Friday, November 22, 2013

In the Galley

In life, some people are planners and others are not.  I am, to a point, a planner.  Plans can always change, I have no problem with that, but I like to see clearly at least one route forwards.  Adam and I would not be sitting in La Paz right now if it weren't for some pretty significant planning by both of us.  That said, I have come to learn that life on a boat gives new meaning to the word.

We make lists.  Oh so many lists.  We typically have a list of things we need to do on any given day, lists of priority projects and repairs, lists of dream projects and repairs and many, many lists for provisioning.  Some cruisers are even more organized and create their provisioning lists based on known levels of consumption and weeks of planned out meals.  This is definitely a winning strategy, but would drive me crazy.  Not only do I like to shop for food by meandering down the isles and grabbing things that strike my fancy, but I could never cook to a schedule.  Cooking on the boat has become my creative time, in a way my “alone” time, and also a welcome tie to my life before everything in my house moved.

This post is for all of those people who asked me, “what are you going to eat?” before we left.  First, I have to explain the situation.  Our galley is a three foot by five foot U-shaped space.  At the end of the U is the stove with the sink to the right and the fridge (if you could call it that) set into the counter top on the left.  The fridge is about the size of a large cooler and has a freezer compartment that, to my knowledge, has never frozen anything.  It is, however, excellent for chilling alcohol.  The fridge struggles to stay below 40-degrees when we are not plugged into shore.  Because it takes so much of our precious power to run the fridge we were originally not cooling it at all, but we found that our food was going bad too quickly and we wanted some fresh options every once in a while.  So now the fridge runs and it is always a mad dash to grab the necessary items before all of the cold air flies out.  In the corner between the sink and the stove the counter top opens up to a dry-locker.  This is our pantry, and is a completely ridiculous space.  I have to reach over the stove to get into it, and because my arms are not 5 feet long, I cannot reach things in the bottom of the locker without hoisting myself onto the counter and diving head first into the dried goods with headlamp.   With the necessary item in hand I swing my legs hard enough to leverage my body out of the hole and back onto my feet.  I call it cooking aerobics.   Maybe it will make up for all of the tortillas I have been eating…  But I digress, back to the galley.   We do have the luxury of water pressure so I typically don’t have to use the hand pump, but it is there as a back-up when we need it. To store snacks, utensils, pots and pans there is a sliding cupboard behind the stove, a cabinet above the sink and one, tiny, drawer.  The stove itself is a glorified propane camp stove with two burners and an oven.  It is gimbaled and has pot clamps for when the boat I less that still.

Now that you (maybe) understand the setting I can fill you in on what we have been eating over the past few months.  The best times are obviously while we are in port.  We went shopping in La Paz yesterday and just ate some delicious bacon tacos with fresh tomatoes, cabbage and cilantro on hand-made tortillas.  Think of it is as a Mexican BLT.  Lunch is typically the hardest meal to dream up because 1) we are busy and 2) lunch meats are expensive and need to be kept cold.  Honestly, if anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them.  Sometimes we have leftovers from dinner but mostly we slap something between two pieces of bread or wrap it up in a tortilla.  One kilo of the worlds most delicious hand made tortillas only cost us about $2.  Dinners are pretty much the same as they have always been.  Last week some of the highlights were spaghetti carbonara with mushrooms and artichoke hearts, fajitas, stir-fried ginger noodles, quesadillas, and pressure cooker paella.  It is always nice when we catch a fish.  We shared the large dorado and still had quite a few meals.  I even covered some pieces in cornbread and served them up with Cajun beans and rice.  Yum!  Breakfast is also pretty typical: fruit, yogurt, granola, eggs of every kind and the occasional banana chocolate chip pancake.  Oh and did I mention the ramen.  We eat a lot of that too, though typically not for breakfast.

As you can see we are not starving.  Food has definitely been more expensive that we budgeted, even when we shop at the government-subsidized market.  Also, there have been some days at sea where I think we ate granola bars, fruit and trail-mix for more than three meals in a row.  Yesterday we found some delicious roadside tamales for less than $2 but most of the restaurants cost about the same or more than we would pay in the US.  Hopefully this will change when we get to more rural areas.  Most of all I am adjusting to having to cook for someone other than myself, especially since he eats about five times what I do.  Next week’s experiment is baking bread in a pressure cooker. I hear it’s not that bad!

I know there are some wonderful cooks out there reading this, so if you have any easy recipes that you are willing to share, please pass them on.  Keep in mind that I am shopping at a Mexican market.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


After rounding the cabo and heading north we caught a rare south wind into the Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez which shot us north to two rolly anchorages before we finally caught some sleep in the Bahia de Los Muertos. Oddly enought this bay has recently tried to change its name to Bahia de Los Suenos in order to increase property values and trouism.  Whatever the name, we spent a wonderful, restful day there snorkeling, hiking and socializing with some of our new friends from the Baja Ha Ha.  One of the other boats actually had a woman just my age who was a recently graduated medical student from Sweeden.  She and I had a great time exchanging notes about everything, work and not.

Currently we are anchored in Bahia Falsa, spitting distance from La Paz. For one day we shared the bay with only one other boat, but last night some other boats rolled in and we had a sunset happy hour on the biggest boat in the bay.  It was a great time chatting with all of the other cruisers and learning that we all have the same problems and challenges.  When you are on your own little boat sometimes it feels like you are the only ones constantly doing repairs and dealing with disagreements, but getting together with other cruisers reminds me that we are actually doing very well.  One of the couples had been married for fourty years and said that they had never had as many horrible arguments or tears shed as they have had in the last few months.  We have definitely had our fair share but, despite a few revengeful dreams no one has gotten thrown overboard...yet.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baja Ha Ha Ha Ha.....

We have made it to Mexico.  Go, go, go.  I feel like we have never stopped running since we left Santa Barbara.  For our trip down the Baja Peninsula we joined the Baja Ha Ha sailing rally, a group of 150+ sailboats that make the trip from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas every year.  The rally covers the 750-ish miles in one week, which is a lot of sailing, especially for our relatively slow boat and with only two hands aboard.  The schedule went like this:

San Diego – Turtle Bay, Mexico: 4 days/3 nights at sea
Two nights in Turtle Bay
Turtle Bay – Bahia Santa Maria: 2 days/2 nights at sea, arriving in the early morning hours
Two nights in Bahia Santa Maria
Bahia Santa Maria – Cabo San Lucas: 2 days/1 night at sea

Frankly, we are exhausted and Cabo is not exactly our kind of place to rest.  After spending our first day in town running between immigration and the Capitan del Puerto we are already sick of the cruise ship crowds, crazy night life and ridiculously expensive prices.  It is sad when you leave the US and the only place in town you can afford to buy groceries (and the place suggested by all of the locals) is Walmart. We wanted to run when we saw the large signs with a familiar slogan: siempre precios bajos.

The restaurants and grocery stores are full of employees with flawless English, but Adam and I have both enjoyed brushing off our Spanish skills at immigration, the cell phone store, plumbing shops and with mechanics.  As most of my vocabulary is medical and Adam seems to have spent a significant amount of time in high school coming up with naughty things to say in Spanish we occasionally have to pull out my dictionary, but together we can typically get our point across.  One of our major success stories was wandering around Turtle Bay attempting to find a welder to fix our Monitor Wind Vane.  This wonderful piece of equipment helps us to steer the boat, accounting for both changes in the wind and waves.  It is exhausting having to hand steer, constantly fighting the waves, especially when you are the only one on deck and you also have to run the lines and trim (adjust) the sails.  Someone (no blame here) broke the key piece of equipment which attaches the vane to the wheel while trying to dodge a wave the night before.  Our greatest impediment to finding a welder turned out not to be our language skills, but the fact that it was the day before the Day of the Dead and most people were on vacation!  Still, as the Ha-Ha fleet of 150+ sailboats is the biggest thing that happens in Turtle Bay all year, we were able to find a fuel man who handed us off to a little boy who led us to a closed mechanic’s shop where we wandered into the small tienda down the street where the shop girl got on her cell phone and instructed us to find a house with many small cacti where a man who could weld lived.  However he was not home and his wife called around town and then told us to find a street where he may be sitting and we walked until we heard the sound of saws and went around the back of the original mechanic’s shop where some men were tearing apart a rusty old wagon and were very proud that they could say “stainless steel” in English.  I am not sure if they every understood our broken explanations of what exactly the wheel drum and cog pin were for, but these wonderful men welded together our broken wind vane and then refused to accept our money.  We made sure to pay them in cookies and beer.

Hopefully when we leave Cabo we can get back to the glimpses of “real” Mexico that we saw as we rushed down the coast.  Oh yeah...and we caught some fish.