It’s a Salty, Salty Life

It’s interesting how much salt plays a role in your life when you live on the ocean. As we were running the watermaker today, I was once again amazed by the fact that we have our own little desalination plant aboard our 41 foot boat! It does such a good job that you would never have imagined it was salty seawater just a few minutes earlier.

I was also reminded of salt today as I was doing laundry. How do you do laundry on a boat? Well, before we left I bought an inexpensive hand washing machine. It isn’t really a machine. It is a plastic container with a lid and handle that sits on a plastic frame. You add the laundry, water and detergent, close the lid and start cranking on the handle. It spins the plastic container around so hopefully the water and detergent get thoroughly through the clothes. It definitely does not clean them as well as a commercial washer, but it is a bit like hand washing clothes. After spinning for a couple of minutes, you insert the drain and release the soapy water. Then you add fresh water and crank again to rinse. I rigged up some clothes lines on the boat, ringed out each piece of clothing over the side and hung to dry with clothes pins.

Why did the laundry remind me of salt? It was so hot that I had salty sweat literally running into my eyes as I was doing the laundry. I’m not sure if it was the sweat or the sunscreen, but it stung! Because we are living in hot conditions and sweating all the time, it’s necessary to stay hydrated. Water just doesn’t cut it. We left California with some large containers of powdered electrolyte drink, but we went through those pretty quickly. We searched for something similar in San Jose and La Paz, but the only thing they had were premade electrolyte drinks that were sickly sweet. We decided to order some more powdered electrolyte drink while we were in La Paz, but they never made it. It looks like they got held up in customs. We were told that you never know what Mexican customs will deem as prohibited and simply confiscate. Oh well.

So, in place of our electrolyte drink, we have salt caps. I discovered these a few years ago when I was doing long bike trips on my road bike, and my fellow triathletes turned me on to them. They are essentially electrolytes in a capsule. We brought some with us and picked up some more bottles when we briefly stopped over in San Diego to renew our visas. So, we lose a lot of salt and then have to replenish it.

But, salt really plays a role in our lives because it gets on everything! We spend a good deal of time in the water, so we are often covered with salt. And then there is the boat, and everything on it. Covered in salt. All the time. Because we are always trying to use our fresh water sparingly (the watermaker takes fuel and we don’t always have a gas station nearby) we don’t get to wash the boat down every day. We just have to learn to live with salt. Yesterday was a prime example of salt getting everywhere on everything

But, before I tell you about the events of yesterday, let me back up a few days. We left Puerto Escondido and headed to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen. This is a popular anchorages with cruising boats, according to our guide book, but we have had this anchorage to ourselves for the past few days. We’ve noticed as the summer has gone on that we have seen fewer cruising boats. A lot of people cruising the Sea of Cortez put their boats up for the summer (or at least August and September – the hottest months) to fly back to the States or Canada. We are some of the few brave souls cruising in the heat of the summer.

Our first day here we dropped the dinghy in the water and grabbed our snorkel gear to check out the point at the entrance of the anchorage. There were fish everywhere! And, in just a few short weeks the water has gotten a lot warmer. We saw schools of Golden Jacks, Triggerfish, Leopard Groupers, Parrotfish, Angelfish, and lots of other fish that I couldn’t easily identify. We also saw a couple of Moray Eels! Mike decided to work on his free diving and got us a delicious appetizer of some rock scallops.

Mike cleaning the scallops…

We decided to get back in the dinghy and see if we could find another good snorkel spot and hit the jackpot. Just a few coves down the island we noticed some rocks coming out of the water a little way out from the shore. As we got closer, we could see rocks everywhere below us and noticed that there was a huge crevasse that ran between the rocks. We anchored the dinghy and jumped in with our gear. Absolutely fish city! We were able to swim through the crevasse and around the large rock formation in the middle to make a loop around back to the dinghy, which probably took us an hour or so. The best thing about it was that the visibility was incredible. It was the best we have seen yet this summer.

The next day we decided to break out the dive gear and go dive the second spot we had snorkeled the day before. Although we had a great time and saw tons of fish, unfortunately the visibility was nothing like it had been the day before. I guess you just never know But, getting the dive gear out forced us to finally figure out how to work the dive compressor that we purchased before we left. The directions left something to be desired, but we were able to fill up our four tanks and are ready to go for the next dive.

Our next day in Puerto Ballandra we decided to try our hand at fishing (again!). If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that we have not had a ton of luck in the fishing department this summer. Other than one large snapper, all we seem to catch are those darn triggerfish! We know that the locals eat the triggerfish, but the fillets you get off them just aren’t all that big. They are a roundish fish with a large head, so there isn’t a lot of meat on the body. They are likely only 2-3 lbs.

We had caught so many triggerfish in the past (and thrown them back) that Mike changed the lures to make it more difficult to catch a fish the size of the triggerfish and would hopefully lead to some bigger fish. We were out fishing around a small island called Isla Cholla and saw a lot of other local pangas out of Loreto fishing. One boat came near us and we asked where all the fish were. The guys made a piggy noise and pointed saying over there (in Spanish). The Spanish word for triggerfish is Cochito, which means little pig. Funny. I guess they are piggish, because they seem to go for anything. Even with our bigger hooks, we starting reeling in triggerfish. This time we decided to try and cook them. We kept three of them which fed us for two dinners.

If you are interested in how I cooked the triggerfish, here is my recipe Put the fish fillet (skin side down) on foil in a baking dish. Sprinkle salt, pepper, lemon juice, cumin and fresh cilantro on top. Seal up the foil and bake at 350 (about 10 minutes). I think this would be good on any white, flaky fish. It reminded me a bit of tilapia.

So, on to yesterday We are nine miles from Loreto across the channel. It had been about 2 weeks or so since we had been to a grocery store, and we were pretty much out of fresh fruits and vegetables. We could live for quite a while on frozen and canned foods, but the fresh stuff is always desirable. If you’ve spent any time with Mike, you’d know that he would eat five pieces of fruit a day if he could (especially mangos)! So, we wanted to head over to Loreto to pick up some groceries.

Our 15 hp outboard on our dinghy can actually take us a lot faster than taking the big boat. However, it is only a 10 foot dinghy! We thought that there was a pretty predictable wind forecast of calm in the morning before any afternoon winds pick up (which has been the case every day). In our little dinghy, you want calm water, not rough waves to plow through.

At 6:00 a.m. yesterday the sun was not yet up, but the wind was blowing. We had breakfast and waited for the wind to die down. The wind did calm down, but there was still some wave action going on. We though that as the wind continued to still, the water would calm down as well. Ha! Best laid plans and all. We got in the dinghy and headed out of the anchorage. We hadn’t gotten very far when I realized (and I’m sure Mike did too) that this was the wrong day to be doing this. Mike was doing his best to get us through the waves, but over every wave we came crashing down jolting me off my seat. And, through every wave came the salt water crashing over the dinghy. I was sitting in front of Mike and was completely soaked an hour later when we arrived in Loreto (covered in salt, again.)

When we arrived in Loreto, the same kids were at the dock as last time waiting to help us with our boat and bags (for tips of course). Mike remembered the biggest kid (who was maybe 14 or 15) whose name was Miguel, and he was surprised Mike remembered his name! We trudged out of the dinghy with all of our bags and headed to the grocery store. But first, we had to make a trip to the tortilleria for fresh tortillas! We got 2 kilos of tortillas (corn and flour) for 26 pesos (about $1.50). Amazing. We then stocked all of our bags at the grocery store and found a taxi to take us back to our dinghy.

I was really hoping that the wind and waves would have calmed down while we were shopping. Ha! The ocean had other plans as we looked out and saw whitecaps everywhere. The sea was a complete mess of sloppy waves and wind in every which direction. What were we thinking?!? Oh well, nothing to do but brave the nine miles in the 10 ft dinghy through the waves. I’m so grateful Mike was at the tiller and not me. But, by the time we got back to Adagio, I was soaked through every layer of clothes, as were all of our grocery bags. Salt, again

So, as fun a time as we are having, there are definitely challenges. Learning to live with salt is just one of them.

Sunset looking out over the channel toward Loreto on a calm evening…

We’re plotting out our next few stops. Unless plans change (which they might) we are headed to El Refugio (known as V-Cove) on the northern tip of Isla Carmen tomorrow.

~katie

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