Southbound out of Puerto Vallarta

Post-urchin surgery. We showed up to PV in dire need of recuperation

The two weeks time spent in Puerto Vallarta played tricks on our minds, at once seeming to fly by and last forever.  Both the Laggner’s and Argelia’s bottomless generosity and hospitality helped us to settle right in.  Sarah joined us from CA and we easily found the groove and rhythm of shore-side life.  The push to warm weather and water was over.  We took time to revitalize ourselves while south swells began to sir and stretch and yawn from their long hibernation.

Facade from a colorful PV neighborhood

Feast of freshness at Casa Laggner in Puerto Vallarta

Days were spent gorging on fresh fruits and cheeses and tortillas (we weren’t alone on the tortilla part – apparently 1.2 billion tortillas are consumed per day in Mexico.  That’s about 10 per person per day.  Impressive, amazing, and after tasting the things fresh off the press…totally understandable).  With Argelia’s help we practiced yoga and Spanish.  Forays out of Casa Laggner had us diving in the warm ocean, strolling the beachfront malecon and exploring local barrios.  Most importantly though, it was two weeks spent basking in precious time with family and friends.  Finally our bodies and spirits felt strong again.  We hadn’t realized, or we hadn’t admitted to ourselves just how much of a toll the previous five weeks had taken on us until we were allowed this respite.

These colors spell nourishment to us after weeks of boat diet

Fully seduced by this healthy, body and soul nourishing lifestyle, it took Jade’s arrival to jump-start us.  But like the flick of a switch we snapped to and our minds were back to the voyage.  Pouring over charts, we let our imaginations run wild as to what we would encounter along the next leg.  We were at a big junction in our trip, both climate-wise and seasonally.  From arid, cold and baron Baja we were transitioning to sweltering jungle, teeming with new flora and fauna.  First the magnificent frigate birds had announced the coming shift.  They showed up as far north as Turtle Bay to herald the things to come.  Now it was upon us.  We shed our down insulation and thick wetsuits, stocked the boat with mangos, coconuts, pineapples, limes and apples and pointed Patience toward the mouth of Bahia de Banderas.

Under sail in Bahia de Banderas

Right out of harbor though, we hit a stubborn headwind.  Tacking or way to Cabo Corrientes, the southern tip of the bay, took us the remainder of the day.  Having been off the boat for so long we had lost our sea legs.  Exhaustion and the first signs of seasickness set in quickly, and the heat was relentless.  Pushing straight back towards PV, the wind didn’t seem to want to let us leave.  Immediately behind pace for this 100-mile leg, frustration set in and thoughts of the life we were leaving on shore surfaced.

Trying to push any negative thoughts aside, I busied myself about the boat.  My imagination continued to roam and I pondered sailing life some.  Its image is one of boundless freedom.  But there is a fine line between freedom and burden, I decided, that travel via sailboat walks.  A sailor is slave to the winds and his rig, having to watch both with a keen eye at all times.  These are chains I gladly wear, loving every minute of my apprenticeship to the sea.  However the commitment is undeniable.  Being able to leave Patience safely in the harbor at PV afforded an autonomy we don’t have elsewise.  One of the days we casually hopped a bus to Sayulita up the coast.  I brought a surfboard, a book and a red pepper for a snack.  Oh and the surf trunks I had on if we want to be picky.  The distance we covered that morning would take our full lumbering six-ton vessel about 24 hours.  It was refreshing, and all day we explored with light hearts.  But en route home that night, as the bus charged down dark roads kicking up dust, a sort of guilt set in.  Patience pays back our commitment in spades: safety upon a foreign and sometimes hostile medium for humans and an intimate perspective of what I find to be earth’s most fascinating territories: coastlines.  Our relationship with her is well worth every sacrifice we’ve had to make along the way.  Anyways, with most of the sacrifices having been in the way of comfort, it reminded me of a quote I’m fond of: lust for comfort murders the passions of the soul.  With this in mind, I found a renewed focus in the oppressive heat on board, trimmed our sails and waited patiently.

Bahia de Banderas sunset

With the sun making plans to set, the wind backed off slightly.  Jade took the opportunity to make a shamanic offering for safe passage upon the sea.  Invoking Sedna, the beautiful maiden deity who resides in the sea and Quiella, the grand feminine presence of the ocean itself, he beat a beautiful rhythm on his drum and offered a lock of his own braid, bound with copper.  With the offering came peace of mind and renewed spirits.  The heat gave in to cool night as the sun sank in the distance.  We rounded Cabo Corrientes several hours later, once again resuming the southward progress we seek.

Solitude during night watch sends my mind wandering again.  A couple days before we took off, Japan was hit by the recent earthquake and tsunami combo.  A one-two knock-out combo, compounded immensely by the effects on the nuclear power plants.  While any disaster of this scale will squeeze drops of compassion and concern from hearts across the globe, this one was felt very close to home.  The nature of the disaster was truly global, or at least pan-pacific.  The earthquake cast out destructive waves in all directions, causing deadly destruction close by in Japan, but also wreaking havoc in our home port of Santa Cruz, where 18 boats sunk and millions in damage was caused.  If we hadn’t left on this trip, Patience could easily have been among the vessel casualties.

Life is short and not one second is guaranteed.  The lesson we’ve taken from this is that if you are considering a route deemed “risky”, don’t forget that complacency carries its own set of risks too.  Don’t table your dreams if you have the chance to pursue them, the door won’t be open forever.  Many a false step has been made by standing still.

With heavy hearts our deepest condolences go out to those affected by this disaster.  The losses are indeed staggering and painful, but I hold out hope for a semblance of consolation in the human cooperation occurring around the globe to mitigate the damages.


4 comments for “Southbound out of Puerto Vallarta

  1. Kayla
    April 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Nicely done Paul! Your wisdom is both beautiful and inspiring.. thanks for sharing!!

  2. April 9, 2011 at 10:30 am

    am duly humbled. amazing.

  3. Judy
    April 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Your ‘song of the spirit’ made my own soul feel your freedom. Yet you tempered it with concern for your fellow man and an understanding of the darker side of living on the sea. Lack of comfort is only temporary, if you wish it to be, and memories of these adventures will fuel your vision of the future. You’ve learned well at our knees. . . life only comes once.

  4. Joanna
    May 10, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Wow, beautifully written. Coming from someone who’s been contemplating quitting my job and going on a surf sabbatical for over a year now (but been too scared), your words truly inspire me into action. Again wonderful post, mahalos.

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