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.


  1. After reading your blog post. i am glad you are all enduring this trip and lifestyle and am really glad i am sitting at home looking at the snow outside which is nice outside . Take care and safe travels

  2. Well that made my day. :-)

    You should share the secret of shipping things to Mexico. I am hoping to have to know it someday...