29 February 2012

Passage Prep: The body

Neither Carol or I get particularly seasick. Neither of us have had seasickness induced vomiting on the boat. Both of us feel queasy in certain conditions and both of us felt less queasy on our 6 day passage after the first few days had passed. Carol is a little more prone than I am and when we are offshore I’ve tended to do more of the “down below work” (navigation/radar/cooking) when he is feeling his worst.
Stupid things we’ve done – as in, we really do know better - that increased our seasickness dramatically:
  • Carol cut sushi down below when we caught a tuna off the Oregon coast
  • I made lasagna with spicy sausage and garlic for our first at sea meal
We have taken Mahina’s simple seasickness recommendations and our own knowledge of our bodies and are planning the following:

Starting 48 hours before departure:
  • no booze
  • minimal caffeine
  • minimal fatty foods
  • 1 gram of Vitamin C per day
  • A 1L bottle of water filled and consumed throughout the day (minimum)
  • As much sleep as possible
Intentions while underway:
  • Same water plan for each day
  • Vitamin C intermittently
  • Caffeine and fatty food as the stomach allows. We don’t drink underway anyways.
  • Multivitamins every other day (minimum) - kids gummy version initially while tender stomach, big adult version when not
We’ll report back, ad nauseum (yuck, yuck).

28 February 2012

Team Mordida

Carol "The Mordida King" I will always remember Mexico fondly as the first place that I bribed a police officer.

Truthfully, it was a team effort involving, Carol, my parents who were visiting, a car borrowed from a friend and myself (hover over photos for team names).

We parked in front of a restaurant in La Paz. Carol left the restaurant early to check on the truck. As we were paying, the person at the front of the restaurant told me there was a problem with where we were parked. I went outside and saw a line of cars with tickets on them and a police officer talking to Carol.

Sneaky Mike It turns out that the officer had ticketed everyone equally but had decided to wait in front of the car with California plates - to encourage us to "pay now". With our limited Spanish comprehension, his limited English and a lot of gesturing, he told us the ticket would cost 1000 pesos if we went to the station (most definitely a lie) but that we could pay $50USD now and he would tear up the ticket.

Carol got into the spirit of things, seeing that the position of power had altered with the officer's introduction of the topic of a bribe, and began bargaining. They agreed upon $25. When presented with the money the officer tried to reopen the bargaining for $40 but we stood firm at the agreed upon $25. This was, we figured, the price of a parking ticket back in Victoria and surely a substantial portion of his income, making it a reasonable deal for everyone.

"Bad Cop" Valerie We got some flack from a local who was upset that tourists pay the bribes because the people living them are trying to eliminate them. What she wanted us to have done was to have followed the officer to the station. I see her point but we were not interested in following the officer around town or in waiting several hours at the station to pay a substantially lesser fine. We also had a bit of gringo fear at getting any further involved with the police or visiting a police station. This, of course, the officer could have guessed as well.

More exciting than most tourist attractions, we paid $25 to ride the "Mordida Coaster". Good job Team Mordida!

27 February 2012

Going to bed less stupid

As an example of how you can voyage (semi) far without being an expert, just today I learned that the great circle route and the rhumb line are virtually the same if your passage involves mostly North-South movement and that the more your route involves East-West movement, the more the great circle route and rhumb line differ.

Dude. I'm going to bed less stupid tonight.

21 February 2012

Turbulence

Excitement that wakes me up at night. Avoiding goodbyes because I hate to say them and because I prefer my last hangout time with someone to be happy not sad. Short but intense feelings of panic at the idea that we are really leaving North America. Giddy waves of disbelief that I'm reading guidebooks about the S Pacific because that is our next destination. Long periods of time when the idea that we are about to cross an ocean or that we might circumnavigate seem run-of-the-mill because so many people we know have done so (or know someone who has). Alternately worrying that we haven't prepared ourselves or the boat enough and feeling a quiet confidence that we are ready for this next step. Nostalgia for our admittedly brief time in Mexico, causing a desire to explore here more, competing with itchy feet ready to put this country behind us (for now). Awe and appreciation of the teamwork, focus and camaraderie that Carol and I have built for ourselves.

Happy. Anxious. Stoked.

19 February 2012

Pacific Prep: Provisioning (non-fresh)

In a way, we have been provisioning for our time in the Pacific since San Francisco. I began tucking away fun treats from the Trader Joe’s there to pull out some day when we needed something new. Wine etcThen we made a mega Whole Food’s run in Long Beach thanks to Steve on our sistership Desolina. And we bought an enormous amount of canned chicken while sharing a taxi to the San Diego Costco with Bella Star. In the La Paz area we rented a car for two days for a preliminary trip to La Ventana and did a huge Walmart and Sam’s Club run while we had it. Later in La Paz we ended up with the loan of a car occasionally from friends we met here (thank you Pyxis!!!) and we continued to buy bags of extra goods each time we went to the store. We might buy 10 bags of oats that trip, a dozen cans of salsa or stock up on lentils. Recently, we made the drive down to the Costco in Cabo San Lucas, partially because we wanted to see Todos Santos and some of the scenery and partially because the idea of stocking up on Kirkland brand pre-cooked bacon was just too difficult to pass up (see video).  Tip: after we convinced Costco Cabo we had a good reason not to purchase a membership, they gave us a day pass for free

Our general strategy: In general our strategy is to never walk past a grocery on our way home without buying a baOne of three snack cubbiesg and to never pass up an opportunity to buy heavy things like liquids (juice, wine, beer, vinegar) when we are lucky enough to not have to carry them (car, bikes, etc). With regard to our Pacific voyage, we aren’t the type of people who want to keep up with food consumption via a spreadsheet. A great idea that will never work for our personalities. We aren’t very worried about running out of particular items as long as we have enough food generally (except coffee – more on that). Our main goal with the huge amounts of provisioning we’ve been doing is to save money when things are more expensive in the islands, to minimize the amount of time we spend searching for food there, and to take advantage of having a vehicle and not carrying loads of provisions on our back.

What we did: Over the years we have re-organized our stores again and again. The end result is that the areas we have for food in the boat are separated by types of food and the size of the area is approximately proportional to the amount of that type of food we eat. Canned goodsThere are some exceptions of course. Bulky items like toilet paper and chips are consumed faster than the amount of storage for them. In the case of the former, we just buy it more frequently and in the case of the latter we switch to popcorn when we run out. So, because the proportions of storage already approximate the proportions of what we eat, what we did was to provision in a gradual way focusing on important items. I opened the “snack cubby” and thought about what we most wanted in there (salsa, crackers, spreads, olives). Then I bought a bunch of those and stowed them. Then I evaluated how much more we could fit in that cubby and bought that much more snacks. Same with canned goods. Same with the “pasta/soup/tea” cubby, etc. Once each area was packed to the gills, we were done.

Exceptions: Everyone has something that they are afraid to do without. Pasta soup tea coffee For us, good coffee is something we want to have aboard. It may be available in the next port but we don’t want to leave a port without a large supply. We’ve found a good roastery in La Paz and will be buying beans there (La Choya). Second, we did overbuy long life meats and cheeses because those allow us to stretch our supplies with what we can find in expensive or low stocked areas. Also, although I said we aren’t interested in spreadsheets, we did calculate consumption for a few items. We planned on two cans of chicken a week for 6 months (48), estimated our coffee intake and if something had an expiration, we estimated how much of it we would use per month and multiplied that by months until expiration (1 package per month * expires in 7 months = 7 packs of bacon in the bottom of the fridge). The final exception is booze. Apparently astronomically expensive in the South Pacific and so the advice we had been given was to load up on whatever you can safely carry and be prepared to have it bonded (sealed) somewhere in your boat if customs wants.

So…we’ll see how this works and report back in a year!

17 February 2012

Passage Prep: Up the mast & our mast climbing rig

Carol in mast climbing mode

Carol went up the mast to do a visual (and tactile) inspection of the rigging. While he was up there, he watered the rig as well (see video below).

Everyone does this differently. On Estrellita, when one of us goes up the mast, s/he climbs up the main halyard with ascenders and the second person backup belays with a halyard tied into the harness through the two rope connection points with a double figure eight. The person then lowers with the ascenders while the belayer again backs up with a halyard. No winching.

Our kit consists primarily of climbing gear we already owned from, er, climbing. Even though climbing gear isn’t cheap, the entire kit below is a lot less than a commercial marine set up like the ATN mastclimber ($450). Although a climbing harness isn’t a chair, they are meant to be sat in for extended periods of time. Your mileage may vary. We keep our kit in double ziploc bags and after 5 years aboard everything is doing fine. Because this is safety stuff I will add the caveat: duh, this is safety stuff - don't believe everything you read on the internet ;)
  • An inexpensive climbing harness. We use one of our old Petzl harnesses. Any will do but make sure you read the instructions and tighten it above your hipbones so you don’t slide out if you flip. ($55)
  • Two ascenders ($70 each = $140) The top ascender is where we connect the runner for our foot. The bottom is connected directly to the belay loop in our harness. You stand up on the foot dragging the bottom “harness” ascender with you and then sit onto it. You raise the “foot” and repeat. Read the instructions carefully.
  • One or two plain nylon runners (4’). One if you want to use one foot in the sling, one on the mast as we usually do, or two if you want to stand up on two feet with your feet cupping the mast. You do not need presewn runners. You can easily save some money and use four feet of webbing and tie an overhand knot. If you buy presewn it might be wroth the extra few dollars to get dyneema/spectra runners – not because you need them for climbing the mast but they are so strong they can then be used to replace broken shackles, etc.
  • 3 locking biners ($8 or so each = $24). You use one locking biner on each ascender and you use one on your leash (below) if you use one. You don’t need anything fancy  but it is difficult not to buy shiny pretty biners when you are in the store!
  • One sewn loop daisy chain. You can use a normal daisy chain but you have to be very careful not to use a single biner to shorten it. Cheaper than a daisy chain, you can buy a presewn runner (see above) in the correct length. We use one of the locking biners to connect this daisy chain (which is looped to our harnesson one end) to the higher ascender as a backup. This is kind of overkill because we also set up a backup belay with a second halyard, tied in with a double figure eight to the two connection points in the harness (read the harness instructions on where to connect biners and where to connect ropes). ($30)

16 February 2012

2012 La Paz Jumpers

There was an open meeting this week in La Paz for the crew of boats that were leaving for the S Pacific from the La Paz area rather than the mainland, Panama, or other parts. There were a surprising number of people although not everyone in attendance was planning to leave this year and a few boats that we know who are leaving this year weren't in town to attend. I asked the people who were leaving this year to stay for a photo that I would forward to Latitude 38 and here we are:

P1030629 (1280x960)

What do you notice about the group?

Putting faces to boat names was fun. I don’t know that everyone here is registered for the official PPJ group and we don’t know everyone’s name and boat name.

Thank you to SV Buena Vista for organizing!

14 February 2012

A taste of La Paz

Below is a small selection of places we love to eat at in La Paz, on a map, with notes about what we like to order there. All of the places could be off in location by a street or two, so look at the descriptions in case I gave walking directions.


View Estrellita's La Paz Favorites in a larger map

Taco pescado y camaron A Shack burger
Taco camaron Bacon wrapped hot dog smothered in crema and tomatoes

(hover over the photos above for descriptions)

13 February 2012

Hoochie sneak peek

When my parents came to Mexico to visit they brought a suitcase full of goodies for us – a time honored method of cruisers getting kit. One of the things that we ordered was a huge amount of fishing gear. For whatever reason I was way into the idea of making hand lines and lures for us.

I’m not going to post the entire process yet. I made two test lures and one test handline and we are going to go out for a week in the islands and test them out. If all goes well, I’ll post the process. In the meantime, here is a peek.

Homemade hoochies

The top hoochie has a treble hook and the bottom has a double. Both are made with wire leaders to foil fish from biting off the lures.

12 February 2012

A Cruising Break

Horse in Yoyo's Campground

We've spent the last 3 weeks in a tent in La Ventana, Mexico - a wind sport hot spot. It wasn't until the last few days of the trip that I started to miss the boat and that made me realize that I needed a break. A break from the boat was good, but more importantly perhaps, I needed a break from cruising. Why?

My life simplified dramatically. Contrary to popular belief, living on a boat, at least for us, isn’t living simply. Without the boat we didn’t have logistics, repairs and maintenance to deal with.The only daily maintenance we had was stretching, cooking/cleaning, and finding groceries. Otherwise our life revolved around the wind and our newly evolving kiting skills. We woke up and made french press coffee which we drank on our cushy air mattress in the tent while listening to our daily dose of NPR. Next we made scrambled eggs and tortillas, answered emails and started looking at the wind. When the wind started to come up, we grabbed our gear and headed for the beach. After we had exhausted ourselves on the water, or the wind died, we had hot showers, cooked a dinner and either had a beer with people or watched a movie with popcorn in our tent.

I  enjoyed being part of an outdoor sports community again intensely. I had not realized how much I missed being around people who are super stoked about what they are doing...and perhaps I haSunset in La Ventanad not realized how few cruisers I meet radiate joy about their cruising life. In any outdoor sport, there are some people who ooze anxiety and fear (and I've certainly done my fair share of that), but the majority, at least in sports I’ve been involved in, exude happiness. Although we meet excited cruisers, at least so far, more cruisers we meet seem to be on the anxiety side of the balance. In our limited experience, kiters (and in our previous experience, rock climbers) are more excited about being wherever they are and doing what they are doing. They watch videos about it. They talk through issues with each other. Even after many years, they radiate a quieter joy about their sport. I get a lot personally from being around people like that. I realize many of the people I met were on vacation from their own realities, but about half the people we met in La Ventana were living there for an entire season.

Also, not to get into the gender politics of cruising too much again, but if a woman was on the beach in a wetsuit, she was either into kiting or into windsurfing. Not necessarily so on the docks. This meant that when people met me, they assumed I was a) kiting (or wind surfing) and b) stoked about it. It was a very nice change of culture for me. There are fewer women in kiting, just like in climbing, but they are often the type of person I form instant connections with.

Carol on a SUP in La Ventana Non-boaters reminded me that what we are doing is unusual and pretty darn sweet. When you are surrounded by people who are cruising, it starts to feel normal. When you tell non-boaters what you are doing they say things like “You brought your boat down from CANADA?!”. My favorite comment was from an extreme sports junkie, who had described doing many things that we would never do because they are too risky, and he said “I would never go into the ocean. That would be too scary.”

I started to miss the boat and miss being mobile. It was good to get away from the boat long enough to actively miss my life aboard. Although I enjoyed growing roots in La Ventana, I started getting itchy feet. I also reached that point in traveling where I started missing my home, my things, and my routines. The same simplicity of our life in the tent started to wear a little and I missed all of the other options I had for fun, for comfort and for connectivity on our boat. The break invigorated my cruising dreams.

10 February 2012

Priorities for an extended BC summer

Where would I have spent more time and where would I have spent less time if I had one Spring/Summer in BC?

The answer for Livia depends on the weather”

In a sunny summer year I would have spent my time basically as we spent it, a short early visit to the Gulf Islands, a medium amount of early season time in Desolation Sound before it is overrun, a quick trip to the Haida Gwaii primarily to visit SGaang Gwaii, and then a long visit on the outside of Vancouver Island.

However, what we had in 2011 was a rainy summer. When the weather is crappy in BC it is usually nicer on the inside of Vancouver Island than outside and nicer in the South than in the North. So I would have spent more time in the Gulf Islands where it would hopefully be drier and warmer until the crowds drove me out, and more time in Desolation even with the crowds. I probably would have chosen to visit the Broughtons (which we skipped) when Desolation became too full. I would still consider the long trip the Haida Gwaii to see SGaang Gwaii even though overall I was not enthralled. I would have spent the end of the summer, when it was hopefully warm, on the outside of Vancouver Island.

Carol answers the same question:

If you have seen the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands, I would get as quickly as possible to Princess Louisa Inlet and Desolation Sound – doing those areas early. Then make your way to the West Coast of Vancouver Island and spend the rest of your time there, skipping the Haidi Gwaii which takes a lot of time to get to. If you haven’t seen the Gulf/San Juan Islands it is definitely worth stopping, particularly in the Gulf Islands.

Carol’s favorite spots in the Gulf Islands are: Portland Island and nearby Russell Island, the NW side of the anchorage in Montague, the town of Ganges, and Wallace Island.

I agree and also enjoyed the space between Tumbo and Cabbage Islands.

09 February 2012

La Paz

In La Paz 

"...we wondered why so much of the Gulf was familiar to us, why this town had a "home" feeling. We had never seen a town which even looked like La Paz, and yet coming to it was like returning rather than visiting. Some quality there is in the whole Gulf that trips a trigger of recognition so that in fantastic and exotic scenery one finds oneself nodding and saying inwardly, 'Yes, I know'. " - The Log from the Sea of Cortez, John Steinbeck

La Paz is a town where cruisers come to settle down. They arrive, enjoy and stop moving their boat. Some even sell their boats and buy condos. It is a town that inspires “settling” and the best term we’ve heard regarding this phenomenon is being “La Paused”. Estrellita has been in La Paz for 2 months and we’ve been aboard her here for 5 of those weeks.

We’ve come full circle in our feelings about the town. We loved it upon arrival. The air was crackling with the energy of new cruisers running around, in love with travel, in love with Mexico. We left for 3 weeks of beautiful cruising in the nearby islands and returned in time for American Thanksgiving and we spent a month exploring the town, eating a large number of tacos (more on this later), and using our time dockside to get a bunch of boatwork and Pacific prep completed. Once my family came and left, we moved the boat to another dock and left her while we went to La Ventana for 3 weeks of living/eating/breathing kiteboarding.

Upon arriving in La Ventana we realized we were in sore need of a cruising break (more on that later as well) and we realized in general that the shiny had rubbed off La Paz for us and that we were ready to leave. We chose to spend more time in fewer places in Mexico and we've enjoyed staying in he La Paz area because we now have a new sport/passion but after a second family visit and a few more weeks of prep, we’re ready to head off to more exotic places. 

08 February 2012

Canada-USA-Mexico Numbers

Leaving Tofino Another NUMBERS post

We are gearing up to leave Mexico for the South Pacific and before we leave I wanted to go back over our logbook numbers for the Canada-USA-Mexico portion of the trip (at least so far).

I'm not sure how many miles we've sailed because our knot meter often doesn't work -- critters like to grow in the paddle wheel. Anyone who has sailed the same path have an estimate?

We have visited 27 towns/anchorages. We spent 106 nights at anchor averaging 4.4 nights per anchorage. This average is inflated by the 35 days we were at anchor in San Francisco and when you remove SF this average drops to 3.1 nights per anchorage.

We have spent almost 3 months in marinas (!) with a combination of free yacht club nights in California, S Pacific prep and family visits in La Paz and leaving the boat in a marina for a month so we could travel for kiteboarding.

Since leaving Tofino in late July we have used:
  • 120 engine hours – go sailboat!
  • 65 gallons of diesel (engine + diesel heater) 
  • 4 gallons of gasoline 
Leaving California
Gear "failure" has included:
  • 1 diesel engine mixing elbow 
  • 1 o-ring on the watermaker filter (did not fail - we accidentally dumped it overboard - thank you Bella Star for the spare!) 
  • 1 torn cosmetic rubber ring around our brand new Lavac bilge pump (pump works perfectly so we haven't done anything about this) 
  • 1 cracking/worn bilge pump hose we replaced
  • 1 solar panel quick release plug (our fault, we let it sit in some water) 
  • 1 BBQ burner which became corroded after 5 years of use

    (reminder – you can usually put your mouse over photos we post for descriptions)

07 February 2012

Lucha Libre at the 2012 La Ventana Classic

We are back in La Paz on the boat after three weeks kiteboarding in La Ventana, a wind sport town about 30 min South of La Paz.

I have a ton of video and photos to process but, for your immediate viewing pleasure, I thought I would post this clip from the Lucha Libre night at the big kiting event we attended, the 2012 La Ventana Classic.



We know how to locate the cheese ;)