First Mate Hung in Effigy a Second Time

Jan 25, 2009| 0 Comment

Whatever was The First Mate thinking? How could she have been so wrong? — She believed that when they arrived in Cabo, they would finally start “cruising” which, defined by her, is lazy days of wandering aboard Avante with no pressing need to do anything but enjoy where we are at that moment. So very wrong. The good ship Avante remains on a schedule. We are flying home to Telluride at the end of February, and before then, The Captain plans to get all the way south to Manzanillo before returning to Puerto Vallarta where we will leave Avante. Our next stop: Mazatlan. The Captain will allow 2 days there. Then Puerto Vallarta where 4 days may be allowed. Then we can start cruising (Captain’s style) down the beautiful Gold Coast to Manzanillo. That’s 175nm, but we have 2 weeks to do that. Well, no, not exactly. That is 2 weeks to do 350nm because we have to return to Puerto Vallarta at the end of those 2 weeks. 350nm divided by 14 days is 25nm miles a day. If we play at anchor for a day (maybe try snorkeling as other cruisers seem to enjoy), we have to make up the lost time with a 50nm day. Those are long days, a tight schedule, and The First Mate is tired of both.

The First Mate does get two days in Cabo, and surprisingly, she finds that she likes the place. She had not expected to from reports of over-building and high tourism impact, but the marina is super, the people are friendly, and there is even a hike she would like to do up a local mountain affording a great view. “Mountain?” The Captain looks askance at her as if nothing under Telluride’s 9,000 feet could ever classify as a mountain.

Wednesday, January 24th – Son David leaves at 1000 for the airport and his flight home. We are on our own and hurrying to be out of the marina within an hour. The marina is nice, but at $250 a night for our slip, it is an expensive hotel room, especially since we are providing the room. It is 45nm northeast up the coast to Bahia Los Frailes where we plan to spend the night. 45nm equates to about a 6-hour trip with good winds or the engine running. Whether sail or motor, we will be anchoring at dusk or later due to our late morning departure. The First Mate is resigned, but just the thought of the day ahead makes her tired. While The Captain heads off to the marina office to check us out, she goes about getting the boat ready. The windows and hatches are closed, drawers and doors are latched, and anything loose that could take flight in a contrary wave is stowed. Suntan lotion is applied. She turns off the shore power and disconnects the heavy electrical line between shore and boat. She inspects the boat to make sure all is set to go. She may not want to go, but since we are going, she is doing her part. The Captain returns somewhat frustrated that the office took so long to clear him out. He does what he needs to do, and then we are set to go. The First Mate backs the boat out of the slip and down the fairway. Miraculously, there is no gridlock of boats speeding up and down the main channel. We back into the channel, reverse, and head out to sea turning left or east along the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.

We are motoring along the coast toward Punta Los Frailes, a bulging outcrop of mountainous land. Below this point, sheltered from wind and waves, we will anchor in Bahia Los Frailes. This coastal trek actually angles us 30nm closer to Mazatlan and thus, turns the passage across the Sea of Cortez into a one-nighter rather than two.

Eventually there is enough wind to raise sail, and we peacefully sail along for an hour before the wind back off. We need to keep our speed up to get to our anchorage before dark, so the motor is turned on, and we take down the sails. Bulging points of land create the phenomena we have seen so often in places like Point Conception north of Santa Barbara: turbulent seas and funneling high winds. But winds are only supposed to be 15 – 20 knots today, and it is so peaceful right now, one finds it hard to imagine turbulent seas. Again, she is wrong. As we sail along, her quiet thoughts are interrupted by a lump, a bump and a roll. Looking up, she sees white caps frothing and forming in the distance. Winds have begun to pick up. We soon are slicing into square waves with water coming over the bow, and we have to advance the throttle to 2700 rpm to keep our speed above 5 knots. We have begun to feel the effect of the wind blowing from the north down the Sea of Cortez.

As the seas get rougher, The Captain goes below to get our life vests and comes up spitting mad. “I knew this was going to happen. Sooner or later, I knew you were going to do this!” he seethes. “Do what?” The poor First Mate has no idea what he is talking about. “You left the two portlights (as in windows) wide open over our bed!”


Instantaneously, the picture of her custom made bedspread and bolsters comes to mind. She can see those two portlights above the bed. How could she have not closed them? She remembers conscientiously closing all windows and hatches. Didn’t she? How could she have neglected them? Yet she must have because they certainly cannot unlock themselves.


Open hatches and portlights are a contentious issue aboard Avante. The reason The Captain just knew The First Mate was going to do “this” is that she is constantly opening portlights and hatches. She does this for several reasons. One: she cannot stand the stuffy feeling of a still, warm room. Fresh air is just that – fresh! Two: she is obsessed with airing out the boat whenever possible to avoid any odor of staleness. Cooking odors build up in a non-ventilated boat. When we first arrive in a port or drop anchor, The First Mate immediately opens up windows and hatches to air out the boat. The Captain accuses her of being good at opening but terrible at closing them.

It really irritates him when she opens a hatch while we are underway. As the chef, The First Mate is often in a confined galley with a hot stove. What is wrong with opening a hatch to let in a little cooling breeze and blow the kitchen exhaust out of the boat? With today’s incident,The Captain believes that the offending hatches were closed when we left Cabo, but were opened while The First Mate was down below when we were just motoring in calm conditions.

In turn, The First Mate accuses The Captain of wanting the hatches to be closed at all times. Whenever we get to a marina, he wants to wash the salt water off the boat. This task can occur an hour after arrival or it can be the next day. It matters not when The Captain takes hose in hand, but invariably he misses at least one window or hatch that the First Mate has opened. Thus, he sprays water inside the boat, and this irritates him no end. His frustration is not that he forgot to check but that The First Mate had opened that particular window or hatch. The First Mate counters that it is his responsibility to check since he is the one with the hose. It is a battle she will never win.

With the heavy seas we have been going through for the last hour, gallons of salty, sticky seawater have rushed through the portlights into the owner’s cabin, and most of it has landed on our bed. Winds are hovering around 25 knots, not as advertised, and we are being tossed in all directions by a mad, confused sea. Not the best conditions for cleaning up a mess, but The Captain wants to get started “before the water soaks in any further.” She is angrily told to man the wheel and steer the course, while he goes below with our bright orange bucket and mops up. ( She knows that she should have offered to take his place, but she knew bending down and working below in those conditions would only have had her adding to the mess in a way that would not be beneficial. She guesses that The Captain knows that too, for, if not, she is sure he would have launched the bucket at her and told her to go below and start cleaning.) About half an hour later, he is back up on deck, still lividly mad. He has filled half of the 5 gallon bucket with seawater, mostly by sponging water off the bed.

Our bed is soaked. The bedding can be fixed by spending a day at the lavandería, but the mattress? A mattress soaked in seawater will never fully dry. In high humidity conditions, that salt will be a magnet to moisture. The Captain fumes that the mattress is going to have to be replaced. How do we ever get that done in Mexico? The mattress has to be custom built to the unique configuration of the bed frame with a curving tapered shape. The First Mate demurs saying that she is sure we can have one made in Mexico, but what she doesn’t say is that she suspects that the mattress is fine. She just cannot go down there to check right now in these seas. What The Captain has forgotten is that this is not the first time seawater has come in these windows. It happened when Avante (then called Maitri) was sailed by a delivery crew from Hawaii to San Diego for the former owner. When she found out about that mishap and looked at the location of those windows, she bought a waterproof cover for the mattress. Made by BeautyRest, it is a fabric-like cover that is waterproof and fits all around the mattress. She is pretty sure the mattress is fine, but she cannot be absolutely positive until she sees it herself.

The Captain is mad. The First Mate is mad. She did not want to be out here today in the first place, and the miserable conditions just confirm her thoughts. Why do we always have to be in such a hurry? Why are we always covering miles and miles with so little time? When are we going to cruise? Why is it that when we do stop for more than one night or even drop anchor for lunch somewhere, it is done more to appease The First Mate rather than because we want to just because we feel like it? The First Mate decides she is going to have to come up with some kind of formula or clear definition of what she thinks “cruising” is. Maybe if The Captain has a formula with which to work, he will be able to create a schedule that will satisfy both of our definitions of cruising. There must be some kind of compromise.

We finally motor into Bahia Los Frailes. Wind and waves are calm now that we are in the shelter of the point. We drop anchor in the fading twilight, and the First Mate goes below to inspect the damage. It is still a wet mess, but when The First Mate pulls up the bedspread, the sheets and the mattress pad, she finds that her trusty waterproof cover has done its job. The top of the mattress is dry. There is wetness along the lower edges where water collected in the box that forms the frame of the bed. The rug on the floor is wet, but the desktop (where The First Mate’s computer resides) is relatively dry. The books in the shelf above the bed are dry, but walls and floors all need a complete wash down to get rid of that salty water. The First Mate strips the bed of its wet coverings. Our pillows, acting like sponges, are heavy with water. Thankfully, she had put the bolster pillows in plastic bags so only the outer coverings are wet. The rugs in both the bedroom and head are gathered up. We are both hungry, and she is told to go about getting dinner (panko-crusted tuna, rice and salad) while The Captain (dear Captain) goes about washing and drying. The generator is turned on so the heaters can be run full blast. The mattress is laid across the dining room table to expose the wet edges to the heat. Every surface in the Owner’s Cabin is wet, but after being washed, it is now a fresh water wet rather than a sticky salty wet. We have a pile of wet bedding, and The Captain ties the sheets and bedspread to the mainsheet halyard and hauls the load up the mast to dry in the breeze. For the second time, there she is again, in effigy, swinging from the yardarm! It is too dark for a photo, but the mental image is enough.

We have dinner in the sauna we have turned the boat into and head to bed in one of the aft cabins. We are exhausted and still not too happy with each other – but The First Mate knows that will pass. Almost 39 years of living with the man has taught her that! Meanwhile she has to come up with a formula for cruising! Arriving at an anchorage after sunset, then having to clean up a wet boat does not fit either of our images of what cruising is. She has a 160nm ahead of her to devise a plan. This will occupy her while standing those watches. There must be a way to create a cruising schedule that will satisfy both The Captain and The First Mate and keep the good ship Avante happily afloat.

Note: The first time The First Mate was hung in effigy can be reviewed on “In Which The First Mate is Hung in Effigy”, Saturday, June 21st, 2008. The explanation will be evident.



Comments given on previous blog site:

Purebliss said: Formulas for cruising:
1. Outnumber the captain with female friends (power in numbers)
2. Become a lousy cook
3. Reward leisure time with kisses
4. Prescribe sedatives

The choice is yours but you may have to do all of the above!
Wish I was there…I really enjoy your blog!
Much love,

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