Saturday, March 29, 2014

Galapagos Wildlife




Seals on the Dock

The Big Fish We Caught

Tuna for Dinner


Imagine yourself just causally digging your toes into the warm sand and little waves lapping onto your feet.  As you look at the lava you start seeing these large lava colored Iguanas all over on the rocks. (Mind you that this is just at a typical beach).  You walk up to take a closer look, and they just stay there all casual like.  Clearly these iguanas are eating well as they are some of the fattest that you have seen.

Now today we are hoping to see the turtles.  It is supposed to be just a nice walk up a wood planked path that winds past mangroves filled with strange and tropical wildlife.

The reason people say to visit Isla Islabela is that you are quite free to explore on your own, and many of the attractions are free.  I guess most of the other islands charge for you to see most anything.

Well, we are off for more adventures!!!!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Day 1 in the Galapagos

So, we chose to anchor at Isla Isabela because it's the largest island, we've heard that it has the most diversity and that it's hands down the best island if you were to only see one island.

We came into the anchorage this morning to see some familiar faces, which was a nice welcome!! They told us which VHF station everyone is monitoring to start, then our friends on the other Kurt Hughes cat, Dragonfly, came over and gave us a run down of what they've experienced as well as the check in process and what to expect.  Where the fresh fruit market is or you can take a taxi to a farm, which they did.  Very helpful information overall, gave us a guidebook and a map since to they are heading to the Marquesas Islands tomorrow morning!  Glad we got a quick chance to overlap.

Courage went to shore to the Port Captain.  It was Friday just before noon.  They will be at lunch until 2 and are not sure they can get the inspection done today.  If not, we are not allowed to disembark until Monday after the inspection.  Are you serious??  So, they will try and see what happens.  Fortunately around 2:30 we got a call that we were going to get our inspection.  We've spent much time and concern about this.  I've been spring-cleaning the boat for this, which I'm glad to have been getting done.  We've heard of 19/39 of the ARC boats being sent out to clean their bottoms, so we stopped in the doldrums and Courage cleaned our bottom again.  We heard that 10 days ago they got a new port captain here, so some boats were actually sent out and not allowed to clear in.  The "agent" that you are required to use told us that our ZARPE said destination Galapagos.  You can't have that unless you have an Autographo, which has to be prearranged.  Since we have that, immigration can simply pass us on and not allow us to clear in.  I tried to get an Autographo since Feb. 19th, but the agent wrote me only once, then not again.  It was completely unprofessional, I'd sent in all the paperwork on the same day and then no response.  I can't believe that if it's required for immigration, it must be arranged 10 days prior to arrival, that you can't send the info to the government agency that requires it, and then they assign you an agent.  But that's not the case.  They will check your engine rooms for being clean and dry and an oil-absorbing towel in place.  Make sure toilet valves are going into the tanks.  Make sure there's a lid on the garbage, and these ridiculous things . . . So, we were concerned.  We've heard many stories.  Many people came to the boat - 2 women and 3 men - - our agent, immigration, a national park representative, and a couple of guys that I'm not totally sure of their roles.  They did inspect garbage, fresh foods, motors and toilets.  Their dive gear was broken, so they just asked that we not work on the bottom while we are here.  Reasonable.  We filled out immigration forms for everyone, paid fees, and took them back to shore.  Overall the process went quite well.  Better than many.  We gave them a lot of cash.  We need more to pay for the government fees.  For this, we need to go to an ATM.  This is a town of 1200 people and many tourists.  There's no ATM.  Fascinating.  You have to take a ferry to Santa Cruz (leaves at 6 am, returns at 4 pm), $60 round trip.  We'll see what our plan here is, not an urgency.  So, our clearance went better than many it sounds like.  As Courage took them back to shore, they came across penguins.  He said they were as interested as he was to go over and see them; they were even taking pictures and stuff.  Funny!!

So, we were cleared in and ready for shore!!  A couple of kid boats were going to be onshore playing, so we were off!!!  As we dinghy'd in, we saw the penguins and checked them out.  A blue-footed booby flew over us while we were checking them out.  Seals were resting in many of the pangas.  We finally made it to the dinghy dock and the seals were all laying out on it.  There was a nursing baby seal right on the dock.  We were having a great time and making slow progress!!! 

After the seals, we headed out. .   Just off the dock is a trail that was lined with marine iguanas, so we stopped again to check them out.  We loved it!!  There is a trail right there to a lagoon.  Our agent took us down there.  There were iguanas all over the footbridge through the mangroves and over the lava rock to this lagoon.  In this lagoon you can snorkel with the seals and iguanas and whatever else is there.  It looks awesome!!!  But for another day, we were still heading to the beach with our friends.  All afternoon we were pointing and staring at the iguanas. We saw them blow the salt water out of their nose, go into the ocean and swim, climb out on a rock, eat the algae off the rocks. 

Everything that was in the BBC Galapagos video we watched yesterday!! I'm sure you can tell who is fresh off of the boat!!  We were such tourists.  Wait until we desensitize a little to the wildlife around.  It's been awhile after being at sea, and Panama City prior to that.  So the kids ran on the beach, rolled in the sand, chased around with kids from other boats, and had a great afternoon.  We got some more inside information about what the other boats have done thus far so that we can make good plans.  There is a tortoise breeding and learning center.  There's a flamingo lagoon center just past that.  You need a naturalist to see the volcano and islet, otherwise you can tour as you would like.

The lady from the National Park actually suggested we might enjoy bringing the motorcycle onto shore.  Really?  The lady representing the national park?  She said you could get to the highlands, which is where they do the farming.  Our agent told us it would be a problem, they know every motorcycle in town.  Sure they do, but who is "they" that is going to give us a problem?  Courage saw the police station, so went in and asked.  They said if he had all the papers, not a problem at all.  Sooo, we got another map, roads don't look too extensive.  We will think about it.  Is it worth the effort to offload it to check this area out?  Maybe??

Day 1 was great and we didn't get off the boat until after 3 pm, we had to return by 6 pm for a late dinner and it was getting dark.  Really looking forward to lagoon diving and the Tortoise Learning Center, not to mention some beach time!  And the waters are a gorgeous clear turquoise blue; so some snorkeling is on the list.  Also heard there's a farmer's market on Saturdays, tomorrow, so may go check that out too since we're coming a little low on our fresh food.

We are required to fly a yellow quarantine flag until we have cleared into the country.  We didn't have one.  So we took a terrycloth towel/shirt type thing of Valiant's that was yellow and flew it with 2 clothespins on our stay with our "Pacific Puddle Jump" flag.   Now that we are officially cleared in, we are flying my homemade Ecuadorian flag.  See if we get any complaints??

Welcome to the Galapagos!!


The Fish Tale continues . . . .

So, with a lot of maneuvering of the boat to keep the fish at tension and worn out and not able to dive under the rudders to cut the string (all of which have been issues in the past for us), Courage finally reels this thing in.  I'm wearing gloves on the back swim step with the idea to pull it up by the leader, grab its tail, and put it in our 33-gallon garbage can.  Great plan.  Problem is, I had the fish and the leader and couldn't even see its tail yet.  I was pulling it onto the swim step, he's telling me no, grab the tail.  It was somewhere far away in the water!!  He came down, we pulled it onto the swim step, grabbed the tail, but I couldn't really lift it securely myself by it's tail.  He grabbed too, we lifted together and still had a hard time getting all of it above the second swim step up and above the garbage can.  We got it in, brought it to the cockpit, and we secured!!  Then took a couple of photos. . .  Cassidy and Courage were holding it; she couldn't get it by herself.  I got a great picture, which was still processing when they threw it onto the ground!!  I think it slipped forward out of Cassidy's hands, or began to wiggle, or something, but however it occurred, we had a giant fish flopping around on our cockpit floor.  They threw a towel on it, Cassidy tried to hold it down, but was being shaken around, and it was a fiasco- - a funny one, but chaos none-the-less.  Needless to say, I got some video as soon as I realized they were going to release this monster in our cockpit!  I've had some good laughs!  This bad boy measured almost 4 feet long!  There's no way I could have reached its tail without going in the water myself.  Biggest fish I've ever been involved in catching!!  We've eaten 2 great meals as well as given it to 3 other families on boats that we've met.

We came in nicely to the island, anchored out the first night and came in with daylight in the morning.

To be continued with our Galapagos tales in the next saga.


Galapagos Arrival

Galapagos - We have arrived! -

We made it in relatively uneventfully.  The last couple of days we ran with light winds on our spinnaker and sailed most of the way.  It was quite nice with pleasant waters.

We celebrated the equator crossing with cupcakes.  We were really moving at the time, we crossed almost an hour before we'd predicted getting there, so there was a little scramble at the last minute.

Our fresh foods lasted well.  We still have some left - - 2 watermelons, 4 apples, carrots, potatoes and onions.  Made another successful yogurt yesterday.

We've been donating lures to the fish one after the other.  Just when you get down on your ability to catch something and think that you must be doing something wrong, you catch a fish.  Only an hour before we'd donated our most recent lure to the fish world, so I wasn't sure we were going to be able to reel this thing in.  We were under spinnaker, so we turned to try to slow us down while Courage reeled.  The fish was reeling out, not in!!  We were only hoping to slow down his ability to go out with our gear!  We've lost some that way, with the fish just reeling everything we had out while we tried to slow down and slow him down.  After a lot of reeling out, he steadied and had a lot of tension, so Courage just held on.  Then we drifted and the spinnaker dropped.  I took the reel and Courage and Cassidy dropped the spinnaker.  I got some slack, so I reeled in some.  I'd hardly made a dent.  Courage continued reeling and waiting.  Finally he'd tired out some and was resting.  Integrity suggested he focus and get the fish in - - Great advice from a guy who wasn't doing any of the work.


Galapagos!  And we are here!

Who knew? The Galapagos are desert islands! You are probably not going to believe this but in the 75-degree water we met our first pod of Penguins. And of course a whole swarm of Blue Footed Boobies is dive-bombing a poor school of baitfish.  Looks like we are in for adventure!

We are anchored in 12 feet of water with a sand bottom, and many lava reefs.

There are about 10 other boats here, about half of which we have met one way or another.  There is a confirmed rumor that there is Internet at the beach, so we will be sending some pictures in the next couple of days!!!  I gotta go explore!!!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 9 - Catching Fish

We finally caught it. Not without losing another lure though. To keep from letting the line break we let out nearly all of the fishing line. This was a real fighter. While fighting it we used the engine to keep the fish out of the rudders, we even dropped the spinnaker so that we would not spool the winder! 

After a long and aggressive fight Shannon, yes Shannon grabbed this monster by his teeth and dragged him up onto the bottom swim step. Fortunately he was pretty tired, and so we were able to pop him headfirst into the full sized trashcan. This yellow tail tuna was nearly 4 feet and about 10 inches thick. The children are still carrying out an autopsy trying to determine something they could only explain. The stomach with sardines was interesting, but the heart and eyes are by far the favorite specimens. They have been at it for more than an hour.

Sometime tonight we should be making a night entry, with no moon, into a poorly charted anchorage. We are figuring that when we hit 100 feet we will just drop the anchor, and wait the glorious sunrise. We just watched a BBC 2-hour special about the Galapagos, so we are ready for adventure!!!


Approaching Galapagos - Day 8

We made it! And the party is on! We are officially in the South Pacific. Cassidy and Shannon made some fantastic sweets, and well I shaved half my face. Got to remember to finish the shaving before we check in. Typically there has been some haze or clouds in the sky, but tonight the stars are shinning bright!

Sometimes it is interesting to think how Father and Mother did this with no auto helm, no chart plotter, and no GPS. They sure do make it easy these days. I think of the auto helm as an extra crewmember that does exactly what you ask, and someone who will not even flinch even if you aim directly at some craggy rocks.

So the water in Panama is about 74 degrees, the water halfway to the Galapagos where the squalls are is 81 degrees, and the water at the Galapagos is 74 degrees. Good thing we cleaned the bottom in the warm water!

The children are really taking the traveling well; their biggest concern is if the islands will have ice cream. They are definitely Winters! Little Valiant is the star though; he can spend hours with a lure and some fishing line. But don't try to remove the hooks from the lure, unless of course you want trouble. He does allow the hooks to be taped up now, since he has hooked himself so many times, but only with black electrical tape!

Well hopefully we make land tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Provisioning for the South Pacific

Everything you ever /never wanted to know about our Boat Provisions 

As we plan our trip for the South Pacific, I read many accounts about how remote some of the islands are and how expensive it is to purchase things, even in Tahiti.  Everything is imported as well as subject to the high French taxes.  Rumors abound of $9 heads of cabbage, $60 6-packs of beer, expensive eggs, oats, fish, wine, etc.  There are some government-subsidized items of flour, sugar, and oil that we can plan on.   Baguettes are rumored at $0.50 each, which I personally am looking forward to!  I have read about nice variety in the Tahiti once you get there, you can find Asian foods, European, American brands, etc.  But based on our honeymoon out there, I remember food being very expensive!  I think we bought a can of ravioli for about $4.00 at one point, that being our best deal.  I don’t want to have to shop for a large crew there.  I’m great with picking up reasonably priced items, especially fresh fruits/veggies, but I want to be self sufficient for our journey.

We acquired 6-month visas for French Polynesia so that we can take our time.  It takes a couple of months to get there, especially if you go by way of the Galapagos as we plan to.  It takes a couple of months to get out of there and our plans from there forward are not solid.  I don’t want to have to provision in Tahiti for another crossing.  So, always plan for excess, I am planning for 10 months.  We had a crew of 10 at the time I did my planning.  So 10 months of food for 10 people was my shopping plan.

So to start, I made a spreadsheet of things that we had onboard and liked to eat.  We have done 30 days at a time on many occasions, so I based it on wanting 10 of those basically.  I’ve also learned, we like brownies as treats and as gifts for fishermen.  We have added lasagna to our repertoire and we love it.  We have a hard time getting protein that we like for every meal, so I have to pay special attention to the protein portion.  We almost always have brown rice as our carbohydrate, and we have whatever veggies we can get.  We don’t love canned veggies, so I don’t want to over purchase these, but if we can’t get fresh stuff, we want something.  There was one month that I served pickles with dinner for need of something veggie to serve.  I prefer to not be in this position, but if I get too many cans they are heavy, expensive, and not preferred.  This one was the hardest for me to negotiate because it’s intangible.  I calculated how much flour we use based on a loaf of bread per day, how much oil, sugar, yeast, etc.  I watched for 2-3 weeks and wrote down our basic consumption.

So then I rounded out my spreadsheet to make a shopping list.  How much per month is needed, how much for 10 months.  I wrote in the rough prices that I knew.  We spend about $1000 per month on food now, so I was anticipating about $10,000.  A little less since this doesn’t include our fresh foods.  Now I was ready to go shopping.  I asked the cab drivers where they shop, etc.  At first I price shopped and found that the big box stores were the best value? Mega Depot and I became friends.  They don’t require a membership and they deliver for free if you spend over $300.  Guess what, I’ve never been there and spent less than $300.  Prices here are higher than in the states / 20-50% higher.  Even at the cheapest stores! The other big box store is PriceSmart, which is a Costco company, but some legalities or something made them create a separate company.  There is a membership fee, a delivery fee, and less variety from what I hear, but you can get the famous Kirkland brand there.   So, I bought what I can at Mega Depot and what I couldn’t get there, I piece worked together.

Shopping for literally tons of food is not easy without a vehicle.  Nor is price shopping.  You can get almost anywhere in Panama City for $0.25 on the Metro bus as long as you have a bus card and infinite patience (as well as local knowledge).  There is a bus route, but no real schedule.  Roughly every hour they come out to the causeway where the boats are anchored.  Sometimes we’ve seen 4 busses almost back to back, other times we’ve waited for over 2 hours.  Sadly, the chicken bus (old school busses painted very decoratively, no AC, torn seats, people packed up and down the aisles, can charge $0.50 per head and get many more customers because of their reliability and frequency.  The kids and I crammed onto a chicken bus going home from the airport after literally 5 metro busses passed us by.  At least the chicken bus got us into town, which the metro bus was failing to do.  Or you can pay a taxi.  It should be $5 or less to get anywhere in town.  If you are white, prices double.  If you don’t speak Spanish, it goes up higher.  If you have small children traveling with you and it appears you’d like to go somewhere, or too many groceries to carry to a bus, prices can be anything under the sun.  At this point, you better know going rates and what you are willing to pay.  I typically bus to the store and taxi home due to groceries.  I negotiate quite a bit for my taxi; I just won’t pay the $15 that they have asked just for a ride home, 15-20 minutes.  This becomes a little awkward at times because, I guess due to theft, the store will not let you leave with a shopping cart.  A bag boy comes with you and waits and helps you load the groceries.  You tip him for this.  The longer he waits, the more I tip, making it a fine balance.  Usually it’s a matter of minutes, one taxi leaves, another comes.

Speaking of theft issues in Panama, it’s a mess!!  There must be a lot of theft and counterfeit.  Every time you spend a $100 bill, you must show ID, they fill out a form with the bill ID number, your ID number, your name and phone number, etc.  Then you sign the form, the manager comes over to check the bill, check the paperwork, then give approval.  Remember, prices are higher than those in the states on many items.  How often do you spend over $100 when buying months of food or a year of clothing for a family of 8?  It gets embarrassing as you hold up the line first by buying $500 of food, then by this ridiculous process at checkout.  But what can you do?  As I mentioned, you can’t be trusted to leave a store with a shopping cart.  You have to wait in line for about 15 minutes average to enter a store to check your packages from other stores, then another 15 minutes to get your bags back.  You can’t enter a store with any bags because you may steal.  It’s rough and makes for a difficult and timely process to go shopping.  I understand why each process is in place, but it’s too bad it needs to be and it seems like maybe they can come up with more efficient ways of security.

OK, so I had 2 runs to Mega with between $2,000 and $2,500 each.  Both delivered, dragged to the dock, loaded into multiple dinghy trips, then slowly organized and stored on the boat.  That’s half of it.  Mega doesn’t carry oats, brown rice, wheat flour, fig bars, etc.  So those items, which we eat a lot of, I needed to get at other stores.  I went to one store and spent probably 30-45 minutes trying to arrange for them to order more in their next order and I’ll come pick it up in one month or whenever they tell me it’s ready.  I explained I need 450 bags of oats, 300 pounds of brown rice, etc.  Customer service sent me to the deli when I said I wanted to order food.  Then a semi-English speaker and I went downstairs to the aisle with the oats.  They said to get what I needed.  I explained the numbers again.  She went and got a manager and we tried again.  She comes up with “that’s not how we do it here”.   Ultimately it was concluded (at least by me) that they couldn’t think outside the box.  I tried explaining to her that I needed about $2000 worth of groceries from their store, but she didn’t seem to care.  This was at the “local’s” store that a few cab drivers told me they shopped at, kind of like a super Wal-Mart; it had 5 floors of everything!

So, whenever I was out, I tried to come home with a “load” of groceries.  I typically shopped at the Super 99 at Albrook Mall.  My bus went directly there, no transfers, and it had almost everything I needed, but not in enough quantity.  I could get about 60-70 bags of oats when they had recently stocked.  This means roughly 7 trips to the grocery store, each time with a basket full of oats.  Each trip I would typically have the kids and we’d have about 3 carts worth being pushed around.  I would get other things too, like the rice.  Typically could get 20-30 pounds of rice, so about 10 trips for the rice.  These trips had to be staggered by a week or so in order for the store to restock.  It was also supplemented by Courage taking his motorcycle to other stores and bringing home what he could carry in a backpack and milk crate on the back.    I still have catching up to do with my budget tracking, I have receipts all collected to input, but am as behind there as I am on my blog.  All in all, I think it was close to the projected $7,500 to $8,000 of groceries.  Some of that we were eating in real time also though, hard to separate when you shop what you ate immediately and what you put into storage.  It’s a LOT of money, but imagine now we are living rent-free and don’t have to buy food for a year (or shampoo, deodorant, clothes, toothpaste, etc.) and don’t pay utilities.  We’ve been sailing, so minimal for fuel (well, that’s optimistic, fuel is a big hit, but we stay optimistic!!).  The government fees and visas do hurt a little too.

So, the storage is a problem.  This is where my learning curve started!!  How do you store food on a boat (wet, humid, hot, no fridge, hard to access many areas, so hard to monitor and clean, etc)?  Especially when the food supply from the stores is not clean?  It comes with bugs in it!  Where to start?  Our cockpit was filled with groceries, so I split them up into 10 piles, one for each month.  I monitored sorting the piles, the kids just got new walkie-talkies, so were more than happy to call in orders for new food items and shuttle them down to me.  I checked them off on my spreadsheet as the items arrived.  Since the shopping occurred over months, not everything made the 10-month piles, but most of the snack items and random items did.

Then I went through each pile and “sanitized” it.  Granola bars came in cardboard boxes.  Cockroaches lay eggs in these, so they must go overboard.  Granola bars were packed into Ziplocs and cardboard disposed of -- same with Jello, gummy treats, Mac and cheese, etc.  The dual bags of raisins come in a cardboard box and were transferred into a Ziploc also.  We did lots of repackaging to remove cardboard.

Unfortunately, while I was purchasing and organizing, the kids played with the piles some, so things got mixed.  Some months we’ll have bonus, other months we won’t have some items I think.  It was an excellent lesson for them of planning ahead and realizing that if you eat it now, you won’t have it later.  This whole year will re-enforce that!!   I got one of a few different treats per month (more than we’ve usually had, so we will actually be spoiled, while feeling deprived!), like Cheetos, M&M's, etc.  Once it’s eaten, no more until next month.  We have March on the shelves now and Intrepid reminds me daily about the
M&M's.  We really haven’t had good shore time, they are individually packaged and ideal for a shore snack, not just to sit and eat, so I’ve been saving them.

The kids will learn nicely about planning ahead and “budgeting” their treats, I think.  We are also more flush than we have been.  Nuts and dried fruits were expensive, but I splurged and got one can/bag of nuts per month and one pack of prunes/cranberries per month.  But they make good healthy snacks that are designed for longer-term storage, so we went there.  Not to mention the protein factor of the nuts!

These piles were strategically placed in the deep recesses of our bilges.  It was a project to get under the back beds which are basically in our swim steps, but two months are under each of the two back beds, one month is in our bench seat (I moved our lifejackets out), one month is in an empty closet, two are in the bilge below our food storage shelves, and two months were stored on the floor in the front bedroom, one of which was pulled out for March and the other will come out in April (looking forward to cleaning up the front room).

Then there are the staples.  They didn’t make the monthly piles.  Oats, rice, flour, sugar.  The oats were easy.  They were pretty nicely packaged, so 4 bags of oats went into a gallon Ziploc with a bay leaf to avoid weevils, and they were done for storage.  Rice was not so easy.  The rice I was buying from the stores appears to come with both weevils and these pesky gray moths.  In some of the bags of rice you can see the grains of rice stuck on strands of silk left by the worms.  It’s a problem when the food you bring onboard is already contaminated.  I tried many stores, but it didn’t seem to matter where I was getting my supplies; the food supply in Panama is contaminated - - maybe from the tropical environment?  I got myself the “Boat Galley Cookbook” which I totally recommend, which is where I read a lot of advice about pest control on a boat.

So my solution for the rice was to vacuum-bag it.  Thanks to Cindy, I have a vacuum bagger onboard.  I bought bags while I was in the states.  I have a friend who bagged everything she had before her voyage in 2009 and said it went perfectly!  No contamination, no damage to the food, no rotting.  Courage was asking me though, “Do you really want to pack $0.70 of dried beans in a $0.50 bag?”  So some common sense had to be applied here.  For the rice, it was my best hope.  I had rolls of the vacuum bags.  I packed 10 pounds of rice per bag.  This made, as the kids called it, bricks.  These bags are reusable, so next time, I can pack in 9 pounds or so.  By making big bags, I will be able to reuse them more often before they are used up.  Our system took some perfecting, but we got pretty good at it.  The lack of oxygen should prevent bugs from getting in and kill the bugs and eggs that are already in there.  We discarded the original bags pretty quick based on the amount of life they appeared to contain.  The oats and rice are stored together in a bin in a bedroom and I check them for signs of life semi-regularly - - so far, so good.

Flour is another big problem.  It all comes with weevils and moths.  I also tried it from many stores.  From the Wal-Mart style store, Machetazos, I picked up a bag and a moth flew off.  My assumption is that it was all contaminated.  So, for the flour, you can bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or freeze it for 24-48 hours.  I don’t have a freezer, but I have an oven!  I baked all the flour that came onboard at 350 degrees.  I would buy 10 bags at a time, bake 5 together in their bags in a 9x13 tray, and then put in the other 5.  It dries it out and clumps it up a bit, but rather than add weevils to my $7,500 of food, I’d rather sift the flour as I go.  Then my friend showed me how to put it in 1 gallon plastic bottles.  I gathered bottles for months, from water, vinegar, juice, Parmesan cheese (bulk), etc.  I even asked for them on the net and got about 5.  I didn’t have enough for everything, but I got a good amount of my flour baked, sifted, and stored into plastic jugs with screw lids.  If a weevil is somehow inside of it, it won’t get out!  The left over flour is in Space Bags, vacuum packed.  But they aren’t super reliable, just a secondary plan for now.  As we use flour, we use the poorly packed stuff first.  We also just finished a gallon of vinegar and will put the flour into the jug when it’s dried out.  Eventually we’ll have all the flour safely packed.  Also, the flour is subsidized in French Polynesia, so we may be buying more there, but don’t need to for at least 5-6 months.

I had weevils in rice bags earlier on this trip.  The rice bags were just in Ziplocs.  When I saw the weevils, I would typically bake the rice to kill them.  I didn’t have time to do this when I found them, so I triple Ziploc bagged them and put them outside in the cockpit.  The weevils got through the bags into the outer layers.  Ziplocs are nice; they slow down weevils, but are not safe defense against weevils, especially long term.

So you can imagine my dismay when my boxes of brownie mix had weevils in them.  I was taking the cardboard boxes off of the packaging and there were just a couple of weevils in the boxes.  The boxes immediately went overboard, but the brownie mix was placed in Ziplocs on my counter.  For days, I watched it every day trying to look for any signs that the weevils were in the mix.  I didn’t know what to do with it.  I can’t bake it with the chocolate chunks in it and plastic wrap all over it.  I can’t pack it away all my other food if it’s possibly infested!  I’m not going to throw them overboard.  They are brownies after all.  We talked about putting it up in the front with the buoys where it can’t cross contaminate other things, but I don’t want to have all my brownie mix contaminating each other.  Then the solution came!!!  I mentioned it to a friend who was renting an apartment onshore while her boat was being repaired from lightening.  She offered up her freezer!!  I had totally forgotten about freezing things since it really wasn’t an option in my world.  So I packed all my mixes and brought them to her house for a few days.  What a relief to have a solid plan for them!!!  They are now packaged in sets of 4 in gallon Ziplocs, but after freezing I feel pretty good about it.  Also added a bay leaf for good measure.

Last of all for packaging, meats.  The kids don’t love beans, which are the easiest, most reliable source of protein to pack.  Dried beans provide protein, fibers, nutrients, are cheap and lightweight and last for a year pretty easily.   We try to catch fish, but can’t plan our diet around that.  I bought canned turkey (they were out of chicken) and tuna.  We aren’t really fans of spam or corned beef.  So, a friend taught me to can meats.  She came over with her pressure cooker and taught me everything I know (since I was a blank slate starting for sure!!).  So we canned 2 jars of chunks of chicken and 2 jars of ground beef per month (that’s 40 jars, we had 4 pressure cookers going!)!!  I’m so excited!!  This is more protein than we’ve been having!  I didn’t season the meats, so I can use them for anything.  Some people can meals, so when they are underway they can just warm it and serve it.  Great idea, especially for those mono-hullers!!  We don’t tip as much as they do, so don’t have as many issues preparing meals while underway.  I wanted to have the ground beef for spaghetti sauce, lasagna, tacos, or whatever!  This will definitely help us add variety to our meals/proteins.  Many people are scared to can.  It really wasn’t so hard.  All my lids held.  We had our first jar of ground beef a few days ago, and it was nice!  If it goes bad, I’m sure you will know.  The lid will not be sealed, it will smell bad, and it will look bad.  If meat has been bad for months, I think you’ll know.  If any of these features are present, don’t eat it!!  But otherwise, I think we’ll be fine.  My friend canned many meals and ate them for months while out in French Polynesia, and had a big feast to finished them off before going to New Zealand where they will confiscate anything not professionally packaged in particular countries.

In general, I found that dried things were great options.  We have 12 snacks of popcorn per month rationed.  Dried little kernels pop into a gigantic snack.  A little butter/salt seasoning and we are happy as clams.  And it uses very little propane.  Also Jello, packs small, just add water, make it when you have power to run the fridge for a few hours, and you have a nice refreshing treat!  Obviously dried beans, rice, oats, quinoa, etc. are healthy, cheap and pack down nicely in size/weight.  Worst of all are things like chips, cookies, and breakfast cereals.  They are big, bulky, and have to be protected.  Not to mention more expensive.  We have taken to making more cookies from scratch, bread from scratch, etc.   We are making cinnamon rolls from scratch now to celebrate crossing the equator, which we anticipate occurring later today!  Fresher, easier to pack, and more delicious!!  Since cooking most things from scratch is relatively new to me, I got a cookbook for myself,  “How to Cook Everything”.  I’d been doing a lot of Internet-ting to look up and save recipes, but without internet access there were so many things I wanted to try to make at sea, so I broke down and got a book.  So far, so good!

One final thing that I learned about, powdered eggs.  Never heard of such a thing.  Never needed to know about such a thing.  Baking more, we use more eggs. With less fresh stuff available, it’s hard to keep eggs around and available.  These powdered eggs are great for baking (from what I’ve read), but not good for omelets or scrambled eggs.  That’s fine.  So I ordered some from Amazon and flew it back with me from the states.  While researching these things on Amazon, the same company apparently makes dried butter.  Well, for all the same reasons, this sounded reasonable too.  So I got some.  We’ve used the butter in baking with great success.  We currently have eggs, so haven’t broken into that stash yet, but we have some on hand.  I also branched out and got white cheddar cheese powder (we LOVE that flavor, especially on popcorn!)  It’s not as flavorful as I had hoped; maybe we need to use more.  I tried to make a white cheddar sauce for some cooked quinoa and it wasn’t flavorful at all.  There are no recipes, so it’s hard to know how much to use.  I also got a cheddar cheese powder, which was reviewed as comparable to Kraft’s Mac and Cheese sauce.  Haven’t opened it yet.  Last of all was a sour cream and chives.  Got one, sounded tempting to add flavor to baked potatoes or popcorn or lots of things.  I am also making yogurt (still learning there too) and can use it to flavor it as a dip?  So we have a back up supply of some powdered specialty items to expand our flavor variety some since cheese is not something we’re expecting to come by often.  It was expensive in Panama, scared to see how it looks in French Polynesia.  Hopefully it’s considered a staple and is subsidized.

The final run was $100 at the Farmer’s Market for fresh foods, which we keep in aerated baskets on a shelf in the galley.  It sometimes rots, but we try to keep on top of it, eat it as it shows signs of ripening, or get rid of it if it’s past due so it doesn’t continue to set off others.  We have been having some excellent fresh stuff this week!  Our understanding is that in the Galapagos they will take anything that seems to be rotting or have dark spots and that they have even more variety of fresh items and they are less expensive.  So I held off on buying tons of hearty foods like potatoes and onions for the long passage until we get there.  Hoping the rumors are true because we’re budgeted on it!  Otherwise, we may have to break into our stash of canned veggies and pickles . . .

Overall, this summarized my provisioning for our Pacific Puddle Jump trip.  It has kept me very busy for months.  It wasn’t super interesting day-to-day, well, for me it was, but it’s a “you had to be there”.  The people you encounter, the difficulties that just don’t need to be difficult (the processes of check out, etc.), the negotiations, and the logistics of getting it all to the boat, onto the boat, organized and stowed safely and bug/rot free (hopefully, fingers crossed!!)  It came with a lot of advice and learning from my cruising friends, which I really appreciate!!  I love that every person brings in a new trick of the trade, a different style, other concerns, etc.  We are all learning, some more than others, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I’m feeling very good about our plan and approach.  Much better than a year ago (almost exactly, March 18th) when we left the US for our journey, at which time I knew almost nothing about living or food storage on a boat.  I’ve learned a lot both from experience and friends.  We have now headed out on our journey; we are about 8 days on our way to the Galapagos, anticipating 9 or 10 days.  We are looking at the equator.  Only time will tell how my approach has worked for us.  Every boat and every crew is different, but I am glad to have most of my grocery shopping for the year done at a relatively less expensive place!!!  I have heard many boats saying they were maybe provisioned for 2-3 months at the most.  That’s fine and I’m sure they’ll do great too.  It may be more expensive, they may have to eat what they find, not oats and brown rice like we prefer, etc., but I’m sure they will be fine and not starve to death either.  But I’m happy to be done.  Done with the hauling and dragging and price shopping, and time spent, etc.  I do enjoy somewhat the integrating with the people and the culture, doing what the locals do, and acquiring food is a big part of that for sure!!  We cannot cultivate our food, so rely on purchasing it.  I will still go to Farmer’s Markets or trade with locals, but love that I don’t have to go unless it sounds like an opportunity or there’s something specific we would like!


Another Day on the High Seas

Vitality is all better now, just a one-night thing. Not sure what it was.

We had a yellow-footed booby on our front pulpit. The kids and I were playing cards in the cockpit one night and saw him come. It was cute and we let him stay for the evening. Next morning the kayaks on the front trampoline were covered in poop. Now, I knew he'd poop and that was a risk we were taking, but WOW can that bird poop!! He must go every 10 minutes?? Shalet, how often does a normal healthy bird poop?? At this point, I got pictures with the kids and told them they could scare him away. He hissed and fought back, so we let him stay. It did appear that most of the damage was already done. Other boobies were circling us. I think they were jealous! Integrity found a squid that had landed on the boat overnight and tried to offer it to the booby, I don't think the booby understood the plan and he didn't take it. He would fly off periodically, only to return about 10 minutes later. This morning he finally flew off for good while Courage and I were working on the mainsail. He was with us for about 36 hours. We figure he must be headed for the Galapagos; he certainly wasn't concerned about our course. We were right; most of the damage was done the first night. We'll need a squall or at least be able to throw those kayaks in the water in the near future!

Yesterday I had some sort of stomach bug. Courage was convinced it was seasickness, but I've had stomach bugs and I've had seasickness and this was much more than seasickness. I pretty much laid up all day in one of the sleigh beds in the living room and slept most of the day with intermittent trips to the bathroom. When I was awake, I watched the booby. In the evening I had some Jello and a Gatorade, slept all night again, and was feeling a whole lot better!! I don't think the motion of the boat was helping, but I also don't think it was the culprit!! Whatever the cause, I'm quite glad it is gone.

Got a lot more done today than yesterday. Been working more on the cushions on the boat, getting them plastic wrapped in case they get wet, getting them nailed down so they don't get knocked onto the floor on a regular basis. Have been sewing Velcro onto the ends of the cushion covers with my new sewing machine so that the cushions aren't always sliding out of them. Now I have an issue with tension. Can anyone tell me why the thread bunches up on one side, on the bobbin side? It makes a loud noise, and then ultimately broke a needle because it couldn't move any longer? What is that from? I'm sewing Velcro onto a relatively thin material. It's sewn much thicker things for me already. I didn't adjust anything, even the tension. I may have to break down and look at the manual, but until that time, does anyone know what the deal is??

I also made an Ecuadorian flag this morning before the cushion covers. After soaking the white flag material in yellow food coloring for 24 hours, it appears to be colorfast. So, I colored it with a yellow sharpie and decided to make it smaller. The Ecuadorian flag has a 2:1 (length:height) ratio. I never knew that flags came in different dimensions. I guess I thought it was like paper, it's 8x11 standard, 9x13, etc. Some are 2:3 ratio for example. I'm pretty sure the French flag I made isn't up to standard dimensions. I just eyeballed roughly a rectangle. By the time I took in the edges, it looks a bit lengthy compared to its height. Oh well. So, my little Ecuadorian flag is 8x16. The top half is yellow, then a blue strip is 1/4 and a red stripe is 1/4. You don't have to have the emblem, only on government flags. I left the white and blue material from the French flag material we had bought, and then cut off the red. I sewed the red to the blue, took in the edges, reinforced it a lot (our flags get blown to shreds sometimes out here), and then added some grommets to the edge. Other than the uneven stitching and coloring marks, it looks pretty professional! Courage assures me we can fly it high and hopefully no one will notice. Hope it doesn't rain while we're there, not sure the color will hold.

After making the flag, I cleaned out the freezer and threw out any suspect foods that may have made me sick. I had made yogurt, which was going well, but it ended up at the bottom of the freezer for over the past week. It's homemade and without preservatives or stabilizers. Well, a week is too long. To make new yogurt, you are supposed to use 2-3 tablespoons of the prior batch. So, I tried this to see if I could make a new batch today despite this yogurt not being well. Unfortunately, this batch went straight to curds and whey. Are there any yogurt experts out there with advice? At that point, do you just scrap it all and start over?? I have another commercial yogurt in the fridge and will try a batch tomorrow with it.

We have been doing great with winds and sailing. We've been sailing at almost 30 to 45 degrees to the wind. Another discussion - how does that propel you forward when the wind is blowing on your nose and pushing your sails from that angle? I'd like to hear concepts rather than throw out what we've discussed. 

Finally this evening we've turned on our motors. This way, we should cross the equator during daylight hours tomorrow. Typically at this time you shave and apparently throw some alcohol in the water for Neptune. I don't know what the significance of shaving is; other than no one is likely to have done that in awhile . . . At this point you are considered a "shellback", like a turtle with a shell. So, by this time tomorrow, we hope to be clean-shaven and shellbacks. Not sure how well Neptune is going to fare. He'll do great if he likes curds and whey!!

Looking forward to the Galapagos!

Good night

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 7 at Sea

There must be a storm, or some big winds somewhere south of us. We are getting these giant beautiful rollers that we are gently sailing up and down. It is a pretty good life out here!

So a couple of days ago both of the toilets on the Starboard side became plugged. Now this would typically indicate not two individual blockages, but rather one blockage after the two hoses join together. The only problem with that theory is that the smallest diameter is in the pumps. So the "not so fresh" memory of the poopy Booby's poop was running through my head. After a long and stinky process I got one of the pumps open, and right there sitting in the children’s poop was one of their favorite plastic rings. So on to the second toilet, and right there jammed into the check valve was the other plastic "bling" ring.  It took bleach, dish soap and couple of latherings of hand soap to reduce the smell on my hands and arms to a level just less than the natural aroma of the boat!

This morning I found that the very top batten of the mainsail was popping out. A quick lowering of the main and 10 minutes of Shannon and I working on top of the boom and the sail was repaired. Now putting the mainsail back up is not easy. And with Cassidy still sleeping after having taken the midnight to 4am shift Shannon and I tried to do it ourselves. The trick to a successful raising of the mainsail is heavy people. The further you pull the mainsail up by hand the easier the winching!  Not to go into details but there are certain perks to a heavy wife.  What I mean is, there would be certain perks if I had a heavy wife!!  Like we could raise the mainsail up all the way by hand! :)  My arm still aches from all that winching!

Looks like we should be in the Galapagos in a couple more days!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Sailing Along on Day 6 -

This voyage is typically thought of as a 7-day trip. Our plan is about 10 days.  The weather wind wise has been good but those tiny little wavelets have grown to 5 to 6 feet, and now the motion of the ocean can be felt if you hold real still.

We have a yellow-footed Booby bird sitting on our front pulpit. We thought it was kind of cute yesterday evening when he landed, but this morning, we found he had coated one and a half of the kayaks in poop. So the children named him Poopy Booby.  He is pretty committed to his location, and has quite some attitude if you try to scare him away.

We have no guides, or books for the sailor of the Galapagos, so it is going to be interesting. The night before we left we were saying goodbye to one of our friends who are also heading out to the Galapagos, and he pointed out where the anchorage is on Isla Isabella.  So hopefully I can remember when we get there.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life on the Ocean

Hanging out in the Pacific Ocean - Day 5

What a great day for hanging out in the ocean.
It got so calm today that we ended up sitting for an hour and scrubbing the bottom. The Galapagos are very sensitive about the bottom growth on your boat bottom, and if it isn't nicely clean they send you out 60 miles with one of their expensive divers to clean your bottom and your wallet! :)

We have about 2 foot swells with about a 20 second interval coming out of the south, and some 6 to 8 inch wind waves. So as you can imagine we have been in anchorages with much more wave action.

So Integrity comes up to me and tells me that Innocence hurt his "Bluie" (He is too masculine to call it a Pinky). It took me a little while to figure out what a Bluie was. The only question I had when I stopped laughing was how to spell

So last night was perfect, pretty much a steady wind and calm seas.  We did catch two giant fish last night, and we lost two real nice lures in the same two big fish. I am thinking they must have been yellow tails because of all the Dolphins playing around. The children are sure that I caught the Dolphins.

Looks like we have the makings for a squall ahead, hopefully we can ride its winds for a while.


Ocean Life

Weather here is nice, almost too nice -- sunny with light wind.  Could use a little more wind to keep moving along.  Very calm seas, which are more comfortable and pleasant, but we would like to keep moving, and don't mind a little rain to get things washed as we go.  We are sailing very tight to the wind, 30-45 degrees off our nose.  We are going straight toward the Galapagos, which is great, but doesn't set us up if the winds do come straight off the Galapagos as they are predicted in a couple of days.  Every weather file we pull though looks pretty calm, as it looks outside.

But we are still doing great with fresh food - watermelon, apples, and peaches today.  Had our Sunday morning pancakes!!  Still with 5 pineapples, one is rotting.  Need to eat them up.  I got 10 because they were $0.50 each for good-sized ones.  How can you go wrong??  Then he threw in a bonus one.  Other snacks we have found great are Jello which I made today for dessert.  It packs small and you just add water then there's enough for the whole family.  And popcorn works too, which Cassidy is making now.  Again, just small dried seeds, pops up big so there's plenty for everyone.  And we got some butter salt seasoning which makes it delicious!!  Cassidy also made some homemade bread today.  She's our official bread maker at this point.  It's really good with quinoa and flax seeds in it!!

We made water today since we were going to have to back flush the water maker anyway.  While the generator was running I was able to do a load of laundry.  Fortunately, I waited until today to do it.  Vitality vomited in both her bed and ours.  Then pooped on the floor including a towel.  So I was able to fill the load and get some necessary things washed.  It's hanging on the lines drying and I'll get the beds remade before bedtime today.

No fish yet today, but we are trolling.  Kids went for a swim earlier today behind the boat, dragging on ropes.  They love it.  Then we did freshwater (in a jug) and soap showers on the back swim step before coming up, so everyone's fresh!

That is about it for now.  We're watching "How It's Made" for quiet time.  It's interesting and they can learn something from it.  Now learning about flies for fly-fishing.  Integrity is on top of it!  Valiant is napping or he'd be quite interested too.

While Courage and Valiant were napping, we began to tack.  I tried to turn to prevent it, but instead, we went for it.  So Courage got up and started the motor to correct us.  In the meanwhile, we caught all 3 fishing lures in one rudder.  So we pulled in the Genoa and dove for the lures.  Courage cleaned the bottom also while we were out there.  Innocence and I swam along with him since it was so nice out.  He recovered all 3 lures and we are hoping that our boat bottom is clean enough to pass inspection at the Galapagos.  Time will tell.  Now we have found a little wind and are pushing on.

I'm going to look wherever I can for a mouse to plug in!!  This keyboard is a nuisance!!!

Off to make dinner and finish cleaning the bathrooms . . . Oh the luxury of cruising life!