Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Work has begun, again...

Today I dressed for fiberglass.
After practicing guitar and fetching drinking water for the house, I stopped at one of the many convenience stores and bought a bag of ice and a couple cans of Arizona Ice Tea (Green Tea with honey), a bottle of acetone and headed for the FLASH.

Regardless of what plan emerges between me and my friend Mike, the hull/deck joint will become pivotal in the construction. When I tore off the old cabin and decking,  "Pastries and Heavy Lifting", the bare hull joint was exposed. The previous owner had used thick applications of polysulfide to seal the two (deck and hull) and it has to be removed before I can make my own mess of things. That's the picture on the left.

I found that a heat gun helps a little to soften it up, but only special chemicals not available (and costly if they were) in Mexico. The acetone didn't work. It has to be a "mechanical" removal. I tried using an air chisel with a broad, sharp edge and it cleaned off this stuff pretty well if I leaned into the job. I didn't even power up the chisel, just started scraping with it.

After scraping off the cured goo, I finished the cleaning job with a Makita grinder with a coarse wire brush. It kicks up a little fiberglass dust but it's manageable. In 2 hours I got about 40% of the joint cleaned off.

The design has me extending the sheer (the side of the boat) up, and this is the area that supports much of the new structure. It has to be cleaned up to provide a strong bond. It will have to reinforced here and there with marine plywood to support stanchions (posts for lifelines) and sail handling attachments.

The red line on the drawing above shows the hull/deck joint and the stuff above it is what I have to build.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's really all about a philosophy of life, isn't it?

For a couple of years now, I've been sort of stuck in a place where many of us find ourselves... questioning whether I have enough time left on this planet to finish the projects I've started.

I know one thing for certain: I will die with some things unfinished.

This morning I awoke feeling really good and serene, and I felt like somehow my pondering and my affliction of mental paralysis has resolved itself. And my future had opened its doors to me at last.

The answer for me is simple (thank God):
I will plan to live past a hundred. Whether I do or not is unimportant.
And now I don't have to concern myself with my age and my burgeoning project list.

The Green Flash:
I am inspired by the following video to design the Flash as a solar-powered vessel as well as a fast sailboat.

Back-up power will still be supplied by a 15 kilowatt diesel generator bought for this boat a couple of years ago, but the solar thing is just what I needed to get off Square One. I'm not planning the energy storage system at this point in time since that whole thing is a moving target... but space will be allocated. Getting the boat built with the solar cells installed is a huge first step.
I have been in contact with a Chinese manufacturer of carbon fiber and epoxy resin offering prices I can actually afford (sort of). With some planning and "help from my friends" I think we can match the finish of this vessel. I, and the 1st Mate, love the colors in this picture, too.

Now I have to notify my friend, Michael, the naval architect, what I have in mind.

Oh, and another thing... I'm exploring a touch-screen interface for all the boat's operations and systems. That sounds like fun. Maybe a prototype on Bliss, first...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why I love Mexico

Lookit this desktop weather gadget I have on my home page... I just came back from the ranchitos and the Green Flash workyard because it was getting too warm to work!

I was sitting out on the patio this morning with my guitar and it was too warm to play out there. Here is the 1st Mate stringing the Christmas lights (appropriately shaped as red peppers).

Through the window it appears there's actual flowers outside, so let's go see...

And next to the bougainvillea there's the orange tree and the fountain...
OK, 'nuff said.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Getting Serious, sort of...

Today I lost my first adult tooth.
Not bad, at the age of 65.

The lower right molar was still solidly rooted to its location, but was giving me such pain that I opted for the extraction. The maxillary nerve was inflamed and I had lost my appetite, and most of my sleep, and all of my patience in the several days preceding. Pain pills couldn't get the job done. So I'm back on antibiotics again, and most of the pain is gone along with the tooth. My dentista, Doctora Maria in the town of Empalme, is a fine person as well as the area's best dentist. A deep cleaning and the extraction was about $50 US.

The veneers are ready for my two front teeth. These teeth were cracking down the middle, lengthwise, and would eventually break and cause pain and a general ugliness.  They had already absorbed years of tannic acid stains from my coffee addiction and looked pretty bad to begin with. Dra. Maria charged me about $250 each for these dental caps and all the associated labor. If I want, I can go in tomorrow and have them installed. All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.

Tomorrow night is a benefit concert produced by my two friends, Bobby and Leslie Sahlen. It might be nice to have my smile fixed for that. The 1st Mate and I are getting comp tickets because we'll be performing in their concert in January or February. We've already starting selecting the three melodies we'll do. We like the song, "It's Probably Me" by Sting, even though it's not jazz... but I'm working on an arrangement that will push it in that direction a little. The concerts are designed to benefit local orphanages.

On the Flash front...
I've hired Beto, a 15 year old boy from Guaymas to help me on the Flash. Right now we're cutting brush and weeds that popped up after the rains. Today I also got the 1971 VW van running. It, with the pickup truck, have been stored on the ranchito lot since last fall when I sailed Bliss south to Zihuatanejo.

Also, a naval architect/mechanical engineer is volunteering some design work on the Flash. Mike Capitain read my post about the Flash on and my plans to employ a diesel-electric propulsion system. He's been sending me some 3d renderings and he's offering his expertise for the time being. I've also had offers of help from some gringo carpenters who are interested in the project.

I'm staying in San Carlos this winter to put some time and energy into the Flash and it looks promising.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Back on Track

I try to do something new every day. I'm easily bored and I've found that trying something scary is a sure-fire way to stay out of the blahs.
Life is very accommodating for these activities. Almost daily, something I spent good money on breaks down and I'm faced with two possibilities: I can tear it apart to find out how it works, and maybe even fix it; or I can throw it away and try to find a replacement. The logical and most appealing choice is to try the repair, but if I take that approach with everything, I'm soon drowning in a deluge of nonfunctioning crap...
And I'm already way behind on a lot of projects.

Anyone who's dropped a vase knows that it only takes a second to break something, and a lot longer just to clean up the mess. And if you're going to glue that vase back together again, you better set aside a good chunk of time.

Then there's the stuff that just seems to appear on its own.
Last year the 1st Mate had a new room built onto the condo and I volunteered to build in the back door and create a design for the rear entrance. Then the topic of tool storage came up and i agreed to build that into the new room. These projects have me working in new mediums: adobe brick and mortar, glass brick and white cement. After constructing the doorway in 2x4s and plywood, I'm now sheathing the outside in parota, an indigenous wood that resists bugs and rot. It's also very beautiful and lightweight, but the sawdust is highly toxic. Any cutting, routing or sanding has to done with a good respirator mask. Pictured is a cockpit table I made from parota, butterflied and inlaid with strips of Mexican cedar. I build without plans or instructions- just some basic measurements. The fun is figuring out how to do something on my own. I know there's tons of how-tos online... if I was repairing my iPhone (which I have) I would do that. But this stuff isn't that big a deal, and discovering processes and techniques and tricks is a blast. Then you end up with something useful.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Goodbye, Sophie (1997-2010)

Today the 1st Mate, Dr. Salomon, the Vet, and I concurred that it was time to let go of our 13 year old Maltese mix family member. Two weeks ago she stopped eating, started to stagger when she walked, started losing weight. We've been making daily visits to Dr. Salomon for the last week for injections, instructions, IVs, and prescriptions. Two days ago the infection moved into her lungs and that pretty much meant the end of the game.

Before her illness, sleeping on her favorite cushion.

When the sea breeze comes up this afternoon, we'll go out to the ranch where the Green Flash sits, and find a place to bury her mortal remains. Digging in the desert is hard, but when you live in a condo development there's no place near the house. The 1st Mate and I will take the air compressor and an air chisel along with the shovel to create Sophie's resting place. The desert doesn't yield easily.

Emotionally, I'm a wreck. And with almost 10 years without a drink, I want one now.
Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The 1,000 year old man (or woman) is alive and well

I've been thinking about a blog regarding aging and the science of aging for about a week now... I received a link in the mail about this very subject today, and that got me writing.

Life expectancy is:
White women: 81 years
African-American women: 76.9 years
White men: 76 years
African-American men: 70 years
(These numbers were published by the CDC in Feb., 2008)

Each year, new drugs, treatments and research extend our lives. Breakthroughs, like the one I'll reveal today, make it seem possible that the cures for what kills us will be there before we get sick, or at least, before we die from them. The thing about these numbers is that they include accidents, murder, war fatalities, drug and alcohol abuse/overdose, etc. If you are 60 now, your numbers are higher than the chart above... unless you have dangerous habits and have just been lucky so far.

We live in a time where it's possible that we could survive almost indefinitely.

From Gizmag:
A region of repetitive DNA at the end of a chromosome called a telomere, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration, is thought to be the "clock of aging" contained within the human body. Many scientists believe that the limit on lifespan and decline in health is imposed by the gradual shortening of our telomeres that occurs with every cell division. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that a human cell that does not undergo telomere shortening will divide indefinitely and is, by all available measurements, immortal.
Now researchers at Sierra Sciences, in collaboration with colleagues at TA Sciences, Geron Corporation, PhysioAge, and the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), have discovered the first compound that activates telomerase – an enzyme that lengthens telomeres – in the human body, potentially opening the door to arresting or even reversing the aging process.
So there it is.
Take good care of yourselves and you may just get to live a lot longer than you thought possible; I suspect funeral directors look at this subject with mixed emotions.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stumbled onto Sadness

This is a beat up business card that was given to me by my friend Karl Karlsson. It was new when I got it, back in 1999, when Karl retired from the San Francisco Police Department and opened his office as a Private Investigator. He was serious about his work, but loved to play... he and I drank a lot together, back in the day. Superbowl parties were Karl's specialty and the booze and food was good and plentiful at his house on the Petaluma River, just south of Petaluma.

In late 1999, Karl and his wife Carol told me they were going to Puerto Vallarta to party for 10 days and watch the Superbowl and then fly home. I was headed to Mexico for the winter and it turned out I was in Vallarta on my boat BLISS in late January. I got their number and invited them out for a sail on Banderas Bay, so we did.

As we started back after the daily sea breeze died my diesel wouldn't start... so we sailed into the anchorage at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in the dark. Carl was steering, Carol was reading off the depths as we came in and I was on the bow ready to drop the anchor. After we succeeded in sailing in the hook, I gave them the vee berth and went to sleep in the quarter berth near the nav station.

The next morning, I got into the engine room and started the diesel by jumping across the starter motor with a screwdriver (lots of noise and sparks) and we motored back to my slip. I drove them to their hotel. Karl told me he wanted to spend their last day together alone in PV (Superbowl Sunday) so I bid them adieu and drove back to the marina.

The next day I watched the Superbowl at a pub somewhere and the following Monday Karl and Carol boarded Alaska Airlines flight 261 out of Puerto Vallarta for San Francisco and Seattle. A flight I had taken a number of times. But theirs never made it. They died with the 86 other passengers and crew when the plane slammed into the Pacific Ocean near Pt. Conception in California on January 31, 2000.

I was cleaning out some stuff when I came across Karl's card., and it all came back to me.
So I wrote it here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Big Brother isn't who you thought He would be

Do you remember the famous Apple TV ad most folks refer to as "1984" or the "Big Brother Ad?"

According to ARS TECHNICA Apple Computer has"applied for a patent on a method to differentiate between authorized and unauthorized users of a particular iOS device. Once an unauthorized user is detected, the device can then automatically disable certain features or send notifications to Twitter or other services.
The patent, titled "Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device," describes several ways a device could sense who is using an iPhone or iPad. Among the methods considered are voice print analysis, photo analysis, heartbeat analysis (!), hacking attempts, or even "noting particular activities that can indicate suspicious behavior."
If the various analyses detect someone who is not authorized to use the device, it could set off a number of automated features designed to protect the device's data, suss out the offending party, and alert the device owner. Sensitive data could be backed up to a remote server and the device could be wiped. The device could automatically snap pictures of the unauthorized user and record the GPS coordinates of the device, as well as log keystrokes, phone calls, or other activity.

I can see where it would be helpful to disable a stolen phone.

Some of those who comment on ARS suggest it could be a way for Apple to disable unlocked or "jailbroken" iPhones, although a US Court has ruled that jailbreaking phones is not illegal activity. Apple could bypass the ruling by defining jailbreaking and/or unlocking as "suspicious behavior." This is actually stated in the patent application. It could be made part of the Software User Agreement. If you don't agree, then your iPhone won't even start up.

Steve Jobs is now a multi-billionaire, and his peers own things like AT&T, Telcel, and major recording and film companies. These are the people he cuts his deals with... if Carlos Slim (Telcel owner and world's richest man) wants Mexico's iPhones only to sell through Telcel, then the unlocked and jailbroken phones have to stop working. Of course, that's a big IF and purely speculative. But the lust for power and unbridled greed have no boundaries.

Jobs is now part of the network of filthy rich guys.

On the lighter side of the argument, one commenter writes: "Apple should buy into cattle prod technology. If somebody steals my phone, i want the battery drained into the the person using it. I want them to flop on the ground like a seizing trout. Maybe it can detect a lack of heartbeat and stop the discharge to conserve enough battery to upload its current location."

Maybe we'll get to see that on YOUTUBE in the next few years, if Big Brother lets us.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And you thought Jet Skis were bad...

New to emerge from the diabolical minds of recreational technologists is the shark-shaped Seabreacher X. A machine that can do 50 mph on the surface and 25 mph underwater, carry two people, and wreak havoc at your nearest anchorage.

Even at around $100,000 each, you can be sure the superyachts will keep at least one of these aboard for their spoiled kids/grandkids....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pride in your work... from where does it spring?

This week we got our first taste of the monsoons and while the cool rain and cloud cover made conditions delightful outdoors, we did get some outdoors indoors.
This photo shows several leaks that occurred in our new condo addition during the rains. It was enough to have us putting buckets out, mopping and moving stuff when we'd rather be sitting and gazing out at the lightning.

I climbed up to the area and found this brick wall riddled with voids and holes in the mortar (not to mention the drainpipes that were disassembled and left on the roof). Somebody didn't give a damn, and the contractor who paid this bricklayer didn't check his work.

Anyway, this morning at 6am, I mixed up a batch of mortar, climbed up and patched the holes after wetting them down. We could, and maybe should have called the contractor to complain, and maybe we still will do that, but for now the problem is fixed. We're ready for the next rain, whether the contractor does anything or not.

In my experience, this kind of shoddy workmanship is more common in Mexico than the US.
It's particularly scary if you are trusting someone to fix your boat or car. I, for one, do almost all of my own repairs. It's cheaper and safer in the long run, but I do get tired of the constant job lists. I believe I have too many things and have embarked on the task of getting them to someone else, but that's kinda' off-topic. Another blog.

I learned pride in my work... a sense of craftsmanship, from Mrs. Mary Chandler. She was my art teacher from the 2nd grade to the 6th. A year after entering junior high school, she was my teacher again, and moved with me into high school. I'm surprised I didn't find her in my college classes, but she was instrumental in getting me into college level art classes at Carnegie Institute of Technology at the tender age of 14. She had engineered a scholarship for me.

Mary made me work through the hard parts, when I would have said, "Hey, that's good enough!" Good enough wasn't good enough. When I saw the results of the extra effort and attention to detail, it seemed worth it all.

In this world we all need someone like Mary. Even bricklayers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dogs, and Not Dogs

I heard it once said that dogs think that we humans are also dogs, but a very special kind of dog. I suppose this could be true for some people, but for people who hate dogs, do dogs still think they're really dogs? Or do they think "he's too damn mean to be a dog..." Maybe you have to qualify to be a dog.

A couple of years back I watched a documentary about Shaun Ellis, a man who raised a couple of wolf pups, then got involved in a wolf pack. He lived with wolves for almost two years, running around (sort of), with the pack, hunting and gnawing on bloody carcasses for food.

One part of the documentary that stuck with me was the way that wolves would greet each other by biting, and getting bitten on their muzzles. Shaun is no wuss... he got in there and bit and got bit and his face started to look like one of those bloody carcasses at the dinner table. Check this out... ahhhh Wolf Heaven.

I thought I would try that with Chica and Sophie. But instead of biting their muzzles, I would grip it with my hand (my face already looks worse than Shaun's) and shake it a little and growl. Surprisingly, Chico thought it was really cool and would push her muzzle deeper into my palm, wagging like crazy.

Sophie just wanted to know if I had any food... and walked away.
But I think Chica would just rather get scratched than anything, except to play ball.

This reminds me that when I was a toddler, my Uncle Brooks would grab my nose and give it a little shake when he came to visit.
Maybe I was already a dog then.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hot Tamale

This little map was on WeatherUnderground today and I wanted to share it. If you look along the Mexican mainland coast as it climbs into the Sea of Cortez, you see a little indent near the the top. That's where San Carlos and Guaymas are located. That's us.  It would seem that we're the hottest place in Mexico/Central America at the moment.

And we just got our electricity back after a blackout. Only a couple of hours... but still.

We responded by sending the Capt. down to the boat (SV BLISS is currently in a slip at Marina San Carlos for cleaning and unloading after our trip) and fetched some flashlights and the Honda generator and a jug of gasoline. When the power goes out here, the gas stations can't pump gas. Short story, we hooked up the generator to the fridge, a fan, and the 1st Mate's computer. Internet is like, important to us.
Our A/C in the condo is 220 volt and the Honda can't handle that.

Will the power stay stable? We don't know, but we can cool down the boat pretty fast with the A/C there and our generator, so in an extended blackout we could move aboard to survive. Nice knowing that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Heading for the Barn

The Tetas of San Carlos.
Distinct and large enough to work as a landmark from 20 miles out...

Monday July 19
We've decided it's time to head for the barn. After a restful night at anchor in Agua Verde on the Baja peninsula, we caught an early westerly that brought us up to 6 knots for a couple of hours and launched us on our way to San Carlos.

The development of Puerto Escondido doesn't appeal to us, and we'd rather be getting home than spending money on what used to be free at the Hidden Port. Maybe next LoretoFest, we'll see.

Speaking of LoretoFest, we've been thinking about starting a cruiser music festival in San Carlos, maybe between October 15 and November 1st. In the past I've organized rock/music concerts to raise money for people who have needed medical care and it's been a lot of fun. The 1st Mate and I would need to work some things out because those dates coincide with our deadlines/publishing of our annual traveler's guide. Again, we'll see.

It's 94 degrees in the cabin this morning at 11… a hot one. The westerly has died and we're motoring (dieseling?) over a flat Cortez. Fortunately, the 120 amp alternator I found at the San Carlos sailors swap meet is working, and coupled with a 2000 watt dc to ac inverter and a countertop ice maker, we are enjoying fresh limonades as we go. The sea surface is getting that ruffled look it gets prior to the daily seabreeze, so there's hope that the wind will start up soon.

11pm update
Still no wind, but the seas are flat. Hot and humid.

Tuesday July 21
We arrived in San Carlos hot, tired and sleepy around 12 noon. The 1st Mate, Sophie and Chica were dropped off near the big Marinaterra Hotel restaurant dock to get a cab for me from the dinghy dock to the condo. We're heading in for showers and naps and air conditioning… then we'll start unloading the boat tomorrow when she's moved to a slip. So nice to be back, safe and sound.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Navigating Life...

This is a screen shot of a nautical chart of our current location and part of our route back home. The GPS we use with our computer is a GlobalSat BT-328, on the left, below. It uses Bluetooth wireless to connect to our MacBook Pro  laptop and establishes our position within about 20 feet. It costs less than $50 on the internet and has worked flawlessly for us for years.

When you use it with Google Earth, you get something like this, which puts us in our temporary slip at Marina de la Paz. 

Google Earth requires an internet connection, of course, and that's rare when underway, so navigation charts are used. Also, they tell you about things like water depth, so you don't run aground (like oil tankers) and they're much more compact so you you can keep all the world's waterways on a laptop, available wherever you are (mostly). If you don't have a chart, then you're really exploring.

So, where's the challenge, you say? Well, if somebody sinks their boat in a waterway, and the wreck isn't on your chart, then there's a good chance you'll run into it and share its fate. There's also logs, whales, and partially sunken (but floating just below the surface) shipping containers that have fallen off ships. It's estimated that there's tens of thousands of those out there. And there's weather.

Actually, the list of potential hazards runs so long, there's not room or time here to list them all, but that's also true of any human undertaking.

I had a good friend who was killed in his race car, on the race track. He died doing what he loved, so where's the sadness in that?

I suppose he could have sat in his rocking chair, safe and sound, until his doctor gave him the bad news. Many people do. It's not wrong, but to me, sad. 

For me, the real joy of this trip is sharing it with the 1st Mate (who has lots of ideas on how to have fun) and the two mongrels we brought along. Joy, unshared, loses its lustre.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Arriving in Baja

Painting with the camera.

For me, doing subtle compositions is easier with photography than a canvas. Faster, too.

It seems that I can express powerful images better with a paint brush, but fine grain monochromatic stuff is better left alone there. Maybe I don't have the patience for it, more likely though, is I want my paintings to say more not less, and to say it louder. It's very easy to overdo a painting. With the camera, you get what you get.

These photos were taken as we arrived on the Baja side after 48 hours at sea. We left Mazatlan on Wednesday morning and decided to sail north of La Paz to the islands there (Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santos) for their beautiful turquoise waters and quiet restful anchorages. Unfortunately, we were assailed by a local weather phenomenon called "corumels." Sudden high gusting winds, disturbing our sleep. I was worried that the anchor might might slip… but it held just fine. The morning dawned with a 22 to 25 knot southerly and one of our boat fenders had gone missing. Right now we're plowing through a steep choppy sea toward the La Paz boat channel, still another 17 miles away. Slow progress against this southerly.

The 1st Mate has lost her appetite and says she is comforting the dogs up in the V-berth. The dogs, however, say different.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cruiser's plans are written in sand...


And some will add, "at low tide" but that doesn't rhyme worth a damn, and if art isn't important, what is? We originally had planned to leave this morning, but when I checked the weather, something had popped up. Actually, two things (so far).
Hurricane Alex moved over northeastern Mexico and started pulling air from the Pacific Ocean. The spillover across the Baja peninsula was creating high winds and seas off the coast and up into the Sea of Cortez. Stuff that would overpower our autopilot and force me to hand steer for 36 hours through dangerous seas. Postpone the trip. Maybe to Tuesday.

Last night, the 1st Mate made chicken mole on rice and I washed the dishes... and I discovered that the light over the galley sink wasn't working. It was a leakage of electrons, I learned today, inside the wiring in the engine room, which adjoins the galley. Armed with a light, I entered the engine room and while there, found that the fuel line from the deck fill to the tank had a problem.

Evidently, the hose clamp had loosened, allowing diesel to seep around the fitting on the tank, attacking the exposed insides of the hose where it rested against the tank. The material of the hose had turned into a black, greasy, sticky substance that can only be removed by petroleum distillates or (lucky for me) automotive hand cleaner. Also lucky for me, the gunk hadn't entered the tank, which would have clogged up the diesel engine in a hurry. Loosening two other hose clamps enabled me to pull out the hose for the 1st Mate's camera.

We'll locate a replacement hose somewhere and look for the next show stopper. But since we can't do anything about the weather, we'll try to take it easy and enjoy the "time off."

Friday, June 25, 2010

So, what do you do in summer?

Used to be, in summer, I'd put away the raingear but I'd keep out the coats, sweaters and sweat pants. The reason was the Humboldt Current flowing along the Northern California coast, where we lived. The prevailing northwesterlies would blow over this cold upwelling of water just before they hit land and the resulting climate was cold and rainless. I won't say dry. The Pacific Ocean, driven by these winds, would pound against the rocky, redwood strewn shore and spindrift would be caught in the winds and thrown against anything standing in it's way. Icicles of salt would form on automobiles... an oceanic blessing for body shop owners. And it was cold, hardly ever reaching over 65 degrees in the hottest part of the year. It rained in the winter and the rain was warmer than the air, it seemed. Summer was a colder, drier version.

The 1st Mate and I were the night managers for a romantic getaway, called Seacliff on the Bluff in Gualala, California and we lived above the lobby. Their website is here, and if the weather gets to be too hot for you, make a reservation. There are sixteen rooms in four separate buildings overlooking the Pacific, and each room has a tv, a king bed, a redwood deck, shower, two person jacuzzi, a fridge with complimentary champagne (or fizzy apple cider, your choice), gas fireplace with ceramic logs and no telephones. The gray whales roam along this coast and stop and rub their large bodies against the sandy bottom just before the surfline at Gualala. They're just 15 to 20 yards offshore. Amazing to watch.

But we left Gualala in 2005 to live in Mexico, and summers have never been the same (thank God!).

In a few days, we'll be driving to Mazatlan from San Carlos to prepare our sailboat BLISS for a trip to the Baja and the Sea of Cortez before crossing back over to San Carlos. At five miles an hour, it will take us a couple of weeks. And the temperatures will be close to double those of distant summers in the north.
This year we're taking a window-sized air conditioner and using our quiet little Honda eu2000i generator to power the ac. Tearing down the carburetor I discovered this in the gas bowl. Pink colored salt crystals. The coloring is dye they use in the gas, the crystals found their way into the gasoline somehow. I suspect the daily heating and cooling of the gas can, which sucks salty air into the jerry jug at night.

Sailing with an air conditioner is grand, by the way. The sea water is still below 90 degrees and will help when the air temps get over 110.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Belay That...

belay |biˈlā|verb [ trans. ]fix (a running rope) around a cleat, pin, rock, or other object, to secure it.• secure (a mountaineer) in this way he belayed his partner across the ice[ intrans. it is possible to belay here.[usu. in imperative Nautical slang stop; enough! “Belay that, mister. Man your post.”
I've had experience with addictions, and one feature of the addict's landscape is that after a length of time in recovery, the horror of addiction and toxic living doesn't seem so bad after all. For the unsuspecting, the unexperienced or the uneducated it leads back to another round of temporary joy, then indulgence, misery, wreckage, loss and finally if one is lucky, recovery. If unlucky, death, imprisonment, permanent disability, and/or complete poverty.

Nothing to mess with.

"My name is Jim. I'm a boataholic...."
Is my relationship with boats the same thing as an addiction to say, drugs or alcohol? I don't know. Though I find that after several months ashore, living in relative comfort, with an abundance of all the things not provided while aboard (unlimited food and fresh water, electric power, space, security, stability, companionship, communication, tools and equipment, easy and fast transportation, replacement parts, professional assistance, entertainment, medical help and supplies, etc), I want to go sailing.

Boating is expensive, and I attenuate the costs by doing most of my own work. It enables me to understand the systems that I might have to repair while underway. And repairing those things without anything on that long list in the preceding paragraph.

It has made me competent in a number of things, and has illuminated my shortcomings. (The repair of electronics and things that require welding and/or machining go to the shop.) I also do my own installations and I have completely rewired BLISS and will rewire her again now that I know a few more things... It's more work than I want to do though. It seems that the ratio between enjoyment of the vessel and the work to keep her fully functional has shifted out of balance. Way out of balance.

It's my fault. Rather than accept the limitations imposed by the nature of sailing a small yacht, I have added a lot things that I thought would make life aboard more pleasurable. I've increased the load on the electrical system with all my gadgets that I now need to have 500 pounds of batteries, a backup generator, fancy regulators and meters, inverters (convert battery voltage to household current), solar panels and wind generators (and their structures) and miles of additional wiring throughout the boat. All this stuff wears out or breaks down and costs money to fix or replace, and all of it requires my time and labor to install and uninstall, to run it out to a repair shop or sit down with my tools and soldering gun and an internet connection to find the repair info if I can't figure it out myself.

Gone is the serenity and happy-go-lucky joy of my first boat.

I'm reminded of a time I spent with my brother back in Pennsylvania in the early 70s. He was buying high quality surplus electrical cords with a good standard grounded plug on one end and some obsolete, funny connection on the other. He would take a hatchet and chop off the obsolete connector and then sell the perfectly functional cord to a company that needed them for a 300% markup. He called it de-manufacturing.

I need to apply that same logic here.

There may still be joy left in the old girl yet, after I wipe off all the make-up and lipstick, and remove the implants and tummy-tucks.

Friday, May 14, 2010

boats for sale by owner

I've been back in San Carlos almost a month now. Mostly doing Honey-Dew lists and recovering from the battering I got from the sea and self-important Port Captains. Later this month, when all the parts have come in to make SV Bliss seaworthy again and the winds are into their southerly weather pattern. the 1st Mate and I and our two dogonauts will drive back to Mazatlan.

The plan: Sail across the sea to LaPaz and spend some quality time in the 1st Mate's favorite city, then some time kayaking around Isla Partida and the turquoise water there. Make our way up along the Baja coast doing a string of day sails and then cross at Sta Rosalia to San Carlos. I'll take the bus back to get the car.

We'll haul the boat, paint it, fix what needs to be fixed, finish what needs to be finished and put the boat on the market. We bought BLISS on St. Pat's Day in 1994, and we've had a pretty good run. So this will be our last cruise on BLISS. The work/fun, money/adventure equation is no longer working, so it's time to let go.

Me? I'm tired of being bounced around in a seaway, losing sleep and spending money. If I want to go on a cruise, I'll call Royal Caribbean or Princess (but not Disney... I'm not good with other people's kids) and join the thousands of non-captains on the sea.

What does this mean for the Green Flash?
It means I'm looking for someone to take the baton.

Friday, April 23, 2010


After what seems like forever, I'm parked in an outdoor cafe (Calypso Coffee) overlooking Marina Mazatlan, listening to piped in reggae and sipping a limonada (made without a single, solitary limon) and watching Sergio wash down my boat.

This is the moment I've dreamed of for weeks (except for the limonada and reggae, that is) while I lurched and pounded my way upwind through some pretty disgusting seas, and some really rolly windy anchorages. My cruising days are almost over. I really should have waited until later in the season to bring it north, it would have been faster and easier.

A surprise at the anchorage at Jaltemba Bay
... free auto accessories.

It's even uglier from this side of the boat.
I was able to shake it loose in a few minutes, though.

On Sunday, the 1st Mate is driving the Nissan Quest down from San Carlos with Sophie and Chica. We'll spend four days or so having some fun in Mazatlan. If we're lucky, we'll take care of some car issues with the Nissan (install new front struts, check on the engine light, steering and alignment) at either the Ford or Nissan dealership. (The Nissan Quest is simultaneously known as the Mercury Villager, both having been built in a US Ford factory).

I was able to get a great wifi signal 3 miles
out from this little beach house along the coast.

Then we'll leave the boat in Mazatlan (I've purchased a new bilge switch here for a good price) and probably sail up to San Carlos in June, haul it out, paint it, correct a few minor problems and put it on the market with 10 gazillion other boats. Maybe we could just make the boat and the business a package deal... sell a lifestyle, not just a business. A fantastic deal for a forty-something with a house payment, a boring job, and some people and computer skills. Sell the house and do this. Work part-time for 5 months of the year from Mexico, spend the rest cruising the coast and Sea of Cortez. (End of commercial message....)

Imagine the life... (please direct your friends with
disposable income to this blog. Thank you.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Full Gale!

This morning the wind started up early, about 10:30 am local time... 3 hours too soon. And it didn't really die until around 4 am, 7 hours too long.

At 10 am I took the dinghy into Barra and got my paperwork done with the Port Captain (5 minutes, no hassles), walked to Beer Bob's Book Exchange and dropped off my novels and picked up some new ones, said goodbye to the folks I know in Cabo Blanco (it's near the PC and BBs) and headed back to the boat. The wind in the lagoon was blowing about 30 knots when I hauled up anchor and made my way down the channel. I was looking forward to a nice calm night in the peaceful waters of Tenecatita Bay, one of my favorite places in all of Mexico.

When I got to the mouth of the estuary (the "Bar" in Barra) the sea was churning with whitecaps, foam blowing around the place and a washing machine for Bahia de Barra. A 65 foot ketch was barreling into the narrow channel. He took the left marker, I took the right. Suddenly my forward motion dropped to about 2 knots and all the power in BLISS' diesel was being used to mount the waves that hit us. I cranked up the rpms for more power and noticed the temperature gauge was on its red-line. I slowed the motor down, turned 180 degrees and back into the lagoon.

I dropped the anchor near the fuel dock and shut the diesel down after checking for water leaks in the cooling system. The fan belt that drives the alternator and heat exchange pump was stretched out and not doing its job. I let the motor cool down, retightened the belt and got the diesel functioning properly again, but I knew I was spending another night in the lagoon. The sea was too dangerous for me and a boat this size, (and for  65 foot ketches, too).

I found a space in about 8 feet of water behind Dog Island and ran out 100 feet of chain. The wind is still strong enough to shake the cockpit awning to pieces, so I took it down and have the dinghy in the wind shadow behind BLISS.

There's a small ketch near me whose owners have left her parked there and the roller furling jib is starting to get pulled out by the wind. It sounds like a motorboat as it pops and collapses. The wind is easily gusting up past 50 knots and I don't know if I would be able to do anything about their sail. The loose end is now 20 feet off the deck and I can't reach that far. If the whole thing comes out it will either destroy the mast or pull the boat off its anchor and send it crashing downwind... or it may do both.

Anyway, being stuck here in this blow for an indefinite period of time encouraged me to sign up for the local internet service. I get 24 hours of service for $7.00 but I can sign off and on to stretch the total period out over a couple of days if that's what it takes to get out of here. I'll be using it mostly to search the weather sites for some information.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back in the Lagoon and a Good Sign

The Barra de Navidad (est 1644)  lagoon is really quite big. It's almost bigger than the town/city it occupies, if that's possible. My little boat is right about where the map pin is.

For those of you who don't know about this lagoon, it's a wind magnet. Every day around 1 pm until after dark, the sea breeze comes in from the west at around 25 to 40 mph. The 1st Mate and I and our dogs were here when it was clocked at 68 mph. Speeding, indeed. It sets up a nice breeze through the boat but keeps us below to write, play music and read, cook and eat cookies (which is what I'm doing today). Thoughts of going to town in this weather are suspect, but the water taxis handle it just fine. Try this in a dinghy and you'll be soaked to the bone in minutes.

I spotted this sign outside a hotel lobby in Barra today, and had to post it. It's uniquely honest in an industry that is anything butt.

This is my favorite sign in all of Mexico so far

And if the Surgeon General REALLY wanted people to quit smoking, he'd put THIS on all the tobacco products sold in the US. Maybe with a Healthcare Plan for Americans in the works, he will.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Song Blog

Right now, I'm about 5 miles off the coast of Barra de Navidad, (on the state line of Jalisco and Colima) on my way home to San Carlos, Sonora hundreds of sea miles away. I'm trying to steal a little wifi from out here with my dish setup. Looks like I did.

I've always wanted to write music, and although I'm a pretty accomplished guitarist, and I can play just about every piano chord ever built, I don't have any original material.

It's not laziness. It's just lack of inspiration, and maybe, somebody needs to just show me how it's done. And maybe I lack confidence too.

But I don't want to write the same old love-addiction songs that sell trillions of records. I want to do something a little more original and just sell a million records... that would be fine.

So here's some song ideas that I have that are maybe a little more timely to the 21st century:

Your Cheatin' Avatar

If you stay in one place too long,
someone will kill you by accident.

One webcam too many.

Goin' Native, and can't afford it.

They can't make anything right
(pay me once, pay me twice)

I ain't God, but that's not my fault

WiFi ain't workin' Blues

If you're gonna' do drugs,
did you bring enough for everyone?

I know where you are (the GPS song)

So, I'll let you all know when the CD is ready and on my new website,, which isn't built yet… but neither are the songs

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Return of, escape from civilization

Last night I met Scottie at the Flophouse, where we picked up an amp and the Capt and off we went to Troncones Beach.

There's only one road into and out of Zihautanejo, and it runs along the coast. It's two lanes and sometimes has a shoulder, but more often not. This is the road I took on the "Express" to Barra de Navidad.

The main road in Troncones is not paved (unless the pavement was buried under the ever-present sand) except for large concrete topes. A lot of them, strung along this road.

Our destination was the Inn at Manzanillo Bay, a palm covered resort of 6 bungalows situated around a glistening pool. The restaurant was 1st class.

After we set up our gear, Scottie suggested we eat. His meal (shrimp) was free and my excellent hamburger and fries with limonada ran 120 pesos.

It was my hope that we could do a few numbers together to get a sense of things before too many people showed up, but Scottie launched into his gig without a warm up. I played the bass (through my guitar synthesizer) behind his guitar work and singing, and he turned to me and "take off" which meant, I thought, that I should jump in and solo. I hit a switch on the guitar and I go from bass to jazz guitar and "take off." 

He had brought some sheet music with him; I was able to reprise "Scotch and Soda," a 1st Mate favorite, and play rhythm for his occasional solos. "St. James Infirmary" and some slow blues allowed me to switch to muted trumpet solos for a nice, smoky feel. It was Scottie's show all the way though, and I was just the side-man. I stumbled once in while over an unexpected chord change and had trouble with some of Scot's fast-moving, fast-changing R&B tunes… trying to keep an unfamiliar tempo going while Scottie soloed. A humbling experience at times.

Moments of brilliance, moments of shame. Just like life.

On the return trip, we both agreed to forgo the Wednesday night joint performance at the Flophouse. Too much work needed to be done and there was no time to do it. I'm getting ready to sail north and a trip of a thousand miles in a sailboat requires a lot of preparation.

I woke up Wednesday morning with a wrenched back, from carrying the amps and other gear, I think. I planned to take it easy. Then the local provisioner, Ishmael, sent out his panga with my fuel and water purchase. 35 gallons of diesel in 5 gallon jugs, and one 5 gallon jug of gasoline and 5 gallons of drinking water. So despite the pain, I'm storing away this stuff.

Yesterday Ishmael delivered my refilled propane tank, I was able to buy some block ice from a restaurant, and I scored big at the ISSST market, finding Ades soy milk on sale. So now, I can make espressos on the boat, have hot water for washing and showers, run the generator for lots of lights and entertainment gizmos, eat some fresh food (I'm so tired of restaurant food), and nurse my aches and pains.

Today I'll go in and bid adieu to the irascible Port Captain of Zihuatanejo, and start working my way up the coast tomorrow. It will be good to get the sails up again and get away from the noise and chaos of populated cities. Back to the sea.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Separate Ways

This is TICA, a Cabo Rico 38 of Costa Rican manufacture, home and transport for my friends Bill and JoAnn Sylvester as they make their way south. First to Hualtaco, then to El Salvador to a cruisers rally at Bahia del Sol near San Salvador. They plan to continue on through the canal to the islands of San Blas... with that accomplished, they'll decide on the next destination. (They tell me they'll be driving through San Carlos around May 19th, so it's possible we'll connect again.) They're leaving today.

Cruising, like life, is more about the journey than destinations. When you travel long distances at the stately rate of 5 or 6 miles an hour, there's a lot of time invested in getting from on place to another. The importance of the destination varies with the individual, but we all agree that the weather is paramount. The one thing we can't control (yet).

My plans? I've been invited by the local blues guitar maestro, Scottie, to accompany him to Trocones Beach tonight for a performance at one of the bars/restaurants there. ZihuaRob (who has commented here before) says, "Troncones is a small ecological beach community about 37 kilometers (22 miles) to the north." If all goes sort-of-well, we'll play Wednesday at the Flophouse in Zihuatanejo on a stage that's measured in square inches. To  a full house (seats about 12).

Scottie and I have a lot in common. We're both Vietnam vets, both been playing all our lives, know a lot of the same songs, laugh at the same things... we even take the same meds. Only difference is that I'm a few years older and don't drink at all, while Scottie has learned moderation... a word I have difficulty understanding.

In May Scottie will traveling through Mazatlan where he has lined up a short gig with a piano player, and then on to the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

On Thursday I'll be heading back north aboard BLISS to connect with the 1st Mate, either in Mazatlan or San Carlos. We hope to participate in this year's cruiser/music rally, LorestoFest. We'll either take BLISS or the Quest on the ferry and a tent.