96° in the Shade - Heidi Hammock Time

What a long, strange summer it’s been…and it’s only mid-July! How are you dealing with the COVID-craziness, protests, rallies, and summer heatwaves? We hope you are staying WELL.

We are still “Sheltering in Paraiso“, hunkered down in Barra de Navidad, about 150 miles south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We arrived here in late February, thinking we’d only stay a couple of weeks before sailing north to the Sea of Cortez for the summer. But of course, COVID-19 had other plans in store. A few days after we arrived, the Port Captains closed the ports around Mexico and no one could travel, so here we still are five months later… We are now (we think?) free to sail north. However, being the middle of Hurricane Season, we prefer to stay put, thanks just the same. The story from Port Captain to Port Captain changes by the day in the Sea of Cortez. So even if we left here, we could be denied entry once we got there. Not worth the risk. Much better to stay put in Paraiso!

This past spring and early summer we really enjoyed getting outdoors, hiking, birding, and loving nature. The flowers and flowering trees are amazing here, such a wide variety of colors and textures. And let’s not forget tree-ripened mangos and coconuts for the taking! Kirk has become quite proficient with his machete and whacking open the coconuts. One day we were looking online for the best way to open coconuts, and read about the “coconut apple”, have you ever heard of one? We hadn’t, but the very next day the coconut Kirk cracked open had a coconut apple inside it! Who knew?!

The Barra de Navidad area is apparently also a birder’s paradise and one of the top birding areas of Mexico. Heidi comes from a long line of birders on both sides of her family. Her maternal Grandpa “Oxy” was a consummate ornithologist involved with the California Audubon Society for decades. And her dad, Verne, has been an avid life-long naturalist and birder (and former National Park ranger). So it’s been really fun to bird “virtually” with him. We sent Verne a guide book of Mexican & Central American Birds, then when we’d go for our hikes and see a myriad of birds, we’d call him with our list and he could look them up in his book, to see what we’re seeing. Sadly our current camera equipment isn’t up to catching fast-fliting songbirds, so we don’t have any good photos of them ourselves.

While we were never really into birding in the states (other than the local seabirds and bald eagles we enjoyed watching), the vibrantly colored variety of birds here makes it much more fun to look at! So far we’ve seen white-faced ibis, golden-cheeked woodpeckers, orange-breasted bunting (see photo above, orange, yellow, turquoise, and lime green!), San Blas jays (imagine a neon-blue crow!), vermilion flycatchers (bright red), tropical parulas (neon green, yellow, and cobalt blue), blue grosbeaks (bright blue), varied buntings (bright purple and red), Western tanagers (bright yellow and orange), as well as lots of pelicans, one of our favorite birds.

These days, it is now much too hot for our daily hikes, and even kayaking has to be done very early in the morning or after dark, and even then it’s still pretty hot and humid. Plus, it can be buggy at those hours. And while COVID is the main thing on most people’s minds, let’s not forget that it’s Dengue Fever season in the tropics, and we really don’t want to get that either! So we try not to be outside during the “buggy hours.”

A few weeks ago we had an interesting new-to-us cruising experience. Maybe you heard about the recent big earthquake off the coast of Oaxaca? Well, for a brief 30-minutes we were under a direct Tsunami warning! A call went out on the VHF radio that Barra was in the Tsunami warning area and could be hit within the hour. We’ve honestly never had to deal with that before and didn’t have a game plan. Because our boat was having some work done on it and things were sort of torn apart, we were in no position to leave our slip within 30-minutes.

Several boats left the marina right away, and there was a lot of discussion on the VHF radio about what to do. We decided, like a few others, to grab our passports, boat papers, electronics, cash, the cats and some cat food, pack everything up and head for higher ground in the Isla de Navidad Hotel, on the hill. Heidi packed everything up in a waterproof backpack and we were just packing the cats into the cat carrier when the Tsunami Warning was called off. Phew! Dodged a bullet this time, but it made us think that we need to have a better plan in place for the future!

Before the AC was hooked up, we would drape wet towels over Tikka and Tosh as they lay around like hot puddles trying to cool down.

Did we mention it’s gotten HOT? 96° in the Shade HOT… Tropical storms form in the “Tropical Kitchen”, the ITCZ Monsoon zone of the Caribbean, Central America, and southern Mexico, making their way west, northwest, or north depending on surrounding weather patterns. To date, we’ve been graced with the spin-off of eight tropical storms, which is unusual to have so many together, so early in the season. However, other than some rain so far they have pretty much left Barra and the Sea of Cortez alone.

Fingers crossed that will continue, although the Eastern Pacific outlook isn’t great this year with NOAA predicting 11-18 named storms (this includes all Tropical Storms, 39-73 MPH winds, and Hurricanes, 74+ MPH winds), 5-10 Hurricanes, and 1-5 Major Hurricanes (Category 3 or higher.) NOAA gives the accuracy of this prediction a 70%, so of course, we never know what we’ll be dealt. Typically this area doesn’t start to see Tropical Storms or Hurricanes hit until August or September, but we check the constantly changing weather multiple times a day and we are ready to prep for a hurricane if we need to.

The biggest downside to the heat is we have not been exercising very much lately. We have all our groceries delivered, so we rarely even go into town or walk around. And it’s mostly too hot to be outside (at least for Heidi!) Kirk does trek to the laundry once a week wearing two backpacks as it’s too hot for Heidi to join him. Kirk has also braved the heat to do yoga a couple of times a week. Heidi has been opting for indoor workouts with weights, and a flash-back to Billy Blanks Tae-Bo workouts on YouTube! We have been out for a few night kayaks which have been great fun as well as great exercise. So we’re trying to kayak more often and looking for some good bioluminescence one of these nights soon.

Who is that masked man headed to drop off laundry? We always wear our masks and have our Neal’s Yard Remedies Hand Spray with us whenever we venture out!

Speaking of heat, we finally turned on our air conditioning unit for the first time in early July. Kirk spent several days tinkering with the engineering and layout of how it fits in the main hatch (like a square peg in a round hole!), getting it well insulated, and directing the airflow down into the salon so it would not get sucked right back out the AC unit. Part of his engineering was to hang a curtain between the salon and galley, keeping most of the cooler air in the main salon. We also keep the head door closed (it’s like a sauna in there, all we need is a bit of infrared light!)

After three days of his tireless work, We were able to drop the interior temperature from 89° at night down to about 81° at night… and last night it even cooled to 76°! That is running it 24/7. We’ve been a little bit nervous about our electric bill, but we got the rates from the marina office and if we’ve done our math right, it should only set us back about an extra $100+ a month to run the AC 24/7. Not too shabby, but with the AC and 5 fans running night and day, it’s very noisy in here. What? I said it’s NOISY IN HERE! LOL! Tosh does NOT like all the noise, but it doesn’t seem to bother Tikka too much.

Currently, there are about 15 cruising boats with people aboard staying here in Marina Isla de Navidad for the summer (including three “kid boats” all from Seattle!). It’s a nice community of people, most from the Pacific Northwest or Canada, a few from California, all helping each other out with boat projects, errands, etc. And we are Net Control (meaning we host the VHF Radio Net) three mornings a week on channel 22A, the Bara VHF Radio Cruisers Net.

Heidi as Net Control for Barra Cruiser's Net
Heidi hosting the Barra de Navidad Cruisers VHF Net. Click here to see short video clip.

For the non-sailors among you, most cruising communities have a local VHF Radio Net. Boats can check in each morning, ask for any project assistance, offer things to swap or trade ‘for coconuts’ (eg:” We have a kayak paddle ‘for coconuts’ if anyone is interested,” where ‘coconuts’ is a euphemism for pesos, as in most countries travelers aren’t allowed to “sell” things legally). Cruisers also organize errands and trips to town. So if one person has to go into town that day, they take orders for everyone else, helping to prevent as much exposure to COVID as possible, for example: “We’re going into town today to the following stores… if anyone needs anything from those stores, get back to us before noon with your order.”

Announcements are also made for local “services offered”, such as what band is playing at the local beach bar that night, or who’s having what type of special on their menu, etc. And there is a fun category called “Bay Watch” where people share what things they’ve seen locally in nature, like “we saw a sea turtle today” or “we saw a snake on the hiking trail, keep your eyes out.” And one of the most important features of the Cruiser’s VHF Radio Net is the daily Weather Report. Since Kirk has taken quite a few Weather courses from NOAA back in Seattle, he has a very good handle on weather forecasting and gives a detailed report three times a week.

In the new “crazy-normal” life we’re all living in now, there is also what has been dubbed the “After Net” VHF Radio Net on Channel 72A,  which is all COVID-related news. This is on a separate VHF Radio Net after the main morning Net as there are some cruisers here who aren’t interested in COVID news and didn’t want to be bothered with any COVID-19 updates on the main morning Net. On the After Net, we discuss the latest news on wearing masks, potential medicines/vaccines, port closures from the Port Captains, openings/closings of beaches/pools/restaurants/hotels due to COVID numbers, and give the latest numbers of cases locally, as well as in the US and worldwide too. It’s also a space for anyone to share how they are feeling, both physically or emotionally during these strange times, as this isolation has been hard on a lot of people.

COVID-19 cases in Mexico
This map shows number of cases of COVID-19 by “county.’ The dark red is the highest number of cases and the white is no cases. Barra (population ~3,000) is right on the border of the states of Jalisco and Colima. The county that Barra is in, Cihuatlán, has many fewer cases than the neighboring county of Manzanillo. Link to live map.

For those of you not keeping an eye on Mexico’s COVID numbers, it’s about as scary as the US these days. They are basically not testing people here unless they’ve had symptoms for at least a week, and then they have to get an OK from a doctor to be tested. So it’s estimated that the actual numbers are 10+ times the reported numbers of confirmed cases. Barra is on the border between the states of Jalisco and  Colima, both of which are now in the RED Zone, with the highest numbers of cases in the country. However, within each state, they tally cases county by county, and some counties have few to no cases (see map above). Much like in the US, beaches, restaurants, and bars all opened up a few weeks ago… apparently that didn’t work so well here either! Doh! And this week the governor of Jalisco may be closing it all down again… wait and see.

Recently, there has been a cruiser’s BBQ once a week that many sailors go to. Unfortunately, from what we’ve seen, it’s sans masks, elbow to elbow around the picnic table, definitely not social distancing… We are just not game for unmasked close quarters, even outdoors. We’ve all heard about the family BBQs and birthday parties with mass spreaders… No thanks. We don’t like being hermits, but it beats the alternative.

However, we did social-distance to see the model boat regatta. Last week, 10-year-old Russel on s/v Arrow, from Seattle, made an announcement on the VHF Morning Net: “Notice of Race for a DIY Model Boat Regatta.” Race rules: all boats had to be hand-made, less than 1-meter long, and wind-powered. Race time: 1400 hours on Saturday. Everyone gathered at the small lagoon in front of the hotel to participate or watch the race.

Model Boat start and finish line in the Isla de Navidad Lagoon.
Starting line of the DIY model sailboat regatta.

The racecourse was a 300′ downwind run. The start line was at the west end of the small lagoon between the red nav light and the pin-end starting canon. The boats finished between the green nav light and the end of the last jetski on the beach. Boats that blew onto the beach could be swum back out to the racecourse to continue racing. Russel was declared the winner in his “Kon-Tiki” made of four 2-liter water bottle pontoons and a plastic bag for a sail. Kirk observed that Russel created the rules, his family ran the race, and he and his mom came in first and second. Hum…. no conflict of interest there? LOL! A fun time was had by all.

Russel’s winning entry, ingenious design!
A few weeks ago we organized a Full Moon Dance Party on the big lawn between the marina and the lagoon. Everyone social distanced 6′ apart and it was so much fun to get our bare boogie feet dancing in the grass under the full moon. Now we’re hoping to catch the comet!

This past Sunday, we organized a beach cleanup to clean a stretch of beach across the lagoon from the marina that was an eyesore full of trash. With Hurricane season upon us, the next Tropical Storm or Hurricane would have tossed all that trash into the sea. No bueno! The marina donated extra-large heavy-duty garbage bags and we set out early in the morning before it got too hot. Ten cruisers from seven boats showed up to clean up. Many hands make light work! And in 90-minutes we had eight giant garbage bags full plus an empty plastic gasoline jug, and the garbage scows headed back to the marina dumpster. Kirk actually got paid ($20 pesos!) for his efforts… you never know what treasures you may find among the trash… We are grateful to all the cruisers who showed up to help!

Sadly, we’re not sure how long this beach will stay clean. Based on the stench and sight of fish guts, dead fish, and other detritus, that area appears to be where the fishermen hang out. And there’s not a lot of incentive locally to recycle or dispose of trash other than on the beach. So we may make this a monthly beach cleanup event in order to save the ocean from so much plastic. It’s heartbreaking.

We miss our friends and family and try not to think about how long it might be before we ever get back home again for a visit. We are grateful for Zoom and some fun Zoom get-togethers with family and friends. If you’d like to Zoom with us, please reach out and let us know, we’d love to see your face!

In the meantime, wash your hands, wear your masks, social distance, and stay WELL. Oh, and PLEASE do your part to help ensure EVERYONE has an opportunity to VOTE this year. Voter suppression is unconscionable and unconstitutional. Find out more here: https://www.aclu.org/news/civil-liberties/block-the-vote-voter-suppression-in-2020/. And stay SAFE.

xoxo

Heidi & Kirk…
Tosh & Tikka are loving their cool AC boat and send kitty kisses too!

25 Comments

  1. Vickie Norris on July 21, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    Loved catching up on your life and times in Barra. Thanks for sharing. J and I moved to Port Ludlow in February. Our timing was amazing. We live at the end of a street with our house on the water and an amazing view towards the marina. We’ve really love all the hiking, friendly neighbors and just the sheer beauty of the place. It’s also nice being closer to Jim and Devon. We are being very careful to avoid the bug and I know you are too. Take care.
    Vickie & J

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 22, 2020 at 2:31 pm

      Hey Vickie & J, thanks so much for the great update. Glad you’re enjoying Port Ludlow. Looking forward to seeing you guys next time we’re in Jefferson Co! Stay well.

  2. Joy tu amiga de ESL on July 21, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    Love love love hearing from you. Another world and lifestyle, sounds like you are doing good things, fun things and enjoying life.

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      So nice to hear from you Joy! Maybe we can all meet up at F&P’s Hacienda one day soon. 🙂

  3. jackie lindseen on July 21, 2020 at 7:21 pm

    You guys are incredible. The kitties seem to take everything in stride. They weren’t bothered until you packed up their beds for the pending tsunami.
    We will be to PV November 15-22. Maybe you guys will be around. We sometimes go to Puerta Penasco or Rocky Point on the SEa of Cortez. The water is so cold, I couldn’t believe it. I was wanting the warm PV warm. But no.
    Anyway, I love hearing your travels or non travels and maybe we will run into your faces in PV in the fall.
    Take care you guys. Hug the kitties.
    Jackie and Dwight

    • Debbie Schlinger on July 23, 2020 at 4:01 am

      What writing – what pictures – what adventures – what tips – what an example of making the most of life. I could barely take it all in. Such a terrific way to help us learn about you, your environment, and the kittens. Appreciate it all. Thinking you need a tv show. Now I know more than ever your talents, big hearts, and why it is always fun to hear in print and virtually see you. Keep up the full agenda to make more blogs. Wishing you health and more happiness!Namaste! Debbie
      P.S. and I thought Jackson Hole life sweet…perhaps our summer weather better but that place rather special…or you know how to make it that way.

      • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:21 pm

        Awww… thanks for the kudos, Debbie! Coming from my HS English Teacher, that means a LOT to me!! So glad you’re enjoying following our sailing adventures (or lack of sailing at the current time!) Hopefully we’ll get out sailing again one of these days soon. In the meantime, we’ll make the best of things and continue having adventures however we can. 🙂

      • Nancy Dorning on July 23, 2020 at 10:51 pm

        Thanks for sharing, I so enjoy reading your stories. Stay safe, stay healthy.

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:37 pm

      Thanks, Jackie, we will most likely still be in Barra in Nov, but you never know, our plans are always written in sand at low tide! Stay well and hope to see you soon!

  4. Sherri on July 21, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    You two certainly keep yourselves busy. Good to get caught up on all the “goings on” and It’s always lovely seeing your beautiful faces, mask or no mask. I think I just might have to Barra on my list of places to visit. You know how much I love bird watching. Giant hugs to both of you. Stay happy and healthy.

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:36 pm

      Oh yes girlfriend, you would LOVE all the birds around Barra!! And it should just be a beautiful 3-day sail from La Paz to here… maybe next year we can all meet up here. Or you can join us aboard Due West if you don’t want to move Pablo! Bueno verano mi amiga! xo

  5. David Owen Hastings on July 22, 2020 at 12:28 am

    This is so fun, to get a glimpse into your lives! Thanks for taking the time to share it all with us, the photos and stories are wonderful.

    Continue staying safe, healthy and cool!

    Love,
    David

    • Pam Sproul on July 22, 2020 at 3:56 am

      Love your blogs ~ so well written and the photos are beautiful and yes I would love to zoom with you sometime and say hi so let’s figure it out 💋💋

      • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:33 pm

        Thanks Pam! I’m hoping Santa brings me an iPhone 11 (for the CAMERA!) for Christmas… LOL! 🙂 Yes, let’s Zoom soon! xo

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:34 pm

      Hey David, so glad you enjoyed reading about our adventures… just like we LOVE seeing pix of your beautiful quilt designs! Stay well and keep shining your Creativity on the world! xoxo

  6. katie cranor on July 22, 2020 at 3:12 am

    Loved reading this! Thinking of you both, and looking forward to more posts and inspiring updates 😊

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks, Katie, so glad you enjoyed reading about our Mexican adventures! Hope you and your littles are staying safe and well.

  7. Teresa Sicade on July 22, 2020 at 5:19 am

    That’s a great blog posting, thanks for catching us all up on life in Barra this summer. We’re all feeling the same loneliness and isolation. This week we’re in Friday Harbor, and guess what, it’s never been such an odd place. We need to just stay positive and have good news like your posting and get through this together. Can’t wait to see your beautiful faces again in person. Until then, stay safe, wash up, and VOTE!

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks, Teresa! We miss our Cuba sailing buddies, hopefully, Croatia will pan out next year. In the meantime good luck with all your boat projects and let’s do a Zoom soon! xo

  8. Deborah Bach on July 22, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    I love your posts and photos! It’s always interesting to hear what you’re up to and what the cruising life in Mexico is really like. Glad to hear you’re both well and staying safe. We miss you! Hugs to you both, and to Tosh and Tikka.

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:26 pm

      So glad you’re following our adventures, Deborah! We miss you guys and hope our wakes will cross soon! You guys will like it down here, and Lily too! 🙂

  9. Wai-Lin on July 22, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this! Our times together in Mexico seem so far away now; gosh, you had a tsunami warning as well? Glad to see the fur kids are happy and meerkat-ing. Not sure when we’ll see all 4 of you again; more likely 2021, at the earliest. The summer forecast seems to be stronger hurricanes; we had a tornado here 2 weeks ago. Extremely strong winds – lots of big branches on the streets – and very heavy rains. Like a huge watery blanket. Tq 😍 for the updates.

    • Heidi & Kirk on July 23, 2020 at 7:22 pm

      Yikes! A tornado in Toronto?! Stay safe!! We miss you guys and feel like we got lots of “BONUS” time with you here last year. 🙂 xo

  10. Maggie Jay of SailingDIPITY on August 11, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    The tsunami warning sounded super scary. Only 30 minutes to prepare? Eeep! It definitely gives us something to think about before heading south!

    Great blog too! Thanks for sharing it with me!

  11. Nita and Mike Conlan on August 17, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    Kirk and Heidi, I’m finally getting around to reading your update. Loved all the great photos, as usual, and getting an update on how life is there in Barra with COVID19. We actually took our boat to south sound for a week for our shake down cruise. The head clogged up on the first day, we only ran aground once and I put cumin in the muffins instead of cinnamon (actually not bad and Mike can’t taste anything anyway). We are back home to take care of some boat things (new rigging for the backstay) and a little remodel work before we head out north on the boat. Would love to catch up on Zoom when you have time. Loved all the photos of Barra – brings back great memories and definitely the Tsunami warning (although we had a little more time). The coconut looks so refreshing! The cats look happy! Hugs! Nita and Mike

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