Let the Thumb Twiddling Commence

dsc_0262

It is nearly February 3rd, and that means I disembark the Sea Bird in nine days. The past six months have been flushed by in a whirlwind, both literally and figuratively. While I am more than thrilled to have a sabbatical from toilet cleaning, I will miss my floating home. I have grown fond of 6am dirty chai’s and caveman grunts that pass for early morning crew greetings. I know I will miss my naps on the lido, being in the foc’sle when hundreds of dolphins are chattering away outside, finding the best fish tacos at roadside stands, and racing friendly sea lions.

But I’m also so tired. I feel 30 years older. I’m not able to play the piano. I have no privacy. Just the other day I had a conversation with the doctor onboard and four crew members separately asked me to elaborate on my current health state. My roommate walked in on me in the bathroom this week. Three times. No one trusts us with locks. I miss my kitties and visiting my friends and family. I miss sleeping with more than 8” clearance. I miss being involved in the issues I cared so much about at college. So while my imminent parting is bittersweet, I know I’m ready to leave.

dsc_0329

Me at the end of my 6-month contract

What scares me most is going forward. I have no idea what the next few months will look like. All I know is that as soon as I get off in La Paz, I have a flight to Costa Rica and a room booking at a surf hostel. Will I survive the cheap, miniscule propeller plane that my suitcase probably won’t fit in? WILL I TURN INTO A CAREER SURF BUM?? Perhaps my lifelong dreams shall materialize after all!

But actually, Costa Rica has an end date. So begins the weeks of thumb-twiddling. Should I renew another contract at Lindblad? Do paralegal work? Find a career in conservation? Work at the local grocery store? Move to Hawaii and live in a tent while I clean more toilets? Pursue photography and writing while I eat bread crusts and ramen for the end of my days? Where do I even begin looking for a job when I don’t have a location in mind? I feel like I might as well be rolling a pair of dice to determine my next move.

But now that I think about it, I don’t even own a pair of dice.

If anyone has any job offers, PM me and I will bake you cookies.

 

Tips for Staying Alive in Baja

dsc_0330

Baja is undeniably beautiful. I have never witnessed a place of such contrasts. One day, you might be trekking through sand dunes as far as the eye can see in search of life. To your despair (and wonder), you can only find bone-dry turtle shells, hollowed-out pelican bones, and the occasional eerie dolphin carcass. The shifting white sands whip beneath your feet as the landscape comes and goes while you stand still. On these days, you feel like you’re living on another planet. Tatooine or Jakku perhaps.

img_1713

img_1697

Give it three more days, and you will be amazed to find the incredible biodiversity of marine life under the surface at Los Islotes. Hundreds of tropical fish scurry away from you (my favorite being the parrotfish) while you free dive 40 feet beneath the surface to find all sorts of starfish and crab going about their merry lives. Because the water is so clear, you can see the itty-bitty snorkelers at the surface while sun rays shine down and you have a moment of calm respite before you ascend. On your way up, 4 or 5 sea lion adolescents might join you while they do barrel rolls around you in an elaborate game of tag.

IMG_1674.jpg

dsc_0195

Then there are the islands where everything wants to kill you. Take Isla Catalina; a seemingly enchanted island from far away characterized by mountains, a turquoise blue beach, and otherworldly cactus. However, I’m convinced this island has ulterior motives. For example, this island is home to the infamous rattleless rattlesnake. That’s right, they’re just as venomous as normal rattlesnakes but they can’t warn you when they feel threatened in a cruel twist of evolution. Also, narrow cliff tops set by loose, crumbly stones. And when you fall, you will be guaranteed a thorny cushion to make sure you go numb while you spend half an hour plucking inch long needles out of your body.

dsc_0251

Yes, Baja has all of the above, and I have been lucky enough to experience it. However, I wish I had been more prepared for certain longer adventures when things went awry, so I will share my newfound Baja wisdom with you before you make the same mistakes next time you find yourself here:

  1. Wear more sunscreen than you have skin. And a hat. All the time. You’re going to burn. You know, just go ahead and sleep with both.
  2. Bring more than one bottle of water when you leave for an entire day of hiking in the desert. You won’t regret the extra weight and you won’t be hallucinating flamingoes on mountaintops.
  3. Always bring a bandana. These things are life-savers. I use mine for sun protection, wiping the sweat and dirt from my face, picking cactus thorns out of my legs and arms, and quelling bleeding wounds. Also, try to remember to wash it once in a while.
  4. Carry a radio. I go off by myself pretty often, and knowing my track record, I anticipate sticky situations. Especially when there be rattleless rattlesnakes roaming about.
  5. Ditch the snorkel if you’re a good enough swimmer. It’ll slow you down and those sea lions/whale sharks like to swim fast.
  6. Always bring your camera everywhere, but don’t always take pictures.
  7. Try to get yourself marooned on a beach at night. The stars are out of this world (huzzah).

Bah Humbug from Baja

dsc_0126

Apparently, tomorrow is Christmas. I have a strand of Christmas lights and an envelope of Polish opłatek in the foc’sle as a reminder, but my internal clock is failing me on this fact. A day ago, I was drying my hair in the warm desert breeze after a snorkel session with playful sea lions in Cabo Pulmo. Now, the Sea Bird is sailing into a violet and tangerine Pacific sunset while I lament about my post-day off blues.

So even though my Christmas spirit is lacking this year, I feel the need to come to terms with my holiday FOMO. For the record, let me state that scrubbing dozens of toilets on Christmas Day is a cruel and unusual punishment – not even the Grinch would think to conjure such a fate. That being said, I will begrudgingly and non-festively scrub toilets on Christmas because I care to finish my contract and receive my free expedition. Also I get double pay.

On a completely unrelated note, since so much has happened in the past month and I have no tangible plan to relay my stories in a cohesive entry, I have decided to give several choppy and unrelated vignettes to catch you up on December:

Shipyard:

I put on my yellow hard hat stained with sweat and grease stains. With my bucket of steaming hot water and dozens of frustratingly non-absorbent rags, I head several flights up to the Sea Bird, docked on dry land in Alameda, CA. My days are spent adjusting my respirator to minimize toxic paint fumes, listening to musical soundtracks (Phantom, Wicked, King & I, Sweeney Todd, Les Mis, The Producers, Hair), eating Oreos in the warehouse, going on lengthy bathroom breaks, and avoiding the engineers who are doing real work. Looking fine and biden’ time.

Positioning:

6 looong days at sea. Nausea coming out of San Francisco during rocky weather. I take a shower, only to discover the most unpleasant feeling of the shower head trying to drown me while I bump ungracefully from wall to wall, amassing a new arsenal of impressive bruises. After donning my flannel pajama pants, I stumble into a guest cabin and take refuge on the floor while I try to avoid throwing up.

I awake to sun streaming through the windows and a pod of dolphins chirping away while they race the boat at the bow. I take my coffee and pancakes to the deck. The temperature is warmer and warmer every day.

Nights on the lido were magical. Until I was attacked by frigatebirds with 6-foot wingspans. They carpet bombed my backpack at 2a.m. but I took refuge under the tarp and blankets my friend laid out in one of the zodiacs the previous night. At 6:30am, the sun rose over the Baja peninsula and I began another sleepy day watching dolphins at sea.

Baja:

Much more to come on this subject, so I shall leave you all with photos instead of words to sum up my first week here. Not bad at all. (Also shoutout to friend and undersea specialist Ian Markham for taking such awesome underwater footage this week.)

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-11-13-56-pm

dsc_0138

thumb_img_2631_1024(PC: Ian Markham)
dsc_0049

dsc_0149

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-11-16-30-pm

(PC: Ian Markham)

dsc_0150

Well since Christmas Eve turns into Christmas in less than an hour, I must go and publish this entry before it becomes irrelevant. Bah humbug and Merry Christmas.