The blog post I was writing was another installment of First Mate Musings, but it’s impossible to write anything without first acknowledging that shit just got really real, and really weird. We’d started hearing about a novel coronavirus that originated in China late last year, and by the beginning of 2020, things were starting to ramp up – the first cases outside of China were reported in Thailand and the U.S. in mid-January, the virus was spreading fast, little was known about it, and it became apparent that our world was changing – again. Throughout history, there have been outbreaks, plagues, epidemics, pandemics – each taking a toll on human populations in terms of mortality, psychological well-being, and behavior modification. The current situation feels different to me because 1) the internet, 2) our leadership and the political spin put on the pandemic, 3) the far-reaching direct effect it is having on the world and the world economy, and 4) how it is impacting us in our daily lives personally.
We were in Zihuatanejo when the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic, and it really started showing its teeth back in the States. China, Italy, and numerous other countries affected by the disease were locking down. Reaction to the pandemic has seemingly been less dramatic here in Mexico than in some other areas, namely in Asia, where quarantines and testing regimes were put into place quickly. Some countries in Europe and NA were a bit complacent initially, but now have their eyes wide open. Streets are deserted. Businesses are running with skeleton crews or are closed altogether. Restaurants are relegated to take-out or deliveries only. No more face-to-face happy hours with friends, joking around and drinking late into the night. No more going to the movies or the shopping mall.
The President of Mexico, AMLO, has, unfortunately, taken an Trumpian approach, and the delay will likely wreak havoc in the not too distant future. At the local level, it would seem that the Mexican states and individual communities are calling their own shots. There have been orders to stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, and some (most – as of today, March 25) businesses and restaurants have shut. Hopefully, it’s enough. We did hear, however, that there was a massive music festival in Mexico City just a week or so ago, right when CDMX was reporting its first cases. The ramifications of that gathering have yet to be seen.
Currently, we’re in Barra de Navidad, where 90% of the Canadian and many of the U.S. sailors left in a rush. There has been a mass exodus from many of the ports and anchorages where cruisers typically spend the season. Among those of us still hanging around, there is an underlying sense of anxiety. A lot of questions are being asked on the morning VHF net about disinfecting fruits and vegetables, and people are practicing social distancing. Some are still venturing into town to eat at restaurants that remain open, but for the most part, we’re each just isolating on our own floating isolation platforms. It feels odd now to be in the presence of another human being besides each other. We did drop off laundry and grabbed some beer in Colimilla, and went into Barra to check in with the port captain and pick up some produce. But we’re sorely missing the crew of Taxi Aquatico and the noms at Pastorcito and Miriam’s. The saving grace is that Emeric, the French Baker, is still delivering his scrumptious pastries and breads; we placed an order for Thursday, which will likely be our last face-to-face contact for quite some time.
It’s an altered reality we’re living in. Normally, we would be going to town for group dinners or gathering on FL or friends’ boats for happy hour, telling stories, and laughing – a lot. But we’re not, and neither is anyone else. Luckily, Rand and I are getting along swimmingly right now, playing lots of cribbage, rummy, Scrabble; watching a lot of movies and Netflix series; and eating really well because Rand is cooking every meal on da boat. Like millions of others, we’re soaking up social interactions via FaceTime, Messenger, and Zoom. In a normal world, we’d also be planning our summer, which usually includes a trip home to connect with our families and friends and renew visas. But all of our plans are on hold, as are the plans of our friends who intended to visit us in the Sea of Cortez this spring and summer. Freedom of movement, both terrestrially and on the water, has been hampered by borders being closed to non-essential travel (and let’s face it, what we’re doing is far from essential). So, boats planning passages to Central America and into the Caribbean, or to puddle jump to the South Pacific, have had the rug pulled out from under them, and are, therefore, shifting to Plan B. At this point, with the restrictions on international travel, we won’t be returning to California or Michigan anytime soon. To be clear, we could get back to the States if we wanted or had to, but it is highly unlikely we’d be able to return to FL once we depart Mexico, at least for a long while. And we are utterly unprepared to leave her for an unspecified period of time. It’s difficult to wrap our heads around leaving our floating home for who-knows-how-long, if it indeed came to that. If things get truly desperate, however, we would probably sail FL back to San Diego in order to eliminate the question of whether or not we’d be able to return to her, and Mexico. We’re not desperate – yet. And hopefully, it won’t come to that.
We understand that the administration is anxious to get the U.S. economy going again and stop the hemorrhaging of the stock market; people are struggling to meet their financial obligations and put food on their tables. But at what cost? Transmission of COVID-19 is still on a tear, a vaccine is still months away, and hospitals, their staffs, and first responders are being pushed to their limits, while things continue to ramp up. I think we all have a responsibility to those most susceptible to the virus (and that means pretty much everybody) to hunker down and take social distancing and self-isolation seriously. The unknowns, the fluidity of the situation, and the gobs of information found on the internet are what seem to be causing us the most anxiety, so we’re going to stick to what feels safe – we’ll keep bobbing around on the ocean, talking to our sailing friends here in Mexico on the radio, shopping for groceries where and when we can, and keep our fingers crossed that some clarity comes to light sooner rather than later. Then we’ll make the short trek home to the States for real, in-the-flesh hugs.