Monday, April 19, 2010

Whatcha Gonna Do and other such decisions

You'd think that once we decided to set sail, all other decisions are easy.  Not so.  Aside from the weather-related decisions (do we leave the anchorage just ahead of some 'weather' or wait it out until it passes?) and the daily 'what shall we have for dinner', there are three currently plaguing us.

First, our tourist visas that allow us into Mexico for 180 days are up on May 7.  Either we apply for an FM3 visa, which is good for a year but costs about $1000 for the family, or we leave the country.  This could mean we high-tide for Central America, like, yesterday, or we fly home or elsewhere but out of Mexico before May 7.  If we leave and re-enter, we buy ourselves another 180 days, which will only take us to just beyond the end of hurricane season - and then we'll be in the same situation as we are now.

Which brings us to decision number two.  Do we cruise another year?  We hear that the job market is not much better than when we left, and cruising is proving to be much less expensive than staying in the Bay Area.  If we continue, where do we go?  We have only gotten as far south as Manzanillo, and had thought we'd get to Costa Rica!!  If we continue a second year and head to Costa Rica pronto, our Decision #1 becomes a moot one, but if we continue a second year and head to the Sea of Cortez for the summer, then Decision #1 continues to be a decision needing to be made.  So you see how Decision #2 has a bearing on Decision #1, but also affects Decision #3.

Decision #3:  Where do we go from here?  Hurricane season is fast approaching and our insurance requires us to be as far south as Costa Rica or as far north as the northern part of the Sea of Cortez - all between July 1 and November 1. It feels like it's a bit late in the season to head south - and if we do, we'll miss out on Guatemala and El Salvador.  If we go to the Sea and continue for a second year of cruising, we can hightail it to Costa Rica (and Guatamala and El Salvador) after hurricane season.  But if we go to the Sea, that's a long time for us cruisers to commit to being in one place.  I know, I know, here we are not even halfway down the coast of Mexico in seven months and we're fretting about being 'cooped up' and 'imprisoned' in the Sea of Cortez.  Many crusisers claim it's a highlight of their cruising time.  Plenty of swimming, snorkeling, clear, warm seas, fishing, fishing and more fishing (SUSHI!), and a different anchorage every night if we want it.  For some reason, I'm worried we'll be bored.  While most of our friends will be 'summering in the Sea', as we say, I also want a bit of Mexican culture.  Some towns that are larger than 25 or 100 people with more than one tienda (shop) to buy your groceries from and more than one restaurant to choose from.  We understand that many of the fishing villages we'll see don't even have a tienda, let alone a restaurant.  There will certainly be nature, and even the much desired solo anchorages (i.e. you are the only boat anchored there).  And it will be hot.  VERY hot.  But the consolation is that it is a dry heat, as opposed to the very humid (100%) Central America.  Costa Rica's summer months are considered the wet season, when it apparently POURS for about an hour each day - torrential downpour with thunder and lightening - but notwithstanding the rain, I think I'd find Central America much more interesting. I could be very wrong, and I'm open to that.

Lightening for boaters, however, is another story.  As you likely know, lightning strikes the tallest thing around, and is attracted to water.  Our mast is very high, and we do sit, as you know, on water.  If lightning happens to strike your mast, it will fry any electronic equipment on your boat, rendering it completely useless. As a result, each time there is any remote sighting of lightening, we dash to put every portable piece of electronic equipment into either the small metal safe we have on board, or the oven.  Yes, the oven.  The idea is that if lightning strikes and fries electronics on your boat, anything in a sealed metal box will be saved.  I don't know of anyone that has had electronics saved in the oven when hit by lightening, but I don't know anyone who hasn't, and so, we put all the iphones, ipods, itouches, DS's, cell phones, computers, digital cameras, Kindle, earphones, satelite phone, hand-held GPS's, VHF radios, and anything else I can't think of right now, into the oven.  Disconnecting the navigation electronics would be out of the question - if it storms every day, that would be a bit tedious.  Also, how do you remove refrigeration compressors, alternators, motors and the like and even if you could, we'd surely need that second wall oven I've been wanting for my birthday (joke). So, if we did get struck by lightning, and while we may not be able to start our engines or use our chartplotters, we can still listen to music on our iphones while making phonecalls and taking pictures.

This is how complicated the whole lightning issue gets.  Here's a real excerpt from the Southbound YahooGroup discussion about what precautions to take if heading to Costa Rica during the wet season, to avoid fried electronics if hit by lightning:

"We have pieces of s/s wire about 8 ft long that we bulldog clamp on to the shrouds and hang in the water. Better than nothing, maybe."
"For a summer in Costa Rica, I
. . . put up a 6-gauge lightning rod at the masthead,
. . . ran 6-gauge wire down the main shrouds,
. . . ran a 6-gauge wire around the boat at deck level (tied to shrouds and stays), and
. . . ran battery cables from the shroud wires into the water, ending in zincs.
I didn't get hit, so all that work proves nothing."

"I hang lengths of chain from the shrouds several feet into the water, hoping that will provide a fairly straight and attractive path to ground should many tens of thousand of volts, or more, choose my mast as their pathway."

This one's my favorite though: "I like the idea of climbing into my bunk, putting my pillow over my head, and singing very loudly until the lightning passes. Keeping a couple of small cushions handy so you could kneel and offer up a quick prayer to your favorite life force or spiritual guide might also help."

For now, we are undecided about Decisions 1, 2 and 3.  We are stuck in that Whatcha Gonna Do mode.  Because the decisions are so intertwined, we don't even know where to begin.  However, this too, shall be history in our blog, one day.  I can't wait to read what we've decided.

-Signing off from La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit (Banderas Bay), Mexico


  1. I think once you decide on decision no 4 it will all fall into place. :-)
    How about a coin toss? Miss you guys.

  2. I'm sure the spreadsheet analysis has begun!

    Wonder what Michael has labelled each column.

    If you stay out another year...we would love for you to visit some more easily accessible places for us landpeople to get to.

    Guess we shouldn't book our flights for Danielle's bat mitzvah just yet.

    Can't wait to hear the final decision...

    Love and miss you,

  3. funny the different decisions you are faced with versus us boring land people. One thing we still have in common is - What the heck am I going to make for dinner tonight!!
    I am sure you guys will figure something out. Another year?? Wow - do the kids want that?
    Keep us posted - we would much prefer to visit in Costa Rica than fly 12 hours to get to Mazatlan.
    Things somehow find a way to work out for the best. Enjoy the ride getting there.

  4. It's all good reading no matter what you decide. And by the way, what are you making for dinner? I need some new ideas!

  5. Can't wait to hear what you decide!! I love reading your blogs! We just got back from 9 days in Costa Rica. It was marvelous. The vegetation and wildlife were amazing. The people were so genuine and warm. If you don't get their by boat, I'm sure you'll ge there some other time.
    Best, Phyllis Brock

  6. By now, you've already made the decision. It's great that you all have the ability and desire to be able to "sail the world" and enjoy each other. This is turning out to be a very memorable episode in your lives. Many wish they could be so "carefree", although it's anything but that!
    Love you all and miss you...x x x