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M-N (Cruiser's Dictionary)


MAIL - In sixteen years of cruising, we have had mail forwarded to practically every country/island nation that we have visited, and only once in all this time has our mail been lost. Only two or three times has the mail taken more than two weeks to reach us (and that usually in the month of December, when the U.S. postal system is deluged with holiday mail). In the Caribbean mail usually arrives within 10 days of its being sent from the States. In Southeast Asia and Australia it will take approximately two weeks. Singapore - six to eight days. It is better to have a mail address that is not Poste Restante (or General Delivery). French Island post offices return unclaimed mail after two weeks ("it's the law"). (The French will drive you crazy - another silliness - if the envelope is addressed to "John and Jane Cruiser", the postal employee will often insist that both people be there to receive the mail(!!) We present our calling card to the postal employee rather than try to get them to understand our spoken words, in some places they will demand to see your passport. After the terrible mess that we have seen in too many post offices, we suggest that you have mail addressed to your surname only (including first names seems to mean that there are a few more letters under which they can file your mail), and your boat name. Boat name because if you are forced to have another yacht pick up the mail, they are more likely to remember your boat name than your surname.

Try not to have mail included with parcels that will have to go through customs (for that matter, be sure that any parcels will be sent only to the least problematical countries). Latin America has been a problem, various other places are at various times - other cruisers will be your best source of information. Large packets of mail may be in the parcel section of the post office, so you would be wise to check both areas. We have our mail forwarder put our mail into distinctive, easily-recognized envelopes as multiple smaller parcels rather than one large packet that will draw the attention of Customs (or sticky-fingered postal employees), and to note on multiple packets of mail “1 of __, 2 of __, " etc. On three occasions, in three different countries, this notation was the only way we got parcels 1, 3, and 4 - only "2 of 4" was given to us the first try. On two occasions the post office involved had placed the parcels in different locations, and only the notation on the label that it was only one of the four parcels sent convinced the postal employees to look for the other ones (that, and my nagging insistence that they had the mail - one must be polite, but firm).

When we were in the Caribbean we heard of a couple who generously offered to pick up another yacht's mail from the post office to bring it to them down the line. They were arrested - the mail packet had contained ammunition - smuggling guns or ammunition is frowned upon. Being a good sport is wonderful, but we suggest that you know the people you are doing favors for.

- Niuatoputapu, Tonga: The reason we can't mail anything from here is that the Post Office has sold all its stamps to another yacht, and "who knows when there will be more". This island of about 1500 people has a "doctor", a nurse, Immigration Officer, Customs Officer, Agriculture Officer, and a Post Office. The five boats here all agree that these people don't have a clue as to what they're doing.

- Several examples: John and Petra, the yachties who bought out all the stamps needed more than they bought, so the postmaster pulled out an envelope with about $10.00 worth of uncancelled stamps on it, addressed to some place in France, said that it had arrived on the plane that day, and gave it to John. John said that that wasn't right, somebody had mailed it - the postmaster said that it was okay, because there wasn't any letter or anything in the envelope, so there was no reason to send it on. Since the postmaster had made a gift of the envelope to John and Petra, they had to accept it, and will now have to mail it from Neiafu for the poor fellow. Since the postmaster opened it to prove there was no letter in it, they plan to include a letter explaining why the stamp collector is not getting an envelope postmarked from Niuatoputapu, as he had obviously wanted, because the postmaster doesn't understand stamp collectors, just envelopes with something inside them.

MALARIA - After reading lots of conflicting information regarding malaria, as well as getting misinformation from medical doctors who were unfamiliar with it, we have come to the conclusion that a tropical disease specialist, with access to up-to-date information from the World Health Organization, is most important. This is a disease that is too serious for its prevention or treatment to be left to the advice of other cruisers or inexperienced medical practitioners. Because the parasite mutates, effective prophylaxis or treatment regimes one year may not be effective twelve months later. Tropical disease centres in conjunction with WHO publish current information on the best prophylaxis and treatment, as well as alternative medications. I caught malaria in the Solomon Islands, and the local doctor blamed it on the fact that the Australian travel medicine that the doctor prescribed is an inappropriate prophylaxis regime for their area. (see also, "Doctor")

MARINAS - See "Polarity", "Zincs", "Electrolysis"

MAYONNAISE - Non-U.S. produced mayonnaise is very different from stateside mayo, even if it carries a US brand name. Unless you like Miracle Whip, mayonnaise in the South Pacific does not appeal to US tastes (too much sugar in Australian and NZ brands, even with a US brand name). And for you Aussies and Kiwis, US mayonnaise, or that produced in most other countries, is too sour for your tastes. (See also "Eggs")

MEAT GRINDER - Small, plastic meat grinder is very helpful in places where quality of the meat or sanitation is questionable. Whole roasts are safer than ground meat - beef roast is very dense and relatively low in moisture content, and thus if you cut off the outside layer, the inner meat is uncontaminated (to a point - rotten meat is rotten meat).

MEDICAL INFORMATION - See Allergies, Angiostrongyliasis; Botulism; Charcoal Tablets; Cholera; Doctor; First Aid; Fungus Infections; Giardia; Hepatitis; Hospitals; Hypodermic Needles; Intestinal infections/parasites; Malaria; Pharmaceuticals; Prescription Drugs; Rehydration; Ringworm; Salmonella; Scombroid Poisoning; Staph Infections; Typhoid; Water Purification.

METAL WAX - Our latest discovery and "best thing since sliced bread". Protects stainless steel and aluminum from salt-induced corrosion better than the metal polishes we used to use. Metal polish is still useful for removing heavy corrosion on stainless and brass, but if Metal Wax is applied after polishing, the metal stays corrosion free longer. Excellent on aluminum, which metal polish does not seem to help. - Note: MDR makes a true "metal wax", while others are a metal polisher with a wax additive - not the same thing, because it often contains an abrasive.

MILDEW - Conventional wisdom states that to prevent mildew one need only provide sufficient ventilation in the boat. Balony! In Costa Rica during the rainy season the sun canopy mildewed on the shaded side, grew green algae on the sunny side. Since only direct sunlight actually inhibits mildew (and encourages algae), one tries all kinds of stuff to inhibit it. Lysol, vinegar, or chlorine bleach seem to work equally well (but vinegar and chlorine are harsh on stainless steel, and both vinegar and chlorine bleach attack dacron sails).

To keep books mildew-free, gently wipe them with a rag soaked in undiluted Lysol (covers, inside and out, page edges), let them dry without rinsing. So long as they don't get wet, a semi-annual repeat of this treatment works very well (one of the active ingredients in Lysol is the same as in the Mildew Preventive Spray that chandleries sell at an exorbitant price). But it will turn the edges of the book brown.

Mothballs (naphtha) in clothes lockers will also keep mildew at bay (but it taints all food not in cans - even glass jars don't seem to be impervious to the fumes, though maybe I just imagined the nasty taste). In the States one can buy “clothes hearts” which are a perfumed, mild naphtha and work well in clothes lockers without the nauseating smell, but are not strong enough for use in the open spaces of the boat when it is closed up and left for any amount of time. Be careful with mothballs - I developed a nasty allergy to them after returning to the boat after it had sat for ten months with mothballs everywhere. The boat was remarkably mildew-free, and also finally cockroach free after a severe infestation, but the fumes from unevaporated mothballs did not dissipate quickly enough even with the hatches open and the resulting allergic reaction was a problem for several weeks (until we hunted down and disposed of every single naphtha crystal).

Tides decrease the closer you get to the equator. This is a surprisingly prevalent idea that is completely and incredibly wrong. On the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, tides are minuscule, 1 foot, more or less; on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, tides are 12 to 15 feet. Closer to home, the tides in South Carolina and Georgia are significantly higher than those in the bracketing states of North Carolina or Florida.

You can outrun a hurricane; Hurricanes in the northern hemisphere always travel in a northwesterly direction; southwesterly direction in the southern hemisphere. These are such dangerous misconceptions that I will devote more time to them than you might want.

- Examples. Hurricane Klaus, 1981 (?) in St. Martin. It hit the Virgin Islands, then turned around, went almost due East, and hit Sint Maarten/Saint Martin.
Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, traveled unswervingly due West, over Trinidad, along the coast of Venezuela, over Bonaire, tearing off their airport roof, slammed smack dab into the Yucatan peninsula.

These two hurricanes surprised a whole lot of people. Had you tried to sail to the “safe semicircle”, you would have sailed right into the path of the hurricane. The average cruising yacht cannot outrun a hurricane traveling at 15-20 knots. And if you have ever seen the incredible seas that a hurricane raises several hundred miles from the winds, I don’t think you would want to be at sea in a small boat during that. In Saint Maarten in 1989, two hurricanes before Hurricane Hugo passed the island without any wind hitting the island. But the sea swell was so severe that it damaged the cruise ship jetty in Philipsburg, and destroyed the fuel dock at Chesterfield’s. It lifted huge boulders, weighing tons, as if they were fish floats.

Wow! The most graphic information on tropical storms of all kinds that I have found appears in: “Heavy Weather Guide” by Rear Admiral William J. Kotsch (see “Books”).

MONEY - (Watermelon's opinion). We always use local currency. Playing games with U.S. dollars has gotten a lot of people into trouble. I can think of very few places (the Caribbean island of Saint Maarten/St. Martin is one) where U.S. dollars are accepted as payment with no penalty to the tourist. We have been shortchanged in Grenada and Fiji when we tried to use U.S. dollars, and haven’t tried anywhere else. We have been able to get money from ATMs or as cash advances on our credit card in every country we have visited (34 at last count).

Nowadays you can even charge groceries, so there is little need to carry large amounts of cash of any kind except in unusual circumstances. If you do find yourself with too much currency, you can always exchange it in the next country you visit. But you cannot exchange coins, so do spend them first.

We have a credit card that is automatically paid each month through our cash management account – it is, to our minds, the best of both worlds. We can get money from ATMs or as cash advances on our credit card from banks where there are no ATMs or the available ATMs do not handle foreign bank cards. Because it is a credit card, the bill is presented once a month and is paid; we therefore enjoy the credit card “float” on our money, and yet do not have to worry about interest charges or late payment fees. We get a more favorable exchange rate than for cash (which is the least favorable exchange rate offered) or traveler’s checks. The reason, of course, is that the credit card is electronic movement of money – no actual currency or paper needs to be handled.

In most places (Australia and the U.S. are notable exceptions), banks require a picture I.D. before advancing cash on your credit/debit card. It is also a regulation in Australia for sums in excess of a certain amount, but the bank tellers usually don't know that and so pass out lots and lots of money on just your signature. The U.S. is just as bad - two countries to worry about your money.

It is helpful to have both a MasterCard and a VISA card - in some places one works, the other doesn't; or one works better than the other; or the distance to go for a MasterCard is hours away from the closest VISA place (or vice versa). Establish a good filing system right away to keep track of your charges because banks make mistakes.

Several years ago a yacht reported in the SSCA Commodore’s bulletin that they had not worried about getting their mail while they were cruising from South America up to Central America, and when they finally received their mail they discovered that somebody had manufactured counterfeit credit cards using their number and had looted their debit card account of something in the range of $19,000. Because of the fact that their cards had not been stolen they were unaware of the problem until months after the bulk of the charges against their account were made, and at the time of their letter they were doubtful of recovering almost half of that amount. I asked Merrill Lynch if this could happen to us, and they replied that we had a year to report fraudulent activity on our account without penalty. (See “Countries” for a list of countries that we have visited so far)

MONEY BELT - or, fanny pack. Cannot be picked the way a wallet in a pocket can be, leaves one's hands free. Can be hidden underneath a loose shirt making it unobtrusive. A two or three-compartment one is better - transfer small amount of money to front compartment, carry bulk of money in other compartment - transfer occasionally out of sight of nosy thieves. Needs to be big enough to carry passport. (see also, "Passport", "Thieves")

MOSCARPONE CHEESE - 1 Litre double cream (heavy, 35% fat, cream) (note: Nestlé makes a tinned cream that works well. I have also used UHT cream), heated to 70º C (158ºF). Mix ½ cup of hot cream with ½ teaspoon tartaric acid, whisking until dissolved. Pour in rest of hot cream and set aside to set. After 10-15 minutes, when beginning to set, pour in muslin bag (or paper coffee filter) and place in colander over a bowl to catch water, refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Must be used within 2 days as fresh, or use in cooking after that. If used to make Boursin cheese, fresh onions and garlic will inhibit bacterial growth and it will keep longer refrigerated. If you can’t get Cream Cheese, this will work.

MOSQUITOES - They transmit Malaria, Dengue Fever and other nasty diseases. One cannot carry too many defenses against them. (see "Mosquito Repellent")

MOSQUITO REPELLENT - Those containing "Deet" have worked best for us. Best we ever found was sold in Sint Maarten (and the island of Phi Phi Don, Thailand!): "Mosquito Milk" in a roll-on-applicator. Have reused applicator with other repellents - roll-on is good, repellent not as great. The roll-on applicator is good because "Deet" dissolves many plastics, so plastic glasses, etc. will show your fingerprints if you touch them after applying repellent by hand. Have bought a mosquito screen treatment in Australia that is a contact poison for mosquitoes. Can also treat clothing when one is going ashore. According to tropical medicine information from Australia, mosquito coils and "Vap-mat" electrical fumicide is good; ultrasonic buzzers do not work against malaria-carrying mosquitoes. There is a 12-volt Vap-Mat. If you use kerosene lamps, consider carrying Citronella Oil for it, which repels mosquitoes and sand fleas. You can buy small containers of pure citronella oil and add a small bit to regular lamp oil, and to skin moisturizer to make your own repellent. (see also "Recycling")

MURIATIC ACID - (Hydrochloric acid) - Fastest acid for removing calcium from hoses, etc., cleaning seashells, but very active and quite dangerous if not used with care. Must be diluted significantly before using (always pour small amount of acid into larger amount of water to dilute, not other way around). Start with very mild solution to be sure you can control reaction. Recommend using with rubber gloves. (see "Acid”)


NAVIGATION CHARTS - it seems as if only the U.S. charts are not copyrighted, and thus can be photocopied legally. So if you see “Not a chart, not to be used for navigation” on a photocopy of a chart, it is most likely stamped on there to protect the copier from prosecution for infringing copyright laws. Photocopies have a few drawbacks. The black toner will leave the copy and adhere to the plastic envelopes that are available to store charts flat. The paper is lighter and absorbs water more easily. But they are cheap. (Used charts)

NEWSPAPERS - Local newspapers will give you vital information about conditions on land that you should know. It was through a local newspaper that we learned that there was a typhoid epidemic in Western Samoa while we were there (not something that was discussed with the tourists by the locals, naturally). Same for cholera in Ecuador (where the local guide told us there was not cholera in that particular area). We have found English-language newspapers in most countries we have visited - you often have to look hard for them, but ask around.

NI-CAD BATTERIES - For tools, some manufacturers have a 12-volt battery charger. Some battery-operated tools have other appliances that use the same battery - neat stuff: flashlight, fluorescent light, drill, etc., all using the same battery. Fluorescent light is small and bright and great for a cockpit light when entertaining at night or to bring along to another boat. Ours is made by Makita.

NON-SKID - FOR DECKS - I learned this when doing our refit in Australia: paint prepared boat decks with your choice of paint, and while the paint is still wet, sprinkle the surface heavily with Epsom Salts. When the paint is dry, the crystals wash off easily with water. One major advantage of this technique is that the paint will last longer than paint that has sand embedded in it, as the abrasive qualities of sand will "sand" the paint from the inside as it is walked on. You might want to test your application on a piece of board to see how heavy an application of Epsom Salts will satisfy you.

NON-SKID - FOR THE GALLEY - An easy and effective non-skid for plates and bowls: put dabs of clear silicone adhesive on the bottom of dishes (inside of bottom rim if there is one), then set down on sheets of wax paper (or "baking paper") until silicone sets, then peel off paper. The wax paper keeps silicone from adhering to your table, and placing them right side up while silicone is soft insures that dishes will sit flat and the silicone won't set in unbalanced lumps.

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