Sunday, April 19, 2015

Repairs, why always repairs?

Is it just our boat that is constantly in need of repairs?  When I was a land dweller, I can't remember EVER, in 35 years of paying rent and mortgages, waking up one morning and not having water coming from the faucet.  But that happened the other day here on the boat.  It didn't come out, and the fresh water pump was to blame.  It just decided it didn't want to work.

And then there was that other day that the toilet didn't want to bring in fresh seawater, flushing out the bad......other water.  Just didn't happen. 

And then our little media player, bringing movies and television shows from our computer to our television, just decided it didn't want to play the video.  It just....didn't. 

All this in one week, AT THE DOCK!!!!

If the coffee maker decides it's not going to make coffee tomorrow morning, I wouldn't be surprised. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Does it get any better than food in Mexico?

Time sure does fly when you aren't drifting aimlessly offshore.  It's been 2+ weeks since we "arrived" here in Huatulco, and our joy at being here has not diminished one bit since we first kissed the dock.  We are very grateful for:
  • Chips and Salsa - what is wrong with the rest of Central and South America?  El Salvador has those vile things called papusas (honestly, they are simply tummy filler), the other countries' "salsas" are vibrant plastic-containered pink concoctions which adorn every restaurant table from Costa Rica to Ecuador, and their colour alone should encourage NO ONE to try them, and those much beloved tortillas will only come to your table if you choose to make them yourselves (or are content with supermarket versions pumped with so many preservatives that they are truly perfect for 2 month long offshore expeditions).  I was fortunate to find a brand of tortilla chip in Ecuador that sufficed, and when we were provisioning, we bought 50 bags of the things.  Maybe deep down I knew we would be needing them....We found a chip bar at a local store recently, and as my hips will tell you, I could eat tortilla chips for every meal.  I parked myself there, with an idiotic and mesmerized grin on my face. 
  • Salsa -  okay, this probably should go above but Pico de Gallo is God's Own Creation.  It is perfect....and should be revered throughout the world as such.  However, no one outside of Mexico is familiar, although they all have the necessary ingredients to make it.  Upon getting to know the guys working here at Marina Chahue, when we mentioned that salsa in general, and Pico de Gallo in particular was really just embraced in Mexico, he frowned and visibly recoiled.  Priceless.  Salsa Verde and Molcajeteada....they have both found their way back on board, to the vast relief of Sundancers' owners.
  • Tacos Pastor - or frankly any type of taco, but Pastor is a favourite.  Made of spit roasted pork and topped with a "flick" of roasted pineapple, cilantro, onion, and of course, Pico de Gallo.....heaven.  And although we thought that Ecuador restaurant "eats" were pretty cheap, 39 pesos for 5....ahem, but that's about $2.60 us, and even us Canadians can afford it at $3.25.  Add a 15 peso beer ($1 usd, $1.20 cdn), and we are thrilled to go out for dinner every night. 

  •  Bolillos - while perhaps not as sexy as the above, bolillos are as indispensable in Mexico as is.....say salsa.  We use them for sandwiches, sliced sideways for bruschetta, and dunked in milk and eggs for Mexican Toast (the south of the border version of French Toast, people), and these rolls are a steal at 10 centavos/each.  That means you can get 15 of these things for $1, $1.20cdn.  
  •  Arrachera - I don't know how they do it, but this is the most flavourful, the most tender, the most heavenly hunk of beef you will EVER buy in any country in the world (this may be an exaggeration, but my love for arrachera knows no bounds).  I'm sure the marinade in the packages you purchase in the supermarkets have all sorts of questionable ingredients, but this could be the only time that I look the other way....the meat is THAT GOOD!  We first discovered it many years ago, when we first arrived in Mexico.  With friends, we visited the Costco located in Cabo san Lucas, and I admit to turning my nose up when Ron dumped a huge 4 pound package of this premarinated skirt steak in the cart.  I adopted my "when in Rome....." attitude when I agreed to purchase it, we grilled it a few nights later, and promptly returned to Costco for 5 more packages to stick in the freezer.      
Oh, yes, after 3 years away from Mexico and making this unscheduled return to our first "foreign" country after leaving Canada, we are going to make the most of the food.  How we've missed you!!! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The end of the adventure....

So I'll pick up where I left off several weeks ago.  The day after the last post, Day 8, was frightful.  With sustained 35-40 knot winds, I came up from a break at 4am to hear Ron screaming at me to get him a knife.  The stainless steel radar mount had sheared in 1/2, and the radar, with it's base, was banging and whipping around the mizzen rigging.  No way in the current conditions to climb aloft to make an alternative plan and lower the radar to the deck (perhaps we could have done that had it been daylight), so we made the decision to cut it away.  And so we did, watching as $2000 fell into the sea.  I try to look on the bright side of all situations, and while in this case it was more difficult, it could have been worse if it had fallen down onto the 5 solar panels within striking distance.  The rigging was safe, we were safe, and the true adventure was just beginning.

Ron had been stressed; the worry of keeping me safe, keeping the boat safe, keeping the systems was starting to take it's toll.  We spent several hours discussing our situation, coming up with alternative plans.  The overriding thought between us, was that the last 5 years while cruising, we had been complacent.  It was difficult to get replacement parts, it was difficult to do major repairs and upgrading, but we were now faced with the future destination (Easter Island) and the loss of our radar.  The conditions were pushing our boat to it's limits (or so we thought) and we decided that if we really wanted to continue with the sailing life, we needed to do some upgrades, and the easiest place to do those was going to be Mexico.  Yes, it was a long way away, but water and food and fuel were plentiful, and the long range needs took precedence.  So, we turned the boat 180 degrees away and started heading north.

25-45 knot winds, 10-15 foot seas, some south and some east winds, we were doing fine, and had Mexico in our sights, 700 miles away. Then....disaster.  One day, there was some uneven reving with the engine, as we were using it under massive swells, but no winds.  Exploration discovered lots and lots of water in our fuel filters and an hour later, the engine had quit, never to start up again.  The fuel injection pump was hooped!

Not a problem, we thought.  We're a sailboat, and while we may not get there as fast as we could, as long as the wind held, we'd be fine.  AS LONG AS THE WIND HOLDS!!!!

Bypassing this an account of too repetitious days, a week later found ourselves still 280 miles away from the Mexican coast and enthusiasm was on the wane.  We had been heading first east to Chiapas, then further west to Huatulco, and then finally with the north winds in control, we headed towards Acapulco.  By this time, Acapulco Search and Rescue made an appearance, and indicated that for $33,000 they would be happy to give us a tow.  Uh, huh.  For that price, I would be too.  Another week of haggling, another several days of drifting either in one place or even backwards......the game was starting to get old.  A different system took hold, and we were back heading at 1-2 knots/hour towards Huatulco.

In the meantime, we give thanks to three boats who really gave our spirits the needed boost, and one boat in particular who we will remember always.  Islena, Sailor's Run, and Curiositas happened to be in Acapulco, heard about our trials on both the Amigo and Picante ssb nets, and came to our rescue by attempting to find a private party to tow us towards Acapulco.  Another quote, this time for $10,000 but we still weren't desperate, although it was now Day 36 since our little adventure began.  The winds switched again, and off we all went to Huatulco, our three new best friends from Acapulco, and us from 80 miles offshore.

It was finally decided, on Day 38 that if we could get our boat to Islena, who was drifting 9 miles away from us and 20 miles from Huatulco, that they would be able to tow us the rest of the way in.  We got busy.  As it was dead calm, we successfully lowered the dingy, got the outboard engine on, sidetied the dingy to Sundancer and at a blistering 2.5 knots, off we went.  We rendevoused with Islena at noon, and by 4:30pm that afternoon, we were inching our way into Marina Chahue, in Huatulco.

Our Saviours, Dave and SaM on Islena
Inch by inch we made it into Marina Chahue, Huatulco
Can you tell we are happy?
And so here we are.

It's now 3 days later.....and only now can I write about it.  We don't know what the future holds, except that the first order of business is to get the engine up and running again.  We are kicking around a couple of ideas, to stay here for a few months, to stay in Mexico for another year, to attempt the south Pacific again next year this time, to sail north back to the states or Canada.  The only thing we really know is that we are very grateful to the sailing community that pulled together to help a fellow mariner.

We are staying on land for awhile

Thursday, February 19, 2015

//WL2K Days 3....

and 4 and 5. So my daily updates aren't. Daily, I mean. Sometimes, the effort required to actually write an update is just too much work, and then there is the whole needing to actually getting a ssb connection....I have so many worries.

Firstly, the weather. It's been per usual, a bit of this, and a bit of that. Generally, we've had at least some wind to push us along, although up until today, it's not been from the right direction. Well, it's HAS sort of been correct, although combined with currents and swell, we were actually about 30 degrees off course, but the fantastic wind prediction program we use, and LOVE, PredictWind, was spot on with it's prediciton that either sometime today or tomorrow, we would have a wind shift. When I came up from taking a nap just now, we were on a 20 degree difference of course heading. Yay, for once, the little green line on our chartplotter has us actually heading to Easter Island rather than Pitcairn. This too was what null school showed, as a few days south of the Galapagos, the wind would shift from a southeasterly wind to one more directly from the east. Those of you that are'll appreciate that we've been pinching for days, trying to gain a degree or two anytime we could, but today for the first time, our apparant wind is 70 degrees off our port - perfect!

The squalls have settled down too - we were getting one or two a day, but yesterday for the first time, we just had a few clouds, but no rain.

The biggest news - we got showers today. The seas were such that we could safely throw some water on our various bits, and just like God, we rested (and washed) on the 7th day (actually, this is day 6, but didn't work with my little story). Once you become a sailor, things like a shower, or an ice cube, or a clean bra can make you giddy (or at least memorable enough to write about it).

The food situation has been about as expected. Day 3 I made up a pan of lasagne, which got an infusion of a some grated carrots of dubious usefulness (captain didn't complain). We ate around 4 in the cockpit, together for once, and I had a glass of red wine, and Ron had a beer to go along with our fine Italian repast. Several months ago, I had read of a technique to use lasagne noodles and layer them UNCOOKED in your pan. This, to me, was a revelation, as I'd always thought that lasagne was such a pain to make and made way too many dishes. Truly a "eureka" moment.

Today, the captain got a big bowl of biscuits and gravy, his favourite "county-boy" breakfast. Unfortunately, he got no side of bacon or sausage with that, just some leftover ham slices, that too, needed to be consumed before they got any slimier. Once thing that sailing does is beef up your immune system to cope with any amount of "less than perfect" produce. Take our bananas...they are a day away from the perfect consistency for bread, or the freezer.

We've seen no wildlife for days! A few birds always show up to fly alongside the rig in the night, but during the day...nuthin'. Except for the hairy man in my cockpit, there've been no beast sitings.

Position to date: 06 04'.195s, 097 21'.155w
Conditions: 1-2 foot swell
Wind: 11-17 knots
COG: 212 degrees
Speed: 3.5 knots
Weather: sunny, with gorgeous deep blue waters

Book reading continuing apace....

Monday, February 16, 2015

//WL2K Day 2

The greatest news to report is that we have finally dialed in our Monitor Windvane, and can say, with the utmost confidence, that this was a fantastic purchase. We had heard over and over again from other happy customers that most people were ecstatic with having a windvane aboard, as a reliable, uncomplaining extra crew member. We are now in this exalted group of folks - "Monty" has been quietly working for the last 24 hours, with nary a helping hand from us. Our autopilot has been put on standbye, along with all the power that it takes to run. I believe I can say that the windvane ranks right up there with a vhf and ssb, a watermaker, and a freezer, as things a long term cruiser should have on their boats.

The worst news is that after 48 hours into it, we've only made 140 miles. Must stop looking at the ground log - a girlfriend that has made it to NZ (we met in Panama) told me that the best thing to do is not look at the amount of distance still to go, but it sure is hard.

A few brief squalls, a bit of sunshine, winds ranging from 8 knots to 28.5 knots. So it was a mixed bag of conditions.

I'm not one of those cruising galley wenches that makes meals ahead of time. I just don't have that much freezer space to put complete meals in there, so I tend to make food as we need it. The first couple of days on a passage, we never seem to need too much and this trip has been no exception. Yesterday, I finally made hashsbrowns, with bell peppers, onions, melted cheese, fresh tomatoes and a fried egg on top. That was it for food, and if I make it midday, it holds over so that it means only one meal cooked per day.
I'm thinking some sort of pasta today - maybe with fresh tomatoes (now, if I only still had a basil plant on board). Of course, the one thing I have to always watch on these trips is the fresh stuff, as what is out of the fridge has a tendency to go rather quickly. Our mini-bunch of bananas has begun to ripen - yikes, so soon?! 2 yesterday, and it'll be two for each of us today. But I have a very first job when I was a teenager was in a health food restaurant, and smoothies were our specialty. I was a trendsetter, as this was "back in the day", mid-70s, before health food was really a thing. Anyway, instead of ice to thicken them, we used cut up frozen bananas. Which is the fate of the bunch I have currently hanging in the aft bathroom, if we get sick of them before they are all gone. We've had our fair share of banana bread over the last few months, so another strategy is needed. In my reserves, I bought a Nutella knockoff - in the next few months when bananas will be the only fruit we can get, I envision crepes, with a heap of Nutella, and cutup bananas over top, or perhaps a low rent version of bananas foster. Will see if I can steal a bit of Ron's rum, and without burning the boat down, set is aflame and have that foster flambe'd.

The sun has broken through the clouds first thing this morning, currently it's 8am. Ron is asleep and I'm on watch. Was finally tired enough last night to sleep when I went down below - again, takes a few days to get into a good rythum, rythem, rythm (how the hell do you spell this word?)

Position: 02 58'.745s, 093 09'.699w at 8am, February 16th, 2015
Heading: 210 degrees
COG: 232 degrees
Conditions: 3-5 foot swells, sunny skies
Wind: 10-15knots
Speed: 4 knots
Miles: 140

No problems on board - yay!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

//WL2K Galapagos to Easter Island - Day 1 recap

We left the Galapagos Islands with the speed of their namesakes - a lumbering tortoise-like 3 knots, but is there a better way to ease into a long, interminably long passage? If we get an average of 100nm per day, we should be making the passage in 20 days. Unfortunately....

24 hours has come and go and we are already behind schedule - haha. As all true sailors know, the only time you want to have a schedule is when you are desperate for something to go wrong. Schedules mean bad decisions. Schedules mean making plans prior to consulting with Mother Nature. Schedules are not a sailor's friend. So we go with the flow...except when the boat speed drops to 1 knot. Then we look at alternatives.

The first 24 hours has come and gone, and we are settling into "the life". A brief synopsis:

Hour 1 - Motoring out to find the wind
Hour 2- Found a bit of wind. Sails up, and clocking 4knots
Hour 3 - Wind died
Hour 4 - Engine on, hopefully not for long
Hour 7 - Engine off, sails out
Hour 14 - Squall hits, scramble for side panels for the cockpit - MUST KEEP COCKPIT CUSHIONS DRY
Hour 15 - Squall passes, drying out process (I was too slow)
Hour 20 - Wind died, motor on
Hour 21 - Wind back up!!!!

Which brings us to now, Hour 26, blazing along at a respectable 5.5 knots, with 12-16 knots of wind. But the best news is our heading is directly to our destination, despite a pesky 2 knot side current which threatens to deposit us to the Marquesas instead of south to Easter Island.

A sobering conversation predeparture....."Just think cap'n, can you believe we'll be traveling at sea for 20+ days?" Captain replies, "and just think, that'll then put us smack dab in the middle of nowhere. We'll then get to travel for another 10-20 days to get somewhere else"

Upon leaving the islands behind, we were witness to a tremendous manta ray belly flop display. I think that'll probably be it for sea life, except for the occasional bird.

No problems to report (for once). Yay!!!!

12 noon, February 15, 2015
Position: 02 02'0485s, 092 15'.715w
Heading: 190 degrees
Wind: 11-16 knots
Boat Speed: 5.5
Ground Log: 97.49nm
Conditions: overcast, and grey. 3-5 foot swells

Saturday, February 7, 2015

See Spot Run, See Heather Come Unhinged

When you travel, you realize that not everyone thinks the same way that you do (frankly, I hardly feel like anyone thinks the way that I do, but that’s for another introspective posting).  There are regional, municipal and certainly country-wide differences.  We all know that the Germans like things to be “just so”.  And if I could categorize and generalize a bit, the Dutch and Belgian folk seem to fall into this group too.  Those Danish and Scotsmen….well, they are “thrifty”, to use a politically acceptable word.  You head further south where the weather is warmer, and you’ve got those freewheeling Greeks and Spaniards.  Their weather allows them a bit of leeway, where if the job doesn’t get complete today, there is always tomorrow.  And then there is the middle east…..where being a woman, I don’t get to tell you what I think. 
We are here in Latin America.  I’m not really sure when it becomes Latin, and when it’s just South America, or Central America, but for now I’ll just call it Latin America to encompass the entire region from the US/Mexico border to the tip of Cape Horn.  And as you all know, we’re coming up on 4 ½ years being in this neck of the woods.  I must be a slow learner, or adapter, but I CANNOT SHED MY NEED FOR LOGIC, AND FOR COMPLETING TASKS IN A TIMELY MATTER WITHOUT A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT THROWN IN.   I have tried, truly I have.  Perhaps I started off with more than my fair share, but honest to god getting things done here boggles the mind.  

Yes, I am aware that everyone comes to each task with a different set of experiences behind them and driving their actions.  Yes, I know that sometimes I just want things done when, and how, I want them done, because, forgive me if I am in error here, but am I not forking over money to get something accomplished?  A man I worked with in Zambia used to get so pissed off when people would explain away ineptitude by exclaiming…”ah, but it is Africa.”  As if that is somehow an excuse.  I get it now.  

We just wanted a tank of propane filled.  The ENTIRE world uses propane to cook their meals, and heat their water.  We wanted to be able to do that too, but due to a slight bit of underfilling at our last stop, (let’s just call it thievery, shall we?!) one of our tanks had come up dry after only 6 weeks of use, where we normally could go for 2-3 months.  Now here on the most remote island in the Galapagos, and with a grounded tanker several islands to our east, we were coming up with a few shrugged shoulders and it looked like it was going to turn into a mammoth task.  I will not bore you with the blow by blow details, but suffice it to say that it took a monumental effort for me to keep from strangling a few unsuspecting Ecuadorians.  Ah, you say, but she isn’t on a schedule.  She really doesn’t need it to be done “right now”.  My reply is, “you’re damn right I’m on a schedule.  I’m on a life schedule and the clock is ticking, and the time I have left will NOT be spent getting the bullshit runaround!!!”  I’ve written about how difficult it is to get an egg on board, well multiply that exponentially by at least 1 million, and getting a 20 pound propane tank filled is harder. 

We got it done.  


I have less hair.
The ulcer that I’ve been working hard at eradicating after the last 10 years of my so-called life while still in Canada….yes, I can feel it growing again.  

Rant done.  

Until the next time.