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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The downsides of cruising….and yes there are some!


Looking back on our blog, we realise that it is full of fantastic photos of us in wonderful places we’ve visited. Beautiful beaches, that amazing turquoise water, palm trees etc.

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As we walked home from town yesterday in 30degree plus heat (we missed the bus)....carrying a heavy load of shopping and spare parts……we pondered on how many of our friends look past the pretty photos to the stark realities of the cruising lifestyle. While much of our time is spent visiting stunning spots, a lot more is spent fixing things and searching for provisions.


Normally we gloss over this aspect of our life but, given that we’ve spent the last few days working from dawn until dusk, at not particularly pleasant jobs, we figured it was time to fill you all in on the more humdrum aspects of cruising. For example, David spent yesterday morning up to his elbows in shit (changing a poo pump…more about that in another blog) and just as we thought we had a relaxing afternoon, the VHF chirped into life with a distress call from a boat on the rocks in our bay. It was a case of all men (well clarification, all Kiwi men…the others seemed to disappear pretty quickly) to the rescue – and an entire afternoon and evening was wiped out. Luckily, the boat was saved. While all that was happening I was wearing my pest destruction officer hat killing weevils (the not so good result of bulk buying in Morocco)


David in the engine room…where he spends a lot of time

Most of you are probably convinced we spend our days lazing on sun drenched beaches, swimming in crystal clear water and, come sunset, sip cocktails on deck, telling ourselves how lucky we are. Hate to disappoint you – but the cruising life is really not like that. For a start, everything takes so much longer to do on a boat (I expand on this below) and, as we have to be as self-sufficient as possible, much time is spent doing menial tasks such as making bread, pickles, jams, muesli etc.  And of course, I get to spend hours at the computer updating the blog, writing stories and emailing.


Those who have spent time with us have a skewed vision of our lifestyle as when we have visitors we down tools and go all out to have fun. They don’t realise we’ve probably spent several days before they arrive preparing for them – provisioning, making beds and getting systems fired up and several days after they leave cleaning, doing laundry and re provisioning. On that note let’s take a closer look at some of those chores;


This is an expedition involving lots of walking lugging heavy backpacks and bags (we swear our arms are longer these days). People at home don’t give a second thought to shopping - they just jump in the car, go to the supermarket, load up and return home.  For us it’s usually a daylong marathon that first involves finding a supermarket or  three… the first one is often useless, in one case selling pig’s ears, cow’s feet, salted cod, taro, callalou, hot spicy sauce and little else.


Guess what?  Despite the sign they still harass you and put fruit in your mouth!

Suitable supermarket found, it’s then a case of how many trips we need to make back to the dinghy which could be some miles away….then an often wet ride back to the mothership anchored somewhere offshore. Oh…..and they don’t usually take credit cards. So you first have to find a money machine, work out the exchange rate and withdraw enough money (but not too much as Cape Verdean or Barbados currency is not much use anywhere else) for the task. If they do take credit cards – they can’t process them at the counter so you have a few heart stopping minutes as the card is taken elsewhere before being returned to you. One of our cruising friends had his credit card skimmed to the tune of $20,000… we tend to not let ours out of our sight now….if we can help it.


Supermarkets over here generally don’t sell fresh fruit and vegetables. So another day is spent at the fruit and vegetable market haggling over prices. We find this exhausting. It would be so much easier if they simply displayed the price but no….you have to ask, unless you are a wealthy German cruiser and you just point and pay. Being budget conscious Kiwis we ask the price of everything and when you’re buying pineapple, papaya, bananas, oranges, mangos, avocado, plantain, beetroot, bok choy, tomatoes, cucumber and yams it all gets a bit tiring. Produce is weighed on scales – often the kind that you used to play with in your Wendy house when you were four. So you are never really getting what you pay for – but then a smiling friendly bloke will throw in an extra star fruit or mango and you’ll feel better.


All this produce has to go somewhere and even though Bandit is voluminous for her size – there is never quite enough room and that brings me to stowing.


Stowing is an art and, despite living on a boat for six years, it’s one I haven’t quite mastered. I’m forever seeking more space! At home of course you just chuck it all in the walk in pantry or fridge and freezer – lovely big freestanding ones with oceans of room. On a boat fitting everything in becomes a skill. And it’s why I get a tad upset if visitors decide to help themselves to a can of beer – it is so carefully positioned that its removal results in an avalanche of everything stacked on top. It also explains why these days we drink our rum with water….it’s just so much easier than trying to buy, carry and stow ginger beer (how we yearn for a good dark and stormy though!)


It never ceases to amaze us that people seem to think boats don’t require cleaning. I spend as long keeping Bandit clean and tidy as I would a house – a fairly large house at that. Salt and sand has a habit of getting throughout the boat so a daily floor clean is essential. And surfaces get covered in finger and hand marks (from all that holding on when it’s rough) so there is always polishing to do. As for dust – yeap, even mid Atlantic we had dust….red, hard to budge African dust. Bandit is our home so we’ve personalised her and have Turkish rugs on the floor, which need shaking or vacuuming every day. And we have more toilets and showers on Bandit than we had at home and they also need a daily clean. Hmm…that’s most of the morning taken care of.

People at home tell us we both look fairly lean these days. Well that’s mostly due to the energy required to do something simple like making a bed. When we have visitors coming I don’t bother doing my daily pilates workout…I just make the beds. It requires plenty of crawling, stretching, leaning and always involves hitting my head, elbow or shin at least twice. When visitors arrive Bandit’s beds are beautifully made with top quality crisply ironed sheets (I know it’s anal but I’m a sucker for luxury sheets and can’t bear sleeping in wrinkled ones) but we do notice that from then on, the duvet cover is simply pulled over the top. Noone keen for a pilates workout then?



The bane of every cruiser. “Is there a laundry” is often the first thing a new cruiser into an anchorage will ask. In Greece we were completely spoilt by a wonderful man who collected my towels and sheets away and returned them beautifully washed, dried, ironed and folded for the ridiculously cheap price of $20 for a boatload. He threw in 10kg of apricots as well. In Sardinia I got stung when the laundry charged $200 for the same amount!!

But I am hiding a wee secret from you – yes we have a washing machine on board. In our first season of cruising I decided enough was enough – I was sick and tired of handwashing in buckets or sitting in Laundromats so I bought a machine which David spent some days installing. It’s fantastic and the thing I love most on the boat (after David of course)…..but when we have friends it’s just too much for my small machine and of course, it uses valuable water. And let’s be honest – sheets and towels hanging all over a boat aren’t such a great look. So I only use it for small loads. And I tend not to tell people as I foolishly told one guest who within minutes produce a massive pile of dirty washing from her trip around Europe. I mostly use my own machine (when the generator is has running!) but if there is a laundry nearby and it’s reasonably priced – then I will use that.

Right – enough of the downsides – we’re off for a snorkel on the rocks and, because it’s Friday, we’re going to the bar for a sundowner. See – despite all the above, we do live in paradise!


Oh……but there’s lots more…..I can hear the generator spluttering yet again so I feel a blog about Bandit’s more quirky features coming on. And I haven’t even touched on all the things that keep David’s day occupied… this space.


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