Q: So what do you do all day?
A: It’s not just what we do all day, it’s what we do all day and night. I can best explain this in a chronological breakdown for you. For illustrative purposes with entertainment value, I will combine several typical situations that may or may not all occur in one 24 hour period. If all of these things happened in one day, most assuredly, we would either move to a new location or sleep the entire following day. I’ll start in the morning, using the 24 hour clock, or military time.
0200: Wake up for a squall. Winds are blowing from a new direction. Lie there and feel for the tug of the anchor lines and wonder if we are adrift. Worry if the anchors will hold. Get up out of bed and stand up on deck. Watch the lightning in the distance and gage the direction of the center of the storm. Wonder if the wind will blow harder or subside. Decide that there is no way to predict this and go back to bed, but don’t sleep until it starts raining. Get back out of bed and close the hatches. Turn on the fans, start to sweat a little under your back and wait for the storm to pass.
0400: Fall back asleep.
0600: Wake up with the sun. Wonder if the batteries are approaching the critical level of 10.5 volts. If they do, they will never last as long again. Get out of bed. Look at the battery meter. Look at the refrigerator temperature. Decide to start the engine to save the batteries. Let the engine heat up the cabin while you go back to bed for a bit. Sweat.
0800: Peel yourself off the sweaty sheets and be disgusted. Get out of bed. Scratch yourself all over. Put the kettle on. Check the battery meter and refrigerator temperature. Turn off the engine. Go topsides for a look around and rub your eyes. Make sure the dinghy is still tied to the boat. Make breakfast of coffee or tea, hot or cold cereal, perhaps yogurt or fruit and if you’re really hungry, both. Put up the bimini and the tarp over the boom for shade. Bring in any laundry that’s still on the lifelines.
0830: Wash the dishes and check the to do list. Realize it’s longer than yesterday. Dress for the day. Tilt the solar panel to the East. Check the battery meter. Make a stink in the head.
0900: Try to get a free internet signal. Read something. Discuss with your mate what it is that seems most important to get done during daylight. Fix something that’s broken. Write down on the list what you have found to be broken while fixing the thing that was already broken or corroded from salt. Sweat some more. Write a blog.
1100: Apply liberal amounts of sunscreen. Gather your things. Put them in a waterproof bag. Stow the rest. Think in exacting detail about what it is that you’ve set out to do ashore. Talk out loud about those things. Realize you’ve forgotten to pack something that you need. Go back down below and get it. Repeat the process from think until you’re irritated about it and decide to just get going. Get going. Pull the dinghy alongside. Tie the dinghy alongside. Shut the hatches and lock up so it gets real hot and stinky inside, if anyone breaks in, they won’t be able to stand it long enough to find anything of value. Get in the dinghy. Untie the second security line from the dinghy. Load the dingy with the items needed ashore. Look for your flops. Get back out of the dingy for your flops and sunglasses. Rotate the solar panel level to the horizon. Get back into the dinghy. Hope the engine starts. Untie and putter to shore.
1130: Approach a dock or the beach. Assess the waves and depth. Abandon the original plan and find a new spot to come ashore. Bounce all around in the surf and get salty. If you swear, now is a good time for it.
1200: Beach it or tie it to a dock. Run a cable through everything that remains in the boat and lock that cable around something that cannot be easily pulled up or cut off. Bounce all around as you hand up all the things you need ashore to your mate. Don’t take your eyes off the item or dare let go until they have firmly taken it from you. Clamber out of the dinghy and quickly get your sandals on your feet or be burned. Sweat some more. Get your backpack or shoulder bag on and get going to the first place that has shade or air conditioning.
1500: Finish the banking, shopping, exploring, or whatever it is that seemed so important earlier. Accept the fact that prices are different for you because you look like a tourist. Notice that you are carrying more weight and there is much less wind onshore. Sweat profusely. Smile, you’re in paradise.
1600: Fill the water jugs before leaving shore. Carry them back to the dingy. Load up and look offshore to be sure your boat is where you left it. Sigh relief and get going. Get salty from the waves splashing up over the front of the dinghy. Again, if you cuss….
1630: Unload, tie up the dinghy with two lines, fill the water tanks, rotate the solar panel to the West. Check the battery meter and refrigerator temperature. Open the hatches. Hand things down below to your mate. Stow everything. Drink something cold. Sit up on deck in the shade on cool off. Swim if you feel like it, you’ll have to shower later anyway.
1700: Wash yourself with a hose in the cockpit. Hang your clothes on the lifelines. Go online and look for free internet. If you get some today, check for tropical depressions, go to Facebook, look for a job online, and read your email.
1800: Play the ipod and have another cold drink. Feel the contentment of living in a beautiful place. Watch the sun go down. Take a picture of it.
1900: Think about starting dinner or watching a DVD on your laptop in the v berth. Pump out the holding tank. Check the battery meter and refrigerator temperature. Decide to run the engines again. Wonder if you have enough diesel fuel in the tank. Check the tank. Top up the tank with 5 gallons and start the engine. Talk very loudly over the engine noise and sound irritated even though you’re not. Cup your ear at your mate. Give up on communicating.
2000: Make dinner. Wash the dishes. Wonder if the water in the tank will last until the last dirty dish. Shut down the engine.2100: Finish the movie or read if you haven’t started watching one. Perhaps you can write a blog now that it’s really cooled down outside.
2200: Go to bed and be happy that today, the wind is blowing right down the wind scoop and onto your face. Read a couple of pages and drift off to sleep.
On the way to Tulum we’d had such strong currents working against us, so on our next leg we gave ourselves lots of time… of course this time we didn’t need it, and found ourselves headed for yet another tricky passage through the reef at Bahia de la Acension, in the pitch black of a new moon at 11 pm… not good… so some quick recalculations and we were off again.
But we had come in too close to shore, and Tadd found that we were being sucked in closer and closer… the usually stoic Tadd was quite flustered. Then to top it off… having yelled to wake to me for help… the depth sounder suddenly fluttered and read 15 feet!! Aaaahhhh!
Luckily it was just another of those whalesharks, or giant schools of fish, or perhaps just a phantom reading. But we were taking no chances and so headed further out into the Caribbean and on to the next bay, Bahia del Espirutu Santo.
What a strange isolated place – a big, wide shallow bay. A little more tricky navigating through the shallows, winding our way in behind the reef to the north of the bay, and we found a nice anchorage. Although there were a couple of houses visible amongst the trees, we really seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.
So after brunch went for a snorkel on the reef in search of a free lobster dinner.
It was a bit of a swim against the waves, but there was some really nice coral… on top of coral… on top of what looked like huge outcrops of ancient petrified Elkhorn coral… and forests of purple fan corals, waving in the tide. We were followed around by couple of typically mean looking barracuda… they were kind of like barracuda police… decided there wasn’t much going on except the isolation and to head out again that night….
But not before one last search for those cockroaches of the sea with a torch… then a stressful exit… the tide had dropped a foot or so… just enough to make it hairy in the total darkness.
Tadd having one more go at lobster fishing… at night! No luck!
We spent yet another night sailing from Cozumel to Tulum… it’s not our choice, it’s just that the tricky thing is always needing to arrive with plenty of daylight in order to navigate the next hazardous entry into a new place without navigational aids like the ones we’re used to in the US and UK. And in places like Tulum, where there is so much reef, even the daylight isn’t always enough…
It wasn’t a bad night on the water, and Tadd finally got his first sighting of the Southern Cross, faint though it was. By early in the afternoon the next day, we finally came around a bend and spotted the ruins (also Tadd’s first sighting of Mayan ruins). Tulum truly is a spectacular sight, even from a couple of miles offshore… and to think that the Mayan traders would have sailed in to the majestic town just like we were doing.
While we continued south, past the waves crashing on the white sand beach below El Castillo, in search of the tiny gap in the reef, we spotted a sea turtle swimming along, rolling on his side and eyeing us up as we went by.
We reached the coordinates according our trusty cruising guide and tried to line up the heading to get in. The current was pushing us south and the waves were pushing us in towards the reef… there was no sign of the gap… no sign of the exposed rock … and the waves didn’t seem to be breaking anywhere in particular… we kept going, but when we reached 9 feet of water we balked and turned around.
We headed back out and regrouped… the next attempt was no less scary, and again, at 9 feet we turned tail and headed back out for deeper water.
As we were only a couple of hours from sunset, we started to weigh our options and were just about to give up and miss out on visiting the ruins, kill some time, and then head out for a second night at sea to reach the next stop, when a fishing boat came along. Tadd grabbed the brightest thing at hand… his yellow foulies (sailing rain jacket), ran to the bow and started waving for all his worth.
After some discussion, a call to see if there was enough depth for us to make it in to the beach and a lot of driving around in circles (and avoiding the rock splashing out of the water nearby that we had completely failed to see as the book had us looking in the completely wrong spot) we nervously followed the fishing boat in… woohoo! We made it!
We anchored and congratulated ourselves over a celebratory beer… but perhaps a little too soon… the anchors were dragging… ugh… another snorkeling trip to the anchors. It took a couple of tries, during which we managed to bend the stem of one of them (it still works fine) but we felt fairly sure we were set… but going nowhere that evening and I can’t say it was the best night sleep I’ve had… gotta love waking up convinced you’re drifting into the beach!
The next day we enjoyed a visit to the ruins, though it was unpleasantly hot, so we didn’t hang out long, and headed back to the beach for a beer and a dip. After a trip into town for lunch (yummy arroz con mariscos and fish tacos) and to stock up on big beers, we headed back to the boat to relax before heading out, only a little less nervously, through the channel, just before sunset… Yup! You got it! Another night of sailing ahead! Ugh!