|See, we even wear our PFDs while sleeping.|
The iPad for navigation: We use Navionics on the iPad as backup navigation, and we've loved it. The display is fantastic, with a ton of detail, and I find it much easier to maneuver than our regular chartplotter. People complain about using the iPad in direct sunlight, but we seem to manage just fine. We have found some mistakes on the maps once we left the U.S., but we also found them on the chartplotter. We generally use it coming in and out of ports or when there is some tricky bit of navigation. Oh, and guess what? Our left-for-dead chartplotter made a miraculous recovery yesterday. The arid Panamanian climate must agree with it.
Sticky back: We have had to patch our mainsail twice now and once was at sea when we tore out one of the second reef points, leaving a substantial hole in the main. Sticky back has been our knight in shining armor in both of these instances. It's basically sail cloth with an adhesive backing that you can slap right on a tear and either patch it temporarily or stitch over it for a more permanent solution. Many thanks to our friends Scott and Natalie who gave us a few yards right before we left Texas. Without it, we would have had to turn back to the coast instead of making it to Florida. Here's some sticky back from Sailrite.
The internet: Having the internet on the boat rocks. True, sometimes it's fun to sip a tropical fruit smoothie while typing away on the blog in some coconut tree fringed cabana bar, but it has been very handy to have the internet on the boat while at anchor. Our set up includes an antenna, a wireless router and a bullet, which is smaller router that attaches to the antenna. With these three items, we can pick up wireless signals from up to five miles away. We occasionally even find pockets of free service, but don't count on it in the Western Caribbean, Mexico being the only spot where we found free service consistently. We are talking about getting a cell phone card that will double as a hot spot for our further travels down the coast of Panama, and we will let you know how that fares.
Reusable ice cubes: On a boat, sometimes the smallest thing makes a big difference. Vlad's dad gave us a pack of reusable ice cubes before we left, and they have been pretty darn useful, especially on hot tropical days when all you want is a cold glass of water. There are many types, but here are a few examples on Amazon.
Our safety gear: We have a couple of rules on Bettie, and probably the most important one is don't fall overboard (unless the man-overboard box pushes you!). I can't even imagine what it would be like for Vlad to wake up and find that I am not on the boat or vice versa. The thought makes me shudder. For that reason, we both are clipped in at all times when we are offshore or if we are in rough water. We wear a combined harness and personal flotation device (PFD) with a tether attached to either jacklines or a heavy steel clip in the cockpit. And, yes, the PFD is hot, heavy and leaves some pretty silly tan lines, but there is no way we would ever leave without them.
A smorgasbord of dry bags, Ziplocs, etc: We have multiple sizes of dry bags, from the tiny, clear plastic kind to a large backpack that Vlad likes to fill with heavy stuff and then walk around for several miles. Don't ask me why, but he seems to enjoy it. Obviously, life on a boat is a potentially wet existence, not a great place for sensitive electronics or cameras, but having a wealth of dry bags helps keep them safe. Also, we left with a disturbing amount of Ziploc bags - from gallon size to quart - which have been handy for all sorts of stuff, and we wash and reuse them to conserve.
Vlad's coconut machete: In Providencia, he bought a special machete, one that has a bendy blade just for cutting up coconuts. He loves this thing and managed to make friends with a group of Colombian tourists by cutting up coconuts for them. The little kids were especially pleased, and being a major coconut aficionado, I'm pretty pleased with it myself! Just remember to be careful with your fingers.
The Cuban yo-yo: This simple spool of fishing twine is a must for lazy fisherpeople like ourselves. We just toss it overboard and wait for a nice, fat tuna to bite or at least something to steal our bait. It really passes the time. Plus, you can make one out of pretty much anything. We saw little girls in Mexico fishing by wrapping fishing line around plastic water bottles, basically the same concept as a Cuban yo-yo. We also have a speargun that we keep meaning to go fiddle around with, but we always just snorkel instead. The fish have been spared for yet another day.
Each other: I'm sorry for the extreme cheesiness, but it's true. In many ways, it is an incomparable gift to be able to spend so much unconstrained time with the person that you love - to explore places and see all of these things and talk to all of these people with one another. Most people spend the majority of their days never getting a chance like this. And I won't say that it isn't hard sometimes because it is. And I won't say we never get into fights because we do. But each day we get to be curious about the world around us and satisfy our sense of adventure and watch every single sunset together. Plus, Vlad gets the honor of keeping me safe from Moray eels and making me read about sea cucumbers, while I make sure he gets plenty of quiche to eat. I feel pretty darn lucky every day.