Friday, January 4, 2013

Advise (or philosophical ponderings) on preparing for your crossing

It’s that time of year again, where boats from all over Mexico, California and Panama are thinking of doing the Pacific crossing.  I’m part of a group on facebook where we women can chit chat about all of our questions, worries, and experiences and I’ve been seeing a lot of questions pertaining to provisioning lately.  It’s made me stop and think about what I’ve learned over the years, not only about provisioning but cruising as well.  I’m much more comfortable than I was when we left Mexico, yet and I can hear myself asking these same questions just a few years ago.  I’m going to try desperately not to repeat what I said last year, but in an effort to help out with those still reading, I thought I would post some of my own findings over the last few years.  Remember, I’m not a writer and I tend to stray from my original thoughts…hopefully you can stick it out to the end.

There are people who live to eat and there are people who eat to live.  Those of the latter, will do fine with stocking up on whatever you need for a few weeks and then take the over used advice of “everyone everywhere has to eat…there’s always something to eat.”  Ramen noodles are cheap all over the world and surprisingly popular in the south and west pacific.

Then there are those of you who live to eat.  These are my peeps.  While it is true that everyone eats, what they eat varies greatly from what you’re probably used to eating.  You will find some dishes that are absolutely fabulous (poison crue comes to mind for me) and then you will find some stuff that you’d rather not try again (pig knuckles anyone?).  Aside from the what, is the how much.  Mexico (and from what I hear, Ecuador), is the cheapest food you will find until you reach southeast Asia.  I went on a rant about this earlier in Pohnpei so I won’t repeat the whole thing, but if you know what you like to eat and they have it in Mexico, stock up.  Particularly in meat, specialty items (roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, olive oil etc.), and booze.  Not because they don’t have them where you’re going, but because they will be twice as much, if not three times as much (I just paid $13 for a small bottle of olive oil in Micronesia).  And once you leave French Polynesia, in most cases, it gets more expensive.   Not to deter you from going, oh my, no….it’s totally worth it….just plan ahead if you like to eat.  There are places along the way where you can stock up again…Tahiti (you just spent weeks crossing the pacific and cruising the Tuamotos, you’ve saved up), American Samoa (best place we’ve been for provisioning, other than Mexico), and the list goes on….just be honest with yourself about what you can live with both food wise and budget wise.  That meat place in Buceria sounds expensive now, but it’s a bargain once you’ve crossed the ocean.  After saying all that, stock up on recipes for bananas, coconuts, fish and breadfruit.

One thing I’ve looked back on and realized about myself as well as looking at some of the newbie questions, is that if you’re new to cruising, you tend to ask questions about and try to figure out how to recreate your life on land, on the boat.  I’m not sure that there’s anyway to avoid this as experience is the only way some of us learn, but my advice would be to just be open minded.  You won’t have as many friends as you do at home (or in Mexico).  But look at it as an opportunity to explore new interests or get closer to your loved ones on the boat (did you think that was possible?).  If you’re used to shaving your legs every day, blow drying your hair and smelling good…well, get over it (or have a powerful watermaker, generator and lots of bug spray on board). 
If you have soft skin, toughen up.  I found that once we crossed, we met more foreigners than not and well, not everyone has the US filter distributed to us at birth (yes, believe it or not, I have one).   They say what they mean and it’s refreshing.  Don’t get offended, just listen.  You’ll find yourself looking at things you thought you had a handle on in totally different ways.  I got fired up in Mexico more than once.  I can remember a conversation in Suarrow that I wasn’t sure either of us was going to get over.  But now, years later…I get it.  I don’t agree with a lot of it, but I can appreciate a different opinion.  You’ll be amazed at how many experts there are out there about your country’s culture, politics and how you should change (I know this to be true for the US, but I’ve seen it happen to everyone).  Just smile and nod.

I asked Andy to contribute his two cents and he said “Spare no expense.”  If you’re not on a quest to rid your life of all of the nice-ities of home…movies, gadgets, generators are your friend.  They are expensive elsewhere.  Spare parts…hard to get, sometimes impossible.  Your dinghy is your car.  If you drive a Mercedes…you might want to get a good outboard motor.  If you don’t mind pushing your Pacer down the road to get it in gear, then rowing might be your thing (just remember, sometimes you’ll be rowing to shore against winds and waves…might want to have a tiny motor on hand or a good workout program).

OK, obviously, we’re not purists.  Never claimed to be.  But we think we’ve struck a nice balance between comfort and reality.  Reality being that everyone doesn’t get to live the way we do in the US.  We’ve earned our lifestyle and worked hard for it, but I think it’s important that we stop and remember that it’s not a given.  There are people all over the world living a much humbler existence and they are no less worthy than us of a good life.  We’ve learned to put things into perspective.  Air condition is a luxury, as is a washing machine.  Living together every day, being in charge of my child’s upbringing, getting close to others…that’s why we’re out here.

So maybe this wasn’t an advise column after all…I got a little too philosophical.  But after reading my Facebook for the last week or so, I had a lot on my mind that I felt like sharing.  Hopefully, you can take a word or two and get some use out of it.  Overall, just know, that you’ll grow and it will more than likely be for the better.


Kyra and Rick said...

A friend sent us the link to your post, so glad he did! Great stuff! We're getting ready to cross from La Paz this spring, thanks for sharing!

The Crew of Savannah said...

Hopefully I didin't bore you with my will be great no matter how you prepare as long as you go with an open mind and willingness to meet'll be amazed. Good luck. May we share an anchorage some day!

Fair winds and following seas...

s/v Savannah

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