This edition is for those who intend to cruise. The crew of Nanjo has learned things from experience by now. Some of the things we did before we left cruising have turned out to be valuable. We have made many adjustments though. But we would never have been able to make all the "right" choices sitting dockside in Emeryville. We discovered most of our insight only after we had to rely on Nanjo, our floating domicile.
First off, I have some pointers for diabetics. I bump into cruising Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics all the time. They are typically on sailboats. They are active and rarely found lying on the beach. They snorkel, they surf, they hike, they climb 1500' volcanoes, they eat, and they party.
Of course we have our problems managing our diabetes. However, exercise and activity have made managing appropriate glucose levels easier to attain. In addition, during the hotter weather, drinking more water has aided in maintaining the effectiveness of my insulin. If I take a day off to just kick back and read, I have to plan on my insulin being from 1 to 2 units too low, my b/s level will rise up to 100 points. If I spend an hour diving to clean the bottom of Nanjo, I work out my legs, arms and my lungs extensively. I usually have a snack bar before I start. After I'm done, it is not uncommon for me to take a short nap.
I have adjusted my insulin strategy in the last 6 months and am very pleased with the results. I used to take my morning injection of R (regular) and NPH (long-term). However, that placed me in jeopardy of getting caught needing to eat at an inopportune time, exposing myself to a severe low. Although I could use a snack bar to head off the low, it occurred too frequently and I didn't want to munch snacks and swig honey all the time. So I stopped taking the NPH in the morning. Now I bring R with me and take the appropriate amount based on my reading, my selected meal and the anticipated exercise level for the afternoon. This has worked out very nicely and my b/s levels have become very consistent. I have fewer lows at mid-day and have more flexibility palling around with people "on automatic" (non-diabetic).
Provisioning diabetes supplies had been a chore for the first six months after entering Mexican waters. First, I found that although there are countless numbers of farmacias to select from, none have glucometer strips and few have insulin. In order to acquire these, you must have the farmacia order them for you. Insulin is fairly easy to get, as long as it is R or NPH. The sailboat Departure has problems ordering Virgil's 70/30 mixture.
After looking in the catalogs in farmacias, I found that only one Boehringer Mannheim model could be found. However, Lifescan is the most available. Only Lifescan One Touch was found on a few major store's shelves (Comercial and ISSSTE) in the farmacia section. I was only able to order One Touch strips successfully, even at major stores.
Use the following to order strips - NADRO (09802169) Codigo - to get a box of 50 strips (2 tubes).
ISSSTE is the government-subsidized store and will have the best prices. In Mazatlan, they would order up to 4 boxes for me. In the smaller stores, they will order only one box and I have been asked to leave a deposit sometimes. They are surprised at the expense and won't take the chance that you won't return to buy what they order.
My recommendation is to order several months of supplies when in major ports such as Mazatlan or PV. Otherwise you may find yourself trapped by the daily shopping trips to assure your supply. I ordered a 6-month's supply of strips and insulin before crossing to Baja and The Sea. Some people have had to get their supplies by taking a bus to San Diego. Don't put yourself into that situation!
Since most cruisers out here live off the bounty of the sea while cruising, a few notes on this diet. Fish, cooked, shocked me with the high b/s readings that resulted. However, raw (sashimi) is easy on the glucose. Clams are surprisingly low in their impact on my diet.
There are many options for the diabetic in Mexico: Low sugar cookies (Cuetara), low sugar jelly (Smuckers- Mas Fruita Menos Azucar), jello (Jello Lite), pop (lite Coke, Pepsi, etc.), low fat milk in a carton that doesn't need refrigeration until you open it, a few low sugar dry cereals (Special K or Cheerios) and other items. However, if you want sugar-free syrup, bring it from stateside.
Sugar substitutes are widely available. Most stores have Nutrasweet or the Mexican equivalent. However, we have found that Splenda is better for cooking and doesn't have the bitter after taste, which so many have. Asulfame K is used in C-Lite (which is Crystal Lite in USA) but isn't available in packages. We brought Stevia in the liquid form from stateside to cook with as well. This form isn't bitter, while the granular form is.
The most successful addition to our boat was the water treatment we do to the water intake for the head. I put in a new head just before departing Emery Cove. I haven't had to disassemble the toilet and clean it for over two years now. [I'm knocking on wood with one hand and typing with the other!] I used to clean it every 6-8 weeks before. The urethra crystals would build up that quickly. We installed the little Earth Safe in-line unit (WM568592) in the intake line, but use Johnson Waxes Toilet Duck instead. Nancy breaks each "duck" into chunks, adding a new one about every month. We have had no buildup. However, be aware that the Earth Safe unit works in tropical water, it didn't help at all in SFO.
Secondly, we occasionally add a little olive oil to the water to keep the insides of the pump lubricated. Some had cautioned us that the oil would encourage marine growth in the head. This might happen in SFO but doesn't down here.
Occasionally the pump-dry pressure relief sticks. I give it a shot of WD40 and work it with a pencil tip a few times and it's good for months.
While you can buy toilet paper most anywhere in Mexico (they need it too!), we are glad we have a huge supply of the soft, American type.
This area of sailing is almost like religion or politics, you can never win an argument on this topic. That being said, I will suggest that there is NO PERFECT ANCHOR. I have seen people drag using every popular anchor made. So don't think you can purchase perfect safety. I suggest you develop a skill of anchoring with minimal risk of dragging. It takes practice. Not just practice in your home-harbor vicinity, but in every possible condition between where your boat is now and after a year of doin' it in unfamiliar anchorages. It takes communications. It takes teamwork. And it requires agreement between the crew before you can consider yourself truly "parked". And even then we monitor landmarks and set an "anchor-drag" alarm on the GPS. As you have read countless times in these chronicles, we pick up Max and reset him if we have any reservations about the location or hold.
The one least controversial pointer for anchoring is to back down strongly to set the anchor. Watch landmarks perpendicular to your heading to verify that movement stops. I also hold my hand on the snubber to feel for signals of slipping or jumping.
Most boats down here have more than one anchor. They typically use just one though as their primary anchor. It is rare to see a boat here with rode (rope) rather than all chain. Just about every boat uses a snubber of some sort - some only a foot or two long, but most are longer. Ours is 10' long.
Successful anchoring is partly achieved before the anchor leaves the roller. Knowing the tidal range at your location and the current state of the tide is the only way a crew can accurately calculate the scope (multiple of the water depth). When you are in a 4' tidal range, this may not be critical. However, the ranges become problematic in the Sea of Cortez. For this reason, I suggest that you have a tides program in your computer. I have found the "freeware" WXTIDE" that I downloaded from Lat38's site very accurate. It has been very interesting to note the inaccuracy of some of the programs purchased. So ask your cruising friends and pick the one more of them use.
Keeping up with the changing weather is easily accomplished if you are Ham or SSB equipped. This was one decision I blew. I expected the Internet low-orbit satellite constellations to be up and associated wireless modems available by this time. That not happening, I have an all-bands receiver and get the weather from the radio nets and the high seas forecast from the Coast Guard. I'm still trying to eliminate electrical noise, which is preventing me from receiving weather faxes on KIWI (laptop).
The Chubasco Net is the preeminent weather source in Mexico. The local VHF nets usually get theirs from Chubasco and a few other available sources. Of course Chubasco gets theirs from the Internet, The Weather Station, NOAA and local mariners.
The Coast Guard high seas broadcast every 6 hours provides warnings, highs and lows, troughs and ridges, resulting winds and forecast locations. At minimum this broadcast gives me 6-hour updates to the once-a-day Chubasco Net report. But it also has provided me with wind condition reports on the Pacific side of Baja which helped me anticipate Elefantes, strong westerlies. Unfortunately, these broadcasts give obsolete info - six to ten hours old!
However the Time-Tick channels give 45 seconds of more current info on storms. These broadcasts are at 9 minutes before and 10 minutes after each hour. At 8 and 9 minutes after the hour they give Atlantic and Caribbean info, providing you with the opportunity to get tuned into a station with good reception.
One of our first cruiser friends gave us a copy of a tracking chart (form NOAA/PA 77021) to plot reported storms on. This is invaluable when making decisions relative to looking for shelter or moving around in the Sea of Cortez.
I found that John Rains MexWX book was very informative and packed with technical info for Ham/SSB radio and future wireless Internet users.
Swimmer's Ear is a common ailment for the first-time cruiser. Both Nancy and I have had a mild case as have most everyone we've met. There are many living things in these waters, some so small you just don't see them. Whether you swim or snorkel only at the surface or you dive down 20 or 30 feet, water will get into your ears. If it is not cleared, an infection can result. Just shaking the water out of the ear or using a Q-tip to absorb the water will not prevent the problem.
Nancy found a potion in one of the cruising guides that we use. Alcohol to dry up the water and oil to lubricate the skin, equal parts. We use regular olive oil.
In addition, we use earplugs. We use Mack's Earplugs, a package of 6 sets of waxy plugs bought in a stateside drugstore. These are rolled into balls and flattened over the ear opening. Although they caution about use below 10'' I use them to 30''with no problem.
I wrote an entire issue on food last year. The key point here is to enjoy Mexico-made products. My first example has to be Mexican oatmeal. Once I ate the alternative to Quaker, I can't go back. Quaker now tastes like cardboard.
"Mexican beef is tuff", was what we heard from everyone. Maybe it is if you go to restaurants a lot, ordering steaks or other thick slabs of meat. However, we have eaten a lot of the beef down here and tough is not the first thing that comes to our mind. It is healthy because it has almost no fat. The flavor is great.
Chicken purchased at the open-air markets taste better than the shrink-wrapped store packages.
Mexican tortillas are tasty and thick. However, they need to be used within a few days. Not only that but they need to be separated and allowed to breathe. Nancy stores them in a basket wrapped with a loose woven cloth. We tend to purchase packaged, preservatives-added tortillas when we need them to last for weeks.
The same with bread: Bimbo brand bread will keep "forever", but freshly baked bolillo rolls are all we eat in port, although they spoil quickly if not refrigerated.
Nancy has replaced lettuce with cabbage.
The fruits and vegetables are generally vine-ripened. It will be hard to consistently find such flavor stateside.
Olive oil is very expensive in Mexico. Typically found in small bottles of a cup or less for several dollars! I finally found a huge jug at the Comercial in PV and Mazatlan, 5 liters for $15.
BUGS THAT BITE
No-see-ums are one of the main problems at some anchorages. While you could put screens on every window and hatch, they will cut down on ventilating the boat. We have all Nanjo's windows and hatches open all the time and are rarely bothered by "flying teeth" or mosquitoes. Here is what we do.
No-see-ums seem to come out just before sunset and stay active for about 3 hours. We use Vape, mosquito coils, purchased locally, during this time. We break off a piece to last the three hours, light it and place it in the forward part of the boat, allowing the smoke to stream through the boat. Nancy even sits under a hatch to get more breeze and still doesn't get bitten.
In addition, no-see-ums will hide in your boat if you don't keep them out. They have been known to haunt their host boat for days. These boats (Gemini, as an example) have to "bomb" below-decks with Raid or something toxic to exterminate them. However, our mosquito coils keep them from ever accumulating in Nanjo in the first place.
Now for treating bites: Calamine lotion doesn't work. Some people use onion. Most use alcohol or limes to stop the itch and kill the eggs. Oh, yeah! I didn't tell you. No-see-ums aren't just biting you, they are using your body to proliferate the species. They lay eggs in the bites. A few days after the bite seems to be subsiding, it flares up again when the eggs hatch. ICHH! A recent cure in the fleet, acquiring a large following, calls for dabbing clear fingernail polish on the bites. This treatment seems to eliminate the flare-ups.
Come cruising with an open mind, ready to have a good time. There are many options to consider. Current conditions in weather, bugs, water clarity, heat, etc. will dictate which of these options are more desirable for the anchorage you stop at. We have found that all people don't have the same enjoyment as you may experience. So don't ignore going some place you had planned to just because another cruiser didn't have a good time there. All the conditions I listed above change daily. If the water clarity is poor, take a hike instead. The clarity will change in a few days. If it's hot, spend more time in the water. There are ways to avoid no-see-ums and tend to their bites.
Make the most of "paradise"! Experience as much as you can. As I always like to say, "If life (or an anchorage) gives you lemons . . . make lemonade!!"
Crew of Nanjo