Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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Entries in provisions (7)

Wednesday
Jul172013

drove down Mexican Highway #1 and back in La Paz

We've been back in La Paz for about two days after driving the roughly 1000 miles from San Diego to La Paz. Mexico's Highway #1 is known as the "transpeninsula highway" although I started to nickname it Camino de los Muertos: the highway of the dead.

Charlotte is planning on writing more about the awesomeness that was our drive so I won't steal any of that thunder other than to say we're glad it's over.

So now we're back in the position of having TONS OF CRAP all over the boat and dock that needs to be installed, stowed, or otherwise organized. 

Some of this equipment is for the Pacific crossing (like the Hydrovane) and won't see a lot of action for a while, but other things (like the watermaker) will be going into full service as soon as we get out of the channel. Further items are like the life raft and spare parts: expensive items that we hopefully will never need but none the less must be cared for and kept available. 

There weren't a lot of nice things about the drive, but one was getting a sneak-peak at some of the places we were planning on going to. We spent the night in Santa Rosalia, had breakfast in Lareto, drove around Puerto Escondido, and hugged most of the coastline along the beaches of Bahia Concepcion. It gave us a nice idea of what we have in store for us as we take Rebel Heart north into the Sea of Cortez.

Yes indeed, boats anchored off of Lareto.

One thing that was nice to see was that yes indeed, some boats are anchored right off of Lareto. We'll need to be a little smart about how we leave the dinghy in the panga bay there, but I think I'll figure that out rather than hang out in Puerto Escondido which seems a little... boring?

Thursday
Jul042013

preparing our smuggling run

The big items haven't shown up yet, but the paper charts did along with some Amazon stuff.

Still on the way includes our life raft, wind vane, water maker, a heap of spare parts, AIS transponder, and a sea anchor.

Once we have all these items our intent is to go to Tijuana, get a one way rental car, drive back to San Diego, load up the car, and head south through Baja down to La Paz.

This is also known as smuggling. Mexican import customs (Aduana) is corrupt and hit-or-miss even if you do follow their web of paperwork.  So, fingers crossed.

We've put off a lot of purchases for as long as we can. The stuff is expensive and in general the longer you keep from installing it on the boat the longer it will last. But some things, like the watermaker, have proven to be extremely important to us in Baja. Other things, like the windvane, aren't that important now but are on the list of critical items for crossing the Pacific and going farther away from the First World

In no particular order, here are a few other things we picked up since we're in the awesome land of consumer pleasure:

There's more than all of that of course, but this is probably our last time that we can take big heavy stuff back down to the boat so we're stocking up. It didn't help of course that last night I watched this Vice film on the deportees living in the Tijuana canals.

Tuesday
Aug172010

the best way to have coffee on a sailboat

A sailboat, especially one underway, poses a unique and interesting environment by which to have coffee. By the same token, there are few things more appropriate than a warm cup of coffee in the morning or to hold you over during a balls watch. How to prepare a cup of coffee is almost a religious debate. On the super delicate side you have fair-trade shade-grown organic beans picked by Tibetan monks with ten percent of the proceeds going to an orphanage for burn victims. These beans must be ground in a $200 electric grinder with 12 settings, and of course only French pressed. On the other end of the spectrum, in the US Navy the joke is that the caffeine shouldn't keep you awake as much as the horrible pain it causes when your stomach knots up. No joke, you will get your ass beat if you clean a sailor's coffee mug. The filthier the mug, the longer it's been used and the more clout the owner has.

Hiding behind coffee in Gila Bend, AZStraddling the middle of these worlds is the modern sailboat. You are not at Starbucks, so forget your lattes and frappa-dappa-cheenoes. You are also not on a warship so forget about having as much electricity as a nuclear reactor can generate. Plus, there's no honor to be gained by drinking mud. So you're left in the middle: you need a solid way to make a good brew while at the same time keeping it simple and durable.

It was with that aim and many days and nights since that I have come to arrive at what I believe is the perfect system. I'll spill the beans (pardon the pun) right now and tell you the ingredients: a percolator and pre-ground coffee.

So right there the coffee snobs have x'd out of this tab, closing their MacBook Pro lids, and shaking their heads in disgust at the idea of either of those options. Combining them is tantamount to high treason. 

Percolators

Developed in the 1800's, percolators were only knocked aside by the modern electric drip system in the 1950's and 1960's. For over a century and a half Americans and Europeans primarily used percolators, especially those out in the frontiers. They are still widely used in the wilderness.

Our personal favorite, and the one that has served many a warm beverages on Rebel Heart is the Yosemite Stainless Steel model, which comes in at under $20. You add ground coffee to the top, water to the bottom, let it boil enough that you just barely see it splashing in the little window up top, and kill the heat in ~5 minutes or until the color is as dark as you like.

All the parts are stainless or Lexan, it can be used to heat water for other purposes, it's simple to clean, and it makes enough coffee to fill up a thermos.

Coffee & Grinders (or the lack thereof)

As a somewhat coffee snob, I learned that pre-ground coffee is for prisoners and people who drink 7-Eleven coffee while going out to round up hogs in the morning. Great folks I'm sure, but hardly the type of elitist that I had morphed into.

You might think, as I did, that a manual coffee grinder will work. Yeah, have fun with that. You can make it work if you have a tremendous amount of time and patience. Think of it like rowing an inflatable dinghy across a windy anchorage: possible, but agonizingly stupid unless in an emergency. 

"Ah, well then I'll just use my my plugin coffee grinder!" you say. Yes, indeed, you can use that device. However, it's messy and requires AC power. Honestly I've used one in the past and I can see the value, but the pain-in-the-rear factor, and the simple fact that you need to minimize equipment on a boat that is non essential makes something like a coffee grinder end up on the gear chopping block. It's like a dehydrator: handy in theory, but in practice 99% of them just take up space until someone finally decides to get rid of it.

Where you can get your ground coffee from is endless. Trader Joe's has a terrific selection, especially the "Winter / Holiday Blend" which you can only get around Christmas time, so stock up on as much of it as you possibly can. I usually get about a dozen and load up the bilges. And of course you can always buy Starbucks' "house blend" in 2.5lb containers.

Summary

Nearly every time I have a cup of coffee onboard Rebel Heart, or have a piece of gear that is non-essential, I'm reminded of Colin Fletcher who amongst other things was the first modern man to hike the entire Grand Canyon. He backpacked across massive expanses of the world, and in keeping with his British heritage always stopped to have tea in the afternoon no matter where he went. Non essential for sure, and you won't find anything else in his pack that hints of form-before-function, but even for someone who has to carry every ounce of equipment on his back he continues the ritual of a caffeine impregnated day.

So if you disagree with my findings or come up with your own way of doing things that works for you, so much the better. As normal I offer up my hard and clear mandates with the full knowledge that I'll probably disagree with my own conclusions in short order.

Sunday
Apr122009

vinegar is a great tool for the boat

 Vinegar as I've come to learn is an amazing product and I'm giving it a big thumbs up for boat use. Not only can it do certain jobs, but for so many jobs it really is the best option.

Additionally, on a boat everything should have at least a few uses. Mineral spirits as an example are a good thinner, but also can be used to fuel the oil lamps. Olive oil can be used for cooking, greasing your hands when making bread, and salad dressing. So on, and so forth.

Vinegar (put into a little spray bottle) is getting use onboard the Rebel Heart in the following areas:

  • Cleaning the head. It's a nasty job if you let things get out of control. Use a spray bottle, and keep it in the head. Every few days, spray a bit into the bowl. You'll breakdown mineral deposits, it's safe for a holding tank, and it will clean the pipes. You should never need a cleaner other than vinegar for a marine head.
  • Cleaning fruit and vegetables. Mix down 1/3 white vinegar to 2/3 water, and put into a spray bottle. There are numerous studiesshowing that this is one of the best ways to clean most fruit and vegetables.
  • Cleaning grease from the stove top. Works like a champ. Spray bottle.
  • Removing mineral buildups from plumbing fixtures. Sometimes this can be soaking in a vinegar solution, but I'd recommend doing the spray thing on those too.
  • Antiseptic. Get a cut? Spray white vinegar on it to kill off fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
  • Sun burn. White vinegar sprayed on works to rehydrate the skin.

Beyond being great for various uses, it's also cheap and environmentally friendly. Sure, it has a bit of a smell to it, but these days I equate the smell of vinegar to cleanliness and disinfection. For 1001 other uses of vinegar, check out vinegartips.com.

Monday
Sep082008

I bought some food on amazon.com

In case I wasn't enough of a city liberal (I'm a big Obama supporter, and order soy lattes), I ordered some food from amazon.com. Amazon started putting some items into its grocery section, along with an option to have those items show up on subscription. So if you go through 10 boxes of mac n' cheese in a month, why not have it show up regularly? One less thing you need to worry about.

I'm not entirely sold on the idea, but I wanted to give it a shot and see how it would work out for us. So far, so good. I don't really look at it as "buying my groceries online" as much as I see it as "augmenting my our groceries where it makes sense."

For this batch it was soy milk and mac n' cheese, although I think I might have a few more items on deck as well.


As with all maritime foods, I quickly removed the cardboard from the products, keeping the roach-trafficking cardboard in the cockpit. In a more suspect area I'd keep it on the dock.

I'll report in more later, but so far so good with my super duper web 2.0 city liberal online food purchase.

Tuesday
Nov202007

Mineral spirits in the ship's oil lamp

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Weems & Plath Trawler

We have ourselves an awesome Weems & Plath Trawler Lamp in between our galley and cabin table. Until recently, we've used standard issue paraffin oil to keep it going. It's a bit pricey however, so I asked around at what other people do. Because sail boats are very traditional, improvements can be found all over the place, because nearly everyone has the same challenges you do.

Mineral spirits (odorless, not "low odor") is 32% the cost of paraffin in most of the places I've found, so I gave it a shot. Not only is lamp still working, and I'm not on fire, but it's also cleaner, and the light is much brighter. Mineral spirits is useful for other stuff to (taking paint off of brushes, etc), so it falls into the double-duty category, which I also love.

It's a bit more flammable then paraffin, and is on par temperature wise with kerosene, although it's much cheaper. I found the wikipedia article on kerosene lamps, then a usenet person asking roughly the same thing.

So don't hold me accountable if your boat (or home) burns down, but for me, I've been pretty happy with mineral spirits in the oil lamp so far. My friend also told me that at Smart & Final, you can get liquid paraffin (the "normal" fuel) pretty cheap. I'm sure however that you can still get mineral spirits even cheaper, because it has an industrial value.

One other thing I wanted to mention is that on most evenings, so far, the oil lamp is enough to keep the boat warm, and we don't need the real heater to be turned on. The lamp puts out a decent amount of heat, which is another reason I'm considering putting it's smaller cousin into the v berth. $120 for the little light, and another $45 for the gimball mount. 12 hours of burn time on the little lamp, which for me equates to about a week or so of reading in bed every few nights for an hour or two.

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As always, be careful about carbon monoxide. It's odorless, deadly, and will sneak up on you without warning. In fact when I was a kid, a neighbor of ours took his family on a house boat in Lake Powell. A small fire broke out near the air conditioning intake, and the entire family was killed during the night.

Tuesday
Jul242007

Geneva Eggs

1161984-935898-thumbnail.jpgWhat do you get when you take eggs, put them into a fry pan, and don't know your ass from a whole in the ground? Geneva Eggs. I think Charlotte gave them that name because my treatment of those eggs wouldn't pass the Geneva Convention's standards.

Great blog post, huh? Yeah, I know. You're amazed at how I can keep cranking out quality content like a picture of some eggs in a pan. Don't hate me because you're jealous.