Cruising without refrigeration

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know we’ve been having refrigeration issues for a long time.  It completely stopped working in October 2016 when Scott and I attempted to replace a valve and tore a hole in the copper tubing, resulting in the need for a full replacement of the holding plate. It would take a few weeks for the new holding plate to arrive in Mexico and we had the option to stick around San Carlos or have the holding plate delivered to La Paz instead. The decision was easy. We would mosey on down to La Paz, stopping at various locations along the way, and pickup and install the holding plate there. The catch? We would only be able to re-provision once we reached La Paz, as the places we’d be stopping would be, for the most part, uninhabited.

We would have no cold beverages, nothing, nada. So what’s it like to go without a refrigeration?


Provisioning when you don’t have a refrigerator was a little challenging. We eat vegetarian on the boat, so we didn’t have to change our way of eating. However, produce doesn’t last too long in the heat. Any greens had to be eaten right away or risk wilting. Carrots really do need to be refrigerated or they turn rubbery. Bell peppers were fine for a few days but otherwise had to be eaten quickly, but halves would survive a day or two cut if left in a well-ventilated area. Onions, garlic, potatoes, cabbages, coconuts, tomatoes (when bought green) were our saviors as they lasted until the end. Fruits also had to be eaten fairly quickly, as they ripened immediately in the heat. Eggs are sold unrefrigerated here in Mexico and can last for weeks if you turn them over regularly.

We have a lot of grains and dry legumes on board: chickpeas, lentils, chana dal, oats, quinoa, brown and white rice, black beans and peruano beans, couscous. We also had two boxes of whole wheat pasta and whole wheat, masa, and white flour.

As for packaged goods, we had two big bags of Japanese Peanuts, one bag of tostadas, several pouches of Isadora refried beans, dozens of cans of vegetables and Amy’s chili, peanut butter, and a dozen pouches of Tasty Bite Madras Lentils. The chili, canned veggies, and Madras pouches were meant for emergencies since it was heat and serve, but it made sense to use these now.

We didn’t have any dairy on board, but we had some powdered milk. (Not to drink straight, but to use in baking, scrambled eggs, and when making cafe con leche.)

Getting Creative

Breakfast was the most challenging meal. Once the eggs ran out we switched to oatmeal. Oatmeal every single day. We had some piloncillo on board (amazing, btw) that I would chop and add to the oatmeal, but we didn’t have any dried fruits or pecans or walnuts to add more variety. Breakfast was the one meal that made us really unhappy.

That said, opening up the bilge and trying to figure out what to make every day for lunch and dinner became a fun game. Without produce, I turned to my expansive spice collection. What spices could I use to make a tasty meal? Smoked paprika elevated beans. Remembering that I had brought berbere spice made for excellent Ethiopian-inspired lentils. Relying on my Indian recipe collection transformed cabbage and fresh coconut into a ridiculously addictive and filling meal.

What did we eat? We ate what we normally ate, really.  Here’s a small list of what we ate while we had no refrigeration:

  • Banana bread (using up our overripe bananas)
  • Black bean soup
  • Bean dip with tostadas
  • White rice with fried egg
  • Rice and cabbage with turmeric, cumin, and freshly grated coconut (Cabbage Thoran)
  • Rice with red lentil stew (Yemisir Kik Wot)
  • Chickpeas with canned spinach, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices (Smitten Kitchen)
  • Potato salad
  • Amy’s vegetarian black bean chili
  • Simple chana dal
  • Uncle Paulo’s rice and brown lentils (based on Mujadara)
  • Quinoa with canned mushrooms in a ginger mirin sauce
  • Couscous with tomato and onion (Jerusalem)
  • Corn cakes for breakfast
  • Oatmeal for breakfast
  • Pasta with garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, and olive oil
  • Rice with Madras Lentils (this was what we ate after a long day of sailing because it was really easy to make)
  • “Deconstructed” bean dip – When the refried bean pouches ran out, I made peruano beans cooked down with cinnamon, cumin, chipotle peppers, and “refried” it with garlic and onions
  • Raw almonds and raisins with salt and spices
  • Peanut butter and saltines when on passages

No Leftovers

Normally when I cook I have leftovers. Or, I intentionally make a bunch of food and freeze it for passages. I had to make every meal from scratch, and only beans or lentils could safely hang out for a few hours between lunch and dinner. This probably was the most challenging aspect of this experience. Nothing could be saved overnight, and I cooked every meal.

Update: BrrRRRR

By the time we pulled into La Paz in mid-November, a month and 370 miles had passed. All the vegetables were gone; the last clove of garlic used the night before. While we were in a major city with plenty of markets, we still had our fridge situation to deal with before we could get back to normal. We picked up the holding plate, booked a slip, and had Juan from Hector’s Refrigeration over the very same day. Two days later, we were back up and running! The refrigerator is running better than ever. Having lettuce, avocados, and cilantro back on board is a wonderful thing! Oh, and cold water to drink!

Sail to San Evaristo and Ensenada El Cardonal

After having an amazing time in San Marte, it was time to move on and sail towards San Evaristo. We had a fantastic sail, sailing wing-on-wing most of the way there.

Scott pointing at the telltales.

Approaching San Evaristo

Sunset in San Evaristo

San Evaristo at sunrise

We only spent a day in San Evaristo as the town seemed to be completely empty. Both the restaurant and the tienda were closed. We woke up early and headed to Ensenada El Cardonal in Isla Partida.

Ensenada El Cardonal is a gigantic anchorage, one that seems to go on forever. We arrived to find one other boat there but they left early the next morning. We found ourselves in the position of being the only boat around and we breathed a sigh and soaked it in. We took the dinghy and explored and tried to snorkel, but were unable to anchor anywhere around the reef as it was too deep. Then when we got back we swam around the boat and lazed around. We saw a dorado chase a fish, leaping out of the water several times. Then watched as a sea turtle swam by our boat. We enjoyed our last bottle of wine and relaxed in this beautiful place. In the evening, we were privileged to watch the moon rise between the two hills that separate the west side of Isla Partida from the east.

Ensenada El Cardonal

Moonrise in Ensenada El Cardonal

Next stop, La Paz where we’ll fix our refrigeration!

One year ago: Finally moving – Half Moon Bay

Bahia San Marte

We motored from Honeymoon Cove to Bahia San Marte to charge our batteries and arrived in the afternoon. It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by reefs, which we’re able to spot because of the breaking waves. As the sun sets, we’re approached by a panga with three pangueros – fishermen – asking for batteries in exchange for fish. Ok! We’ve heard about this happening but this is a first for us and we’re dying for something fresh to eat. We get them four batteries but, in the eager exchange, I accidentally drop one into the sea (Note: always exchange things from boat-to-boat over the boat, not the water). Sadly, the fishermen did not return the next day as promised.

The snorkeling here made up for that. The first spot we tried was a dud with no visibility or fish, but the next spot was mind blowing. It’s like we stumbled upon a fish city where none of the fish were too concerned about these two giants swimming among them. Giant parrotfish, hogfish, triggerfish, dorado. Hundreds and hundreds of fish going on about their day. We spent hours in their world, just watching. It was incredible and like being in an aquarium.

Parrotfish and Sergeant Major

Cortez Angelfish and Sergeant Majors

We don’t know why kind of fish these were but there were thousands of them.


Look closely, there’s a scorpionfish hanging out at the bottom of the rock.

One year ago: Almost

Isla Danzante – Honeymoon Cove

After a terrible night staying up listening to the election results, the mood was somber and we had a quiet sail to Honeymoon Cove. This place instantly lifted our spirits. What a beautiful place! The waters were ridiculously clear that when we dropped the anchor, we could see it hit the ground 40 feet below. We watched a dorado slowly swim by and spotted over twenty sergeant majors immediately taking residence around the boat.  This has proven to be our favorite anchorage thus far and we’re flabbergasted that there’s only one other boat here, Steve on MV Pacific. He hasn’t been keeping this place a secret; in fact Steve has been on both the Amigo and Sonrisa nets for the past five days letting everyone know about the clear waters and amazing diving to be found and that he’s the only boat around. Sure, there are bees and that’s likely keeping people away. Bees came to our boat, looked around and, once it was determined that we had screens on all our windows and no fresh water on deck, left us alone.

Rain over the Sierra Gigantes from Isla Danzante

Rain over the Sierra Gigantes from Isla Danzante

We spent some time with Steve, listening to his diving stories and learning the names of some of the fish we’re seeing here. He takes video of his dives and we watched and remarked on his techniques and excellent footage. He’s very nice, a good storyteller, and after learning of our refrigeration woes, shares with us some avocado, cilantro, tomatoes, bell peppers, and a bottle of merlot. We are grateful and touched by his generosity. We’re sad to learn that he’s making his way back to Puerto Escondito and heading back to the States, but happy to hear that he’ll be back in the spring. We hope to see him again.

Lovely vegetables provided by Steve from MV Pacific

Lovely vegetables provided by Steve from MV Pacific

The snorkeling has been amazing with reefs everywhere. While snorkeling, I saw a dorado swim past me and when I went after her she swam away.  I turned around and she’s right in front of me. I admired her colors – green, yellow, and blue – and realized that my rash guard had the same colors. I excitedly pointed my GoPro at her and hoped I had a good shot but the GoPro was out of batteries. Of course!


Crown of Thorns

King Angelfish and Sergeant Majors


Slate Pencil Sea Urchin

Slate Pencil Sea Urchin

After a day of snorkeling that concluded with Scott’s fins missing (did they fall out of the dinghy? Did someone swing by and take them? So weird!) we were excited to snorkel again the next day and look for Scott’s fins. Steve signaled to us and pointed to his dinghy. He found and dove for the fins in 25 feet of water, near where we were yesterday! Incredible!

We spent another three hours in the water, this time spotting a seahorse. We’re so excited that we repeatedly dive down, trying hard to get some footage of the shy little guy.Seahorse at Honeymoon Cove

Scott getting a close photo of the seahorse

The next day, Steve heads back to Puerto Escondido and it’s just us here. We don’t revel too long in being the only ones in the anchorage as it’s time for us to move on as well. We loved this place and are looking forward to coming back.

San Juanico & Puerto Ballandra

An early morning rise promised an International Space Station sighting as we motored over to San Juanico, an anchorage that was very disappointing to us earlier. The ISS passed by as expected and aside from some minor slaloming between shrimp boats our exit out of Punta Chivato to San Juanico was pretty uneventful.

On the lookout for boats just before sunrise

Shrimp boat at the entrance of Bahia Concepcion

Shrimp boat at the entrance of Bahia Concepcion

Motoring from Punta Chivato to Caleta San Juanico

Motoring from Punta Chivato to Caleta San Juanico. Not a breath of wind.

Unlike our last experience, San Juanico was fantastic and we ended up staying four days there snorkeling and hiking with no swells to drive us away. There’s a cruisers shrine here where, once we found it (26º 22.31′ N, 111º 25.81 W), we left our little contribution. It was neat seeing things left by other boats we’ve met in the past year.

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Here we met SV Camelot who spontaneously invited to go clamming over at La Ramada. This was a new experience for us and Uly demonstrated how to dive down, look for, and retrieve chocolate clams. While we personally weren’t successful, it was a lot of fun to try! We also briefly met SV Liahona and enjoyed some amazing freshly baked goods they kindly brought by!  They had no idea that we were without refrigeration and longing for something sweet.

SV Juniper, SV Camelot, and SV Liahona at San Juanico

After a great stay in San Juanico we decided to head over to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen. As we were getting the boat ready to leave, a small number of needlefish and green jacks had a feeding frenzy all around Juniper, splashing and swimming after smaller fish hiding under our boat. They swarmed and fed long enough for us to grab the GoPro.

Once underway, we had a downwind sail to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen. It was fast and occasionally uncomfortable sail, especially once we had to turn towards the entrance and the wind and seas got on our beam. We still had our sails up as we entered the anchorage and were surprised to find SV Camelot, who left San Juanico in the early morning, anchored inside. We had a challenging time finding a good spot to anchor in the protected end and we both were a little worried about how close we were to shore should the winds change direction, but we ended up being fine as the winds eventually calmed.

We spent a few nights here and did a little bit of exploring on land and hoped to catch a sighting of the bighorn sheep that roam around the island (there’s a hunting lodge somewhere), but all we spotted were hoof prints in the salt flats. The sunsets here were spectacular and once again began enjoying sundowners on deck.



One year ago: No Previous First Aid Training Required