Apologies for the recent radio silence. Somehow life has gotten in the way of blogging, including both of us having unexpected eye surgeries in the past few months. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet… when we last wrote, we were getting ready to participate in Barra’s Cruise-In week including fundraising, school and library maintenance work, and sailing regatta. We’re thrilled to report that the entire week raised $10,000 US for the Barra schools and public library. Thanks so much to those of you who contributed to the fundraising event. The town of Barra is grateful!
**Click all smaller images to view larger.**
Above: Mixing paint and painting the Barra Public Library was fun, but racing Due West in the Regatta was a blast! We’re the blue spinnaker in the middle of the photo. Not sure who took this photo, it was posted everywhere after the regatta, so thanks to whoever took it.
Jack and Jill
In late February, we volunteered time to paint the public library along with several other cruisers, masked, socially distanced, and with plenty of fresh air through the open windows. And we had a blast in the Regatta! As it turns out, many other boats brought on crew and we were the only boat to Jack-and-Jill (double-hand) the race—so glad to see we still have what it takes to race well! Considering we started dead last (due to a wind shift at the startline), we were super happy to pick off boats all the way up the windward/leeward course and finish in 3rd. And likely, we could have been first if it weren’t for a spinnaker hoist snafu. Next time well pop the chute on a practice run before the start—LOL, literacy test!
Back in the USA…Briefly
By late March, travel and visiting restrictions had been loosened up enough that we were able to fly to the US and visit both sets of Heidi’s parents. We got to have a “do-over” 90th birthday party for Heidi’s dad Verne a month after the actual date (this in itself is remarkable as we were told by his doctors when he was 87, he wouldn’t likely make 88!) And we helped facilitate moving Verne & Willa from Albuquerque to Salt Lake City, to be closer to Heidi’s brother David. An added bonus, the 800′ lower elevation between the two cities has meant that Dad no longer needs to be on oxygen!! Then we had a great visit with Heidi’s Mom Jean and step-dad Pete south of Tucson. SO nice to see family after 18-months! We left Tosh & Tikka in the good hands of our friends Judy & Paul at their condo in Puerto Vallarta, where the cats have spent a few summers and felt right at home with their dog Coco.
Above Top Row: Dad might not have many teeth left, but he can still chow down on birthday cake, and tell a good joke!
Second Row: Heidi’s two favorite guys, and the sibling’s dinner out with Heidi’s brothers Paul (left) and David (right).
Third Row: Delicious Indian Food in Albuquerque with family-friend Luba, and how does Dad like moving back to SLC?
Bottom Row: Willa and Verne settled into their new place closer to family, and Heidi finally gets to see her mom, Jean, for the first time in 18 months!
“I’ve NEVER liked shag carpets…” — Kirk Hackler
Upon our return to Vallarta, (and the night before Judy & Paul were going to drive us with the cats five hours back to Barra), with both hands full, Kirk caught his prehensile index toe on a shag carpet area-rug and took a face-plant into the corner of a table. YIKES!! Unfortunately, Humpty Dumpty ended up cracking the orbital bone around his right eye in several places, as well as fracturing his cheekbone. So he had to have surgery (with the awesome Dr. Ziggy!) using plates and screws to put him back together again.
Above: Black and Blue don’t look so good on you! Kirk had plates/screws #1, #3, and #4 from the diagram above.
We’re thankful he didn’t need #5 (mesh under the eye socket!), for Dr. Ziggy’s skill, and for Kirk’s FULL recovery.
We can’t thank Judy & Paul enough for graciously letting us be their roommates for another four weeks while Kirk healed up and got the AOK to finally head back to Barra in May. We had been away from Due West for almost two months, and it was great to get home! Thankfully, Dr. Ziggy did a fantastic job and Kirk has made a full recovery as you can see above… his sprained toe actually hurt him longer than his face did.
Above: Judy & Paul with one of the most spectacular PV sunsets we’ve seen yet! Judy returned from Oaxaca and brought fried crickets (a Mexican delicacy!?) We both braved trying them and weren’t impressed. Being fried, we thought they’d be crunchy, but they were mushy instead. No Bueno! :-O As a THANK YOU for letting us stay, we painted Judy’s bedroom wall which she’d wanted to have done for a while. Thankfully we had recent practice from the Barra Library! LOL
Operation Good Medicine
Earlier in the year, Heidi was asked to facilitate two small mastermind groups of first-year functional medicine students, while she started her second year at The School of Applied Functional Medicine (SAFM). Now SAFM has recently asked her to stay on and facilitate several more student groups on a more permanent basis going forward, which she’s thrilled about. It’s all via Zoom and her students hail from around the globe, including Dubai, London, Toronto, Mexico, Japan, US, and more.
SAFM students must already have a healthcare license and practice to attend this rigorous 3-year functional medicine program. And the student’s modalities range from MDs, ND, PAs, RNs, NPs, to Acupuncturists, Nutritionists, PharmDs, and Health Coaches all looking to add a functional medicine component to their practice. Heidi is loving everything she’s learning, and how she’s able to apply this knowledge to help her health coaching clients get to the true root cause of what’s ailing them and turn their illness into wellness.
Heidi was also working with a yoga teacher colleague to host a Yoga & Wellness retreat here in Mexico in November, but that has recently been postponed until next year due to continued pandemic issues.
Retinal Tear + Shingles NOT Recommended
Of course, even health coaches aren’t immune to random wear and tear on the body. And in late May Heidi developed an “age-related” retinal tear in her left eye (apparently most common in those with myopia, or nearsightedness). Yikes, she does NOT recommend getting a retinal tear if you can avoid it! Early warning signs are flashes of bright light around the peripheral vision. PSA: If you get a torn retina (which can look like a jagged black hole suddenly appearing in your vision), you need to see an ophthalmologist ASAP to prevent potential blindness. Thankfully we found a great ophthalmologist in Manzanillo, the large port city about an hour south of us. The surgery to repair the retinal tear was outpatient, with just local anesthesia—that all went well with virtually zero pain before or after.
The most frustrating part of the whole experience was having to keep her head face-down for a week afterward. They fill the eyeball with a mix of gasses to pressurize it, so staying face-down allows the gas bubble to “float to the top”, which is essentially the back of the eye when your face is down. This pressure holds the retinal repair in place while it heals. Let’s just say there is NO way you can get comfortable enough to sleep (unless maybe you own a massage table?), for the better part of a week. And the effect of looking out the eye with the gas bubble is like looking through a snorkel mask half-full of water.
And whereas in MOST people, the eyeball absorbs the gas bubble in 7-10 days, in Heidi’s case for some unknown reason, it took a whopping 57 days and has finally just cleared a few days ago. The downside of this, (besides looking through a bubble), is the gas actually acts as an irritant to the eye after an extended period of time. The eyeball, in its infinite wisdom, quickly grows a layer of protective cells across the back of the lens capsule to wall itself off from the inflammatory gas. This layer of cells then further clouds the vision. So now she has to have some additional laser surgery to remove the layer of “protective cells”. After that, she should have her vision fully restored.
Above: Who knew only a few weeks after Kirk sported his pirate eye patch, Heidi would be sporting her own too! Her post-surgery drinking coconut reward was bigger than her head. Heidi re-purposed her Harmoni stand-up desk for sleeping in the face-down recovery mode, which was NO picnic for any of us, Tosh & Tikka included! Big thanks to s/v Prarie Fox for lending the travel pillows and to Kirk for all of his help. Thankfully she’s recovered well!
Heidi also recently came down with a case of shingles post-eye surgery (again, not recommended, get the shingles vaccine if you’re over 50!). Since a course of prednisone is often linked to getting shingles, we’re wondering if the small dose of prednisone post-surgery to keep her eye from swelling was the trigger? NOT fun. So she’s been doing extra self-care, acupuncture, meditation, and lots of sleep, to recover from both. If you do get shingles, it’s worth knowing that there are specific acupuncture points just for shingles, and they have definitely helped.
The day before Enrique hit the clouds were building into beautiful patterns.
In the midst of Heidi’s eye recovery, we experienced a tropical storm followed by a hurricane only one week later! Climate change much?? Let’s just say that Mexico experienced four tropical storms and one hurricane in June, and would typically not see ANY until August. You do the math… We think Mother Nature is pissed! Kirk got Due West well prepared for Hurricane Season without much help from Heidi. Our large sun-shade/rain-shade stows away in about 20-minutes, so we usually keep that up until a storm is imminent, and then quickly stow it away if winds are going to be above 35+ kts.
Above Left: Due West in her “summer dress”, full sun/rain shades, and dinghy hanging ready to deploy for exploring around the lagoon. When not in use, our dinghy is ALWAYS hoisted out of the water and locked to Due West, and the outboard is locked to the dinghy, better safe than sorry. It would suck to lose our “car”. Mexico is very safe in this regard, but other parts of the globe not so much.
Above Right: Due West in Hurricane-mode, sans canvas, dinghy lashed down to foredeck, kayaks and main cover lashed. After hurricane Enrique, we were surrounded by flotsam and jetsam, including lots of water hyacinths that came out of the lagoon when they excavated through the beach to let the water drain out, so it wouldn’t flood the town as badly as it did last year in Tropical Storm Hernan.
We actually had a Hurricane Party aboard Due West with our dear friends, Judy & Fred, from s/v Wings (see photos below), who’d come into the marina to wait out the storm. We used to race against them in Seattle about 30 years ago. Then they took off to circumnavigate the globe for 17-years (check out their blog for their amazing adventures), and we met back up with them in Mexico six years ago. They are home-based out of La Cruz, north of Puerto Vallarta, and it was really fun to have them hanging out in our hood for a few weeks.
Hurricane Enrique was about 150 miles off-shore when it passed us by. But with a 300-mile diameter, while we didn’t see a lot of wind (20-40 kts for about three hours with one gust of 65 reported in the marina), it did bring about 17” of rain over three days. Not quite the 27” of rain in 24 hours that Tropical Storm Hernan brought last August. But still enough to wipe out the road once again… If only they’d finished repairing it last winter when we didn’t have a single drop of rain between November and May (manãna doesn’t mean tomorrow, it just means not today!)… Ah, but that would have been too easy!
Above: the road to Grand Isla Navidad Resort & Marina was being worked on from last year’s washout after Tropical Storm Hernan. Don’t push the river, it flows… Mother Nature doesn’t like to be told where to go as evidenced by this dirt berm/dike on the right which washed through yet again, turning the roadbed into a river channel, what they really need is a bridge!
So once again the only way to the Grand Isla Navidad Resort & Marina is via boat. This includes all employees, guests, food, bottled water, ice, etc. Deliveries of food, ice, and hotel guests along with tons of luggage via panga (Mexican fishing boats), cruise by our transom multiple times a day, our daily entertainment! Oh, and the armored trucks also can’t get to the ATM at the hotel, so the closest ATM is now a 20-minute taxi ride away on the other side of Melaque.
Above: With no road access, all employees, guests, luggage, food, drinks, and ice-ice baby must still be brought into the marina via panga.
Fixin’ a Leak Where the Rain Comes In 🎶
Hurricane Enrique made a few deck leaks more evident… like the water pouring in above our Nav Station electronics! Now we need to track them down and fix them. Chef-Boy-Our-Kirk always making AMAZING, delicious, healthy meals!
When he’s not working on boat projects (a never-ending task of head (toilet) repair, tracking down leaks from the recent deluge, or sleuthing the source of a propane gas leak!), Kirk loves riding his bike (THANKS Merle!) up and down all the hills around the resort. And hikes a mile round-trip with one or two backpacks of laundry each week, while Heidi is on school or client coaching calls. He’s taken over teaching morning yoga to other cruisers (Heidi hasn’t been able to participate much while her eye has been healing). And Kirk’s also become a pro at using the BBQ for all kinds of meals (including overnight oatmeal!), since using the stove heats up the boat too much in the summer.
And Captain Kirk really enjoys being the Barra Cruiser’s weatherman on the VHF Net. He looks over NOAA and other weather forecasting data from several sources each morning, then puts his spin on what to expect that day and for the next couple of days. We host the VHF Net two mornings each week, helping cruisers with anything they need, from doctors’ phone numbers to where to get spare refrigeration parts, and announcing daily activities like beach yoga, fishing tournaments, or local hiking (check out the wood storks along the canal in the banana and coconut palm plantation below).
Grand Isla de Navidad, a Tropical Paradise
There are a fun group of about 15 cruising boats summering in Barra this year, and it’s a totally different vibe than last season. Summer 2020 we all got “stuck” here in paradise when the Mexico port captains locked down all ports for four months due to C*vid, and wouldn’t let anyone leave—some were not too happy to be here. If you recall the Santa Maria replica ship that was here last summer, they had a good time here and were finally able to sail her back to her homeport in Spain this past spring.
This summer everyone who is here has chosen to be here, and you can probably guess why from the photos below. (Drone photo of resort below is from Grand Isla Navidad Resort marketing images, all others are from Heidi’s new iPhone 12Pro camera, THANKS Pete!) The boats staying here for the summer range from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and New Mexico, to China, Sweden, and Switzerland! We’ve all been gathering at the pool to cool off in the afternoons, and Heidi helped to start a Women’s Circle with all of the ladies here.
Unfortunately, the Delta-variant is ramping up around the lovely town of Barra right now, and we currently know at least six people who have it, though thankfully none are super sick. We have scaled back our socializing a LOT, and mask up and use tons of our fav NYR Organic hand sanitizer once a week when we take the water taxi into town for acupuncture, whole roasted chicken, and groceries. We are basically back to doing everything we were doing a year ago to stay healthy and prevent getting or spreading it. We personally know of several people who’ve contracted it post-vaccination, and we wish mainstream media would do a better job of letting people know just because they’ve had the jab, doesn’t mean they can’t still catch it and/or infect others.
Barra and the nearby town of Melaque are a wonderful juxtaposition of brightly colored modern-style architecture mixed with traditional Mexican Palapa roofs. And literally right next door you can find chickens, roosters on wheels, and turkeys running around. Check out the is mobile marimba player who pushes his marimba on wheels down the street, stopping to play at cafes along the way. Mexicans are nothing if not inventive!
Books We’ve Recently Enjoyed
For fun, we’ve recently gotten into listening to audiobooks (check out the apps Libby and Hoopla which let you check out and listen to audiobooks from your own library for free—thanks Seattle Public Library!) Heidi used to read books to Kirk while he made dinner, but since she hasn’t been able to see well enough to read for the past 2 months (thankfully her classes are all audio/video), this has been a great solution.
Two books we’ve recently listened to and highly recommend: The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times, by Anthony DePalma, which we happened to have finished just prior to the recent Cuban uprising. This book will REALLY help you understand what’s going on in Cuba right now. Even without any internet in Cuba, we are miraculously in touch with our dear friend Bel via WhatsApp and are getting daily updates of what’s happening there, it’s not pretty. #CubaLibre!
And Magdalena, River of Dreams: A Story of Colombia, by Wade Davis. Wade Davis is a National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Ethnobotanist from BC, Canada, whom we’ve seen speak in Seattle several times. He’s spent 30+ years studying the jungles of the Amazon, much of it in Columbia. This book is a fascinating look at the history of Columbia, the good, the bad and the ugly, through the lens of the Rio Magdalena, where 85% of the population of Columbia live along its banks. If your only recolection of Columbia stems from Miami Vice and the DEA War on Drugs, Magdalena River of Dreams will upgrade your knowledge on how this remarkable country has picked itself up by the bootstraps and is becoming a force for reversing climate change. Bonus: if you listen to the audio book, Wade Davis reads it himself so you get all of emphasis and inflections in the places he intended. Warning: the section dealing with the FARC and gurella wars is “rated R for violence”, and we skipped a few bits there.
Cats & Other Critters
Last but not least, the furbies! Tosh & Tikka are as chillax as ever, letting us put wet towels on them to help them cool down in the summer heat. Tosh, who just turned 7 (and is now three years cancer-free!) loves sleeping on a wet tea towel on top of the refrigerator, which is about the coolest spot in the boat.
Tikka (who will be 7 next month) is always on the watch to alert us to any interloping critters… while Tosh keeps on snoring. And since we live right on the edge of the jungle, there are lots of critters here. There’s actually a wildlife biologist on staff at the resort to trap/move things like boa constrictors, coatimundis (a Mexican raccoon-like animal), raccoons, and even crocodiles. So Tikka has alerted us to a few recent unwelcome night visitors including coatimundis running on deck in the night (like raccoons they typically go after food or garbage, but we NEVER keep anything on deck, so not sure why they were here), a small 2″ crab (it must have crawled up the dock line and then dropped down through the head hatch onto the bathroom floor—or else it crawled up through the head (toilet)!?), crickets, geckos (a.k.a. gummies for Tosh!), and flying cockroaches (flying in to get out of the hurricane!)
However, Tosh is the main hunter in the family and goes after things (like the cockroaches and the crab below) once Tikka has alerted the family! And the tropical rains also brought out the flies, termites (thankfully they only lasted a few days!), and mosquitos in full force! Lest you think living in paradise is all sunshine and rainbows, this isn’t a vacation, this is a lifestyle. And such is life in paradise—you gotta take the bad with the good… as in life everywhere, right?
We give gratitudes each day that we’re currently living in this lovely piece of paradise, and we never take the beauty and nature around us for granted. So many colorful birds, flowers, butterflies, sunrises, and sunsets… and the night sounds of crickets, frogs, cicadas, and other insects merge into a tropical evening concert.
We hope this finds you all staying well and keeping cool this summer. We’ll try to keep you updated more often than bi-annually next time!
LOVE & HUGS from Mexico,
Heidi & Kirk, Tosh & Tikka