Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's an Eggspedition

Grocery shopping is such a simple matter.  At least it used to be.  Now, it's just one series of dire and critical decisions after another.  For those of my cruising friends reading this, you can skip this post, as it'll just be something you've already done a bunch of times before.  But for those of you still happily ensconced in a normal, terra firma life, this may open your eyes to some of the realities of living on a sailboat.

The expedition begins by "making the car ready", or in other words, getting the dinghy from the davits to the water.  Although it happens infrequently, just like on land, theft is sometimes an issue and most cruisers tend to raise their dinghy at night, either on davits (arms) that extend over the water off the stern (back) of the boat, or to hoist (lift) it up using a halyard (rope) running from the top of the main mast (biggest stick on the boat), so that it hovers over the water.  We mistakenly assume that this will prevent someone from taking off with our secondary means of transportation, however numerous times we've heard of instances where stealthy panga (little, native boats usually used for fishing by the locals) drivers have simply driven their own craft under the hovering prize, sliced the lines and just as quietly slid off into the inky night.  On Sundancer, our dinghy hovers about 2 feet away from my head when we sleep, and you'd think I'd be well aware of sticky fingers heading our way, but with the constant drone of the necessary fan buzzing in my ear, I'm not so sure that someone couldn't make off with our dinghy without my knowing it (mmm, that's a double negative, did I get that right?).  So anyway, we then have to lower the thing back in the water, pump up the pontoons in case they are slightly deflated, check the fuel and if low, fill from reserves on deck.  Then, and only then, are we ready to begin to leave.

Second step - get to the dock, beach, pier, whatever, without getting wet.  This is critical, as you are about to undertake a process which will take quite a number of hours, and wandering around looking like a drowned rat isn't the best of looks, nor are wet shorts very comfortable, or attractive.  Now, there are a number of things that can go wrong.  A rogue wave can appear out of the blue just when attempting to climb into the dinghy, making the landing precarious, there can be wind which will cause sea spray to soak the passenger in the front (that would ALWAYS be me), there can be waves at the beach, which should patience be in short supply, sets can be mistimed and misjudged, making for a surfing adventure upon beach landing (always, when the waves are the biggest, there will be people watching you struggle, and get soaked - it's the law).

You now come to the first MAJOR decision.  Are you feelin' lucky?  Are your stars in alignment?  Have you appeased the karma gods and been good to your fellow man?  If the answer is yes, you can leave the dinghy on the beach/pier/dock with a happy heart.  If like most of us the answer is ..... mmmaaaayyyybbbbeeee....then you have to decide if you will lock it.  Now, some readers might assume that this is simple, just do it and be done with it.  But if you haven't locked it in a while, then you have to go back to the boat, (repeat backwards, Second step above) and find the lock, WITH THE CORRECT KEY, make sure that the lock hasn't corroded since the last time you used it.  If it has, then you have to find the WD 40 and give it a quick clean, along with the key, and then again REPEAT STEP TWO.  Another beach landing, but as you've decided to lock the stupid thing, you now need to find something to lock it to.

This would entail finding something close enough to where you are currently standing that cannot be picked up and taken along with your dinghy.  Now gentle readers, you assume again, incorrectly, that this is a simple thing.  Let me remind you that our dinghy weighs 150 pounds, and has a 100 pound outboard on the back.  Moving this ANYWHERE is an undertaking.  So, sometimes you roll the karma dice and say,...."!@#$% it, and leave the damn thing", and hope for the best.  Other times, you look around and say, "yup, we gotta find a tree."  The first hour of your shopping trip has come to a close and you're hot on the heels of the second.   

For some reason, most of our shopping expeditions start with a beer.  I know that if Ron is with me, I've got to keep him in a good mood, so the second hour is usually spent surveying wherever you happen to have washed ashore, with a coldie in front of you.  And no, it doesn't matter what time it is.   Sheeessh! 

Next, where is the store?  Please keep in mind that for most of us, we are regularly on the move, so the store is in a new spot almost every time we need eggs, and we need to find it.  Sometimes this entails a dusty wander, sometimes it involves the inevitable haggling that comes from getting a taxi driver to understand where you want to go and for what cost, but most times it also comes with the almost guaranteed assumption that not everything on your list will be crossed off.  So your carefully composed menu for the next week, which would entail all sorts of healthy offerings, will instead be reduced to canned soup, ramen noodles, pizza and meat.  My 20 years of vegetarianism have quickly been overshadowed by 3 years of......"maybe we'll have BACON with that."

Perusing the aisles..... such a joyful activity for me (in my previous life).  There was such an unrestrained thrill at knowing that I could cook ANYTHING I wanted, all I needed to do was throw whatever I saw into the cart, march it home, pull out my set of Calphalon pots and pans, present it on my collection of antique dinnerware, and enjoy.  Now, mmm, not so much.  The ingredient list is seriously compromised at times (although I seem to be always able to find capers, for some reason), so we of course add liberal doses of alcohol with most meals, hoping to obliterate the taste of some of the more questionable items I've purchased.  Some of the villages we've gone into to try to flesh out our stores, consist of every conceivable type of Maggi seasoning known to mankind, Bimbo white bread (would make Wonderbread look healthy) and entire aisles full of some sort of laundry detergent.  It's one of the mysteries I'm still trying to solve since arriving in Latin America......how, when most people are living surrounded by so much dirt, can they get their whites soooo white?!  Usually, that's about what the shelves have, except for the inevitable 30 pak of eggs.  Can't find a head of lettuce to save my life, but my cholesterol is in FINE shape.

So now that the scrawny galley purchases have been made, along with the odd bottle of distilled water or motor oil, it's time to make your way back to the boat.  If you've been thinking ahead, you've got a good sized backpack ready to accept the heavy stuff, but more likely than not, it's the ol' plastic bag as carrier of choice, which will of course break mid-way back to the dinghy.  Where DID we leave that thing anyway?!  A repeat of Step Two, except you've now got items in the dinghy that probably SHOULDN'T get wet but will because there is always water in the bottom of the dinghy and we still have those waves to get through.

I'll wrap this all up by saying that just because it's in the dinghy, doesn't mean you are done.  The ride back to the boat, the removal of all purchases to the deck, then to the cockpit, then down the companionway to the galley.....this alone will sap the morale and strength of most women.  Men, they give up long before.  Ron is sprawled on the salon settee with another beer, long before I've figured out where I'm going to stash all the high quality goodies we've been able to accumulate.

Next, raise the dinghy again, and then a glass of wine, because as you set off at 9am, it's now 4:28pm and cocktail hour.   

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