January 8, 2010

Getting Gone

I’ve had a few people send notes asking us to detail the exact steps we’re taking and list the stuff we’re buying while we prepare to leave San Diego. The thing is everyone has different things on their list at this stage. Ours included getting our Pactor modem running (which it now is – so this means I’ll be able to send and receive work emails over single sideband radio networks), getting our water maker running (check), setting up a downwind reaching pole, sorting out our weather forecasting systems (we’ll be listening to Don from Summer Passage) as well as downloading weather faxes, organizing our paper work (still need to order boat cards… sigh) and stocking up on things that we found were either hard to get or too expensive to buy in Mexico:
favourite crackers and cookies, maple syrup, hard sausages and hard cheeses, batteries and software, favourite treats from Trader Joes, movies and school books, jams and chocolate, wheat free flour and pasta, vitamins and guide books, favourite herbs and spices, dry bunk material, boat parts and fishing gear… 
Personally, I also needed to clear my schedule of deadlines for a few weeks--so I was filing stories and sorting pictures.

The thing is the final to-do list can be a never ending trap--and for lots of people it is. I’m always reluctant to tell people what it is that we are trying to get done because when I do it usually elicits one of three responses: they either think we aren’t doing enough (aka less than what they would do), doing too much (aka more than what they would do) or it sends them into a panic as they realize they totally missed a step that may or may not be important.

Last time we headed south, we spent over a month in San Diego working from dawn to dusk trying to plan for every eventuality and making sure we didn’t forget a single item that we might someday possibly need (I even pre-bought birthday and Christmas gifts). We got caught in the trap of second guessing our list and checking with every cruiser and every book for tips on what we may have forgotten (thank goodness we didn’t have blogs to read to increase our anxiety…)

What we discovered is Mexico (and beyond) had people living there, that we didn’t need to carry enough food to make it for months. There were mechanics and hardware stores so we didn’t need to stock every spare part, or to imagine and prepare for every eventuality. All we really needed to do was know our boat and prepare to be self-sufficient for a few weeks – but not for months or years.

I think cruising is foreign enough that we feel safer and more prepared if we can just make enough lists and buy enough stuff. Because it’s all pretty hard to imagine what it’s really like to untie and let go, we grab on tighter, trying to manage an unknowable future.

But it is unknowable, in a good way. So, I’m sorry to the people who wrote and asked for my list—I don’t really have one that’s universal enough to share. There are books and articles filled with suggestions and ideas, but I think my main message is simply to decide what you need to be comfortable and safe, then pare down the list to the things that are unique to you, your boat and your lifestyle. Then randomly cross off half the things on your list with your eyes closed—you’ll never miss the stuff.

But do make sure you stash away a few treats so that at one of those cruiser potlucks, the ones that happen way far from specialty stores, you can be the boat that brings out the cool appetizer…


Behan said...

Yes, yes, yes! It's ironic, I'm just finishing up our monthly article for 48N, it's more about finances and cruising but this has many similar echoes. It really is so easy to get caught in the trap of buying too much- as if things wouldn't exist south of the border, and people were foraging for their daily needs! It's funny to think about, but so easy to get caught up in at the time. It so good that you have this perspective in mind as you wait in S.D.

Hey, hopefully we'll get to bring that cool appetizer to you in some random anchorage in MX this winter!

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie the cat said...

Sounds wonderful! We really look forward to running into you.

Alicia said...

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