Unsolicited Advice

Emergency boarding ladder, from the June 1997 issue of Cruising World.

The Chaika Basura Plan

We're the Miller family of the Westsail 32 Chaika , and are just ending a highly enjoyable year-long cruise that saw us sail down the coast from seattle last summer and fall, spend the winter on mainland Mexico as far south as Bahia Navidad, the the spring in the Sea of Cortez. We were delighted to find a copy of your May issue here at the San Carlos Marina, where we are preparing Chaika for her road trip home- and would like to add to the discussion about dealing with garbage in the Sea of Cortez.

Finding a garbage can ashore on mainland Mexico was never a problem, and if you bought a beer, the palapa's owners were happy to let you leave your garbage in their dumpster. On the Baja side, however, we would sometimes be far away from and port for as long as a month, so we had to develop a plan for dealing with our garbage. We decided to separate our garbage into four categories, to be dealt with in different ways:

Food Scraps: We think too many of our fellow cruisers delight in tossing compost scraps overboard, even when in small coves and marinas. We collect such scraps in plastic containers and wait until we are out sailing to toss them overboard. Or, we take them ashore to toss back into the brush or feed to the local livestock. The goats of Aqua Verde were most appreciative of these scraps.

Toilet Paper: We don't flush toilet paper down our head for fear of blockages, but have a special bag for it next to the head. When we are out sailing, we toss it overboard. We have a strict rule about nothing else going into that trash bag.

Cans and Bottles: Without refrigeration, we went through a lot of cans, and bought our beer and soda pop in cans. As much of that would be destined to a landfill on shore, we decided that sinking them in deep water was the most responsible thing to do. We rinse them out in sea water after use, and collect them until we are out in deep water away from shore. We don't just chuck them overboard, however. We have a bucket of water on deck to fill them to make sure they sink as opposed to just floating off on the surface.

Burnables: What is left after all the above is paper and plastic. This we collect and bag up tightly to stow in a kayak- our "deck storage unit"- until we get to the land of garbage cans. It's amazing how compact it all is if cans and bottles are not included, and how little smell there is if no food scraps are in it.

On occasion we burned this collected trash ashore, but burned it carefully. We would make our own fire pit on the beach so as to be able to clean it up properly afterwards. It doesn't work to burn garbage unless there is a good supply of driftwood to keep a fire hot enough to completely burn the plastic. We would make a bed of sticks, open our garbage bags and thoroughly drench it all with gasoline, stand way back, and flick a match in. It takes a while, poking with a stick, to burn it all down to ash. We would come back later in the day to pull out foil and incompletely burned items. If done properly, there is even very little ash left to clean up the fire pit.

We agree with the Mohrs in the May Latitude that many cruisers in the Sea of Cortez do not deal with their trash responsibly. Following the lead of the local fishermen - who aren't particularly fastidious - is tempting but probably not appropriate for visitors. Cruisers should not burn their garbage unless it is done with considerable care. Dropping your garbage off in one of the small fishing villages probably means it will be tossed into a local arroyo, so we can up with this Chaika Basura Plan to contribute as little as possible to the local landfills. We loved our cruise in Mexico and look forward to future visits.

(from the August 2003 issue of Latitude 38)

Surf Landing in Mexico

We would like to add another surf landing strategy to add to the excellent "Surf Landing School" article in the December issue. On our 2002-2003 sail down the coast to Mexico we ended up with a small inflatable with an unreliable 3 hp outboard. For those cruisers with similarly overloaded and underpowered dinghies, we offer these notes on the "swim it in" technique.

It worked like this: just outside the line of breakers the four of us (we had our two daughters with us) would cock up the outboard, snap down the wheels and jump overboard. The girls would swim in to wait on the beach to help haul the dinghy up the beach. All of our shore things would be in dry bags. In particularly nasty surf we would have a line ashore from the bow to help pull it in faster. We decided that trying to make it through the surf in shore clothes was too tempting to the shorebreak gods so would always just wear swimsuits.

A variation of the technique using a kayak with a tight fitting cockpit cover is to exit the kayak outside the breakers, seal the paddle and baggage inside and swim it in. It is remarkable how easy it is to control a kayak in the surf when you are in the water at the seaward side. Since swimming was one of the things we enjoyed the most in Mexico, getting wet going ashore seldom seemed a bother.

We certainly agree that a nice RIB dinghy with a powerful outboard is the way to go on the west coast of Mexico, but cruisers without them can get by quite well.

(from the February 2007 issue of Latitude 38)

Careening the Boat

We had occasion to lay our Westsail 32 Chaika on the beach some years back when the key to the prop sheared just as we started the engine to enter Agate Pass here in the Puget Sound. We sailed over to an anchorage for the night, and after scrutinizing the tide tables and charts found a perfect beach nearby in the entrance to Port Madison. We sailed over on the morning high tide and anchored in six feet of water (Chaika draws five feet). An anchor from the masthead to the beach after we touched ensured that we would lean shoreward.

Replacing the key on the propeller took only minutes; we spent the day on the beach waiting for the tide to come up and fending off continual offers for help and expressions of sympathy for having dragged anchor and gone aground. One young man, yelling instructions from the beach as the tide refloated us, was so determined to help rescue us that we had to give up trying to explain that we had done it on purpose and just ignore him.

We had always wanted to try careening and we pleased at how straightforward it was. The boat sat on the turn of the bilge and her high freeboard prevented any water on on deck or even in the scuppers. We laid her to port as we were concerned about diesel leaking out the air vent on the starboard side. It would be necessary to clamp off that hose if we laid her on the the other side.

(from the May 2007 issue of Latitude 38)