The author reflects on her time in the holding pattern of Puerto Escondido while we wait for parts.

Holding patterns are but some of the inevitable “joys” of cruising.  Whether the culprit is weather, a boat repair, or my personal favorite (and current predicament) …. waiting on parts in a foreign country; it seems no one is immune to some unanticipated restriction hampering the schedule they set for their journey (silly humans).  You have 2 choices when you find yourself in one of these beloved holding patterns:1) Sulk, play the victim, swear that the world is angry with you and make everyone onboard your tiny floating palace share in your misery (…not that I speak from experience of course) OR 2) Make the most of your time – let’s face it, there are always projects to be done!  I’d love to tell you that I always take the higher ground and choose the latter, but I’d be feeding you a bunch of bull.  While in my heart of hearts, I know we are truly blessed to have our health and safety, not to mention the ability to live this chosen lifestyle surrounded by an incredible ecosystem, my words and actions don’t always echo the same sentiment (especially while living in the sauna that exists below decks in the endearing Baja summer heat).  Having just come off the high of spending some great days in the islands off Loreto, we find ourselves back on the dock with more  (self-imposed) maintenance.  State of mind is everything, so somedays I Mary Poppins up with my carpet bag full of new engaging activities and summer school projects for the kids, while other days I opt for a far less engaged approach (attempting to hide in my berth or paddling away for a moment of solitude).  What can I say, I’m only human.  The marina amenities are nice, staff are professional, surroundings – breathtaking, but for us, it’s time to get back out on the hook.

Summer school attempts some days prove futile in the heat.

Backing up…

We spent the beginning weeks of July at anchor, where both boat and crew are happiest.  We found that both water temperature and clarity had improved since our monthlong hiatus making it all too inviting.  We had plenty of adventures and spontaneous swims because…why not?!  Isla Coronados has never looked and felt so good to us…and we spent A LOT of time here last year.  We miss having cruising friends around, but find that flying solo isn’t so bad when the water is nice.  We followed all sorts of rays and found octopuses, eels, and lobsters hiding between the rocks; heck we even convinced (bribed) the girls to hike the volcano for the incredible view!  It’s easy to see why this island gets so packed during the day.

Spotted Eagle Ray
Cownose Rays
Moray eel
Langosta trying to hide
Are you an alien lifeform? Yes, it swam.
Anchorage at beautiful Isla Coronado.

Bumps in the middle of the night…

The sea remains vibrant and full of life after sunset. Recently, not only has the heat had us up in the middle of the night, but isolated occurrences (the good ones) have also had us awake after hours.

1) The summer heat can be stifling and sometimes has us wandering up to the cockpit in the middle of the night where it’s cooler to sleep.  I found myself up in the cockpit on such an evening, when I knew even the light sleep I would get on the stiff cockpit cushions would be better than my attempts below deck.  It’s late in the season for humpback whales, but I was enthralled to be awoken to a familiar, yet different sound: the majestic exhale of a whale surfacing on a moonless night.  There’s no mistaking that sound, especially in the still of the night. I could time it – about 3 minutes would pass before I would hear her exhale again.  Oh how I’d missed that sound!   A couple days later while transiting near the same cove, we had a (Sei?) whale surface twice about 50 feet to our stern – Are you the same one I heard the other night?  We’ll never know, but whale sightings or “hearings” are still incredible experiences (as long as they’re not right off the bow).

2) While trying to sleep with fans on full power, I awoke to what sounded like something slapping against our hull and the tromping of a very excited Great Dane on deck.  I ran out on deck to realize the sound wasn’t next to the boat, but much further out.  Whatever was coming towards us was chaotic, massive, and loud – Quincy was beside herself whimpering and running about the deck!  We’re blinded to our surroundings on yet another dark and moonless night.  With only sound to guide us, we quickly surmise that the impending chaos is a literal “wall” of hundreds of Mobula Rays erratically jumping out of the water like popcorn popping, with their distinct slaps on the water’s surface.  Unsuccessfully, I try to calm Quincy and keep her on the boat, but as the slaps got closer I wondered: Are we soon to have a ray or two flopping around on our deck?  Please tell me you sense our presence!  As they closed in on the boat, we get splashed by several as they deftly emerge from the water to my eye level, close enough that we can just make out their shadows.  Not surprisingly, they swam beneath our keel and flanked us at bow and stern to continue their midnight quest of flips and flops.  I love these guys and will never tire of watching them, but to have a close encounter experienced only through sound and umm…splash… in the dark of night was EPIC!

3) Flashes outside after dark while tied to the dock usually indicate a boat coming in or security staff making their rounds, but when the flashes continued, my interest was piqued.  I stepped outside to watch the sky suddenly transformed from darkness to bright pink, full of a rapid succession of lightning flashes amidst the cloud clusters.  I was half expecting the Mind Flayer to appear from Stranger Things (our current binge watch)!  I’ve never seen such an active, brilliant lightning show reflected on the water before.  The scene was a paradox of beauty and threat as I stared up at our aluminum mast, hoping to remain a distant spectator in tonight’s light show. ‘Tis the season, certainly won’t be the last time.

Time to reflect

There are times in life when we turn to the sea for inspiration, tranquility, and a greater understanding of the world around us.  The sea after all, is pure magic.  Just as our holding patterns can’t be anticipated, so too are the unique sightings and experiences within the ocean.  Perhaps that’s what draws me in: gifts from the sea.  In the right state of mind, I can see this current holding pattern as a gift as well. With time to reflect on….well, everything…I’m thankful for the love, support and wicked humor of friends and family, for the unexpected gifts the sea continues to offer, and for the adventures that lie ahead.  I’m also thankful for the opportunity to stop and smell the roses and hope you too can carve out that time amidst the chaos of life.  Here’s to making the most of our time!

Tulum V and her crew brought this holding pattern on themselves via the decision to do a more in-depth service on their engine and do multiple cosmetic projects on the boat.  The HelmsMistress teaches homeschool when not running the boat as the entire family and Great Dane live on the boat full time, currently in the Sea of Cortez for the hurricane season.

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3 Responses

  1. This one speaks to me, Michele. Thank you for expressing so well what many of us also experienced. Because it is more than sailing and mooring.
    Hope to catch you after we return in October.

  2. Love this post Michelle! Thank you We too are enjoying blue waters … we are now in 🇬🇺 Guam.. if you sail this way on your adventures hit us up! Love to see the family ❤️ Accursia

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