Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Things I wish I'd brought

Considering that we had 6 weeks to move aboard the boat and prepare to set sail for Mexico, we did quite well. Checklist after checklist, we managed to be one of the more prepared of the boats we've come across. Many spend years getting ready.

Preparing the boat with food was relatively easy. When we set sail, I knew I needed two weeks' worth of food for the four of us plus our two crew members. I calculated this by planning meal by meal. The only thing I calculated incorrectly was bread - I figured on one loaf per day, and we ate less than half of that. In addition to the food for the two weeks, I only needed to stock up on brands of food that I liked. After all, they eat in Mexico, so I knew we wouldn't starve. I stocked up on some Trader Joe's items, and other things that several boaters' guides say you can't get in Mexico (maple syrup, good chocolate chips, almond butter, jam - you can get these items, but not the same quality). In fact, it has been surprisingly easy to find foods we normally eat in Mexican grocery stores.

In addition to food, there was a first aid and medications checklist. That was easy enough to follow but was time-consuming organizing into the various categories for quick access. For example, all the burn items go together in one large zip-lock bag; all the cold remedies in another; all the pain meds in another; and so on. We had to remember over-the-counter meds like lice treatment, yeast infection meds and splints - in case we're in the middle of no where. Epi-pens, strong pain meds, antibiotics were part of the prescription drugs. But we got it all together.

Michael took care of boat spares - an extra head macerator (the 'blender' that chews up the stuff that goes in the toities) has already come in handy (a blog post in and of itself). He brought extra parts for motors, rigging, electronics, and so on. Parts that have names like flopper stoppers and gaskets. Of course, it's impossible to have an extra part for everything, and ultimately you just have to hope that you have the part that needs replacing. Or that some other boater decided to bring that particular part and is willing to give it away or trade it.

You need to make sure you have all the cosmetic brands and cleaning supplies you are tied to. There's only so much Charmin Ultra I could fit onto the boat, and we are now using Mexican TP. Same with Brawny paper towels. We're almost through our stores of Kleenex Cold Care. But all the large Mexican stores sell biodegradable cleaning supplies.

We bought the boat with almost all the kitchen equipment we needed as far as pots and dishes go. We added a hand blender, a blender, a food processor and a toaster oven (all only to be used when on shore power). We also added more cutlery, dishes, plastic cups (I blogged about those some time ago) and plastic wine glasses. A lot of our food is stored in tupperware (we cannot have any cardboard on the boat as the cockroaches love those). A great piece of advice that I got about cooking and food prep on the boat: you'll cook and eat the same way as you do on land. And we do exactly that.

We managed to get our games/toys down to a small load - everything fits under the kids' beds. We've got tons of books - travel books, fishing books, boating books, Mexico/Central America books, school books, cookbooks, pleasure reading, and so on. We have all the linens we need (we ask guests to bring their own towels though). We've got the basic office supplies - even stamps as there are always boaters traveling back to the US who are willing to carry mail for you (always announced on the morning boaters' network on the VHF radio). We've got our music, our computers, even a printer/scanner/fax machine.

So what, you may ask, could we be lacking??

There are two categories of items that I wish I'd brought more of. The first one was an area in which I was steered in the wrong direction. All the boating books and information I got about clothing said that you'll dress very casually so bring only bathing suits and shorts/t-shirts. The trouble is, I don't wear just plain shorts and t-shirts at home. I like to wear dresses and skirts in hot weather. And I do like to look semi-presentable, even as a boater. Okay, so I love clothes. In addition, there have been opportunities for date nights, and I've needed something funky to wear. But as I was trying to fulfill my goal of living minimally, I failed to bring clothes I like to wear and that I feel good in. I did not bring any date night clothing. After some time, though, I got smart and did do a bit of shopping. Piece of advice #1: If you are to set sail anytime soon, don't alter your wardrobe. Bring your favorite clothes - except perhaps anything that needs dry cleaning as we've not seen any dry cleaners (not that we've looked). Even for my delicates, hand washing is in fact way easier on the boat in 5-gallon buckets than it is on land in my small laundry room. I have certainly not needed the number of shoes I wear on land. Heels as a boater are practically impossible. But I'm sure glad I brought some nice flats...

Second area I wish I had thought about: greeting cards. Sounds silly, but I wish I had gone through my calendar of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays etc. and picked out cards for everyone for the entire year. Our friend and former crew member Caren Edwards advised us to prepare a holiday box which has come in so handy. We have put in it a menorah for Chanukah, a Haggadah for Passover, a birthday book I like to read my kids on their birthdays, some birthday candles and streamers, and so on. However, given how easy it is to send mail to the States, and given that I even have 'forever' stamps, I do miss not having English greeting cards. Somehow, I managed to have Valentine's cards for my kids, but not for Michael (he still brought me flowers - I love that man). So ends my stash of greeting cards. Our anniversary is coming up in two days and we don't have cards for each other. I don't even have a card for my son's 9th birthday in 6 days. Piece of advice #2 to those planning to set sail imminently: stock up on greeting cards for the entire year before you depart.

I'd better go to begin writing out a poem for hubby for our 14th anniversary, and some cutesy handmade card for Harrison. I hope they'll appreciate the effort from an otherwise uncreative, non-artistic wife/mom.

Signing off from the anchorage in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle,


  1. I'd be thrilled to bring you whatever you are lacking if you tell us where we can meet you from April 4-11th!
    And Happy Anniversary to you tomorrow...We know it will be a memorable one!
    Miss you guys...

  2. Love your blog...and I so understand hard work in preparation for your adventure, after having spent (a wonderful) time with you. As far as nicer clothing is concerned you can always buy a couple of nicer tops to dress up your pants (and can also find a skirt somewhere)...You did just fine when we were there.
    Are you going to publish a book when you are done with this adventure...your writing is phenomenal!
    Happy 14th anniversary to you and Michael...with many more loving ones in the future...x x x
    And a very happy 9th birthday to Harrison...hope you have a great one.
    Where are you all presently heading for? Looking forward to "visiting" a new place with you.
    Lots of love to you all...

  3. Barb - I would be totally with you on the clothing thing. In fact, I would have to buy a pair of flats because besides running shoes and flip flops - I don't have any; only heels!
    It is amazing to me that you were able to prepare as much as you did with the little time you had.
    I wish I could send Harrison a card on his bday but dont know your boating address. We will have to have a big celebratory dinner when we get together for your anniversary, Harrison's bday, Marlee, Paul's and Russell's too. Im hoping that will be in May.
    Until then....happy anniversary for tomorrow. 14 years wow! Paul is such a good matchmaker - for himself too!

  4. I remember having that conversation with you about clothing before you left. I think I said to bring a versatile black cotton skirt and blouse...I'd be happy to send you something if you want!! In any case, I am sure you look great, as always, and have found a few treasures along the way.

    You guys did an amazing job of getting ready in such a short time. I am sure none of us back home will ever forget that month or so of time where everyone was asking, "Are they going or staying??"

    Have a great anniversary. You and Michael have an amazing marriage and are true partners. Here's to 14 years and beyond!

    Lots of love,

  5. Your writing gets better with each blog - you are so interesting, detailed & colourful. You remembered things about Yalapa that I would never have included but enhanced the story.
    When we went out for dinner in P.V. you looked very dressed & lovely in party mode.
    Now that I've seen with my own eyes, I realixe the amount of planning & organizing has gone into this adventure-but I could have brought more stuff for you. I talk about the gorgeous & delicious challehs that we had on Shabbat - you are amazing & I am thrilled you are in my life!!!
    Happy 14th Anniversary to you both. How will you be celebrating? I'm happy we had that chance when I was there.
    Wishing you a VERY happy & healthy future with many more interesting & exciting events in your life together.
    Lots of love - missing you all
    Fagel Mom Bubie

  6. Barb, you are an uber-blogger, your writing is great. Of course, I have no plans to sail for a year so as helpful as your tips might be to some... :-) I agree with other comments, I'm sure you always look great. And hearing from you the week of my last birthday was the best ever, better than a card, so don't worry! None of us expect anything, take the year off... Miss you lots. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!! 14 years strong, mazal tov. xoxoxoxoxox