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Pandemic Presents Unexpected Opportunities

Greg Yellenik 

Galene
1982 Cooper Seabird 37 Pilothouse
November 16th, 2021

It has been a year and a half since our friends badgered us into escaping the COVID movement restrictions on Mexico’s Baja, and cruising over to the less strict San Carlos, Sonora Mexico area. We are so glad they did, and are so glad we listened. COVID has limited our movements a bit, but surprisingly has offered us many more experiences and opportunities that we otherwise may have missed. Sure there is mask wearing, social distancing and occasional crack downs, but generally it has been easy and safe here in Sonora.

The first two months at anchor in the bay were great. For us “new to cruising” Canadians, the warm weather, warm water, beautiful scenery, beaches and palm trees seemed much like the paradise we envisioned our cruising life should be. As June progressed, though, it started to get hot. Really hot. The water got to where jumping in made no difference. Locals warned us of the coming unbearable heat and humidity. What were we to do?

One morning on the local VHF cruisers net, a local expat couple were looking for someone to house sit and feed their small pride of eight cats for the summer.  Waterfront home, minutes walk from the marina and best of all, air conditioning. The large space and forced confinement gave me the opportunity to complete lots of boat projects. There were several things I didn’t get done before we left a year ago: new wooden ship’s wheel, binnacle cover, hatch covers, Bimini, full set of shade tarps and dingy chaps.

House sitting offers space to sew some spiffy dingy chaps.

One pet- sitting experience led to another. Looking back it seems like we’ve spent more time on land in beautiful beach front homes than we have on Galene. It sure didn’t take long to meet friends and create a group bubble. Our group started Thursday night rotating dinner parties; the local yacht club started up Wednesday beer can races, and there were water aerobics and poolside card games for Laurie. We even got involved in volunteering with some community groups.

Cruising offers a unique opportunity to meet many people and make plenty of new friends. The downside typically is that everyone is moving around so often, that people come and go frequently. Friendships are fleeting. But because of travel restrictions, we were all stranded in San Carlos. Cruisers and expats alike were mostly staying put. We met so many people and made so many good friends in this past year and a half.

New Year’s Eve beach fire. Great times with waterfront homes and a fabulous bubble of new friends.

By spring, we were really in need of some water under our keel, and restrictions had been lifted. So in April 2021, we made a quick two-month excursion across the Sea of Cortez to Santa Rosalía and Bahía Concepción on the Baja. Everywhere we went was nearly empty. We couldn’t help but stay for a week at each bay. Why leave when you have it all to yourself?

Swimming in the natural mineral springs with nobody around. A very rare treat.

By June, the year was starting to repeat itself and the heat got turned up a couple of notches. It was time for an exit strategy. We decided to use the soon-to-expire credits acquired from last year’s COVID cancelled return home flight, and go somewhere cooler for the summer. So for July and August, we flew to Oaxaca City in the cool mountains of southern Mexico.  With the remaining credits, we chose a two-week pit stop in Guanajuato. Wow!  Both cities are UNESCO Heritage sites and rated some of the most ‘Instagramable’ cities of Mexico. As a retired museum curator, designer and educator, I was totally in my glory. The history and beauty of these areas is truly incredible. We got involved with local tour guides to explore and visit areas that have been closed to regular tourists since COVID started. Oaxaca had so much to offer.  Those ancient valleys and hillsides are still farmed by the Zapotec peoples, much as it has been for the past 7,000 years. That predates Rome, any Chinese dynasty and even Egyptian Pharaohs. This area is the genetic birthplace of the world’s tomatoes, chilies, corn and the creation of chocolate. With many of the typical tourist activities shut down, we were inspired to experience the much more rewarding activities off the beaten path. With the longer staying time, we had plenty of opportunity to ponder and more fully appreciate our surroundings and the local people.

We returned to San Carlos at the end of September, to dog and house sit yet another fine home with a view of the bay.  It was a perfect opportunity to tear apart our electrical infrastructure and convert our house bank to lithium. With all this time on our hands, Galene is looking pretty amazing.

Dog sitting Diva and Oliver. Hard to decide who gets the better deal, the dog owner or us!

Most places we have been this past year and a half are really showing the economic impacts of the Pandemic. Cruising is a big part of the tourism economy and an awful lot of people rely on the cruisers and seasonal residents for their livelihood. It’s been difficult to see people struggling and we try to help where we can. The Mexican people are as tough and resilient as they are warm and friendly. We have been welcomed wherever we go and invited to share in amazing experiences.

We realize that many people suffered great losses due to the Pandemic. We are somewhat embarrassed to say that it has been spectacular for us: cruising without the crowds, getting piles of boat projects done, lazily exploring places we wouldn’t have otherwise visited, and making so many wonderful new friends. We are so lucky and thankful every day.

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  1. Don Crsigmyle says:

    Wonderful positive article.