Saturday, March 20, 2010

What, Luck?

When I was having it out with the Port Captain, I heard a kinda' distress call on my VHF radio.

It was the sailboat TICO 3 miles out, with a bad diesel water pump. They had been drifting for 25 hours on the light winds we have in these parts sometimes. They were looking for a tow in. My diesel was apart with a cooling problem too, and an appointment with the Port Captain. All I could do was acknowledge their hail, and wish them luck. No one else was on channel.

When I got back to the anchorage several hours later, Bill and Jo-Anne on TICO were anchored near me and I stopped on my way to BLISS to see how they were.

Bill said he was ordering a new water pump and asked if I knew the best way to get it to the boat, and I said, "Sure, send it to Nogales. When I go north to get my paperwork sorted out this week I'll bring it back with me." What luck.

Bill looked at my dinghy and said, "Hey! We've got the same outboard! I love my Nissan, it starts 1st pull every time..." Hmmmmm.

Yesterday, my outboard went down, and I called the mechanic, Adel, this morning to get the verdict... "It's the impeller, " he said. "Do you have a spare?" I said, "I'll call you back."

I hailed TICO on the radio, and sure enough, Bill had a couple of spares and was happy to loan one to me. He launched his dink, drove over, and together we ran into the beach where Adel was waiting with the old impeller.

The vanes were still intact, but the entire part had spun off it's shaft, resulting in two parts and not one. I handed the spare to Adel, who promised the motor would be back at 5 pm, ready to go.

Bill said that he and Jo-Anne were coming to the beach at five so they could catch a guitarist at Coconuts Restaurant tonight, and would tow my dinghy and me to the beach. I said I'll join them tonight at Coconuts 'cause I'd like to hear this guy too.

Then I jumped on the internet from BLISS and ordered two complete water pump kits for the outboard. One for TICO and a spare for me. It was $90 including shipping to Nogales.

Everybody is happy except the Port Captain, but that's HIS problem...

Friday, March 19, 2010


As I approached the dinghy landing today the outboard quit working. I restarted it and noticed there wasn't water emerging from the coolant spout underneath the powerhead, so I turned it off. It was really hot. I checked to see that I still had compression by pulling on the starter, and I did. So I took my single oar and proceeded to complete the half-mile journey to the beach, rowing the catamaran shaped Livingston dink as if it were a canoe. First one side, then the other.

Jesus, the guy who is working the beach today, got out into the water at chest depth to bring me in. There was a pretty good surf today and I was glad he did. I gave him my usual 10 peso tip and he was pleased. Jesus didn't know of an "el mechanico." so I grabbed my dirty laundry, my backpack and my floppy hat and went in search of an outboard repair.

On my list today: get the bus schedule for the only Directo Bus to Manzanillo, buy spare drive belts for the diesel engine, replacement caps for the heat exchanger (automotive radiator caps), a better bolt for the alternator, some toothpaste, floss, and whatever (without an outboard motor, the whatever list had to be very portable). One cruiser sent me to one guy who is known for knowing everything about everybody. He told me the nearest laundry was on the other side of town, and called a mechanic who told him he might show up in an hour, so I got a cab to Centro de Autobuses and the auto parts store nearby. The parts guy had the belts and the caps, but no bolt that would work. So, the cabbie took me to the bus station. The bus line is called Estrella Blanco (White Star) among 6 others at Zihua, and it's Directo daily leaves at 8:30 pm and takes "7 to 8 hours" to get to Manzanillo. Right behind the bus station is the Commercial Mexicana,  a really huge Walmart-type super shopping center, so I paid the cab and walked around the block to shop. I just picked up my dental items and a bunch of bananas and a bottle of ice tea, and grabbed my dirty laundry and the backpack with the car parts from the "paquetta" to catch a cab back to connect with the mechanic.

The cab driver wanted to stop to get some lunch on the way to town and before I could say no, pulled into a taqueria. "Comida rapido," he assured me.

I'm no rank tourist. I know that any sentence with the word "rapido" in it is an out and out lie.

I gave him 5 minutes, and then got out of cab with my stuff and flagged down another cab. I told the cab driver I was going to "El Muelle" (the wharf) and I would pay him 20 pesos (the standard rate). He said, "25?" and I said "No, 20 pesos." (I'm taking command now...)

He did a good job (no taco stops) so I gave him a 5 peso tip, got out and waited for the mechanic to show, which he didn't. I said I'd check back in an hour, when my cell phone beeped. I had a message that the 1st Mate had tried to call.  I tried to return the call, got a message and the phone battery went dead. I thought it might be time to replace the battery, but they don't sell them anywhere. I tried 3 Telcel stores, spread over ten blocks of Zihua. I knew it was pointless. I had gone through this with the 1st Mate's phone (eBay was where we eventually got the battery).

I kicked around for another 15 minutes and went back to check on the mechanic. No show.

Walked down to the beach and found some guys selling tickets for boat rides around the bay. They knew a mechanic and in 10 minutes, the guy, Adel, was pulling the motor off the dink and to his shop. I had him write down everything and we agreed I would call him tomorrow at 9 am. Then I went off to Rick's Bar for a coke and scrounge for books. After two cokes, I wandered down to the beach where I met a couple who were headed back to their boat and gave me a tow. I owe them.

Now, I'm back in my comfortable home with the phone on the charger, my dirty laundry and an uncertain future.

Nothing really changes much.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Trouble in Paradise

It is a requirement in Mexico, that you visit the Port Captain's office before you leave and when you arrive at a port. The paperwork on the boat is examined, The Port Captain, (or usually one of his underlings) stamps the old paper, issues new papers for the new arrival.

On the Saturday I left Barra de Navidad, I went to Port Captain's office and waited outside patiently for them to open. A little after 9 am, a woman who lived next door and came out to sweep the sidewalk, informed me that since Monday was going to be a holiday, the office was closed until Tuesday morning. So I left without the paperwork.

When I arrived in Zihuatanejo, the Port Captain's people didn't believe me that the Barra guy would close up for 3 straight days, so they told me to come back the next day. They were going to call him.

The next day, the issue of not having a "despacho" was not mentioned. Evidently my story proved out. (People are not expected to sit around for three days waiting). But another issue came up: my registration papers on the boat had expired. "Of course," I said, "the boat has been in Mexican waters since 1997."

Nevertheless, the Port Captain wants me to produce current registration within two weeks and he's forbidden me to move the boat until I do.

But the point being is why is the Mexican government enforcing the California Vehicle Code?

The last registration was 2005 in California. I know that if I show up at Fish & Game in Tucson with the title, they will happily make this an Arizona boat for less than $20.

California, on the other hand, would punish me dearly, for not updating the thing. The problem is, that all the other ship's documents have the California issued numbers (the same numbers painted on the bow), and all that would have to change when I switched to Arizona documentation.

It may be that I'll have to have the importation papers redone to match. Oh, well. My current plan is to take a bus to Barra de Navidad, get the Nissan Quest and drive it San Carlos, pick up the 1st Mate and then Tucson.

We both have business in Tucson.

Then I'll catch a plane from Hermosillo to either Zihuat or Guadalajara (and bus down). Show the paperwork to the Port Captain, and hopefully, be done with that. But my guess is that I'll have to have my papers revised at Aduana...  Mexican customs, to reflect the change in registration.

That's the plan.

Legendary Zihuatanejo

Monday Night

Settled into the anchorage; sails covered up, awning installed, table and laptop in the cockpit. It so pretty here. The bay is ringed with thousands of lights climbing up the hills. Sounds of guitar strumming drifting out over the water. Not me. There's a big palapa on the beach and that's where it's from.

Tonight I'm going to have a simple meal (probably oatmeal) and sack out. I've been underway and on watch since Sunday at 3:30 am, so I've had a long day. Hard to hang onto a wifi signal with the boat rocking tonight and too tired to make a big deal out of it, so I'll post this thing tomorrow, maybe, with some photos. G'night all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back at the anchorage: Day 1

Sat. Mar 13, 2010  11:20 am CST
19° 8.835 N 104° 43.010 W

A month to the day I left San Carlos, I left Barra de Navidad for places south. This time aboard the sailing vessel BLISS. 

This morning I got  up at 6:30 and spent three hours doing final packing, loading (extra chain, fresh water), and saying goodbye to friends. Fred came to the marina and helped with dock lines, and with the high tide I had plenty of room to motor slowly through the canals of Barra to the sea.

Close in (within 4 miles of the Barra headland) there was a lot of confused currents with an occasional large wave, but it's always like that, and my practice is to motor out to the big Pacific rollers before hoisting sail. Today the wind was almost right angles to the waves and trying to bring BLISS' nose to the wind meant lying abeam to the sea (bad idea). I split the difference by swinging the boom as far starboard as it would go, moving the lazy jacks to the mast and hoisting. That worked well, and my thoughts are that I might keep the jacks there until I drop sail.

I'm currently motorsailing SE at 4 knots for the the anchorage at Santiago.

5 pm Update-
Settled into anchorage at Santiago Bay, took a few minutes to find an open network, but I did. This evening I'm going to pick up the boat a little. In my hurry to get out of the Cabo Blanco marina on the tide, I just threw stuff onto the v-berth. CB was driving me crazy.

I'd spend two days scrubbing the boat and the next day some guy upwind of me would start a trash fire and then leave it to smolder and die. That would usually take all day, smelling the smoke and the boat would be filthy again.

Here in Santiago it's the waterski boats who throw in a tour of the anchorage to whomever they're towing. There's three big power boats and three jetskis here towing people through the cruising fleet. But it's better than the smoke and it looks like they're having fun. At sundown they'll leave us in peace.

Thanks to the 1st Mate for introducing me to Hunt's boxed tomato sauces. They're good, easy and fast. Hard to beat.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finally, boating for the couch potato...

When I saw this on GIZMAG, one of my favorite websites, I just HAD to post this. Now it doesn't matter who you are, if you can sit, lounge or lay down on a sofa, we've got a boat for you! For those of you who might feel just a little guilty about cruising in the sofa-boat, I should mention that it has all-electric propulsion and can come with add-ons like a wet-bar and stereo.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Poor Mexico... except for Carlos, that is...

Today Forbes Magazine named Mexico telcom owner, Carlos Slim, the "World's Richest Man," edging out Bill Gates and Warren Buffet for the honor. Poor Carlos has only 53.3 billion dollars to rub together.
Carlos Slim, 70, world's richest man. At 64, I am not.
But I've got 6 whole years to catch up to him.

And since we're on the subject of Mexico and money, I was enjoying an imaginary scene in my head where, Mexico and Germany are having a conversation. Mexico says to Germany, "No thanks for the work ethic, but we like the polkas!"

In other Non-News:
I've been sewing up a storm down in Barra, putting in long days to recondition the dodger that we had made for us in San Carlos. The threads are breaking from the sun and abrasion by the boom as it swings across the top, sometimes dragging an unhoisted mainsail with it. Also there was a place where I put my elbow through the sunbrella. It didn't bother me so much at the time since it kept me from falling overboard, but the unsightly hole has been repaired with some white naugahyde I had onboard. I did both sides with the nauga so it looks better. The entire aft portion had to be rebuilt because of abrasion, accumulated crud, and a switch from snaps to zippers for the sunbrella awning I built as part of the cockpit enclosure. Also I'm building a screen windshield that will zip into/onto the front to knock down the wind. It's a dark green and is a lot easier to see through than the tan colored stuff I used for the enclosure... and the enclosure itself will need some restitching and webbing replacement (nylon webbing turns into dust in Mexico's glaring sun), but the enclosure has done a fine job of keeping the sun off my lily-white (not really) skin. There's really nothing to photograph now, just piles of green fabric laying around a sewing machine. Whereas Carlos has piles of green money just laying around. Wanna' trade?

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I've been spending more and more of my time deleting comment spam from my blog... I'm implementing "Word Verification" now because my time is more valuable to me than it is to spammers and their machines. The world is host to some scum, and that's all there is to it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Costly

Starting off with the Good, I have my mid-morning break on the boat: an Almond croissant and expresso...

The French Baker, those of you who know Barra can attest, is a fine man. He gets up at O-Dark Thirty and bakes lovely things for his admirers throughout the anchorage and marinas. Around 8 am, he jumps into his panga and motors out to these places, selling his baked goods to us at reasonable prices. Once he's made his rounds, he returns his panga to Cabo Blanco, where I keep my boat, BLISS. So if I miss him at 8 (because I'm usually on the ham radio, getting weather reports and forecasts) I can catch him when he returns.

The Bad is the Cabo Blanco marina, which is largely occupied by sports fishing boats and some panga fishing charters. The marina charges about one fourth the rate of the Big, Rich Marina at Grand Bay (which is home to several megayachts). Because these are the cheap seats, nobody pays much attention to the infrastructure of Cabo Blanco. One of the main uses of the marina is as a water ferry station between one end of town (the barrio) and the Grand Bay Hotel, wherein stay the likes of the Governors of various US and Mexican states (Arnold comes here). The cheap labor from the barrio gets their ride to work here at Cabo Blanco. As long as the docks don't totally collapse, the rest of it is ignored. The marina manager is middle aged woman who knows nothing about boats or marinas and sits in her office eating and watching soaps on Mexican TV and once a month, collects the money for the slips. Don't take her a problem, she'll just shrug, if she's even there. A sweet job. So, like most places in Mexico, if you need a job done, you do it yourself... like when the electricity goes out.

The costly.
Following that train of thought is the repairs on the Nissan Quest I drove down this year. When I go over a tope (speed bump) in this car it tends to bottom out. I took the car to a shop in Melaque, gave them 1,000 pesos for a deposit on the parts (MacPherson struts on the front, shocks on the back) and waited for two days while they didn't touch the car. When I went back to pick it up, they gave me the 1,000 pesos back... an ominous sign (you NEVER get refunds in Mexico).

So I drove to Manzanillo with the part numbers I got off the internet from Autozone. I found the best thing to do is search Autozone US for the part, get their stocking number, write it down and take it to the store in Mexico. They punch the number into their computer and the part pops up. No complicated translation.

Autozone had the rear shocks for the car so I bought them: 900 pesos for the pair. The struts, though, can't even be special ordered. They say they don't exist in Mexico... so I got directions to the big Nissan dealer in Manzanillo. Their parts department says they can get the struts in 5 days at a cost of 3,525 pesos +16% IVA EACH ($323 US). I laughed and walked away. They're available on eBay at $63 each, and evidently Northern Auto Parts (eBay) will ship to Mexico for around $83 for the two. They also sell an install kit that I should consider as well, for about $50 each delivered to Mexico. I just need to have a visible address to ship to. And I'm thinking that since Grand Bay Marina runs Cabo Blanco, sort of, maybe I can have the parts shipped to a "vessel in transit" in the marina, bypassing Aduana (customs) and the snares of imported parts. Today I'll buzz over and talk to them if I can get the outboard running. But no hurry. The other thing I could do is call Autozone in the states and see if they'll ship the part to their Manzanillo store. It would be safer that way.

And I still haven't checked with the Ford dealerships, since the car was also made as a Mercury Villager... but now I see why the shop in Melaque returned the job and the money. The whole thing turned out to be too hard to do for the price he quoted. I would still prefer that he do the job at least on the front of the car. I also realize the car has to be completely empty when the final adjustments are done and the nuts torqued down. So, if I can get the parts delivered here, I'll take them to him to do.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Use it, or Carry it Around

My horoscope today:
Even if there are lots of things for you to have to take care of today, you probably won't mind all that much. You should have the energy you need to handle everything right now.
*     *     *
I'm getting ready to take a trip south, maybe 400-500 nautical miles, to somewhere near the Guatemalan border with Mexico.

And I have a lot of stuff that I wanted to work on this year, like getting the dodger patched up and work on some of the screened enclosure I built a few years ago. When I built the enclosure, I used a lot of nylon webbing and the sun has pretty much turned that stuff into powder. Also the polyester thread I used has been pulverized by UV and turns to dust when you clean it.

 So I brought replacement materials with me when I drove down, as well as the (very) heavy duty walking foot sewing machine and 20 yards of sunbrella fabric, snaps, buttons, scissors, 10 yards of new screening, needles, all that stuff.

It takes up a lot of room and it's heavy, so I thought I would do the large sewing jobs before I left so I could leave a lot of the materials behind in the car instead of dragging it around Mexico with me.

I'll still have stuff with me (I need to sand and varnish all the wood, and finish up some formica installations), but with most of the fabric work done I'll have a lot more room to lay around and watch cheap movies.

Yes, today I went to tianguis and bought five  dvd movies for 100 pesos. So, between those and my "Burn Notice" downloads from the iTunes™ store, I can kick back and check out the films on my new in-dash dvd player while I stand watch on my overnight legs down the coast. Vampires, and Sci Fi, and Action flicks.

By the way, I wanted to show off my new Alfa wifi amplifier- here's a photo of the wifi connections I can see with just the laptop:
and here's the connections I can see with the Alfa amplifier... notice the elevator bar indicates there's still more on this list. I love this thing. Since I bought it, I can count on one hand the places I've been that I couldn't get on the internet. I could probably sell 50 of these every season on the local cruiser's nets.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Frequent Provisioning=The Good Life

This morning I had a fruit salad made with a perfect cantaloupe, a fresh pear, banana, and fresh strawberries covered in dried, shredded, sugared coconut and cream (or crema, down here) and a pot of espresso French Roast in the cockpit as dolphins frolicked around the anchorage. I wore a bathing suit and freshly applied sunblock. Monday morning aboard BLISS.

This week I got my first Social Security check deposited to my account in Tucson. Wasn't a whole lot, but I don't own a partnership in a business so I can declare and pay excessive taxes to make my SS high. What the government doesn't take goes toward buying, among other things, sailboats (three in the past 17 years).
Eatin' good in the Neighborhood. Here's the neighbors...

The partnership, because it's seasonal, allows me to run off to places like Tenecatita Bay, Zihuatanejo and other tropical paradi (plural of paradise?). It even allows us to do our parts in the business from Mexico or, for that matter, anyplace in the world that has Internet and automatic teller machines... and that covers a lot of the globe, or at least the parts I want to see, and stay.

Today I'm going to sort out the boat a little. When I packed for this shakedown cruise, I wanted to catch a rare (this time of year) southerly, so it was a bit fast and sloppy. It needs to be more organized than it is, and then I'll take the boat out for a sail this afternoon during the sea breeze (usually a westerly) to check out all those systems including a new snuffer for the spinnaker/drifter if it gets light (it will near the end of the day).