|It's really hard to find a picture of the not-so-nice parts of cruising.|
The heat or the humidity. I knew it was bad when Vlad started mentioning how much he'd like to see penguins. I told him there were penguins on the equator. Next, he said, "You know, we should really stay away from polar bears." I said, "Okay...." Then, he said, "You know where the farthest place away from polar bears is?" "Where," I asked. "Antarctica." He's also stated that it's ok if we want to turn back now - "we can make it to Connecticut in a couple of months." So, it's hot. But what does that mean exactly? Lots of sweating, for one. The kind that just doesn't go away, the kind that makes you want to take a shower every 30 minutes, the kind that makes Vlad sweat through three shirts in a day and the kind that gives you heat rash. From the heat and subsequent sweating, Vlad and I both have gotten skin rashes that I try to get all Florence Nightengale on with the witch hazel and tea tree oil. It works sort of, but it's a constant battle. Sometimes, we go stand in air-conditioned ATM boxes just for some relief. Paradoxically, since we've moved south, the heat has dissipated substantially, but the super wet Panamanian climate will no doubt bring new delights. Leprosy, perhaps?
The ocean. Ok, so this one is a bit tongue and cheek, but we were surprised at just how uncomfortable it is sailing on the big wide blue. Those nice protected sailing waters like Galveston Bay are not the norm, and conditions in the open ocean are rarely optimum. The waves are large and often on our beam, making for a very unpleasant motion. The winds are often too high or from the wrong direction or nonexistent. Romantic notions of ocean travel abound, and, yes, there is beauty in every direction out there. But it's also a harsh and unforgiving landscape, one that bashes you about, covers you in bruises and makes it impossible to boil water in a regular pot.
Mold and mildew. I have now cleaned mildew off of our shoes. I've cleaned mildew off of my wooden cooking spoons. I've cleaned mildew off of our cooler and washed it out of my clothes. And this stuff is not shoved in some drawer somewhere (well, some of the clothes were). It's out in the open, getting plenty of air, and still the stuff spreads like crazy. As I mentioned in a previous post, leather is the worst. Vlad has lost two pairs of shoes and a wallet. Another cruiser we know lost a watchband. I have a bad feeling this particular battle will never end and that we will lose. Badly.
Things breaking. Things break on a boat. Even brand new things that you've only used a few times. If you're not ready for this fact, then boat life might not be right for you. Yet, things don't just break on a boat. They break. Then, Vlad fixes them, and then the same stuff breaks again right after he fixes it. Example: The outboard's impeller shattered. Vlad replaced it, and then the pull cord apparatus chose that moment to also break. I don't know why I find this so infuriating, since Vlad does all the work (stoically and without complaint, I might add), but it drives me nuts. I'm blaming imps.
Naysayers. Negative people are everywhere, but sailing seems to have a very vocal contingent of folks who say, "You can't do that." In fact, we've been told variations on that sentiment enough that it's almost kind of comical. And if it's not "you can't do that," it's some iteration of "you should be afraid." Very, very afraid. Then, we go off and do whatever it is that you can't do and find it not only doable but not scary in the least. My personal favorite has been the hurricane discussion. We would meet someone who asked us about our hurricane plans. We would tell them, and they would then proceed to lecture us on how our plan of heading south until we got out of the hurricane belt was very risky and not a smart move. But here's the kicker. I would then ask them where they were going for hurricane season, and they would reply, Florida. Or Texas. Two of the most hurricane prone places in the U.S. See how at this point we just want to laugh? Here's an insightful post on the whole fear mongering thing from The Excellent Adventure, and if you are planning on going on an excellent adventure of your own, absolutely ask questions and be prepared and get advice, but do not listen to the naysayers.
Not having enough energy. Energy usage on a boat is a balance of charge and draw, and we seem to tilt the scales on the power out side. We use computers, a fridge/freezer and the radio, run a wireless router so that we get the internet on the boat and turn on fans at night so that we don't sweat ourselves into dehydration in the dead calm Panamanian heat. We have three solar panels that should provide most of our power, but unfortunately Panama has a lot of cloud cover, rendering our panels pretty much useless. We have acquired a broken wind generator that Vlad may be able to fix, but there's also not a ton of wind in Bocas. We are now considering buying a small gasoline generator so that we don't have to run the engine, something we should have done before we left the U.S. We attempt to conserve, but there's only so much that can be done if we want to keep such luxuries as fans and leftovers.
Money. It's been way more expensive that we had originally thought, but not in the ways we had figured. Now there are reasons for that, which I will get to in a later post, but basically we had assumed that Central America would be cheap, cheap, cheap. But prices for things that cruisers use have doubled, from what we can tell, in the past five years. Checking in to Providencia, for example, used to be a few bucks not that long ago. Now, it's $120. We thought that stopping at a marina would be really cheap in these places. Not so. Nor is diesel. Nor is food always less than in the U.S. Here in Bocas, food prices are on par with the U.S., except for vegetables. Hence, our new found love of red cabbage. Last month, we spent nearly $800 on diesel and checking in to Panama and Providencia - $320 on diesel and $424 on check in fees. That is close to what I had budgeted for the month all on two items and doesn't include food, the occasional sightseeing adventure, transportation, boat parts and water.
In conclusion, sailing has not been what we've expected. It has exceeded our wildest imaginings. We've seen a waterspout dip from the sky and phosphorescence dance on the water. We've met wonderful people along the way who have enhanced our lives and have been given the freedom of movement, if only for a couple of years. Yet, we have also been unpleasantly surprised. Cruising can be frustrating. Sometimes there are no simple solutions. Occasionally, the people we have met have been less than friendly. Though we would never, ever, ever take back this incredible experience, we would have been able to deal with some of these items a bit better had we planned for them. Things such as buying a small Honda gas generator or choosing a route with less expensive check-in fees or researching the best way to deal with mold and mildew before it started growing between our toes (just joking, I swear!). Some things you can only understand by experiencing them - like, in true masochistic fashion, learning to enjoy the ocean kicking the crap out of you - and some things it's good to hear about beforehand - like the fact that cruising is expensive in ways we hadn't planned on.
Perhaps some people out there have some thoughts on the positives and negatives of cruising. If so, I'd like to hear them.