Hooked and Happy in Tenecatita Land

(This was written in April, but I got distracted and forgot to edit & post it, forgiveness please!)

April 27, 2017

We dropped the hook in the beautiful anchorage at Tenecatita on the Costalegre coast 12 days ago.  The intent wasn’t to stay this long, but we’ve gotten comfortable and with the prevailing winds its the only comfortable anchorage in the region besides Barra.  We see no reason to hurry along.

Most of the anchorages in this part of the world are open to the South.  This is fine and dandy during the winter months when both wind and swell are predominantly from the North.  Recently though, bigger weather systems South of us have been claiming the prize for bigger, badder storms, resulting in the swell rolling in from the South.

This combination of geography and weather leaves us hooked to the sandy sea bed of south protected Tenecatita for as long as we like to stay, or at least a couple more days until we run out of food.  We’ve run out of the good stuff and are debating if we want to stay here badly enough to eat oatmeal for breakfast, ick!

Since being hooked in Tenecatitia a huge school of fish has taken up residence under the boat.  It’s fascinating to watch.  On day one a handful of fish took shelter under the boat at anchor.  Over time the population steadily increased to a school of hundreds.  We rarely stay in any anchorage this long, so it has been really nifty to watch this school grow daily.  I have begun to think of the huge school below us of as “our fish” and “feed” them every night when I dump kitchen trimmings from dinner prep.

The video is a little long, you’ll get the idea in the first 30 seconds, but I find it soothing….

 

Brian did a little fishing (not our pet fish of course, he took the dinghy out) and came back with a nice haul of bonita (maybe, it mostly looked like the picture in our guidebook).  The maybe bonita made darn good fish tacos!

The birds also appreciate us giving them a handy feeding ground.  Every day they get bolder as they swoop down on fish straying from the safety of our hull shadow.

We saw a monster tuna that sent Brian scrambling to get the fishing rod from its rack in the cabin.  I ran for my camera.  It’s like trying to photograph Sasquatch.  This is a picture of where it was.  I swear.

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We braved the shore break to get the dinghy into a mangrove creek.

Living at anchor and enjoying the isolation.

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And the one restaurant which specializes in fish stuffed with shrimp, wrapped in bacon, and dressed with almond sauce.  Addicting.

 

Since the restaurant is only open when they feel like being open, and never for breakfast, we mostly have to feed ourselves.  Most likely the prospect of eating oatmeal will chase us back to Barra in a few days, where we will resupply and decide if we want to go back out and anchor or head to the marina to start the lengthy prep process of getting Pura Vida ready for the hot, stormy summer season.

This will be our second time doing the summer prep so we know what to expect.  Hot, dirty work including a super duper deep clean of all bilges and lockers, clean & oiling interior teak, taking down sails, exterior wax, stainless polish, thorough scrub scrub scrub of the galley, grease/oil everything mechanical, and shutting down of the systems so everything stays nice while it sleeps.

If I don’t write again soon it’s because I’m busy scrubin’, polishin’, stowin’, and lubin’. I heart boat life!

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CWY: Cruising While Young

In the cruising community, being under the age of 50 puts you in a minority.  The vast majority of folks out here enjoying the cruising life are retiree’s who’ve enjoyed good careers, owned real estate, raised kids, then cashed out and took off on a boat after the little ones flew the nest.  It’s logical.  The people are great, they’re out enjoying life and living their dreams.

The dark secret to this population is how many would be cruisers don’t get to go.  Living back in California we would often debate waiting another five, ten, or even twenty years rather than go now in our early 30’s.  Waiting would give us time to really build a nest egg and go for a more extended cruise in a nicer boat.

Then we met Jim, Bob, Sandy, and a dozen odd other would be cruisers with an alarmingly similar story.  “Yeah, the wife/husband/partner and I were gonna go sailing.  We had a plan to sell the house, buy a boat, fix it up and go.  But then, X happened.”  Enter one of many variations of health, children, family obligations, overwhelming boat issues, finances, property woes, etc.

These many encounters with would be cruisers with derailed plans saddened us and opened our eyes to how short and precarious life can be.  On the other hand, we also met individuals who had cruised for a number of years then stepped back into life at home successfully.  This was an eye opener.  Is it possible to take time off from a successful career and enjoy life while we are free and able to go?  Why, yes it is.

Turns out there’s actually a growing community of young (by which I mean under 40) cruisers out there who are not retired, and are either entrepreneurial and running businesses while cruising, or planning to go back to work either intermittently or full time at some point.  We have had the pleasure of meeting many of them and it has confirmed in our minds that going early rather than at a more typical retirement age was the right decision.

So to the handful of naysayers who have peppered us with skeptical looks and pointed questions like “So you kids rich or something?  How are you doing this at your age?”  No, we’re not rich, we’re not retired, and we don’t regret the choice to go.

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Dinghy Duds and Do Overs

I’ll start with the good news.  Our dinghy (aka the family car) is fully functional.  It holds air, the motor works, and the chaps look sharp.

Friends, it’s been a saga that spans two boats and three motors to get here.  Looking back, our dinghy diffculties were 100% self inflicted and a good learning experience.  And now that we have a functioniong dinghy, amusing.  At the time it felt like the dinghy was just another hole in the water in which we threw money.

Lets start with an abbreviated account of early aquisitions:

1- Find a very old dinghy/motor combo on Craigslist.

2- Go view said combo at house far inland and view offerings laid out on a lawn.  Convince self it’s not a pile of junk and pay too much ($800) but not nearly as much as new ($4,000) so its OK!

3- Take pile back to marina and inflate.  Discover the tubes and floor have separated at the back.  This is OK for one passenger, but with two the floor is too low and a several inches of water gush in.

4- Decide it probably won’t sink and take combo out for a test drive.  Discover quickly that jeans are a bad attire choice when resting feet in a pool of salt water.

5- Enjoy 5 minutes of fast dinghy riding.  Stare at motor in utter despair when it breaks a mile downcurrent away.  Return under oar power and barely afloat after floor tear spreads precipitously.

6- Take motor to repair shop.  Spend about $200 (25% of combo purchase price) to receive motor back with electrical tape wrapped around a couple wires and the diagnosis that the part needed to make motor run is not obtainable.

7- Find said unattainable part on Craigslist.  Drive 2 hours to acquire.  Spend $50 on part that looks like a beat up piece of rusty metal and rubber.  Hope for the best.

8- Install said part.  Decide motor was not meant to be when it still doesn’t run.

9- Determine floor is not repairable.  Put leaky dinghy in dumpster during clandestine night time dumping raid.  Sell motor to a used motor dealer for $200.

10- Resolve to self that selfs’ Craigs Listing skills are not as good as imagined.  Call used dinghy experiment a good learning experience and aquire brand new motor and dinghy. 

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Craigslist dinghy purchase.  With only One person and stationary it’s not so bad!

After giving up on the first dinghy/motor combo Brian stepped in and ordered a brand spanking new hypalon walker bay off the internet.  1 week shipping guaranteed.

2 months later, after many manufacuring and shipping issues from the supplier later it arrived.  Horray!

We now had a nice new dinghy, but no motor to go with it.  In typical fashion we inititated the great debate over what motor would be best to go with the new dinghy.  About a year later we finally acquired a 2.3HP Air Cooled (read, LOUD) Honda named Pep Pep.

Fast, he is not, but as long as you feed him real gasoline (not that earth friendly California juice with 10% ethanol) he will reliably pep pep pep pep pep his way across any perfectly flat sheltered body of water at a raging 5knots.

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Brian buzzing across the anchorage at 5 knots.  Everyone else had bigger motors on their dinghies and were already at the bar starting their second cervasa.

So Pep Pep came with us to Mexico.  At first we were delighted to have a functioning motor and a dinghy that didn’t sink.  After a few months working our way down the coast we made friends with other cruisers and began to understand why everyone else went with a 6 or 10HP motor for their little boat.  Pep Pep was undeniably slow.  By the third or fourth time we were unable to keep up with the others and had to decline a trip to see some sea caves out of our limited range we decided it was time for a motor with more oomph.

So, after a long summer of working (well, at least Brian was working) we upgraded our propulsion to a 9.8HP Tohatsu 4 stroke beauty.  The very accomodating folks at Cumberland Water Sports shipped it to a fex-ex location in Arizona for us to pick up when we passed through town.  We tossed it in the trunk of a rental car, piled lots of random boat and personal stuff on it, and made tracks south to the border.

For the record, we had done our research and knew that it was possible we would be searched and charged an import tax on the motor no matter what paperwork we had.  So, with i’s dotted and t’s crossed in the form of receipts, a temporary import permit, proof of destination, and a tarrif form filled out (In spanish no less, thanks Joe!) we drove on through.

Arriving at the crossing we discovered that after the holidays all cars get stopped and searched.  So we pulled into the inspection station, popped the trunk and hood and waited anxiously while the guards scanned our engine and trunk compartment.  Poor Brian was driving so had the privilege of trying to communicate with the gentleman in charge.

The customs agent came up to the drivers side and started asking questions in rapid fire spanish.  Neither of our language skills have progressed much beyond asking for the check or another beer so we had no clue what he wanted.  Finally Brian blurted out “Vamanos San Carlos!” to the surprised agent who stopped talking, realizing he was asking questions to a blank wall.

Much to our relief he nodded to the people at the trunk who were half heartedly looking through the top layer of junk we had piled in the car and the lid was slammed closed.  “Adelante!”  We know that one and laid rubber out of there.

Back in Mexico we clamped on the new motor and fired it up.  SOOOOO fast and quiet!  We are smitten.  It planes at half throttle and we can talk over the lovely low hum.  Best of all, it starts on the first pull.  At least the first couple of times.  Then it didn’t.  Crap.

Much cursing about poor quality asian made motors and grumbling about our inability to get the motor back to the states for warranty work later we discovered that the issue is acutally the fuel tank.  Like all new tanks it’s ventless (though it does have a vent, which does nothing but apparently satiates motor owners who think they have a vent).

I’m not sure how this all works out for other people, but the lack of vent meant that the motor wasn’t getting enough fuel to start.  When we took off the cap a huge amount of air would rush in and the motor would fire right up.  Solution?  We cut off a rubber nipple covering up the bottom of the fake “vent” and made it a real one.  Won’t fly back in the states but in Mexico no one gives two shakes.

Up next, Dinghy chaps.  The sun in the lower latitudes is so intense that even the hightly UV resistant Hypalon material of our little inflatable ride can’t take it.  So, in La Paz we tossed the little guy into a truck en route to an upholsterer to get permanent sun covers made in a nice light gray sunbrella.  I must say it looks sharp.

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After the chaps we thought we were totally, absolutely finished with buying and tuning in new equipment.  Honestly, we should know better.  In the last few months we’ve discovered the joy (sarcasm) of landing a dinghy in a surf break.

If you haven’t had this experience yet let me explain how it works:

1- Drive towards beach in very expensive dinghy with motor designed for only the bottom half to encounter sea water.

2- Float for at least 5 minutes watching the swell break and look for a pattern of smaller sets.

3- Think you’ve gotten a small one rolling in and gun it for the beach.

4- Look over shoulder and realize that “little one” is actually a monster about to crash on you.

5- Hit the beach and fly out of dinghy like people possessed.  Grab handles of boat and haul 100 pound boat with 80 pound motor and 25 pound fuel tank up the sand before massive wave crashes on your head.

6- Get boat to safety.  Fall on butt and try to catch your breath as massive adrenaline rush wears off.  Have snippy argument about timing the waves better.

7- Resolve to get folding wheels for the transom to make landings infinitely easier.

8- Go into town and forget about the scary dinghy landing because its Mexico, its awesome, its worth it.

So.  This coming summer we intend to acquire a set of wheels to bring back in our luggage.  Who knows what we fill find to need next year!

Lets sum this saga up with my favorite thing of all time, a classic spreadsheet. I give you a perfect illustration of the acronym BOAT.

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Tour the Galley with me?

I’ve fielded many questions about life on board, so a post with the low down on cooking in a ships galley feels appropriate ‘bout now.  Cooking in a galley is pretty much like using a normal kitchen, it’s just a little simpler, smaller, and it moves sometimes.  I can’t speak for other boaters out there but I looove my galley and have stopped missing my old house kitchen.  After all, no place I ever lived before had a kitchen window with an ocean view.

For the curious, I present a series of illustrated photo’s detailing galley features.  For the not so curious, a handful of pictures of a tiny kitchen.  Hope it’s enlightening!

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The boat came with a nice two basin sink, but no drying rack.  We started out drying dishes on towels laid out on the counter but quickly discovered that counter space is too precious to spare for this task and it’s asking for trouble to leave dishes laying out when underway or at anchor.  Bam, crash!!

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Finding a drying rack that fit the sink was a big source of frustration until I discovered that our sink is about the same size as those on a RV.  One order from a RV supply website later and we have a dish drainer that fits perfectly in the space.  No more broken dishes and no wasted counter area.

Ahhh, the oven.  Everything you have at home, just small.  One 9×13” baking pan and one muffin tin are juuuust right.  Since the galley doesn’t have storage space for the typical assortment of bakeware a roll of aluminium foil gets pressed into service to make one time custom sized baking pans.  It may not be the prettiest way, but that banana bread is still tasty as all get out.

The stove.  Three honkin’ propane fired burners provide the flexibility to cook pretty much anything short of a 5 course feast.  The whole stove/oven combo is on a pivot with a locking pin so it stays upright even when the boat sways from side to side.  Combine that with the built in pot lockers and you’re good to go cooking in moderate seas.

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Ventilation.  No fan?  No problem?  Open da window mon.

Storage:

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Hey, where’s the pantry?  Look down, it’s in the floor.

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This used to be a hanging locker for clothes.  Since I no longer really own anything that needs to be hung it made sense to convert it to a big ol’ pantry space.  Wonderful for stocking up to spend a few weeks at anchor.*

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Like dishes, leaving big utensils and knives in a jar on the counter is a non starter.  This handy drawer fits the bill nicely.  I make a point of putting the knives in blade down but it’s always a good idea to take a peek before reaching in.**

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Efficiency in action: Junk drawer and silverware drawer combo.  Birthdays around here get two candles, one for all the years combined and one to grow on.

I’m also a fan of covering up the clutter in the cubbies under the cabinets.

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And last but certainly not least, storing the edibles.  Everything’s gotta go in a tupperware container, zip lock, or other sturdy packaging.  It’s a real bummer to have a wonderful day of sailing then open a cabinet to have a split bag of pasta or a cracked oozy jar of peanut butter come falling out on you.

So thats the tour folks!  I’d love to hear what you think.  Please drop a line or a comment.  Is this type of post interesting?  What else should I write about?

*Former hanging locker isn’t technically in the galley, its in the master cabin.  But it’s been annexed so I think it earns a mention here.

**Like for instance, in this photo where I apparently didn’t manage to put the biggest knife I own blade down.  Whoops.

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Beautiful Barra de la Navidad

We have found the land of the beach bar.  Seriously, Barra de la Navidad must have at least two beach bars per capita.

That, plus a wonderful protected (and flat!) anchorage, cruiser friendly resort, cheap 24 hour water taxi services, and more affordable restaurants than you can shake a tiller stick at.  We are smitten.

Barra has the same vortex effect that we experienced in La Paz last season.  We toyed with spending just a few days here getting the lay of the land, then making the 2 day hop down to Zihuatanejo.  Ten days later our anchor is firmly sunk down into the mangrove muck of the Barra Lagoon and we’re thinking we’ve found our summer lay up spot for 2017.

Since we still have a few months before the crushing heat settles in and brings its seasonal hurricanes, we intend to explore the plethora of amazing anchorages in this region using Barra as a home base for provisions and sanctuary in case of bad weather.

It’s a signifigant divergence from our style last year.  Like most cruisers, in our first cruising season we we’re driven to cover a lot of miles and would often get antsy after just a few days in an anchorage because we knew there was so much out there to see.  In our second season we’re settling into a transient mindset and are thinking of cruising as less of a trip than a lifestyle.  It takes a lot of pressure off us to cover miles and allows us to really enjoy and explore each new place we go to.

This slowing down has come just in time, because Barra is a wonderful place to spend a good chunk of time.  Its compact, but there is so much to see and experience here.

One of my many favorite places in Barra is down town.  It’s cute, small, walkable, and has almost as many cheap taco stands as beach bars.  I love that the streets are mostly narrow and one way, which really cuts down on the number of cars (and their noxious fumes) on the roads.

When the boat is in the marina, we have official access to the amenities of the high end Grand Isla Navidad Resort.  Brian is partial to the slide with a big drop at the bottom.  We’re both looking forward to the weather getting really hot so we can take advantage of the shady swim up bar in the main pool.

 

The French Baker may be the best part of Barra.  Every morning he drives a flat bottom panga through the marina and anchorage plying his trade of delicious baguettes, croissants, and pastries of drool inducing breakfast treats.  We’ve become very good customers.

 

We treated ourselves to a couple nights in the marina to give the boat a good wash, get the bottom scrubbed, and do some provisioning.  The cats appreciated the shore leave and had fun exploring shady spots in the marina.

 

We really do intend to leave Barra soon.  Really, I mean it.  Within 50ish miles north or south on this coast are a good number of anchorages we want to explore before putting the boat to bed for hurricane season.  More posts when we break out of the vortex.

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