This is Clouds Form Over Land, weekly writing about life at sea and going ashore.
This letter is a bit of a rerun as we tie up loose ends in Mexico and sail to Florida.
There will be much that I miss about this chapter of life. Time spent on the water and in coastal communities, practicing Spanish with everyone I meet, playing in crystal blue waters, and tending to this vessel and its crew top the list. As we reach towards our destination, new tasks filter in to forge the next chapter as we close this one. Conversations veer into apartment layouts and job descriptions and hybrid vehicles, and then back to anchorages and the Gulf Stream and provisions.
As we considered what else to pack into this last destination south of the US border, wood shopping came to mind. Scott met a carpenter on the windward side of the island and soon we were negotiating square pieces of guanacaste that could be turned into bowls and other round objects once we have a workshop set up in Virginia. Large tree rounds sat in the corner and looked around the size of an open space on board Azimuth. The price was right and we are now carting around a future tabletop.
The back half of this year will be spent puzzle-piecing a life on land. There is much unknown, and much beginning to weave together.
Read on for more about the tree in this February 2021 excerpt from our sailing blog:
We hopped across the Gulf of California to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle – a fishing village in Bandaras Bay, NW of Puerto Vallarta. The town is named after a tree that had been catching Scott’s woodworker eyes throughout our route. These trees provide ample shade, interesting shapes, and a coveted combo of hardwood and fast growth. We celebrated crossing the Sea of Cortez at the “Treehouse Bar” – an establishment that reminded us of the Alameda Maker Farm with its bar made from reused materials and encompassing a giant tree. Huanacaxtle is the Nahuatl word for this tree, parota is the Spanish. Nahua peoples are the largest indigenous group in Mexico. The Aztecs were Nahuas, and the language is spoken with variety by 1.7 million people today.
La Cruz is a haven for “cruisers” with an active daily radio net, shops and swaps, racing, and a community of sailors who decide to stay a week, awhile, or forever. We loved the Sunday market, especially one booth that sold 10 year aged cheddar, unlabeled and home-brewed mezcal, and avocados selected by the vendor to align with your eating preferences and timeline. I spent an afternoon knitting in the town’s central square in the shade of a huancaxtle and was reminded of similar times spent in parks stateside – Golden Gate, Prospect, and Central. The square has many beautiful trees and a trampoline for kids to jump in for 10 pesos a session.
The waterfront in Acapulco also had several of these trees building shade for various vendors. Here in La Crucecita, we have seen many lining boulevards during our long, hot walks about town and had a delicious Oaxaqueña breakfast atop a huanacaxtle table. We ordered groceries to the boat and had a small mixup during the dropoff. Our new amigo Jose helped us get it sorted, and I heard him say “take a right at the giant parota” in Spanish to the delivery driver.
Our next move is a seven-day sail to the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. Guanacaste is (you guessed it) another name for the tree, which happens to be the national symbol too. We will sail by Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, where the tree is known as the conacaste. In Panama, we will call it the coratu and on the Yucatan peninsula, we will switch to the Mayan name – pich. Once back in the states, we might call it the elephant or monkey ear after its distinctive seedpods.
This tree is a nitrogen fixer, food for livestock, support character in shade-grown coffee plantations, and coveted resource in Mexican folk medicine. Scott is dreaming of more space for wood-working projects when we land on the east coast, and bookmarking wood slab sources for this sustainable hardwood. Each day looks a bit different aboard Azimuth, and it’s been fun and comforting to play “spot the parota”. Maybe you will see it somewhere too?
Schedule that pesky care appointment - dentist, doctor, etc.
Learn the name of a tree near you.
Use up lingering ingredients in the kitchen.
Written in the spirit of not letting what we can’t do get in the way of what we can.
Did you try any of these? I’d love to hear about it.
Thank you for reading, replying, sharing, and supporting monetarily. Every bit adds wind to the sails of this effort!
I also love trees. This one that Scott likes so much looks like a beautiful tree. I am impressed that you have a space for it on your boat at this homestretch stage of your journey. I think trees have feelings and consciousness, but they express it in chemicals rather than words. There is a willow tree here in the Marina Village park, that is next to the fitness station, that I feel an spiritual connection to. I have a meditation practice where I mirror this tree, I reach up and touch the leaves, and I feel tree energy in my body. It is a non-rational experience, but maybe you and Scott understand. Sincerely, Tom.