Much of the first month of our new life was spent underway – 6-7 days from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, a couple days across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan, and then a couple more down to La Cruz where our arrival marked the end of our first month in Mexico. After arriving in Mexico, the majority of our non-travel time has been spent at a dock in marinas, with about a week at anchor (“on the hook”) in the La Cruz anchorage. We just moved back to the anchorage, and I’m happy to be out here.
One misconception to this lifestyle that I have corrected is the amount of time we would spend underway, moving from place to place, vs. staying put and just getting to know a single area. As with nearly anything, there are examples at both ends of the spectrum and we’ve met them all. There’s one guy in the marina who I think last moved his boat the day of his last haircut – and his gray hair is more than half way down his back. Another couple has been in their slip for so long that the joke is their boat is sitting on a reef of coffee grounds (they apparently empty their French press behind the boat every morning). Then there was the boat that pulled in next to us for about 3 – 4 nights with two young men who we think were Malaysian and appeared to be on a grand adventure, maybe around the world or at least the Pacific Rim.
Most of the people that we’ve met are more like us – cruising couples who are staying put for several weeks, but talk of ‘going south soon’ or ‘going north in the spring’. We are a member of one minority though – not many have sold everything to commit to living on a boat. Most couples we’ve met have property in the states and partake of “commuter cruising”, splitting time between land and sea.
The La Cruz marina is very popular this time of year and the prices reflect that. One of the reasons we can afford this adventure at this point in our lives is the reduced lifestyle cost. We aren’t suffering by any stretch of the imagination, but we do have to be cognizant of our monthly spend. Hence the biggest appeal of swinging from the hook – it’s free. No cost. Gratis. Find a spot, drop the anchor, and bob around in the water.
Did I mention it’s free?
Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to both marina and anchorage. In the marina, we can climb off the boat at any time and walk to the lounge where there is internet and hot showers. On the hook, unless we dinghy into town, we are offline except for John’s Telcel cellphone. We bathe in the ocean, which isn’t cold, but isn’t hot and soap doesn’t suds up. Plus the sea is always in motion. Even when conditions are calm there is a current from the tide and we bob a little bit. Imagine trying to wash your hair without suds and one hand is holding onto the boat, and then doing a final rinse from the hot bag shower while standing on the back of the boat hoping the neighbors don’t have binoculars out. Good times!
The marina is behind a breakwater so it’s calm unless there is a big storm with very strong winds going through. Cooking and walking around the boat is pretty close to the experience of being on land. But in the anchorage – it can be like cooking or standing on a teeter-totter, or one of those half-ball things you see at a gym.
Even with the breakwater, the marina has some movement, never more evident than at night when the dock likes are creaking directly above your head with every small sway. The anchorage has more boat movement – think cradle – but is quieter.
Speaking of quieter – the marina has a pretty big population of power fishing boats too. I have a theory that power-boat owners spend more time cleaning their boats accompanied by music played at high volumes than they do actually fishing. When they do fish, they start motoring out at like 5:30 or 6 in the morning – none of that out here.
And while that breakwater is good for keeping things calm, it also limits water flow so marina water is dirty. Brown and icky. In the anchorage I have no qualms about putting my paddleboard in the water, sitting on it like a kayak and rowing around the sea. In the marina, I am NOT putting my feet, let alone my butt, in that water. Shiver me timbers!
Then the privacy aspect – you are three feet from your neighbor in the marina. You can hear them putting silverware away if you both have port windows open. At anchor, boats swing around with wind and tide; it’s best to leave several hundred feet between yourself and your neighbor so nobody swings around into another boat’s anchor line, or even worse, another boat. Makes that whole bathing in the ocean thing more palatable too.
But it’s not all isolation and solitude. One day Tom from Tappan Zee motored up and invited us over for cocktail hour, along with his wife Anne and fourteen other of their closest neighbors. That was fun, even though Tom was a bit concerned about the position of Tappan Zee’s water line (the line around the bottom that is supposed to be out of the water). We all brought a snack to pass and our own beverages. Tappan Zee has left for other ports; we hope to see them up the line during the spring Sea of Cortez migration.
As an aside, the cocktail hour snack winner was (by far) the homemade hummus and fresh flatbread from Jessica and Jim on Hajime. Jessica bakes all her own bread. We met them in Mazatlan and were thrilled when they arrived here before the holidays. We had them over for dinner a couple times and they brought bread. John was sad when they left to head south. Guess I need to pull out the articles I saved on bread making on board!
Being offline is probably the single largest adjustment I’ve had to make. I was on the computer and/or phone all day as part of my professional life the last few years and on Facebook or email with far-flung friends during off-hours (and sometimes on-hours too. C’mon, you do it too. I’ve seen the posts pop up during business hours). From the anchorage, I will have to pack the laptop in the water-proof bag, get it into the dinghy, motor to town, and head to Cruisers’ Comfort, a business in town where for a couple dollars a day you can spend all the time you want using their internet, take a hot shower, and drink their coffee and tea. On the “advantage” side, it’s by far the best internet in town.
But right now is football wild-card weekend and I’m missing it. If we were in the marina, I would walk over to Philo’s and get my fill of football. As it is, I’ll check scores on John’s phone a few times to keep up. But it’s not the same. Ditto UofA sports – so I missed the 4-OT basketball thriller. Ah, sacrifices!
At first, I was doing laundry by hand when we were at anchor. That has stopped – not only does it use up fresh water which is in limited supply, but it costs pennies – literally pennies – to have the laundry ladies in town do it for you. We had sheets, towels and personal stuff – about two or three loads – done for around $8. Of course that means packing dirty clothes in the dinghy, motoring to town, carrying laundry sacks to the lavenderia where I try to communicate in pidgeon Spanish when to come back to pick it up. Then the whole operation in reverse – haul it back to the dinghy, motor back without getting it all wet, hoist it onto the boat, unpack it all, re-fold most things (I’m fussy about towels in particular) and put it away.
Water isn’t the only thing limited. On a boat, the whole concept of flushing and everything magically disappearing is…well down the toilet. Nakamal has a 40-gallon holding tank which is substantial for a boat our size. Some are 20 or less. Even so, there isn’t a portable pump out that comes to you like we had in Chula Vista, the pump out dock requires that we back into it in order to line up with the hose and there may or may not be someone there to help. So John wants to minimize the number of times we have to that – which leads to peeing in a cup and dumping it down the sink, which in turn drains into the sea. We just went a month between pump outs with this method. Other boats run to the cruisers’ lounge every time they need to use the facilities, except for early morning and late at night.
So that’s #boatliving in a nutshell – there are a number of compromises to make, we all make our own choices and no two boats will have the exact same experience. But we all get along, form instant friendships, readily trade ideas and information, and hope to see each other up or down the line.