Kevin and I are sitting on an Alaska Airlines plane, flying north to Seattle as we write this blog post. We’ll be heading to the boat show, re-starting our Mexican tourist visas, picking up a slew of parts and things we think we can’t live without, and attending the annual Nordhavn party. We’ll be on the ground in Seattle for approximately 60 hours total. It’s exciting! And a little weird. We’ve been talking about what it will feel like to be back in the PNW, how we have changed and what we’ve learned since we have been cruising, and living, in Mexico. While we’ve only been in Mexico since late October, it feels like much longer. So, we decided that this might be an interesting story to share.
What we’ve learned (a very abbreviated version)
Parts – a Favorite Topic
We spend a lot of time talking with sailors and other cruisers about parts, where to find parts, how to get parts to Mexico, and how much parts cost. PARTS! On the cruiser’s nets in the mornings, parts and fixing engines, A/C, refrigeration, sails (for the sailors), windlasses, etc. are constant topics. In Banderas Bay there are some good options, and some incredible local resources and people with local knowledge. That said, it is still a giant topic. If you can find parts, or very specific consumables such as specific types of wax or fuel stabilizer, etc., they are much more expensive than at home. A review of items such as power cords or bilge pumps found prices that were 1.5x to 2x more than Fisheries Supply.
As such, the parts conversation continues. Who is coming from the US who can bring us parts? Does someone know someone who knows someone else who might be in PV sometime soon who can pick up the watermaker/toilet/generator part? Ha! We have a bag checked on this plane that only has other bags in it. We’ll be coming home to Mexico with parts. Lots of parts.
Everything takes longer than you think.
While we don’t go to work and rarely do anything that resembles traditional career work, we are busy – every day. It takes a lot of time to follow the marina/government protocols, care for the boat, provision, keep the dogs active, keep us out and walking off the tortillas, socializing, and arranging for next steps in travel, and generally in moving about at 8 knots.
Checking in and out of a port can take half a day, or more. See our most recent story that covers this process here.
Eating out in a restaurant is a relaxed affair. The Mexican people will never rush you, which is lovely, except if you are in a hurry. But why be in a hurry afterall? A lesson to be learned here. Smile. Enjoy. Relax. Talk to your friends, your table neighbors and the restaurant team – you might learn something.
Life without a car is good. But now and then it would make life easier. Going to the grocery store (there isn’t one in La Cruz for example,) can take 3-4 hours to accomplish with Ubers, taxis, old lady carts and a compilation of re-usable bags. I love my old lady cart by the way. She’s red, of course, and Scott and Abby recently named her – The Red Snapper!
We are spending less money overall, but not everything is inexpensive
At home in Seattle we could spend money so easily. We could order freely on Amazon. We could stop at Nordstrom or Whole Foods on the way home. And there was just so much that was so easily available. Well, in Mexico we aren’t spending much on shopping. Outside of the occasional “oh that sundress is gorgeous” purchase, there isn’t a whole lot we buy. That said…
- Groceries are much less expensive in Mexico. And it is fun to go to the grocery store, even though it takes a long time. It is a great place to work on vocabulary!
- The farmer’s markets are awesome, high quality and inexpensive.
- Moorage is not inexpensive. The cheapest so far was $.86/foot at Marina Vallarta to the most expensive, $3.50 foot at Marina Coral in Ensenada (that said, power was included and that can be a big number, also their level of service in check-in to Mexico is outstanding. We will go back without question).
- Power is pricey. See our story about our $700 power bill for December and early January. A week at Barra de Navidad (for power) was around $100 with better power management.
- Fuel – we haven’t bought fuel since San Diego and still have over 1200 gallons of fuel on board. Diesel is about $4.00/gallon in Banderas Bay. We paid $2.80-something in San Diego as a part of a Nordhavn Taco Run fuel buy (across all of the boats – many gallons of fuel = a lower negotiated price).
- There is always a willing hand to wax, clean or work on something on the boat. We have found great results at very low prices.
- Boat wash: $50 to $150 depending on the “submarket.” And honestly these washes are better than any wash Red Rover has ever received. We even had gentlemen standing on the canvas above the flybridge, scraping off years of green PNW goodness.
- Wax and stainless cleaning/wax: We received pricing from $800 to $2200. We ended up with the $1400 option in Barra de Navidad and our boat looks AMAZING. Note that to wax Red in Seattle is around $4,000.
- Bottom cleaning: We recently had the bottom cleaned for $1/foot. Plus $5 a zinc. WE have done a little bit ourselves (we have a hookah), and our friend Scott from Epoch also did a round for us. The bottom needs to be cleaned more often in the warm water of Mexico.
Swells. Not always so swell.
In the Pacific Northwest you can anchor in hundreds, perhaps thousands of beautiful calm bays, if you read the wind predictions correctly. In the portions of Mexico we have cruised thus far (west coast of Baja, mainland in Banderas Bay and Costalegre), there aren’t absolutely tons of anchorages. And the ones that do exist can be completely unusable, or uncomfortable if the ocean swell is coming into the anchorage, based on the current direction of the swells, the size of the swells or their ability to “wrap around” a point. So far, Abreojos was the worst swelly anchorage, abated slightly by our flopper stopper. Mag Bay, which is mostly protected, was fairly free of swells. Chamela, south of Banderas Bay was a fairly quiet night – we didn’t even put out the flopper stopper. At 3 am in Tenacatita I thought that I might fall out of bed foot first with the swells that rocked Red Rover. “Gee, I’m sitting up in bed…” The swells are simply something to get used to. And we’re getting there! That said, we are spending more time in marinas than in anchorages thus far. We’re excited to get to the anchorages of the Sea of Cortez this spring.
How’s the boat doing and what’s on our new wish list?
I learned a funny phrase from the sailors the other day. A person who spends years working on their boat, only to never really sail, is called “a carpenter.” That gave me a chuckle. Of course, we spent three years working on Red Rover, and cruising, and working too. We were ready when we headed south. And, as a result, Red Rover is running SUPER well. We’re really pleased. Other than small issues here and there, things are going exceptionally well.
Some notes on what we’re really thankful for and what is now on our wish list.
Cheers to the….
- Second generator – the Northern Lights 6kw, has been a fantastic addition. We’ve been able to run AC at night at anchor and in the pilothouse on longer passages without having to load up the big 20kw.
- The UV filter addition for our fresh water system is super. We only drink the water we make on the boat (other than bottled water off of the boat) and we’ve been super healthy. Very few marinas offer potable water.
- Door screens! Just before we left the PNW, we added Phantom door screens that have been great in buggy marinas and anchorages. Bugs love me. They don’t bite Kevin. Hmm.
- When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta with temps in the mid-90s we decided we should take a look at the perforated window screens that had been sitting in a locker for over three years. After we got a little PNW green off of them, we learned that they were FANTASTIC at lowering the overall temperature of the pilothouse.
- A year ago, at the Seattle Boat Show we bought our 8.5 foot Achilles tender. With its Torqueedo electric engine it is perfect (and absolutely necessary) for surf landings. There are not an abundance of docks to dinghy on over to! We changed out the Torqueedo long shaft for the short shaft with an adventurous Parts Mule, my business partner Jim, who agreed to tote an outboard engine to Puerto Vallarta in early December.
- In Seattle, we didn’t get much use out of our flybridge. Prior to heading south we remodeled the flybridge with new Stidd chairs, new upholstery, and a new teak table. We’re loving it!
What’s on the Wish List?
- A different stern anchor. We are picking up a Mantus M2 anchor this weekend (we have two Fortress anchors on board which are sized more as a backup to our primary Rocna). We chose the Mantus M2 as it can be deconstructed for storage and it has great holding. We’ll be using the stern anchor to keep the bow into the swells (haven’t done this yet, but we will be!) in anchorages.
- A second watermaker. If you can’t make water, you are going to be on hold, or you will be putting non-potable water in your tanks, which you will have to later flush and deal with. Our Nordhavn has incredible redundant systems, but not with our watermaker. This is a project for this coming summer.
- Another summer project is a second flopper stopper (see swells). We have now cruised with three Nordhavns with two flopper stoppers and have seen the difference that it can make. So we’ll be adding a second pole this year!
How have we changed and what are we learning about ourselves and our cruising style?
We’re learning what our cruising style is
We would like to have a better balance of urban and remote destinations in our cruising. That’s not really new, but we are busy reaffirming that assumption as we work our way around Mexico’s beautiful coastline. We are finding that we want to feel more connected to the people in each place we visit – not just the cruisers (who are awesome though!). A part of that is learning more Spanish, which we are tackling with an immersive language school in La Paz in March.
Mileage is not a goal
We never really thought that racking up miles was one of our goals, but we have doubled down on this assumption. We are enjoying taking our time, and in some cases, we wish we had been able to spend more time in some of the beautiful places and communities we have visited. Owning a Nordhavn (to us) is not about going tens of thousands of miles a year. It is about engaging with the people we meet in the places we go. So we’ll go a little slower. And enjoy the ride.
Be present. Be nice.
Sitting on this plane, people around us are bitching about stupid things, and are being mean to one another. Why is this necessary?
In Mexico, we have found such kindness. From the Mexican people, the other cruisers, the sailors and the Nordhavn community. Kindness and genuine interest. Thoughtfulness and people who are truly present with one another. They are not sucked into an electronic device 24/7. They are not skeptical that someone’s nice hello is a cover-up for some covert thieving intent. They are engaged in their life and in the community around them.
On Sundays, when the “land people” came to the La Cruz Sunday Market, they pushed their way to the front of the line, they were in a hurry, they were…. Rude. Now this isn’t a slam on land people. It is an observation on what we are doing to ourselves in today’s modern world.
We’ve slowed down. And we find that we’re so much better for it. We start the morning slowly. We sleep later, we enjoy our coffee, we walk the dogs and talk to our neighbors. We try to be kind and thoughtful. Our pace of life is healthier, and so are we.
I went to a “Women Who Sail” event in La Cruz where one of the speakers talked about stress reduction. And I had to think hard to determine the last time I felt truly stressed. That’s a huge and awesome change for me and for both of us. I went from being a driven entrepreneur who really didn’t sleep much at all (I worried instead) to a cruiser. We sleep longer, we talk to each other, we spend every day together and people keep commenting that we look 10 years younger. That’s because we are happy. And grateful for the ability to live our life this way.
We have a community. And it is everywhere we go.
When we first left Seattle, I had a big concern about my long-time need to feel that I was “at home.” Both of us need our time out, time to be at home and be still. While the boat is certainly home, I always loved coming back to Shilshole and our community there. I’ve come to find that this isn’t an issue anymore. Home is wherever our home takes us. We have a community – the community of cruising powerboats and sailors. And we belong. In particular, our Nordhavn community has a far and wide reach. There is always a friend, old or new, in most every harbor. The connection with the Nordhavn folks is somewhat immediate and it is very real. And, it makes us always feel at home.