American Sailing Association writer-at-large Meghan Cleary continues her tales of sailing in Velella, this week throwing plans away and deciding to stay in Mexico. Meghan,her partner Prescott and their kitten Nessie are on a planned 9-month cruise in the tropics:.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.
I love it when those sayings about weather turn out to be true. Makes me feel like a real old salt. Like how my last sight of the evening sky looked like this, and this morning the lagoon is pure glass.
White flocks of egrets’ wings flap across the still water along knotted mangrove forests, tufts of smoke hang in the dense hills, this sky is an almost colorless blue. For the first time in a week, the air has been scrubbed clean of hazy humidity, leaving the sensation that we’ve just showered clean without getting wet.
I’ll be sorry to leave
. When you anchor somewhere for over a week, it starts to feel like home. We know where the cheapest lavanderia is, which cafes make 'real' coffee (as opposed to the ubiquitous cup of Nescafe) and have free internet, and I’ve even found a little hole-in-the-wall craft store.
As I type this, I’m listening to the unusual accent of the French Baker on the radio, calling out to cruisers that he’s headed out to the lagoon. Each morning he dings his little bell and pulls alongside each boat with 'Bonjour, French Baker this morning?' His canopied panga is lined with warm danishes, croissants, baguettes, fruit tarts, and cookies—the other day we bought cranberry oat cookies with sherry and orange zest. After endless huevos rancheros, a buttery chocolate croissant is worth hanging around for.
For the first time since we started cruising, we’ve gotten to know a place, and it feels right. I was beginning to feel despondent about passing through Mexico like a skipping stone. Though we’ve been in the country for two months, our average time in a single anchorage is, sadly, only one day.
Barra De Navidad shoreline
My anxiety accelerated every time we picked up the hook again, because the trip—the slow, immersive travel we worked so hard to be able to do—was rushing by and we were missing way too much. The knowledge that the 'end' of Mexico is right around the corner has put a hard knot in my stomach for weeks.
When sailors dream of cruising, we aren’t dreaming only of warm remote shores and a self-sustaining little home. I believe that what most people seek when they choose to cruise is a certain pace of living. It is an adventurous pace, but also an exploratory one. I care as much about discovering the cultural pockets we find in tucked-away anchorages as I do about discovering a migrating pod of whales at sea.
Prescott put it eloquently in observing that there’s something irresistible about the horizon that beckons sailors. The landlubber’s equivalent is 'the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.' That horizon always subconsciously represents warmer water, bigger fruit, more colorful flora.
Perhaps south of where we are, we would find some of those things. But we are realizing that we could forever haul ourselves over horizon after horizon in search of what we have right here. What we would leave behind is the contented pace we went cruising to achieve.
Red Sky at Night
So we’ve decided to rein in our galloping itinerary in favor of savoring Mexico. We’re enrolling in Spanish language classes, studying our birding books, and reading John Steinbeck’s 'The Pearl' aloud as we make our way North to the Sea of Cortez for spring sailing.
We’re writing more, swimming more, and reinstating the daily siesta. Because although we may have started out with vague intentions to land in New York City at the end of all this, we’re not ready to trade in this pace for that—not yet.
As last night’s fiery sunset predicted, it’s time to sail. But this time, we’ve thrown the calendar overboard, and we’re sailing 'by the wind.'