Sunday, November 22, 2009

VHF etiquette, lurking, and the final chapter on an apple, tomato and avocado

There is an etiquette for everything at sea. You must know who has the right of way, for example, when two vessels are approaching each other. The same goes with chatting on the VHF radio, which, it turns out, is essentially the party line for sailors and boaters. The proper etiquette includes knowing which channels are the 'hailing' channels (i.e. used only for calling another boat), which are monitored by the port captains' office or the coast guard or the navy or the taxi drivers (and therefore need to be steered clear of), and which are available for chatting.

On the hailing channel, proper etiquette dictates that you state the vessel's name that you're calling 2 or 3 times and then state your boat's name. For example, when we hail our friends aboard Gypsy Wind (fellow Canadians with kids), we say: "Gypsy Wind, Gypsy Wind, Gypsy Wind. Whatcha Gonna Do." If they don't respond, we repeat the hail. If they don't respond again, etiquette dictates that you try again later, as they are likely not monitoring their VHF. If they do respond, heaven forbid that you carry on a conversation right away on that channel. The hailed boat must instead state: "This is Gypsy Wind to Whatcha Gonna Do," and then they suggest a channel to go to for a conversation, such as: "Let's go one up." This means, you change your channel to one channel above the hailing channel. If you do carry on a conversation, even to say you're at the dock and come on down, you'll get a knock on your knuckles, so to speak, by those who regularly monitor their VHF radios (waiting for someone to hail them, I suppose) by hearing, "Folks, this is the hailing channel - would you take your conversations elsewhere?!" Those people are also likely the lurkers, but more on that later.

When you do reach the other party, they may also suggest 'let's go down one', meaning one channel down. Or: 'let's go to 1-8' or 'let's go to 2-3' or 'let's go to 6-8' (never '18' or '23' or '68'). You then respond with the number (again, '1-8' or '2-3' or '6-8' and never 18, 23 or 68). Or, at busy times (usually right after the 'Net' which is La Paz's marina call-in radio show over the VHF at 8 a.m. every morning when they take roll call for newcomers and those who are leaving, lost and found, announcements, trades, needs, etc), you'll hear: 'let's try 1-7 and up' which means you go to channel 17 and just keep trying for a free channel - if it's taken, you keep moving to the next channel up.

If you are on your boat, and someone from your boat goes elsewhere, they will take the mobile VHF. In this situation, you will hear: "Whatcha Gonna Do, Whatcha Gonna Do, Whatcha Gonna Do. Whatcha Gonna Do mobile." This is where having a shorter boat name would have come in handy. We've also heard it stated like this: 'Don Quixote Steve. Don Quixote Steve. Don Quixote Steve. Don Quixote Martha'. Interesting.

The most annoying boat name by far has been Baby's Here (or is it 'Babies Here'?). "Blue Dolphin, Blue Dolphin, Blue Dolphin. Baby's Here." It took us a while to realize the boat's name was not just Baby and that the hailing voice was not just being cutesy. Darned Baby is always Here.

This morning, a boat whose captain stated its name as 'Doing It' was approaching our marina and was tring to hail the marina office. It went like this: "Marina de la Paz, Marina de la Paz, Marina de la Paz. This is sailing vessel Doing It.' Michael got on to tell him that the office was closed today so he shouldn't expect an answer. Michael's hailing went like this: "Doing It, Doing It, Doing It. Whatcha Gonna Do." He just couldn't resist.

Now for conversations. Once you move to a channel for conversation, etiquette states you say 'over' whenever you have finished talking and are waiting for a reply. Try that one in your regular conversations. And be sure to keep the button pressed while you talk, and released while you await the answer (yes, I've missed those a few times). When the conversation is over, etiquette once again requires that you say your boat name is going back to the hailing channel (eg. Whatcha Gonna Do back to 2-2). All very complicated, although Harrison was the first to figure the whole thing out. No surprises there.

And now about lurkers. At a moms' night out last week when we were anchored at Bahia de los Muertos, 9 out of the 10 women admitted to lurking on other people's conversations. The 10th woman later stated that although she hasn't lurked herself, she readily listens in when her husband lurks. For those who have ever had access to a party line, you'll know how easy it is to listen in on other people's conversations, but with a VHF, the other parties cannot hear you (unless of course you accidentally press the talk button). It really is as easy as pie.

Because of our own lurking, we've discovered:
a) we are not the only boat with a repair list.
b) our repair list is nothing compared to many other boats - we've heard of one boat with steering problems, another two in the same morning with generator problems, someone's solar panels are not working, someone's anchor dragged so badly they went out to sea, many boats can't get their dinghy motors to work, and the list goes on.
c) we weren't the only ones who didn't sleep the night our anchor dragged - but we were perhaps the only boat in the area that didn't have a schedule for anchor watch (we've learned since then).
d) the Los Suenos resort when we were stuck in los Muertos for several days -this one was a lifesaver as we found restaurants, pools and a hammock (see photos recently uploaded).
e) many kid boats, kids' names, and kids' ages.
f) some guy was going to be taking out $550 from his boat vault and meeting a friend at the marina clubhouse to give it to her (seriously!!).
g) how much taxis cost to various places.
h) when taxis don't run.
i) that the port captain's office was closed for a national holiday before shlepping all the way out there with a few other friends - we were definitely heroes for being in the know on this one.
j) what time the party starts.
k) what time the party ends.
and the list goes on...

Not that we spend a lot of time lurking, but it truly is amazing what you find out whenever you do. Will try to post more as we hear interesting conversations - it makes for great entertainment for us, and, we hope, interesting blog posts.

Signing off from Marina de la Paz, La Paz, Mexico,

(24 degrees 09.376N, 110 degrees 19.650W)

P.S. For those wondering what I did with the apple, avocado and tomato: We ate the apple for breakfast, and then I took my sister-in-law Bronna's advice and made quinoa with the tomato and avocado and a can of black beans and it was yummy! Thankfully, we did find the Los Suenos resort and had ceasar salad that night, and went to the Cantina down the beach another night for more veggies. I also had carrots, onions and potatoes on board so made a vegetable soup that we ate for what seemed like days. Bottom line: we survived. And now that we've reprovisioned (that's boat-speak for grocery-shopped), we've been overdosing on fruits and veggies: veggie omelettes for breakfast plus papaya and a cold glass of orange juice that I had been craving, fish tacos filled with veggies for lunch (made with fresh caught striped mullet I might add), gazpacho soup (6 tomatoes, 3 cucumbers, 2 peppers, fresh dill and cilantro) and pasta with swiss chard/pine nuts/garlic/onions on top for dinner. We are, once again, eating well.


  1. This post was by far the most entertaining so far. Sitting in my office looking out at the dreary grey sky (yet suprisingly mild for end of November), I was literally laughing out loud reading it!

    So glad you used my quinoa suggestion...I feel honored!

    We had a crazy busy weekend. Bday party, brunch at Dara's house (hadn't been there and finally gave her the housewarming gift we bought her in Israel last summer...mezuzah), took the kids to a play, Gil Palter & Elisa Morton bat mitzvah Saturday night...pooped today.

    Sammy lost his first tooth yesterday. He was so excited and looks so cute, but I'm so sad that that stage of baby teeth is over for both my kids already. Time flies way too quickly.

    Better get some work done..have to go for my H1N1 flu shot soon...finally available to the general public.

    Hugs and Kisses to D&H.
    Love the more!
    Miss you guys.

  2. Was great hearing from you yesterday - and this blog, how do you get all those signals in order?
    Glad to hear that your food problems are working out.
    Our chavura meeting with our new young assistant rabbi was great. We learned all about his prior and present life - so much and so interesting for such a young person (27 years old). There's a bit of a raucus going on in our shul now as the Board is not renewing the Chazzan's contract - always a bit of excitement.
    Love being in touch with you and hugs...

  3. I didn't realize what a community there was out there sailing along. It's amazing that you had a mom's night out! Love the whole lurkin thing. Take notes . . . you'll be able to write a book when you get back.

  4. Feeling like a bit of a lurker myself as I've been reading all your blogs but not commenting. It all sounds amazing! Miss you.


  5. OMG - just had some time to read that blog this am and boy did you start my day off with a laugh. That must have been hilarious. I was trying to see a visual of Michael saying that over the intercom and I am sitting in my office by myself laughing my head off just picturing the whole thing. I could only imagine how funny it must have been in person.
    You are going to have so many amazing memories to last you a lifetime!!
    Who would ever name their boat "doing it" anyway?!
    I'm still laughing.

  6. Sharon here..
    I have to tell you I make sure I have a block of time to read your blog while I am working everyday! Each one of you in the family writes SO WELL!!! Thanks for sharing all the adventures - they sound awesome.

    I definitly get envious when I see how warm and delightful the weather is - I wish I was with you guys. And I also feel quite deficient hearing about Barb's cooking - even while sailing!

    Enjoy everyday like you are and know you are making all of us smile when we follow you on this great ride!

    x0x0Love, the Weeks' family