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

13-03-27

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.

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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).

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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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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.

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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.