As the temperature began to rise and the boat quarantine had definitely worn on everyone, Chad had an epiphany that we should roadtrip back to the States to see our parents. We had cancelled our March trip home as worldwide fear of the new looming pandemic was on the rise and we chose isolation on the boat over the desire to visit family. With no end (to the pandemic) in sight and a window of opportunity before the peak of hurricane season, it seemed like now was the time to entertain this option again. We weighed pros and cons as cases of COVID in both California and Mexico were (are) on the rise, discussed a plan with our parents, plotted our route with the help of family friends who live in Loreto and decided to go. The decision to go back to the States during this pandemic is highly individualized, but here’s what I’ve realized amidst all of this with plenty of quarantining time to think: It’s like anything else in life…you take calculated risks (or don’t), you make big boy and big girl decisions about things that are important and you accept responsibility for potential consequences of your actions. We have zero regret and are happy we were able to spend some valuable moments with our parents, celebrate two important birthdays and the 4th of July and broaden our seemingly narrow perspectives a bit.
The drive from Puerto Escondido to San Diego was spectacular….from the passenger’s seat, of course. As we drove through Loreto and looked out to where we had anchored only weeks ago, it was as if we were on the inside of a fishbowl looking out into a more familiar world. The girls and I hadn’t been in a car in 3 ½ months and as familiar as it soon became (especially once the A/C was cranked), there still was a period of adjustment to a more civilized life on shore again. I completely echo the longstanding recommendations to not drive these roads at night, not only for the potential cows crossing the road, but also for the fact that there is little to no shoulder and some winding mountainous roads enroute. In one day we skirted along the edge of Bahía Concepcíon in the Sea of Cortez, crossed the state line into Baja California and had our first views in months of the Pacific Ocean. We drove through hardened lava fields evident on either side of the road as we passed the majestic Tres Virgenes volcanoes in the distance and saw so many varieties of beautiful desert landscape along the way. We drove through the historic mining city of Santa Rosalia with rusted mining equipment still present from days of old, then drove through the lush greenery of Mulegé, a name I recognized as one of the first places that unofficially closed its town to outsiders when COVID-19 cases were peaking in Mexico. Driving through these remote, small towns I can understand their concerns. Bahía Concepcíon and Santa Rosalia were both places we hoped to anchor at on our journey north, so this also served as an opportunity to preview what we were in for. Regrettably, we may have seen all we will be able to on land and have to postpone exploring these quaint towns we’ve read so much about until COVID-19 is at a more manageable state.
Day Two of the drive revealed the salt flats covering the ground like snow at the North end of the Sea of Cortez. Driving through the humid Baja heat staring at a ground covered in white is such a paradox, even for this So Cal girl! As we crossed the border at Mexicali and the familiar blue “Welcome to California” sign with poppies came into view, the level of excitement in the car escalated – we were back! While we continue to remind the girls that the boat is indeed our home, our home roots will always be in San Diego and it was great to be headed back. In 8 months of cruising, so much has changed. We’re still the same people with the same personalities, but we’ve evolved to living at sea in our floating castle and maintaining our own powerplant, water plant, waste management service, security system, food and beverage service, and the ever critical “fun police” force, embracing the ocean as our new back and front yard…so yeah, life has changed a bit. Living on a boat in Mexico during COVID-19 with limited connection to the outside world, we are dependent on online news media, information passed by fellow cruisers, conversations with family and some rare testimonials from friends in healthcare for “what’s going on in the world”. Needless to say, we all speculated what type of US we would return to. It turns out, the changes were there, but they were not nearly as dramatic as we had envisioned.
Back in the states, it took me one stop at a drug store to realize that the US, like everywhere else, is still figuring out how to manage this everlasting pandemic. Mask on, mask off (you just forgot it at home….clearly), mask below nose, mask on chin, mask on adults but not on kids, homemade cloth bedazzled mask or standard issue N95, bring your recycled bag – no don’t and we’ll charge you for plastic again, stand on your red bubble marking out 6-feet from the next person…or ignore it entirely– who’s monitoring?, checkouts separated with plexiglass, a barrier which is promptly breached to hand you your merchandise (tough to break old habits I’m sure). The businesses are striving to meet the needs of a new world and the public has a wide variety of different ways that they choose to navigate this new world. We saw really earnest efforts to minimize contact and limit exposure, from gating off the more popular aisle in Trader Joes to limit the amount of people shopping there at one time, to text service to notify your restaurant of choice of your arrival for a parking lot delivery of takeout food. We parked in a freshly spray-painted parking spot with a number after texting “Arrived” and our masked, gloved delivery guy kindly commented “I’m just happy to have a job” when we asked how his day was. It is definitely a new world.
Aside from the impact of COVID-19, there was the anticipated culture shock of returning to the land of plenty after living abroad. Both Chad and I have had this experience multiple times before, but for the kids it was something we needed to be sensitive to and allow time and space in both the present and the future. Despite my personal preparation and prior experience, I walked into the grocery store and about stroked out. I hadn’t set foot in a store for over 3 months, much less a large scale US grocery chain. There are so many options! So many choices! So little time and so little room in my rental minivan! (aptly nicknamed Road Warrior by its driver, clearly because it was a hard-core, modern minivan that just oozed machismo and seemed to be the rugged beast one would choose to trek the mountainous Baja desert roads with his family) So many options, how did I ever focus in this world before?! From unique artisanal cheeses to rich, oaky California wines – it was time to indulge! Despite some stock shortages on hand sanitizer and cleaning products, there were still ample decisions to be made and endless options on what product to purchase. My parents’ living room had been converted over the days leading up to our arrival into an Amazon delivery warehouse that continued to expand as we reaped the benefits of being back in the States (thanks mom and dad – we’ll back again!). The kids were in heaven. While they never left Grandma and Grandpa’s house, they had A/C, WiFi, On-Demand TV, doting from both sets of grandparents, cookies to bake, ice cream, and a very energetic, water loving dog to play with – needless to say, they were muy contento.
Having sufficiently contributed to the US economy and spent valuable time with our parents, it was time to head back on the 15 hour drive to Puerto Escondido where our floating castle awaited our return. We loaded up, the Road Warrior packed to the brim and said our goodbyes. We even managed to fit some Girl Scout cookies that mom had been saving for months in the freezer (Thin Mints never tasted so good!) The drive home was more straightforward – we had done this drive once before. Border crossing at Tecate was seamless and all the (9) military checkpoints were professional and courteous. The girls had a much quicker response time for the “Checkpoint! Masks on!” notifications bellowed by our driver and we even saw some animal crossings, solidifying our belief that we will always make this drive during daylight.
We returned to a rare warm breeze and humidity in the 80’s and 90’s on the dock, making the memories of our recent visit to the States all the more relished, especially by the girls. Quincy too had been on vacay and looked so happy and refreshed when we picked her up – unfortunately she too had to return to the floating sauna. We sweated through some final projects on the dock and found creative storage hidey-holes for our new bounty of supplies. Fully loaded with fuel, water and enough provisions to feed 3 small villages for several months, we headed back to our beloved Isla Coronado. Tulum V realized how much she missed being at sea, sailing with ease at 7kts for a bit on the short trek up the channel (understand that for our big girl this is usually a motorsail- playing with dying or a complete lack of wind resulting in all sails coming down in frustration).
It is SO good to be back at anchor! The cool breeze ensures a good night of sleep and the clear water beckons us to come swim. The dolphin pods make their rounds, the rays are jumping and this time there are multiple boats with people enjoying the beach – a sight we haven’t seen since pre-COVID-19 days. Having thoroughly enjoyed our fill of Loreto and the surrounding area, it’s time to head North for places previewed from the Road Warrior during our road trip. The break was nice, but it’s time to get on with our journey. Back to managing safety (quarantine), power, water and waste while maximizing shade and family fun in the beautiful waters of the Sea of Cortez.
Not from the HelmsMistress: Obviously we haven’t posted for several weeks, because of the road trip and multiple boat projects when we were on the dock in Puerto Escondido. We’ll be posting our regular posts through this coming weekend, but as we head to Bay of LA we’ll start posting by Iridium Go via email. THANKS to those folks who have chosen to FOLLOW us and continue reading the website in the last few weeks even though we’ve been a bit distant…we LOVE our readers! Wanna support LF2SF? Check out our Patreon Page.
Here’s one last photo that’s pretty interesting….dolphins in flight mode, as Orca’s were sighted on the other side of the island.