For the last month, almost, the rains have come to Barra de Navidad. For a cruiser, each weather change brings a new set of challenges and new enjoyments. You have to vary the boat’s routines to deal with each new element. In this case, massive amounts of rain.
The first telltale sign of the impending change was the arrival of swarms of little three-inch land crabs. scuttling out of their holes and scurrying to-and-fro on the walkways and roads of the resort. So many that you had to be careful not to step in them. For perhaps three days to a week, they were everywhere. Then as suddenly as they appeared, they disappeared.
And, the rain began to fall.
We have joked a lot on the boat about the “golden years” that retirement in America promises. Well, I guess we have arrived at the golden years, albeit through a slightly odd route to a small coastal town in Mexico.
The boat’s Sunbrella boom tents become water catchers. We had designed them with this in-mind but, in La Paz, it didn’t rain enough to use them like this. Besides, Marina La Paz had potable water so there was no real need. The water in the Isla Navidad marina is not potable so it was our first chance to use them in this configuration. You just loosen the tension on the halyard that holds it– and “Tah-Da!” a water basin is created. We let it gather then pull/pour it off and use it for tea and clean water uses. It tests at 2-4 parts-per-million using the water-maker test kit. Purest water possible.
The boat has a water-maker but free rainwater led us to pickle it for the next six months or so. It saves wear and tear. We also have water delivered to the boat, at 40 cents a gallon for purified water, it is cheaper than wearing out our water-maker using the sea water in the marina.
The use of various canvas parts of the boat changes as well. The boom tents still provide shade, but they are also an awning for rain so that all portholes and hatches can be kept open for ventilation.
The cockpit enclosure, designed for shade while sailing, and modified by Carolyn with the addition of a floor and cushions becomes a screened-in porch at night. We sleep nearly every night in this enclosure. All we changed with the advent of rain was to take the lee cloths for the rails, that were designed to keep the cold winds of Oregon out of the cockpit, and hang them so that they become rain-shields under the boat’s original Circus Boom Tent with one-foot eves to keep the rain from getting in at night. Up to about 30 knots of wind and rain, this works very well and we stay dry. But it also stops the wind from moving in the enclosure, so we added four small fans that move air while we sleep.
AIR CONDITIONER BECOMES DEHUMIDIFIER
In the heat of the day, the air conditioner, which we got in La Paz, still gets a workout. We use it to cool the boat for about 6 hours a day, if the temperature gets to 90 degrees. Remember that the humidity here is about 85-95 percent so it feels much hotter than it is. Also, as a secondary benefit, the air conditioner dehumidifies the air in the boat as it cools. This produces about a gallon an hour of water from its condenser. I will say that again, we have a gallon of water an hour removed from the inside of the boat that is suspended in the air we breath. In La Paz, it was 8 ounces every two hours.
We believe the air conditioner almost produces as much water as the water-maker. Tested the water from the condenser. 10 parts per million using the water maker tester. But, the ultimate tester is taste. So we tried to drink it. YUCKKKKKKKKK! Currently, we use it to flush and dilute the fluids in the black-water holding tank.
THE MARINA EMPTIES FOR THE RAINY SEASON
We are down to three or four boats with someone living on them in the Marina. There are two boats at anchor in the lagoon. And four more anchored against/in the mangroves of the small island in the lagoon. The marina looks deserted.
With so few boats remaining, things have changed a lot. For example, no morning radio net cause there are no boats. No “French Baker” because there are no cruisers to buy his treats. He will be back in the fall. The pool bar is empty, except on holidays. The water taxis are reduced to a bare minimum staff and you have to wait a bit longer for one.
But, you can also use both sides of a slip to tie up the boat to prevent chaffing in the winds and rain. Cross tie to hold it off the dock and prevent rubbing of the fenders.
Items stored on-deck get removed and stored below. Sail covers get tied on. Furled sails get pulled, so they can’t open accidentally. The stay sail was pulled and put away for the season.
There are three new irritants. Flies, dirt-dobbers ( a form of wasp), and mosquitoes.
The flies demand a fly swatter. We have literally worn ours out. This is no small thing. Flies are so hardy here that it takes two to three hits to kill one. The only way to be sure is when you find one stuck in the grill work of the swatter. Right before a rain, they go nuts … and try to get inside the boat. “I am become death”. I can guarantee that there are no Jainists amongst the cruising community in the rainy season.
Mosquitoes are a different problem. Because we sleep outside and keep the boat open most of the day, we have a unique problem. So, right before dark, we close up the enclosure. Small bits of mosquito netting are used to plug any holes in the netting of the enclosure. Any porthole that does not have screens stays closed (we have four that, over the years, have lost their screens). The dorades, above the mid-ship’s passageway and head, have mosquito-netting covers now. And, a small flashlight is added to the cockpit stores for sleep. The mosquitoes are incredibly easy to kill with a swatter. Once we got it worked out, we have no mosquitoes on most nights inside the enclosure.
Dirt-dobbers are another interesting problem. They build any and everywhere they can get to that is dark and secluded. So they build inside sail covers, under a hat that is left in place too long, inside a cabinet. Look at this one … Carolyn called me topside to see it. I made the mistake of saying, “What the heck is that?” Typical Carolyn answer: “I can practically guarantee it’s not chewing gum.” It made me laugh.
We’d been putting our hats over the windless and for several days (because of the rain) we had not moved them. Result?
THE JUNGLE RETURNS AND TAKES OVER EVERYTHING!
We are in the tropics. In Mexico, in the land of the Mayans and Aztecs … the jungle wants it all back. We woke one morning after a heavy rainfall to find the marina choked with floating fresh-water bog plants (These washed down from the river and out into the bay after a series of heavy rains.) They look a bit like water lilies without the flower.
Above is the entrance to the marina. Almost impassable with outboards. You constantly stop and remove the plants from the shaft.
With the increased cloud cover, we cannot use the solar oven as much, so solar cooking slows to a minimum for a week or so at a time. Our solar panels also have some trouble keeping up with electric demand from the boat’s systems. With the exception of the air conditioner, we use mostly solar power on the boat. Primarily, this is because the electricity provided by the resort has a number of problems that affect the boat’s systems. We have found that staying off dock power is more healthy for the boat.
The problems we encountered were odd problems with the devices on the boat that react to power surges or spikes, outages, or reductions. The Alder Barbour Cold Machine refrigerator was almost replaced, before we figured out it that the real problem was the shore power to the inverter. Ditto for our older batteries. Thought they were going dead till we took the boat off the grid.
But, twice so far, we have had to plug back in for several hours and top-off the batteries because of prolonged periods of low-light from dense clouds and rain. This is also the very times you want to be able to use electronics like computers for entertainment while stuck in the boat.
STAYING DRY, KEEPING DRY, AND DRYING OUT!
After every rain, at the first available sunlight, you have to dry out the boat. Looks a little like poor folks have invaded the neighborhood, but you still better do it or mildew will cripple your boat. It looks like this!
THE REWARD FOR ALL THE HARD WORK