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Saturday, February 25, 2012

1/6/2012 Hiking to the Petroglyphs

Yesterday we took our first inland sightseeing trip and had a blast. We’ve done very little off the boat cruising so when the trip was announced on the cruisers net and the price was right we jumped on the chance and signed on. The plan was for an early stop at a farmers market, the largest in Nayarit then a short drive and a hike into the hills to view some petroglyphs, followed by lunch on the beach at Chacala and then back to the marina around 3:00pm. Bill and I, Chris and Liz from Espiritu, Paul and Judy from Grace and their son Kevin and his dog Patches all loaded into our guides van. The entire trip was great but the highlight was definitely the hike into the petroglyphs.

The petroglyphs are about a 40 minute drive NE of Banderas Bay and the ride through the hills was a whole new view of Mexico. April our guide has lived in Banderas Bay for 25 years filled the tour with her years of insider knowledge and insight. As we wound through the hills she acted as naturalist and historian telling us about the plants, trees and birds around us including a type of tree that the locals use for fence posts that re-sprouts back into trees once planted into the ground and a “gringo” tree known for its red peeling skin.

A sharp right turn had us off road and climbing into the hills. The road soon turned from pavement to dirt and then into something much more like a dry river bed. When the road got so bad we were barely crawling along it was time to either get out and push or grab our gear and get walking. After about a mile and a half of easy walking through nothing but fence line, cows and trees we arrived at the park entrance.

The boundary of the park was little more than a clearing and more barbed wire fence line. As we entered there was a large clearing off to the left where we could see the remains of what had once been the Mexican Indian version of a sweat lodge. On the other was the fence with an entry gate wired in with a lone gentleman holding a cell phone. We paid him our 20 peso entrance fee -we were warned the admission price varied from day to day and group to group, typical Mexico- and he silently went back to texting on his cell phone.

We had passed a couple of other trekkers on our way in but we seemed to have the park to ourselves as we followed the riverbed path into the park. Within a few feet of the gate April began pointing out petroglyphs and telling us about the history of the place. Along the path there were information signs in Spanish and English that gave detail and historical references and told the story of the people who lived in these hills many generations ago and the stories behind the petroglyphs.
The last curve of the trail led us to a bend in the river that opened up to a waterfall in a beautiful shady grotto.

There was an almost still leaf strewn pool at the bottom of the falls and a series of stair stepping rocks that climbed upwards along the slow moving riverbed. Below the pool there was a big stone curve that over the centuries had cut deep into the rocks. The years of flowing water left what looked like great rocky rectangles standing sentry over the sight. Along the curve there was one recessed spot into the rock that looked like an opened doorway, deep enough and tall enough for a man to stand in and it gave the impression of a giant stone doorway. All amongst the stair stepped rocks and boulders there were dozens and dozens of petroglyphs. Large and small images of the sun and various depictions of lines and squiggles that they believe represent the nature of weather, seasons and crops. There were also many glyphs that represented the great corn god or god of the crops.

When we arrived our group was alone and everyone spread out on their own to explore. As I climbed the rocks to the top of the falls I passed small alters that had been left scattered into nooks and crannies. Each alter was filled with modern day offerings of candles, beads, sweets and flowers. There were also bits of burned away candles tucked into the flats and crevasses all along the outer curving river rock wall. The quiet of the place had settled into the wet earth and the mossy woods all around us. Over the centuries it has left a peaceful calmness that you could feel. Maybe that feeling came from knowing how old the carvings are or maybe it’s a sort of left over spirit that makes this such a magical place. The place oozes power and energy and it was easy to see why the site was chosen hundreds of years ago and why it is still in use today by the native Indians.

By the time we had finished our hunt for petroglyphs and a quick dip in the deliciously cool pool we had been joined by some other hikers and the spell of the place was dimming. Our cameras were filled with pictures and Patches the Chihuahua-Jack was walking on sore tippy toes across the rocks so it was time to head home.

The hike out seemed shorter (of course) and soon we were back in the van and headed to our beachside lunch in the tiny seaside town of Chacala. This had been our tour guide Aprils' beta test trip with cruisers and the trip took us much longer than she had anticipated. Our 3:00pm drop off at home was well past by the time we made Chacala for lunch but we had all had a great time. And hey, were cruisers -all we have is time. So April, what else do you have for us in the state of Nayarit?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

1/2/2012 The Hunt for the Missing Flopper Stopper

Happy New Year from La Cruz de Haunacaxtle.

We are back in one of our favorite places in Mexico, the small town of La Cruz “the place with the cross at the Huanacaxtle tree.” It sits in the well protected NW corner of Banderas Bay, NW of the city of Puerta Vallarta. La Cruz has all the charm and feeling of small town Mexico, has a busy and popular town square just off the marina entrance, is close to everything, has great restaurants, easy bus routes and is extremely cruiser friendly. There is a good (free) anchorage along with the very popular Riviera Nayarit Marina de La Cruz. The marina hosts cruising seminars, a kids club, movie night in the amphitheater, potlucks, bonfires, happy hours, offers propane pick up days, cooking classes, morning yoga, Wi-Fi, a fuel dock, showers and bathrooms and even concierge services. The town stole our hearts last year and we couldn’t wait to come back again for the Holidays.

The anchorage can be a little rolly and uncomfortable at times so our second day out we deployed our trusty Flopper Stopper. A Flopper Stopper helps keep the boat from rolling. Basically it is a heavy metal rectangular frame about 24”x 36” with a piece of plastic in the middle that has been cut with a big X that hangs off the side of your boat. You pole out your boom or a spinnaker pole far off to one side with a line that trails the Stopper down six to ten feet below the surface. When the boat rolls in the waves the pole tips the Flopper Stopper deeper into the water and then the split plastic baffle creates drag on the counter roll that keeps the whole roll on a smaller arc. It stores flat and out of the way but it along with the fact that we weigh in at 32,000 pounds can make the difference between a comfortable anchorage and ka-chinging around like a pinball.

Three days ago as we motored back through the anchorage we could see that though our pole no longer had a line attached to our Stopper. On closer inspection we could see that the yellow nylon line we had suspended from the pole end was frayed and flapping empty in the wind! After the fact it was impossible to tell if our line had simply split from chafe or if it had been cut by someone coming too close to the boat. The second option would seem impossible except for the fact that the locals routinely fly through anchorages alarmingly close to anchored boats. If the line had chafed it should be simple to retrieve –all we need do was look for the floating tail of yellow line that should be floating a 25foot stream up from our Flopper on the sea floor. If the line has been snagged it could be just about anywhere by now. We ran a slow circuit around our boat in the dinghy hoping to glimpse the telltale yellow line a few feet below the surface but gave up in the waning light and bumpy seas.

Early the next morning we grabbed our snorkel gear while the tide was at its daily low and the current was at slack. The plan was to swim a grid in a circle around Island Bound to try and find the wayward line. Chris from Espiritu came over to offer topside support but the cold, murky water gave us no help at all. Eventually we decided to don our dive gear then use a line to swim increasingly larger circles along the bottom. We would dive with the line and then literally draw a 100 foot line off the point where the anchor chain touched the bottom. This would create a 200 foot circle ringing out from the point where our anchor sat. We hoped this technique would help us search all the possible ground the boat had been covering when the Flopper dropped and save us a load of time and trouble. By the time we assembled and safety checked all our dive gear the tide had begun to run and the current was strong. The visibility at the bottom proved to be much clearer than we had expected but the current was running so strong that it was impossible to make any headway on our grid so Bill called no joy. Off came all the dive gear and everything had to be rinsed and set out to dry to wait for the mornings calm and slack.

News Years Day broke with blue skies and calm water. It took us far less time to suit up and slide in and the slack made things much easier and down we went. After even just the one dive under our belts our buoyancy control had improved and we descended the 30feet down quickly and nearly effortlessly.
Sheesh, once again we were thwarted. The visibility now was so poor we had to be touching bottom with fingertips before we could see clear to anything along the sea floor. Once again we ascended, with such poor visibility we would have literally had to crawl along the bottom inch by inch to cover our 200 foot circle. Frustrated at the lack of any progress we were about to call it quits when Bill said he was going to try to snorkel and dive to look for the line. Off came the dive gear and down we dove with snorkel gear. Bill, Chris and I off at all points of the compass. No plan or discussion just one last attempt at a needle in a 200ft haystack.

By this time my ears were tender and my nose was clogged with salt water but I began to dive. Once, down, kick, kick, nothing and surface. I looked around to place the guys as they surfaced and dove. Twice more I dove thinking “this is not going to work it is just a waste of time and trouble all for a $30 piece of metal and plastic,” down, kick, kick, nothing and surface. OK, “I am going to make one more dive and then swim back to the dink and climb out.” Down, kick, kick……Yahoo…there it is - the yellow line only about ten feet below the surface and trailing off into the depth just 20 feet SE of the boat! I swam to the surface grinning like an idiot and whooping out a hurrah. A moment or two later I had caught Bill and Chris’s attention as tried to stay treading over the line. Within just a few minutes Bill had successfully dove to grab the frayed end and he and Chris drug it back to the boat and tied it off to the side of the dinghy!

It all seemed like a lot of work for a $30 piece of equipment but it would have been difficult if not impossible to replace it in Mexico before we leave for the South Pacific and even if we could buy one the size and especially the weight would have made it impossible to ship or even to hand carry it in our luggage when we made our upcoming trip back to Seattle in January. My success made it almost possible to forget how soundly I was trounced last night playing Farkle.


12/23/2011 Back to Banderas Bay

It is December 23rd and we are just short of a left turn into Banderas Bay. We’ve been motor sailing the last few hours under blue sky hazed with wispy white clouds with a healthy roll nicely pushing us along. Despite a forecast for 40+mph winds we managed to stay ahead of the winds that will soon be rolling twelve foot waves down from the Sea of Cortez. I am already picking up bits of chatter on the local crusiers channel and we should be settling into the anchorage at La Cruz within the hour.

Our three weeks in Mazatlan was night and day different from lasts year. Amazing how much difference a year makes. This time last year everything was new and well, foreign. Learning the bus routes and fumbling for correct peso coins, twisting our tongues around a new language and simply making a purchase were all a part of making our way around Mexico. Last year we were overwhelmed at times by feeling apart from everything and mostly sat quietly by as the stream of returning cruisers filed into Mazatlan. All around us folks seemed to be meeting old friends and heading off to dinner or gathering in small groups in cockpits up and down the docks. No one was unfriendly they just all seemed preoccupied. This year when we arrived in the Mazatlan channel there were friendly waves from the docks, shouts of hellos, calls on the VHF to welcome us and even a heads up warning on the channel dredge. Then when we pulled into our Mazatlan slip we had piles of hellos, hands taking our lines and hugs all around.

Incredibly and completely unknown to us our friends on Espiritu who we had hoped to meet up with in La Paz were making their own passage from the Baja peninsula to the mainland. They heard the radio calls and were barely an hour behind us! Then their arrival was our turn to warn about the harbor entrance buoy and the mid channel dredge before being there to take a line and give out hugs.

As a Mazatlan bonus our planned haul out was made much more bearable by our Seattle friend Sheri from M/v Mi Casa. She owns a condo at the marina and had graciously offered us her spare room. It gave us the time to take a trip with her to the Juarez market, share several meals and gave a heaven that allowed us to dodge most of the usual boatyard toxins.

The yard work we managed to complete helped jump start or to-do list for our upcoming Pacific crossing. This was our third time to try a fix on our rudder tube leak. The first time out of the water for a fix was during our original passage down the US coast more than 12 months ago. That first attempt didn’t fix things at all so we hauled again in Mazatlan this last April with some improvement but soon the leak was back in force.

It is incredibly expensive to pull the boat out of the water for work. Each trip involves hundreds of dollars just for the trip out of the water, up on blocks and back in the water. They price it out according to how big you are and how much you weigh. The lift and splash in California was over $700 and Mazatlan cost us $400+ twice. So when on our last crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan our bilge pump was cycling on every five or six minutes . This time we were determined to get it right.

Water can only come from a couple of sources and since none of our water tanks was leaking it meant only one thing: salt water! We were in no danger, our pump worked diligently and we have a backup manual pump and a high speed pump at the ready but the sound of that pump cycling on and off made for poor sleep during our off watch hours: your mind just can’t help but register, catalog and respond to the sounds around it. Your mind soon learns to set most noises aside but a cycling pump seems to click into a very primitive part of your brain, a sort of oh $*&% sound.
The boatyard haul out went smoothly enough. We had the hull stripped down to fiberglass and then covered with three good coats of Comex -Mexico’s miracle bottom paint, the rudder work was complete (keep your fingers crossed!) and I had managed a considerable start in my spring cleaning.

I had decided it was the perfect opportunity to begin the preparations for our upcoming Pacific crossing. So when I wasn’t working with Bill on projects I spent my time house cleaning. Virtually every locker aboard was emptied, cleaned and repacked in process that gave me free, open space. In all I managed to free up three and a half empty cupboards and a shelf and a half of shelf space in the main saloon along with a large locker in the galley and an even larger locker under our settee. Next up will be sorting through piles of hardware, spare parts and bits and pieces of boat projects to come. We are going to need every inch of space I can find when it is finally time to provision for our next big jump.

Once the repacking was done it was time to try and get things in order for our crossing to La Cruz. I always try to take off on a passage with a clean boat. That means clean laundry, clean sheets, everything loose stowed and the fridge stocked with passage foods. I also washed most of my upholstery, the bedding, the lovely Mexican blankets I use to “save” our cushions, scrubbed floors, cleaned toilets and washed counters all while high in the air on blocks and without the use of freely running water. When we are out of the water you can’t just pour things down the drain. If you forget and use the sinks the water pours out of your thru holes and over $1600 worth of still wet bottom paint and ~ick~ over the heads of the crew working on your boat.

Typically I wait until we are off the hard then spend about two days getting everything clean and settled again. This trip out we were severely delayed which closed the gap we had left ourselves for making our passage to La Cruz. By the time we had a concrete splash date we were going to need to literally splash and dash. So it was my job to figure out a way to get the job done without the use of running water and a day or more on the outside with my trusty hose.
The yard promised they would have a crew power wash us early on the morning of our launch. It wouldn't be as thorough a job as mine but I could live with that. The rest I did with many trips up and down and back and forth on the ladder. The actual cleaning was by sauce pan and rag with the dirty water being tossed into an empty lot off the bow of the boat.

I also needed to coordinate cleaning the condo. Sheri had graciously allowed us to stay on after she flew home but that meant I owed her a clean condo and needed to follow her check list for closing things down. OK, getting moved out of the condo and onto the boat while getting both clean would take some brain power and a few tricks to organize but it was do-able. When a notice appeared in the elevator saying the condo water would be turned off at 9am the day of my planned assault I cringed.

Sheesh, OK more water issues. Wide awake at the condo at 630, kick Bill out so I can clean, clock is ticking; scrub the bathrooms while the water is running, fill the sinks and buckets with water in case they shut it off early. Clean a section, mop the floor, make the bed, mop some more, clean the kitchen, mop, shut off water and spray for bugs. I finally locked the door at 1030 with bits of wet water lines still railed on the tile floors. Back at the boat I scrambled to stow things while we waited for the lift driver to arrive. Once the lift driver arrives we splash and go. Bing, bang, boom. No waiting around or time to put anything else in order.

Now nearly 200 miles south and I can see the point at Punta Mita ahead of me and the islands of Tres Marietta’s sitting low at the mouth of Banderas Bay. The high smoke grey mountains circling the bay rise in the background welcoming us to our favorite place. The passage went smoothly and again it hits me hard how much things have changed. A two day crossing no longer wipes me out. As we motored into the bay I still have enough left in me to pull out my Christmas decoration and add some festivity to our main cabin. Then with the water smooth and glassy I grab my recipe box and start working on the potluck dishes we will need to a couple of upcoming parties. If I start pies now.......?

Merry Christmas. Kat

10/24-2011 Baja Road Trip

A Quick Trip Back to the States

Most people might think that Bill and I are seasoned travelers who move about hither and yon packed light and ready to explore. Well, we are, sort of. But after just completing a trip north to California I was reminded of one of the reasons why I was drawn to this sailing life to begin with: I don’t have to pack. We have become so spoiled, wherever we go there we are, our home following along with us ready for whatever comes next. Sometimes at night when I am sitting all cozy below in the saloon an odd feeling rolls over me: we could just as easily be tied to the dock back home in Seattle as to be bobbing at anchor thousands of miles away.
From my vantage below my world is the same. I sit with Bill reading quietly into the night, my fridge is full of fresh nutritious food and the sheets on our big bed are clean and crisp. Everything we own is already here. I don’t need to worry about whether or not I packed my toothbrush or brought along the right charger for my camera. It doesn’t even matter if it is 90 degrees out or blowing a chilling cold all I need is to reach into the right locker to find flip flops or wool sweaters.

Life transpires even in Mexico and we learned we needed to make a quick trip back to the states. Hurricane season is still in full swing so this would have to be a pretty quick in and out. I packed for both of us, everything we needed in one bag and off we went across the Baja dessert. Friends in Santa Rosalia wanted their SUV back home in California so we had the luxury of a borrowed car for the trip up. Getting north to Santa Anna was pretty simple: sixteen hours of dessert, one coyote, 100’s of road side shrines and about a million cacti. We weren’t at all worried about traveling Baja. We knew we had the correct paperwork for the car, our passports were up to date, we had our TIP(Temporary Import Permit) with us in case we brought anything back with us and our visas were clear. What we weren’t sure about was how we were going to make it back to Island Bound since we had been unable to find a bus schedule for our return trip anywhere. We decided it couldn’t be that hard so armed with a head full of suggestions from other cruisers based on their own trips and a mindset of being flexible off we went.

The hundreds of miles unfolded as Bill did his best to avoid the potholes, the cattle, the unbanked corners and the many steep cliffs sans guard rails. In places we could see down the ravines into the twisted metal of the wrecked cars still scattered over the rocks below. We were glad to have had the cruiser advice to get gas in certain towns or risk running out between stations because there was in fact a long stretch where there were lots of little towns but no gas. Who would have thought looking at the map that all those towns wouldn’t have gas station?

Having lived my whole life in Seattle I often forget that in other countries moving about from place to place isn't always so simple. One look at the half dozen 18 year olds with automatic weapons at any of the many check points reminds you of that pretty fast. Every so often you are required to stop for a military peek-a-boo. They sometimes just flag you through but more often they have you stop for a question or two and a vehicle inspection. The inspections seemed cursory at best: they never asked for papers of any kind and at least with us they were not really looking at anything or into anything. About half the time they had us open our tailgate and one fellow seemed to chuckle over our two folding bikes but mostly they looked like they were just going through the drill.

There is a job to do here -and the local papers are filled with the murder news of the many still dying in the drug wars every year- but it’s clear we are not their target. They simply serve as gatekeepers of the roads: a low tech response to the ongoing war on drugs. Evidently the US Border patrol isn’t looking for tired worn out 50 something smugglers either because we barely rated a look. Getting into the US felt like a formality though I know they take their jobs very seriously. We arrived at the border at 10:30 on a Saturday night and had to wait in a slowly inching line for over two hours.

The most interesting part of the crossing was definitely the living, moving open-all-night market held in the staging lanes of the border. The ever industrious Mexicans run a market of immense size right there amongst the lanes of inching cars. Even in the middle of the night you can buy tacos, sodas, chips, candy, coffee, fruit cups, ice cream, empanadas, flan, blankets, velvet last supper paintings, huge carved Jesus’ nailed to wooden crosses, Chiclets, hair clips and headbands, magazines, baseball caps, sombreros, serapes, Miss Kitty dolls and teeny tiny puppies.

They cater to the always moving throng right down to the billboard with a number to call for duty free alcohol delivered right to your car. Oh and if you had a driver and a runner one of you could jump out of your car step just out of the lanes to any number of pharmacies for a prescription-less prescription of Viagra, Oxycontin or Rogain. Commerce at its best! We saved our pesos and scanned the internet for a hotel room. Finally at 1:30am sixteen hours after we left Santa Rosalia we pulled into a parking spot at the Comfort Inn San Diego. Whew!

The rest of the trip was pretty straight forward. A trip to West Marine in San Diego, a stop to pick up some friends mail, a rental at the Santa Anna airport, drop off the borrowed car and a quick visit with fellow cruising friends set to leave this season . Time flew by and we still had a three hour drive north to Santa Barbara where the kids live. It was nearly midnight when we made it to their place and luckily they’re young and resilient so were still up to welcome us in. I was pretty much at just the nodding and hugging state by then but after several more hours of visiting I finally found my head on a pillow at about 200am. After so many months of up with the sun down with the dark two night of travel and I was definitely out of steam.

We had a nice visit with the kids but with such short notice it’s a marvel they were able to spend any time with us at all. Josh is nearing the end of his PHD work at UCSB so his days are very full and it just happened that our last minute visit fell during a week he was obligated to help teach a diving class. Dianna had her work during the days but shared her free time with us and she and I even worked our way through a neighborhood pumpkin patch corn maze. Bill opted out but stood by heroically waiting to rescue us if we couldn’t find out. Still even with the busy schedules we found time for a some nice meals and lots of late night and early morning visiting before we had to say good bye.

The trip home was a slow slog. We dropped off the rental car at the San Diego airport and caught a ride to the Greyhound station with one of the Hertz guys. An hours’ wait landed us on the bus to Tijuana with a quick cattle call border crossing: off the bus, grab the bags, stand in line and then a red light/green light push of the button tells your future. Either you get a green and you pass right on through or hit a red and bags are searched, papers checked and rechecked, receipt a must and tariff due. We both hit the green and climbed back on the bus to Tijuana.
The bus station at Tijuana (by the way Tijuana is pronounced “tea wanna” not “tea a juan a”) was bustling and with a bit of help we managed to buy our tickets to Santa Rosalia. Again our wait wasn’t long and soon armed with sandwiches and bottled water we stepped –along with three drivers- onto the 4:00pm ABC bus. Soon we were stretched out in the front seat settled in for the 16 hour ride.

The inter town buses in Mexico are really quite nice. They have everything you could need: big seats that recline, curtains, air conditioning, a bathroom, evening showings of Spanish language movies, and short layovers at bus stations where you can stretch your legs. At dinner time our bus driver jumped out and was first in line at a roadside taco stand. By then there was only one drive in sight and we figured the other two had gotten off at one the many stops along our way. Then Bill was astonished when at 3:00am as he stood next to the bus stretching his legs the original driver stepped off the bus, opened the luggage compartment and switched places with another driver! Viva Mexico!

We finally arrived in Santa Rosalia a little before 8:00am. Tired and a bit stiff from curling up like pretzels in our seats and frozen to the bone by the continuous air conditioning we were finally dropped off a mere block form the marina. It was good to be home and great to see Island Bound bobbing serenely in her slip.


9/9/2011 The Generosity of our Fellow Sailors

I have never met a more generous bunch of people in my life than our fellow boaters. I first experienced it when we moved aboard at Shilshole Bay Marina. A big group of live a-boards moved onto the newly rebuilt F dock one spring morning and it instantly felt like a real neighborhood to me. That neighborly feeling continued to grow around us all for the remainder of the four years we lived there. They happily gave both their time and expertise whenever it was needed. I was surprised the first time I walked into the ladies room and saw the giveaway books on the little wooden bookshelf and the counter that held gently used clothing for the taking. Then I started using the marina laundry and found a treasure trove of free stuff. Walking in you would see the big shelf over the machines full of a jumble of goods: boat parts and clothing, DVD’s, Christmas decorations, household items and books, books, books all for the taking My great finds have including a brand new sun shower, a very pretty sun dress, several pair of jeans, a sleeping bag, pillows, pots and pans and Tupperware, Christmas lights and piles of books, movies and music. Since then I have joined in the same practice in nearly every marina I have encountered.

Next to be discovered was the treasure trove at the dumpsters. If your timing is right you can find items worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Amazingly when the spring racing season ramps up it is not unusual to find piles of nearly new standing and running rigging that has been stripped off the big money boats to be replaced with new. It may be only a seasons old yet it is left at the dumpster! I don’t even want to think about the dollar amount represented in the piles of goodies we left on the ground next to the Shilshole F&G Dock dumpsters when we left Seattle to cruise. Even after giving away all we could to family and friends and taking loads of boat parts and pieces to the local second hand consignment store we still had mounds of stuff we left at the dumpsters. There were two fellows who lived on our docks who had become something of legend in their competition for the best finds. Some busy spring days you could watch them both running to a recently filled dumpster trying to stake their claim. It was a friendly rivalry that everyone joked about but you better believe -competition to the bone.

Now that we are cruising fulltime I am taken a-back again at the generosity surrounding me. It comes out in force of course with any kind of emergency: people offering up their experience along with their stored spares and supplies to help another boats distress. Luckily the emergencies are few but the sharing continues. The newest trend in sharing is I think a result of a cross between generosity, new technology and a wide spread interest in books and other forms of portable entertainment: downloaded electronic versions of books, movies, music, language programs, cruising guides and charts in electronic form. Now I realize we could simply be seen as the world’s biggest bootleggers and maybe I am rationalizing things in order to excuse the blatant abuse of copyright laws but frankly nothing I do or don’t do will stop the flow occurring all over the world and cruisers are a drop in the bucket compared to the pirating done in countries like Mexico and China. Here in Mexico first run movies that are just opening in US theaters are available on CD or over the internet within days.

Unknowingly we got a head start in things right before we left home though we thought we had simply received a very generous gift. We were at a party and a guy we hardly knew, a friend of friend, found out we were going off to sail the seas and offered us a bunch of music. We gave him an empty hard drive and he gave us back ¾ of a terabyte of recorded music: roughly enough music to listen to it 24/7 for an entire year! We thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Unknowingly we now had goods for trading.

Then in our first few months in Mexico we watched as a few boats sold electronic movie to help finance their cruising. Then a friend casually asked us if we had a Kindle saying if we did he had a thumb drive he would share with us that held almost 2000 books. We gratefully accepted his offer which we then passed on to other boaters who would appreciate them. All of this is facilitated by the new ridiculously small but tremendously capacious external hard drives available today. They are able to store literally thousands upon thousands of movies and audio books, TV series DVD’s and electronic books, they are larger and less expensive every year and they are readily available at Wal-Mart in Mexico. All you need is a friend, an ability to press a few buttons on your computer and enough free time to let the drives copy themselves over.

We left home with one Kindle with an array of free, legal out of copyright books and now have brought a second Kindle into the family and have more than fifteen thousand books, (when I wrote the first draft of this blog post we had two thousand books) nearly a hundred audio books and thousands of movies in our library.

Surprisingly until we left to cruise we had never even watched a movie aboard our boat. We gave up TV when we sold our home in 2007 and never put one aboard. So it is a big change now for us to have three hard drives full of blockbuster movies to fill our nights. We still both read voraciously but the movies are big hits with cruisers and we were swept up in the fad. We have yet to watch more than a handful or two of movies aboard though so only time will show if we become movie buffs in the South Pacific.

The books on the other hand we already treasure. Imagine preparing to set off in a small boat knowing your will be spending weeks and months at a time away from entertainment civilization and having a 15,000 book library and thousands of movies at your fingertips. Books are so prized by most cruisers that when we passed our library on to one friend who was preparing for her own two year cruise she was so overwhelmed that it brought tears to her eyes. Consider too another great friend who spends hours and days at a time downloading available libraries from the internet -and who has passed them on free of charge to us. We now pass on what we have too and the music we left home with is as we speak circling around the globe. Thanks Randy!

Happy reading. Kat.