The Proverbial Delay

I was told when I was young that there was an old proverb that went something like, “It is easier to swim downstream than fight the current.” Now I’m not exactly sure why it took some genius thousands of years ago to pass down this little nugget of wisdom to us poor rubes when it seems like such knowledge is inherent, but it must have struck a cord because it was told to me by someone that told it to them and so on all the way back to Genius Zero who informed all the world that less work is easier!

However, perhaps there is something to be said for this master craftsman of knowledge. After all, Dani and I are champing at the bit to get underway right now. The only problem is that the weather is crap and we don’t want to go… Well, I don’t want to go. You see Dani, after having been driven to bed and then made to wait around 10 days is ready. Ready isn’t the right word. She is practically upping the anchor chain herself, battening down the hatches, and generally gets this dreamy look in her eye as if she were under way again.

Of course, No. Just no. We’re not leaving. Not yet. Because I like to think of myself as a smart fellow, wise and all that, and I’ve learned from the little proverb that it is in fact easier to wait for good weather. Now it may be somewhat debatable as to if this makes me wise or not. In fact, my little attempt at wisdom could end with my throat cut as Dani takes extreme measures to shut me up and escape Isla Mujeres that she feels is cursed. (They named it the Woman island, what did you expect?)

Really, the problem is that that we are both ready to go and the weather is PLEASANT, it just isn’t right. I know that is hard to grasp. Dani and I had a fight over it. If she doesn’t understand it, how can I expect others to? I figured I’d toss around some of my way of thinking to all you guys back in cubicles and houses to show you what you have to be thinking about all the time out here in paradise.

TECHNICAL: First, lets talk about Sundowner. She is an old design that doesn’t do well heading into the wind and beating (but what boat does). We’ve found that she can reasonably sail 50 degrees off the wind but in adverse conditions with wind/waves/current she can only do about 60 degrees.
photo SundownerPointsofSail.jpg

I know a lot of racing sailors just cringed. It’s reality on an old cruising boat that weighs 20k+ lbs.

Now… Lets look at the weather forecast upon which Dani has helpfully put a little boat with 45 degree angles.
 photo BoatHeadedSouth60degrees.jpg

Notice how those wind arrows are pointing suspiciously in that little “no go” sailing angle in front of the boat? That means it’s going to be a horrible horrible beat. Beating is when you head into the wind instead of going downstream, or basically, when you violate the proverb. It’s wet snotty and uncomfortable.

So I made the final decision to “wait for better weather.” Now this evoked great wailing and gnashing of teeth from the crew aboard Sundowner. Cries rang out of “what if the weather never changes!?” and other such terms of despair and pleading. When I first made the call, we had checked the 10 day forecast here in Isla Mujeres and every single day had the same wind direction. Luckily though, days later something new appeared…
 photo Isla10DayForecastWedNorth.jpg

So here we continue to sit, awaiting our little weather window to head south about 350 miles. Not beating. Not taking waves over the bow. Not doing crazy tacks that get us no where and not burning diesel. It’s cheaper and more comfortable this way, the only downside is the proverbial delay and ritual “waiting for the window”. It might be downright pleasant if I didn’t have to lock Dani in the v-berth at night out of mortal fear she’d slip the anchor on me.

We are still neophyte cruisers, but I say unto thee others who look to us as they plan their own dreams. The proverb is strong and stupidly simple but incredibly hard to obey. Such is wisdom. Prepare yourselves for sitting on your hands when you don’t want to. It’s tough out here in paradise.

What we’ve really been up to.

I’M ALIVE! DEAR GOD I’M ALIVE. Oh I’m just kidding, being sick really wasn’t that bad. I have survived my three day ailment which included a couple of days with fever near 102, chills and a lower back ache. We suspect it was a kidney infection possibly from the ocean water here where we swim frequently but really it could have been from anything. Luckily we stored the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin before we left and once it started working the need to see a doctor went away. The good news is I am better, the bad news is Tate took away my bell…so sad.

For the better part of 7 days we have been boat bound with a few minor trips to the shore. I am feeling the effects of Cabin Fever creeping in so I really hope we can get the move on soon to start the next part of our adventure. What to do, what to do? This restless energy got me thinking about all the little projects we have done since leaving 100 days ago today! Most of this we don’t talk about on the blog due to our project burnout but since we get many requests to write about the refit stuff again I figured I’d list what we’ve done so far in the realm of “projects”. This is for all you Tim, the toolman, Talyor folks. Also it’s for the regular folks, you know the ones that can’t make that manly noise, who want to know the day in and day out of cruising thus far on Sundowner.

In the past 100 days of cruising we have:

  1. Sealed the anchor locker doors with thin foam tape. I also filled in a gap above the anchor locker bulkhead and cabin top (a gap leading into the vberth on the ceiling) with old gasket. This will hopefully prevent any water shipping over the deck while underway from entering the anchor locker and then leaking into the vberth. So far the vberth has remained completely dry underway!
  2. Changed the propellor shaft zinc.
  3. Scrubbed the bottom of the boat, propellor, dingy and anchor chain with bristle brushes while in the water.
  4. Cleaned EVERY piece of stainless on the boat with Bar Keepers Friend (excluding the standing rigging). We had a TON of rust on everything. I mean it was bad, real bad. I made a paste with water and let it sit on all the metal for a week…hoping in vain for rain. When no rain came we washed it all off with salt water and then gave it a fresh water rinse before we:
  5. Polished every piece of stainless using the magical Collinite Metal Wax 850 . This stuff is incredible and I really wish I had brought more than one container. A bit over 1/3 polished the entire boat and there hasn’t been rust since. I’ve read you can go 4-6 months between polishings in a salt water environment and there is no need to do another clean with the Barkeepers as this stuff builds up and more effective overtime.
  6. Watered the batteries each month.
  7. Reinforced key fiddles around the boat that were weak with bolts and screws. We kept finding ourselves wanting to grab a hold underway but unable to for fear of breaking the fiddles in half or completely off of the counter top.
  8. Caulked the edge of the bathroom counter top to prevent further rot.
  9. Sprayed and wiped down the entire boat with a tea tree and water mixture each month to keep mold away (this seriously works!)
  10. Removed, cleaned and got mold stains out of the underside of the salon settee cushion cover. Made a plan to turn cushions over to air once a week to prevent this.
  11. Used beeswax on the bilge cover edges to hopefully reduce creaking and squeaking while underway.
  12. Secured the port side fuel tank further using a shim to lessen noise while underway.
  13. Cut and made new screens for the portlights using the old frames. I used butyl tape to simply stick the screen material to the frames. It has worked wonderful for months now.
  14. Tate took apart the dinghy outboard and cleaned the carburetor. We also got ethanol free gas to help with the outboard’s performance. So far so good.
  15. Repaired the caprail area behind the cockpit jib sheet winch where a cleat ripped out using thickened epoxy. Not sure if we will replace this.
  16. Defrosted the Engel.

So you see it’s not all rum and punch in these parts but to write in detail about all of that above seems exhausting. I’m hoping one day we can get back into some of the more technical project posts. Take for example my project today: Stowing the winter clothes. As cute as this sweater is I just can’t rationalize all the room it takes up in the locker, not to mention how poorly it matches my bathing suit.
Dani wearing a sweater and bathing suit in Isla Mujeres
Dani wearing a sweater and bathing suit in Isla Mujeres

We have finally sailed ourselves into a place and season where these clothes aren’t needed anymore. Instead of storing them in trash bags where they are susceptible to saltwater and mold, I store them (and other blankets, etc) in vacuum sealed bags that I bought before we left.
Piles of our winter clothes

These bags require less space for storing and will hopefully protect the clothes until we get somewhere cold again, like New Zealand. With the help of Tate I put these back, WAY back in that deep dark locker…the one that is such a pain to get to but oh so large. Yep that’s where they’ll live until we arrive to the land of sheep. Goodbye fuzzy winter clothes.
Winter clothes in vacuum bags

This Saturday will make 10 days that I’ve been on Cipro and will also be the last dose. The Captain wants to wait 3 days after this to make sure nothing comes back and then we will set off, finally, into the wild blue yonder and down to the Rio Dulce. The Island Legend has played it’s little trick now it’s time for it to let us leave!

Should we reraise the Q flag?

This is just a quick update, not really a full blown blog post. I can’t seem to find the time to get a full blog post in right now, what with the sound of tinkling bells and the oppressive cloud hanging around in the saloon of the boat.
 photo illness-clipart-clipart_sick.jpg

You see, Dani has succumb to some form of plague or another. It started with a fever and got progressively worse. She was laid up for days. We consulted doctors and began a round of antibiotics and it seems she is finally regaining her strength, her fever has broken and she has put down the bell. You know, the bell. The little jangling thing you give to sick people so they can call for something they need. Dani has lots of needs. Hence the lack of updates until now.

This has thrown a bit of a wrench in our plans. I refuse to go to sea until giving proper time to make sure there will be no relapse. And don’t worry all you worry warts out there, she really is doing better. However, caution is good here. So we will wait and then find a new weather window to make our way south to Guatemala.

On the upside… Without Dani to accompany me into town on errands, my Spanish continues to improve. I’ve learned to ask where the doctors office is, when is it open and how to buy “mexican tylenol”. Its apparently Paracetamol, which is not the same, but it does work well. To the curious out there, Dani and I have forgone health insurance. Shocking, I know, but we had confidence that outside the US costs would be lower, and it is proving to be true. Drugs here are inexpensive and a doctor visit is $45. Not too bad.

Many of you have been writing and asking when we’re leaving. Patience, I know its hard to see your friends trapped in paradise but don’t feel too badly for us. We’ll pull through somehow.

Two max per day, that’s the rule

We’ve been warned about this place. The old wives tale is that once you sail to Isla Mujeres it is very hard to sail away. We heard 5 inauspicious tales of boats that recently tried to leave but ultimately returned for various reasons ranging from engine and gear failure to sheer melancholy as the distance grew wider. I kind of laughed it off as bar room talk but sure enough in the last week two more boats attempted to leave but both returned, one with engine trouble and the other encountered unpredicted rough conditions. Is this phenomena an Island Legend or something more? I suppose we’ll soon find out.

The weeks keep slipping by on this Women’s Island and this Thursday will mark 6 weeks since we sailed in. Given our current rate we’ll never leave…so we have stepped things up a notch. I woke up one morning and said with strong conviction “We should leave soon!”. Tate gleefully agreed and “plans” were made to ready Sundowner and get our tails down to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala.

Since our 60lb Manson Boss is dug securely into the sand in this anchorage notoriously known for dragging we opted to haul 5 gallon jerry jugs back and forth from the fuel dock to fill our diesel tanks instead of moving the boat. Granted it’s a 15 minute roundtrip dinghy ride it’s still easier in our minds then upping anchor and proceeding through heavy marine traffic to a shallow and very busy fuel dock. This is what works for us and keeps the stress level down.

Keeping true to the “mystique” of this Island on the way to the grocery store for frozen food we stopped by the little used book shop in town. As far as we can tell it’s the only bookstore on the island and contains mostly used French, German and Spanish novels…many romance novels. In the small English section I was browsing for anything that would gain my attention and then I spotted it. On the top of the only other 4 obscure Mexico guide books was the holy grail. THE BOOK. The exact book that had been recommended to me by other cruisers. It was like fate put it right on top for me.

The instant I picked it up the shopkeeper looked at me with his bright and smiling face and as if from a scene out of the Neverending story winked and said, “for you the best price, half”. He was going to sell me this book for $5USD. New it is $26USD and on top of that you just can’t buy books like that here, well maybe with an ounce of luck you can. Happy with my new find full of great details for inland travel we proceeded to the store and then back to the boat.
Dani holding the guide book found at a used book store

We are here…Proceeding to the X which marks the Panama Canal (~Jan 2016)
Map in the book of Central America

Enacting the new “two productive activities per day” Rule on another day Tate jumped in the warm Mexican water to scrub the bottom of the boat and then changed our prop shaft zinc. Yep we are really making progress now…preparing the boat and our minds for the 360nm trip that awaits us.
Tate cleaning the bottom of the boat

Having finished our maximum work activities for the day we decided to take the rest of the day off and go snorkeling at the big rock just a ways off the boat.
Map of where we went snorkeling

Lots of local boats bring people here to swim.
Boats snorkeling out by the rocks and reefs

Armed with my cannon camera and my nifty little underwater bag off we went to invade the underworld.
Isla rock with all the fish
The Rock underneath the water

The water here is filled with Bluestriped Gruntfish, Sergeant Major fish and larger Doctorfish tangs.
Colorful Reef Fish
Colorful Reef Fish
Colorful Reef Fish

A “Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber” (#notkidding)
Seaslug on the ocean bottom
Colorful Reef Fish

Gray Angelfish
Colorful Reef Fish
Colorful Reef Fish

These two Queen Angelfish seemed a pair and studies suggest this species mates for life. Notice the Yellowtail Damselfish.
Colorful Reef Fish
Colorful Reef Fish

Stoplight Parrotfish
Colorful Reef Fish

A French Angelfish
Colorful Reef Fish
Colorful Reef Fish
Colorful Reef Fish

I am truly going to miss this place. The environment and length of time here has allowed us to relax more than anything I can recall in my adult life. We needed Isla Mujeres. It was a beautiful stepping stone to a new life, one that will surely continue to amaze us. Let’s just hope the myth is just a myth and we can get outta here!