We think we may have a weather window to leave Grenada next week, and man, are we excited. Of course, the weather is capricious and will probably change, so we’ll see.
The weather has been atrocious pretty much since we splashed, with endless bands of rain interspersed with heavier storms. It’s unusual enough that even the locals have been complaining, and it’s another example of how too much of a good thing is bad: we are in the middle of a vegetable shortage because the heavy rains are washing soil away, encouraging root rot, and/or inundating the young plants with too much acid. A normal-sized three pack of imported hearts of romaine costs $20 US, so salads are off the table (pardon the pun). I dream of lettuce, tomatoes, or cabbage at this point.
Anyway, we are getting ready to head up to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Going someplace new always involves a ton of planning and research as well as preparation, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about being self-sufficient.
Self-sufficiency is one of the things that most cruisers take pride in; we use boat systems such as solar, wind generators, and watermakers (*see below) so that we can remain independent. But living out here for all these years has taught us that there is much more to being self-sufficient, and many of those lessons translate to living on land as well. You don’t have to have a bunker full of canned goods and gas masks to call yourself prepared; it’s a series of small steps.
Cash: I always keep some local currency on hand, preferably in small bills. Sure, I prefer to use a credit card and get those points, who doesn’t? But when the phone service is intermittent, the credit card machine doesn’t work, and you need cash to cover your bill. And when the ATM is offline or broken or out of money, you can’t get cash. And if you have a $100 bill to pay for a $1.85 bus ride, getting change is going to be a hassle. So save yourself the heartache and just have some small-bill cash in your wallet.
Stocking: I know I said you don’t have to have a bunker full of canned goods, but you do have to have shelf-stable food on hand. You also have to have the medications that you routinely take. I try to have one month’s worth of food on the boat at all times, and if we are moving, two months’ worth. I refill our prescription medications as frequently as possible so that I have a surplus on board. If COVID taught the world anything, it’s that our supply chains are fragile, and you can’t rely on zipping out to the local shop to get what you need. Down here, supply chain disruptions aren’t just a political excuse, so we’ve learned to be our own store.
Simplify: The less you need, the easier it is to be self-sufficient. I used to have all kinds of cleaners, and now I almost exclusively use white vinegar or a bleach spray. That’s it. No “uni-taskers” are allowed on board, only “multi-taskers.” I don’t have the room to store or energy to maintain things that I will only use once in a blue moon, so out with ‘em. Do I need “storage” Ziploc bags AND “freezer” Ziploc bags? Do I need three kinds of aluminum foil? No, no, and no. Buy the best/strongest/most effective thing and just use that. It makes life so much easier.
Redundancy: The Captain’s credo is “Two is one, one is none.” If something is important, buy two; if your one can opener breaks, and you don’t have a replacement on hand, what will you do? That doesn’t mean buy a copy of everything you own, but for the critical stuff, always have a backup readily available.
Tools: You may not be able to fix everything that breaks, but if you don’t have the tools to even try, you are doomed from the start. Buy decent quality tools, maintain them properly, and learn how to use them. With a good assortment of hand tools coupled with a drill, you can do almost any “normal” repair, at least in the short term.
Keep your fingers crossed that our weather improves next week, and we can make a break for it!
Interested in how we make water? We use a portable desalinator from Rainman. Here’s a helpful diagram that shows how it works: