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E-F (Cruiser's Dictionary)


EMAIL - It almost need not be mentioned, it is so prevalent in the cruising community now. Some hints: Internet cafés make it easy to check in on your e-mail without lugging your computer ashore in the dinghy (this is Miss Paranoid talking). Learn how to type your messages in e-mail text format and carry them ashore on a floppy disk to save time in sending messages from an Internet Cafe. Learn how to Save your messages on disk so you can bring them back to your own computer to read at your leisure. Saves time and money in the Cafe. But be sure that you have a good anti-virus program that you update regularly if you use Internet cafes. I’ve had floppy disks infected with viruses from three different Cyber-cafes in three different cities.

EGGS - if bought unrefrigerated, will stay fresh unrefrigerated for weeks. I’ve found that Vaseline™ (petroleum jelly) does keep them fresh longer. They should be turned over every three to four days to keep yolk from sinking and attaching to the shell and thereby going bad.
To tell if an egg is spoiled, place it in a cup of fresh water. If it floats high out of the water it’s bad, if it sinks, it’s okay. (I still break an egg into a separate dish rather than mixing bowl, just in case).

Substitute for baking: In a recipe calling for 1/3 cup oil + 2 eggs, can substitute ½ cup mayonnaise + 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Texture will be less firm than using fresh eggs, but will hold together better than with no egg product at all. Be careful, some mayonnaise includes mustard, and some Australian and New Zealand mayonnaise is so sweet that you might be advised to reduce sugar somewhat. But this substitution is a great use of that awful Australian mayonnaise that you bought by mistake and can’t stomach.

ELECTRICAL CONNECTIONS - We have seen a million-dollar boat fitted out by the dealer using crimp connectors - guaranteed to start failing shortly after setting sail. All connections should be soldered; tinned wire is now readily available in the US and should be used everywhere on the boat.

ELECTRICITY - See “Polarity”, “Electrolysis”,

ELECTROLYSIS - In our opinion, a bonding system for a cruising boat is essential. Some locations have such electrolysis problems that frequent inspection of zincs is necessary. Electrolysis is not restricted to through-hulls and electronics on board. Also affects canned food, juices, and soft drinks. Some anchorages, if there is a lot of debris (such as old steel boats, batteries, other metal garbage) on the bottom, will also create electrolysis problems. When at anchor, or at a marina, it is prudent to attach a special zinc to the boat for extra protection. (see also, “Polarity”; “Zincs”)


FANNY PACK - See Money Belt.

FAX - Some SSB and ham radios can be equipped with a modem to send faxes from a computer. If fast accurate communication is important to you, this is worthwhile investigating. The wonders of modern communication via FAX have reached the most unlikely places in the world, and are a reliable and fast method of long-distance communication. Where long distance telephone calls are used to subsidize local rates, the information transmitted by FAX or e-mail for a few dollars can cost $50 to $100 by telephone (!!)

FENDERS - Good for buoying a trip line for one’s anchor, or for buoying one’s anchor rode in foul anchorages. (see “Fouling”; “Recycling”)

Story about Verity: Our friends Rich and Pam, new to cruising, had just recently arrived in the Caribbean when they came to Sint Maarten. Simpson Bay was so rolly that they went into the lagoon when the bridge opened that afternoon. As they were making their way to a suitable anchorage Pam noticed a mooring buoy, and decided to pick it up rather than go through the effort of anchoring. So she brought out their trusty boat hook and pulled up the ball, looking for the mooring line attached. A loud shout from a nearby boat caught their attention as the man yelled angrily, “That’s my anchor float you’ve just picked up!” Oops!!

FIRST AID - the following things we have used and found successful for tropical problems not usually found in first aid books. (see also, “Acetic Acid”; “Books”; “Vinegar”)

  • Bug bites:
    • Ants & bees: Venom is acid, so apply Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda) to neutralize the venom. (NS 16Sept00)
    • Wasps: Venom is alkaline, so apply vinegar (NS 16Sept00).
    • Centipede stings: (unconfirmed) Extremely painful sting, apply water as hot as you can tolerate.
    • Coral cuts: Wash with vinegar immediately, then treat as for any cut or abrasion. NOTE: I have experimented with treatments for coral cuts many times. All cuts treated with vinegar have healed faster and more effectively than cuts left untreated or treated with standard antibiotic soaps and creams (Neosporin™, for example, was practically useless).

Cuts: A chef’s trick to stop minor cuts from bleeding is to sprinkle a little turmeric (in your spice cabinet) on them. Not suggested for large cuts that might need stitching.

Jellyfish stings: Do not try to brush the tentacles off or they will continue to sting you. Vinegar applied to the tentacles clinging to the skin will stop the nematocysts from injecting their toxin, after which they can be removed. Papain (in Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer or papaya skins, or the sap from its leaves) is said to neutralize the toxin (stingray toxin is also a protein, and therefore the papain should neutralize it also, although I have not had occasion to try it). Take an antihistamine. (see “Allergies”)

Sea Anemones: Vinegar (again) will stop the burning, and usually reduce the swelling within several hours.

Sea Urchins: Ammonia (or urine) will stop the pain immediately (you can try a paste of Bicarbonate of Soda [Baking Soda], it worked once for me). Lamp Oil (kerosene) or limejuice will dissolve the spines embedded in the skin (as gritty as they feel, the spines are protein, not calcium). Do not try to dig the spines out - they won’t hurt you, but the removal process will.

Stonefish: Incredibly painful poison. Immerse wound in hottest water the body can stand.

FIRST AID KIT - Good first aid list is given in “The Offshore Doctor” (see “Books”). Additional suggestions: antihistamine (two: pill, liquid); charcoal tablets; fabric Band-Aids (in our experience plastic strips don’t stay stuck); Selsun™. (see: “Charcoal Tablets”; “Fungus Infections”; “Staph Infections”; “Allergies”; “Salmonella”)

FLAG ETIQUETTE: Once you have cleared into a country and lowered the yellow "Q" flag, it is a matter of courtesy to fly the flag of the host country (the French demand this courtesy, so be aware). It should be flown at your starboard spreader, and no flag should be flown higher than the host country's flag.

For U.S. vessels, the only national flag that should be flown is the national ensign ("Stars & Stripes"). The yacht ensign (13 stars surrounding a fouled anchor in the blue field) is proper to be flown only within the U.S.

We have seen yachts with several nationalities on board who all want to display their country's flags. Properly, only the host country flag and the vessel's national ensign should be flown, but sometimes in a foreign port the flying of other flags can be a practical method for advertising "(*) language spoken here", "books on board" "member of **"). In those instances, these informational flags would be flown from the port spreader, remembering that it (they) must not be flown higher than the host country's flag. Some local customs might differ from the above, so keep an eye out when you arrive at a new port to see what is being done.

For more information on flag etiquette, you can refer to the U.S. Power Squadron website,

FLOUR - goes bad rather quickly in some places (see “Damp”). Specialty flours (such as rye flour, graham flour) are difficult to obtain outside the US. (see “Provisioning”; “Weevils”;”Rice Flour”)

FOOD (Cheap, i.e., restaurants) - SSCA suggestion: ask person recommending a good, cheap place (a) what do they usually spend in the States for a good meal, and (b) do they like McDonald’s? We have been disappointed by other people’s recommendations because their idea of cheap and ours were quite different (we appreciate inexpensive, but have yet to eat in a good “cheap” place).

FOOD (Preparing underway) - Some substitutes that have made things a bit easier:

  • Ramen Noodles (found everywhere we’ve been, under various names) - 2- or 3-minute noodles, safer and easier than any other pasta or rice (unless you like Minute Rice, which you aren’t going to find many places in the Pacific or South East Asia).
  • Rice Noodles (Mie Hoon, Mee Hoon, Bee Hoon, Long Rice are various names for them), available in Chinatowns worldwide, we think - just pour boiling water over them and let sit for a few minutes, then toss with vegetables, meat, maybe some sauce, you have a quick but filling meal. But try these before you set out - don’t buy a lot on my say-so.
  • Breakfast Bars - quick energy when one or both of you need energy, and it’s just too dreadful to go below and make something.

Vacuum Thermos & Carafes for hot water, tea, coffee; they hold a liter of water or coffee, so you always have something hot, but don’t have to boil water too frequently; we carry two carafes, boil water in a two-liter tea kettle and fill them.

FOOD POISONING - SEE: “Botulism”; "Charcoal Tablets" (very important); “Salmonella”; “Scombroid Poisoning”

FOREIGN LANGUAGES - “Dutton’s Navigation and Piloting” (see "Books") has English translations of foreign terms found on nautical charts - most languages - very, very useful. See “Books”, “Charts”

You do not need to learn a foreign language to travel since English is so prevalent everywhere, but you will have an easier time if you learn a few words of the local language. “Hello”, “good-bye”, “please”, “thank you”, and “how much?” are universally appreciated. “Where is” plus a note or map will get you directed to the approximate destination cheerfully (caution - our experience leads us to believe that very few people in the world know how to read a map - place names and addresses are more useful). Learn how to count in the language - it will save you a lot of money when the local says fifteen and it sounds like fifty and you pay it! Also, in some places, especially where they see a lot of Americans and/or Australians, the locals will refer to their currency as Dollars, even if it isn't called Dollars - so be careful and always assume they mean their own currency - again, it will save you money. Even if you speak the local language, don’t be annoyed if nobody understands you. Aside from the fact that Americans tend to butcher languages; local accents and dialects can render the version you were taught unintelligible. If the local language is some form of English, you might be wise to treat it as a foreign language anyway. And remember, wherever you are, you are the foreigner, not the locals.

Another hint. We have found a lot of misunderstandings where the locals think that they understand English well. We will say something like: "I would like to go to Ban Nit, because I'm staying there, not in Ao Chalong where I was last week" - the poor taxi driver hears and understands only "Ban Nit" and "Ao Chalong" - since he's not sure what else you said, he's as likely to take you to Ao Chalong as to Ban Nit. It is wise to keep all your discussions and instructions as simple and as positive as possible - leave out the extraneous, forget about telling them what not to do because they will probably understand only half of what you're saying, and “no” and “not” are not universally understood.

We sailed from Cocos Island, off the coast of Costa Rica, to Salinas, Ecuador in 1991, arriving the first week of December. Checking in, we paid the annual light fees that are assessed to vessels, be they commercial liners or private yachts, based on tonnage, - for WATERMELON, a bit less than $40.00. Salinas is a small village, and very few cruising yachts come there - for almost the entire three months we were there, only our friends on the yacht OBSESSION, and WATERMELON, were at anchor, and so the Port office has no trouble recognizing each of us. Peter quite obviously couldn’t speak Spanish, though they knew that I could, since I had done the checking in. On a Saturday near the end of January a small speedboat came by the ‘Melon. Two bathing-suited couples were in the boat, and they called to Peter, saying something he clearly couldn’t understand, but telling him nonetheless. Peter shrugged his shoulders, looked blank, and they went on out to OBSESSION, where our friend Gary was able to understand them.

That afternoon Gary came by to tell Peter that the fellows were from the Port Captain’s office, and that we had to go in and pay the current year’s light fees. Peter of course objected, since we had, after all, already paid for a year’s worth of light fees. No, Gary patiently explained, the light fees we had paid were for last year. It was now a new year, we needed to pay new light fees. Peter argued that there weren’t any lights, so paying one set of light fees was a bit much, two sets of light fees in two months was ridiculous (why Peter was arguing with Gary, another foreign cruiser, I don’t know, but I think it was because Peter just had to argue with somebody, and the local officials couldn’t understand a word he said, so poor Gary had to be the goat). Gary sensibly said, “whatever”, and left. Now, Peter had no intention of paying for this second assessment, and so he ignored the entire issue.

The following weekend the fellows came out again when I wasn’t there. Peter had his strategy all thought out. As they came alongside the boat, Peter smiled, and shouted, “that’s it, no more cerveza [beer], you’ve had enough, no more cerveza!” The men tried to talk to him, but Peter of course couldn’t understand Spanish and was certainly having too much fun not understanding it. They couldn’t speak a word of English, and so there they were, trying to explain to him that the Port Captain wanted to see him, and Peter shouting “No more cerveza!” Again they left, slightly frustrated. We never did pay the second light fee assessment, and that’s another story.


  • Anchors: See “Anchor”; “Recycling” for anchor rode in foul anchorages. “Chain fouling” can occur in areas of light wind and strong tidal currents. The anchor rode lies in a pool directly under the boat and can wrap around the anchor as the boat turns with changing tides or currents. If a squall hits tightening the anchor rode, the loops around the anchor can close into a noose, fouling the anchor and the boat goes walkabout.
  • Dinghies: To treat the bottom of the dinghy to slow algae and barnacle growth, wax to which a few drops of an algaecide designed to be added to house paint works reasonably well. In some countries one can find liquid tributyl tin, which is excellent (but illegal in the US) - but be careful, it’s toxic to humans too, so use rubber gloves. Must be reapplied periodically. (see “Armor-All”)
  • Water tanks: Rainwater can be fouled by passing birds, algae, dust. We run our water tanks out periodically to purge silt that collects in the bottom of the tank. Water purification tablets are a good idea to carry: they are sodium dichloroisocyanurate, sold by West Marine as AQUATABS (made in England, as most of them seem to be, under different brand names). Once you reach the middle of the Pacific, you will find that they can be obtain under the following brand names, at about half the price of Aquatabs from West: AMCAL; Steadiflow Antibacterial Tablets; Milton’s ....; Boots ...(imported from England) - much cheaper, can be found in Pharmacies/Chemists in baby care section, as “Feeding Bottle Steriliser Tablets”, or “Antibacterial Tablets”. This will also slow down, or prevent, algae from growing in tanks. Remember that the locals are acclimated to their water, so what is safe for them is not necessarily safe for you. These tablets, essentially chlorine, will not kill the spores of the parasites that cause Giardia, Cryptosporidium, or Amebic Dysentery. (see also “Giardia”, “Cholera”, “Water Purification”)

FUEL - See “Diesel”, “Gasoline”, "Fuel Filters"

FUEL FILTERS - We have discovered that in many places in the world the fuel pumps are unfiltered. For various parts of the world (Bahamas out-islands, Latin America, Mexico) it is useful to have what is called a "Baja Filter" for pre-filtering diesel before it goes into the tank. In addition, in the tropics, algae can grow in the fuel tank, depositing water in the fuel. All the "gunk" sits in the bottom of the fuel tank until a rough passage, when it is stirred up and taken up in the fuel line, precisely when one is least desirous of having the engine stall. After having had this happen to us twice in uncomfortable conditions, we clean the fuel tank periodically to remove as much sediment and water as possible. There are sponges that can be inserted into the fuel tank to remove water, leaving the diesel, which is a simple precautionary measure that can be taken frequently with little effort. Most boats have found that two in-line fuel filters are necessary for high-performance diesel engines. (See also "Algaecide")

FUNGUS INFECTIONS - "White spots" on your skin, or itching areas, or rough patches that don't respond to moisturizer, or patchy skin discoloration, could be fungus infections. Common in the tropics. Selsun™ (Gold, not the shampoo), is an effective treatment, and Selsun Blue shampoo used regularly is an effective preventative. Boric Acid (quite toxic, it also kills cockroaches) solution (1 tbs.. to 1 litre sterile water) is also a topical fungicide; read directions carefully. (see also, "Ringworm", "Staph Infections")

FUSING TAPE - The nylon mesh-type strips used for non-sewn seams, etc. Handy for quick repairs, reinforcing raveling seams. If no steam iron on board, steam from whistling teakettle will work to activate fusing tape though not as effectively. [NOTE: experiment with heated pot as iron.]

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