I looked at the chart plotter the other day and saw N15 degrees and it hit me just how far south we’ve come. After 2 years of looking at latitudes in the 20s, we were finally covering some ground. Our original intended path in 2019 had us heading toward Panama with hopes of transiting the canal. Between the impact of a worldwide pandemic and facing the reality of necessary boat projects to outfit our aged lady for long term cruising, we’re only just now able to embrace the idea of leaving Mexico for new cruising grounds. We’re looking closely at our inventory of Mexican courtesy flags and pesos as we prep to depart the place we’ve called home for over 2 years. New latitudes of course, means new creatures abound!
Put the camera down!
Strange things appear when I put the camera away. It’s God’s little way of telling me to live in the moment a bit more and just enjoy the present, I’m sure of it. I love photography and thoroughly enjoy selecting the right photos for a post, but this post is different. I’m instead including photos that others have taken to help illustrate some of the unique sights we’ve seen lately when the cameras were stowed. Here’s to celebrating the experience!
I usually take the GoPro with me while paddling, but it wasn’t fully charged for this adventure and I was craving a spontaneous paddle to shore in Bahía Tenacatita, Jalisco. While paddling back to the boat I saw a floating reed that caught my attention. No big deal, but upon closer investigation there was a tiny seahorse about the length of my index finger attached to the reed. He was maroon, dark enough to camouflage in with the surrounding water, and just as intricate and perfect as you’d expect. Although we’ve seen one before while pulling up our anchor, I’ve never seen one close up, so I paddled closer and spent some time observing him or her. What a wonder to watch this tiny creature detach and reattach his tail to the reed as the current pulled him/her away. Would I have ever taken time to notice such a tiny creature in a former life? Doubtful. Always running to the next meeting. The Pacific Seahorses are classified as vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
While on passage, we are always vigilant about scanning the ocean’s surface for anything that looks different as it could present a hinderance to navigation (or something really cool to photograph!) While on passage to Bahía de Maruata in Michoacán we kept spotting odd shapes on the surface which we finally realized were mating turtle pairs. Single turtle shells we see quite frequently while underway, but the two together, perhaps with fin in the air or one’s head attempting to take a breath, was new to us. They were all around on this leg and far outnumbered the single turtle shell sightings in this particular area. As we read more about Maruata, we found that it is known as a nesting area for the once almost extinct black turtle, a subspecies of the green sea turtles. When we anchored, we could still see a few couples in the surfline just beyond the boat. Go turtles! Green sea turtles are classified as endangered by IUCN and this particular subspecies was believed to be near extinct in the 1970s. The recovery of the black turtle is worth the positive press -check it out: https://www.seeturtles.org/turtle-blog/2019/7/15/the-return-of-the-black-turtle
Also on passage to Bahía de Maruata, I heard Chad’s very calm but insistent voice beckon me to the cockpit. “Michelle, I just saw a sea snake swim by our boat,” he calmly stated. Bewildered, my eyes were now fixed on the water’s surface. Sure enough another one swam by – no mistaking it for an eel, it was a sea snake for certain. They continued to be rare sightings on future passages, usually as we pass by an estuary, albeit miles offshore. The girls saw two off the bow and we confirmed that they were yellow-bellied sea snakes. They stand out in beautiful contrast to the deep blue ocean and are a really pretty sight…from my boat. I read that they are gentle animals, yet the whole venomous description has me entering the waters now with extreme trepidation. While not endangered, they only live about 3.5 years and if you want to read about how scientists believe they stay hydrated while surrounded by salt water, check this out: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/how-do-yellow-bellied-sea-snakes-drink-water
Finally, as we pulled into the Bays of Huatulco at sunrise, the water was filled with the most beautiful jellyfish. Not just a few, but thousands, all with similar shapes and colors, but different sizes. We were mesmerized leaning off the bow watching them pass by the boat and just then, dolphins swam over to the bow to feast on them. We’re used to seeing both jellyfish and dolphins separately, but this was a sight to see. I’ve not seen water so densely populated with jellyfish – I couldn’t have jumped off the boat without hitting one! The intimidating thing was we were just outside the bay where we hoped to swim and snorkel later that day after a long passage….I was now reconsidering that desire. As this reality began to sink in, no kidding, a sea snake swam by…YUP, we can just stay on the boat, thank you very much! (For the record, after a short post-passage nap, I took Kellyn on the paddle board with me to the beach at Bahía Organo and we did enjoy playing in the waves and swimming around our boat anchored in Bahía Maguey with no further jellyfish or sea snake sightings). I couldn’t find a photo to do this moment justice.
In need of a catitude adjustment
Last but not least, we have a new creature of our own onboard. We’ve been “dog people” for years and while I thought they were cute and admired their independence and grace, I never envisioned owning a cat. Yet here I sit. On a boat in Mexico. Playing referee. Between my gargantuan Great Dane and this itty bitty kitty. Small she may be, but she’s still a feisty street kitty with amazing survival instincts (that we hope not to thoroughly test out btw). It’s very evident that we are dog people however, as we prepped to bring home our newly fixed and vaccinated street kitty, and on our list of must haves were “leash” and “clicker for training” – (ha ha, silly humans!). Slowly but surely, we’re having our own catitudes adjusted and are sufficiently being trained by our new feline. I’m pretty sure Quincy is a bundle of jealousy, intrigue, curiosity, and fullness as she has never had so many treats in her life! Our first sea trial with the menagerie will be super fun, no doubt. Tehuantepec, here we come! Welcome aboard Oreo!
About the time you read this, Tulum and the LF2SF crew should be about in the middle of the Tehuantepec, heading toward Chiapas to check out of the Mexico as we prep to head to El Salvador to add a new chapter to our trip south. Hope you all have enjoyed this story from the HelmsMistress. If you have comments or questions for her or me you are most welcomed to hit us with a comment and we’ll get back to you as soon as we get internet again.