Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Day 560 to 564 of the Third Voyage: In which we finally get moving again (and you can probably guess how that went.)

By all accounts, it started off perfectly. We got out of the marina just fine, stopped by the fuel dock, made our way out of the lagoon and into the bay (and without hitting bottom, which happens quite frequently here), had a pleasant three-hour trip to Bahia de Santiago, and successfully anchored on our first try. High fives and woo-hoos all around. After all, the boat hadn’t moved in eight months (and, arguably, neither had we), so to have such a smooth and successful start to the journey was cause for celebration.

The next morning, it was time to take Otter to shore, so we attached the accommodation ladder to the side, brought the dinghy around, and discovered that there was a considerable gap between it and the bottom step of the ladder—the operative word being “considerable”. We knew that the new dinghy sat lower than the old dinghy, but this was a difference of at least two feet. And given that the old dinghy would sometime scrape up against the bottom step, we had to wonder if we were somehow sitting below the water line in the new dinghy or if the boat had gotten taller but since neither seemed plausible, we were stymied as to the difference.  Editor’s Note:  Two feet may not seem like a lot, but when you’re a dog or an old lady trying to get from the deck of a bobbing boat down four feet into a bouncing dinghy, that two feet is the difference between going to shore and going for a swim, if you know what I mean. Needless to say, Otter did not like that gap and did not want to get in the dinghy and it took all manner of pushing, pulling, and cajoling until he finally fell in face-first. Off to shore we went. We came, we saw, he pooped. Upon our return, getting him from the dinghy to the boat took even greater effort with me above trying to lift him by his harness up and onto the stairs while the Captain had the unenviable task of pushing him up from behind (luckily, he had pooped twice.) Otter was not happy. We were not happy. We suddenly felt like we were back at dog/dinghy square one and started revisiting all the options that had failed us so spectacularly in the past (for reference, please see the blog post for Day 12 of the First Voyage.) We then plotted out a fast-track to the nearest port with a marina knowing that, even though we would be several days at sea, he would do his business on deck eventually, but at least we could get him onto terra firma sooner. Yet despite this setback, the mood aboard Raven was still positive and we were determined to move forward.

The following day, we thought we’d try the accommodation ladder once again only with bacon. The Captain brought the dinghy around and positioned it under the steps while I called Otter. And called. And called. And finally went down below to find him frantically pacing the pilothouse—torn between holding it in and going ashore but REALLY not wanting to face-plant into the dinghy again. After dragging him around and positioning him at the top of the steps, the Captain whipped out the bacon and through the power of pork products, we were able to get him aboard with a bit more dignity and grace. Off to shore we went. And here’s where things started going sour (I was going to say “going south” but that would suggest that we are capable of moving in a southerly direction…and clearly, we are not.) As we got closer to shore, we both jumped out to haul the dinghy up toward the beach. That’s when we got hit from behind by a surge, which pushed the dinghy sideways and into my back, knocking me to my knees. I was immediately on my feet—partly from adrenaline, partly because there was 200-lbs of rubber careening toward my head, and partly because the Captain was barking at me to grab hold and haul. Editor’s Note: In his defense, he hadn’t realized I had gone under. He said later that, had he known, he would have let go and immediately come to my aid, because he said (and I quote), “You’re more important than a $3000 dinghy.” Which is probably the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me.

But we finally made it to shore—a little roughed up, but okay. We spent about an hour walking around, stretching our legs, and letting Otter do his thing. When we had a run-in with a stray, we decided that whatever luck we still possessed was possibly waning, so maybe it was time to go.

At this point, I’d like to throw out some descriptors bandied about by the cruising guides and fellow cruisers regarding this particular beach landing… “gentle surf,” “generally quite benign,” “easy-peasy,” and my personal favorite, “you’ll have no problems.” Notice a pattern here? One of the reasons we stopped in Santiago was so that we could practice our dinghy landings—and according to the charts, this should have been the optimal time to come ashore. But what we hadn’t taken into account was a full moon and king tides, which seemed to negate the whole concept of “generally quite benign” in favor of an especially large swell aka larger waves than usual. We timed the surf for about 40 minutes and there seemed to be a ten-minute window between the larger waves. So we readied the dinghy—waiting for our window—but Otter wouldn’t stay in the boat. We decided that he should stay on shore while we drug the dinghy out, then I’d go back and get him, he and I would wade/swim out to the boat, and we’d throw him in. Seemed like a viable plan and/or our only option. Our window opened and we started pulling the dinghy out into the water; we got past the first set of small waves, then the second, then the Captain instructed me to go back and get Otter. I was barely 20 feet away when a big wave came bearing down, threw the dinghy up and around and right on top of the Captain, and came to rest upside down. I let out a scream, some of the locals came running, and just as I’m about to have a coronary, the Captain popped up out of the water. With considerable effort and a lot of help, we got the dinghy upright and back on the beach but by this time the outboard had ample time to scrape the bottom and fill up with sand. And now we were really stuck. Luckily, a local fisherman in his panga came by and offered his assistance. I waded out into chest-high water with Otter swimming next to me to talk with him and in my best non-existent Spanish and superior charades skills, managed to formulate a plan wherein we would attach a line from his panga to our dinghy and hopefully he could tow us off the beach, up and over the waves, and out to our boat without the dinghy taking us all down. In the meantime, the Captain was back on the beach preparing the dinghy and talking with a guy who kept pointing out into the bay with his walking stick and making “you’ll be sorry” faces and we’re thinking, “Save it old gringo, I think we’re already sorry.” Long rescue story short, we got the line attached and after a couple of false starts over the waves where I thought for sure the panga was going to go bow over stern, the fisherman safely deposited us back at Raven and we gave him a healthy gratuity by way of a thank you. Later, I asked the Captain what the old gringo was carrying on about. “Apparently, there’s a 21-foot crocodile that hangs out in that part of the water.” Oh. Swell. Well, I guess if someone decides to make a movie about this little adventure, that will be the “added tension” in the scene that no one needed…or wanted.
Pictorial representation of wave that took us down. Mt Fuji shown for size.
Fast-forward a few hours. The drinking has started. The eternal questions of “how”, “why” and “WTF” has taken over the conversation. The depression has set in. The Captain starts listing off all the things that went wrong in the past few days and it has somehow grown from two items (accommodation ladder and dinghy disaster) to about 24, and the latter he’s blaming on “poor seamanship” on his part. And I’m hard pressed to accept this because a) he’s got more experience than most, b) we technically did everything right given our situation, and c) Mother Nature is just going to reach out and bitch slap you back into submission because that’s how she rolls. Besides, this can’t be an isolated incident, I’m sure lots of people get nearly killed by their dinghy.
But we keep coming back to that Latitude quote, “The difference between adventure and ordeal is attitude.” The Deck Boss asked me if the dinghy mishap was an adventure or an ordeal. “Well,” I said. “When the dinghy slammed me to my knees, that’s was an ordeal. And when Otter nearly got bit by a street dog, that was an ordeal. And when the Captain was nearly crushed by an outboard, that was most definitely an ordeal. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything adventurous in this whole outing. Maybe once some time has passed, it won’t seem so bad. But for now, we’re just going to wallow a bit.”
And as the evening wore on, we wallowed a lot until the pity ultimately turned into punch drunk:
C:  Well at least I’m giving you good fodder for your blog. I’m blog fodder.
FM:  Technically, it’s a group effort.
C:  Whatever, but I am the captain of this shitshow, so it really falls on me. Maybe we should just go back to Barra, take care of some things, and see if this is something we really want to do.
FM:  Okay, Blogfodder. We’ll go to Barra and find an outboard mechanic, make him an offer he can’t refuse.
C:  You’re not funny.
FM:  And may your next accommodation ladder be a masculine one.
C:  Still not funny.

Editor’s Note: It was a little funny.

The next day, we weighed anchor and headed back to Barra, arriving just in time for a late lunch at Pipi’s. We had a crew meeting, talked about our options, and made a list of all the things we needed to address on the boat. After a few rounds, including a couple “en la casa” courtesy of Senor Pipi, we decided that maybe we were better suited to not moving but that there are other places in the world where we might like to not move, so we’ll just have to endure the moving part of the journey to get these places. And maybe somewhere along the way, we’ll decide that moving isn’t so terrible after all. So here we will stay for a month. We’ll lick our wounds, concentrate on our to-do list, and prepare to make another go of it after the first of the year. Besides, where better to spend Christmas than in Barra de Navidad?
I wish I could say I put this through a fancy filter and stuff but, no, it's just a bad photo. But you get the idea.
Merry Christmas, Ravennaires!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Day 558 to 560 of the Third Voyage: In which the journey of 1,000 miles begins (eventually) with one step.

A couple of months ago, and much to our dismay, we realized that the Caribbean was not going to come to us—it wasn’t even going to meet us half-way—so we decided that if we wanted to see it on our boat and in our lifetime, we needed to keep inching our way south. Originally, we were going to leave in early November, then mid-month, then the 30th, then the 1st of December, then the 2nd. (Spoiler alert:  We finally left on the 3rd. It’s now mid-December so I totally know how that worked out. Hint: Not well. But that’s the next blog post.)
So why the constant delays? I chalk it up to forces beyond our control. Things like:

Delay #1:  Mexican Immigration. This sounds more sinister than it is, but as you may be aware, we are only allowed in Mexico on 6-month tourist visas so every so often we need to leave and come back. We use this opportunity to go back to the States, do some gringo provisioning, and take care of business that doesn’t require use of the Mexican postal system. We figured we would go ahead and get it done while we had easy access to an airport, a dog-sitter, and a cat-tolerator, and also because we knew—given our track record—that there was no way we would be out of Mexico by the end of the year. So off we went to Corpus Christi with three light carry-ons, and back we came a few days later with three heavy carry-ons and three large pieces of checked luggage. Editor’s Note: A BIG thank you to Pud’n for letting us fill her spare bedroom with packages from Amazon and boxes from every marine supply store in the country. We hope you were able to get your doorbell fixed.

Would someone please buy Mexico a new stamp pad? This is what stands between us and being legally in the country. Even blown up and enhanced, it’s still hard to make out the date. And this was one of the better stamps we’ve had.

Delay #2: The Posse. Again, not as sinister as it sounds. 2017 marks the inaugural run of the Panama Posse, an idea bandied about by a group of us cruisers here in Barra and brought to fruition by Dietmar and Suzanne of S/V Carinthia. Editor’s Note: One of the large bags that we slogged back from Texas was full of Posse member swag, so it wasn’t all Goldfish Crackers and boat parts…just most of it. For those of you wondering what a Panama Posse is, it’s just the name of our rally. There are many rallies in the boating community—the Coho-ho-ho, the Baja-ha-ha, and the Pacific Puddle Jump are just a few. And no, I’m not making those names up. Most rally names are pretty much the direct result of booze-filled brainstorming sessions so in the grand scheme of things, “Panama Posse” isn’t so bad. (Of course, when the locals try saying it, it comes out sounding like “Panama Pussy” so there’s that.) Now for you lubbers wondering what a rally is, it’s a loose confederation of boats heading in generally the same direction in sort of the same timeframe with kind of the same goal in mind i.e. arriving in a particular destination on our boat and in our lifetime. There are 40 or so boats in this year’s rally. We won’t all be leaving at the same time, or necessarily stopping at all the same places, or staying for the same amount of time at the places we do stop, but we’ll all keep in touch via a daily SSB net, Facebook, and email so we can pass on information and/or meet up with other members when we find ourselves in the same places and hopefully, if all goes well, we’ll all meet up on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal in June 2018 for a celebratory party. That’s where the rally ends, but it officially began here in Barra on November 29th with a kick-off party sponsored by the marina and who were we to pass up free drinks and a taco bar. We had to stick around for that.

Delay #3: Last-minute provisioning. Now I realize that “last-minute” is usually factored into the original timeframe and shouldn’t cause a delay, but in this case it did set us back because we had to split our designated provisioning day into two because you can only get non-Mexican butter at a store in Melaque and that couldn’t be done on the same day we did our main provisioning in Manzanillo.

It’s worth noting that when we first started out on this odyssey, we took six days to provision. We filled every spare inch of the boat with frozen food, canned goods, and toiletries and then ended up not using most of it because—and you won’t believe this—people in Canada and all down the western coast of the US do have access to food, soap, and even toothpaste! That was a real eye-opener for us. Needless to say, when we set out for Mexico, we only took three days to provision, and mainly just gringo items that we figured would be hard to find. But it turns out—and you won’t believe this—but you can get pasta, potato chips, and paper towels in Mexico! So now we can do our provisioning in one day and keep it to things that may be hard to find in the smaller towns. Things like AAA batteries, small propane bottles, and toilet paper. Now yes, I do realize that people all over the world wipe their butts, but will I be able to find ultra-soft, three-ply toidy paper with a hint of cocoa butter? I don’t think I can take that chance.
"When your tush demands some cush." I'm going to trademark that in case Regio wants to use it in exchange for a lifetime supply of tush tissue.

But back to the butter that contributed to our delay. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had Mexican butter, but it’s more akin to margarine…and not in a good way (assuming there is something good about a product that’s one molecule away from plastic.) Editor’s Note: For those that think I’m being a little too harsh on margarine, keep in mind that I come from a long line of Southerners where even though grease is considered one of the four basic food groups (along with sugar, salt, and alcohol), margarine will get you kicked out of the kitchen (Miracle Whip will get you kicked out of the family.) At any rate, while Mexican butter is technically a dairy product, it is so oily that whatever you put it on immediately tastes like it’s been coated in cooking spray. Store it in the refrigerator, and it turns into a block of granite. Leave it on the counter, and it turns into soup. Luckily, in Melaque, there is a gringo-friendly store called the Super Hawaii that carries butter from the US and—if you really want to be fancy—from France. Super Hawaii also carries a variety of gringo comfort foods such as chili, Cheese-Its, Hamburger Helper, and Kraken Rum in the big bottle.
Delay #4:  New ink!  I got my first tattoo thirty years ago when you still went to a “parlor” in the dodgy part of town and the guy doing the tattoo may or may not have been in a motorcycle “club” (though he definitely smelled like he slept with a Harley…or two.) I don’t even know if they were called “artists” back then—my guy was called “Sugar Bear” and hand-drew a “Celtic cross” on my shoulder using a Bic pen before going to town with needle and ink. You’ll notice I’m using quotation marks a lot. That’s probably because I’m still not sure if the smudge on my left shoulder is really a “tattoo” or an after-market birthmark. I’m too embarrassed to admit that I did this to myself, so I prefer to tell people it’s a scar I got doing battle with a giant squid coming around Cape Flattery. It’s not really lying…either way you get inked.
But I’m really pleased with my new tattoo. I put a lot of thought into what I wanted. It had to be small, simple, and somewhat meaningful—with an emphasis on the first two because I knew that 15 minutes of pain was all I could handle. We went back to the guy that did the Captain’s tattoo last July because he’s a good artist, he has steady hands, and he’ll turn the stereo up full volume to drown out the swearing. Editor’s Note: I do believe I broke the world record in number of F-bombs uttered in a five-minute period as evidenced by a near unbroken stream of “fuckfuckfuckfuck...” while he was doing the fill in. And even though this is Mexico, where every business is behind a roll-up door and furnished DIY style, the experience seemed less “back alley” than my first go-round—probably because the shop was well-lit and very clean, there wasn’t a row of choppers out front, and the tattooist didn’t have a Marlboro hanging out of his mouth the whole time. The Captain got the same tattoo as I did so now we’re all matchy-matchy, but in a “shared experience” kind of way as opposed to a “today we’ll both be wearing the red-checked polos over navy slacks” way. Editor’s Note: “Shared experience” in this instance suggests the bigger picture of doing this boat thing together. The Captain sat in the chair for 12 hours straight when he had his octopus tat done—so his “experience” this time around was more “15-minute nap”. At any rate, when the tattoo artist gave us the “care and cleaning of your new tattoo” speech, I’m pretty sure he said to keep it lubricated, avoid the swimming pool for a week, and delay your voyage by two days. Yeah, I’m fairly certain that’s what he said.
The new tattoo! Told you it was simple! It’s right behind the ankle. The photo doesn’t do it justice because pictures tend to add 10 lbs. and a layer of fonk to the feet. But I think the anchor is very apropos. After all, if I ever go overboard, I just know I’m going to sink straight to the bottom.

Delay #5:  An unexpected illness. In the days leading up to our departure, we thought it’d be nice to visit all our favorite restaurants one last time. So we went to Garcia’s for some of the best wings in the area and the two-for-one happy hour that starts at noon and ends at 6:00 pm; Simona’s, well-known for their German cuisine and double-shot mixed drinks; Loco Loco, arguably the best pizza in Mexico and makers of a mean Cuba Libre; Nacho’s, one of Barra’s oldest establishments and purveyors of the town’s most potent strawberry margarita; and Manglito’s, the first restaurant we ever visited, consistently good and probably the best rum punch this side of the Captain’s. But Pipi’s holds a special place in our hearts. The venue isn’t noteworthy—six or seven tables set up outside a kitchen down one of Barra’s side streets. The food isn’t fancy—basic Mexican fare (plus a decent burger) that’s consistently good. And there’s not a whole lot of ambience unless you count the traffic that goes by. But the hospitality of Senor Pipi and his family is what sets it apart. They greet us like friends, remember our preferences, and patiently help us along with our Spanish. During the summer months, when there were fewer tourists in Barra (especially during the week—Tuesdays, specifically, were eerily quiet), we went to Pipi’s regularly.  Not only because we really like the place, but because it’s important to support the local businesses. During “low season” aka “incredibly hot time”, a lot of the restaurants close either for economic reasons or, in the case of many gringo-owned establishments, so the owners can go “back home” aka “somewhere cooler” for six months. Aside from Wednesdays and a week-long vacation around Easter, Pipi’s was always open, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to be the only patrons there. I think this is one reason Senor Pipi likes to ply us with “en la casa” rounds (mostly out of appreciation, but partly because once you get the gringos going, they find it hard to stop, and the free round will often beget a paid round, and so on.) So a few days before we were set to leave, we had lunch at Pipi’s. Three (or was it four?) rounds of drinks plus two rounds of “en la casa” plus whatever was imbibed once we got back to boat and…okay, so maybe it wasn’t an “illness” that waylaid us per se, but let’s just say that nothing got done the next day and the following morning and it was necessary to pad the departure timeline. Editor’s Note: If someone on board is under the weather—either from illness, allergies, or over-imbibing—the customary answer to, “How are you feeling?” is now, “Like I had lunch at Pipi’s.”
Senor Pipi:  Our favorite enabler.

Extra Credit Delay: We have learned from our mistake. It would have made sense to leave on December 1st. We were ready to go, a half dozen other Posse boats were planning to head out that day, and, more importantly, December 1st is when the marina rates go up (“High season, amigo!” they explain as they pick you off the floor.) But…and here’s the deal breaker…December 1st fell on a Friday. At which point I’d like to direct your attention to the blog post titled “False Start of the Third Voyage” in which we tempted fate by leaving on a Friday and our generator promptly blew up. Editor’s Note: Okay, so it went more “squeeee, sputter, sputter, clunk” but our timetable and our wallet were certainly blown to smithereens. Not wanting to go down that path again, we felt it prudent to delay departure for at least a day…which turned into two because the marina gave us a bro-deal on the daily rate given our nine-month tenure.
So that brings us to Sunday, December 3rd. Did we leave? Why, yes. Yes, we did…

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day 457 to 557 of the Third Voyage: In which we’re just going to gloss over the last 100 days so we can get to the good stuff already.

People are always asking when the blog will be updated, and the stock answer is that there’s not a whole lot to report on when you’re sitting in the marina and generally not moving (physically, figuratively, literally, and corporeally.) I mean, one can only complain about the heat so much. Editor’s Note: You know how Eskimos have a hundred different words for “snow”? I think I’m up to about 38 different words for “heat” because apparently you CAN complain about the heat so much.

And now that we’re on the subject, someone turned up the heat in Barra and we were none too pleased. We felt we did an admirable job of coping with the heat this summer, but “autumn” was brutal (I put that in quotes because Fall is supposed to be brisk as opposed to boiling so I think it’s broken or something.) It’s the kind of heat that saps your strength, sucks out your soul, and smacks you about the face like it’s challenging you to a duel. Indeed, going outside in mid-afternoon felt like being shot between the eyes by a heat gun. There wasn’t a whole lot of respite at the beach or in the pools as the water temperature hovered around 85° and felt vaguely like floating in a hot cloud—and not in a good way—so afternoons were spent holed up on the boat, trying not to move and generate any additional heat and/or going into town to imbibe in copious amounts of libations so that the impending stupor would cool the core temperature. So far, the consensus is that face-down in a tequila stupor is two degrees cooler than face-up beer bloat.

Overall, it’s a hard climate for Otter—black fur may be fashionable in northern climes, but there’s a reason chihuahuas are practically naked south of the border. But exercise is essential, so every morning we dutifully climb the hills behind the resort (and by “we” I mean Otter and myself. The Captain bowed out of the daily “death march” ((his words, not mine—I prefer “The Terrible Trudge”)) weeks ago in favor of tennis because he feels that running around a court chasing after balls in the blazing sun is “less taxing”.) Editor’s Note: I always thought it was an “old person” thing, but everything here on Isla Navidad is literally “uphill both ways”. I’m not sure if it’s just a byproduct of Mexican engineering, if the roads are just sagging under their own weight, or if they were laid out by a hamster in a wheel, but I’m stymied as to why a road going to the top of the hill must visit the bottom at least three times before it gets there. At any rate, on the really hot days, we do the loop that passes by the main entrance to the resort (which is technically on the sixth floor of the hotel, so there’s that hamster thing again) so that Otter can jump around in their fountain and cool off. So far they haven’t complained, but given what we pay for moorage, they should probably be providing fluffy towels and a cocktail.

Otter also enjoys taking a dip in the lagoon. Not because he’s hot per se, but because he saw an iguana in there once about six months ago. THAT he remembers. That he ate a mere 30 minutes ago? Not so much.

It wasn’t all swelter though. In late September, we got brushed by hurricane Pilar and the resulting winds and rain caused the temperature to plummet. For two days we didn’t break 84 and almost had to dig out the hoodies…almost. Prior to Pilar, we had “rainy season” which meant that the heat of the afternoon was broken by the torrential rains at night that led to the sticky bun known as morning. Now normally I don’t mind the rain, especially if it’s not accompanied by thunder and copious amounts of lightening (which it was), doesn’t saturate the electrical box and fry our shore power cord (which it did), and doesn’t seep into the boat and absolutely moisten everything (which it absolutely managed to do.)  So, I guess what I’m saying is that I totally minded the rain this time.

Now, yes, I do realize that life on a boat means you’d better get used to leaks, drips, and damp. But now, for the first time, we were dealing with mildew. And mildew is no bueno. For one thing, the Deck Boss is allergic to mildew. It’s the reason we moved away from south Texas when I was very young to the relatively mold-free state of Colorado (or as my Dad, the quintessential home-sick Texas boy, used to fondly call it, “That God-forsaken, barren wasteland.”) For another, mildew destroys things—we ended up tossing quite a few items including shoes and books because they couldn’t be salvaged. And, as a real annoyance, mildew makes your clothes clammy with a musty overtone, so you feel and smell like a wet mothball. It took a good month of systematically going through the boat, pulling things out of lockers and drawers, airing and cleaning, and religiously running the dehumidifier before we got things under control.

Which brings us to this installment of “Now What?”  Let’s go back to those leaks, shall we? Not all leaks are created equal. Some leaks are easily sourced and addressed. For example, the river of water that poured into the master cabin originated with the cockpit steering wheel and was remedied by duct-taping a trash bag around its base until a suitable sealant could be procured. Some leaks are the result of age as evidenced by the downpour in the galley that came compliments of 30-year-old caulking. A trash bag was affixed overhead until the hatch could be rebedded with new caulking. And some leaks are just nigh untraceable—such as the deluge that suddenly sprung out of the aft bulkhead—because much a like a giant, floating pinball machine the water goes in somewhere on deck, travels through a series of ramps, bumpers, spinners, and bells, and spits out who-knows-where down below. In these instances, all that can be done is to secure trash bags to anyplace on deck that looks like it might let in water and hope for the best.

But then there’s the leak that warrants a mention in this section. The Nauticat 52 (i.e. our boat) was built in Finland for the North Sea so it’s designed around a pilothouse (because it’s more pleasant to traverse through gale force winds in 40 below temps from the inside) and whereas we do have the traditional, steep companionway stairs to the cockpit, the main access to the pilothouse is through a heavy sliding door on the starboard side. I’m guessing this was put in because when your North Sea foulies add ten inches to your overall body mass, it’s easier to squeeze through a door than a hatch. At any rate, we love our door. There’s no clambering over lazarettes, fixtures and fittings to gain entry; it’s a direct route from the dock to down below, which is advantageous when your arms are full of stuff; and Otter and the Deck Boss can get below without the risk of tumbling face first down a vertical incline. So, yes, we love our door. Which is why we were dismayed to discover—after five years of ownership, I might add—that it lets in copious amounts of water every time it rains at a velocity of 1.456 inches per hour while the wind is coming at us at 8 degrees from WSW…which apparently is the preferred rain/wind combo here in Barra. Since the door is so precisely fitted, there is no way to add an insulating strip. So to combat the problem, the Captain is going to have to sew up a removable flap to affix on rainy days because we don’t want to put a trash bag over the door. That would be tacky.

So what else has been going on? Well, the high point of the last 100 days was that we got a new dinghy! As you may recall from the last blog post, the old dinghy blew a seal and would no longer hold air. So a search was made; the Captain, aka NPR (Never Pay Retail), found a helluva deal on a brand-new Achilles 10-1/2 footer with a snazzy locker/step combination in the bow; and it was dutifully shipped from the US to Barra in record time because, after a year in Mexico, we have finally figured out how to get things here without a three-week “customs delay” in Guadalajara. And now that we have it—and the new outboard—life is awesome! When you live on a boat, your dinghy is your car. Now that we have a “car” that we can rely on, it has opened up a new world. We’re free to zoom about, explore, visit friends at anchor, putter about the canals, and test the depths of the lagoon—which we have, twice, by running aground. But obviously the biggest thrill is that when we head south and stop in all those anchorages, we won’t have to stress out wondering if it will start/stop/float/sink/blow up/or otherwise maroon us when it’s time to go ashore and back.

Editor’s Note: You may be wondering what we did with our old dinghy? We gave it to some fellow cruisers that, despite the dinghy’s obvious problems, were thrilled because it was “better than their old dinghy” which I’m guessing must have been a waterlogged piece of siding with a two-by-four as a tiller. Through much effort, they were able to fix the seal and, despite a slow leak, are getting a lot of use out of it. We are simultaneously happy and sorry for them.

I couldn’t get a good photo of the new dinghy as it's currently on the back of the boat in preparation for the journey south (Ooh! That was a Spoiler Alert!), so please enjoy these old-timey depictions…
Old Dinghy

New Dinghy

POSTSCRIPT to the riveting dinghy story:  In keeping with our Raven/Poe theme, our new dinghy is called T/T Lenore III.  You know what became of Lenore II. What about the first Lenore? Let’s just say that the Livingston turned out to be a poor choice for the Pacific Northwest and after one too many outings that resulted in soggy underpants and a frostbitten butt, it was sold on to someone with a stronger constitution.

So that was the high point. What was the low point of the past 100 days? Easily it had to be when the Captain when into anaphylactic shock after getting bit and/or stung by something after a game of tennis. One minute he was fine, the next he was in “gotta lay down” mode followed closely by “gonna be sick” mode which turned into “passed out in the head” mode which preceded “how the hell am I going to get him out of the head and into bed when only half a person fits in here to begin with, maybe try tilting him and using a spatula?” mode which turned into “airways closing up and can’t breathe” mode which necessitated “Usain Bolt mode to the office to have them contact the doctor” mode followed by “what the hell is taking the doctor so long and I hope he has something for mode overload because I’m about to throw up” mode. But the doctor did arrive—with tackle box in tow because that’s how Mexican doctors roll when making boat calls—and after a quick examination to locate the bite mark, rummaged in his box for a vial and the largest needle I’ve every seen. He then proceeded to announce to the semi-conscious Captain, “Meester! Meester! I’m going to stick this needle in your keister!”, gave me a quick smile, and plunged it straight into his hip. And just like that, it was over. The whole ordeal was as surprising as it was sudden as we had no idea he was even allergic to anything, but the consensus is that it was the bite of a nasty black wasp that likes to hang out on the Isle. We reached this conclusion partly because another cruiser was bit by one and had the same reaction as the Captain and partly because it’s much more compelling to be brought down by a jet-black, iron-clad war-wasp than a happy, stripey, bumblebee! Editor’s Note: After the shot we were told, “no chocolate, pork, or strawberries” which of course makes you instantly crave a Neapolitan porkcicle.

One other note: I’d like to call attention to the blog entry of Day 55 of the First Voyage and pose the question, “Who’s overreacting now?”

Pictured: In the Flying Stinging Things Army, this is the guy they bring out to scare the other guys shitless.
Not Pictured: The other guys. They’re changing their underwear.