Family Magazine

Blooper Reel: Jamie’s Take on Summer in the Sea of Cortez

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

Jamie wrote the lines below while we baked in the Sea of Cortez summertime heat while ducking bees zooming around the main cabin. I think his brain may have fried a little, actually Consider yourself warned: hot climates have consequences!

Blooper reel noun, north american usage A compilation of outtakes to showcase mistakes and mishaps for the purpose of humor.

Thought you might be wondering how Totem crew is holding up while isolated in Mexico. We are well. I think, yeah, pretty okay at least... considering, four people with virtually no time off of a 46.83' long x 14.25' wide sailboat once the pandemic kicked in. During the first eight months, we were off of Totem for less time than it takes to commute across Seattle on Friday afternoon. No complaints though. We're heathy. Travelers that cannot travel could go nuts in a situation like this. But were doing fine. Just fine... We're fine! Just hanging out with our new buddy, señor Alejandro.

Pachyrhizus erosus is the size of a small coconut, looks like a potato, and tastes like an aged apple lightly sprinkled with dirt. It's sometimes referred to a yam bean, but here's an interesting fact. It's actually a tuber. You probably know already but I'm describing jicama (pronounced HEE-kah-ma). We're not sure if the "kah-ma" part sounds, like a Bostonian saying karma. Or if "kah" is guttural like a cat expelling a hairball. We sidestepped this diction dilemma with our pet jicama by naming him señor Alejandro. Other jicamas onboard didn't sprout so we ate them. Delicious with a squeeze of lime to counterbalance the dirt taste. Señor Alejandro was a virile, sprouting tuber. Watching him grow sure made time fly, until... the rolly anchorage. Señor Alejandro was restless, rolling around and annoying everyone. So we threw him overboard. Alejandro went bloop.

Click, click, click go the pawl springs in your brain anxiously wondering about anything resembling a cruising lesson learned... Well here it is! Never, ever personalize your relationship with things that grow in dirt. They don't swim; not the boating type.

We miss gentle señor Alejandro. Now we have Apis mellifera buzzing around like they own Totem. Even if señor Alejandro could sting like these honeybees (jicamas don't have stingers) he wouldn't. He wasn't that kind of jicama.

To be fair, 30 bees buzzing around the cabin right now aren't zombees (get it, zombie-bees, zombees!) motivated to cause pain. They're here for water and know we have a CruiseRO high output watermaker. Bees are smart (except choosing to spend summer in the Sea of Cortez). These little rascals are fun to watch. It gets zany when 100+ bees visit us below deck.

Blooper Reel: Jamie’s take on summer in the Sea of Cortez
Apis mellifera: charming creatures, until...

Sometimes, one of us accidentally crushes a little bee buddy. In that briefest moment before death, a bee always lands the stinger. Amazing tenacity. You should hear some of the words we say when stung! The best is when a bee flies up the shorts. Picture it... A cry of, "golly gosh (edited...), I've been stung in the tenders!" while ripping shorts off to find and remove the stinger. Buddy bee is dead. Its butt is alive and well, pumping poison into your naked, suffering body. They really are zombees!

I miss pizza so much.

Speaking of stingers. For real, there is another stinger to look out for during summer in the Sea of Cortez that isn't nearly as fun as buzzy bees. Did you spot the clue... "in the sea" there? A stingray! This particular monster is Urobatis halleri, the so-called Cortez round stingray. Rays might look cute and playful leaping skyward, landing with a bloop, but it's a ploy! In a rare off- Totem, ah... well, almost on shore. What was meant to be a pleasant, in waist-deep water, socially distant, COVID restriction compliant, sunset, sort-of-gathering went awry.

Wait - gathering sounds wrong; too germy, closer than we collected. Collected! A collective? A covey, clique, convocation, confluence, or maybe a fever... of a few bubble-boat families watching the sun vanish. Sundowners in a different era. We'd shuffled the sandy bottom to scare off the little bastards (sorry Ms. editor!) but round-faces stayed calm and very hidden. Waiting.

Then whack! A beastie stabbed a teenager from Pulsar in the ankle. Another whack - it was an ambush! This time a dagger into the tenderest little toe. MY LITTLE TOE! Why meeeeee? We fled back to our boats for urgent medical care.

Stingray barbs tear through flesh, spreading nasty poison inside the wound. It's like a poison arrow and wowzers the pain is excruciating. Fortunately, there is a way to control it. Simply immerse the area affected by rapidly spreading poison in wickedly hot water. Not too hot! Just below the temp that melts skin is about right. The pain from the heat masks the much worse round-faced monster toxin. (Observation from alternate method on bubble buddy boat: using even hotter water may feel welcome, but increases post-op recovery time by 5124%).

Cruising lesson learned number two is... Ah ha! Surprised you, didn't I? You thought I was adrift. Ha ha, funny you. Really, we're managing this little away time just fine. Really! I couldn't even pick which I'd eat first. Maybe thin crust topped with a buffalo mozzarella, spicy pepperoni and lots of fresh thyme. Or... pesto with garlic, roasted peppers, and feta cheese. It's much too hot to cook pizza below; and the bees get ornery when it's too hot. Hmmm, maybe we could do with a brick oven on the aft deck...

No pizza, but we're grateful that good food is easy to get. In the early days of COVID, some cruisers were saying Mexico would become chaos and we'd be fighting for survival. Sad, but there are some crazies out there. We don't eat on land, of course, being it's not safe and all. Haven't eaten on land since March 21 st at 8:40pm local time if I'm not mistaken. Instead we dinghy into the town dock every Friday. Masked up, hand sanitizer at the ready, and a mainsail batten to jab anyone that gets within 6 feet. There, masked local suppliers deliver beautiful produce, including jicama. Back aboard Totem a simple process ensures uncontaminated food.

Station one is a soapy water bath for everything that comes on board. Tortillas get soggy and zombees arrive for spa day but this operation must be done according to protocol. Station two is good 'ol Baja sunshine. We lay our haul out on the port side deck, heated to 145 degrees. Tortillas firm up nicely; cheese softens a wee bit, but who doesn't like hot tortilla soup? Station three is the interview. We ask leading questions, like "has anyone you didn't know packaged you? In your travels, have you been on a farm in the last 30 days?" Most items check out but there are always a few bad eggs. Lately, the jicamas seem nervous.

I think I forgot the second cruising lesson learned. Sorry. But the first lesson was solid and should carry the piece. Oh, and some of the parts may not be true. I'm not sure really, it's been over 100 degrees all week. I'm a little lightheaded, and I'm pizza deprived. Do you think Serious Pie would deliver to Baja? It's been a long summer in the Sea of Cortez.

We spent most of the last month in the Pacific Northwest with my family, where one of the first things we did was have PIZZA NIGHT! Meanwhile, my dad recovered from his pacemaker surgery like a champ. Grateful to be able to spend time with him and grateful for the excellent pandemic precautions at Mum's memory care residence (I was able to see her, too). Pizza quota achieved, we returned to Totem in Mexico just a few days ago.

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