Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wifi on the boat. Tenecatita Bay

This afternoon, motoring into Tenecatita Bay,
about 150 miles south of Puerto Vallarta

I've been exploring ways to get wifi for free when I'm cruising and one setup I'm using today is getting the job done. I was given an old TV/satellite antenna and I mounted it on the aft arch I built to hold my solar panels and my wind generator. Instead of the usual LNB, I have an Alfa USB wifi amplifier and antenna for wifi.

So, does it work? Yep. I'm posting this now from the boat... maybe a quarter mile from shore. I've also been able to place a call using my Magic Jack telephone.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Panic on the Low Seas

This morning an 8.8 offshore earthquake rocked the South American country of Chile, triggering an international tsunami alert. The morning cruiser's net, a casual and chatty affair usually, was not broadcast because many of the boat owners were hauling anchor and a** to get their boats out into deep water.

One woman, whose husband/captain was off in New Mexico, was pleading for help to get her boat out of the lagoon. I contacted her on the radio and assured her that the tsunami would be knocked down to nothing by the time it had traversed the several thousand miles of open sea, and was blocked by the huge Barra headland, then squeezed into a 20 foot wide channel in the opposite direction to the wave. But, those around her were scattering and running to open sea and she would not be dissuaded.

Several hours later I had returned from the mechanics shop with my car (he had it for two days and still failed to install the shocks and struts on the vehicle- which is why he had it), I started unloading my provisions for the shakedown cruise I have scheduled for tomorrow. Another woman came hurrying down the dock looking for her husband, out with his friends in their runabout looking for fish. He was, as it turned out, just motoring up the canal so she waited, fidgeting, while he approached. Then she turned to me and said "the tsunami is due here now and it's going to be 2 meters! I saw it on the internet!" It was almost exactly 3 pm.

I looked around and we were at low tide (a minus 2 feet) and saw that 6 feet would put us right about where we were at high tide. So I said, "well, looks like we have room for it..." and she thought that was very unfunny. She had her husband and friends tie up the runabout and ran up (the very steep) walkway out of the marina.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not picking on the women, here. I also overheard men on the radio trumpeting their success in getting their vessels out to sea before the disaster struck, one of them a close friend.

I thought it was time to fire up my laptop and see what was really going on. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency had the goods, as I thought they might.
This from the NOAA site:

We are 6 hours behind Zulu time, so at a little after 12 noon, Manzanillo, 20 miles to the south, was clobbered by a 1 foot wave. And then again, 24 minutes later.

It's a wonder anyone survived.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rock Star

You don't have to play rock'n'roll to be a Rock Star. Here's Luis, my diesel mechanic. Sweet guy, patient, smart, funny, and a pleasure to work with. His shop is located near where highway 200 meets the two lane road out to Barra de Navidad, and he gets to play with big stuff.

He took my crap encrusted pump with all but one of the cover screws broken off and gave me back a nice, clean, functioning bomba de aqua. And he asked for 150 pesos for the work (I gave him 200 because he deserved it and I didn't have change).

So back to the boat and in 15 minutes, I installed the pump and had the diesel purring. I thought I would try spraying the pump with a corrosion inhibitor that's made for battery posts. It's tinted red so you can see where you spray it. We'll see if it will help put off the need to buy a new pump (at about $300 USD).

Aside from taking on some minor provisions, and taking some stuff (unnecessary weight) off the boat, I'm ready for a shakedown cruise. In the mornings there's a nice high tide I could use to get out of the canals and maybe I could go out and spend the night in Melaque after a day of sailing, catch the morning tide back into the slip... or spend a day or two more out on the boat testing out systems.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Post 100, another Fix-It post

I took my heavy duty, deep sea fishing rod to the man known in these parts as Chaparro, (which Google translate fails to recognize). It will be repaired for 300 pesos and I can pick it up at 4 this afternoon.

This morning, I open up the ER (engine room) and removed the raw water pump again. Since I bought this engine in 1996, the raw water pump is the one thing on this motor that needs repeated repairs and parts. It pushes a lot of seawater through the heat exchanger (which transfers the heat generated by the diesel from the closed loop freshwater cooing system to the flow of relatively cold sea water) and as we all should know, sea water is highly corrosive to almost every metal known to man. (That's why I have to replace the "stainless" steel rigging that holds the mast up every seven or eight years... the salt water corrodes it).

The pump works by spinning a little rubber water wheel called an impeller. This one is broken, as you can see. The last time (2003) I bought one of these in the states, it was about $27 and included a gasket for the pump.

Look at the packaging in this photo. The new price is 946 pesos, or about $74. And it doesn't include a gasket. I drove to Santiago to buy two of these (a backup is great idea, because I could be stranded at sea under certain conditions where I would be more than happy to pay $74 for a functioning diesel engine). They've ordered the gaskets and I'd have to drive back to pick them up on Saturday.

Now that the pump was out, I took it to my FLDM (friendly, local diesel mechanic) Luis, who had rebuilt my engine in 2005. I asked him if he knew a machinist who could remove and replace the little brass bolts that hold the cover on the pump, and he said he could do it... and he could close it up without a gasket, or make one if needed, I'm not quite sure. One thing I know about Luis is that he's really good and is used to working with close tolerances.  And he's really affordable.

Tomorrow morning I should get the pump back and BLISS will be ready to go on a shakedown cruise, after sitting for 9 months. Oh, yes, I had a local diver clean the bottom and the Trinidad paint I put on two years ago is still good.

Maybe I'll be posting photos of actual sailing activity before too long- you know what they say about sailors who spend too much time ashore...

Monday, February 22, 2010

More toys...

I'm a guy, I love my toys.
Today, aboard the BLISS, I installed an in-dash dvd player. That's right, not CD (but it will play CDs) but DVD. You know, movies.

You can see the little TV screen upper center of photo. It's showing a movie on one channel.

It also has ports for SD chips, a USB, and a standard audio input. I also installed a flip-down TV screen that I once had in the Westy (now sold and gone) in the nav station to display the movies and, get this, a little weatherproof color security cam!
Here, you can see me taking the photo in the TV screen on the second channel. The security cam is on the desk.

I plan on mounting the security cam underneath the radar dome on the mast and get a forward view, day or night, of the sea directly from the nav station. So when I'm on "watch" I can watch a movie, and click over to a view of the sea ahead and back instantly. If the radar picks up a blip, the camera will give me a better view because it's so much higher up on the boat... kinda' like an electronic crows nest.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Customer Service

This morning I took the Nissan Quest to a little shop in Cihuatlan ("see-WHAT-lan" ) between Barra de Navidad and Manzanillo to have some work done... namely, replace a cracked windshield, a broken turn signal lens assembly, and to have some touch-up paint applied to a badly scratched rear bumper. (You know the kind- it's plastic and the same color as the car). I got there at 9 am and was told it would be ready at 3 pm.

I was able to catch a bus back almost instantly after dropping off the car, and headed back to the boat... and it started to rain- just a light kinda' drizzly thing that kept the temperatures down and everything drippy. The drizzle continue all day, so I just took it easy, practicing guitar, writing emails, tinkering a little. And at 2:30, I caught a bus back to Cihautlan- it's about 10 miles. When I got to the shop, it was locked up tight. I noticed some curtained windows on the second story, so I tried banging on the steel doors to roust somebody. Nobody was rousted. I waited. I banged some more. I stood in the drizzle. I had to pee. I banged some more. I waited. It rained harder.

A little old lady who lived across the street motioned to me that they had closed up and left, so I started walking around the building until I found a phone number painted on the wall up the alley adjoining the building. I called the number and in my broken Spanish, explained that I was waiting to get my car, and I needed my car NOW.

About 15 minutes later, the guy who owned the shop showed up, telling me that the phone number belonged to his son, who got word to him that his customer was wanting to pick up his car (standing in the rain, now for an hour). There was no apology. He had done all he could for the day so he locked up and went home.

The front lens was the wrong one, and with the rain, there wasn't any painting going on. I agreed to pay him a portion of the price and gave him my phone number with instructions to call me when the right part shows up and the weather is suitable for painting. I asked him also to price a door handle for the driver's side door since it was missing when we bought the car.

I've decided I'll wait in the car next time... take my laptop and watch a movie while I wait, maybe.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Now let's see the galley..."

The 1st Mate comments in the previous post...

This photo is from last night's easy curry recipe inspired by the 1st Mate Herself:

chop and microwave potato, carrots and onion
chop and saute green and red bell peppers and Costco canned chicken breast
cook some egg noodles and toss it all together with Trader Joe's Red Thai Curry Sauce.

I heated up some flour tortillas and ate under the stars in the BLISS cockpit.

This photo is the galley this morning.

Perhaps the 1st Mate will recognize the green tiles on the sink splash. She helped pick out the pattern.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Return of the Mold Monster

After I left BLISS on a quick September flight down from San Carlos (The Green Flash- OMG, etc.) there was a series of downpours, the most recent brought 10 inches of rain to Barra according to the local wags.

The toerails and lifeline stanchions have needed  rebedding for some time now, and it was these leaks, along with Barra's warm climate, that unleashed a serious mold infestation on BLISS. I arrived in Barra just after dark Friday, after 11 hours of two lane, pothole dodging, nerve-wracking driving from Mazatlan to Barra. The discovery of reeking, soaked bedding sent me screaming to the nearest hotel, where I purchased an overpriced room in order to rest my weary self.

I was only suicidal for a little while.

Sunday morning at 6 am, I left the hotel and started pulling out musty, damp linens, pillows, cushions, towels and food items that suffered from the intrusion of rain. Once the pile was in the cockpit, I hauled the dinghy off the foredeck so I could fully open all the hatches and went off in search of equipment and chemicals.

Not long ago, I was induced into doing a similar job on the condo, so I knew that I didn't need anything exotic to do the job: two gallons of white vinegar, a face mask, a one gallon garden sprayer, lots of disposable latex gloves, and several pots of good coffee.

I don't have to go into detail here, but you should know that 12 hours later, I moved onto the boat and although there's a strong odor of vinegar in the vessel, the presence of mold is history. I'm now sitting in the cockpit, writing this by the light of my little kerosene lantern (filled with citronella oil for the bugs), and listening to the sounds of this little village and the slap of water against the hull of the boat.

is this "Executive Style" phone with touch sensitive buttons, and it works great using MagicJack on a wireless network on the boat. It gives me a US phone number regardless of my location as long as I have an internet connection. Cost? $19.95 for the USB gizmo and $19.95 a year for phone calls. You want to call me? You have to call the 1st Mate and get the number. I'm not dumb enough to post it here!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Changed my mind...

I'm now down in Barra de Navidad aboard the sailboat BLISS. And although I thought I could switch back and forth between blogs, it was probably a PITA for the few followers of my misadventures. So, no. I'm going to keep things right here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Quest continues...

The 1st Mate, at my suggestion, purchased a 1999 Nissan Quest minivan about a month ago during one of our trips north to Tucson. We've had really good luck with Nissan cars, even with high mileage.

The motors in these cars have proven their longevity and, although not terribly efficient on gas, we've driven these cars over scorching Sonoran deserts at 80 mph hour after hour, with the air conditioning going full blast and still got 22 mpg. That's in a car loaded down with goodies from Costco, WalMart and Harbor Freight and  two dogs.

This particular car supposedly had an engine overhaul 35,000 miles ago, but there's no paperwork to prove it. It's got 195.000 miles on it and we're not sure when the timing belt was last changed. We have taken it to a garage in Guaymas and had the heater core disconnected. Fumes of coolant inside the car made us do that, and the 1st Mate took the car to Midas and had the brakes checked (rear drum brakes good, front disk brakes got new pads and had the rotors turned).

The 1st Mate was having discouraging thoughts about  the car, so I offered to make the Nissan a partnership vehicle. I have the tools and experience to do most major and minor repairs, and I really need a usable vehicle for my trip south. I'm giving the 1st Mate half of what she has in the car (right now, I'm paying for new tires, lights, windshield) in parts and cash. My labor is free, because it's my car now too. But we still have a long way to go before we catch up to the Blue Book value of the car, so I feel like it's a good deal.

We both want it customized for camping trips , so we've got the same goal for the car. I've already removed the seats from the back (we won't be hauling around 7 people in this thing) and will be working up some plans to tweak the car into a camper. We own an nice 9x13 foot tent that could be the primary accommodation at campsites.

Today I took the car to Guaymas and had two new top-of-the-line front tires installed, and while the wheels were off, I had them knock off the hubs so I could examine the brakes. The brakes checked out fine. I also bought 4 lightbulbs for the instrument panel (in the dark, you can't see the shift indicator for the tranny, so you don't know what gear you're in) and, with the help of folks on the internet, removed and replaced the burned out bulbs. Complicated job, but worth the effort.

Saturday the windshield will be here from the windshield storage/factory. We'll go to Empalme and get an All-Mexico travel sticker for the car. I'll then be free to drive the car to Barra de Navidad, the current dockage for the 33' Morgan sloop, SV BLISS.  I want to leave Tuesday morning.

I hope to take some time from the chores on the boat to replace the timing belt, and I'll be able to do it in a warm, dry climate.