Continuing the “Voyaging with Velella” series by ASA writer-at-large Meghan Cleary. Meghan, Prescott and their kitten Nessie are on a planned 9-month cruise in the tropics.
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Santiago Bay is heavy with moisture, and today we crossed our fingers for rain. A downpour of freshwater would mean a bath for the boat as well as ourselves; our plan was to suds up and stand there, letting the rain rinse off all salt and sweat and soap. With the sun still fresh on our faces, it’s easy to believe in the restorative balm of thundery gloom. Prescott starts writing and I start getting crafty with fabric and ribbon. But the heavy shroud of air nuzzles the purple mountains, and a flock of pelicans flurrying in the dusky waterline, and no drops fall. The swell rolls slowly under a glass surface, broken only by a nearby sunken ship, half submerged, and the occasional jumping smelt. We’re just rocking here and reading about fishes and birds of Mexico, dueling each other in cribbage, fighting over games of Scrabble.
When we flip on the SSB radio and listen to the weather nets at night, our faithful forecaster Don Anderson says in his slight British accent that we’ve got a bit of a Pineapple Express on the Mexican Riviera, a system bringing warm, wet clouds from Hawaii. With the solar panels rendered useless by the persistent clouds, we no longer have the battery power to support our fridge, so we flipped it off and went to bed.
A lot of cruisers go without refrigeration–not to mention all the people around the world who live without it. But for a gallon-of-milk-a-week girl from the diary heartland, it’s taken quite a shift to force my provisioning habits to conform to room temperature. We’re lucky that so far, all the way from Seattle to Mexico, we’ve managed to keep cold milk onboard–a perfect bowl of cereal, a splash in coffee, a creamy pancake ingredient, an essential side to a garlicky pizza. As our last quart started to turn with a sharp rancid tinge, I realized I have no idea what people do who live with no refrigeration.
I went to the market with a weak plan, hoping that brilliance would strike. Powdered milk is gross no matter how you deal with it. Coffeemate tastes fake. I was almost ready to give in to black coffee forever when we stumbled on boxed milk. The picture is repulsive, showing a dopey looking cartoon cow smelling daises in a huge green field. But it’s sold on the shelves unrefrigerated, and I’ve seen it used in restaurants down here too. Lo and behold, it’s not a milk-like non-dairy product, it’s real cow’s milk, and it tastes like real cow’s milk! (It’s pasteurized in such a way that it doesn’t require refrigeration. Do we have this in the states? I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had reason to go looking in the dairy substitute aisle…) Of course, cold milk is nice. But room temp milk that’s not gone bad is completely fine!
After our week in Santiago impressed upon us how much we depend on our solar panels, we decided to head around the corner to a quiet, wild anchorage reputed to have great snorkeling. Plus, turning on the engine to motor out of the bay would mean we could also turn on the refrigerator again. But the morning we were scheduled to leave, I awoke to a buttery finger of sunlight stretching down through the open hatch to our white pillows. I laid there thinking about how the solar panels would already be drinking it in, and how we have fresh produce swinging in the bulging galley hammock, and how the sun and the fruit at my fingertips made me feel incredibly rich. The more we learn to go without, the more I realize how comfortable our lives really are.
Here’s where the crew of Velella are drinking milk right now:
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