Family Magazine

Totem’s Interim Normal

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

A new rhythm patterns our secluded life as Totem floats off the cinder-strewn cone of Isla Coronados. Calling this the new normal feels premature, but it's an interim normal with the a heartening return of an anticipatory routine. For all that our world is built on adapting to new situations, that an uncertain future no longer leers with constant reminders of the unknown but is pushed instead to the fringe of consciousness brings comfort. Murmurs of this swing burble in our world, and echo outside.

Totem’s interim normal
Mairen and Siobhan, dolphin-spotting on the way to the anchorage

A few days ago, we made our first visit to a community since leaving La Cruz in March after learning about weekly deliveries to the Loreto town dock by a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Supporting local farmers while accessing fresh produce and minimizing exposure risk? Yes please! This is a win/win/win situation.

We dinghied into Loreto's town dock one month to the day since Totem 's arrival in the area, and as a new process to slightly ease restrictions for cruisers was put in place. Non-residents, ourselves included, had been barred for some time. The new process allowed individual access, and begins with calling the port captain on VHF 16. Paramedics are brought in (ambulance roll, even - mixed feelings about the resources involved) to do provide a temperature check at the dock, and the port captain records the boat name and all passenger names. Once cleared, you're able to enter town for essential activities: the grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and a number of other services are open. The town remains otherwise in lockdown mode; only one person per household may be out at a time.

Totem’s interim normal

Calling the trip into Loreto for produce a "visit" might be an overstatement, since I never actually set foot on shore. Nevertheless, the health check was done for the half dozen crews arriving to pick up our crates of CSA produce.

Totem’s interim normal

Cecilia Fisher lives locally and has organized the connection between farmers and buyers to the benefit of all. "Those eggs were in a chicken this morning," she related proudly, while reviewing the contents of creates with the crews on the dock. Grown in the shadow of a 320+ year old mission in the cooler altitudes of Baja's Sierra Giganta, the fruit and vegetables are beautiful. She was accompanied by the senior of eleven farmers who contributed from their land, who humored me by posing next to the goods.

Totem’s interim normal

As limited as this excursion was, the encounter was oddly tinted with emotion. It's a very strange feeling to be around people after so many weeks of relative isolation. Boats we've been in our 'bubble' with for three or more weeks are familiar, but... who is the new guy? Why doesn't the port captain wear a mask? Next he's handing me a clipboard and pen to register (no gloves in sight either) and passing that around? Who washed their hands, when, and well enough? We haven't had these concerns, off on our own.

The elastic which should hold my N95 mask on has long since crumbled away: an old t-shirt is cut into a tie to hold the contraption on. Not just any rag, but my lucky shirt (stop...I do have one!), a relic of Google swag from about 2004. It's finally falling apart (literally) so this seemed like an appropriate use to continue the lucky run.

Totem’s interim normal
Some fine humans to socially distance with!

Once produce was boarded through our decontamination process from side-deck-hot-zone to cockpit-clean-zone, we headed north to retreat to a favorite anchorage. In the Loreto park island of Coronados, Jamie and I balance connectivity with isolation with a few scattered boats.

Totem’s interim normal
Sure, I could have posted the cropped shot of boat + view. Going for "real life" with tarp over hatch, laundry on lifelines, and messy cockpit!

Only a few twinkling lights reach through the gloaming from Loreto, but the cellular signal extends out 24/7. Aside from staying tuned into updates, this allows us to keep in touch with coaching clients.

Totem’s interim normal
Loreto's official government page on Facebook: confirming Federal suggestions they may be relaxed are not in step with local needs.

To our pleasure and surprise, we've never been busier. April was slow, but that holding pattern is over. Why the surge?

It's partly a function of adding new clients, as the pandemic has nudged people to make meaningful changes in their lives. Life is short: why put off a dream any longer? They are making plans and putting offers on boats.

It's partly a function of aiding legacy clients, as they face unexpected passages and decisions. In addition to helping people go cruising, we support them after cutting docklines. Our days are taken with strategy, passage planning, weather guidance, and routing; many are working through unexpected change, planning for miles they never intended to sail and passages they never intended to make.

Life has settled into a kind of busy, interim normal. As a friend reminded me today: for us, "normal" means anticipating and planning for the unexpected, and at this point the rate of change is at a new low compared to recent months. Thrilled by the CSA, we prepaid for future weeks of produce. Warmed by the company of social-bubble-companions, we've emerged from the total isolation into a hybrid of retreat and new routines.

Totem’s interim normal
Siobhan and Mairen, pulling out beachcombing finds to paint on a sunny afternoon. OK, all afternoons are sunny here!

Interim normal: where morning workouts are shared via Zoom with friends in multiple countries. Freedom to stretch a little further, encouraged by visits from the local Navy - their pre-recorded PSA reminding "Citizens, stay at home!" while twinkling eyes over a mask suggest the water looks good for a swim...or as Siobhan interprets, a paddle, over clear water to visit with turtles and spy gliding rays.

Totem’s interim normal
Workout with motivation via friends on Zoom: good for the mind and body.

TOTEM TALKS return next weekend!

Saturday, May 23, 5:00 pm Pacific / 8:00 pm Eastern; advance registration required. Focus topic: ANCHORING, by popular request.

Meanwhile, download or replay last Sunday's event (and see how the fleet map above fits in).The replay will be available for all registrants (you can still register at this link) for a few more days. You'll need this crazy looking password:
[email protected]

Make us part of your interim normal: register at our Events page to be notified of future events. (If you didn't get the survey, you can still tell us what you want to hear about!).

Totem’s interim normal
Lunchtime for dolphins: a feeding frenzy in front of Bula.
Totem’s interim normal
Cards in the cockpit on a random afternoon...
Totem’s interim normal
Oh hai Turtle!


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