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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Countdown from the Dock and La Paz - Hasta la Vista!!

This should have been prepared before now - no such luck. We are still scurrying to leave today with the biggest tide of the year.

But here you go - this will be dinner tonight:

Underway and cooking - I really don't enjoy it.
I prefer being on deck - not below - when we are bumping and heeling or worse... loudly motoring. 
But peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just don't cut it as "supper" either. 
To us, yummy food makes all the difference in the world when we make a crossing! 
And one of our favorites is lasagna.

We love lasagna. Actually, we adore lasagna! It is our family's favorite comfort food. But baking in the oven on a boat is killer in the tropics because of the heat and fuel is too precious to waste on a 1 hour bake time recipe. So, I began making a skillet lasagna recipe that is super-yummy-good and takes only 20 minutes to cook on the stove top - thereby conserving energy and producing minimal heat in the cabin.
Cottage cheese pureed in lieu of Ricotta

With this recipe I sometimes omit the zucchini and sometimes I do more of a layered lasagna: noodles, cheese mix, beef mix, spaghetti sauce, moz cheese - repeat. 

Here's the basic below and you can tweak however because it's pretty forgiving.

Serves 4

1 lb. ground beef (you can do half beef and half ground pork, too)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
1 cup zucchini, diced
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan, shredded or grated
1 1/2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 (26 oz.) jar pasta sauce (I like mushroom!)
6 no boil lasagna noodles, broken in thirds

In a large skillet, brown the meat, onion, salt and Italian seasoning over medium-high heat until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Drain grease.
(This mixture can be done ahead of time and frozen, which makes it even simpler!)

Add zucchini to skillet. Pour in 2 cups of the pasta sauce. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl blend together the ricotta, water, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of mozzarella. Set aside. (Sometimes I chop up fresh basil and add to this mixture! And, you can even freeze this mixture and use later - it's a little watery, but usually the water cooks out.)

Uncover skillet and arrange broken lasagna noodles over top of meat mixture. Try not to overlap, but no need to be a perfectionist! Remember that the noodles will expand some as they cook. Gently spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles. Arrange rest of pasta noodles on top of cheese. Ladle remaining pasta sauce over top of noodles. Sprinkle the last of the mozzarella on top.

Increase heat slightly. Carefully pour in water at the edges of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer 20 minutes, or until pasta is tender.

Remove skillet from heat and let cool for 5 minutes, uncovered. Spoon out or cut into squares and serve.

( If it's too dry, heat up a side of canned or boxed spaghetti sauce and ladle over top after serving on plates.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Countdown from the Dock and La Paz - 1

Well my post written for today has to be moved to tomorrow because I didn't get it done.

And it is after 7pm...
and I just got home...
and so you can just have some pictures today...
cuz we are bushed!!

These giant Ziplock bags are a good idea for storing clothing and foul weather gear...

Except they SUCK! Cheaply made and they don't last even 5 months!

Duck tape saves the day!
And this guy had a really bad day! Right next to the marina.
When they tried to tow him out, they punctured the gas tank and fuel gushed out.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Countdown from the Dock and La Paz - 2

When we decided to make La Paz our "home" for 18 months, we made our boat more comfortable by moving many "cruising" items off and into a storage unit. Now, it is a circus moving it all back on board! (And we were very careful to shake out all the roach eggs before it was moved back on the boat! When we cleaned out our unit, roaches scattered and there was even a dead mouse glued to the floor!)

Frankly, we carry too much stuff. The "what if...?" is the reason.
What if we break down and need that part?
What if we get rid of it and then decide we really want it?
This was really expensive - we can't just give it away!

Well giving away is exactly what we have done. If we couldn't sell it to another cruiser, we have donated it to needier people. What are some of things we have doled out for free?

  • 6 man Avon life raft
  • Blender (no, not my Vitamix!)
  • a bike rack
  • numerous cruising and boating books
  • Our ridiculously ginormous collection of DVD movies
  • A very nice jib sail
  • Clothing
  • Sewing material
  • A working water pump
  • A parachute drogue
  • A sailing dinghy sail
  • A coffee pot
  • A cast iron griddle
  • Stainless steel and aluminum pieces...
And the list continues...

I am using the last days to run errands, buy food and fill the last of the fuel cans before we sell our Toyota pick up. We have buyers who have put down a deposit on the truck and will come get it tomorrow. And I would have added the truck to the "give away" list - since we sunk $1,000 US into it for repairs the last 3 months and will see not one penny of that back - but that is - simply - the cost of life. We are so grateful that it carried us safely back and forth this year.

Jim's Dad gave us a vacuum sealer a while back and I have put it to good use. I am very pleased how well it works and how compact it makes storing refrigerated and frozen foods. I had never used it before and this was the first time -  after I read a thread on a group forum that raved about the benefits. I have been hesitant because I hate the idea of all that plastic. But I love the idea of all the space it makes and how it retains the freshness of the food!

And Carolyne?
Not much has changed. I worry how she is going to acclimate to reality.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Countdown from the Dock and La Paz - 3

Black Necked Grebe

Eyeballing the little fishes
We met a darling German couple who have bicycled down the Baja all the way from Seattle.
Marko and Anja would love to see the other side of Mexico and so have asked to join us for the crossing.
Marko and Anja
We don't usually take crew aboard.
Mainly, we are totally capable without and it is more convenient for us not to have visitors. It is especially risky to take crew that have never sailed before. However, these adventurers are trying to save money by hitching a ride so they can get to Central America. We have room to store the bikes on deck and they are otherwise travelling extremely light. No hair dryers, no large suitcases, and they are not expecting showers every morning. Jim and I look forward to having interesting conversation during our night watches. And as many times as we have been shown kindness by people as we traveled this is a good opportunity to pay it forward.

Marko is an engineer and Anja is a nurse. 
Taking on crew shouldn't be taken lightly. We have heard numerous crew horror stories and we want this experience to be good for everyone on board. We asked specific questions of our new guests so there aren't any surprises.
And these are a few things we asked them:

  • Can you swim?
  • Do either of you have any health problems?
  • Are you taking any medication?
  • Do you get car sick or air sick?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Are your immigration papers valid?
  • Are you carrying any weapons?
  • Are you vegetarian or have any dietary special needs?

Nothing can make a passage more un-enjoyable than having an unhappy crew member on board. And we want Marko's and Anja's sailing experience with Hotspur to be unforgettably wonderful! We can't wait to share the adventure!

Meanwhile, Carolyne is jonesing that the full-time internet is about to go bye-bye! And she is soaking up every last virtual minute!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Countdown from the Dock and La Paz - 4

This is a pic of a big box of  FAUX PAS... or "photo-pas":

These are only a third of the photos, newspaper articles and family recipes!
A large plastic bin of family photos - the ones I intended to scan last year? Well, I never got around to it and on Jim's last trip to the USA he accidentally left them behind. He didn't mean to - he actually carried them out to the truck - but they sat forgotten in the marina parking lot overnight until I discovered them. There was no option then - I had to scan them because they were hogging up valuable space and they would likely not survive the increasing humid-tropical-terrarium weather further south. The project took HOURS and countless HOURS to complete. Thank GOD I only brought the small box down here and not the 2 larger ones!!
My 2nd cousin, Jack
My mother and Mini Me at Nagshead saving the sea turtle
Our oldest, Sweet Tim, and his cousin, Baby Gabe

Great-Great Grandparents - Annie Belle WITHAM & Frank ROSS
Three Sisters

Carolyne - 3 months
Great uncles
The family photos are a hodge-podge... our children as babies, my parent's wedding day, my father and his sister as children, my great grandparents, 2nd uncles, some cousins, old family friends...
even one high school photo of Jim...
squeezed into a very tight black Speedo...
which had Carolyne howling (and then shuddering) for hours...
Yep, I scanned it! (And no - you can not see it!)

And now all of those valuable family memories are safely backed up on a hard drive - easily accessible and no longer hogging up almost 1/2 of one berth because after successfully scanning them all...
photos post-1960 were tossed (with some difficulty and guilt) in the trash  - and pre-1960 were sent to my sister in the mail - where they will probably get stuffed in some closet or dusty garage for the next generation to have to deal with. In reality - all I did was to move my treasures from a BIG plastic storage box
to a very small plastic storage box.

The belly of the beast  forward
Bilge - simply nasty and needed some serious scrubbing. That chore is never on the priority list - but since we have fresh water I think it is a sin not to do it. I sopped up some oily goop pooled at the bottom of the belly and found swimming in the abyss: a hairpin, shards of wood, a rusty screw, a AAA battery (I think), and (Sshh! - don't tell the Captain)... a couple of runaway beads from a jewelry making day that would have clogged the bilge pump for sure! And something blue... wasn't sure I wanted to touch it (and I got rid of the rubber gloves since they kept catching and snapping on wires and bronze fittings). It was gooey and thick - and I couldn't help it... I sniffed it.
Liquid Laundry Detergent!!!
That means my extra bottle of soap in the forward head leaked... and since the forward head is stuffed full of extra sails and the ditch kit and sun covers and shades... and since the laundry detergent smells GOOD instead of stinky and is barricaded inside a cabinet and probably NOT leaking on sails...
that newly discovered mess has been added... to the end of the list.
Not. A. Priority.
At least the bilge is clean.
Carolyne and her wonderful orthodontist, Doctora Rocio
Last minute doctor's appointments are also rushed to the front of the line. Now that acquiring antibiotics means getting a prescription in Mexico, we ask the doctor for a fresh supply. Never have we been turned away. We carry Cipro, Keflex and Amoxicillin. When Jason on Third Day had to get stitches it was a good thing Lori had her first aid kit ready and antibiotics on hand. And even a dentist, orthodontist, eye specialist, etc... can write you a prescription.

So, for any of you travelers out there that might have an annual exam coming up with your doctors, be sure to remember and ask for your fresh supply of antibiotics. No one in our family has ever had to use them, but it might be the difference between life and death not to have them on board when you are days away from reaching help.

Clean, modern and comfortable waiting room
Professional - gloves, mask and modern equipment
Does this look Third World to you?? 
She went with the peppermint candy red and white bands for Valentine's Day
To date, we have paid $770 US on Carolyne's orthodontia. And even though that sounds like a lot, that is a staggering smidgen of what my family and friends have told me they have paid in the States...
$5,000 on the average!!!
She has been in braces since September and she should be ready to have them removed very soon. Her teeth were growing higgledy-piggledy and some front perms were kicking out so severely that she refused to smile anymore. We shopped around and chose Dra. Rocio (who was not the cheapest and who did not speak English) but who understood we needed fast service and I liked her demeanor and facilities. We are thrilled with the progress and the quality of her expertise. We will miss Dra. Rocio and will have to locate other orthodontists in the various places along the way to have Carolyne's braces adjusted. We'll keep you posted how that works out.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Countdown from the Dock and La Paz... 5

Jim didn't mean to vanish the top deck - it simply happened when he leaned into the lifeline on the starboard side and it snapped. While trying to regain his balance, the varnish he was holding for the toe rails escaped from the small plastic yogurt container and hurled itself onto the deck in a messy goo-splatter. No serious damage done - no broken bones - and thankfully, no life lost. But had we been at sea in angry conditions...

We have known for some time now that our stainless cable plastic covered lifelines really needed replacing. There was too much rust sneaking out from under the white plastic cover. We were afraid to look at what was underneath. We talked to several cruisers who have tried using Spectra (Dyneema) line and they love it. Strong, rust free, UV resistant, cheaper than stainless... our interest was peaked.

After Jim's goo-fest, we moved  "REPLACE LIFELINES" from #20 on the list to #1. We ordered the material from Downwind Marine in San Diego (the least expensive place we found) and brought it  back to Mexico with us on one of the many trips we made this year to the USA. Jim ordered an extra 10' - in case there were measuring mistakes. That was so smart - there were definitely mistakes!! The stainless shackles we got for a good deal HERE.
Burying the core
We flipped a coin to see which one of us would get to wrestle the eye splices in double braid Spectra -
neither one of us had ever actually made an eyesplice before, but I have seen Doug, the old salty sailmaker, do them plenty of times. I was the winner.
Splicer's Fid Kit
So, I got myself a fid kit from Samson Ropes through the cheapest place I could find in a flash and set off to researching the wonderful world of splicing. YouTube is a blessing for us visual types! Long story short, my first one was ugly. Second one was quite good looking but the eye was smaller than I wanted. Third one I forgot to run through the holes in the stanchions before I spliced the end and so had to lop it off - but it had been quite perfect otherwise.

Lashing the finished product !
It was not a quick task. And it really didn't get much faster the better I became. It is hard work and it takes a lot of concentration. I had blisters on both hands and an unfamiliar ache resonated in my elbows to my wrists. I tried using gloves, but they just got in the way.

Interestingly enough, splicing, I discovered, peaks the interest of  Lookie-Loos who wander by daily - checking out the progress and clucking their approval. (Ladies! If you are single and want to catch the attention of some rascally sailors - I recommend splicing. Of course, it would be cheaper and easier to announce on the Net you have free beer.)

Total cost for Spectra line, thimbles and shackles came to $179 US.

Anyone who is considering replacing lifeline with Spectra should read this PDF - written in 2013 - and very comprehensive. It gives recommendations of the size of line for your boat length and types of recommended splices for your specific line.

And because I enjoy them so, here are some more of Jim's La Paz photos:
A beautiful day under a tree at Playa Bonanza - my favorite beach near La Paz

A Green Heron who visited us next door

Beach Balloon - or Puffer gone belly up?

An evening in Marina Don Jose

Friday, January 24, 2014

Countdown from the Dock and La Paz... 6

A beautiful bay scene
If we weren't so darn busy, I would have had so much fun doing a 10 day countdown from the dock... it would definitely have been entertaining. But who has time to be cute when there are seriously important things to be done... like replacing all six house batteries? Or getting all the sheets and blankets washed and dried? And while we still have the truck we are shuttling back and forth like mad... diesel run after diesel run.
A view from the bridge
And dumping - we are dumping loads of items off the boat as quick as we can. Things we really don't need - we're down to the nitty gritty and still... there is too much. How in the world did we accumulate so much stuff?

It took 2 months to get our immigration cards - the holidays slowed things down to a crawl. On Monday, we had them in our hot little hands so began the mad rush to tie up loose ends. Now we are hyperventilating!
Beautiful Baja
The last days here in La Paz will be a blur..
But what lies ahead has us buzzing internally with delight.
Tide out at sunrise

For now, boat projects are in hyper mode.
Heron today - gone tomorrow
And the photos Jim took that I posted have nothing to do with the madness - just a reminder of the serene and tranquil that we will be leaving behind in a few days.