Thursday, August 23, 2012

Glimpse of Daily Life - El Salvador

Current Location: San Mateo, CA

We are still happily enjoying land life here in California, but are currently planning our return to El Salvador. A target date has been set for the end of September when we will reunite with our boat, Knee Deep and prepare the old girl to set sail once again. In the meantime, here is a flashback to our
El Salvadorian life….

Flashback #1 – Glimpse of Daily Life - Costa del Sol, El Salvador in the Jaltepeque Estuary

As I sit here in the open air refuge of the Bahia del Sol hotel patio, looking out over the estuary at our sailboat, Knee Deep, I’m excited that yet another exotic place has become my home for a short time. As a kid, I resided in the same house my whole life, went to the same schools, had two parents that stayed together for 55 years…it was the model of stability and love which I found very comforting and shaped who I am today.

When we left on this cruising adventure, I wasn’t quite sure how myself, or my children, would acclimate to changing locations so frequently. Although always a lover of travel, I had never lived anywhere outside California. Yet just as I had suspected, living this nomadic life, our family has learned that home is truly where the heart is. Wait, scratch that!! I hate it when I assume what others are thinking or feeling.

"Home is where the heart is”. It is what I, myself, have learned.

This is how our children replied to the inquiry, “How do you feel about our home being on sailboat and the fact that we don’t live in a house like we used to?”

J.P. - “It kinda feels not very normal, but it feels pretty good, because we can go places whenever we want.”

Mickey - “I kinda feel special because almost no other kids get to do this.”

Before you accuse me of leading my witnesses, let me disclose that hidden among these answers are, indeed, some regrets of life on board. For instance, J.P.’s desire to have a pet of any kind is an on-going point of contention. Always the negotiator he is continually attempting to finagle a creature on board, even suggesting that we have a pet ant which wouldn’t take up much room and “dropping an apple in its tiny cage would feed him for like a year!!”. As a result of his love of animals, he has started a pet sitting business in El Salvador and has been getting paid to care for other cruiser’s cats while they travel inland.

Mickey’s passion for playing organized sports or baseball of any kind has also fallen by the wayside for a bit. To temporarily quench his baseball thirst, we have downloaded the MLB app on his IPod Touch where he can listen to Kruk and Kuip call Giant’s games while dangling his feet in El Salvadorian waters. We have tried to bust out the bat, ball and glove, but boogie boarding and tossing a tennis ball around in the pool, seems to be more of a desirable option in the tropical heat.

But again, I digress…the point of this blog entry was to answer the question we hear a lot from friends and family at home, “What do you do all day?” Let me forewarn you, it’s not as exciting or exotic as you may think. Most of our time is spent doing maintenance on the boat and homeschooling, but if you would like a glimpse, here you go.  Keep in mind this is life while living in one place for an extended stay like we did in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador and La Cruz, Mexico. When we are on the move, it can be quite different.

I usually awaken in the morning when the sweat starts to roll off my forehead, a new kind of alarm since we have no need for a standard clock radio. It should be noted that our fellow cruisers tease us about how late the captain and crew of Knee Deep start their day (around 9:00 a.m.). We counter with the explanation that nighttime is the only kid-free period Ben and I get, but it’s just an excuse, we have always been night owls.

The boys forage for their breakfast, which most mornings is a bowl of cereal or pancakes made by Mickey. Ben and I have learned to suppress our groans as he announces he will be cooking in the galley (a.k.a kitchen). It’s hot, and turning on the stove doesn’t help, but his enthusiasm for cooking is inspiring so we roll with it most mornings. I think about making coffee, but dismiss the idea since it’s already too friggin’ hot and there is no ice to be found for iced coffee. I shove the daydream of the Starbucks drive-up window from my mind, and decide to start drinking water instead. The knife slicing caffeine headaches have subsided and for that I am grateful.

Making some pancakes! Mickey and J.P. love to have people over for breakfast!

We put up the bimini, a sunshade that covers the cockpit, to give us shelter from the sun and eat our breakfast sitting in the cockpit of our boat (a.k.a. patio). There is no equipment that can save us from the 80% humidity except for afternoon cold beers in the pool, which we reluctantly MUST do for our survival….wink-wink! You will be comforted to know, our children not of drinking age, order fresh squeezed orange juice instead of “cervezas”.  The view from our patio is gorgeous and instead of climbing in our cars to commute, we sit and wave to local El Salvadorians paddling by in their homemade canoes.

Local fisherman in their canoe paddle by every day.

A view from our cockpit (a.k.a. patio).

When there was a larger group of boats here, a morning net took place on the VHF radio (this also occurs at most other sailing anchorages and marinas). This consists of one person as “Net Controller” facilitating general announcements from the fleet, with topics such as; “Weather/Tide Reports”, “Mail Call” (people headed to the U.S. or Canada willing to bring mail back), “Lost and Found”, and my all time favorite, “Social Activities”. This can range from bocce ball or bonfires on the beach to the local town’s holiday parade celebration.

My other favorite is “Treasures of the Bilge” which consists of sailboats announcing things they no longer need and want to purge from their boat. It’s the equivalent of a garage sale for you house dwellers, but we cruisers, have no cars, therefore, no garage. The term comes from the fact that we are quite creative in where we store things due to limited space. Items can be stored in the bilge, a compartment under the floorboards of the sailboat. We are unable to legally buy and sell things from each other in Mexico and El Salvador so we trade or sell them for “coconuts”.

For example, back in La Paz, MX, great treasures were discovered after Mickey and J.P. announced over the Net  they were looking to trade some of  their Nintendo DS games for different ones.  A teenager from another boat quickly answered and we later met up for the exchange.  She also had grown tired of the same DS games and was looking for new ones. Everyone was excited about the swap and new friends were made!

This is the reaction Mrs. Doolittle usually gets when the school begins!
After breakfast, Ben begins his daily list of maintenance items which could be anything from jumping in the water to scrub the algae off the boat bottom to investigating why our battery bank is not charging to capacity. The latter project has had him quite perplexed and many hours have been spent scratching his head, consulting with other cruisers (inevitably over a cold beer) and doing diagnostic tests. Unlike home, where we can luxuriously plug in with no thought of electrical consumption, living aboard a boat requires a more conservationist approach. If we are anchored out, electricity is supplied by our solar panels and we use this to power our refrigerator, computers and lights during the evening hours.

As Ben putters about the boat, the cranky old school marme, Mrs. Doolittle, announces school is in session and we gather around the table in the salon (a.k.a. living room). If this is the case, school inevitably bleeds over into the boat projects Ben is currently working on. For instance, developing a new design for lifting the dinghy onto the boat required a couple of assistant engineers like Mickey and J.P. to figure out an efficient pulley system. On hotter days, we will take the dinghy to shore and have school by the pool or in any air-conditioned room we can find (they are hard to come by).

After lunch of sandwiches, fruit and more water (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate) in the cockpit, the boys have some free time to play, swim or play on their IPods. By mid to late afternoon, the temperature and humidity has started to reach its peak and we launch the dinghy and head to shore to cool off in the pool (the estuary is not good for swimming).  Ben and I will take turns at the computer, checking e-mails for the business, doing research for boat parts and keeping in touch with family and friends. The boys have scurried off to play with their friends from other sailboats.

Our office at Bahia del Sol!

A view of the volcano from our boat.

On most days as I hunch over our laptop, I can hear the locals working on boats blasting an eclectic mix of music. As the radio station plays WHAM’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”, Katie Perry’s “This Friday Night” and amazingly enough, Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”, I pull my head up and chuckle distracted by the thoughts buzzing through my brain,

“Where am I?”
“Did I just go through a time warp?”
“Is this where the screenplay writers of movie, The Hot Tub Time Machine got their idea?”

Our office has no cubicles, just random music, a swimming pool and $1 beers. Not much to complain about here! After closing the office, we jump in the pool and enjoy happy hour with our fellow cruisers chatting about our next destination, which bus is best to get to San Salvador, wagering if it will rain that night, and other random topics we cruisers can spend hours mulling over.

Cruiser's happy hour by the pool. Many world problems are solved here!

This is our access to local t.v.  Good for watching soccer matches and the occasional MLB game....sometimes the local lizards like to watch too!

It should be noted that this day does not include tasks like provisioning. A trip to the grocery store can be an all day affair! In addition, during the El Salvador Rally, there were on-going planned events like pupusa making, wine tasting, net fishing lessons and holiday events like the Easter Deviled Egg contest which Ben won with his “secret bacon recipe”. Time is also filled with inland travel to see El Salvador in addition to exploring the estuary in our dinghy.

Dinner consists of barbecuing on the boat, walking to the nearest pupusa stand for a 75 cent meal or enjoying a more expensive dinner at the hotel (cheeseburger, fries, salad and dessert for $5…and did I mention the beers were a $1?). As darkness falls, we hop back in our dinghy and putter out to our floating home.

An evening dinghy ride back to the boat....I think J.P. had a good day!


Back onboard, the fans are immediately turned on to cool off the interior and the boys snuggle up in their beds to read. Ben and I enjoy the light breeze up in the cockpit until we are chased inside by the nibbling bugs. On some nights we watch the lightening show and cool off in the tropical rain, instead of watching a movie on the laptop or reading our latest book.

Tomorrow it will all start again, another day in paradise!! However, after a few weeks I awoke one morning, rolled over and said to Ben, “I’m bored.”

Perhaps it is one of the side effects of cruising, but more importantly it is a sign that it is time to get moving again. Next up…my visit to an El Salvadorian Health Clinic.

Cheers, Molly

The nightly of thunder and lightening show seen from the cockpit of our boat!