Notes For Mexico Vets
Planning a Puddle Jump
Some Things I Would Have
Liked to Have Known
you’ve spent a season or two or three doing the Mexico Yo-Yo up and down from
San Carlos to Zihua, or just been hanging around Mazatlan, La Paz, or Good Ole
Banderas Bay, and you get this yen to venture west and see the fabled Isles of
the South Pacific. Good on ya, mate, it’s better out here than you could ever
imagine, but you should know you’re in for some changes. You start by reading
everything you can get your hands on and preparing your boat, dreaming about
warm tradewinds and downwind sailing. No doubt you’ll get lots of advice from
every direction, but here are just a few things I wish I’d paid more attention
to, for what it’s worth!
Plan on sailing a lot,
make sure your sails are new or as good as, but make sure your engine is in
the best possible shape also. You may think you’ve done a lot of sailing in
your time, but ~23 days and nights uninterrupted probably hasn’t happened to
you yet. You’ll want to really know and practice your stuff as far as reefing
in all kinds of situations, using that whisker or spinnaker pole to wing out
your headsail, having lots of practice flying the cruising chute and getting
the sock back on without snagging, trimming and tweaking for speed, etc -all
the while watching for chafe! The sun will brutalize an older sail, and it
will start ripping here, there, and everywhere, especially if it rubs on
something even slightly. The engine will be needed more than you think, also,
and must be in tip-top shape with spare everythings on board. The obvious
extra fluids, filters, belts, impellers and hoses will be important of course,
but anything you haven’t just replaced will need a spare as well, like water
pumps, alternators, starters, injectors, solenoids, you name it, you’ll
probably need it. Getting things sent from home is very expensive and time
consuming. Several boats had following seas intrude into their engines and
cause major headaches or need for re-powering, so you’ll want to make sure the
vented loop on your exhaust line is working, and/or install a rubber flap if
your exhaust exits on your stern. In our case, our exhaust riser broke in the
Tuamotus, cutting our visit short there and requiring sailing into Papeete.
Later people told us we should have checked/replaced it every 5 years…who
knew? Oh yeah, this all assumes you have learned your engine and have the
tools and skills necessary to work on a lot of it…do you? But the bottom line
is, you will be doing a lot of sailing, and it will be a good thing if you are
proficient at hand-steering because…
The Autopilot will not be available.
I can’t tell you exactly, but I’d guess almost half the folks we talked to had
autopilot failure, and about as many had no luck with their wind-vane steering
also. Of course the autopilot uses lots of amps, so that is a limitation in
itself unless you have lots of solar panels or other means of making up the
electrical deficit, but the following seas put such a strain on your rudder
that the unit will just get tired after awhile, even if you have a linear
drive unit. For the same reason, wind-steering units have a tough time. No
matter how well you get the boat balanced, a wave will knock your stern around
and you’ll be off course. (Monitor owners were the happiest, by the way, and
Hydrovane owners like us the least happy). So by the time you get to the
Marquesas, you’ll likely be really good at hand-steering.
Anchoring out here is a pain.
Almost as many as have
autopilot failures have windlass failures as well. This included us because
the old windlass suddenly had to deal with an all-chain rode and repeatedly
coral-bound stuck anchors. In the Marquesas it wasn’t too bad, but the
Tuamotus are full of mushroom-shaped coral heads that just love to snag
anchors but good. The upside is that you won’t worry about dragging, but lots
of folks had to dive (or hire a diver) to get free. Often your choice is
between setting at the edge of a reef where you may be in trouble if the wind
shifts, or setting in very deep water, like 50 feet or more. Assuming it
works, your gear is going to be hanging really heavy on the windlass while you
pick it up. Have a good windlass.
Shelepping Jerry Jugs is a way of life.
Both for water and fuel,
since there just aren’t many marinas out here, or fuel docks for that matter.
A block and tackle will make it easier to get them aboard from the dinghy, and
a collapsible hand-truck to roll them around on shore also makes life easier.
You may think you can use your water maker, but some anchorages just aren’t
clean enough to make water.
Passage planning is important to arrive in daylight.
Get ready for lots of rain.
If you’re used to dry
Mexico weather it will surprise you how much it rains out here. The nice
thing is that it’s warm rain and a swimsuit is just as good (or better) than
foulies, but if your boat has a few deck leaks like ours, it will be drippy
down below. A cockpit cover or bimini with gutters and a drain hose can help
catch water for showers later, though, and some even put the rainwater right
into their tanks, so that can be an upside.
Don’t let little sores get infected.
You’ve probably heard all
the health warnings, but you really won’t want to get nasty skin infections.
Also along those lines, you’ll want to bring lots of bug repellent from home.
It’s hard to find and local brands are not real effective here.
They don’t use 110V power anywhere out here, it’s all 240V.
I had heard this, and brought a little step-down
converter, but it wasn’t robust enough and a good one cost us dearly in
Tahiti. Of course if you
never go into a marina no problem, but there are a couple out here, and it is
a real luxury to tie up and plug in for a bit. Plus the plugs are all
different- round ones in French Polynesia and angled flat ones in other
places. Buy the adaptors at home where they’re cheap. One good thing is the
computer charger was good for either 110 or 220, so no worries taking the
laptop ashore and plugging in anywhere- just need that plug adaptor.
Bring Big Bags of Cash!
Not really cash,
understand, because almost everywhere you go they’ll have ATMs that dispense
local currency, but the point is, this ain’t cheap out here. If you don’t
smoke, drink, or buy much of anything from the grocery store, you’ll still
spend a lot for fuel and basic necessities. If you do have any vices or like
to eat something besides fish and rice/beans, you’ll be amazed at the cost of
everything. It all has to come from somewhere else far away, and
especially in the case of booze, taxed heavily by the local governments. The
days of $1 beers in
will be a fond memory as you pay $3-$5 each out here. As a matter of fact,
whatever your monthly budget was in Mexico, plan on at least double out here.
here is intended to dissuade you from sailing into the sunset as we have done,
it’s all just meant to prepare you for the reality of it. I wouldn’t have
changed my mind if someone had told me they still practice cannibalism out here,
but in reality it’s been at least 100 years since they’ve quit that on most
islands…just kidding…not. See ya out here!
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