeup and heels.  Growing bored with anything too mundane in life – I have found the diversity in switching from world to world very refreshing.

While underway you’re always “on”.  There are no rest stops along the way and the list of things that could fail is endless, therefore this world requires the most planning, preparation and mental stamina.  Between Chad and I, one of us is the primary watchstander; responsible for driving the boat, navigating, trimming the sails and ensuring all systems are functioning to keep Tulum afloat while the other is keeping the crew fed, kids safe and supporting all the functions of the primary watchstander.   Meals have been prepped and planned ahead of time, belongings are secured for sea and key items are in reach and easy to locate in the dark…prepare to rock and roll.  Weather forecasting has been reviewed and is tracked daily as it has a crucial impact on our trip.   Formal homeschooling takes a backseat to safety and propulsion towards our next destination.  Kids – time for movies, good books and perhaps whale watching or turtle spotting along the way.  Quincy – not much to say, but there will be a beach to run on in your future – thank you for ensuring that no one on watch will ever come close to falling asleep.  We all have roles on this boat and this is one at which you surpass all expectations!  Crossings are dynamic and not a time to become complacent.

Having lived at a marina over a year before leaving, this is the most familiar of all the worlds we live in. Endless power and water plus coveted use of the microwave and toaster are treats we look forward to.  Warm showers and flushing toilets are also luxuries that we cherish.   Quincy gets regular walks and interaction with other 4 -legged creatures as well as any poor soul who comes down our dock.  There is WIFI somewhere on the premises and good cell service to connect with the outside world – kids are thrilled.  Homeschool curriculum is easily augmented with videos and electronic programs without a thought of the power draw.  Provisioning is easier at the dock and here in La Cruz we enjoy live music from local restaurants almost every evening from the comfort of our own boat.  There is no need to coordinate transportation with our single vehicle (dinghy) – we all have the liberty to come and go as we please….including Quincy if we’re not careful. Furthermore, the marinas usually offer movies, seminars and opportunities for social interaction with fellow cruisers.  While we may drift with the tides, there is no rolling, less vulnerability to foul weather, and we sleep at ease.  There is of course the consideration of cost when you are on a budget (and last I checked, most of us are out here) so we cherish these times but try to do so sparingly.

Life in the anchorage however is my favorite.  We still have the balance of managing power and water which forces us to plan ahead and prioritize, but the payoff is the beauty and tranquility of the surrounding bay.  It is not without its moments of concern from afternoon shifts in the wind or opposing currents making the boat roll more than is reasonably comfortable.  There is a never-ending list of questions that run through your head even after the critical decision is made on WHERE to anchor: Is my anchor actually set?  Deploy the flopper stopper to help prevent us from rolling?  Is that boat going to anchor too close and more importantly, is THEIR anchor holding?  Are we generating enough power?  Why is that panga dropping a fishing net right over my anchor?  This is not a time to shutdown into vacation mode.  However, amidst all of this, we enjoy the real reason we came out here – time and space to think and enjoy the wonder of the ocean as a family.  There are always schools of fish that help to clean our bottom in exchange for shelter from the feathered predators eager to make a meal out of them.  Here in Banderas Bay we enjoy daily humpback whale sightings as well as occasional jumping rays, turtles and dolphins.  We paddleboard and swim off the back, bathing afterwards with a preheated sunshower.  We enjoy dinghy rides to the beach or a dock for provisioning, walking Quincy or simple beach exploration.  Bathingsuits are the usual attire and flip-flops are left to hide in the dinghy.  I get up early to sit in the cockpit with my cup of coffee and enjoy n unobstructed view of the sun rise over the bay – life is good on the hook.

Looking back to the planning stage of cruising, you pack what you need to not only survive, but to thrive out here.  You have to consider the various worlds you may live in while traveling and appropriate dress codes for whatever it is you hope to do.  We’ve taken our floating home with us fulltime, this isn’t a seasonal venture so it either came with or found a new home.  Sacrifice for me was necessary – a minimalist, I am not.  Even so, I now realize I didn’t need to purge my entire wardrobe and troll the prepper websites as if I was going to live life marooned on Gilligan’s Island – I just needed to downsize a bit of my creature comforts and ensure we brought necessary survival equipment onboard. 

Everyone has a different concept of “need” and it will evolve given the situation and resources available.  Chad and I had some power-packed discussions of what we truly “needed” as we prepped to leave.  At the end of the day, space on a boat is precious, but so is happiness and the mental stamina to continue the journey.  I like certain things – they are a part of my personality and my identity and I wasn’t willing to part with all those things just yet.  So we reached some compromises along the way.  I’m glad I kept a few dresses and as much as I have been liberated by going without make-up and hairspray most days, it is nice to have them for a rare night out or trip inland.  I’m also happy we had some familiar things onboard from home for our first Christmas away from family.

Cruising will look very different from one family to the next.  For us it involves a cycle of bouncing between beautiful remote anchorages entirely off the grid and marinas abundant with resources, always seeking weather windows for the safest possible passage to get from here to there.  We are not here just for the journey, but also to enjoy the beautiful sites and cultural experiences as a family along the way.  We packed and planned accordingly.  Cruising may look very different to you.  What do you need to be happy? What are your creature comforts and what do you want when far away from home?  Did you enter into cruising with hopes of socialization, solitude or a healthy balance of both?  Do you have infinite financial resources or a shoestring budget?  Careful consideration of these and many other questions will help to guide what cruising will look like for you.  As for our family, we’ll continue shifting between worlds enjoying the ups and downs each one has to offer.


Ever wonder why our posts are sometimes late?  It usually involves things out of our control…like lack of WIFI,  moving the boat from place to place or weather we can’t control.  We’re so appreciative of every single one of you that take the time to read and comment on this tiny website…thank you.  Remember you can show your support by Following or buying us a beer on Patreon–  

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4 Responses

  1. Love catching up with you Michelle. Very curious though, you and Chad talk about the crew frequently. Any glimpse into the mystery crew? Totally fascinated curious and enjoying your moments of escape from this crazy life. Be safe my friend.

  2. We enjoy your writing Michelle, so much – keep it up. From one past HelmsMistress to you – When we left Australia in 2002, we’d been around boats for 30 odd years, and it took us 10 yrs to circumnavigate. I can absolutely relate to your HelmsMistress blog.

    We used to have a few quotes on board.
    1. Cruising will cost as much as you’ve got to give it.
    2. Cruising is not about what you leave behind. Because you really are just taking your little show on the road……When we left Australia we shoved 30 yrs of life’s baggage into a 3 car garage. We came home 10 yrs later and threw most of it out.
    3. The cook should try to remember – They eat all over the world!! (this came about when I found I’d over catered, over and over again!!

  3. Love this, Michelle! Well said. And I think anchorage would be my favorite too! But all 3 “worlds” sound good in their own way. xo

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