Tuesday, March 31, 2015

By Michael

We made it to the second SHLP spay-neuter
clinic that was sponsored by Frances's
birthday fundraiser. Here she is in her
element, using a syringe to lubricate the
eyes of sedated cats in post-op.
Years ago I worked with a guy who once spent three months in Japan on a programming assignment. He wasn’t an adventurous eater. Before leaving, he packed three months’ worth of food in his checked luggage. It was all he ate for the duration of his contract.

I remember hearing his story and being aghast. I mean, do you really want to be that insulated? Exploring a place and a culture means exploring the food its people eat. Yet I’d wager most cruisers begin their voyaging lives by over-provisioning. Instead of stuffing our checked luggage with familiar food, we stuff our lockers. There may be security in those stores, but they’re usually unnecessary and often go unused. After all, there will be plenty of people on your path who are eaters too. Food will be available.

But I think there are exceptions to any cautions about over-provisioning. If your cruising plans have you transiting the Northwest Passage or freezing your boat into the ice for the long, dark months above the Arctic Circle, you’d better bring everything with you. And if you’re getting ready to sail west into the Pacific like we are, it’s good to stock up also.

We’re looking at about a three- to four-week sail between Mexico and French Polynesia, so we’ll need at least enough food, water, and toilet paper to last that time. Once we arrive, we’ll face another hurdle. I’ve heard the residents of French Polynesia eat food, but the prices for nearly all imported items (and nearly everything but local fruit and baguettes is imported) are understandably exorbitant. We could eat like the locals, but my understanding is that their diet isn’t particularly diverse—heavy on the starches, meat, and local fruits, at best.

So we’re leaving Mexico with our lockers stuffed to the gills. I thought it would be interesting for many if I quantify that. Despite our small living space, we can stow a surprising quantity of stuff aboard. Here is a small sampling of the consumables we’ve provisioned so far (more to come, including perishables, over the coming 10 days):
  • 126 jumbo rolls of toilet paper
  • 96 liters of milk
  • 96 boxes of crushed tomatoes
  • 14 liters of olive oil
  • 21 bottles of red wine
  • 120 cans of lager
  • 48 boxes of tofu
  • 50 pounds of flour
  • 50 pounds of dried beans of all kinds
  • 1 pound of dry sundried tomatoes
  • 2 pounds of dried mushrooms
  • 1 pound of cinnamon
  • 25 pounds of whole rolled oats
  • 6 gallons of white vinegar (we use it for cleaning)
The vet here doing the surgery on an outdoor
basketball court in a community center is
Dr. Franzoni. He is on the SHLP board and a
great guy. He works six days a week at his office
and then spends every other Sunday leading
these free clinics in different neighborhoods.
It's not just showing up and operating,
he also works alongside the other
volunteers and board members to haul
all the crates, mats, supplies, tables, etc
to each site. 
Additionally, I’ve packed in consumables for our diesel engine. This includes 8 gallons of engine oil, 4 oil filters, 6 quarts of transmission fluid, and lots of fuel filters.

Another note that may be of interest to future cruising families reading this: we aren’t particularly organized. Contrary to the guidance offered in the popular cruising manuals, we aren’t making detailed lists of what we’re stowing where (and certainly not maintaining an inventory such that we update our stock list as we consume things). I guess my thinking is that it will be more fun to spend half a day looking for a jar of mayonnaise you know is someplace, only to stumble happily upon three jars of pesto you do not remember buying. Nor are we stripping labels off cans, labeling them with a sharpie, and varnishing them. This is how we roll. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


The family on the left side of this picture is Robbie,
Ali, and Gene. They are family friends from Montana's
Bitterroot Valley and former cruisers. They came
to La Paz on vacation and gave us the low-down on
the South Pacific, where they spent nine years.
For all you La Paz aficionados, we are on the
roof of the Harker Bar, waiting for our ales
to arrive.
No more kittens for this one. There were
six volunteer vets and their techs at this
particular clinic. Only 40 dogs and cats
showed up, so it made for a short day. The
vet here is operating on a regular ironing
board covered in plastic. 
This is our second-to-last Wednesday night soccer
game on the La Paz Magote. Windy in the foreground,
our friend Ali in the middle, me at the goal.

Monday, March 30, 2015

What Awaits Us?
By Michael

To take this picture of Eleanor, I had to set down
my cold beer. For all of you out there cruising with
younger kids, this is how getting ready to sail
to the South Pacific looks when you've got
older kids. She's twisting off the engine oil filter.
We’re going to French Polynesia. It’s a French protectorate comprised of 118 islands that stretch 1,200 miles across the South Pacific Ocean (and if you add up the land area of all the islands, it is roughly equivalent to that of Rhode Island). These 118 islands are divided into five island groups and they are very distinct. 

The first group we’ll stop at are the Marquesas. They are lush and with dramatic relief. I don’t think a lot of traditional commerce happens there. After the Marquesas, we’ll travel through the Tuamotos. Many people have told us this is their favorite group. Islands are a misnomer for this group; they’re sandy, palm-fringed atolls with few people living on them. On Google Earth they look like a patch of ringworm on a child’s leg, most of the rings with a gap just wide enough for Del Viento to pass through and into the big shallow swimming pools they form in the middle of nowhere. The third group we’ll visit are the Society Islands. These islands are lush like the Marquesas, but lower-lying and fringed by coral reefs. Tahiti and Bora Bora are in the Societies, so I suspect there are lots of tourists in this group.

The French are allowing the Robertsons only three months in French Polynesia and we’re not going to be able to explore it all. The Austral and Gambier island groups are off the beaten track and we’ll not visit them (this year).

French Polynesia will be pretty, no doubt. Everyone agrees on this. But what often matters about an inhabited place isn’t the beauty, but the people who call it home. We’ve seen ample beauty in Baja, but five years from now, my positive impressions about this peninsula will come from the mayor who included us in Puerto Magdalena’s New Years’ Eve celebration, from Geronimo and his daughters on one side of Agua Verde and Tio and his dog on the other, from Ana and the rest of the SHLP volunteers in La Paz, from Gerardo and Rodrigo camping with their kayaks on Isla Angel de La Guarda, from Isabela and her friendly staff at the Fonatur marina in Santa Rosalia, and from hundreds of kind strangers all over whose names I’ve forgotten.

Heading to French Polynesia for the first time, I’ve read and heard enough disparate impressions from the people who’ve traveled there before us to be eager to reconcile them with my own.

We'll miss our good friends Norma
and Christian of Mana Kai. We
planned to take off about the same
time, but they're going to spend
another year in Mexico before
heading west next year. Maybe
it's something we said.
My folks were there on a small cruise ship a few years ago and they were thrilled with their visit and can’t wait to learn about ours. I’ve read dozens of cruising blogs from people who eagerly share their own happy experiences in French Polynesia. My friend Kim on Puna gave me photos to share with the people she met in the Marquesas forty years ago, people she still remembers fondly.

Then there are my Bum friends who are famously dispassionate about these islands (even going so far as to say that everyone else feels the same way but are reticent to admit they are anything less than blown away after sailing thousands of miles to be there). In his book, South to Alaska, my friend Mike Litzow writes that after you’ve been a few weeks in this, “tropical paradise that Westerners have been idealizing ever since the days of Captain Cook,” you begin thinking that the, “lush green silhouettes of the islands are mostly comprised of marijuana plants.” He describes one encounter with people who seem to me jaded by visitors and bored by life. That said, Mike and his family have also enjoyed enriching encounters with Pacific Islanders; I hope we have our own.

My vegetarian diet is a concern. How awkward and insulting will I seem if we do something nice for someone and then find ourselves at a pig roast in our honor? None for me, thanks. I’m still full from that pamplemouse I had this morning. Oh, you caught that fish today? Yes it looks very fresh. A gift for us? No, I don’t eat fish either.

No matter what impression we get from French Polynesia, we are awfully lucky to be going there to form impressions. The beauty of the place will not disappoint and to share that with my girls, to see them brave a swim with a reef shark or delight at the sight of a waterfall at the end of a long hike, that will be enough—everything else will be bonus. Our tentative departure date is April 9.


Schoolwork aboard.
Our buddies on Bliss left the other day to head north to
explore the Sea of Cortez. The only downside about
our French Polynesia plans is that they have us heading
south, away from the Sea we love.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sick Bay
By Michael

This is the post-clinic photo from Sunday that
SHLP posted on their Facebook page. This clinic
was held at a community center in a La Paz
neighborhood (colonia) called Chametla.
Frances had it first: fever, lethargy, yuckness.

Then Eleanor crashed, much worse, I think that was Thursday night. Her fever (this girl doesn't get fevers) ran up to 104 and all the ibuprofen and acetaminophen aboard wasn't bringing it down. Saturday morning I took Eleanor to the hospital where they covered her in cool compresses, drew blood and urine for testing, and spent about 40 minutes looking at every organ in her abdomen with an ultrasound.

La Paz had a run of Dengue Fever following last year's hurricane and the doctor was looking for evidence of this.

"Influenza" was his verdict.

"That's good...wait, so she's contagious?"


That night the fever and aches and pains made sleep for me impossible. The next morning Windy was feeling crappy. Frances was starting to feel better, but still coughing.

Living on a boat in close quarters with your spouse and kids is the greatest thing in the world. Coughing and sneezing and moaning and blowing noses isn't living, and to do that together for a string of days in close quarters just sucks. I went in this morning to get some water because we were out; tomorrow we're all talking about maybe getting ashore to shower and launder bedding.

We've not been sick like this since we started cruising. The real bummer of it though? The timing. We missed two important events on our calendar (and we're cruisers, these were the only two events on our calendar): a wedding aboard a friend's boat and the first spay/neuter clinic held in France's name by the Sociedad Humanitaria de La Paz (SHLP). The big-hearted volunteers who organize these clinics even made a cake for the absent Frances.

But the good news is that the wedding was a success without us and 50 cats and dogs were fixed at the clinic without us. And while there will not be a repeat wedding before we take off for French Polynesia, there will hopefully be another clinic around the end of this month that we can all attend.
Following is a Facebook capture of a video that the SHLP organizers made for Frances. These are all friendly faces we've come to know.



Monday, March 9, 2015

The Weakest Link?
By Michael

New meets old.
Getting ready to (partly) cross an ocean is occasion to look at everything a bit more closely. I'm looking now at the chain joining link I installed only a few months ago.

The first 150 feet of our 3/8-inch anchor chain was a rusted mess--to the extent that in the past couple years our foredeck and starboard gutter came to look like we'd painted them orange. For months I began preparing for the re-galvanizing job I knew was in our future. Then one day, in response to increasing skipping of that chain on our gypsy, I compared a link at the 100-foot mark with a link at the 200-foot mark. I wish now I'd taken a picture of what I saw. It was difficult to believe the links were ever the same size.

So galvanizing was out. We bit the bullet and bought 150 feet of new Acco chain to mate to our good 150 feet. Enter the chain joining link.

I bought four of them, two different brands, a pair from West Marine, another pair from Defender. Installed properly (you've got to flatten the heads of the connecting pins with a ball peen hammer) they're supposed to be stronger than any single link of the same size.

This is the picture of the first one I've installed. It doesn't look like they did a great job with corrosion protection. Where else did they cut corners? Does anyone have experience with these galvanized joining links? Are we on the road to losing our rode?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...