Posted on March 1, 2018
Boilerplate disclaimer: this is not what it will cost you to go cruising.
People’s constant advice, discussing cruising finances, always seems to be: It’ll cost what you have. We did not find this helpful in our planning, however true it may be. What we’re trying to show is the cost to us, more or less, for one month to go cruising. We’re going for monthly expenses, because they’re easier for us to track; so you won’t see the boat insurance amortized, you’ll just see that expense when we pay it. It won’t be what you’ll spend, but it was the kind of information that helped us out when we were trying to wrap our heads around that magical number for our cruising kitty.
Once upon a time, when we were planning our trip, we thought one of the advantages of ending up in Mexico would be how inexpensive it is, as we were coming to the end of our funds.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
While it’s certainly possible to live cheaply in Mexico, we haven’t been doing it. There have been a lot of tacos, yes; but we’ve also blown more than expected on marinas, and of course we chose to spend extra to get our bottom painted in a convenient place.
Our numbers for February:
Fuel: $282.38, diesel; $69.71, stove fuel
Ice Cream: $20.62
Boat Parts: $462.52
Bank Fees: $43.37
Boat Work: $1410
Grand Total: $4806.27
- Marina fees include the fee for hauling out and storage on land while the bottom was being painted; the “boat work” category was what we paid to Sea Tek for the actual work, plus supplies. Bottom paint isn’t cheap.
- Education was a pretty hearty category this month. It included the fees for the CPR course; some money we forced on Coqui for the tamale lesson; and an awesome graphic novel of the Black Panther in Spanish.
- And speaking of the Black Panther…that $6.86 under Entertainment was what it cost the entire family to see The Black Panther in the theater.
- Holy cow, is diesel expensive in Mexico! And we used a lot of it bashing north to Mazatlan. Hopefully, we’ll do more sailing as we cross to Baja.
- We did not do an awesome job with the bank fees this month. Our money shuffling was in overdrive, as we’ve been organizing a house rental for our return to Madison and pulling out weirdly large amounts of cash to pay for the bottom paint job (netting us an 18% discount, so—worth it).
- We have friends visiting us in March in La Paz, so we’ve dropped a bit more on boat parts to have some things hand-delivered. Just getting our girl into shape before we sell her.
- We had to renew the boat registration, and Michu renewed his nursing license.
- Hey, look! We spent money on stove fuel! We’d hoped to find some from Dr. Shukan, who helps out with organizing first aid seminars for cruisers in La Cruz (including how to suture); when he didn’t have anything above 70% alcohol for us, he went on a mission to find what we needed. Finally, a homeopathic doctor he knows came up with the source he uses for tinctures–a tiny storefront in downtown Puerto Vallarta. We asked the store owner what people used the alcohol for–medicine? Cleaning? Yes, she said–but also limoncello, various fruit alcohols…so it’s hootch. We’re burning straight-up hootch. Seems to be working great, though!
Posted on February 24, 2018
La Cruz is sticky! As in, we’re having a hard time making our exit. We’ve met so many lovely families; the town is very cruiser-friendly, with great services and food; and we’re just out of travel mode. Banderas Bay has us in her grip. We did manage an almost-exit: a day trip to the town of Yelapa.
We’d planned on stopping in this bay on our way north, but of course we were running late and skipped right over it. We’d heard too much about this community to let it go entirely, though, so we planned a trip with our friends from s/v Nomi. A quick motorsail across the bay in the early morning hours, and we grabbed a mooring ball; the deep water extends almost to shore, so dropping an anchor is not an easy proposition.
Yelapa is an indigenous community that’s never been connected to the mainland by modern roads. Horses are big around here, and the phones have only been up for about a decade. We wouldn’t call them cut off, though; ferries from Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta arrive daily, and the beach is crowded with palapa restaurants and small hotels.
Our main goal, after a little fish taco break, was to find a waterfall. There are two notable ones in Yelapa; one that’s an easy hike through town, and one down a longer path that’s much better for swimming. Always up for a challenge, we went for the long hike—which ended up being a bit longer when we took a wrong turn! Eventually, we found nirvana: a warm cascade with a deep swimming hole at the bottom.
Our dusty return to the boat was marked with a little drama, as we arrived too late to catch our scheduled panga back to the boat. Fortunately, we managed to flag down a water taxi before they quit for the night, and stumbled back to the boat for some dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Or not. The swell coming into the anchorage flung the boat around so much, that at about 8:30 pm we decided we were done. Time for a quick night sail across the bay, with Nomi in our wake. Despite our familiarity with the anchorage, picking a path at night with distracting shore lights is always a challenge, and there are plenty of unlit boats around here to provide an extra jolt of excitement. We managed to anchor safely on the outside of everyone, and slept like rocks.
Now it’s several days later, and our tired legs have regained their strength. We’ve provisioned up, found a source for stove fuel, and are prepping the boat for our final push north. From here, we plan to head to Isla Isabella and Mazatlan, before jumping across the Gulf of California and towards La Paz. It’s been a while since we’ve planned any kind of passage, and we’re excited to get going. This may be our last big push; onward!
Posted on February 15, 2018
We’d planned to pull our boat out of the water in Chiapas. That would have been a year and four months in the water without checking out the bottom, and we knew the paint was wearing away; but tsunamis wreck stuff, and despite hanging out at the marina for almost two months, the travel lift wasn’t working in time for us. The cheapest option after that would have been to do the work much further north in the Sea of Cortez, but we didn’t want to sacrifice any time during our last few months of cruising to yard work if we could avoid it. Things are still a bit chilly and blustery in the Sea, so we decided to haul out at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact of viewing our boat as a boat. When we’re living aboard, our boat is our home, and I see it the same way I usually saw our house: sheesh, I need to do those dishes, who left their hat in the cockpit, we need to wash the windows, why can’t I find a pen? But pulling her out of the water reminded me that she’s a boat, just like all those other boats we see on the hard; and I couldn’t stop feeling proud of how strong and capable she is. We have put so many miles under her, and if anything, she looks better than she did when we left. Apart from a tiny spot of baldness on the leading bottom edge of the keel, she’s no worse for wear, despite being stuck in the mud more than once. Did we find blisters on the hull? We did not. All the prep Michu did to the boat before we left has really paid off, and she looks fabulous.
By the time she goes back in the water, she’ll look even better. Two new coats of paint; two new zincs on the prop shaft; an epoxy touch-up to the afore-mentioned spot on the keel (which showed almost no rust, despite the fact that our keel is iron instead of lead); a raised waterline to better accommodate a loaded-down cruising boat (three coats of paint on the new stuff, just to make sure); and a pretty buff and wax. Yeah, we plan on selling the boat in a few months, but we’re happy to take good care of the boat that’s taken such good care of us.
As far as spending a little extra money to haul in La Cruz, we’ve got no regrets. It’s a lovely town, and F and T have been enjoying some serious kid time. Peter Vargas and his team have been doing an awesome job, coming in ahead of schedule and under budget, if you can believe it–how often does that happen? And once again, a little time on land has made us eager to be back on the hook, away from the noise and heat, dust and bugs, costly cold beers and creaky hotel beds of land life.
Posted on February 13, 2018
Last week, I had the privilege of tagging along in the kitchen while our friend Coqui made tamales for her Friday night special.
Starting with four kilos of fresh masa, we went through how to prepare the dough; whipped up different batches of meat–one chicken, one pork; and assembled and steamed over 80 tamales for her restaurant’s dinner service. She also gave me a quick tutorial on how to whip out tortillas with a press and quick hands (something that will take years of practice to really master), and showed me how they make their incredible barbacoa.
It was a pretty exhausting morning. Once upon a time, I used to spend 12-hour-days churning out food in a commercial kitchen; but cruising has made me soft, and my fingers have lost that asbestos hardness that let me manipulate food on the griddle without pain. Coqui has no English, and her Spanish is fast and idiom-filled. Her techniques are not easy to replicate on our boat, either–a blender is crucial, and we don’t have one. But the whole day was amazing, learning both the recipes and how they operate their fonda (casual restaurant), and when we’re feasting on tamales back in Wisconsin, we’ll be remembering our time in La Cruz.
Posted on February 11, 2018
We finally made it to La Cruz, a focal point for cruising families. The marina hosts a kids’ club that’s becoming pretty famous; we’ve been told since Panama that once we arrived, our kids would never want to leave. Fortunately, the anchorage is rolly enough that I don’t think that’ll be a problem, but we do have quite a bit of time to spend here before pushing on to the north.
And that time will be action-packed. Before we’d even arrived, we signed up the kids for activities. Scuba Ninja ran a CPR clinic in the marina lounge, and both kids got to run through their first drills on a resusci-Annie—if they’re anything like their parents, the first time of many. This immediately rolled into a slime-making workshop by the pool, with more cruising kids that we’d seen since the Bahamas.
The next day, Kat from the marina had organized a kids’-only camp out on the beach. We dropped our kids off with what gear we could scramble from deep storage, and stuck around to watch the kid-led construction of an elaborate base camp structure—maybe not up to building code, but enough to keep the morning dew off. As the parents went off to town in search of tacos, we could see the flames from the bonfire reaching up over the trees. In the end, the intensive kid together time proved to be too much for our guys to handle, and they opted not to stay the night, retreating to the calm and quiet of our boat.
After a day off to regroup, they were back in action, with a movie in the VIP lounge, plus some hosting of kids on our boat. One of the big advantages of a monohull over a catamaran for family sailing: we can rig a swing from our halyard. Our neighbors took full advantage, and we sent them home covered in bruises but smiling.
Another cool activity run by the kids’ club lets cruising kids get some restaurant experience by taking over service in a local place for part of an evening. T opted for the kitchen, learning to mix up guacamole and plate tacos, while F worked the front of the house in tandem with an eight-year-old buddy. I wouldn’t say that things went smoothly, but our kids had a really good time, and T has been using his new skills to assault all the avocados on the boat. He was also really proud to be the most fluent Spanish speaker among the kitchen kids, and did the bulk of the translating.
F joined in to some grown-up activites, as well, jumping in with the Wednesday afternoon musicians and joining me at the Women Who Sail meet-up on Thursday. One week down, seven activities attended, and we are just about maxed out for social events.
We’re feeling like we occupy a weird middle ground here among the cruising hierarchy. Most of the people we’ve met have come down the west coast of the US, either from California, Seattle or Vancouver; and while that’s a challenging stretch of coast to navigate, they haven’t done a lot of boat travel to other countries. The other side of the coin is the circumnavigators—a small group that’ve gone around the world, or around the Pacific Rim, and returned to hang out in lovely Mexico. The long-term sailors are in the minority, though, and when we mention how we find Mexico to be akin to the US in terms of availability of goods and services, we’re met with gaping stares. Honestly, we feel like there’s so much English spoken here, so many tourists, expatriates and cruisers, so many American chain stores, that we’re really understanding how distinctive our time in Central America was.
That’s not to say that we feel like awesome, worldly cruisers. We don’t feel much different then when we left, although we don’t worry much about the anchor dragging any more, and a three-day passage isn’t disconcerting. But it does make us look back on the last year and a half and realize that yes, we’ve seen a lot of stuff, and learned a ton. We’ll always have more to learn, but we apparently can’t think of ourselves as newbies any more.