Summer Surprise

Summer has always been a time when we scratch our heads about what to do with our water tanks. Empty them? Fill them with water? The first time we left Juniper for the summer we emptied them but condensation and the wee bit of water we couldn’t get out left the tanks a bit slimy. I had to scrub and flush the tanks out a few times with bleach.

The second summer we left the tanks full with and the tanks got a little smelly (like the way a water bottle left in a hot car for a while smells when you open it) so I scrubbed the tanks and flushed it out a few times with bleach.

This summer, we were advised to fill the tanks with vinegar and water to prevent mildew and growth. I was really hoping this would work because scrubbing out both tanks is a lot of work. Not sure what happened but white clouds of something – bacteria, fermentation, a vinegar mother perhaps, developed. Unfortunately, I didn’t first look through the tanks inspection ports prior to running the water (because why would I expect clumps of white stuff to grow!) and the growth clogged our water filter.

Water pump filter. First indication something was wrong

Yeah, this isn’t good.

Tank 1. What is that?!

Tank 2. WTF?!

The process of getting the boat ready stops as we manually siphon the funky water out followed by yours truly scrubbing and bleaching both tanks.

But then we have the merry coincidence of our galley foot pedal biting the dust at exactly the same time! We debated about whether it was clogged with the white stuff, detached a few hoses to troubleshoot, and concluded that it just needs servicing and got it working again.

Next summer, we’ll leave the tanks empty.

New Solar Panels

Power management on a cruising sailboat is a pretty important and sometimes frustrating topic. Since purchasing Juniper we’ve done what we can to reduce our energy usage (e.g. replaced all cabin lighting with LED, etc), but our primary issue has been generating enough power to replenish our batteries each night. We have a wind generator that is fantastic when there’s > 15 knots of wind. The problem is that there’s very little wind here in Baja and Pacific Mexico.

That takes us to solar which should be great since we do have tons and tons of sunlight. Juniper came with two well-used 80 watt solar panels, and that’s not nearly enough. At anchor, we usually have to run the engine at least an hour each day to make enough power.

With Viv flying back to the states for a month earlier this year and Sam being sick, we knew we’d be in La Cruz for a while.  We decided it would be a good time to upgrade our solar. Ordering the panels out of Querétaro City, refurbishing the wiring, and getting the solar panel mounts made and installed took a lot longer than we wanted it to, but we’re really happy with the outcome. We now have a total of 300 watts of solar, which still isn’t enough to support our electricity needs should really help.

Eight Bells for Sam

Sam, our Sailing Kitty, passed away peacefully on Saturday, April 14th. He was 15 years old. Sam was a beloved companion and crew. A world-traveler, a purr monster, a lap cat, a good kitty, our friend, and dearly loved, Sam will be greatly missed.

Eight bells* for Sam, our little friend. You’ll always be in our hearts.

*The practice of using bells stems from the days of the sailing ships. Sailors couldn’t afford to have their own time pieces and relied on the ship’s bells to tell time. The ship’s boy kept time by using a half-hour glass. Each time the sand ran out, he would turn the glass over and ring the appropriate number of bells. Each ship “watch” is four hours, or eight bells, in length.

The tradition of Eight Bells pays respect to deceased mariners and signifies that a sailor’s “watch” is over. Source

Waiting in La Cruz

Spending time in La Cruz hasn’t only been about eating churros. We’ve been here 1) waiting for the weather to shift so that we can go back north to the Sea of Cortez 2) doing some boat work while we wait, and 3) tending to our ailing sailing kitty, Sam.

In the winter and early spring months, cruisers in Mexico tend to do a few things, depending on their plans. Some cruisers stop here in Banderas Bay and continue south, often to Panama. Others do the Pacific Puddle Jump to French Polynesia, and some wait for the weather to shift and go north into the Sea of Cortez. We’re in the latter camp this year, awaiting the shift in winds to sail up north.

Scott went up the mast a few times. First to wash and grease our mainsail track to make it easier to bring our mainsail up and down. Next, he went up and changed our spreader lights from amp-hogging  incandescents to energy-saving LEDs and they’re very nice and bright.  Finally, Scott went up to the very top of the mast to bring down our wind instrument to test it out, confirm that it indeed died on us, and then went back up with a new one. 

We had workers from Marvel Boat Services waxing the topsides and hull and had them give Juniper two coats of varnish. We do not recommend them. They did a very sloppy job on the varnish, left a lot of ripples and holidays, and spilled varnish on Juniper and didn’t properly clean it up. I had to redo our starboard cockpit combing because there were so many ripples. 

In between eating tacos and churros, we fixed our wash down pump, serviced our outboard, cleaned out our food lockers (and rediscovered booze we bought back in SF), defrosted and added new refrigerant to our freezer/refrigerator, and now we need professional help with our next two projects:  installing our new solar panels, and fixing our electric winch. We might have to punt on these projects as the company that works on these things here in La Cruz is slammed.

At this point in April, the weather has shifted, but the main reason we haven’t yet left La Cruz is because Sam is very ill. When we were back in Miami for the summer he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and he was prescribed medication to manage the disease. Unfortunately, the medication – which is the most popular kind used for treating hyperthyroidism in cats – has some really nasty side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, inappetence and Sam has suffered from all of these. Since the summer, he’s lost a lot of weight and since February, he lost even more. It’s been a daily struggle to get Sam to eat food, and we had a smorgasbord going, but what flavors he liked one moment he disliked the next until it reached a point where he stopped eating entirely. Cats can’t go more than a few days without eating and over the Easter weekend, we were pretty certain we were going to lose him. Sam’s condition has since stabilized, but he has not recovered. I’ve been syringe-feeding Sam, because otherwise he won’t eat, and we’re taking it day by day and hoping that he gets well, but his prognosis isn’t very good. Thankfully, there’s a vet in La Cruz and we’ve been taking Sam there once or twice a week for bloodwork, subcutaneous fluids, and exams.

Scott and I have been in crisis mode for a while now, and the mood on Juniper has been pretty subdued. We’re keeping busy with projects, but it’s really heartbreaking to do all we can and see Sam’s health decline. We’re all hoping for a turnaround.

Here’s a cute picture of Sam going cross-eyed for food, from December, just to not end on such a sad note:

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

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!