The Wayward Home Podcast

42: Trading Ocean Waves for Highway Lanes: My Journey from Boat to Van Life

July 12, 2023 Kristin Hanes Episode 42
The Wayward Home Podcast
42: Trading Ocean Waves for Highway Lanes: My Journey from Boat to Van Life
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to abandon traditional living arrangements and embrace life on the road - or sea? Tune in for a little taste of both as we share what it's like to  transition from winter on the boat to summer in the van. Learn about the process of taking our boat out of the water and preparing it to withstand the summer heat in Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

In the second segment of our journey, we hear about what it's like to cross the border from Mexico to the US in a van (while contending with some mechanical troubles). From the long waits at the border crossings to the struggle of strategically transferring items in sweltering heat, every aspect of the adventure is covered. We also reflect on intriguing differences in food and grocery shopping experiences across the two countries. 

Lastly, we debate the pros and cons of boat life compared to van life. Hold on tight as we delve into an in-depth comparison of these two unique lifestyles, from the effort of monitoring weather on a boat to the ease of accessing supplies in a van.

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Speaker 1:

At 8.15 in the morning just a few days ago we left Puerto Penaresco, mexico, after buttoning up our boat for the season and getting it ready to spend many months in the summer heat and humidity there in Rocky Point, and we had a pretty crazy day And I'll tell you a little part of it. We were driving to the Mexico border just south of Yuma, arizona, and we kept having some slight problems with the van. For example, the temperature gauge kept shutting down so we didn't know if the Astro van was overheating or not. And we've had some issues with this van overheating. We've had to drive with the heat on at full blast when it was 100 degrees outside pure misery. And that day when we were driving to the border, the heat indicator kept going out. So that was stressful. And then, as we got closer and closer to the border, our battery indicator light went on, which means the battery was having really low voltage our engine start battery And that meant there was probably a problem with the alternator. We wouldn't be able to turn off the van at all and we had an hour plus wait at the border where we had to leave the hood open. We had to cool down the engine and it was just pretty crazy. And that was on top of driving and getting up at 5 am to finish our tasks for the summer months. So yeah, that was a crazy day. So in this episode of the Wayward Home Podcast I'm going to tell you all about some of the hardships of transitioning between boat life and van life how we put the boat away for the summer months and kind of that transition process and some of the downsides of that and how difficult it is. And I'll also describe some of the differences between van life and boat life and why I am looking forward to van life this summer in much cooler temperatures. Let's do it. Welcome to the Wayward Home Podcast. All about van life, boat life and nomadic living. We'll bring you tips, interviews and stories from the road and on the water. Now here's your host, kristen Haynes. Hey there, my name is Kristen Haynes with thewaywardhomecom and I spend half the year in my camper van and half in my sailboat in Mexico And I hope to help you achieve your nomadic living dreams as well. So in today's episode we're going to talk a little bit about the difference between boat and van life and what we do to get the boat ready to spend many months on the hard in Puerto Penaresco, mexico, at Cabralos Boat Yard. There are certain things that have to be done before it sits in that heat and humidity for many months, and we hope to return to the boat sometime in October or November when life in the United States just starts to get a little bit too chilly for our liking. One of my least favorite things about having both a boat and a van is the transition period. It's really hard to move stuff around between the boat and the van and to get the boat put away for the summer months. It's way easier just to have the boat in the water somewhere like Oxnard, california, where the temperatures aren't really hot and where there's not tons of UV And you can just leave it there and go and just take a trip in the van. But when you're storing the boat somewhere like Mexico and the boat's out of the water in a boat yard, there's a lot you have to do to button up the boat and make sure that it's safe and protected for the summer months, especially the excruciating heat and humidity that Rocky Point sees, and I liken it to moving. It's like moving out of an apartment and into another apartment. You know when you move out of an apartment and there's just so many tasks and you keep thinking you're closer and closer to moving out and then you just find more and more things to do. That's kind of what it's like to move off of the boat for the summer season. So we arrived in Puerto Penaesco, mexico, after an overnight passage about two weeks ago, and we spent several days in the marina waiting for a haul out opportunity in Cabralos Boat Yard. We were maybe in the marina for about five days And then we drove the boat into this little cutout in the seawall And in that rectangular cutout you drive your boat into the cutout in this huge lift. This machine drives over that hole and puts straps underneath your boat And we're talking about like a 35,000 pound sailboat And so a couple of different straps go under your boat And then the boat is slowly lifted out of the water, which is always kind of a freaky experience. You don't want the straps to slip, you don't want the boat to get damaged in this procedure, but Cabralos always does an incredible job. And they lifted the boat out of the water, put the boat into the boat yard and used a little cart called a skate. They transferred from the lift onto the skate and then they parked us along the harbor wall, which is actually beautiful. We get to look out at the harbor, we look at the Mexican party boats and that is our spot for the next six months. So Tom had about 10 days of varnishing work and other work to do on the boat before we got it ready for storage, and probably the last three days in Puerto Penaesco were definitely very horrible. Just check out this clip I recorded from the boat yard when I was kind of at my wits end. Sometimes I think of our lifestyle as just stuff management, moving things around constantly between our various vessels and vehicles. So it can be hard and it can be draining and a little demoralizing sometimes. Just to be honest, not only do we have to cover the boat, you know, to UV protect it and remove all our food, clothes, personal items and do all these other activities to the boat so it doesn't corrode in the hot heat down here in Mexico. But yeah, it's a lot of work and it's really hot and it's really muggy And thank goodness we have AC inside the boat. But it's been kind of a miserable experience. At this point I'm over it. I feel like I want to get an apartment right now because it's so much work. No, of course I did not mean what I said about wanting to get an apartment right now. I take that all back because right now I'm in Southern California feeling perfectly comfortable. It's about 70 degrees outside with no humidity, but in that moment it was pretty miserable. Not only was Puerto Poneasco hot about 90 degrees, but the humidity was really high, about 80%. So any task you did outside, within about two minutes your body was completely drenched and it just felt really gross. And luckily we had bought a window AC unit a couple weeks prior and we piped that through one of our aft portholes to keep the boat really cool inside, and that was a total lifesaver while prepping the boat for the summer months. So I just wanted to describe a little bit about what we did to the boat to get it ready for storage. Here are just a few items off of our task list. We covered the mainsail with white plastic and most of these tasks are to keep the boat protected from UV. We also covered the dinghy and our paddle board with white plastic and lashed everything down. We took off the mizzen boom and laid it down on the cabin house and also covered it with white plastic and tarps to protect it. We put tin foil on our winches and pulleys around the boat so they wouldn't be degraded by the UV. We pickled the water maker. We covered the solar panels, we disconnected our battle-borne lithium batteries, closed and plugged all the through holes with wire mesh to prevent bugs and critters from climbing into the boat. When we were gone, we removed all the food from the boat and stored our spices in a closed five-gallon bucket. We put lanolin on our porthole rubber gaskets and then covered the windows, removed our halyards and replaced them with messenger lines, packed all our clothes and personal items. And that's just a few items off of the list that we had to do over the past few days. I guess I didn't mention the major thing we had to do, which gives me a little bit of PTSD just thinking about it, but we basically covered the entire boat with this black plastic kind of tarp material and that's to protect it from the UV. But we were working in the afternoon and it was about 90 out with really high humidity, and we were stringing this tarp up around the boat and clipping it all together with plastic tie wraps and little ropes, and it was a project that took half the day and some of the next day, a really challenging project, and I was just drowning in sweat and the sun was beating down on us and it was a pretty miserable experience doing that full tarp over the boat to protect it. I know we'll be happy we did it because it will keep the interior temperatures of the boat a little bit cooler and it will protect the paint and the varnish and everything on the top side of the boat from that relentless summer heat. The UV in Porta Paniasco is really high. We also really had to make sure the boat was clean, with no food or crumbs anywhere, because on our last night in Porta Paniasco we were taking a shower under the boat using the hose and you wouldn't believe what we saw. There was just tons of cockroaches. It was disgusting. There's a little rocky wall behind the boat and it seems like the cockroaches live in that wall and these are huge cockroaches, they're one or two inches and they were scuttling around within this wall as I was taking a shower in the gravel and I'm like, oh my gosh, what is my life come to? I am standing outside a sailboat, basically with cockroaches two feet away from me as I'm showering. I'm like, is this really what I want to do with my life? So of course sometimes this lifestyle comes with these downsides and these really weird experiences. But of course it also comes with amazing upsides, and I wouldn't give it up for the world. And I do do this on purpose, after I mind myself, without sometimes yes, i could go get an apartment, i could go get a house. But I do this on purpose because the good outweighs the bad. It's just sometimes these experiences are pretty trying and difficult, but luckily they only last a few days. Like I said, i'm in Southern California now, at Dana Point, And it feels like perfection And so it was all worth it all that struggle. But anyway, i digress. So our last day in Porto Pignasco was pretty crazy. I'll just describe it to you so you can see what a day in the life is like for someone in that transition phase between heading from a sailboat to van life in the United States. So we woke up at around five in the morning, had our coffee and then we started finishing the rest of the tasks on the boat And we worked on that until about eight in the morning And we were by eight am. We were exhausted because it was already really humid and we were dripping with sweat just being outside for a few minutes And we had to disconnect our air conditioner so that we could continue shutting the boat down in terms of rolling up power cords and finishing stitching together our shade structure. So we drove out of Cabralas Boat Yard at around 8.15 in the morning and immediately drove to the border in right near Yuma, arizona, and like I described in the beginning, that's when we started having some of those problems with the Astro, the overheating problems. So we went to the San Luis border first and they said, oh, it's a 90 minute wait. And we're like gosh, the van can't idle for 90 minutes, it's going to overheat without that airflow through the engine. So I looked at my phone and I did not see, you know, any sign of a wait at the next border crossing, another half an hour drive, and that one, i believe, is called Algodones And that's another border crossing with California. that's really close by. And so we drove the van to Algodones and, lo and behold, another crazy long wait. But the way my GPS navigated was that we were able to cut in line. We didn't really do that intentionally, but there was a hole and we took it And someone behind us actually got angry and walked up to the van and said, hey, the line is way back there. But we didn't move the van because we're having these overheating and alternator issues, and so we waited in that line for about an hour And then we found ourselves at the Yuma storage unit where we began our process of transferring things from the Astro over to the Sprinter, where it was currently 107 degrees. Luckily we were in the shade, but I'm going to play you a clip from that time at the storage unit in Yuma. We are at the Yuma storage unit right now And it's 107 degrees And we are transferring stuff from the Astro and our little utility trailer over to the Sprinter van And it's really hot, but luckily it's a dry heat, unlike Porto Pignasco. But a lot of thought goes into packing the van so we don't have too much stuff And so we have the right amount of stuff So we don't have to keep buying more stuff when we're here in the US for the summer. It's all a game of whittling down and really figuring out what we want and need. And so you know, going through everything, repacking everything, is always a challenge, especially when it's 107 degrees out. All right, so get this. By the time we were finished at the storage unit, it was about four o'clock in the afternoon. We'd been on the go, you know, up for about 11 or 12 hours just running around, working full of sweat, hungry, and it was a nasty experience, to say the least. But at four o'clock we were like, hey, can we make it to the coast of California? Like, how crazy are we? Like, hey, should we drive another four hours today to get somewhere cooler? So the other option was to just get a hotel in Yuma. You know, use some credit card points, get an air conditioned hotel room. But why get a hotel room if you can drive another four hours on top of your already 12 hour day to get somewhere cooler? So, crazy people that we are, we decided to grab some french fries at a local jack-of-the-box, which I don't recommend, but this was emergency mode. And we started driving to the coast of Southern California, where we knew the temperatures would be just beautiful and heavenly, and so we took turns driving just to get through it. And finally, when we arrived at a campsite near the Southern California coast, where maybe about 40 miles inland still, but the weather was absolute perfection. I remember when we were driving there through the desert and when the temperatures outside reached 90 degrees, we got out of the van and we're like, oh my gosh, it's so cool, it feels so amazing And that's just because we had been working so hard in that 107 degree heat and then the horrible humidity of Port Open, yasko. It's just incredible how good the weather felt, just the cooler temperatures, just how much more energy and vitality you have just by changing the outside weather. And we're really lucky that we were able to drive all the way out there by switching drivers I would drive in, tom would sleep and he would drive and I would relax and kind of scroll social media and, uh, total zonked out way. But we made it and we camped that night and we slept in beautiful temperatures that were probably in the lower sixties. We hadn't felt that kind of temperature in months and it was blissful. It was absolutely beautiful and fun being in California, just seeing how wonderful the nature looks and the clean roads and a grocery store where you can buy anything you want, unlike the grocery stores in Mexico, which are pretty limited, and you know the restaurants where you can get all kinds of food. We got Mediterranean food and we're like, wow, we haven't had a falafel in five months, you know because, again, the restaurants in Mexico are limited. So it felt really good to come back to the United States, where things are really familiar and easy and the temperatures are just way better. So that was definitely a relief. So I wanted to talk to you about some of the differences between boat life and van life, because I know there are a lot of people out there that are kind of considering one or the other, or maybe both, or maybe you live in a van and you're curious about what boat life is like, or maybe you're just you know everything about this already. But I just wanted to talk a little bit about some of the key differences, because there are a lot of differences between these two lifestyles. For one thing, we don't have to be constantly obsessed with the weather. I mean, we do look at the weather in terms of how hot and how cold it's going to be, but it's not life-threatening Like are there crazy high winds that are going to, like, knock the sailboat down when we're trying to sail somewhere new? How are the currents looking? Is there rain? Is there lightning? Are there storms expected? All these things on a sailboat can be very dangerous, and so you're constantly monitoring the weather. I think Tom was looking at the weather like four times a day to plan our routes and anchorages, and there's just so much thoughts and considerations that go into the weather forecast. When you're traveling around by boat And in the van, it's nice. You really don't have to worry about weather unless you know you're trying to escape the heat or you're trying to escape the cold. That's kind of all you have to worry about when it comes to traveling around in a van. Another major difference is just how easy it is to get supplies and resources when in the van, for example, we can just drive up to a grocery store and get groceries, or go to a restaurant or pull over on the side of the road and prepare lunch where on the boat it's definitely a calculated, you know trip. You have to think about what towns have food and groceries, and along the Baja Peninsula that does not happen very often, so you could be, you know, two weeks between grocery stops. So you really have to think about your food carefully and plan that out, and that takes a lot of time and effort. Not only do you have to figure out what cities you're going to stop at and what the weather window is for stopping in those cities, but once you get to those cities, you also have other things to deal with, like when we anchored the boat in front of the town of Loretto on the Baja Peninsula. We got all of our groceries by paddleboard, which meant that I took the paddleboard to the beach and parked it there on the beach and Tom towed it back to the boat so he could watch the boat while I grocery shopped And I think I made three different trips doing this. But I walked into town you know, maybe three quarters of a mile to the grocery store, loaded up my backpack, carried another bag across my shoulder and walked all the way back to the beach, and then Tom ferried it out using the paddleboard and buckets. And we did that many times And that was really hard. That's something that we have to do, sometimes just to go get groceries. Other times we'll pull into a marina and pay the marina fees. There is a marina on the Baja Peninsula that's pretty expensive. It's either $100 per night for your boat If you want to be at the marina, or 45 way out at a mooring ball where you have to get your dinghy down and take the dinghy in. Then you have to rent a car for $70 and then you drive to Loretto and go get groceries. So that's another way that we got food. So, yeah, being in the van is just so much easier. There's food and groceries just at your beck and call any type of food you want, any type of grocery. And that's something that always blows me away when I get into the van after a prolonged period on the boat. Another thing is the van is just way faster, like we can get to a different destination in a matter of hours rather than a matter of days. It feels incredibly fast and efficient to be able to drive a vehicle at 60 or 70 miles an hour and really just make progress and get somewhere. On the sailboat, our top speed is probably about five miles per hour, so, as you can imagine, that takes tons of time just to go. 100 miles is usually a 24 hour journey where you're doing night watches, you're switching off your sleep, you're not sleeping very well, you're having a hard time And a long day trip for us is about 35 miles. So, as you can see the boat life is really a lot slower. It's slowed down travel. You're not going to get anywhere fast. That's part of the beauty of it as well, but sometimes it's nice just to jump in the van and make progress and actually get somewhere. So that's something I notice immediately as well. The van does feel way smaller than the sailboat, though, and that's another adjustment after spending many months on the sailboat. The sailboat has different rooms. That has like more of a full kitchen with a double sink and with a stove and an oven and a nice table for sitting, and it has two lower setees, little couches sitting across from each other, and it has a bathroom with actually an enclosed shower and a toilet and then another room with a bed, and so the boat feels more like a home than the van, for example. And then you have this outdoor space like a deck you can go sit on in the evenings to have your happy hour drink. So the boat does feel way bigger than the van. So going into this smaller space, you know it's a little bit of an adjustment, but then again in the van you you're just steps away from being on land, so you can just step out of the van and go on a jog or go surfing or get out of the van, and so that makes it way easier than the boat. There's been some times on the boat when I was stuck on it for like three days because it was so windy out that I couldn't either put in my paddleboard or put in my dinghy. Sometimes we'd go windsurfing but we wouldn't go to land because it was just too far and too windy. So that's kind of a bummer to feel trapped on the boat where the van. You can just jump out, step foot on land, go on a hike, go on a walk, explore, and it's just a little bit easier in that sense as well. But again, the space is definitely something that I miss after being on the boat for several months. Also, in the van we're around a lot more people, which you know has its pluses and its minuses. I actually sometimes miss being around people. When we're on the sailboat, especially in a place like Baja that's very remote, you're not really running into a lot of people. If you do run into people, they're other sailors and you have to either meet them or maybe you've known them already, and so sometimes finding that community can be both challenging and amazing. You can go like weeks without hanging out with other people, but then suddenly you'll be hanging out with all these awesome friends that you met, maybe at a different anchorage or at Cabral's Boatyard when you were all there together, and you all have something in common in this tremendous rapport And I love that. There's something about sailing where everyone has some kind of crazy thing that happened to them on board, some death-defying experience, and so sharing those experiences with other sailors is really fun. That's something we don't really find in the van life world, because van life is not really death-defying. It doesn't really involve a lot of skill or training or sailing. Everyone has a crazy story Like we heard a story recently from some sailors on a catamaran where they were stuck in a hurricane on the east coast of the US with winds up to 90 miles an hour and they somehow sailed into the eye, they turned on the motor because there was no wind And then suddenly they were out of the eye and 90 knots of wind again And they were motoring at like 10 knots just in this crazy windstorm. So those are some of the stories you hear from sailors, and so that's something that I do miss when I go to the van is I don't find that intense rapport that I have in the sailing community. I know that there are van life meetups and van life communities out there. I haven't really gone to any of those events yet, so I haven't met people, but I do think there'd be a certain level of rapport. But it's just a different rapport, it's not a death-defying one that you find in the sailing community. So that's another key difference. Another thing that takes some getting used to when leaving Mexico and coming to the United States for van life is just how much more expensive life gets. For example, i went grocery shopping the other day and just the price of vegetables is shocking after being in Mexico, where the vegetables are crazy cheap but they are way lower quality. Some are rotting in the grocery store, some have flies on them. So it was nice to go to a grocery store where everything is pristine and beautiful looking, but oh my gosh, how expensive everything is. I saw a bell pepper that was $3 for one bell pepper. I was like, oh my gosh, that is really expensive. And so just the grocery bills go up, the restaurant bills go up, the gas bills go up, and it's just something that I have to get used to once again. And the campsites go up. I think we spent $50 to camp in California And of course that's quite expensive if you do it every day, but we do try to find free campsites as well as much as possible to cut down on the expensive campsites. So yeah, life here is way more expensive, where you can get a pretty good sit-down meal in Mexico for about $20. Here that same sit-down meal would probably be double or triple the cost, and so sticker shock is real in the United States. You know I am thankful for the abundance of beautiful food and groceries and restaurants, but it is expensive and it's something to once again adjust to. I was thinking this morning how nice it is and how lucky I am to have both a sailboat and a camper van to complete this nomadic living lifestyle, because at one point or another I get a little bit tired of one or the other, and so it's really great to have a fallback, like if I get tired of the sailboat life and all the drama and weather and everything that goes into that. I have the van And it's so easy just to jump in the van and drive around And I'm so thankful to have this sprinter van which we're building out ourselves. It has this queen-size bed. It's the most comfortable bed I've ever laid on, with the foam that we picked ourselves a refrigerator, a table, a place to stand up and walk around and a place to store all of our gear and surfboards. It really is an amazing thing to have this van and it's something I am so thankful for. So I think that boat life and van life complement each other perfectly, because I'm able to change my environment and my situation. I have never really lived the van life full-time. It's always been the van life with the sailboat or the van life with house sitting, because the van is small and van life does come with its own fair share of challenges, like finding a place to sleep every night, being on the phone and navigating and looking up campsites and boondocking and trying to get a reservation and trying to figure out where to get water and food. It does have its own set of complications and challenges, and that's when I just want to get on the boat. We're only up to grocery shop every two weeks, so there are pros and cons to both, and so it's just something to think about and be aware of, and I do see a lot of sailors that also have truck campers, rvs and vans and they do the same thing as us Just switching it out, going where the weather is good and just following you know the climate like migratory birds. That's what how I consider us. So I am happy to be back in the van, kind of doing the van life thing and these wonderful temperatures, and I'm excited to see friends and family, and I just wanted to let you know what that transition was like and some of the things I've gone through after leaving Mexico just a few days ago, and so I hope you found that helpful. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Wayward Home Podcast. If you know someone who would like this podcast, it would help me out a lot If you'd forward an episode to them. You would think they would like. Word of mouth is one of the main ways that podcasts grow and that really helps me out a ton. Once again, thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Wayward Home Podcast and I'll see you next time.

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