February 27, 2010

Tsunami report - La Cruz entertained by bad judgement from fancy boats

Earthquake surge: Ruahatu aground

We're fine and all's well, although according to the last NOAA report, about an hour ago (2028 UTC), there's still a tsunami warning in affect for Mexico. That's the highest level of warning which can be issued, although it seems as though we've seen the affects come (and go) through La Cruz already.

There have been several hours of surge in the marina, created as the water level rapidly lowered (and then came back in), changing level over a meter in a fairly short period of time. It might not sound like much, but that's a tremendous amount of water movement.

When we were comfortable that the impact in our area would be minimal, Jamie decided to hold a tsunami "class" on the breakwall for our children and the awesome Maia from s/v Ceilydh. The chance to safely witness the powerful effect was too much to pass up! They could see the force of the water from both the color of the water changing when a new flow surged in, and the angle and stream of water coming from the buoys marking the channel into the marina.

Earthquake surge

There's a big regatta starting soon, MEXORC's Mexican Cup, and all the fancy racing boats are here. Jamie is drooling over the high tech boats, but that's another story! We walked down the dock where they all located and admired the fancy gear. From the end of the dock, we could see the huge current created by the water turnover.

Apparently, the fancy guys in the fancy MEXORC boats felt superhuman and decided to head out into the bay for their practice day, crazy currents be damned. Now a little additional background here is that the marina was recently dredged to ensure accommodating their deeper draft, but now these deep draft (10-14 feet) boats are going out:
- at maximum low tide
- during a full moon cycle (larger tidal swings, lower lows)
- in the middle of the big suck from the tsunami-driven current

So basically, depths which were dredged to BARELY accommodate them in the last two months could pretty much be kissed goodbye for a few hours. Why chance it? Especially with all the current? I guess they pay them the big bucks for something, but it's not common sense. There was great entertainment for several dozen people on the breakwall as boats were thrown around by the current or stuck on the bottom.

Wasabi was the first to get glued to the bottom, although they seemed to get off easily enough. Ruahatu was next, and they entertained crowd for almost an hour.

Earthquake surge

They're trying, that's for sure. Check out the guys on the boom: they had repeated dunkings as they tried to free the boat. And that panga: why is it trying to pull the boat IN to the marina- now against the current? Wouldn't it be easier to work with mother nature in this case? And how about the guy on the bow of the racing boat- standing right next to that highly tensioned line to the panga? It's an accident waiting to happen. The line did snap later (or maybe the cleat broke- I don't know, but it went flying), and thank goodness at least SOME common sense had then been found because he was farther back and not injured. A yellow cabin cruiser attempted to give aid, but only succeeded in getting tangled in lines, wrapping one on their propeller, and thus temporarily losing power and becoming a sitting duck that added to the mess. To cap things off, there was an MOB from Ruahatu as the boat tipped back and forth. Lovely. No injuries, except (and frankly, I hope) to some egos.

Of course, fancy race boats aren't the only ones with questionable judgement. A number of boats left the marina in advance of the anticipated arrival, the marina being about the worst place for a boat during a significant tsunami (good judgement!). When the anticipated scale of the affect was apparent, most boats stayed put... why chance the strong currents at the entrance? One 'local cruising boat, a big (50'?) catana cat called Moon and Stars, decided to try and go out of the marina after the surge had started. Bad judgement! From our vantage point, it appeared the current was peaking. We speculate at least 5 knots, but it could be quite a bit more. As soon as they poked their nose out of the jetties, the boat was swept towards the beach like a toy boat. It appeared to come within a couple of meters of the jetty before getting enough power (and pointing their nose straight into the surge) to make headway and get out. Oh boy, do I wish I had a picture of that... but I was too busy getting in a sympathetic fetal position and waiting for the crunch of fiberglass on rocks. It was ugly.

Beyond our little world in Banderas Bay, initial affects have been measured already in Pacific islands. In general, it seems relatively mild so far: mostly 1-2 meter reports, although there was a 4 meter delta measured at Hiva Oa...our anticipated landfall after the Pacific crossing in April. We may not know the full impact yet. Tsunamis are not a single wave, but as series of waves, and the first may not be the biggest. It can take several hours for the series of waves to arrive, and NOAA warns that not until two hours have passed after a major wave do we know that the threat is over. Even then, strong currents can continue for several hours. We're watching reports and hoping that all will be well.

Tsunami warning

Following an 8.8 earthquake in Chile, we awoke to tsunami warnigns this morning. Jimmy, from s/v SeaLevel, walked through the marina to get the word out and it's been broadcast on the net.

The current projections from NOAA look like we will probably be fine, although we're keeping an eye on developments.

On the other hand, I really fear for the impact to Pacific islands, and hope they'll be fine.

photo c/o NOAA, http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov/chile/chileem.jpg

February 25, 2010

Barra de Navidad

I had a slow day in Barra de Navidad. It wasn't supposed to be slow, but sometimes that's not in my hands.

Laundry was dropped with a family in town for pickup at 1. It wasn't ready- no problem. I had the perfect excuse to be alone, without a "to do" list, for a couple of hours.

I found a great display of the town history, painted on a wall. Must have passed at least a dozen times before but never noticed it.

Barra history

Sustenance came care of the ceviche cart:

Barra scenes

Back at the Lavanderia, I made friends with the children of the proprietress while waiting for our load to dry, and taught them how to play a few card games.

Barra scenes

Then they commandeered the camera, and we got a few more fun photos.

kids take fun pictures

I ended up back at the boat several hours later than expected. You could call it a snag in the schedule (we were trying to leave that afternoon for Tenacatita), but I loved the detour for a few hours into a slower pace without demands.

February 22, 2010

Don't hate me for this...

Don't hate me for this, but I often forget what day of the week it is.

This would NEVER have happened before we went cruising, but I've been involved "what day is it?" debates that lasted far longer than they ought. We're not even trying to tackle the actual question of 'date', just... Tuesday? Saturday?

Some people have rituals for remembering. If church is a priority, Sundays stand out. If, like me, you volunteer as a net controller for one of the radio nets every week- hopefully you remember when it's your "net day." (I had a clean record until last Monday, but that had more to do with sailing through the night and oversleeping than forgetting the day!). We have friends, former cruisers, who made gin fizzes for brunch every Sunday to welcome (and remember) the new week.

Then there's the Tenacatita ritual of the Friday afternoon raftup. Cruisers anchored there gather in their dinghies in the most protected corner of the bay, inside a little hook. It's a meet & greet: the "mayor" (every season, a cruiser is elected as mayor of the Bay. yes, it's true) welcomes everyone as they arrive, and introductions are made to the group to introduce your boat, your crew, and include some detail of your background (last week's question: how did you choose your boat name?). It's a potluck: everyone brings finger food to pass. It's a trading event: got a book your finished with and need a new read? swap for it here.

And, of course, it's a way to remember it's Friday. Here are a few pictures I snapped last week. Disclaimers: bad light angles, trying to juggle grog, yada yada.

Friday raft-up
An attempt at capturing the collected group.

Friday raft-up
Lounging between dinghies: that's s/v Third Day crew in the blue-covered dink, bridged by Ethan (s/v Eyoni) and my sweetie in the obnoxious Aloha shirt.

Friday raft-up
The mighty Quinn of s/v Isis, and his awesome mandolin-ticklin daddy Burke. Cool mama Casey isn't in the frame.

February 20, 2010


We're currently working our way north from Zihuatenejo to Banderas Bay. This is generally considered the uphill direction, although we were lucky and had light southerlies for much of the first half of the distance. The worst we can say of that trip was that we had foul current and didn't catch any fish. OK, we didn't catch any choice fish: there was a skipjack (a fish most cruisers turn their noses up at) which we turned into excellent sushi. Oh, how easily I digress into food.

So anyway, here we are, beating upwind back to Zihua. I suppose that having to go upwind is making up for our easy ride earlier, but it's been great. Because the wind has basically been coming from exactly the direction we want to go, and sailboats just can't do that, we are running a zig-zag course off the coast to make progress in our desired direction. We used our angles earlier in the day to play land and sea breezes, and make pretty good distance. The afternoon breeze filled in and things got downright exciting for a while, but the seas have generally been mellow- none of the square chop we've had to bash into before. This is perfectly lovely.

Which way is up?
Making bread underway. The stove is level, because it's gimballed... everything else is cattywompus.

I'm going back on deck to enjoy the ride and the waxing moon.

February 16, 2010

Provisioning adventures

Getting food to our home is a little more complicated than it used to be.

Frutas y verduras, Zihuatanejo

First, of course, the obvious- we don't have a car. We get everywhere on foot, sometimes aided by buses, on rare occasions by a ride in a taxi or a friend's car. But consider the quantity of food needed to keep our family of five fueled, and carrying the milk and produce to support them. Daunting! I can come home from one of these adventures looking like a pack mule.

Then, there's the simplicity of having a single store to visit. Sometimes it is the case in Mexico that I can do all of a week's shopping- a provisioning run, in boat-speak- at a single store. But in many towns, this isn't an option: there are no large supermarkets. And even when there are, to be honest, it's the second to the preferred choice to stocking up at individual vendors, who typically have higher quality products in their niche area. It's a mode of purchasing food which has been pretty much lost back in the states, with our quality of eating as the casualty. A given shopping jaunt here would typically the tortilleria (what did we do before we had fresh tortillas in our diet?), the panaderia (bakery... delicious little bolillo rolls, perfect for sandwiches, and the occasional treat of sweet pan dulce), the carneceria (the butcher- who will grind or cut to order; sometimes, it takes visiting multiple carnecerias, as they will specialize in different animals as well), the fruteria (for fresh produce), and then a more all-purpose tienda for staples like rice, beans, or cooking oil.

cheese shop
Believe it or not, this is a little store selling cheese from the family goats.

Many of these are doubled up: the butcher often has fresh cheeses, and an all-purpose-tienda may be the only place in town for produce and staples.

the "everything" store
yes, that's a grocery store...and if what you want is not there, you have over 100 miles to get to the next one.

It's not difficult, just a little more complicated, and a lot more time consuming. We learn to work with what we have, since running off to get a forgotten ingredient is highly impractical.

Last week, shopping in Zihuatanejo, I had local help and practically flew through what should have been an all-day adventure. Noemi owns a small restaurant in town, and we had enjoyed dinner at her cocina economica the night before. When I told her we planned to go to the public market the next day, she wouldn't hear of it. They'd charge too much! Their produce isn't good enough! She knows a better place for chickens! OK, OK, OK... so, happily, we trundled off with Noemi the next day.

What a difference she made! Visiting the full complement of tiendas (except a baker, which I didn't seem to miss) with Noemi meant flying through. No wandering between stalls in a big market, wondering where to buy what. We went to her hand-picked butcher (two, actually- she had preferences for where to buy beef and pork vs chicken) and produce shops. Orders were made and paid for, help was rallied, and we had her restaurateur's negotiated prices. I rattled off an endless list at the produce shop, having willing help. If they didn't have what I was looking for (dried coconut was one), he ran down the street and sourced it at cost from another vendor. This was a young guy who could actually pick avocados for me: four to eat today or tomorrow, and six more that will last a week.

great veggies here...I loaded up
Thanks to Noemi, our orders were DELIVERED. Note the tricycle at the bottom of the photo.

I was able to provision the boat with seven people on board (our friends Jim and Diana are here) for over a week in under three hours, round trip. This might not sound like much, but it was a huge achievement in our world.

Diana, Noemi & Jim

Noemi with Jim & Diana...she immediately remembered them, although it's been 15 years since they were in Zihuatanejo on their boat.

February 2, 2010

Snapshot from the life

A couple of nights ago, we were treated to another lovely sunset... I remembered to get the camera out on time. Niall and Mairen were soaking it up from the bow.

Irresistible sunset

February 1, 2010

You have to be rich to go cruising?

Laundry day!
One of the biggest misconceptions of cruising is that you have to be rich to realize the dream. It’s just not true. Sure, it can be very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are cheap ways to go as well, but most importantly: anybody can do it. It has far more to do with making a choice to be different, to sticking with it while lining up your life to make it happen.

In early January, the question, or assumption, of personal wealth was posed to me four times in the space of a week. That’s enough of a personal zeitgeist that some rumination was in order, and the result became our article for the February issue of 48 North (available at chandleries and boaty places around Puget Sound, or online the 1st of the month).

Most people are too polite to ask. The people I wished would ask usually didn’t. I’m afraid a lot of them are making incorrect assumptions. We have no trust funds fueling our journey. We planned, anticipated, and made choices that weren’t always easy. Some bets paid off (thank you, turn of the century real estate market). Others didn’t (same to you, Wall Street and currently screwed up economy). We often lived differently from others around us. One modest car, no annual ski trips, no seasonally refreshed wardrobes- unless thrift stores count. Out here, we have some very big fixed costs that we can’t do much about, but our daily living needs are minimal. Groceries cost a fraction of what they did at home, and we have beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables readily available. But those fixed costs? Mortgage, insurance, that kind of thing? That’s just us. They’re not part and parcel of a cruising plan or budget. We spend a small fraction on daily living, even compared to what felt like a reasonably conservative lifestyle before cruising.

Still, we didn’t talk outside a circle of very good friends and family about our cruising plans until they were very close to becoming reality. As a life choice, it’s a little too different for some people to grok- especially when we share our goal to make it a way of life as long as we can, and not a short sabbatical. My absolute favorite contrary reaction was from the parent of one of our children’s schoolmates. In telling her that we wouldn’t be around much soon, her face opened into one of surprise, shock, and ultimately dismay. “But what about the WASL?” she cried (non Washington residents: this is the state-mandated standardized learning test issued at regular intervals to those unfortunate to be in a school requiring compliance. It’s a total waste of time). Well, gosh, maybe we should forgo the opportunity for our children to learn through travel and unique experiences, and stay here so they can prep in a Quonset hut for a meaningless test. Um, no.

But I’m getting off track. This was about money.

Culturally, in the US, we define ourselves by our possessions. Sad, but come on…how many people can honestly say they have not fallen into this trap? The obsession we have with material things limits us in realizing our full potential. Anyone following me on Facebook knows I have gone through some gyrations recently, debating the purchase of a Kindle eReader. It’s over. A lovely piece of unnecessary accoutrement, it would cost us most of a month’s worth of groceries- our highest variable cost of cruising. That’s not worth it! I’d rather stay out here one more month, even if I have to read a few crappy pulp mysteries from the book exchanges instead of more rewarding or current content. Jamie will just have to deal with the port list we have from the weight on our bookshelves…let’s face it, I probably wasn’t going to shed any of those books anyway.

I don’t want to be defined by what we have. I want to be defined by our courage to take the less traveled road, and live every day to the absolute fullest as a family.

insipiration, again
Pictures of dolphins, drawn by the girls from what they saw next to Totem one morning