Morning Musings of a Grateful Wanderer

For the past week we’ve been anchored in Punta de Mita, near the entrance to Banderas Bay. Depending on which book you read, the village inside the point is either called El Anclote, or simply Punta de Mita. This was once a sleepy fishing village, but like so many places in Mexico it has grown into a vacation destination, with a few hotels and restaurants on shore along with the luxurious Four Seasons Resort located on the point.

We’re about half a mile offshore and Happy Dance surfs on the big swells rolling in from the south, lifting us up and pushing us forward onto our anchor, and then slowly drifting back in time for the next wave. Whenever we stay in an anchorage for more than a few days we tend to get into a certain routine that fits our location. Here in Punta de Mita our days are a bit different from when we’re up in the Sea of Cortez., mostly because there is a lot going on!

When dawn starts lighting up the porthole we wake to the sounds of Happy Dance rocking gently on the waves, with all her squeaks and rattles as wind plays in the shrouds. Marty (with his coffee-man hat on) starts the coffee while I put on the swim attire of the day and head for the cockpit. We like to sit outside, sip our java, and watch the day take shape. As we’ve been sleeping the fishermen who are out all night fishing in the bay or offshore past the point have come in and anchored their pangas so they can catch a nap until it is light.

I love pangas* – they are amazing. They’re the perfectly designed working boat with a high bow, a deep vee-ed hull, maybe a seat or two, and they’re completely open.   They can carry a full load and still power through any sea state, flying over the waves and slicing down into the troughs without slowing, and they can be driven right up on the beach. The bows ride high off the water so that it’s hard to know if the driver can even see you when he’s coming bows on. Personally I can’t imagine sleeping in one, but as Marty says, if you’re tired enough you can sleep anywhere.

When the sun comes up we start to see the heads of the pescadores (fishermen) popping up over the edges of their pangas. A few stretches to work out the kinks, then they’ll stand on the bow doing a balancing act as they take off their orange slickers that kept them warm overnight. Pretty soon the work begins; pulling fish from the nets or from the hold, cleaning them, laying the ice over them, cleaning and bailing the boat…it’s a process. The frigates, boobies, and pelicans circle around dipping and diving as the fishermen serve breakfast up to them. On any given morning there are up to a dozen pangas anchored or rafted up to each other outside the breakwater protected panga harbor as they prepare their catch to transfer to the waiting trucks onshore.

There’s also “Bait-man” as we’ve affectionately named him. This is an elderly man who comes out in his panga long before daylight, to tie up to a buoy that marks his 6’ round netted fish trap.   He pulls fish out of the trap, and sells them to the fishermen that will be going out in the daytime. From our research vessel investigation, (a.k.a. coffee in the cockpit) we’ve determined that “Bait-man” seems to be focused on selling to the pangueros who take tourists out early to fish, as opposed to the pescadores who get their own bait. It doesn’t appear to be a booming business, but maybe the live bait rush is before dawn when we’re still snoozing. More research required.

Another main event is watching the sunrise. Today’s show was spectacular, as there were clouds on the horizon leftover from the hurricane/tropical depression named Otto.   The sun didn’t actually appear until it was well above the mountains behind Puerto Vallarta that were hidden in a thick bank of clouds. The sky however was speckled with pink puffy clouds that glowed brighter and brighter until suddenly there was the huge golden orb peeking through and spreading silver rays glimmering across the sea. Stunning!

Now a decision had to be made; should we listen to the morning radio net, or get on the paddleboards and head for shore? This morning a shore trip won out because it’s been getting rather blowsy in the afternoon and that makes for a bumpy paddle. Also the swell increases throughout the day so that our beach landings become a bit clumsier. So we flop the paddle boards into the water from the deck, walk the lines aft while dodging the shrouds, sheets, and arch supports, tie them to the stern and then with paddles in hand it’s a delicate step off the swim step onto the board, a little push and we’re off!

We paddled the half-mile or so to the beach, timed our landing to miss the breakers (I’m still a little nervous about falling on my new hip), then hauled the boards up to the beach. Since Marty’s having a bit of gout pain in his foot, he found a good perch to enjoy while I went trekking down the beach. It’s been high tide in the mornings, so my walk kept me on the steeper upper beach and eventually hopping across some rock outcroppings. The sun was still hiding behind the cloud bank, turning the sky a pale silver blue, while the white sand was rippled with color that reflected off the trees and sky as each receding wave left a mirror on the sand. It was hypnotic to watch the surf rolling in, with each breaker creating a transparent shiny window to the sea beyond before hesitating for a final moment before crashing down into white foam.

I love watching birds and there was one little shorebird running up and down the beach keeping a wary eye on me as he poked his long beak into the sand to find some tasty treat. There was also a white egret wading in the pools near the rocks, and up in the trees there were a dozen or so yellow birds singing up a storm.

As I walked back to where we’d left the boards I came across three 20-somethings who had come out of the trees by the shore where it appeared they’d been sleeping. They were each sitting in different patches of rocks that had been washed up the beach and they were sorting and filling 5 gallon buckets with rocks of a certain size. I asked what they were collecting and one of the men said they were gathering rocks for the garden. It made me wonder if this was something they were getting paid to do, or if they were taking them back to their home, or maybe he was just feeding me a line of BS. It also made me aware once again that we live in Mexico, but we really don’t live in Mexico.

The pescadores who fish all night and clean their fish while anchored next to us in our floating homes, the vendors at the local tiendas and market stalls, the artisans who sell us goods or cook our food, the men raking the beach in front of the hotels, and now the people collecting rocks for a garden; they all represent a life we won’t ever know. We share this beautiful country with the people who live here, but we see things through such a different lens. We’re so incredibly lucky and thankful that we can be here, living a lifestyle that most would pay dearly for, and we’re especially grateful at the way the Mexican people welcome us with their generosity and friendly smiles.

If you’re still reading this post (and you have my sincerest thanks for your perseverance), you can tell that I’m definitely in a musing mood! Walking on beaches and floating at anchor has a tendency to make you slow down and think about things. One thing I’m thinking on this morning is being aware of others’ sacrifices. We are all given so much by the things that others’ do or give to us, often in silence. I was struck this morning how Marty joined me for a paddle and walk on the beach even though his foot was bothering him. Watching him step gingerly down on the sand to find a perch where he could wait for me while I walked…I do love him so…and yes, I’m a grateful wanderer. This crazy floating life that we lead…it’s incredible.


*Pangas – there are some great articles about the design of the panga.  If you like reading up on stuff…here’s one to get you started!!



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