July 6, 2017

As of today there are four weeks until my window to attempt a crossing of the North Channel begins. Meanwhile, the summer rains have hit Mexico City. Every night it rains: we fall asleep with rain, we get up with rain.

On Thursday night it was as if the sky was falling. In the hills of Ajusco, where we live, the force of the water echoed on the glass ceiling. I like awake, unable to sleep with the noise.

As I go down the stairs of the house to get a glass of water, I suddenly see two lights in the glass doors that face the garden. I stop, looking attentively.

There’s my friend the raccoon. I do not know if it is the mother or the father of the family that has lived in our garden for many years, together with the opossum and a healthy population of birds.

As I adjust my eyes to the darkness, I see that she is watching me from the dry area covered by the awning. Slowly I descend, and she does not move. It feels like I have to make a decision here. But what do I do?

Slowly I continue my walk. I decide to go to the kitchen to see what fruit I can find in the cupboard. There are peaches; I guess she would like that. I take one and return to the garden door.

There she is, looking straight ahead, not frightened. I open the sliding glass, crouch down, and draw near. I cannot believe it: she takes the peach right from my hands.

To my surprise she does not bite it, but instead grabs it between her paws and, in a flash, puts the peach on her back. She looks at me and then turns around, disappearing into the rain.

I had seen this maneuver before. It happened the night she came to rescue her baby.

As fate would have it, one morning a raccoon cub woke up in my gym. When I was stretching before beginning my workout, I heard him crying. I found the little thing and covered it with a towel. During the day we gave him water and at night left him in the garden.

We waited a few minutes, and suddenly his mother appeared. She took him, put him on her back, like the peach, and left. I imagine that that was the moment we sealed our friendship.

I returned to my bed and again Don Julián appeared. We were in a tavern talking about the details of my trip. I did not quite understand what he was saying, but there was something about a compass, clouds, waves, and food.

Food—particularly sweets—has always been my weakness. Among my earliest memories of things I loved were my grandmother Maria’s cherry liqueur chocolates. Aunt Nina, on the other hand, made a dulce de lechewith “La Lechera” condensed milk and pine nuts that was my doom. In our adventures on the magic carpet (the one we never flew) we always left room for our provisions.

I once asked Don Julian about the food he carried. Although he gave me a lengthy explanation, what intrigued me most was the delicious jam made with a lot of oranges. I had never tasted an orange marmalade. In Mexico in the 1960s all we ate was McCormick strawberry jam.

One day, Nina surprised me with a jar of orange marmalade. The jar itself was similar to the strawberry jam, but when we opened it there was a layer of wax on top. Nina explained that the wax served to keep fungi out of the marmalade once it finished its cooking process.

When I awoke I jotted down my dream. The part about the food had been clear to me: I would have to make sure that there was orange marmalade in my camp. I hadn’t deciphered the rest of the message, however.

While I was swimming later that day the meaning of the clouds and the waves became clear. I had to find the place where I could find out about conditions for the swim. It took me a few hours, but I finally succeeded:


On this site I can see real-time climatological data for the North Channel. I’m encouraged that today the water is at 14ºC and many days with winds of less than 15 knots are expected.

From the time I arrive in Donaghadee, a town 30 minutes north of Belfast, I will be consulting this site every day. I hope that during my swim window there is a stretch of many hours where the wind is below 15 knots, preferably between 2 and 5 knots.

At the end of my training swim, while I bathed in cold water, I remembered something else: in the dream there was a tree.