Author Archives: Caroline Spott

Worldwide Community

Our generator died. Ryan started it up and it would cough and sputter in a sickly idle. The generator did not rev up. Two months in Panama sitting unused did our reliable Honda in. Since we are dependent on the generator to run our watermaker, getting it running or replacing it was going to be necessary and is not necessarily an easily accomplished task in Central America.

Some fellow cruisers we have been crossing paths with since La Paz had arrived in the marina shortly before we splashed back in the water and had mentioned their Honda had recently experienced a catastrophic pull-string failure so they purchased a new one. I decided to ask where they purchased the new one in the hope of not having to make Ryan try to board an airplane with a suitcase generator as a carry-on. They kindly gave me the information and offered to give us their old generator to either repair or use for parts.

Ryan was able to replace the carburetor in our generator with the gifted one and it works like new. This saved our bacon.

It was not the first time we have been overwhelmed by the kindness of other cruisers. In Zihuantanejo, the girls and I needed to replace a frayed alternator belt and simply lacked the necessary strength and arm length the loosen the bolt. A quick call for assistance on the VHF and three other boats in the anchorage were there within ten minutes to help us out. In El Salvador, our outboard died after getting some water in the fuel. A walk down the dock and people were offering parts and assistance. Whenever someone is in need, there is always someone willing to help.

We, cruisers, are traveling to remote parts of the world, usually in a foreign country, by boat. Oftentimes, we aren’t native speakers of the local language and procesess for legal formalities aren’t well-documented or are in state of continuous fluxutaion. It is important to help when we can and to openly share our knowledge and experience so others can learn from our success and failures. This openness and willingness to help each other regardless of age, flag, color or gender is one of the things I really love about the cruising community.

The past few weeks, getting Waponi Woo back in the water in a place I am increasingly disenchanted with have been difficult. This unanticipated act of kindness, the gift of a generator, served as a wonderful reminder there is a lot of good in the world.

Remember, I’m pulling for you. Were all in this together.” – Red (The Red Green Show)

A token snapshot of a wild banana tree growing next to what is left of Ft. Sherman base housing.

Mexico to Panama With a Dog

A little over a year ago India, Rover and I decided to go to Central America and the Caribbean (Ryan was on a four-week stint away for work at the time. India, Rover and I were in La Paz) I told India we could go west to the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia but we would have to find a new home for Rover; while it is possible to take a dog to the South Pacific and beyond, it can be prohibitively expensive and there are some lengthy quarantines involved. On the other hand, if we decided to head to Central America and the Caribbean we could keep Rover as those areas are much more welcoming to traveling pets. Much to Ryan’s dismay and Rover’s satisfaction, we chose to keep the dog and head east.

So far, we have entered Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama with Rover. To date, we have never been asked for his paperwork.

Mexico

Entry:

  • Our entry into Mexico by boat was with the 2016 Baja Ha-ha. One of the advantages of signing up for this rally is getting to clear into Mexico in Cabo with a lot of other boats. We anchored out, turned in our paperwork ourselves and were never asked about the dog.
  • A few days before we left San Diego, I took Rover to a vet and obtained a current Health Certificate and a year supply of flea and heartworm medication.

Veterinarian:

  • While in La Paz, I took Rover to Franzoni vet clinic for his annual vaccinations and to top off the medication supply.
  • In Tapachula, in preparation for exiting Mexico, Rover went to Veterinaria Animal’s where I obtained a current health certificate for entry into El Salvador and heartworm medication.

El Salvador

Entry:

  • We entered El Salvador at Bahia del Sol. The official who checked us into the country met us at the dock and saw the dog on the boat; we were not asked for any of Rover’s paperwork.

At this point I looked at noonsite for the pet requirements for Costa Rica and started asking around to see if anyone obtained a new health certificate while in El Salvador and notified the Costa Rican Department of Zoology for a permit prior to their arrival. The answer to both questions was a resounding, “No.” The advice I was given by those who had gone before me was, have a current vaccination record and be prepared to show officials the flea and heartworm treatment you are using. I decided to wing it.

Costa Rica

Entry:

  • We cleared in at Playas del Coco. Once again, we were not asked about the dog.

Veterinarian:

Panama

Entry:

  • Our first stop was Vista Mar Marina where we rented a car and drove to Flamenco to clear in. We were not asked about the dog.
  • A quick caveat, we cleared in with immigration at 4:00PM on a Friday and were being rushed out of the office. It was brought to our attention by another cruiser that immigration was supposed to direct us to agriculture (the desk next to the immigration officer) who would have asked us about pets, but that did not happen. We also checked that we entered Panama with a pet on our custom’s form but, were not asked for additional documentation. Other cruisers have been asked for a health certificate, vaccination records, and flea and worm treatments. Health certificates from the US up to six months old have passed muster.

The Panama Canal:

  • The Admeasurer, our Advisor and our Advisor’s Trainee all did not care about the dog. The Advisor’s Trainee fed Rover a feast of Vienna sausages.

Over the next few months I will be doing my Caribbean research. A rabies titer test will be in his future as there are some islands which require it. If you decide to cruise with your pet, I recommend joining the Sailing and Cruising with Pets Facebook group.

Ryan and Rover enjoying the sunset.

Earning his kibble…

A few nights ago Keely exited to the boat to venture up to the ladies room. She left quickly, shutting the door behind her to keep the mosquitoes and no-see-ums at bay. Rover began barking in alarm. He was not pleased. I tried to reason with him. “Keely will be back soon to take you for your evening stroll,” I said soothingly. He wasn’t buying it.

I opened the door and stepped through the companionway and glanced around the cockpit. Under the cockpit table, staring up at me was a possum. It looked something like this:

The common possum. (Not the actual possum)

Its beady little eyes peered straight into my soul as we both froze, unsure what to do next. Rover made his move. He flew past me as I lunged for the safety of the door. Under the table he went, his terrier instincts driving him to flush the animal out of hiding. The possum bolted onto the deck, off the boat, across the dock and into the water with Rover on his tail.

Rover spent a good twenty minutes covering every inch of the deck, looking under every cushion, sniffing around the bikes, patrolling the fore-deck and the surrounding dock to make sure Mr. Beady Eyes didn’t return or leave behind any friends.

He was a good dog. Yesterday he celebrated.

Rover resting next to his new rawhide bone after a celebratory chew.

It has been awhile…

Ryan brought to my attention he was the only one posting anything new on the blog. I admit I taken to brief updates on Facebook and Instagram and have been largely ignoring this blog. There are several posts which I have started but get overwhelmed quickly when looking at all the events that have transpired and places we have been between now and my last post.

We left La Paz on December 1st and have since traveled to Bahia de Los Muertos, Mazatlan, Isla Isabela, Matanchen, San Blas, La Cruz, Nuevo Vallarta, Yelapa, Puerto Vallarta, Chamela, Tenacatita, Barra de Navidad, Zihuatanejo, Acapulco, Huatulco and Puerto Madero. This equals approximately 1400 nautical miles of travel with a few stops of several weeks in between.

Between La Paz and Puerto Vallarta we were surrounded by friends. For Christmas, we had a potluck on the dock in Puerto Vallarta. One New Year’s Eve there was a spectacular firework’s display on the beach at Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta. Friends came to visit us from Seattle and Keely’s parents spent some time in Zihuatanejo. Ryan traveled for work when we were in Nuevo Vallarta, Barra de Navidad and Zihuatanejo. In Nuevo Vallarta we started having to say goodbye to friends as everyone started to head their separate ways.

Wednesday morning we made it to Puerto Madero and tied to the dock in Marina Chiapas. This is the last port in Mexico. We arrived at 1:30AM after an uneventful Tehuantepec crossing. In Mexico this is the most formal port we have entered. We had to hail the Port Captain to enter the port and were met at the marina for help to our slip. The marina called the Navy who showed up at 7:30AM to inspect the boat. For the first time, we were boarded. The check in went quickly. They asked for all of the usual paperwork and sent a drug dog around for a quick sniff.

Next week Ryan has to go north again. When he gets back we are planning on doing a brief land trip to Guatemala. There are many boats ahead of us in the Panama Posse and a few behind us. We are hoping some friends will catch up to us soon.

India and Keely standing in the ruins of the church made famous by Longfellow’s poem, The Bells of San Blas.

Mai Tai, Three Quarter Time and Waponi Woo on the dock in La Cruz for our Christmas potluck.

Ryan on the beach in Tenacatita.

The main street in Barra de Navidad. This is a pretty typical street in the smaller towns.

Puerto Peñasco and Puerto Refugio

The past few months have been a blur of travel and boat work. We hauled out at the end of July in Puerto Peñasco at Astilleros Cabrales SA boatyard. Waponi Woo stayed on the hard for the next two months while we traveled to the States for work, family, friends and to avoid the worst of the summer heat.

India the night before the haul out.

Ryan sitting on the bimini watching the sunset from the Fonatur Marina in Puerto Peñasco.

We returned to Puerto Peñasco mid-September. We rented a small house through VRBO.com for a week while we had new bottom paint applied and we put in a new thru-hull so we could move the watermaker inlet closer to the high-pressure pump. During this week we also made several trips between Puerto Peñasco and Pheonix, AZ to make some last minute large purchases. Overall, I would recommend Puerto Peñasco as a place for summer storage, and restocking spares, etc… from the states before heading further south for the season.

Waponi Woo after being lifted out of the water. We didn’t get to be on board during the lift out but were on board when we splashed back in.

Pros of Hauling Out/Boat Work in Puerto Peñasco

  1. The Price. The cost for the haul-out, storage and labor here was almost 50% less than other places in the Sea we contacted.
  2. Out of the hurricane zone. Puerto Peñasco placed Waponi Woo out of the hurricane zone for most of the summer.
  3. Proximity to the US. It is 60 miles to the Arizona border from Puerto Peñasco. Ryan was able to take a bus to Yuma, AZ, rent a car and drive back to Puerto Peñasco in the same day. We drove this vehicle to Idaho and returned it there. We drove our truck south from Seattle so we could use it to haul parts and luggage. It is currently stored in Phoenix where vehicle storage is cheap and readily available.
  4. The facility is very secure. It is staffed 24/7 with a person and a dog staying in the yard each night.

Cons of Hauling Out/Boat Work in Puerto Peñasco

  1. Border Town. This is a border town. We felt like we were being seen as walking dollar signs. Panhandling was prevalent and there were a lot of strung out people wandering around.
  2. The boat yard has been around for a very long time. It is the oldest boat yard in the Sea of Cortez. They have a lot of experience… with shrimp and tuna boats. They are just starting to cater to cruising boats. Last year, they had less than ten. This year, they had more than twenty. When we arrived in September ready to have the bottom work done, we had to press (and drive up to Phoenix to purchase paint) in order to be in the water on our originally planned date. They are learning to scale, so the right balance of patience and persistence is needed if you have a schedule you are trying to keep.
  3. Everything you own will get covered in dust and dirt. You won’t be able to clean your boat until you are back in the water.
  4. Wet Storage is almost non-existent. You pretty much have to time your arrival departure with a minimum amount of time in the water before and after your haul out. There are a three marinas but very few available slips and the facilities are sketchy at best.

Waponi Woo from the street before we prepped her for two months in dry dock.

We are happy with our new red bottom paint. India and Ryan picked out the color. There was some discussion about red hiding any potential roadkill. I wanted green. No, I am not bitter.

After splashing back in the water towards the end of September we spent one day at the dock to wash off most of the dust and get enough things put away to head south.

Our first stop was Puerto Refugio. This was an overnight trip and Keely’s first night sail. The sky was clear and we had wind for a large portion of the trip. We stayed for a few nights at Refugio with S/V Shawnigan. The girls had a good time skurfing and having a sleepover with Nina from Shawnigan. It was intention to head to San Carlos next and take two weeks to make our way back to La Paz but, our first day at Refugio Ryan was called north for work.

This is what the stovepipe cacti look like up close. The colors are really amazing.

Refugio is at the northern tip of Isla Angel de la Guarda. This was taken from Isla Mejía. There is no natural water source here.

Waponi Woo and S/V Shawnigan.

We went from Refugio to Santa Rosalia for a night and then straight from Santa Rosalia to La Paz. We arrived back in our old slip in La Paz at 1:30AM.

…now traveling with two 14 year old girls

This spring the following conversation took place:

India: The worst part of being on a boat is I have no other teenagers around!

Me: We would be okay with Keely joining us for a year.

… a few minutes pass…

India: Mom, Keely’s parents said they might be okay with her staying with us for a year.

(We love and hate the Internet)

The last thing we acquired before we left Seattle was Keely, India’s friend since third grade. Keely was with us the day we took possession of Waponi Woo and traveled with us from Anacortes, WA to Tacoma, WA. She will be staying with us for the year as we head to Central America and through the Panama Canal.

India has always been an only child and is very competitive. Whenever she does something positive, we tell Keely she is our favorite. India quickly responds by doing something positive… like the dishes. So far, no one has been hurt.

India (left) and Keely (right) hanging out on the sugar scoop while on our way from Santa Rosalia to La Paz.

Don’t forget your towel.

When I was in college I had the opportunity to hear Douglas Adams, the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, give a lecture on, of all things, environmentalism. At the end of the lecture there was a Q and A period with the audience.

“Why a towel?” was asked by a burly gentleman with thick glasses and a fluffy towel tossed casually over his shoulder.

Mr. Adams answered, his wife believed there were two types of people in this world, those who always know where their towel is and those who don’t. He is in the latter group. I am firmly in the first group.

Waponi Woo had a towel problem. My extensive collection of luxurious, terry cloth towels followed me from our house on land to our home on the water. In Washington, attached to a dock with cheap power and dehumidifier, they served us well. In Mexico, where we make our own power and water, they proved to be a little unwieldy.

It was with heavy heart I admitted a change was needed. Ryan’s college roommate, Ben, visited us in February and brought with him a microfiber thing he called a towel. Ryan thought this was the way to go. I told him I no, I don’t want to dry myself off with plastic; it is a textural thing, microfiber I am sure works great, I just don’t want to use it for a towel. So, I started looking for alternatives and found a plethora of people using Turkish towels on boats. I decided this was the way to go and ordered some from a variety of vendors.

I received my towels at the end of April.

  1. I love my Turkish towels.
  2. They dry very quickly. (either on the line or on the low setting in the dryer)
  3. They take up a lot less space.
  4. They are handy as a swim suit cover-up as well as a towel.
  5. I would recommend going the Turkish towel route for travel, camping, RVing, and boating.

Here are the towels I tried and what I recommend:

  1. Bersuse Ionia Turkish Towel: 100% Recommend… This is my towel. It is the thickest of the towels I tried. There are a variety of designs and colors to choose from. This was also the most expensive of the three.
  2. The Riveria Towel Company, Santa Barbara Collection: 100% Recommend… We have two of these; one in yellow/blue and one in red/mint. The red/mint one is India’s towel of choice. These are a little thinner and will need a wash before use. They were a little crunchy when they arrived but softened right up after a wash.
  3. The Riveria Towel Company, Essential Turkish Towel: 100% Recommend… These are a good basic towel. They come in a variety of colors and cost a little less than the previous two.
  4. The Riveria Towel Company, Cotton Diamond Print Turkish Towel: 50% Recommend… It is okay. This one has a really loose weave and long, stringy fringe which tends to catch on everything. It is the least expensive option and it seemed like this was a case of getting what I paid for.

My new towels on laundry day in Puerto Escondido.

A size comparison of my terry cloth towels next to the Turkish towels.

…if you haven’t read, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you should. Now. I mean it.

I wasn’t planning on doing that today…

“India, is your holding tank full?”

“No, it is just stinky when I flush.”

Two days later…

“Mom, I think my tank is full. The overboard discharge pipe is oozing.”

This morning I requested a pump out. The crew arrives and goes to the port side first. A few moments later I see the pump out crew trying to get my attention.

I go outside and the kind gentleman directs me to the port side sewer deck fitting where an oozing river of sludge is making its way down the port hull. The tank wasn’t full; the tank was testing the limits of molded plastic, bulging at the seams waiting for someone to release the pressure. When the cap was removed from the deck fitting, a brown geyser of epic proportions was released.

The following conversation took place:

Pumpout guy: It is full.

Me: I know.

Pumpout guy: It is full.

Me: I will clean it up. Can you still pump it out?

Pumpout guy: It is full. Tienes que limpiarlo antes de que podamos bombearlo.

Me: Hablo poco español.

Pumpout guy: No entiendes

… fast forward about ten minutes and he figured out I was offering to clean it up, which is what he was asking me to do.

So, I got to clean half of Waponi Woo this morning. At least we know the new electric flush toilet is sealed tight. No poo will escape back up through the bowl if the tank is full. A pad and pen was placed in the port head to write the number of flushes so this doesn’t happen again.

When you want to stay put…

Waponi Woo came with two anchors. The one we used up in Puget Sound, a 22kg bruce, and a 40lbs Fortress, which we have never used. The bruce worked well in Puget Sound; we could usually get it set in one try without too much trauma. It held well on our way down the coast as well. We did a little bit of dragging in Santa Cruz and had to re-anchor, but it was a relatively empty bay and the conditions were calm. When we hit Cabo at the end of the Baja Ha-Ha and encountered our first time anchoring in a real sandy bottom, we discovered our old reliable bruce was not the anchor we need for Mexico.

We turned to our fellow cruisers for advice and were told Rocna or Mantus was the way to go for what we would soon be encountering. After performing some additional independent research, I realized not only did we have the wrong type of anchor, we also were using an under-sized anchor. Incorrectly, we assumed the ground tackle used by the previous owner was adequate. There was the complete set-up for anchoring in northern waters, but not the conditions we were heading towards.

In the end, we decided on a 65 pound Mantus. The deciding factor between the Rocna and the Mantus came down to the cost to get it to Mexico. I ordered it online directly from the manufacturer and had it shipped to the marina in La Paz. It arrived in about one week from the States.

Mantus anchors ship in two pieces so it didn’t seem two unusual for two boxes to be waiting for India and I at the marina office when we went to haul it down the dock. India and I managed to get both boxes loaded into the cockpit and I promptly opened the first box. It contained one complete anchor. I slowly lifted the corner of the second box and took a peek. It also contained one complete anchor. We only ordered and paid for one.

At first, the manufacturer told me to just take the extra anchor to the nearest UPS facility to have it shipped back to the States. I gently informed them I am in Mexico and don’t have a car. They kindly told me to use whatever means of shipping it back would work best for me and to let them know. I didn’t ship it back. Instead, I talked to my neighbors on the dock.

They were also in the process of deciding which way to go for a new anchor and this one now had the advantage of being here. We worked out a deal with Mantus for my neighbors to purchase the extra anchor saving me the hassle of getting it back to them and my neighbors the cost involved in getting the Mexico.

This is a considerably larger anchor than what we previously had. We had to do a little creative engineering with the bow roller to keep it from hitting the fiberglass but it fits. We added some tape to the roll bar for under-water visibility and then waited for other projects to be complete before heading out.

Several months later I am still quite pleased with this purchase. Nine times out of ten it sets on the first try and has held in up to forty-one knots of wind. My confidence sleeping on the hook grows each night we spend with our Mantus firmly planted in the ground.

All Sea Turtles are Crush… (Thanks Pixar)

Here we have Crush, the sea turtle, giving Waponi Woo some fin.

Here we have Crush, the sea turtle, giving Waponi Woo some fin.

The weather is warming up and the sea life is appearing in full force. We ran into this gentleman while just south of Isla San Francisco. Much to our delight, he decided to hang out with us for awhile while we put the engines in neutral and just drifted. He got some shade and we got a fin bump from a sea turtle.