Thursday, July 23, 2009

The life aboard Chocobo

As sailing goes during the past few weeks we’ve been relatively idle mainly because we were waiting for our new solar panels to arrive, which they did last Monday thanks to Wilburt Wahl in Clayton, NY who went through all the trouble of shipping them to us here in Grenada since the panel company would not ship outside the USA. Of course we had to bring them back to the boat with “our car”. Four solar panels, it takes a lot of room in a 10 ft inflatable boat as you can see. Now and for the next week we will be busy installing the panels and will depart as soon as we can after to head toward the Island of Curacao where we plan to haul out the boat for three months, the first two while we go backpacking in Peru and Bolivia.
So, for the past couple of weeks we’ve been just living a normal life on our boat and since we haven’t talked much in this blog about what it looks like to live on a boat I will dedicate this post on our more mundane day to day life. Well, we may say mundane but believe me it is quite different than what you may be used to do if you live on land. First it is important to understand that we are not in a long vacation in the south islands but we live on our boat and our backyard changes almost every week. In vacation you usually don’t worry about stuff like grocery, laundry or engine oil changes, but we sure do. Second, the heat down here is such that we just cannot function as fast as we would like and this is called “the island time”. Time is just not the same here and what we do in a day here we used to achieve the same amount of work in about two or three hours back home. Therefore, we may not have a full time job but we are busy and always trying to do something, even if it means working at snail speed!
I’ve already talked about the numerous local farmers markets so I won’t elaborate again. However, acquiring food and taking it to the boat is one our main activities. At home we would just stop after work at the Loblaw superstore and buy pretty much everything we need for the next few days in about 20 minutes. We would then pack the car and drive back home where the car is parked in a stable and firm driveway in front of the double door garage. Well on Chocobo things are slightly different. For one thing, you can’t find everything at the same location and in many places, we went, the “supermarket” was not bigger than what we call a convenience store back home. Because of this, shopping grocery takes easily an entire day and often two! The shopping begins by lowering the dinghy, which is attached on the back of the boat. We will take our grocery bags with us since, especially in the French islands, they often don’t have bags or if they do they are small plastic bags not convenient for walking long distances. We then motor to the most convenient dock we can find and where most of the time we can “legally” attach our inflatable and then walk to the market. We go to the different stalls at the market asking for stuff and dealing down the prices when we think they give us the “tourist price” and then go back to the dinghy with our bags. If there’s water in the bottom of the dinghy I will take the time to dry it to avoid our grocery to get wet. Then we motor back to the boat. Here, if we are lucky there would be no waves. Often though Danielle would go on the boat and I will pass her each bag while trying to stand in the rocking inflatable. Because of the different bugs using the fruits to board our boat like illegal aliens in the containers back home, we then have to clean each and every item with water and soap like you would do with the dishes. But then the real fun begins. Because of the extreme heat we cannot keep the fruits on the counter and we have to fit them all in our tiny vertical fridge. Nothing more fun than opening the top door and emptying half of it to get to the pot of juice!
Here in Grenada we are spoiled by the fact that fruits and vegetables are relatively cheap. All the food you see on that picture cost us $80.00EC or $30.00US. You can easily eat healthy here! Also look carefully at the picture and yes that price includes the large bottle of pure vanilla you see behind one of the pineapple. We love the Spice Island of Grenada.
Like I said many times the heat is unbearable most of the time for Canadians like us and we decided to make shade covers that we would spread on three sides of the cockpit. Here Danielle is busy assembling one of the panels using our new sewing machine that can sow 8 layers of thick canvas without a blink! She better do the job right because Nemo is watching her carefully!
Taking care of the boat is another of the main tasks keeping us busy. This includes the mechanical repairs of whatever piece of equipment that decided to leave the very unstable working state to join the very stable non-working state that every single piece of equipment on board seems to be dreaming to achieve. But this also includes cleaning and tidying the boat and THIS is not an easy task. It is just absolutely incredible how a single of Danielle’s long curly hair manages to gather all kind of stuff and create its how dirt ball. I think that every hair when it falls must exclaim itself “Yeeesss! Finally free to take over that boat. If I manage to accumulate enough dirt I will be able to use up all the space and then kick these two big guys out! Wouha-ha-ha-ha!” But their plan doesn’t account for the powerful Dirt Devil ™ that we bought in the USA and that sucks all the hairs with Napoleonic ambitions in a jiffy.
But the chores on board go much further than vacuum cleaning and we still have to cook, clean the dishes and do the laundry. The fact is that we eat almost three meals a day on board hence generating an incredible amount of dirty dishes making us regret our nice and powerful dishwasher we had back home. I also suspect that the dishes have a similar plot than the hairs for taking over the boat!
Cleaning the dishes is not just tedious but it uses a fair amount of water and so do our showers, toilet flushings and laundry cleaning. The latter being the top contender in the contest of who uses all our precious water. And fresh water is precious on a boat since to obtain it we have to use the energy hungry watermaker every day for a good three hours and often more. This drains our batteries down and then we have to run either the AC generator or the engines to charge the batteries up. This is actually one of the main reasons of adding new solar panels to rely more on the sun instead of diesel to charge our batteries.
Scares water obviously means interesting showers especially along the American East coast when the weather was not as hot as down here in the Antilles. You see, on land the normal shower process usually starts by opening the tap, waiting for the hot water to come and then adjusting the regulator to have the perfect temperature before putting our temperature sensitive skin under the flow of water rushing at full pressure. Doing that on a boat, even with the very low pressure, would cost almost 2 gallons of water, which is about what we need to take a complete shower! Do you really think we can afford such a luxury? Hell no, we get in the shower, take a big breath and then turn the tap. “Aaarrrrghhhhhhhh! Hoooo-hooooo-hooooo Oh-my-god-I-am-gonna-die!!!!!” We just wet ourselves and quickly turn the tap off, soap ourselves in a rush to profit of the water that is still on our skin and then turn the tap on only to rinse our entire body with the equivalent of two glasses of water! If we are lucky during the second half of the rinse cycle we may have some hot water finally coming out. Of course, the trick is to jump in the shower immediately after the other came out and get the hot water immediately! The good news is that for the past few months we are just happy to take a shower using only the cold water, which is hot anyway like everything else down here.
Well after going to the market, cooking the meals, washing the dishes, cleaning the boat and then having a cold shower we are good to go to bed. If we are not too exhausted we can maybe spend a bit of time thinking about a visit of the island we could do someday once we got the time! There are quite a few other day to day activities I could tell you but I’ll have to keep that for another post since this one is getting seriously too long.