Cruising Life

Why washing dishes in saltwater is WORTH IT

“What did we sign up for?!” I thought after our first day at anchor in the Sea of Cortez. We had spent the prior night and wee morning hours fighting through a 30 knot coromuel to get to the anchorage. Both us and the boat were covered with salt.

Alone at anchor in Puerto Don Juan

We took a pitiful shower in the cockpit with the already partially broken Solar Shower but without a watermaker we didn’t have enough water to clean the boat. Instead we walked around the deck spraying the hardware with a water bottle in hopes of preventing corrosion.

We had barely slept the night before and were expecting another sleepless night due to a repeat performance of coromuel winds.

After dinner I leaned over the  side of the boat to scoop salt water in to a 5 gallon bucket. The very bucket that I planned to use for the summer to wash the dishes in salt water before a fresh water rinse.

I don’t like doing dishes in the first place, and now I am doing dishes in a salty bucket? Looking out on the uninhabited island of Isla Espiritu Santo, my husband and I asked each other, is this seriously going to be our life for the whole summer? Is this really what we  signed up for?!

I don’t know if I can do this all summer, I confided that evening.

The next day we took a hike, walked the beach, and had the most magical sunset at anchor. It was as if all the wildlife in the area choreographed a magnificent performance while we sat on the deck eating dinner. I kept waiting for Ariel to jump out of the water with flying fish and manta rays as back up dancers and belt out “Under the Sea.”

From that moment on, we were undeniably hooked.

We would sit on the foredeck with a good  book and maybe a glass of wine and wait for the wildlife dance that took place  every night before sunset to begin.

Waiting for the evening wildlife “show” to start

Away from the comforts of the marina which offers free-flowing water,  electricity, and the ability to sleep through the night, we settled in for a summer of exploration, living off the sea, and self sustainability. After our  first 18 days in the Sea of Cortez we picked up a mooring ball at Puerto Escondido for a couple of nights to refill our water tanks, wash the boat,  change the oil, and refuel before we headed out for the islands again.

Fresh boatmade fish tacos

That was  the longest we had gone without visiting a restaurant since we each started  college. In fact, before we went cruising I cooked an average of one meal a  year for my husband. Obviously things had changed since our land life.

Six months in the Sea of Cortez led to lasting friendships, fabulous  meals on board, learning how to wash clothes by hand, and becoming intimately  aware of how to use our anchor, the tides, the moon cycle, and weather. Not to  mention a slight addiction with the game Baja Rummy. Most importantly we  learned about each other and ourselves.

“If you would enjoy a weekend alone with your partner locked in your apartment without power and water, then you will love voyaging together.”
—  THE VOYAGER’S HANDBOOK  by Beth A.Leonard

A ‘land  friend’ asked what it was like to spend so many uninterrupted days together. “Like we were on an extended couples retreat.” I answered. We had nothing but  time to laugh, play, explore, and talk.

Happy couple

By comparison, life is pretty easy in a marina. But we love the  adventure that comes with being at anchor in the Sea.

This article was published on July 3, 2012 in Lanea Riley’s blog The Voyage of Moondance.

About Lanea Riley

Lanea  Riley and her husband Conor bought an Islander 36, in April 2011 and within 15 days they decided to prepare Sausalito-based MOONDANCE for a southbound trip to Mexico. Six short months later, they left under the Golden Gate Bridge.

They have been enjoying Mexico ever since and spent 6 glorious months in the Sea of Cortez in the summer of 2012.

Lanea maintains a sailing blog at

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