Will Work for Water

We left Asuncion on Wednesday, Nov. 21, and sailed about 190 nautical miles south to Bahia Santa Maria. That meant we were offshore on Thanksgiving, so our dinner was not elaborate. For the meat eaters, I made chicken in mushroom gravy, while I had a tin of smoked trout. I also made stuffing and three-bean salad. For dessert, the pumpkin “pie” didn’t have a crust, but the crew were surprised that it was Thanksgiving, and even more surprised to get something pumpkiny!

This passage was the first on which we got a lot of use out of our spinnaker, which has now taken us many miles! The spinnaker allows us to sail with light winds, when we would otherwise use the motor. Our average speed has decreased, but we are thankful anytime we can sail instead of motoring! Yay, spinnaker!

Our sailing friends will appreciate this: Because they had not yet figured out a good way to sail downwind, we actually beat Imagine (a Hallberg Rossy 49) to Santa Maria! It was funny because although neither boat acknowledged it at the time, we were closely monitoring each other’s progress. Poor Andy (Capitan of Imagine, and a veteran racer)! Though he claimed to be suffering from Montezuma’s Revenge, we suspect it was actually shame and disgust that kept him holed up on his boat for a few days. As he remarked, it was like the tortoise beating the hare.

Bahia Santa Maria is a big, beautiful bay, with no town. It does have a huge tidal lagoon, with a number of little fish camps on it. They seem to be populated mostly by lobstermen, but we did see one woman and a child. The men leave in their pangas early in the morning, and if the tide is out when they return, they have to get out and drag their pangas through the shallow entrance of the lagoon. We also met some who were hauling pounds and pounds of marine snails that they use as bait in the lobster traps.

We had expected to get multiple opportunities to trade for fish, shrimp and lobster, but we’ve only been approached once. Apparently there are strong fishing collectives, with strict laws governing the trade. It is illegal for anyone outside of the cooperative to catch lobster, and if you have it on board you must also have a receipt to show it was legally purchased (through the collective). I don’t know how much the lobstermen get for their catch, but it can’t be much, because sometimes they are willing to risk selling it directly to us. Though the price was right ($3/lobster- we probably could have bargained that down), Koiya was distressed at the thought of boiling them alive, so we passed.

Santa Maria was a great place to relax. The beach was great for exploring, with hundreds of huge sand dollars! Koiya found one that is probably seven inches in diameter. The first day, we had to limit how many the girls brought back to the boat; by the time we left, sand dollars seemed so commonplace that they didn’t really notice them!

The water was a bit cold, so we swam only once; mostly because we needed a shower anyway! We also enjoyed a trip up into the lagoon in our dinghies. Todd loves to zoom along and seems obsessed with getting the dinghy to plane on top of the water. Koiya also enjoys driving, and is getting pretty good at it!

Once again, it was great to be anchored near Imagine, so the girls could get together often. Hopefully, the other boats didn’t get too sick of hearing them call each other on the VHF. They went through a spurt of loving to play with a finger puppet theater, which Koiya received as a gift from her Uncle Bumper many years ago. Thanks, Bump!

I had more success with my solar cooker in Santa Maria than in Tortugas (where the quinoa didn’t cook at all!). I think it was because we were further south, and I was on the boat the whole time, so I could constantly adjust the angle of the cooker while the boat turned. I made sushi rice, to go with some bonito that Sandy (yes, from Imagine) had caught. Sandy is a fly fisher but has quickly adapted to ocean fishing. (And before any of my brothers say it, yes, I realize I look just like mom in this photo.)

On our last full day at Santa Maria, Eric collected a bunch of wood and made a fire on the beach, which was attended by four crews. The kids made smores and someone found a dolphin skull, which Koiya conned us in to taking with us so that she can show it to all her friends at Nature Studies. We don’t know if we’ll be able to keep it intact, or if it’s safe to send with her on the plane back to San Francisco; but as she said, “A deer skull is cool, a coyote skull is really exciting, but a dolphin skull…whoa!”

Since we hadn’t tanked up since San Diego, and had a few days to go before we could get more, Capn Chicken Little was worried about our water situation. “But we are still on tank 3, and tank 4 is full,” I said. “We’re going out to sea!” he replied indignantly. “We could end up dismasted and drifting for a week!” “Wouldn’t we radio for help?” I asked. “If we lose the mast, we’ll lose the antennas!” he cried. He had worked himself up into such a state that I decided not to mention the handheld VHF, EPIRB (emergency positioning beacon), and water maker in our abandon ship bag. Clearly, this was not the time to mention the words “abandon” and “ship” in the same sentence.

Many boats have watermakers, and cruisers are very generous with each other; Imagine gave us 10 gallons of water, and others offered it too. The crew of Paxil (who had a close encounter with a gray whale while anchored at San Quintin) had a software problem and asked for Todd’s help with it. Jeffery gave us five gallons right off, and told Todd, “If you can fix this, it’s worth ten gallons to me!” Though normally scornful of what he considers IT support work, Todd jumped right in, and soon we had another 10 gallons!

So there you have it, greatschools: Your former VP of Technology is now working for ten gallons of water/hour! Imagine what he’d do for a bottle of tequila!

And as a postscript: We’re now in La Paz, and we’re still on tank 3; but I haven’t ridiculed Todd because he is right to be cautious. Imagine the haranguing he’d endure if we ran dry!

See all the Santa Maria pics and videos here:


6 Responses to “Will Work for Water”

  1. Ross says:

    Ironic that 1 bottle of tequila has more value than 10 gallons of water: tequila dehydrates you! 🙂

  2. Uncle Bumper says:

    Better boat the skull back. Marine Mammal Protection Act. Hate to see Koiya detained in the airport for smuggling protected parts. She can show it later.

  3. bob detwiler says:

    i can just imagine you, looking like mom, spending all day adjusting the solar cooker. seems like something we’d laugh at her for from inside the house. almost as mindless a task as me sitting here checking email all day waiting for your updates! 😉

    as for koiya, “fined for illegally purchasing lobster’s cool, getting caught sneaking into the country by border patrol is really exciting, but being detained by DFG wardens at the airport for smuggling… whoa!”

  4. Uncle Don says:

    So, not only did you miss out on some cheap lobster, but a chance for Koiya to get in touch with her fishing heritage, too?!? Sheesh! do you tell her the critters in the aquariums at New Canton are “just, um, pets?”

    I say go ahead and boil some up. Worst case scenario: she goes vegetarian for a while; more sushi for the rest of us… everybody wins! 🙂

  5. Uncle Bumper says:

    Actually Rop, that would be FWS law enforcement out of Burlingame. I’d have to pull some major strings back here in the office to “lose the file.” A certain Chinese guy would be eating with us at New Canton for the next ten years…

  6. Bill Jackson says:

    Todd and gang,

    Just checking in. Don’t you have a few liters of alcohol to tide you over if you ever run out of water? I’m still up to the same old fundraising stuff…would rather be playing with dolphin skulls ! FYI, biggest waves in many years at Mavericks last week – up to 80 foot faces! My surf board is broken so I couldn’t go… Take care and all of us at GreatSchools send greetings and wishes for favorable winds!