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.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Doing the Right Thing...

It was my intention to transfer the registration of SV BLISS to Arizona, get new documents and present them to the Port Captain upon my return... so the 1st Mate and I, our Maltese-mix pets Sophie and Chica drove up to Tucson to the Game and Fish Department to do just that. Upon arrival, I was told that being a non-resident of Arizona would cost me $292 each and every year for the boat registration. A shock. I said, "OK, but just for one year..." Then they took a look at my California registration and the title and said, "This hull number has the wrong number of digits. We can't register it."

According to AZ regulations, the number of digits in a hull number must match the Coast Guard requirement. The law must have gone into effect after my boat was built, in 1973. So in order to register the boat, they needed a rubbing (put a piece of paper over the hull number etched into the hull and rub a pencil on it to transfer the image, take that to Game and Fish). Of course, the boat is 2000 miles away.

Another obstacle. This whole thing looked impossible to do.

The 1st Mate suggested that I contact her son in Petaluma, California and use his address to re-register the boat... then it occurred to me: Why not have Jay, her son, do the registration for me?

I called Jay on the US cell phone we have, and proposed paying him $50 to take my paperwork to DMV and emailing me back copies of the documents. He agreed. We stopped at the Tubac Deli and Coffee Company where I ordered a double espresso. Took my coffee, my digital camera, old documents and laptop to a table. Spread out the docs and photographed them, emailed them to Jay using the coffee shop wifi system. Drank my espresso. Got in the car and headed back to San Carlos.

When we got home, the new registration was sitting in my email inbox. I logged into and faxed the docs to the Port Captain, logged into Paypal and paid Jay the $50 plus the registration fee of $60 (for 6 years of past due fees). I felt fantastic.

I could have done this from the boat. Duh.

But, the 1st Mate and I would still be separated, the Quest would still need to be moved back to San Carlos, and the 3 kilos of coffee and 5 kilos of seedless raisins I bought would still be on the boat instead of in the hands of the 1st Mate. I would still be missing the dog kisses I got. And the time we all had together.

And, with the Arizona registration, all my other documents would have to be redone: the insurance papers, the temporary importation permit for the boat from Mexican Customs (a biggie).

And although I was sorely tempted to create a forgery for the Port Captain (being a certifiable computer artist), I would always worry that  I would get caught... the boat impounded; me arrested, jailed, fined and deported. So the price I pay for keeping my serenity is doing the right thing, regardless of how long it takes, how much it costs, and how much work is involved.

The rewards are worth it.

Back in Zihuatanejo, warm puppies and the good life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Finding the Nugget

Tonight I'm sitting in bed, next to the 1st Mate (yes, we're married again) and contemplating the last 11 days of my life. I'm rested but achy, tired but not sleepy, and only slightly less confused than I was yesterday, but serenity has returned and that's important.

Eleven days ago, Bill on TICO took me to shore where I caught a 8 pm bus from Zihuatanejo to Barra de Navidad, 200 miles away. It was an express... it took nine hours. Put THAT in your calculator.

The road was narrow and twisty and dark. It felt to me like sailing around Cabo Corrientes on a lumpy night at sea. Lots of noise, lots of leaning one way and then the other, lots of bumps, pitch black. We got into Barra at dawn and I caught a cab to the Cadillac Ranch, where my friend Don was storing my car. Don bought me a cup of coffee and I threw my bags in the car and drove to a mechanic who installed the rear shocks in the Quest for 60 pesos. I had wanted to get the front struts done too, but the only place I could find the parts was in Manzanillo/Santiago where the Nissan dealership was asking about $600 for a pair (and 5 days wait). I ordered them online Autozone for $78 each including shipping.

I had decided that I wasn not going to take my usual route back to San Carlos (to PV, Las Varas, San Blas, Mazatlan). I drove back toward Manzanillo and took the toll road to Colima and the route to Guadalajara. It was a route I hadn't used before so everything was kinda' refreshing. The rear shocks kept me from bottoming out on the topes, I had my camera with me, and lots of coconut cookies. I was set. Oh, and I had my little $130 GPS unit for the car, and was directed and entertained by the voice named "Amy" (Aim Me, get it?)
The volcanos above the city of Colima

As I reached the plateau near Guadalajara, I saw my GPS coloring the next several miles in the color blue... and I thought, "Gee. Am I coming up to a huge lake? I should get out the camera..." But when I got to the area, it was a large, flat region of white sand... a high plains desert. Then I saw the nicest expanse of shimmering blue near the horizon and I got it... my GPS even has mirages in its database?
High Plains Drifter. The plateau south of Guadalajara

I started seeing signs that said "Beware the Tovaneras. Slow down near Tovaneras." I realized that tovaneras are what we call Dust Devils and I could see half a dozen of them swirling around and through the desert and mirages... (would that be some kind of waterspout?)

Amy was fantastic in Guadalajara. The freeway traffic reminded me of rush hour in the East Bay (San Francisco) and Amy coached me through three different cloverleaf intersections to the toll road for Tepic. I drove until dark, and stopped at a toll booth rest area to sleep.

Awake at 5 am, I headed out and got into San Carlos around sundown... 45 hours after leaving the boat. The Colima/Guadalajara route was fast and really easy with wide highways (only about 40 miles of 2-lane road), no twisty jungle roads and plenty of things to see. Recommended!

Next: The trip to Tucson and Arizona's Game and Fish Department