Velella's Drift

An account of Velella's voyage from Seattle to New York via Panama, 2009-2011

Tuba- ‘clock

Oh, it’s colorful and sunny and I’m really going to miss the avocados and dolphins when this is all through, but I feel guilty for not also telling you about the things I won’t miss about Mexico. It’s not all Coronas and Chicklets down here; some things just drive me nuts.

For one thing, when I ask for coffee at a restaurant, ever hopeful for “yum, Mexican coffee,” I often receive a cup of hot water and a can of coffee grounds and a spoon. Even instant coffee would work out better than just grounds and water. I don’t yet know how to communicate in Spanish, “Excuse me, I don’t care what culture this is because nowhere in the world does grounds + water = coffee. And Mexico, for your wonderful coffee reputation, you should be ashamed of the way you serve your own!”

Or how, in a quaint, otherwise quiet little towns of no more than 7 streets, trucks sporting enormous loudspeakers bungeed on to the roof troll the lanes, blaring announcements in Spanish that one would think must have to do with an emergency, but in fact are advertising “MANDARINA DULCE!!!!!! DELICIOSO!!!!!” over and over and over and over. I have never bought a sweet little mandarin orange from one of these trucks for the same reason that I’ve never competed for one of those huge stuffed animals at a fair. Both elicit my fight-or-flight reaction.

Or, is it just me that thinks this is odd? Mexicans apparently like to bury old people up to their necks in the sand on the beach–with all their clothes on. At a glance it’s not that strange to see someone buried in the sand—it’s fun, we’ve all done it. But here, it’s not little kids burying each other or burying their compliant mothers, it’s 40 year old women burying their 70 year old mothers—who are usually wearing soaking wet jeans and a shirt. The first time I saw this, I was like, huh. But the more I notice it, the itchier it makes me.

But as one cruising couple reminded us, Mexicans have a completely different idea of fun than we do—we sailors are truly the weird ones here. So we put up with their jet skis zooming around the anchorage using our boats as a slalom course and throwing up criss-crossing wakes that knock our house around like a toy in a bathtub. We know we’re the guests here, of course. But when we’re sitting at dinner and hear an enormous BANG on the side of the hull, and I run out into the cockpit yelling “what the—“ and see two kids in a kayak unabashedly T-boning our boat—I think my Spanglish was pretty clear. They fell out of the kayak and dragged it away swimming. (I honestly didn’t feel like that was culturally insensitive).

Right now we’re in the throes of “tuba -‘clock.” Defined on our boat as: The time of day (sometime around 2 or 3pm usually) when a lone tuba player strikes up his one-man-band on the beach. It doesn’t matter what beach—the tubist is absolutely everywhere up and down the coast. Perhaps he’s drunk, perhaps not, but his 10-note repertoire would suggest the former. His little ditty is comprised of scales, kind of, a couple arpeggios (remotely resembling), and a neverending repeat, beginning at “tuba- ‘clock” and ending well after we’re in bed. There’s no party—just a tuba carrying loudly across the water, every day. And if it isn’t a tuba, it’s a guy with a megaphone and a heartache. Sometimes a drum.

All I’m saying is, as it’s raining and snowing in the northern climes and you’re jealous as hell that we’re kicking it in Mexico, please go enjoy a great cup of coffee for me, put on a good album, take a bath, and have a laugh at our expense. If I come out of this experience with nothing else, I will have discovered a deep appreciation for my own wonderful home.

And to truly heighten the authentic armchair travel experience you’ve had with us today, please listen to the Macarena on repeat at least five times. Once this song is firmly and irrevocably stuck in your head, you will have joined us in spirit down in Mexico!



  Brook wrote @

Thanks for the smile, but I still wish I was there!!

  ogm wrote @

i am now afraid of going to the beach while i am there!!

  Peter C. wrote @

a tuba, you say ?

perhaps I can find one in a souvenir shop and bring one aboard for a “response’ serenade” back to your friend on the beach…

perhaps with a cup of luke-warm coffee coffee grounds on the side…

we’re headed for god-knows how much below zero this week here in MN. and that’s before the wind-chill. the sympathy supply is tapped.

see you soon.

p.s. is a tuba considered carry-on luggage?

  Bonnie wrote @

When I’m at our resort in Playa del Carmen, I forego the pleasure of their coffee. It is usually luke warm and bitter. Instead I partake of Pepsi light (even though I prefer coke light) to get my caffeine fix. Have your garbage ready for the next kayak that bumps your boat (really spoiled garbage)! As far as the tuba is concerned, you can always walk by him and stuff a orange in the hole. Oh well, enjoy the sun. As your Dad said, it has been below zero in Duluth for about a week. It is now about 10 above.

  Josh wrote @

Nope. Didn’t work. Still sounds like paradise to me:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: