Saturday, April 16, 2011

Provisioning and Preparing for our Offshore Passage

On Sunday, April 10, we moved off the anchorage in La Cruz and returned to the marina at Paradise Village. We were sorry to leave La Cruz, but not unhappy about leaving the rolly/rocky anchorage.

A quiet afternoon anchorage at La Cruz!

This young cruiser took advantage of the strong winds to perform acrobatics!

We wanted to be closer to the city, and closer to shopping, but also because we had been told it is easier to clear out of Mexico from here. A bonus, of course, was the ability to enjoy this fabulous resort with its four swimming pools and Bengal tigers once more! Additionally, Paradise Village has purified water at the dock – a real bonus anytime in the cruising community, but even more so to those of us about to leave on a long passage. To know we have fresh tasting and healthy water aboard makes all the difference in the world.

Goodbye La Cruz

Sunday afternoon we went into a frenzy of boat cleaning. We even went so far as to pull out all the anchor chain, lay it out on the dock, wash it down and scrub out the locker. Yuck! By the end of the day we were almost crawling to the swimming pool for a refreshing swim and then over to the Yacht Club for a Jacuzzi. Unfortunately the heat had been turned off and we had to make do with chilly swirls instead. Oh well. The first real shower in a week was fantastic!

Soon as we could get around in the morning, we headed into Puerto Vallarta to visit with Gary and Susan who were living in a condo at the old harbor.

A beautiful, warm condo overlooking the Puerto Vallarta harbour

When they had come sailing with us a couple weeks ago we had decided to get together to visit and enjoy a night on the town.

Gary and Susan aboard Ka'sala

Additionally, they had offered to take us around to the shops in their van, so we could do our offshore provisioning. This time we were smart enough to catch a bus from the market at Paradise Village that said “directo” and within minutes we were whisked into town. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the bus would only drop us off a couple kilometers past our destination, so we endured a bit of a hot tramp back to the Puerto Vallarta marina.

Needless to say we had a wonderful time. Susan and I even did a little shopping.

Cruise ships in the haze of Puerto Vallarta

That evening we took a taxi to Barcelona – a Spanish tapas restaurant in the city – and consumed one of the best meals I have had in Mexico to date. The location is amazing – high up a hill and four flours up it had a commanding view of the harbor and the nightly sunsets.

Barcelona is on the top floor of the centre building

The view - the cathedral is in the centre - Nuevo Vallarta in the background across the bay

The service was beyond impeccable (and that isn’t easy to do in a tapas restaurant where there are multiple courses of tiny little dishes!). The food divine – from a fresh tasting potato salad “amuse bouche” to several seafood, meat and vegetable creations prepared imaginatively and served on beautiful dishes. We indulged in the Chef’s selection so we enjoyed each tapa as a surprise, sipping delicious sangria while we waited. It was truly a feast and very, very reasonable in price. All the while we were entertained by the sunset, the darkening light, twinkling city lights and, to top it all off, a fireworks display from in the harbor.

 If I had the chance, I’d go back in a heartbeat!

Next morning, after a fabulous breakfast prepared by Susan, we headed off to Costco and Walmart to do the promised provisioning. This operation wasn’t just about showing up at the store, moving a cart through the aisles, putting your money down and heading home. No. This day was the accumulation of an incredible amount of careful research and planning. Here’s the challenge: You are going on a 21 – 30 day passage across an ocean (no stops and no shops!) on a 34 foot sailboat with limited storage space. There are two of you and neither of you have ever been at sea this long. You don’t know what you will need, or be able, to prepare, want, or be able, to eat. You know, for sure, you can expect to be pitched around by rolly seas when you prepare meals. You have a flat bottomed wok, a 2 litre pot with a lid, a flat grill, a glass pie plate, two casserole dishes, a cookie sheet and a pizza pan. Your fridge has the capacity of a medium-sized Coleman cooler and you have no freezer. The only electrical appliance you have is a coffee grinder. The boat holds 500 litres of fresh water which you will need to conserve. No matter how healthy you eat, if you don’t have fresh water, it’s a moot point. What would you do? (I know, I know, but jumping ship just isn’t an option!)

Here’s what I did.

1. I read everything I could get my hands on about the subject. I’ve referred to some of these books (such as Lin Pardey, Hal Roth and Linda Dashew) in previous blog entries, but I have also scoured the net for sailing blogs and references to people who have prepared for longer passages.

2. I made lists of everything Doug and I like to eat for meals and snacks.

3. I made countless forays into grocery stores, tiendas, and mercados, as well as paying close attention to street vendors and weekly farmers’ markets. I looked for the things we like to eat and paid close attention to longevity and quality. (This has been a challenge as most produce down here is ready to eat when it goes to market – not everyone has refrigeration and many Mexicans shop daily. Also, many products we might easily acquire at home are specialty items here, so you forage to find where they are available – like Cheese Whiz)

4. I looked in my cookbooks. From cruising cooks guides to Company’s Coming Muffins and More, the internet, and the Joy of Cooking.

5. I talked to other local cruisers. Where did they shop? What did they make? What would they do in my position?

6. Based on the reading, the list of foods we eat, talking to other cruisers and what is available in Mexico, I then made more lists. These were entitled: “Dry”, “Canned”, “Bottled”, “Sundry” and “Fresh”. I wrote down all the things I would need to create meals and snacks from these ingredients.

7. I went shopping for the dried, canned, bottled and sundries first.

8. I organized all these items in a graduated format based on my available storage. Grab and go stuff like granola bars, nuts and dried fruit go near the companionway. Condiments are in the locker by the stove. Canned goods are under one of the settees and organized into sections: meat, fruit, vegetables and extra condiments. Dried things such as extra flour and tortillas go behind the settee. Supplies I will need on a day to day basis go in a locker close to the galley and the extras are circulated through that locker from the bilges and other nooks and crannies. Wine is in its own locker and beer and fruit juices are in the bilge.

9. Next I will shop for the fresh provisions, but I will wait until the day before we leave to ensure the freshest quality. This is a real challenge because the idea is to choose produce in graduated levels of ripeness that has had limited handling so it will last as long as possible. Where do you get this kind of food when you are not familiar with the local markets? You must choose produce that you like and has some kind of longevity. You have to think about how you will store it when all you have a small fridge. Don’t forget. The boat will be pitching and rolling for most of the passage, so in order to avoid bruising and rotting you need to find aerated places that are dry and can accommodate motion. This is why we see nets hanging from the ceilings of sailboats – I have them now too. That’s also why I have plastic egg cartons. (If eggs haven’t been refrigerated they will last at least a month). Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, jicama and cabbage will last the whole journey. Other vegetables, such as peppers, avocados and tomatoes, can be stretched along if bought in graduated stages of ripeness. Fruits such as apples, oranges and limes will keep a long time if not bruised. Lettuce and celery are best refrigerated. Cheese, milk, yoghurt and cold meat must be kept in the fridge.
Two loads on the dock

Organizing dry provisions - note the net bag for fresh produce at the top

Thank you, Susan and Gary, for making our life a whole lot easier!

Fresh provisions added at the last moment.  These plastic bins were given to us by the local Soriana and worked wonderfully in the forepeak.

Once this trip is over, I will know better what worked and what didn’t. I have to believe Lin Pardey when she says the more you do, the easier it gets.

Other preparations have included cleaning, polishing and checking our Monitor Wind Vane and AutoHelm. We will rely heavily on these self-steering devices.

Checking the Monitor

We will use the Monitor when we are sailing (which will hopefully be most of the trip) as it doesn’t use any electricity. It’s worked very well for us so far and offshore cruisers who have them, swear by them. Our Autohelm runs on electricity and we use it when we are motoring.

Doug has checked and rigged our storm sail to the mast. Our mast has a secondary track which allows this sail to be at the ready without having to remove the mainsail. We had no need for this sail on our way to Mexico and hope we won’t need it on the passage to Hawaii as well.

Storm sail bagged and attached to the mast

 Doug has upgraded the prevention lines for the main, by adding another boom vale closer to the centre and shackles at the bottom of the forward lower shroud chainplate. This improvement should improve the stress on the boom and eliminate chafing.

Doug has also rigged the Jordan Series Drogue. It is attached with a bridle to the transom of the boat and the drogue, itself, is folded carefully in a canvas bag stretched across the aft seat of the cockpit.

 The drogue was made for us in Campbell River and is quite different from a traditional sea anchor. Like any sea anchor, it is designed to be deployed in heavy seas to slow the boat down to the point that the waves pass under the boat, which stops the boat running up and down the waves. However, the Jordan Drogue is a series of little parachutes that run out a heavy line, as opposed to one big chute at the end of a line.

The idea is the series drogue will diversify the force created by the boat as it moves down the wave, as opposed to a giant tug when it reaches the end of the tether.

We met an interesting couple in San Diego who claimed they had used their Jordan Drogues on many occasions to their great satisfaction. (What made the couple interesting was that they were married and sailed around the world together, but on different boats – yes – different boats!) Silas Crosby has employed theirs, with great success, on their South Sea passage between Easter Island and Valdivia. Like the storm sail, we hope we don’t find ourselves in conditions where we will need to use it.

Drogue bridle attachment on port side - the hose cover is to help prevent chafe

We do not have an encapsulated lifeboat. Instead, we have adapted our dinghy for abandon ship. It will be lashed upside down to the foredeck and lashed inside and underneath will be a ditch bag containing the survival gear we will need if we end up (God forbid) having to leave Ka’sala. In fact, the only way we would do this is if she were sinking. There are many, many accounts of people who have abandoned their boat in terrible conditions only to discover the boat had made it through the storm. A very good example is what occurred in the tragic 1979 Fastnet Race when sailors who abandoned ship perished and their boat survived.

We’ve been following Passage Weather ( and have decided that we will leave on Tuesday, April 19. All going well we will spend the first week in 10 – 15 knots of wind before hitting the trade winds which will take us all the way to Hawaii. Once we get underway you can follow our passage on Yotreps : and look for VE7KSL

or go to the Pacific Seafarers’ Net: and go to the bottom of that page. You’ll see a prompt that says: Enter here the call sign of any Roll Call boat you wish to track: put VE7KSL in the box and press submit. That will take you directly to the Yotreps map.

(I give a detailed explanation on how to do this in my previous blog entry).

Finally, yesterday morning we had our hull scrubbed and the propeller cleaned and polished by a local diver.  No growth found, so we'll have a smooth bottom and sleek propeller to speed us on our way. 
I will post one last blog entry before we depart on Tuesday.

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