Saturday, December 8, 2012

There's Just Never Enough Space!

This month’s Raft-Up topic is about what you wish you had on board or had left behind, and what is your biggest space splurge.

Unfortunately, since we’ve only been out for a short time it’s hard to know yet what I wish we had or hadn’t brought.  So instead I’m going to modify the topic slightly and talk about why we actually brought so much damn stuff with us.  Hopefully this will help non-cruising family and friends understand our thinking a little better, especially since I know some of them wonder if we’ve completely lost our minds!

While I definitely went overboard with provisioning (which I’ve discussed in a previous post) there is no doubt that the largest amount of space on our boat is devoted to boat parts.  Before our departure our friends will testify to the fact that we spent endless hours trying to get the boat “ready to go” in as many ways as we could think of.  That list was seemingly endless – always growing and hardly ever shrinking. 

As we got closer to our departure and time was running out, we focused instead on critical systems on the boat (water maker, engine, generator, water system, toilets, etc.) that might break and the parts we would need to fix them.  When you are hoping to be gone for 5-7 years you have to assume that almost everything will break at some point – no matter how much you take care of your boat.  The days before our departure were a mad chase for parts we had forgotten while we still had direct contact with Fisheries Supply and a car.

After making our way down the coast we were very happy to have some of those parts as we already had need for them!  The biggest surprise was having to replace our alternator – a major part of our charging system – which unfortunately also meant sourcing another backup (also in a prior post!). 

So with a little more actual experience under our belts and a clearer picture of what might break or items we hadn’t thought about, the race was on again to source those items before leaving for Mexico.  We had heard plenty of nightmare stories about getting parts shipped to Mexico and about how expensive parts were to BUY in Mexico – so we really wanted to get everything we could NOW think of prior to departing the US.

Flash forward 3 ½ months of using the boat fairly hard 24/7 – not tied up at a dock with a constant source of power and water, but rather at anchor – running every system daily.  Using the boat like this brings a whole new set of issues – some of which you can’t possibly anticipate having never done it before.  What items you may ask?  Well, our recent order (which we’re hoping a family member will be willing to bring down at Christmas!) included the following: 
  • A fuel pump for the generator (already lost one in just 3 months – a seriously critical system!);
  • A dual-swivel for our main halyard (recommended during our rig survey to prolong the life of our halyard – which is high tech line and VERY expensive to replace);
  • Some water filter cartridges (for taking on water in Mexico);
  • A 2-prong electrical connector (these corrode incredibly fast in salt and sun since they’re not stainless);
  • A BUNCH more tubes of adhesive sealant (it’s incredible how fast the sun breaks down sealant - we’ve sprung two major leaks since we’ve left!);
  • Rolls of blue tape (needed for masking when resealing),
  • A low-draw DC fan (you can NEVER have too many fans – especially low draw fans so that they can run all night);
  • 20 feet of tubular webbing (to protect lines in high-friction areas);
  • A shorter flag staff (our current one is too tall and interferes with the dingy when it’s on the davits)
  • And last but not least – a collapsible salad spinner (I can’t believe I didn’t think about the fact that pre-washed lettuce would be a thing of the past once I left the states – duh!)
Just this morning we blew a fuse on our generator (we’ll be adding that to our order!) and we found out that possibly the only way to fix our on-going issue with our engine-driven refrigeration system is to somehow find and install a belt tensioner that will work with our system.  Try doing that in Spanish – not to mention having to walk to the distant places that MIGHT have the parts! 

Suffice it to say that there is a never ending stream of items that break down on a boat that is being used every day.  Add to that the difficulty and expense of securing parts outside of the US and I’m guessing our readers can understand why we would want to take advantage of visits from home to help get additional parts here.  Am I right?

Soooooooo…….do we have a ridiculous array of parts to fix the boat?  Yes!  Will we need every one of them?  I sure as hell hope not!  Have we thought of everything?  Definitely NOT! 

However, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to fix many of the systems that are certain to break over the next few years – systems that have become pretty important to our survival and comfort when we are VERY far from any parts store and no longer have loved ones coming to visit.  And perhaps what I have failed to convey until now is that having those parts on board make ME feel significantly more comfortable when I am living a life that is basically 100% outside of my “normal” comfort zone.  

Our First Official Guests!

Susan & Larry - our first official guests!
So we’ve officially had our first visitors come and go and I couldn’t have asked for better people to test drive our guest quarters!  Since we’ve only had guests a couple of times before leaving, it’s always interesting to see how it turns out – what works and what doesn’t. 

Our good friend Susan and her boyfriend Larry came to visit us for a week, arriving on Thanksgiving Day.  Susan we know VERY well, but Larry is kind of “new” to us and he hadn’t been on a boat before, so we thought it might prove “interesting”!  I’m thankful to report that he did VERY well and was a kind, helpful and eager to please guest.  Both he and Susan were a joy to have on board and it was wonderful to spend some time with my much missed friend (have I mentioned how much I miss Susan and our daily walks???).

Between the two islands
After their arrival on Thursday we spent Friday provisioning for their stay and then wondering La Paz.  We had been invited onto our friends Mac & Catherine’s boat for dinner and a very nice time aboard Indigo was had.  On Saturday it was off to Caleta Partida – our first venture out to the island of Espiritu Santo, where our friends would also be.  Caleta Partida is actually located in between the island of Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida with a winding and shallow channel between them.  You can anchor on either side, but the Caleta side is a huge bay capable of holding MANY boats, so it’s a popular spot to join friends.   From La Paz it is about 4 hours of direct motoring, or about 6 hours of tacking up wind, assuming the wind is cooperating!   Unfortunately the wind was not cooperating, so we did have to motor.

Brett under one of the many rock formations on our hike
Wow!  What a beautiful anchorage!  We found our friends, set the hook nearby and then invited them over for a pasta dinner.  The six of us watched a great sunset and had a nice time.  The weather was perfect – just a light breeze, very few bugs and probably too much wine (I know, us?  What a shocker!  I’m going to blame the guests!).

The next day we decided we should go snorkeling.  I have to say that Larry earned my full respect here as he is clearly NOT comfortable in the water, but it never slowed him down a bit.  I really respect a big guy that is comfortable enough to ask for a life jacket and who is not be afraid to push outside of his comfort zone – I know it’s not easy, so bravo Larry. 

Beautiful cactus flower!
While snorkeling we saw some “puffer” fish (not sure I have the right name, but the ones that puff up when you scare them) and lots of colorful fish – but the best was when we got to follow some turtles!  What a difference it is to see them under the water – so much more graceful and free looking than when they are plodding along on land.

The next day we were all feeling like we needed some exercise so we decided to tackle the big hike up to the top of the mountain that looks down on the anchorage.  Brett and I were hopeful that we’d be able to get a cool photo of our boat in the beautiful blue water and we knew there would be a lot of great flora and fauna to see along the way.  It’s far greener than normal right now as the Baja received a lot more rain this year than normal – so there are tons of flowers and plants that are not usually in view during the dry season.  A perfect time to hike! 

So off we went to the white sandy beach at the bottom of the climb.  Thankfully the tide was in and so we didn’t have to drag the dinghy forever (not true later!).  After donning our hiking shoes and bug spray/sun screen, we made our way past thousands of tiny crabs to the base of the “wash” which is the easiest way to hike since there are no ”man-made” hiking trails.  I LOVE to boulder and this was a truly amazing hike – big boulders, small ones, plants, flowers and even a famed stick bug!  There were stunning views all of the way up!  We finally reached the top (or as close as we dared as the top looked a little dicey) and what a fabulous view – well worth the trip up. 

Thousands of tiny crabs!
While admiring the view we downed a much earned beer, took some of the great photos you see here and rested a bit before starting back the way we’d come.   After the long trip down, we found the tide had gone out (as expected) and so we carried our dinghy about 200 yards out to the water, trying not to step on the 1000’s of crabs on the beach – ick!  The funny part is that once we got to the water the dinghy would float, but it was too shallow for the motor to work!  So we poled, walked and paddled the dink the long way back until we were finally deep enough to motor the last couple 100 yards.  Guess we needed an arm workout after working our legs so hard!

Hikers (still pretty fresh looking!)
Time to go swimming!!!  How good did the water feel after we stripped down back at the boat?  You have no idea.  Hiking in 80 degrees for 4 hours makes for some very hot people and I was thrilled to jump in upon our return.  The crisp, cool water felt wonderful and quickly helped us cool back down to the normal 98.6 degrees we are supposed to be at. 

Sadly, our trip to the islands and our fun time with Susan and Larry had to come to an end.  Once back in La Paz we got a local recommendation for the best “authentic” Mexican food within walking distance.  Upon our arrival we all looked at each other questioningly as it looked exactly like a Las Margaritas at home – not exactly what we had in mind.  Plus we were the ONLY people there – yikes!  Now I really should mention that most people here make the afternoon meal their main meal – so not many folks go out to dinner unless they are tourists or other travelers. 

So we sat, perused the menu and then something dreadful happened…….

We ordered margaritas (which took up an entire page of their menu, so they were obviously a popular item) and were told there were none!  GASP!  What????  No margaritas?????  How can it be???  Well apparently they were out of a “crucial” ingredient and would rather not make a sub-par margarita – which I can totally respect!  It’s just so different because this would never happen at home – heads would fly if a restaurant was out of a mainstay cocktail!  But in Mexico it is simply no big deal to run out of something that is integral to your establishment – people will just order something else.  No big deal.  And you know what?  I have to say they are right, it isn’t a big deal!  Life goes on without margaritas and we still had an absolutely FANTASTIC dinner – with beer!  

Larry close to the top!
Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Susan and Larry the next morning.  I would like to thank them both for being wonderful, sensitive and respectful guests.  For not using too much water, for contributing to our food and beverages (as we have a limited budget) and most of all for understanding the concept that this is our home (it’s all we’ve got!) and that there is a reason we have some seemingly weird “rules”.  We couldn’t have asked for better guests and we miss them already.   

Caleta Partida anchorage from the top!
Next guests – the entire family of 11 adults and 9 kids (!!!) for Christmas!  They’ll be chartering two other boats for a week and we’ll have our two nieces (Gwyn and Kyndal) plus my sudo-sister Cheryl on board.  It’s going to be a crazy group – hopefully crazy FUN!