Life on the Hook in Mexico – What do you do all day when you’re cruising in the tropics?

cruising, sailing, living aboard in Mexico

Mark makes music on Groovy

Sailing off into the sunset is a dream a lot of people share, and some even get the crazy idea to go ahead and actually do it.  What’s it like?  Here’s a glimpse of some of the things we do each day in our cruising lifestyle — kind of a behind-the-scenes look at our life of leisure aboard a sailboat in the tropics.

snorkeling huatulco mexico cruising and living aboard

We have fun above and below water.

When we decided to cruise Mexico, we planned to anchor out pretty much 100% of the time.  That way we could put more of our budget into a comfortable, newer boat, while keeping the day-to-day expenses to a minimum.  Marinas in Pacific Mexico typically cost anywhere from $30-$50 a night or $600-$900 a month for a boat our size, so living “on the hook” at anchor can mean big savings.

But living on the hook has its ups and downs.  Literally!!  The Pacific swell keeps the boat in constant motion, frequently lurching it from side to side for hours, or even days, on end.  Also, the beautiful ocean is often held hostage by red tide — or algae blooms — that cloak it in an unpleasant color and odor, and fill it with debris, making swimming impossible and dropping the water temps as much as 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit.

87 degree water in Huatulco Mexico

Ahh… warm water!!!

For the past week, however, we have had one ideal day after another (November, 2012, in Huatulco).  The water has been turquoise and clear and in the high 80’s.  The air has been sunny and warm, and the swell has been modest, jolting us awake with a jerk only once or twice a night, if at all.  Our days have been spent swimming til our skin is wrinkled, kayaking in the bay, and walking the beach where the waves caress our feet with the warmest of sun-heated ripples.

Mexico cruising clear turquoise water

The water in Huatulco is gorgeous

Life on the hook, even during these heavenly days, is not exclusively about umbrella drinks in the cockpit, however.  Each day we have a few hours of work that needs to be done.  Mark keeps us on track with this stuff, making lists and making sure we stick to them.

I always find my interest in these things wandering quite a bit, though.  Left to my own devices, I’m afraid the list would soon be lost, and after a few weeks we’d be living in true squalor.

swimming in Huatulco Mexico (Tangolunda Bay) living aboard a sailboat

Who wants to quit swimming to do a bunch of boat chores??

Back when I lured Mark into this cruising lifestyle (well, let’s see, I think I dragged him into it by the ear!), we divvied up the responsibilities according to skill, inclination and interest, rather than going straight “pink” and “blue.”

Since I’ve worked with computers all my life and had cruised before, the chartplotter was easy for me to learn, and I became navigator and skipper while underway.

Cruising Mexico - living aboard a sailboat To Do List

Mark keeps us on track with our boat chores. Notice: “clean bilge” is not yet crossed off…

In our RVing life I never tow the trailer and rarely drive the truck.  Last time I tried parking the rig, I put us exactly perpendicular to the spot I was aiming for.  Mark’s last docking experience with the boat went just about as well.  So this division of labor has been a happy one.

I love technical things and understand the theory of many things on the boat, and I got a huge kick out of researching and specifying the boat’s major system upgrades.  But when it comes to holding a wrench I am still flustered by which end is which.  Mark was a professional service engineer for Xerox’s high speed (room sized) printers and grew up working on cars.  He is a master when it comes to electro-mechanical troubleshooting and installation.

Mexico cruising living aboard a sailboat and cleaning the bilge

I like using a kid’s bazooka water gun to clean the bilge!

So, in exchange for putting all the responsibility for all the boat’s systems squarely in his lap, I volunteered to keep the bilge clean.

Having a clean bilge makes it is easier to notice when something isn’t right.  Water in the bilge must be coming from somewhere.  Is it salt water or fresh water?  Guess who gets to find out!  Hopefully if a chemical is leaking into the bilge it isn’t lethal!!

In our earliest days in Huatulco, “clean bilge” went on the to-do list (our engine’s packing gland material is getting old, so it drips now).  Mark had the luxury of taking a snooze next to the open bilge compartment when he finished his items on the To Do list!  I dawdled as long as I could.

Cruising Mexico living aboard a sailboat

Boat work done? Take a snooze!

I’ve found the easiest way to get water out of the bilge is to use a kid’s bazooka water gun.  Ours has a pointy end that can get into the crevices, and it soaks up a good bit of water that can then be squirted in a pail.  Doing a final squeegee pull with fresh water before putting the toy away has kept it in good working order.

cruising mexico sailing mexico living aboard clean bilge

There, it’s done, and we have a clean bilge once again.

Living on the hook means that going ashore requires either a swim or a boat ride.  So taking out the trash requires loading it in the dinghy first, and then finding a trash barrel on shore somewhere to throw it away.

The kayak works for this task too.  The cool thing is that after the trash is gone you’re free to go exploring either on foot ashore or in the kayak.

cruising mexico living aboard a sailboat taking out the trash

Time to take out the trash!

Getting the laundry done also means loading it up in the dinghy and then lugging it to a laundromat — that is, if there is a laundromat somewhere nearby!  In most Mexican ports laundry service isn’t hard to find.

cruising life aboard a sailboat hand washing laundry

Everyday we wash yesterday’s clothes in the sink. We wear light clothing around here and it’s an easy task.

Here in Huatulco the laundromat is a cab ride away — in addition to the dinghy ride to shore.  Once you get there a woman washes and folds it for you (for 15 pesos per kilo, or about $4-$5 USD per load).  But you don’t get it back til the next day!!  (Ahem — that means another combo dinghy ride / cab ride to pick the laundry bags up…).  If you splurge and stay at the marina, you can have your laundry picked up and delivered back to the boat for 20 pesos a kilo…

liveaboard cruising mexico drying clothes in the rigging

Luckily there are lots of places to hang the laundry out to dry

So, to avoid the laundry hassle while living on the hook, we’ve found it’s easiest just to wash out yesterday’s clothes in the sink each morning and hang ’em out to dry.  Luckily our clothes down here consist of bathing suits, running shorts and light shirts. We haven’t worn shoes and socks since we got here.

I’ve learned that what gives our clothes that “clean” smell from a washer/dryer is the fact that they don’t get fully rinsed out.  So we always rinse our clothes to a point — but leave enough soap in them so they smell nice after hanging on the line.  Sheets and towels have to wait for real laundry service, however…

living aboard a sailboat cruising mexico changing zincs

Mark gets ready to install new zincs

cruising mexico living on a sailboat bottom cleaning

Tools for the bottom: scraper, new zincs, scotch brite pad…


We both keep the bottom of the hull as clean as possible.  In some places (like Zihuatanejo), the barnacles grow so fast you have to scrape the bottom with scrapers every few days.  In other places (like the Sea of Cortez and Huatulco), you can merely wipe the bottom with a towel to get the algae slime off.  It takes a lot of breath to get to the bottom of the keel, though, and Mark is much better at that than I am.  So I do the hull and he gets the keel and scrapes the prop.

Electrolysis in the water, especially at marinas, can eat a prop down to nothing in no time.  So we put sacrificial “zincs” on the prop and shaft that are made of that softer metal.

Living aboard cruising Mexico changing zincs

Screwdriver and zinc in hand, you gotta get down there and get it attached all in one breath.

Cruising on a sailboat in Mexico new zincs

A new zinc is installed on the prop shaft

Over time, these zincs get eaten away by the electrolysis instead, sparing the prop shaft and blades’ slightly harder metal.

However, the zincs are not that easy to install.  Mark makes it look like a piece of cake, completing the task in just a few free dives.  I would be spluttering and drowning and would probably drop the screw driver or the zinc in the sand deep below the boat, never to be found again…

Bountiful fresh water is critical to a comfortable life aboard, and we get our fresh water from a “watermaker” that converts ocean water into drinking water.

Cruising mexico making water with the watermaker underway

We go out to clean deep water to “make water”

This is a rather miraculous system, and our watermaker is enormous by cruising standards, converting 60 gallons of water an hour by pushing it through a strainer first (to remove the fish and sea creatures) then through two filters (to remove the algae) then through two 4′ long high pressure membranes (to remove the salt, bacteria and viruses).

Cruising mexico there is frequent red tide

Wow – clean water!! Such a special treat. Red tide is an unfortunate fact of life on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

The system is rated for 38 gallons an hour, but after the two membranes failed in our first season, the manufacturer (EchoTec) kindly replaced them with high capacity membranes, so now we fill a gallon jug in 63 seconds.  It’s quite thrilling to watch.  Shower water, toilet water and deck cleaning water all go into our holding tanks (140 gallons), but we keep our drinking water in gallon jugs as a habit held over from living in our trailer.

Mark hated the watermaker the first year.  It was a bear to install due to inaccurate manuals, incomplete parts shipped to us, and difficult positions for the various parts in the boat.  Plus, installation required fabricating a bracket to hang the high pressure pump from the engine.

To top it all off, the first membranes we received were dead on arrival.  Then the replacement set failed after four months!  Now, however, with great, working membranes, the watermaker is his pride and joy (“I want to keep it even if we sell the boat someday!” he joked recently).  It is his favorite part of the boat.

cruising mexico in a sailboat EchoTech watermaker

EchoTec’s main watermaker panel. At 800 psi the system pegs at 60 gph.

sailing mexico watermaker installation

Mark runs a hose to the deck to wash it down as we make water

The purity of the water is measured by a TDS meter (“total dissolved solids”), and we found the San Diego water supply at our son’s apartment got readings of 350, and the FDA limit is 500.  Our watermaker usually gives us readings between 75 and 95.

Most boats our size have systems that convert 6-13 gallons an hour.  However, we’ve found the 60-gallon-an-hour flow is fast enough to be able to wash the deck and cockpit with a hose run out a hatch.  This is a real boon at the end of a salty crossing or after sitting in a dusty area for a while.  So, making water and/or washing the cockpit/deck is often on our day’s to-do list.

sailing mexico watermaker 60 gph

60 gallons per hour gives a good flow

Then there’s food.  We are simple eaters, so our diet is pretty plain by most standards.  In Mexico we’ve discovered many familiar foods can be found on store shelves, even if the packaging is in Spanish.

The most common bread available in Mexico is “Bimbo Bread,” which is equivalent to our Wonder Bread.  But it turns out that Mexico’s Bimbo Bakeries actually owns the US brands Oroweat, Arnold, Thomas’s English Muffins and many others.

ex-pat living in mexico buying bread

Oroweat Bread is owned by Mexico’s Bimbo Bakeries

We’ve found Oroweat breads in most supermarkets in Mexico, and the price of around $3 to $3.50 USD is comparable to home.

Mexico cruising ex-pat living cereal

“Azucaradas” sounds & looks like kids’ sugar cereal

mexico cruising sailing blog living aboard quaker cereal


It helps to learn some of the basic food terms in Spanish: “avena” (oatmeal), “integral” (whole wheat), “grano entero” (whole grain), “pasas” (raisins) and “azucar” (sugar) are a few.  So when you see a cereal called “Azucaradas” with a crazy, wild zebra on it, you can tell it’s probably a sugar cereal for kids!

In this age of jet-setting food, we’re used to seeing tomatoes from Mexico in the supermarkets in the US, but what a surprise to find Washington apples here in Mexico as well as organically grown California spinach.


California organic Spinach is imported into Mexico

Did this spinach bring a passport?

This spinach was a bit wilted (it’s a long flight for a little leaf!), and the price was $6 USD a box. But it’s available.

Bean burritos are a common dinner aboard Groovy.  They’re yummy, easy to make and don’t take a lot of ingredients.  But I was amused when I asked our friend Andrés from southern Mexico if he’d like a bean burrito, and he responded, “Is that an American dish or a Mexican one?”  What we always thought of as being so very Mexican isn’t really…

cruising mexico sailing blog living aboard movies

Matt Damon & Scarlett Johansson – We’ll take it!

At night we often settle in with a movie.  TV reception is non-existent on the boat, but the bootleg DVD industry is alive and well in Mexico.  DVD’s are sold on the street for 20 to 30 pesos apiece ($1.60-$2.40 USD).  The titles often have no resemblance to the English titles, so you go by the actors’ names and hope for the best.  Who knows what this one is, but with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, it oughtta be okay!

Mexico cruising living aboard a sailboat in Huatulco Mexico

Groovy is happily anchored off a lovely resort in Tangolunda Bay, Huatulco





So we live rather simply, floating in a tub on the ocean and washing our clothes in the sink!  It’s a crazy life, but lately it has been fabulous.



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Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Oh, That’s Just Swell! – Life on a Boat that ROLLS At Anchor!!

A container ship rolls in the swell in Manzanillo Mexico

The container ship rolled slower than this, but I can only imagine what it felt and sounded like inside!!
Notice that there are no visible waves!!

It is rare — no, it’s nearly impossible — on Mexico’s Pacific coast to find an anchorage where the boat stays flat. The direction of the wind, the tides and the ocean swell conspire to keep the boat in constant motion, endlessly pitching and rolling and ignoring all pleas from the crew to “Please Stop and Let Me Get Off!!”

It’s not that big a big deal during the day.  If we’re on the boat, we’re busy doing things.  Of course, sometimes we get caught off guard in the middle of something that requires coordination — like pouring a hot cup of coffee, standing on one foot while putting on a bathing suit, or walking up the companionway stairs carrying his-and-hers lunch plates in both hands.  The boat will suddenly lurch to one side and the coffee will spill all over the floor, or I’ll topple over with one foot stuck in my bathing suit, flailing helplessly as I go down, or the lunch plates will fly off in all directions as I try my best not to get too many bruises bouncing down the stairs to the floor.

At night, however, it’s another story.  The offshore winds at night in Pacific Mexico almost always turn the boat so it is beam to the sea, and it seems to me that the swell always picks up too.  So, even if during the day the swell was mild and the boat was taking the rolls on the nose, gently pitching from front to back, at night (like clockwork after the sun goes down) the boat turns and the side-to-side rolling begins.  Finding a comfortable sleeping position can be a good challenge.  On my side, I find myself rocking forward and backward, over and over.  A better position is either on my back or my front, arms and legs stretched wide on either side for stabilization.  The starfish position!  Get two people doing this in one bunk and… well, it’s a little like the game of Twister.

On more tumultuous nights, the doors, bulkheads and stairs creak with every roll. Sometimes an errant flashlight or coke can begins to roll back and forth on a shelf or in the fridge, banging at either end of its path. Thud, thud, thud.  What the heck is that noise?  Our ears perk up, listening for each thud as our bodies rock around around in bed.  Then we’ll find ourselves doing an hour’s worth of cat-and-mouse hunting, as we try to figure out what’s making the noise and squelch it. Sometimes the sound is in a cockpit locker, making for a naked dash outside to repack the locker so everything stays put.

Sometimes the boat plays games with us at night.  As it swings at anchor it faces beam to the sea for a while and then swings to face bow to the sea, moving in a slow 90 degree arc back and forth all night long.  When the boat finally turns all the way so the swell is on the bow, the side to side motion suddenly stops.  Ahh… such sweet relief!  We sink back into delicious oblivion and sleep steels over us.  For a few seconds.  Then the boat gradually swings back on its arc to put the beam towards the sea, and the noise and motion begin once again.

Anchoring all over the west coast of Mexico, we’ve become apprentices in the fine art of taking a shower on board, which can be an adventure unto itself, as well as landing a dinghy on the beach, which is frequently a true water sport of the wettest kind!

When we visited friends in the Las Hadas Resort Anchorage and stood on their balcony enjoying the view of Manzanillo Bay, we suddenly noticed a container ship leaning way over on its side.  Wow!  We watched for a few seconds and it slowly rolled all the way over to the other side.  Holy Mackerel!  What was it like to be on that ship, and what did all those containers sound like as the boat moved?  I don’t know, but it sure makes a great animation to watch from a solid foundation on sweet Terra Firma.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

What Is It Like to go Cruising on a Sailboat in Mexico?! – Insights for planning a sailing cruise of Mexico

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Snap, Crackle, Pop – Fishy Sounds from Deep Under Our Boat!

Mexico cruising ecosystem under the boat

– A school of fish swims under Groofy’s hull and keel –
We always have a complete ecosystem living under the boat!!

April 17, 2013 – No matter how remote the anchorage, Groovy is never alone in the water. We are always playing host to a whole ecosystem around us! And these creatures aren’t particularly quiet. One of the craziest things about living on a sailboat at anchor is just how noisy it gets at night!

We can’t hear the cacophony on deck and don’t notice the noise while we’re watching movies or listening to music. But once the lights are off and we’re lying still in bed, the noise level is astonishing.

The most common sound we hear is a crackling noise like bacon sizzling in a frying pan. This popping sound engulfs the whole boat and is often very loud down below. Puzzled by it at first, we had to do quite a bit of research to track it down. We discovered it is made by snapping shrimp (also known as “pistol shrimp”).

These tiny little guys live in nooks and crannies on the ocean floor. They are like ordinary shrimp, although quite small, and one of their claws is a very special weapon. This claw can be cocked open and then slammed shut with such force that a huge air bubble shoots out. When this bubble collapses — almost instantaneously — a loud POP is produced. The noise is enough for the shrimp to stun and kill its prey! Here is a wonderful website describing snapping shrimp, as well as a brief and cute YouTube documentary where you can hear the sound snapping shirmp make, and a YouTube explanation of the science and acoustics behind the shrimp’s snap.

Snapping shrimp aren’t the only noisemakers, however.  Down south in Zihuatanejo‘s nutrient rich waters, Groovy grows a long grass skirt almost overnight, and the ecosystem living under the boat blossoms into an entire city. We often hear the swishing sound of fish attacking the tiny crabs that have taken up residence in the seaweed on the hull, and the fishermen in Zihuatanejo and Huatulco love to cast their nets under our boat in late afternoons and early mornings to catch these fish. On a regular basis we get woken up by the sound of a fishing net hitting the hull!

During our six months up north in Ensenada, we heard a completely different and unique sound every night: a honking kind of a noise that made us go up on deck at first to see if it was a fog horn. But all was quiet on deck. The noise was only in the cabin. The honking would go on for about ten minutes, starting far away from the boat and then getting closer and closer, and then drifting away again. We never did figure out what it was, but it seemed to be some kind of fish. He visited us around 9:00 or 10:00 every night for months. We had forgotten all about this noise until we heard it again on the Costalegre recently, some three years later. It had the same pattern, honking at 10 second intervals, growing louder and louder and then fading away.

Perhaps the best aquatic noise of the night we’ve ever heard, though, was when we were anchored in Puerto Marques outside Acapulco. Lying in bed the night before we left, we both bolted upright when we heard the strangest, eeriest, squeakiest kind of wailing noise. What the heck? We dashed up on deck to see what it was, but could hear nothing out there. Returning to the cabin, we heard it again, plain as day: a kind of haunting singing. Suddenly we both knew: it was whales! We climbed back in bed, and listened for hours, eventually falling asleep to the mysterious songs of these magical creatures. A few of them must have swum into our little bay. When we awoke in the morning the sounds were gone.

Last spring, when we returned to our trailer and first set up camp in the northern Arizona woods, we were really startled by the deafening silence and our utterly stationary bed. There were no popping noises of snapping shrimp, or swishes of fish gobbling crabs from the hull, no singing whales or creaking bulkheads.  All was still and silent.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

The Tourist Tangle – All tied up in knots!

The Tourist Tangle - choking straps everywhere!

All those straps can make a mess!!

April 9, 2013 – When we hit the shore to do some sightseeing, we both always have quite a collection of stuff to bring with us: hat, sunglasses, camera, spare lenses, reading glasses, Hoodman loupe (to see what’s on the back of the camera), spare filters, wallet, marina key (now that we’re living the high life in a marina).

My lightweight shorts generally have no pockets, so much of this stuff ends up around my neck where it is easy to reach when I want it.  Throughout the day, I shuffle all this gear around, grabbing each item as needed.

The sunglasses go on and off as we walk outdoors and indoors.  Same with the hat which, when off, slips down my back and leaves the strap choking me.  The sunglasses get swapped with the reading glasses when I need to actually see what i’m looking at up close (the sunglasses usually end up on the hat – just don’t forget they’re there!).  The loop comes out after I take a picture to see if ths pic’s any good.  And the camera has to be ready at a moment’s notice for that really cool, unexpected shot.

But it never fails: we’ll be walking along somewhere and something magical will happen near us.  I go to grab my camera and end up in a tangle of straps.  And what a mess it is if I’ve got an ice cream cone in my hand!!

A fellow watching me wrestling with my spider web of straps one time began to chuckle.  I tugged and struggled to unravel the snarl, and he just shook his head and grinned: “That looks like a tourist tangle!”

Aha – it has a name!!

Now whenever either of us ends up with both arms flailing around our heads, gear dangling precariously as we fight our way free, we just laugh out loud and cry: “Help help! I’m caught in the Tourist Tangle!”

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

And God said: “Let the Beer Flow”

Mexico Tecate beer promotion - a beautiful model in hot pants

Mark had eyes only for the red Tecate cooler bag…!!

March 30, 2013 – Easter week, or “Semana Santa,” is a HUGE vacation week in Mexico. Everyone from the interior cities comes down to the beach to play, it seems. So when we got to Walmart yesterday to do an ordinary provisioning run, we were there with the rest of Puerto Vallarta (and Guadalajara and Mexico City). They were all stocking up on party basics. Of course, the most important party basic is BEER, and the beer manufacturers were doing all they could to get their product out of their hands and into ours.

Their method is incredibly effective. We were debating between a twelve-pack of Pacifico and a twelve-pack of Tecate. Then Mark noticed that the Tecate was on sale: two twelve-packs for 185 pesos ($14.80 USD). Well, that was a no-brainer since Pacifico was quite a bit more. We loaded two twelve-packs of Tecate into our cart and carried on.

Then we noticed a very svelte Tecate girl in very hot hot-pants. How could you not notice her, especially since she was in stiletto heels and was about 5’10” tall?! We have learned that these beautiful beer models are always in the stores with some kind of cool promotion, and we quickly discovered what hers was: buy four twelve-packs of Tecate and get either a Tecate umbrella, a Tecate beach chair or a Tecate shoulder-bag / cooler for free.

Mark’s face lit up. He loves a deal, and he instantly had his eye on the red Tecate cooler bag she had on her shoulder. So, into the cart went two more twelve-packs of Tecate.

I’ve gotten used to the beer gals and their promotions after three seasons in Mexico, so I wandered off to sample the free potato chips that were being offered to customers. Yum (except the jalapeño chips — Yikes on those!!).

I turned back to see Mark and another Tecate gal taping extra cans of beer onto the twelve packs in our cart. Huh? It turned out there was another promotion going on: buy a twelve-pack of Tecate and get two extra cans for free, taped onto the outside of the box.

Wow, suddenly we were getting four twelve-packs plus 8 extra cans of beer plus a shoulder cooler bag, all for 370 pesos, or a little under $30. That’s 56 beers – so it translates to just over $3 per six-pack – plus the cooler bag that we would pick up in the Tecate tent outside the store. What a deal!!

The Coors folks were trying hard too, but they were using another tactic that wasn’t quite as effective. They had a studly guy with bulging muscles giving away Coors T-shirts. Unfortunately for him, Coors is an imported beer, so it was quite a bit more expensive. And, I have to say, the guys weren’t exactly lining up in front of this hunk to get their picture taken with him.

However, outside the store in the Tecate tent, where the music was blasting and the giveaways were flying off the tables, the male customers were nearly knocking each other over to get pics of themselves with the Tecate girls. One girl in particular was a stunner, and she had the moves down as she posed too. I wonder how many guys forgot to pick up their umbrella or beach chair or cooler bag in all the excitement?

No matter. Looking down the line of guys waiting for their photo op, I saw Tecate twelve-packs and taped on pairs of cans practically spilling out of all their shopping carts. The Easter party bash was just getting started!

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

What Is It Like to go Cruising on a Sailboat in Mexico?! – Insights for planning a sailing cruise of Mexico

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Showering on the hook = A carnival ride with your eyes closed!


Smaller than a phone booth…

One thing that takes a little getting used to in this oddball life of anchoring out in a sailboat on Mexico’s Pacific coast is that the boat never stays still.  Cruising northern New England and the Caribbean in the past, I don’t remember our boats rolling around quite so much.  But Mexico’s Pacific coast is different.  The ocean swell barrels into Mexico’s coast with force, and there’s nothing to slow it down on the way in.  And most of the anchorages offer minimal protection.

So taking a shower in a space smaller than a phone booth can be an exercise in agility.  Invariably, once I’ve gotten myself all watered down and all soaped up — with my eyes tightly closed — the boat rolls out from under me.  Not a gentle little sway but a great big lurching roll.  With a stifled shriek I find myself grasping desperately for a handhold.

Just as I find the wall and steady myself, the boat is tossed the other way and I hear my razor slip off the shelf and hit the shower floor.  The blade pops off, and then I’m suddenly groping around my feet trying to find where the two pieces disappeared to.

Wham!  The boat pitches again while I’m doubled over searching for that razor, and I’m thrown into the shampoo rack.  My feet slip on the soapy floor.  As I fall, I’m wondering whether it’s better to sit down hard on the bench or twist a little more gracefully on the way down and catch my fall with a hip and a hand.

At this point I usually peek a little bit — who cares if I get soap in my eyes? — and I hear Mark’s distant voice, “Sweety, are you okay in there?!”

“Oh yes, just fine!!” I yell back just as a bottle of body wash flies off the shelf and crashes onto the floor with a bang, spilling a puddle of soap around my feet.  “If someone could just stop this carnival ride for a minute or two while I get rinsed off…”  But the waves march on, never ending.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Surfing the dinghy = Crash landings on the beach!

March 19, 2013 – One of the craziest aspects of cruising Mexico’s Pacific coast is the insane dinghy beach landings. Sometimes the surf is up, and you have to time your beach landing carefully, or you’ll get a serious dousing. We watched an experienced cruiser lose control of his dink on his way out from the beach one time. It shot into the air like a rocket and flipped over upside down, scattering his belongings everywhere.  Worse, his outboard was toast!

Sailing Mexico means surfing the dink sometimes

Not so easy getting in… and not so easy getting out either!!

Sooo… heading in to shore in Cuastecomate the other day, we packed our cameras in dry bags and set out to hit the village for some fun photography. But as we neared the beach and heard the huge crashers, we got cold feet. Back to Groovy we went, tails between our legs. Later, staring at the shore sulkily from the cockpit, we decided to give it another go. Properly dressed in bathing suits, and with everything lashed down in the dink in case it flipped, we saw a break in the rollers and Mark floored it towards the beach.

Dinghies with wheels just roll right onto the beach, but our porta-bote doesn’t have wheels. So Mark cut the engine at the last second to get the prop out of the water before it hit the sand. At the same time, I jumped out of the dink to pull it onto the beach before the next wave caught us. But this is a steep beach. I jumped too soon. The water was too deep. My feet didn’t hit the sand til I was half under the boat and hanging on for dear life. A huge wave grew to mammoth proportions behind us and crashed just inches from the back of the dink while I staggered to pull it to shore. It was all very funny, and we were both laughing hysterically. But a nicely dressed older couple walking hesitantly past us under a shared parasol stared at my dripping, sandy, soaked body in total disbelief.

Little did we all know, they had a better show coming. On the return trip into the crashing surf a few hours later, we waded into the series of small waves that was to be our escape route and jumped in the dink. Mark pulled on the outboard starter while I rowed with all my might. But he got no response from the engine. We were still floundering in the surf zone when the waves started to grow. “Hurry hurry!” I yelled, making little progress with the oars because his body was right where my left oar needed to be. The dinghy barely climbed over one breaking wave and then struggled over the next bigger one behind it. We just missed a good swamping each time.

Ten yanks on the outboard and some really colorful expletives later, the engine finally started. We were free. Looking back at beach, I could see the little old couple sitting under their parasol. Their mouths still hung open as our prop finally bit into the water and lurched us back to safety aboard Groovy.

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Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

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Swabbing the decks underway!

Swabbing the decks cruising Mexico

Swabbing the decks is one way to pass the time!

March 16, 2013 – Long passages under power can be a bit boring, so one way we sometimes spice it up is to swab the decks! This is especially helpful if we’ve been in a dirty port for a while (Manzanillo is notorious for the soot from the power plant), or if we’ve had a particularly gnarly passage with lots of salt spray on deck.

After much trial and error with everything from garden sprayers to “Absorber” towels, we’ve figured out a system for cleaning the boat at sea. Mark gets the watermaker going, and I get busy with a soft bristle brush and bucket of soapy water (boat soap or Turtle-Wax car washing soap). Starting at the highest point on the boat, I swab my way down to the gunwales, and then from forward to aft, ending up in the cockpit.

While I’m swabbing away, Mark fills 5-gallon bottles of water and hands them up through the companionway hatch so I can rinse as I go. We use old plastic drinking water bottles, the kind with handles that are easy to carry. He rotates 3 bottles, and can get one filled in about the time that I use one up, going through about 20 bottles in the process. One of the great things about using watermaker water for washing the boat is that it doesn’t spot. So there’s no need to wipe anything down afterwards!

This is a great workout — we always end up quite sore afterwards — and it’s good for practicing your balance too, because the boat heaves and rolls in the swell (of course we only do this when it’s calm!). The reward for this hour or two of hard labor is having a sparkling clean boat when we get where we’re going.  But one thing we learned the hard way: if we’re cleaning the cabin too, we shake out the rugs before swabbing the decks!!  (And, of course, in a dry climate like Mexico, washing the boat is bound to induce rain… our latest cleaning brought a torrential downpour with 24 hours!!)

If you’re thinking about going cruising, and haven’t outfitted your boat with a watermaker yet, consider getting a very large capacity watermaker (ours is an Echotec 900-BML-2 which we’ve found produces 60 gallons an hour).

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Cruising = Fixing your boat in exotic places!

March 2, 2013 – Outboard engines these days are equipped with a fail-safe mechanism for when you accidentally hit something while the prop is spinning.  A little rubber hub inside the prop rips, saving the prop and engine from self-destructing, but disabling the prop from ever turning at full speed again.  Suzukis are especially sensitive.  Sigh.  Mark fixed the problem by drilling 3 holes in the prop to affix it to its mount permanently.  But the screws sheered.  Double sigh!!  So in Zihuatanejo we went in search of a welder.

Getting our outboard prop fixed in Zihuatanejo

Our prop gets 3 big holes in it

Local folks pointed us in all kinds of directions with great recommendations for this guy or that, but in the end our cabbie chose our guy, since he’d never heard of any of the welders on our list.  He drove us way out of town, dropped us off in front of a shop and vanished.

There we were, prop in hand, standing in front of a row of mechanic shops, in the middle of nowhere.

Part of cruising Mexico is learning to describe mechanical problems in Spanish.  Not easy!  But some sign language, lots of turning the prop in our hands and pointing, a few trips up and down the row of shops — all accompanied by our halting Spanish and their halting English — finally got us to the right guy in the right shop.  But did he really understand what we were talking about??

The prop was placed in a vice and the drill came out. Suddenly a second guy showed up and a shower of Spanish ensued.  Mark was whisked away in a car to a Tornillería (a screw store) a few miles away.  “Cruising” means going with the flow and having infinite faith that all will work out.

Twenty minutes later, after the shy, young mechanic and I had exhausted the limits of my Spanish conversational skills while we perched on his bench, Mark returned with three enormous stainless steel hex-head set screws — hopefully impervious to sheering.  The holes were tapped, the screws installed, and the repair was completed for 200 pesos ($16 USD).  The work was superior.

One of the unique things about this cruising life is that rather than being mere sightseeing tourists, we usually go to town with a purpose and a mission.  Having faith and allowing fate to take us by the hand and lead us to our destiny (and destination) has been one of the great lessons we have learned.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.