An ordinary day

I open my eyes. It’s about 7:20 in the morning, and nothing is stirring. This anchorage is as peaceful as being tied up to a pier, which is a blessing after several rolly bays that had us heading out before breakfast. I can hear the kids moving around in the back of the boat, and do an elaborate roll-out, flinging my legs over Michu’s head to try and exit the v-berth without waking him up. It doesn’t really work, but my husband is a huge fan of sleeping in, so he rolls over and spreads out in the suddenly spacious v-berth.

First things first. I head to the nav station and check our state of charge—91%, pretty darn good for running three fans all night. The water tanks are showing 3/4 full on the starboard tank, full on port—which in reality means we have about 65 gallons, not the 88 or so that we’d have if the gauge was perfectly accurate. Still, not bad. Bilge pump count zero—we aren’t sinking, always reassuring. I open up the sat phone and start downloading the weather; it hasn’t been too accurate in the ITCZ, but we check it anyway—at least it gets the waves more or less right. I poke my head outside to check our position in the bay, and make sure no big charter catamaran has anchored too close to us (unlikely; we have only seen one other sailboat in the last week and a half, and they were pretty far offshore, heading towards the Perlas. No one charters sailboats around here, either). We are alone in this beautiful bay, and I sit on the coaming and soak it all in for a bit. Between us and the mainland, I can see a humpback whale swim by.

View from the cockpit

View from the cockpit

Last night, we were too wiped out after a long day of travel to wash up after dinner, so the galley is a wreck. I put the kettle on for coffee and grind the beans by hand, then attack the dish situation. By the time the last of the hot water is poured over the freshly-ground beans, the dishes are cleaned—in cold water, which is actually more like 80-degree water, reflecting the water temp outside. Of course, the dishes are now stacked all over the lid of the fridge, so I need to dry them off and put them away to begin the breakfast process.

By 8:30, things are looking promising. I’ve decided to invent French Toast Pancakes, to use up the leftover pancakes from the other day in a way that doesn’t involve using the oven or steaming them soggy. It works, more or less. I try to persuade the kids to use up the weirdo cherry pie filling that we picked up in Jamaica, but they’re not having it, and opt for cinnamon sugar instead; we’ve been without maple syrup for months.

9:15, and T is plowing through his Rosetta Stone Spanish lesson. He has a love/hate relationship with the software; he loves getting the work done and checking it off his list, but the computer frequently fails to understand him, and he ends up yelling random Spanish phrases with increasing frustration. F is paging through a book by Steve Sheinkin about the American Revolution, but it’s really a stalling tactic; she needs to start her report on the Panama Canal today—almost two months after transiting—and she’s not into it.

Meanwhile, it’s been three weeks since we’ve seen a laundromat, and the old E-scow jib bag in the saloon is starting to ferment. We’re long on fresh water at the moment, and the sun is shining, so I haul the bag up to the cockpit and sort Essential from Non-essential clothing. Towels and sheets will wait for civilization; we should be in Boca Chica in three days, and Golfito in little over a week—the heavy duty laundry can be done there. For now, I plunge the most important clothing into a half-filled four-gallon bucket with a little castille soap, swish it around by hand for a few minutes, and let it soak.

Also washed out: plastic bags. We were told we wouldn't be able to find good-quality ziplocks outside the US; we haven't found that to be true, but we still reuse them, to try and cut back on our plastic consumption.

Also washed out: plastic bags. We were told we wouldn’t be able to find good-quality ziplocks outside the US; we haven’t found that to be true, but we still reuse them, to try and cut back on our plastic consumption.

10:45, and Michu has a simultaneous math situation going on downstairs. F is working on probability; T is doing some kind of crazy skip-counting. Both kids are doing math that is frankly beyond me; I’m sure I could work it out by reviewing their entire chapter in math, but fortunately Michu majored in math, so he’s all over it (you should have seen his enthusiasm for base two last week with T). They’ve already put away their Spanish, grammar, and spelling, and have gotten a good jump on their Panama Canal reports; math is the last thing on their list for today, although F will probably bust out the violin towards the evening.

Outside, the sun is high, and we can see the reefs on the edge of this small bay. It’s low tide, and we’re anchored in about 20 feet of water, but we can see the bottom clearly. There’s a very fancy-looking boutique resort in this bay, and I’m sure they’re all enjoying the view of our undies drying on the lifelines—although from the looks of the lights on shore last night, not many people are staying here at the moment.

Fancy resort, currently under renovation. According to our Bauhaus guide, it's normally $600/night to stay here, and that book is ten years old...

Fancy resort, currently under renovation. According to our Bauhaus guide, it’s normally $600/night to stay here, and that book is ten years old…

12:30. The kids are enjoying some post-school video game time. A sea turtle swims by as we launch the dinghy. Breakfast dishes are done and put away, and the cast-iron pan is heating dry in the sun under the dodger. No one is wearing any clothing beyond underwear. I really want to dump out our compost, but the tide’s coming in, and I don’t want our onion peels to end up on the resort beach; I’ll wait until after dinner.

DSC_2598We have what could charitably be called a banana problem. We purchased a stalk of red bananas from a passing panga in Isla del Rey; the guy claimed they’d be ripe in four days, more or less. By the time they were actually ripe—a week and a half later—we were in Bahia Honda, and our friend Domingo was piling ripe bananas into our hands. Day two of peanut butter and banana sandwiches is not making a dent, and after lots of badgering, no one will voluntarily reach for a banana as a snack anymore. I resolve to make banana bread with the half bag of chocolate chips hidden at the bottom of the fridge, and pull out half a pound of butter to warm. Despite having two laptops plugged in for most of the morning, plus the running of four fans and a laboring fridge, our state of charge for the boat is 100%. The family hoovers an entire pineapple in about five minutes.

Domingo's beach in Bahia Honda, morning after some rain.

Domingo’s beach in Bahia Honda, in the morning after some rain.

1:15: everyone in the water! After some shuffling for wetsuits, sunscreen, goggles and gear, we head out in the dinghy towards some promising-looking rocks. The water turns silted closer to shore, and we don’t see much for wildlife—some disarmingly small fish (everyone), and one banded sea snake (Michu). We hike up a very short trail in our tender bare feet to the top of a small cliff and survey the realm. On our way to the main resort beach, we run out of gas, as expected; we wanted to use up the older fuel in the engine tank. We bust out some paddles and schlep to the beach, where we practice our Spanish with a friendly construction worker. There are no guests at the resort at the moment; everything’s under construction for the next five months. No gin and tonics at the bar! We paddle back.

It’s 3:20, and we’re all a bit sun-frazzled. The heat has been cooking up some thunderstorms on the mainland, so we pull in the dry laundry before any rain has a chance to work it’s way to us. Everyone rinses off in the solar shower, hangs their soggy swimsuits on the lifelines, and retires below for reading and cookies. F listens to a Dear Hank and John podcast downloaded months ago at Shelter Bay; T embarks on an epic LEGO project. Michu has fallen down a hole in his Kindle, and can’t look up from his terrible Jack Reacher novel.

Views from our short hike

Views from our short hike

By 5:30, the boat interior is getting hot—the banana bread has been in the oven for an hour, and has used half of our precious stock of fresh eggs. Smells pretty good, though. Fortunately, the Islas Secas are living up to their name; the storms have stayed on the mainland, and all our hatches are open to let the heat escape. I’m pulling together dinner with diminished food stores—pasta with a lemony cream sauce, tuna, maybe some capers. We have one wedge of cabbage left that will go into a pork fried rice tomorrow, and that’ll be it for fresh veggies, with the exception of the stalwart onions, garlic, and potatoes. Generally, we don’t go too nuts with fresh fruit and veg when we provision; our fridge is small, things rot quickly in the heat of the tropics if not kept cold, and we can usually find basics in towns along the way. During our travels, we’ve had dozens of pangas sell us carrots, pineapples, cucumbers, potatoes and onions; no one has ever had mozzarella. So, we tend to fill our cold storage with cheese, butter, and meat. On this trip, we’ve struck out for veggies…yet somehow, the kids soldier on.

7:25, dinner is over and we’re finishing up an episode of the West Wing. We don’t really use regular textbooks for civics around here, but we’ve been working our way through the West Wing as a way to understand US politics and government, and as a vehicle for discussing current affairs. Tonight we talked about the FEC and election reform. It’s sprinkling outside, so we’ve got the hatches closed, and it’s hot. On the plus side, dinner was delicious, and breakfast is all set for tomorrow—banana bread. T’s doing logic problems, F’s reading in her room, and I’m about to dig into some new books I’ve just put on my Kindle. Michu hoists the dinghy out of the water; we have zero expectations of theft in this bay, but we’re trying to instill best practices by stowing everything, every night, so we don’t run into trouble in theft-prone areas.

The kids will turn in around eight, and Michu and I will be in bed by around ten. Tomorrow, we might move the big boat around to the other side of this island—we hear there are manta rays over there—or we might just explore the other side of the bay, where the construction guy thought we might find lobster. Then it’s off to Boca Chica, for a little time back in civilization.DSCF2829

3 Comments on “An ordinary day

  1. I watch West Wing just to cheer myself up these days. Tell Michu he’s got to do better than Jack Reacher novels. Literary equivalent of paint-by-numbers.

    • I know, I know–the Jack Reacher is terrible. Someone at Las Brisas gave us a copy, and we realized we had a ton of the books on a flash drive. But, you know, we don’t have access to bad TV out here, and sometimes you just need to switch off….

  2. Oh that actually sounds so relaxing, most likely very ordinary to you but the solitary should be enjoyed and appreciated, good luck with the other side of the island, I am going to the barn and my work is NEVER done! take care……..

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