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Friday, March 28, 2014

Scurvy Free Boating

I'm still in a foul mood with the banks and I doubt I will ever change my mind until it stops costing us money to use the gluttonous-slave-driving-unscrupulous-harpies, who pass themselves off like the smiling cute, little pink, chunky cherub-faced piggy banks of our childhood... back when loaning your money to the bank in the form of a savings account earned you income...
Savers unite!!

But moving along to something productive and beneficial - and rewarding - and healthy - and something I have control over changing...
One of the 5-gallon containers we have on board
Jim, Carolyne and I combined our energy and made a large batch of Kimchi in one of our 5 gallon food grade containers. It takes a lot of washing, tons of grating and a boo-coo oodles of smashing down - but it is totally worth the effort when you taste the fermented crunchy veggie outcome. And fermented veggies are super healthy for your digestive system. We have made sauerkraut aboard in smaller batches and it has lasted un-refrigerated for several months. Fermented veg is a great boat food, especially for long passages or for cruising areas where vegetables cost too much money... and both apply in our case as we prepare to cross to the Marquesas from Puerto Vallarta!
A sink full of scrubbed veggies
Kimchi is high in vitamins and a rich source of probiotics - the lactobacilli and enzymes benefit digestion and help to promote healthy gut bacteria. Kimchi is nutrient rich - a superfood. There are a number of wonderful internet sites for Kimchi recipes, but we just threw together what we could find locally. And we didn't really measure out our ingredients - we just added what looked pretty together.

The important factor in successfully fermenting your Kimchi is to make sure that your crunchy veggies are submerged under the liquid. We did not use a brine or vinegar - we relied on the bacteria in the vegetables to do the fermenting all by themselves and mixed in sea salt to draw out the juices from the veg.

Hotspur's Kimchi includes:
Cabbage, red radish, carrot, white onion, bean sprouts, garlic, serrano chilis and black sesame seeds... and sea salt.. We don't add water... but some recipes do. We don't add sugar - some recipes do. We don't add meat or seafood - some recipes do.

How we made our Kimchi:

First, we washed our carrots, radishes and serrano chilis with fresh water and scrubbed with a veggie brush. We chopped off the ends and cut out any bad spots. We opted to slice our radishes thin and julienne our carrots thin. We used a mandoline slicer so that our veggies were cut virtually the same thin-ness. (I'll be honest with the mandolin slicer - it works great as long as you don't slice a limb off in the process, but I have only used it when making large batches of something... salsas and coleslaw to my memory. In fact, I so often just slice my veggies with a knife so I almost got rid of the slicer... until Carolyne made homemade potato chips. It's a keeper! And so is she!)
My little helper!
To prepare the cabbage, we removed the outer leaves or any leaves that were damaged. I sliced with a large knife - that seemed easier to me and seems less messy than shredding (which sends bits of cabbage flying everywhere). We used a salad spinner to wash the cut cabbage and remove the rinse water - works great!

We added a couple salad spinner bowls of cabbage, handful or two of radish, julienned carrot and onion, sliced garlic - and we began pushing the roughage down into the container with a large, heavy wooden pole. We'd toss in some bean sprouts, black sesame seeds and more cabbage and continue with the pressing (or smashing!). And repeat. And repeat some more. We opted for more garlic and less chili pepper because Carolyne requested that we not make it too spicy.

We put our air tight lid on the container and then stored it in the shower - where it is cooler and dark. Everyday we check our Kimchi to make sure the roughage is submersed in the juices. If it's not, we pack it down better. Sometimes, a plate with something heavy on top of it helps to keep the veg below the liquid.
It starts off dry. As you add a little salt and begin the pressing process it gets juicy.
After just one day we can already taste the fermentation process doing its job. In about a week the flavors should be intermingling and we'll be eating a side of delicious Kimchi with every meal. Scurvy free living.
Black sesame seeds are a nice addition

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bank Skank

Living abroad is easier these days compared to decades ago thanks to internet, online banking, Bill Pay, etc... I simply can't imagine cruising without these wonderful cyber conveniences. Banking has never been easier...
wait a minute... I take that back!

Yes, it is easy to access your bank accounts online.
Yes, it is easy to pay your bills online.
Yes, it is easier to transfer money from accounts online.
But it is not easier to withdraw your very own money.
Traveler's checks are not used much anymore.
It is not easier to manage your very own account.
And customer service is the worst it has ever been in my lifetime.
Fraud protection is the excuse we're given that control of our very own money is minimal.
I say, "Poppycock!"
Vacuum packed shredded Mozzarella cheese dated Jan. 28th
is still fresh after 7 weeks (refrigerated). No mold anywhere!
We have (4) 5-gallon food grade storage containers:
Coconut oil, Masa harina, Hotspur's homemade Kimchi, and Rum.
One of the "biggies" on our List-of-Things-To-Do before we head across the Pacific Ocean was to contact our bank and request that we be sent a new card with a revised expiration date - since our bank card is scheduled to expire this May and we will be...
well, we don't have any idea where we will be.
Wherever it is that we will be we're guessing that receiving a new bank card there will be virtually impossible. But - requesting a replacement card is way easier said than done! Banks just don't issue renewals at your request, I discovered. But 30 minutes long distance with a customer service rep, I finally convinced the Bank that our replacement card be sent to an address in California to a fellow cruiser who would be flying to Mexico in a couple weeks and could hand deliver our bank card to us. I even got an email on March 6th saying the card had been shipped out. But on March 18th, our friend arrived in Puerto Vallarta empty handed. The card never arrived.
Dennis (sv Andante) and Jim checking out Mar Y Sol warehouse in La Cruz
for fresh, un-refrigerated produce. They take orders - even for green produce
that will ripen along the way!

Jim hanging the hammock where we will store our fresh produce on the boat- the idea
is that air can circulate and fruit & veg can swing freely without bruising, banging or mashing.
In the meantime, I rented a car so that our family could save money and reduce the amount of time provisioning for the month long crossing (give or take a week) and the three months in French Polynesia (where food that is not subsidized by the French is very, very expensive). SixT Rent a Car: the company has 3 locations in Puerto Vallarta and for only $32 US I was able to provision with unlimited miles for 2 days. I went to Costco and spent a small fortune on food, but when I went to pay with our Visa it was declined. Thankfully, I had stopped at the ATM and gotten cash - although the bank limited me to $500 of our very own money. Fraud protection...

This fast little Ford Focus cost me slightly more -
luckily you can bribe the cops with a few bucks here in Mexico!
After returning to La Cruz - because I had spent all my cash, couldn't get any more of our money out of the ATM that day and the credit card was declined - I went up to a local restaurant to use Skype to call the bank to find out what was wrong with our Visa card (the marina's internet is weak). When I got the bank's customer service rep, I foolishly mentioned that I never received our renewed card - so she cancelled our Visa card. Fraud protection...

So now, we have no renewed card and the working card we did have... no longer works.
Thank you, Bank!! You're a Hell-per!
I insisted that I speak with a manager, who informed me that once the card is cancelled there is no way on this earth that it can be un-cancelled.
And no, they will not ship a new card to us in a foreign country.
And no, there is absolutely no solution to this problem... except that I fly back to the US and pick up my card in person or wait until it is mailed to our mail management company. And then, I can figure out how to get it... wherever we are. And as I am listening to the manager's monotone voice and hear her robotic, memorized jargon I am thinking to myself, "Why do we need banks? Because our money is safe there?" Oh yes, our money is so safe in the bank that we can't even touch it!
Loading the Costco and Walmart goodies (notice who is sleeping on the job!)

Carolyne... awake and helping!
So, there I am - I have my cheapo rental car and no money and I've wasted 2 hours talking to Customer Service Reps who really are Bank Service Reps... because they absolutely did not give me any service at all except for lip service. Well, I did get one bit of useful information from the bank reps... I did find out why our card was declined at Costco. A $2,663.95 US deposit was charged to our card by the rental car company! Apparently, rental car companies frequently do this when the client refuses to purchase their insurance... which I did. And that large charge on the card would have been one of those "red flags" that the bank talks about... to prevent fraud. And so there was a hold put on the card - which doesn't mean a hill of beans once I find this out because thanks to Bank rep the card has been irreversibly cancelled!
Thank you, Bank. You're a Hell-per!
Killer find at Walmart!! Yay!
But I am a problem solver and so went shopping with our credit cards which no doubt will have numerous foreign transaction fees applied because I am using them in Mexico.
Tell me - why do we need banks again???
Who do they work for???
I think I'll bake some cookies and ponder the demise of civilization thanks to the skanky banks.
There has to be better way.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Coming Along with Plans for a Pacific Crossing

Silk Classes

With instructor Mary Jo

This counts for PE in boat school!
We decided to begin keeping records of expenses once again... now that we aren't “living” somewhere permanently temporary. When cruising, we find it interesting how much money we spend – or don't spend – and on what. Boat repairs, provisions, marina fees, last minute doo-hickies, Dr. appointments, etc... especially the last week of February when we made the decision to cross the Pacific Ocean to the Marquesas.

MARINAS- they used to be cheaper in Mexico than in the States. Not so anymore. In fact, most marinas would prefer to have the income from large motor yachts instead of the high maintenance and cheapo sailboat cruisers. There are a few affordable marinas still left in Mexico (Chiapas is offering $200US a month from May through October for vessels 41'!), but those days are coming to an end in most of the Mexican marinas.
Playing in the little Fatty Knees in Banderas Bay
But, there is nothing more frustrating than doing a boat project at anchor and needing parts... bolts, screws, washers... and having to hop in the dinghy, walk around town to locate what you need, and ride back that afternoon in choppy conditions – to find that you still can't finish your project because you discover you need yet another part. That is exactly why Hotspur decided to cough up the dough and spend more days in the marina to get things accomplished as we near our target date to jump across the Pacific. Marina La Cruz is charging .68 cents a foot, plus electricity, plus water, plus 16% tax... that is the weekly rate. Paradise Village is roughly the same – maybe pennies less. There are NO discounts for being members of the Rallies – Puddle Jump or El Salvador – as there were in previous years. Dinghy docks fees, which used to be non-existent here, are now 40 pesos a day. And security is aggressive about collecting that fee! This is not a slam against Marina La Cruz - it just is what it is. The marina is nice, well  maintained and Katrina goes over and above to make sure there are fun movie nights, bonfires and excellent kid events. We prefer the town of La Cruz to Paradise Village, which is a marina in a mall.
Our gimbaled stove needed to be re-installed
and better secured for passage
Our Mexican boat insurance renewed the first week of February – it has gone up an additional $50US this year and it is no cheaper to purchase monthly than it is for annual coverage. And, this year is a little different from other Puddle Jump years - cruisers are required to have some form of medical insurance to procure the services of the agents in French Polynesia to help with checking in with the authorities. If you check in all by yourself (as many cruisers do frequently) you do not need to show proof of medical insurance (from what I have been told). We almost opted to check in ourselves, but you receive duty free fuel if you use the agents and we don't speak much French (although we are studying!) – we hope the savings we get in fuel will be a wash. (I put the agent fees on our credit card and so you will see the charges on our expense post next month). For medical insurance, we signed up to become members of DAN – for a family it costs only $55US and it offers travel assistance up to $100,000 to the closest place DAN sees fit to drop you off should you need dire medical attention.
Provisions are really the last thing on our list, but I have done a small amount so far...
like sifting together our favorite baking mixes and affixing instructions
We've eaten out more than we've cooked aboard due to cheap street tacos and no desire to do dishes. With just three mouths to feed instead of four now that Tim has left the nest we can eat out more frequently. $369US was the cost of groceries and eating out combined for three people in February.

Also in February, Carolyne's braces were removed and Jim and she both had their teeth cleaned. Jim's prescription eyeglasses took a swim (and then drowned!) so we had to order new lenses. Why wasn't he wearing a lanyard?? Hindsight, you say? What about foresight? He is seriously blind without his spectacles. We expect his order to arrive the 18th or 19th of this month.  
For fun... I cut, taped and stitched together 150 psychedelic droguelets
for our Jordan Series Drogue (just kidding about the fun part!)
We really don't feel stressed about the crossing. We are super excited and looking forward to new adventures. We are hoping to head out of Mexico in about a week... trade winds permitting, of course. There are several boats that headed out early. We prefer the idea of having the trade winds push us across vs. bobbing up and down (or worse, side to side!) for days and days.

At this point, we are looking at Saturday the 22nd to make our move. But that could change!

EXPENSES for the month of February 2014 in US dollars:

Boat Parts
$489 - included new starter battery, Navionics electronic charts of South Pacific & canvas hardware
$295 -  $245 annual MX liability & $55 Dan Membership for family
$277 - included 2 teeth cleanings, Carolyne's braces removed and Carolyne's retainers
$186 (Sadly... also not as cheap as it used to be in Mexico. But cheaper than the South Pacific!)
$169 Dumb husband
$100 - 3 days – no electricity used
$100 - Printer toner (should have bought a new printer!)
$42 zoo outing + silk dance classes
$36 - Carolyne's spending money
Cell Phone
Dink Dock
$15 - 40 pesos a day at Marina La Cruz (don't get me started!)
Potable H2O 
TOTAL 1,992 US dollars

Monday, March 10, 2014

Scrutiny and Mutiny... and a touch of Tequila!

On the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta - Cheeky Monkey - $1 beer and margaritas...
service was excellent... food was marginal
Have I told you that Jim and I are both the first born children in our families?
Driven – Responsible – Head Strong – Energetic... these are traits we both possess.
Oh yeah, and Bossy.
And yet – there can be only one captain.
So, how do we determine where to go and how we will get there?

It was after dinner. 
Jim was sipping his margarita. 
We were bobbing happily at anchor in Banderas Bay. 
Then, Jim dropped the bomb.

“I'm just not motivated to go south,” he told Carolyne and me.
“Let's get a truck and drive inland... for three or so months. We can put the boat on the hard.”
Jim continued on - that he feels he has seen so much of the coastal region of Mexico and Central America already, having spent 6 years sailing Mexico, crossing the Tehuantepec into Guatemala and El Salvador... having visited Panama extensively a decade ago...
his heart just isn't into it, he explained.
Carolyne and I paused. While touring via wheels sounded intriguing, neither one of us jumped for joy.

Old Town Puerto Vallarta
This wasn't completely surprising – I had been watching my husband the last few weeks and knew something was going on. He hadn't been throwing himself into boat projects like usual. He was quieter. He wasn't pouring himself into the charts and maps of Nicaragua or Costa Rica. 

“We just got the boat out of La Paz!” I whined... and vocally exerted with forceful timber. “I want to sail!”
“Me, too! And I don't want to go south either. I want to go to the Marquesas!”, Carolyne chimed. This isn't the first time she has mentioned not wanting to sail south but west. She has talked about the South Pacific for a year... mainly, I think, because it is closer to Japan, a language she has been studying in boat-school.
“And we just got the boat looking great and I just built a new mizzen sail for her and she is ready to go somewhere... and Carolyne's right! If you don't want to sail south then I think we should head west.”
“Really?” Jim said.
Very sweetly Carolyne offered, “Here Daddy – let me pour you some more tequila.”

And so that is really and truly how Hotspur decided to go to the South Pacific.

We make time for our new friends from Colorado, sv Zoe B

All of us went into visit the dermatologist, Dr. Alma Vargas. Hannah off sv Lelo came, too.

Our target date was the 20th.
Of this month.
But the weather isn't cooperating so far. So we plan to wait for the trade winds to begin before we set off.

We pulled into the marina yesterday...
dizzy with excitement and buzzing with energy!
We have several things we absolutely must do before we go.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cruising with Teens - Part 2

Carolyne's favorite

Steve and Carolina from sv Lady Carolina and I chaperoned a group of eager cruising teens to the Puerto Vallarta Zoo. This isn't the first time Carolyne has gone - in fact, it is her third time. The first time she went to the zoo was so addictive that she insists she wants to go again every time we visit La Cruz.
The cost for 1 ticket: 100 pesos
(They also offer packages that include petting baby big cats for about $50-$70 US... we only did that once)
Bag of food to feed animals: 50 pesos
(Bag includes corn, pellets, bread slices and sliced carrots)
Bus rides (it takes 3 buses): 35 pesos per person
Long arm of the law... Mama and her baby

Cruising kids

Directions to the zoo from La Cruz:
To get to the zoo via bus from La Cruz, take the bus on the corner at the main highway to EL CENTRO.
Take the bus from El Centro to catch the bus called MISMALOYA
Once on the Mimaloya bus be sure to tell the driver you want to stop at the Zoologia (zoo-o-lo-hia).
You can take a bus back to La Cruz by backtracking these bus routes.

Pack a lunch, take some water and bring extra carrots to feed the animals... it is totally worth the trip!!
Steve got a very wet surprise when he offered a kibble from his mouth...

go figure!

And yet again, Marina La Cruz hosted ANOTHER teen beach party sleepover! Marina Katrina and Mike at PV Sailing brought a telescope for stargazing and the teens brought their tents. This month has been like I might imagine summer camp - although I never went to summer camp!
(Thanks Marina La Cruz and PV Sailing for the beach photos!)
No one recalls ever seeing so many cruising teens in La Cruz at the same time!

There is no magic recipe for how a teenager will handle living on a boat and cruising to different countries. But most adults will tell you that boat kids are exceptional. They typically exude confidence and can look an adult in the eye. They frequently will introduce themselves to a group or will shake hands when meeting someone the first time. They many times jump in to lend a helping hand regarding younger children. Cruising kids tend to have an "I want to help" mentality.

Some secrets we discovered for successful cruising with our teens:
1. Privacy is important - personal space is important. If you are cruising for a short period of time (say a year or less), I think this is not so much an issue. However, if you are living on your boat full-time, it does make a difference in the attitudes and behaviors of your teen children. You can read about how we made some serious changes to our family's cruising life.

2. Money of their own is important. Any way your teen can make some spending cash - babysitting, dog watching, cleaning winches, boat bottom cleaning, showing old or dumb people how to use their computers (that would be me!), etc... This is as important while cruising as it is living on land in a house. Give them chores aboard your vessel that take the pressure off of you and pay your teen for it - maintaining the outboards, cleaning all the stainless, washing out cupboards or de-greasing the bilge...

3. We discovered that our teens learned more and were more eager to learn when we allowed them to choose their own schooling subjects... with the exception of math, reading and writing... core to everything else... because if you can do math, if you can read, if you can write... you can teach yourself or learn everything else. Why should learning be boring and miserable? It should be exciting! Or at the very least, pragmatic.

4. Stop when there are peers. For younger children, too, but especially for your teenagers. For example, one morning we may decide to sail to another location and a teen boat pulls into the anchorage just as we're preparing to leave. Jim and I will stop what we're doing - get on the radio - make plans to have our teens meet on the beach and we'll stay another day or 2 or long as we feel is needed so that our teenagers get some valuable visiting time - even if we don't click with the parents that well. (And yes, that sometimes sadly happens.)

5. Allow your teens to be a part of the trip planning - where you're going. Let them map it out, get them interested in what lies ahead, treat them like they are part of the crew - not just your child, under your thumb, stuck on your boat. Many times in the researching process our teens have showed extreme interest in a particular place and talked us into going there - like our trip to Oaxaca.

Enjoy your teenagers while living aboard... it can be accomplished even living in cramped quarters with no internet and no peers. But doing more than just taking a teen's feelings into consideration is a big part of how successful - or not - the outcome can be.