Boat Life: Adventure or Ordeal?

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Sometimes a word or two accomplishes more than a lengthy explanation.

“You have to ask yourself, is this an adventure or an ordeal?” Grammatically a question but delivered as a directive, Donna aboard sailing vessel Magic Carpet, effectively and sufficiently responded to my explanation for Seamore Pacific leaving the marina, only to have to return two days later. An adventure or an ordeal, are litmus for perceiving and responding to life aboard Seamore Pacific. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that at one time I naïvely imagined that 6 months of cruising the Sea of Cortez would be an indolent sail from one sandy cove to the next, no fuss or muss, and my biggest decision of the day would be whether to wear the blue swimsuit….or the blue swimsuit. But cruisers with experience know this just isn’t so. If not careful, the dream to experience this beautiful part of the world could easily turn into a begrudging chore.

Although Donna gave me the words, it’s for me to define what an adventure is, and what counts as an ‘ordeal’.   Thus far the delays and set-backs have all come back signed, sealed, and stamped as “adventure.”   A hoop-hollering adventure that is starkly different from the simple scenes I had imagined.   Until Seamore Pacific can employ a fulltime recreation director and ship’s purser, umbrella drinks and the plight for even tan lines have to go. They are no longer on the A-list.   Bug screens…potable water…high tensile chain…those are the items that keep our adventure alive in the midst of sometimes feeling mentally fogged in.

Provisioned and raring to go, Seamore Pacific left San Carlos Marina last Monday.   The long list of maintenance and preparation was finally down to two items; small enough to fit on a post-it-note. As they say, “one is never fully ready to leave the dock.” There is always something to do on a boat. The temptation to get everything done before departing will more often than not, keep sailors from cutting the umbilical cord. Tip top boats rarely make it out of the harbor. Keeping this in mind, our plan was to leave the dock and spend a few days at anchor, work on our post-it note list, and let our legs and my nerves adjust to being away from land. If all went well, we would sail to the east coast of Baja.

In the United States, and especially living in a large city like Phoenix, when something breaks, it’s relatively easy to locate a fix. Internet, phone service, UPS, Fed-Ex, Postal Service, or hopping in the car and driving to the store are tools at hand. It’s not the same in Mexico. There is always an extra hoop to ….let’s just call it an adventure to experience when an items breaks. For instance, we have Wi-Fi at the Marina but it is so insanely slow that if we need to do some serious internet communication, we go and find it at either Captain’s Club, Hammerhead’s, or Barracuda Bob’s.   Thinking we would bypass all of that by getting the latest I-Pad and switch out the SIM card with one by Telcel actually just turns out to be a carrot on a stick. First, a drive to Guaymas to the BIG Telcel sign in the sky. Relieved to see only about 20 people in line ahead of us, we waited for our number to be called. The very nice gentleman found 1 SIM card still on the shelf, but first we needed to get in a line to pay for it. After paying, we circled back through and received our new SIM card. Asking a few more questions, we learned we also needed to purchase cellular time. So, back in line to pay for cell time followed by going to another place to have an account activated. Because our plans are to sail to remote places that lack big Telcel signs in the sky, we tried purchasing a cruising season of internet. No such adventure. We can only purchase 3 GB at a time, it expires after 30 days, and then we must return to Telcel in the sky if we want anymore. Not sure how we will swing this but I’m sure we will figure it out. We surely aren’t the first cruisers who scrounge around for internet time.

But just to show how amazing this whole adventure is, last Monday when we left the dock, we planned for it to be our little shakedown before the crossing. 6 miles up the coast, west-north winds picked up to 20 knots on the nose. Wanting to avoid a lumpy and slow ride to San Pedro, we ducked into Bahia Algadones and set our anchor. By that time it was blowing hard and my nerves were as tight as the strings on a violin.   Admittedly, it takes me a few days to relax and give into the overwhelming power and energy that is created when wind and water move a 9 ton boat like it’s a feather.   Anchor set, it was time to work on our post-it-note list….commission the water maker. Why just sit around being nervous if our chain and anchor are strong enough…my worries, not the Captain’s.

“Honey, do you think the chain will hold the boat and keep us from dragging onto the reef?”

“Yes dear.”

“But when I compare it to the chain other boats carry, ours seems a bit small.”

“No dear.  It is high tensile chain and the size our windlass system calls for.”

“Is our windlass system big enough?”   And I don’t give up with questioning until we run through every system on the boat. It’s what helps me mentally keep this an adventure and hopeful avoid an ordeal.

So, back to the water maker….the boost pump just wouldn’t work. For a moment I started to get ticked off. Were we destined to always work, pouring time and money into the boat and not have a chance to sail? But, here is where adventure looks different now than it would have 10 years ago. The Captain “fired” up his Telcel Wi-Fi hotspot, took out his cellphone and called the water maker manufacturer. All the way to California! First he spoke to the designer and then the engineer/CEO.   The conclusion was that we needed a new boost pump. A new one would be shipped to the marina. Wow, how adventure some to be sitting on a boat, anchored in a beautiful bay in Mexico, and arrange for a part to be shipped. We have heard horror stories about how long it takes for parts to reach Mexico, partly because they go through customs and the delivery services are different here. But, this story ends very differently. A happy conclusion.  Using a tracking number we were entertained to see our new boost pump arrive and depart San Diego, to Ohio, to Guadalajara, to Hermosillo, and finally to Marina San Carlos. Only 4 days.   Yeah, returning to the marina was not in our plans, but it has added richness to our experience.   We attended Palm Sunday services; the water maker is working like a charm; the larder has been restocked; and we are ready to leave for Bahia Concepcion  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%ADa_Concepci%C3%B3n,_Baja_California_Sur  .  We will study the wind forecast and if all looks good will leave later today, tomorrow, or the next.   Fingers crossed, Seamore Pacific and crew will enjoy a smooth 18 hour crossing.

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Day Off: the captain hired a rigger to climb the mast and fix a broken antenna. Yippy!

 

 

 

 

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Fescue Grass & Sea Weed

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My parents have been married 50 years and fourteen days. I’m not sure what impresses me the most, longevity or change. I read somewhere that the average person in contemporary times deals with more change in a year, than their grandparents did in a lifetime. To imagine the depth of change that 50 years brings to one married couple is quite frankly an “uber” big deal. Impressed and intrigued, the Captain and I for sure didn’t want to miss out on my parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, so we battened down Seamore Pacific’s hatches and trekked to mid-America, also known as dairy cow capital of the fine US of A. Standing back and eying the experience, celebrating 50 years with the couple that raised me, brothers who endured me and everyone else who allows me to meander back and forth from pasture to sea, is nothing short of special. Metaphorically, going back to the Ozark’s feels like I’m glancing down at a scattering of cardboard jigsaw pieces, only to have my eyes lock in on one peculiar shape and know in an instant, where it fits. With just a bit of rotating, the edges align and the piece snaps in place.  A trip constructed for the purpose of celebrating my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary  inadvertently turned over a stone I have stepped on before….I just didn’t know it at the time.

How a country girl figures out when or how to live on a boat in a warm sunny place is not a puzzle, but rather a convergence of pieces which fit together quite naturally. A simple way to picture it is to imagine a girl crossing a pasture, climbing up and over a gate, then walking southeast down a rural road; eyes peeled for palm trees. She doesn’t stop until she feels soft sand rising between her toes and intense UV rays bouncing off her hair. She trades her fancy pretender sunglasses in for a quality pair of Costa Del Mars. They are beauties made for being on the water and will give her years of refractory-clarity and superior eye protection. In other words, “better to see you my dear.”

Whether I’m sitting at the beach, sailing on the boat, or being Captain Chameleon’s passenger seat driver as we make our way along I-44 to Missouri, I’m sure to have my Costa sunglasses on. Driving, not flying is our preferred method of travel to Missouri because we like to absorb the scenery along the way. Over the years we have settled into a routine of stopping at Blake’s in Gallup, New Mexico for a Green Chili Burger and Steak-N-Shake just outside of Oklahoma City for burgers, fries, and malt. But this trip was not destined to be routine. Passing through Gallup, we remembered it was Friday of Lent…no green chili burger this time. We would have to catch Blake’s on the way back. At least we still had Steak-N-Shake the next day. “Wonder if Steak-N-Shake has a green chili burger? A big juicy hamburger, fries, and chocolate shake is what I’m going to have.”   That changed several hundred miles down the road

Taking a break from reading, I glanced out the window to reconnect with reality. Like a magnet, my eyes locked onto the eyes of a calf.   Peering through a rectangle window of his temporary stall on a stockyard cattle truck,, as our car passed in the left hand lane,I was looking into his eyes and he was looking into mine.  Moving 75 miles an hour, time stopped. A piece of life’s jigsaw puzzle again lay before me. Deep down inside, I knew instantaneously where that piece of the puzzle belonged.

“What are you gonna have sweetie?” Asked the friendly blonde waitress.

“I’ll have a veggie sub,” I replied, purposefully not making eye contact with her or Captain Chameleon.

What the waitress didn’t say, Captain Chameleon did. “Who in their right mind comes to Steak-N-Shake and orders a vegetable sandwich?”

I understood his confusion. It has become a way of life to eat our way across Mexico and America on carne asada and hamburgers. Despite being vegetarian for a couple of years when we first married, ordering a carrot, cucumber, and tomato sandwich at a Steak-N-Shake in mid-America/Cow Country USA was puzzling to the Captain….and irritating to our waitress. “Are you not feeling well? Did you not see their list of $4 hamburger meals?”

“That cattle truck that we passed, well, there was a calf in the truck and our eyes met.”

One of the many things I love about the captain is that he lets me be me. His response to being vegetarian is, “Nope. I can’t live on vegetables alone.” But on the other hand, he knows that locked up deep inside, I’m meant to not eat cows, chickens, or pigs. He has heard my stories of growing up on a hobby farm.

When I was in the second grade my family moved to the country and started what I fondly refer to as a hobby farm. We had a calf. Some chickens. Two guineas that later turned into 80. A pig named Peter Piper. And, a pair of ducks and geese, gifts that I received on my birthday. One autumn day, our little calf wasn’t feeling too well and winter was at hand. Because the barn was cold and drafty, my parents thought it wise to keep our little buddy warm and safe in the basement. By the time spring came along, he had grown into quite a big fellow. Surprisingly, he didn’t much want to leave his digs in the basement but it was getting harder and harder (sillier and sillier) to take him outside each day to graze, clean up his bed, and then lead him back down the steps. In other words….it was a stray puzzle piece….one that didn’t fit with the rest of the set.

Back for my parent’s anniversary and going over pictures with my mom and dad, I came across the picture of me bottle feeding that little calf. I don’t know where the lines blurred where I could bottle feed a little creature, unknowingly fattening him up for the meat market. But in all honesty, it’s has been an arduous journey contempating a vegetarian lifestyle. For one reason and another I struggle. I go through phases of foregoing meat, only to reluctantly return to it. Just as I don’t rely on a measuring tape and right angle ruler to discern which piece belongs where in the jigsaw puzzle, this is a personal journey where I need not have all the answers in order to set out to cross the pasture.  Perhaps putting on my Costa Del Mars will help me gain some clarity.

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Bottle feeding Francis

Bottle feeding Francis

 

Jigsaw pieces:

  • When I told Captain Chameleon about keeping a calf in our basement, he responded with; “Honey, I wouldn’t repeat that story. It’s not normal to keep a cow in the basement.”
  • I buy into whole food ideology now. But the first time I heard someone talk about the cons of drinking orange juice over pealing and eating the entire orange, I thought to myself, “Honey I wouldn’t repeat that. It’s not normal to speak against Florida orange juice.”
  • The Captain isn’t into a vegetarian lifestyle.  However, he supports me and proved it by driving us all over town to find a pressure cooker to take back to Seamore Pacific. Brown Rice, dried beans, millet, and sweet potatoes will taste really good with salsa and guacamole.
  • Just before leaving on our trip to Missouri, I stumbled on an old favorite in a used book store; Laurel’s Kitchen. Eighteen years ago in Florida I was completely naive to a vegetarian lifestyle.  With the recommendation of a nice lady at the Natural Foods store in Marathon, Florida I purchased a copy of Laurel’s Kitchen and poured over it. Binder barely holding together, one copy is in my kitchen in Phoenix and now I have a copy on Seamore Pacific.
  • I worked with a nurse in Key West, who never in her life tasted meat. She and her husband had sailed from Europe, lived simply, and started a family on their boat. She was a joy to be around. I often wonder where she is today.
  • After a lot of thinking and not thinking, I decided to approach my vegetarian conviction like I’ve done with other endeavors in the past…don’t over think it and don’t postpone starting the journey while waiting for the “right” answer to appear. It’s in the actions, the failures, and the movement of living that I’ll arrive at a “right” answer.
  • I’m so fortunate. Boat neighbors in San Carlos are lending their experience and knowledge with keeping and using sourdough starter, making yogurt, and sprouting alfalfa seeds for greens.
  • Stay tuned for stories on how Seamore Pacific bridges Carne Asada and hamburgers with bulgur wheat and seaweed. Better yet, please share your own stories or words of wisdom of figuring out one of life’s convictions.  Jackie Blue, by Ozark Mountain Daredevils came to mind as I wrote this post.  Enjoy.

 

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Goose at Fellow’s Lake. Springfield, Missouri

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A drive in Webster County, Missouri

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Fellow’s Lake. Springfield, Missouri

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Kansas scape

Kansas scape

Sea glass chasing the sun

Sea glass chasing the sun