We didn’t want you to miss out on these reflections from Diane, despite Currents’ COVID-related delays in sharing them with you.
“Maiden”. It was being shown in the old theatre in Nelson. A theatre in which we had seen many movies through our childhood. The movie can be described with so many words: amazing, heart moving, joyous, humbling and reflective for sure. The young women who set off on the race were definitely not only planning for the trip, but fighting a battle against social expectations of what females could and could not do. To me, the more interesting “fight” they were having was within themselves as individuals. Although the sailing I have done to date pales in comparison to a round-the-world race, I understood the women’s comments throughout the film about what they were personally struggling with while trying to keep a composed exterior for the media and the world. Having recently returned (temporarily) to Canada after sailing our 50 foot cruiser to Mexico, some of the sailing scenes in the film fueled memories, definitely enjoyment, and even some restlessness to get back to cruising.
The interviews with the women, both at the time of the race and more recently, are cause for contemplation. I feel fortunate that I did not experience much negativity about my abilities as a woman to head out onto the seas. Ours was and is not a race in the true sense, although there are windows of weather and a growing uneasiness about heading out before we are “too old” to withstand the journey. There is however, I think a “race” within us all, a competition we set within ourselves to push back comfort zones and test our skills and endurance, to achieve a level of experience and knowledge and let those things guide us. With respect to long-distance cruising, my fear of aging while drinking coffee in a mall far surpasses any fear of the dangers of the sea.
Reflecting on the 2019/2020 Season
We returned to our boat in the boatyard in Guaymas the first week of December 2019. It was a long drive as the weather was definitely getting cold and the traffic in the cities was very heavy. Seven or eight lanes of cars, most of which are exceeding the speed posted, is not my idea of a good time. We travelled in the old motor home we bought in June of 2019 as a place to live for the summer, and as a means of bringing many of the things we had accumulated over the summer for working on the boat. The weather did not start to get warm and pleasant until we were into Arizona. Arriving mid-afternoon at the yard, it was truly a sight for sore eyes to see our boat. We spent the first night in the motor home, but decided home is the boat; since then we have lived aboard the boat. We had no plans to spend time in the water this winter, as we had a long list of things to do, things the warmer Mexican climate is much more amenable to.
The Ebb and Flow of Boatyard Denizens
As we worked on the boat, we continued to meet people who have such a wide variety of experiences and knowledge. Walking about the boats in a boatyard, you wish the vessels could speak. Many are here short term as their owners spend time in their land homes. Some boats have been here many years due to changes in the lives of their owners, be those financial, health or, sadly, the death of one of the partners. Or maybe the boat owner(s) decided this lifestyle really was not their calling. Some vessels are for sale, anxiously awaiting their new people. A few of the boats did in fact sell while we were here, and meeting the new owners was great. Sadly, several of the boats are well past their useful form and are being stripped of anything of value, after which they will be disposed of. All have life stories that would fill volumes. It is interesting to walk about the yard and observe the many vessels, the things we do and don’t like about them, and their home ports. The occupants of the boatyard are ever changing. Boats are put back into the water after their owners ready them for the new sailing season. Few boats arrive before March to be hauled out and placed in the yard, but the yard is still ever changing as owners of boats already here come and go. There are a few people who have lived here in the yard aboard their boats for years.
Effects of COVID-19 on Boatyard Life
The arrival of the coronavirus added a whole other level to the experience. There were some people who, for one reason or another, had to or chose to return north to either Canada or the United States. What became apparent, as the spread of the virus was labelled a pandemic, was that travel to or through the United States and into Canada was more daunting. There were calls for travellers to return “home” while they still could. Many of the boat owners here felt very reluctant to head north: the weather was continuing to be very nice, and food and necessary daily items were not in short supply in the stores. Work on our boats was still allowed and, in fact, given how large the two boatyards of this dry marina are, social distancing was not difficult. The people around us also had been here for months, spent most of their time on their boats and therefore had minimal potential exposure to the virus.
However, when the tightening of movement and fear spread to the north of us, people from there started to arrive here, to get onto their boats and either stay in the yard or launch into the water. The atmosphere in the yard became more tense; the marina management told the “newcomers” they could not stay. It was shortly after that the borders between the three countries tightened and people stopped arriving. Now, if a boat is hauled out, its owners are given very little time to ready it for the summer and leave. With time, there have of course been more restrictions of movement in the area. There was a fear amongst the remaining boat owners that we would be forced to leave. A number of these owners chose to put their boats back in the water and take their chances there rather than return north: north to what many of us felt was going to be fear, chaos and of course colder weather.
I have heard comments that people here are not taking the virus seriously – I do not feel that is the case. There have been ongoing changes to travel and shopping. We have not been to the supermarket for some time, but the last time, there were workers wiping down the carts and giving hand sanitizer to the people as they entered the store. You can no longer travel in a vehicle with more than one occupant, you can only enter the supermarket alone, and you can no longer drive to the city center. (There are supermarkets enough to serve everyone without entering the city center). Although you can order some takeout food, you cannot dine in. Most businesses are closed or have restricted openings. The older workers are no longer working; even the guards at the yard have been replaced by younger people, people deemed less vulnerable. What is different for sure is a lack of any appearance of panic or hoard-shopping, maybe in part because many people here could never afford to do that. I think there is a definite fear that, with so many people already living on such small amounts of money, this sudden and extreme reduction of income due to COVID-19 will put an unbearable strain on people who may never recover from this. Perhaps the fear of this can be greater than the fear of the virus.
Summer Approaches, Departure Nears
As the weather continues to get hotter and the storm season gets near, many people may have to haul their boats back into the yard. Those of us procrastinating about heading north likely will have to give in and do so. We will have to travel with caution and prepare mentally for a quarantine and social distancing, far less pleasant than what we have become accustomed to.
The boat yard is dirty given the ground type and the frequent breezes and winds. This is definitely an industrial kind of place: the smells of burning garbage, fish rendering and often sewage are less than desirable. But the warmth of the weather and the warmth of the people here more than compensates for that. I, as everyone I am sure does, hope for a speedy end to the need for such extreme social measures. I hope the memories of those rough bus rides to the center of the city, rides often complete with loud music and a driver that takes your cash payment and makes change, will carry me through to fall when I hope to be back here readying the boat for “splashing”, as the travel lift operator calls it.