Slowing down is not as easy as it sounds, but well worth the rewards. Coming from a world of fast food, even faster freeways, rushing to work, school or extra-curricular activities and keeping up with live communication and news, the appeal of slowing down was very attractive for us, but learning how to do this effectively; surprisingly, has not been so easy. Think about it, you take a vacation to recoup, but do you actually slow down and mentally unplug enough during that week or is your vacation packed with activities occupying every moment of your schedule? Some are good at unplugging and some are downright uncomfortable with the silence and absence of “something to do” or the fear of missing out on the latest information that continues to spin in our complex world. It is enculturated into us so intensely that even for us, the slow-down has been a whole cultural renovation that took time.
For the first time since we left, we’ve had an anchorage to ourselves with no traffic beyond a panga stopping for a few hours to fish. We’re out of range, so there are no cell phones to check, no news to pull for the latest coronavirus updates, no boats to watch anchor (a favorite onboard) or even sail by, and no VHF radio conversations interrupting school or my train of thought. Without these distractions, my focus is different. For once I notice how many stars are in the sky and spot shooting stars with ease, I notice heat lightning on the distant horizon and can’t get enough of the wonder of bioluminescence in the water around us. I watch the sky colors change before and after each glorious sunrise, I watch large schools of the tiniest of fish and their schooling patterns around the boat. I am intrigued by the diversity of the fish along the reef and how they interact. I read a nightly story to my kids again, not rushing to read the latest headlines on my phone before I calm my mind for bed (worst habit ever BTW)…Refocusing.
Quincy too has changed focus. Taking a break from protecting her pack from a ferocious little bee or curious pelican who dares to swim too close to our boat, she actually noticed that there are fish around our boat and tracked their movement for several minutes. They’ve been there all along, she just never took time to notice. Without the distractions of outboard engines passing by or 2-leggeds on the dock to bark at, her focus too has changed.
To be clear, cruising offshore in with your family on a 51-foot ketch from the 70s does not afford exclusive days filled with observing fish behavior and stargazing – there’s a never-ending list of boat maintenance, both preventive and that of an urgent, unexpected nature but the remarkable moments are there if you choose to see them. We try to focus on working hard and playing harder when something on our old girl isn’t in urgent need of repair. Unfortunately, the latter seems to have dominated and dictated our schedule most days, and is further compounded by undetermined plans for the future – What does your COVID crystal ball say for cruising Mexico next season? What about Central America? What happens if a hurricane rolls through the Sea of Cortez this season? When will we get home to visit family? The what-ifs are never-ending once you allow them in. Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in Meditation Is Not What You Think, “We have made absorption in the future and in the past such an overriding habit that, much of the time, we have no awareness of the present moment at all. As a consequence, we may feel we have very little, if any, control over the ups and downs of our own lives and our own minds.” This rings true for me as I can easily become preoccupied with plans for future voyages on Tulum V and not “show up” for the beautiful moments here and now.
We are in no hurry to head north from the Loreto area, so we have the opportunity to slow down we just need to take it. We have the luxury of selecting from many beautiful anchorages to drop a hook at limited only by weather patterns and for a select few, crowding by fellow cruisers. Cruising, I’m finding, is inherently slowing down IF you choose to make it so. We had to shift our mindset from constantly “going” to being able to actually enjoy the rewards of having made the journey. So much of the past 8 months has been spent learning how to live a new lifestyle, finding exciting surprises in the form of thousand dollar boat repairs here and there, adjusting to living in a foreign country, trying to fulfill a gap of professional satisfaction and replace it with an entirely new role, questioning if I’m challenging my kids enough in school, preparing for and crossing the Sea of Cortez twice, trying to see all there is in every new port, figuring out where and how to get resources in the midst of COVID-19, and sometimes wondering “What the hell (sorry Kellyn – I owe you $1) did I sign up for?!?!” I had almost forgotten why we chose this journey. Thankfully, just being out here forces you to look inward and allows time and space to be present in the moment.
So here we sit, opting to spend more time like Flash-Flash 100-Yard Dash than Lt. Judy Hopps from Zootopia – slowed down and taking it all in. Once you suppress your worry, regret and fear of both the past and future, the present moments are spectacular! Hearing my kids belly laugh as we play in the water together unhindered by time constraints and preoccupation with work is heavenly. Exploring the reefs and finding the smallest little creatures together brings such joy. Undoubtedly, waking up to see the sunrise is the best way to start the day. Here’s the other thing: I don’t believe the slow-down and mindfulness can only come about by going offshore cruising – anyone can choose to adjust the lens they look through. It takes only a conscious effort and a willingness to mentally shift gears and let go of past and future burdens. Here’s wishing you all more mindful moments and a bit of slow down!
For those if you who haven’t read her posts before, the HelmsMistress does 90% of the helm time on our 51-foot ketch as well as serving time working on all her other titles…mother, teacher, dog feeder, wife and so many more roles. We currently live in the Sea of Cortez where we are waiting out hurricane season as well as checking our crystal ball daily for COVID predictions and updates on which countries might open up again for the cruising community.