Sunday, January 15, 2017

PRACTICING PATIENCE – MARINA CHIAPAS 2017

January 8, 2017

The carpenters were taking the day off and Scott was staying off his poor, blistered feet, so I decided to take a day of rest, also.  I scrubbed the aft deck in the morning while it was cool and we still had the hose, but mostly I practiced the guitar and read.  It was hot.  The floor was still missing from the main salon, so we had to climb around the boat like monkeys.

The Marina Store
All the major stores were still closed, so we were making do with three-year-old dry goods and what we could obtain from the marina store.  I was getting tired of cold beans on tostadas, so we went to Restaurante Baos for dinner.  Scott had arrachera and I had chicken breast stuffed with plaintains and served with what amounted to barbeque sauce over rice.  Restaurante Baos is a pleasant location and it was nice to get out of the hot boat for an hour.

Scott at Restaurante Baos
The difference between the rich and the poor is striking here in Chiapas.  The patrons and the employees of the upscale restaurant were noticeably different racial types.  One couple with a baby had even brought their nanny along to watch the baby while they ate and shared a bottle of wine.  The patrons were generally so light skinned that we were not immediately pegged as foreigners.  It was easy to understand the frustration that led to the recent looting while sitting in that restaurant.  We were definitely dining with the 1%. 


January 9, 2017

I got up at 7:00 and spent the morning practicing the guitar before the carpenters arrived.  They were supposed to come at 9:00, but didn’t arrive until about 10:30.  I had plenty of time to chat with my Canadian friend, Greg, who has both a house and a boat here and a Chilean woman we met who was looking for an electrician for her boat.

Mostly Completed New Floor
Once the carpenters arrived, I was tied to the boat in case translation was required, so I spent most of the day restitching the canvas covers.  When my back could take it no more, I shifted to working on my blog.  It was a long day.  Since it was so difficult to get to the galley with no floor in the main salon, we hadn’t eaten lunch since we arrived in Chiapas.  The carpenters worked until after 7:30 and we didn’t feel it would be right to eat when we were keeping them from their dinners.  We were pretty ravenous by the time they finally left.


The floor was finished, though, and looked pretty good considering it wasn’t made with any of the materials we would have used at home.  It had taken the carpenters at least a day longer than they had anticipated and, since they did such a nice job, I paid them for their extra time.  Removing (at least as much work as building) and rebuilding the entire salon floor and support structure, including a removable floor and sound deadening subfloor had taken three days.  It cost us 9,000 pesos or about $450, materials included.  Anyone needing a carpenter in Marina Chiapas should definitely look up Santiago Gutierrez.

We were still on short rations, so I had intended to make rice with hot dogs and stewed tomatoes, but the tomatoes had gone bad, as had all the sauces aboard.  I then decided to make Kraft macaroni and cheese, but that (use by date of 12/06!) had gone off, too.  That neon orange cheese does not actually last forever.  Our powdered milk had all turned a strange, brown color, too.  The best I could rustle up was ten-year-old macaroni with hot dogs and some diced tomatoes from a tetrapak with herbs and spices.  It was dull, but filling.  By the time we finished dinner, even I was ready for bed.

January 10, 2017

When I went up to the showers about 7:00, our mechanic was already at the marina, although he didn’t arrive at the boat until after 8:00.  We had hoped he would be done quickly and we could head into Tapachula to scrounge for food, but that was not in the cards.

With minor modifications, the “U” that the machinists made for us worked fine and I breathed a sigh of relief.  Getting the engine to start was another issue altogether.  Neither of our battery chargers were working properly and the solar panels were disconnected.  As a result, our one good battery was low.  Poor Marvin tried everything.  He borrowed a good charger and brought another battery.  After charging our one massive 8D and linking it in series with his truck battery and connecting the solar panels directly to the battery, we finally got juice, but the engine didn’t start.  He worked, without success, until the sun went down and we lost the solar.  We were getting concerned because he was
fool's Castle on the Hard in Chiapas
due to leave for a job in Vera Cruz the next day.

While we were waiting for Marvin to fix the engine, Abel, a young man who does canvas work, came to see us about a cover for our hatch.  Fool’s Castle did not have a dodger, so the hatch was out in the elements and it had leaked badly since what we called the “soft hatch” was removed to facilitate removing and replacing the engine.  It was this leak that had caused the floor to rot out and we wanted to correct the problem before our new floor got damaged.  After discussing various options with Abel, we settled on a cover that would go from the eyebrow ridge behind the hatch, side to side and down to the lower edge of the hatch.  Abel suggested that we use waterproof material, rather than sunbrella.  He said he could make the cover for 1800 pesos, which was ridiculously cheap.  We agreed to go for it, figuring that it would be worth the price (about $90) if it worked at all.  He promised to come back the next afternoon to do a fitting.

Once again, we had gone all day without eating and were ravenous by the time Marvin left.  We still had no groceries, so we ate the remainder of the bland pasta from the night before.

January 11, 2017

I got up at 7:00 so as to be able to clean the main salon before Marvin arrived and took the floor out again.  I managed to get one side done, but it was pretty awful.  Many of the things left sitting on the console had disintegrated after sitting in the sun for two years.
The Mildew Was Worst Around the Windows


Our new battery had charged overnight, but Marvin still couldn’t start the engine right away.  He worked and worked on the engine, but couldn’t get it to start.  Finally, he called a friend who came to look at it after work.  He agreed with Scott that it seemed to be the timing of the injection pump.  Marvin promised to come back in the morning to fix it.  He was postponing his  to fix our engine.

Abel had stopped by earlier in the afternoon to take more measurements for our hatch cover.
At the marina, preparations were underway for a massive wedding that was to happen on the following Saturday.  The daughter of one of the marina owners was getting married.  The yard hands were busy moving all of the boats to one side of the yard so that they could park cars on the other side.  A dance floor was constructed on the launch ramp.  We would have to clear out for a few nights, since we weren’t technically allowed to live aboard in the yard.

January 12, 2107

Marvin was supposed to arrive at 8:00 and I got up early to clean the other half of the main salon before he arrived.  He didn’t arrive until 10:00, but I still hadn’t finished cleaning because the trim around the reflective sunshades over the windows had turned to a fine black powder that went everywhere when I touched it.  The woodwork behind the shades was black with mildew which had eaten through the varnish and stained the wood.
Some of the Worst Mildew

Once again, Marvin spent all day disassembling and reassembling the injector pump.  We were trapped in the aft cabin where Scott mostly snoozed while I worked on restitching the canvas.  Scott did manage to rig his fancy new three-stage anti-germicidal water filter and fill both of our tanks, which we had emptied the previous day.  He used power from the solar panels to run the UV light in the filter.  By the end of the day, Marvin was all but done with the pump, but was lacking some seals for the fuel lines.  He agreed to come back the next morning.  We packed a few days’ clothing into tote bags and took a collective back into Tapachula where we moved back into the Hotel Cervantino.  The hotel staff was happy to see us again.
We were happy to have air conditioning again.  We bought some beer and ice at the Modelo store.  All of the neighboring OXXOs had been looted and remained closed, but the Modelo stores were all back in operation.  After relaxing for an hour with cold beer in our cool room, we went to Taco Tinos for dinner.  This time, they were happy to serve us and we got seven tacos and two sodas for 96 pesos (<$5.)  We went to bed fairly early, but I had a devil of a time getting to sleep on the hard bed.  The boat was hot, but the mattress was comfortable.

January 13, 2017

Flowers for the Wedding
We had breakfast at La Dulcinea and headed out to the boat, arriving about 10:00.  Marvin was already working on the engine.  Wedding preparations were in full swing.  Truckloads of chairs and tables had been delivered and the workers had removed a section of the fence and curb around the yard so that the wedding guests could drive straight in (and avoid the really bad pavement near the actual entrance.)  By the end of the day, they had even striped the yard like a parking lot.  The florists had set up shop between the office and the restrooms and were arranging truckloads of flowers, which had to be stored in the office because it was the only place with air conditioning.

A Section of the Fence Was Removed
Marvin finally got the engine running about 11:00 and it sounded heavenly!    Of course, we wouldn’t be able to put the boat in the water until the wedding paraphernalia was removed from the launch ramp, but we still had to fix the steering, anyway.

I had spent the morning reading the local newspaper because I was fascinated by the coverage of the local unrest over gas prices, which echoed the issues that had sparked the rebellion in Chiapas earlier in the century.  I was also interested in what they had to say about Trump’s promise to build a wall and make them pay for it.  The Mexican government appeared calm, but determined not to be disrespected and without any intention of paying for a wall.  It was refreshing to read objective journalism for a change.  I spent most of the afternoon working on restitching the canvas.  We were waiting for Santiago to come by to give us a bid on a few more small carpentry projects and hoping that Abel would come back with the hatch cover.  Santiago came and went and we waited for Abel until 5:00, but he never showed.  Then we grabbed a collective back to Tapachula.

Dining at Huacol
After refreshing ourselves at the hotel, we walked over to the big plaza known as El Parque and had dinner at a café on the square.  It was a beautiful evening and lots of people were out.  Clowns were putting on a show in the amphitheater.  We explored the 6 th Avenue shopping area a bit after dinner before returning to the hotel.  All seemed pretty calm and normal, although there was a large police presence and we did hear some strange, loud noises after we returned to the hotel.  Scott retired early, but I stayed up to work on my blog while I had good wifi.

Vendor in El Parque

















January 14, 2017

We hadn’t planned on going to the marina on Saturday because of the 700 guest wedding that was taking place there, but our carpenter needed the broken window screen frames to use as patterns and wanted a deposit for the materials for the jobs we had hired him to do. Eight AM found us at La Dulcinea where we met an interesting family who gave us some insight into the immigration problems some people were facing.  There were an Italian Canadian man and his Cuban fiancée with her younger brother.  The couple had not gotten married in Cuba because getting married there involved paying expensive fees.  The woman and her brother had flown to Guyana, the only place Cubans could fly, and spent nearly two months making the perilous journey overland from Guyana to Chiapas.  Two days before, Obama, in the name of normalizing relations with Cuba, had retracted the policy of giving Cubans automatic asylum.  The poor woman was stuck in Mexico.  She could no longer get into the USA and couldn’t get into Canada because she was not yet married to the Canadian.

Mexico accepts Central American refugees, but requires them to spend their first year in Chiapas. If they stay out of trouble, they can then move freely through Mexico.  Hearing this explained to me why the citizens of Chiapas were so upset with the government over Central American immigration.  They must have felt like the government had dumped all these desperate people in their already poor state where they were depressing wages.  It was like the US government had decided to send all the Syrian refugees to Arkansas.

Collectivo Stop in Tapachula

Riding in a Collectivo
Pondering this, we took a collectivo to the marina to meet Santiago.  The marina was crawling with workers, busily arranging flowers and decorating the entire marina with potted plants and lighted trees for the wedding.  Small sailboats with their sails hoisted were anchored in the turning basin as decorations.  It was a spectacle of excess which served to highlight the disparity between rich and poor in Chiapas.

We met with Santiago and then spent a couple of hours hoping that Abel would turn up with our hatch cover.  I cleaned up the last of the debris from the engine repair and practiced the guitar while Scott took a nap.

We headed out about 1:00 and took a crowded collectivo (the first one that passed was full and that is saying a lot when we have seen as many as 23 people stuffed in) to Home Depot to buy varnishing supplies, hydraulic fluid, and fasteners to replace the soft hatch.  Our errands completed, we returned to the hotel and relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon.  I ducked out to go to the music store to buy a guitar case and some strings.  The strings cost about the same as at home, but the case I got for about $11 was very similar to the one I had tried to buy (and fortunately failed) for $60 before we left home.
Launch Ramp Being Transformed to Wedding Site

Lasers as Decorations































Procession
As darkness fell, we left the hotel to go to dinner.  There was a religious procession filling 6th avenue, which was preceded by people throwing firecrackers.  Everything was peaceful, but many shops displayed signs saying, “Exigimos seguridad,” or, “We demand security.”  Most stores had repaired their damage and reopened, but many of the OXXOs remained boarded up and closed.  We wondered if they were anticipating more chaos.

We returned to El Parque and ate dinner at a different restaurant called Rancho Grill.  Scott had steak and I had chilaquiles with carne asada for 69 pesos (<$3.50.)  It was another beautiful, warm evening and we took a turn around the park to look at the fountains before walking home.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

RETURN TO FOOL’S CASTLE – MARINA CHIAPAS 2017

January 1, 2017

Popocatepetl Steaming
Scott and I started the new year by boarding a plane from Los Angeles to Mexico City.  We were walking down the jet way at midnight.  Despite having arrived before 6 AM, the line for immigration was long and we were afraid we were going to miss our connection to Tapachula.  Finally, all the Mexican nationals were processed and additional windows were opened for foreigners.  We found our luggage and made it through customs in time to catch our flight, but not in time for our luggage to make it to the plane.  We arrived in Tapachula hot and sweaty and without our luggage.  We did, however, get a cool view of Popocatepetl, the volcano near Mexico City that has been erupting recently.  It was glowing and steaming as we flew by.


The airline promised to call us when our luggage arrived, as there were to be two more planes from Mexico City that day.  Since we had no luggage to carry, we walked out to the highway and caught a collectivo into town for a whopping 20 pesos ($1.)  We settled into the Hotel Cervantino, where we have stayed  whenever we needed a hotel in Tapachula.  The hotel is basic, but reasonable and friendly.  I double room with air conditioning ran us $14 per night.

The Hotel Cervantino


We were tired from flying all night, so rested for the remainder of the day, only rousing ourselves to get dinner at El Pastorcito, our usual haunt on the corner near the square.  As it was New Year’s, many places were closed and El Pastorcito was jammed.  Fortunately, we got there before the worst of the rush and managed to get a table.  We got plates of the local specialty, which is a mixture of pork and chicken with cheese and vegetables, served with a pile of tortillas.  We were hungry, not having eaten all day, so managed to polish off large plates of food.  Then we went back to the hotel and slept some more.

January 2, 2017

Our Luggage Made It to the Boat
We never heard from Aeromexico on New Year’s so, rather than try to talk to them on the telephone in Spanish (speaking Spanish on the telephone is my idea of a nightmare), we stopped off at the airport on the way to the marina.  Fortunately, our bags were waiting for us and we were able to collect them without delay.  Then we took a taxi the rest of the way to the marina, where we were finally able to change into shorts, sandals, and clean shirts.  We also unloaded all the heavy boat parts and sailing gear, which reduced our baggage by at least half.

Enrique and Memo in the marina office, were happy to see us.  We soon conferred with our mechanic, Marvin, and agreed that he would come to work on the boat at noon on Wednesday.  Theoretically, that would give us time for a carpenter to repair the rotten floor.  We also agreed to hire someone to help clean the boat.  Then we headed out to the boat to survey the situation. 

The Rotten Floor
The exterior of the boat didn’t look too bad, but the rot in the floor had spread from the floor behind the doors covering the engine to the bottom step of the companionway, one of the doors covering the engine, and part of the floor under the settee in the main salon.  A young man named Miguel arrived and, for some reason, we thought he was the carpenter.  He set to work removing the rotten parts, but we were surprised that he didn’t have any tools.  When later the actual carpenter, Santiago, arrived, we were somewhat relieved because he was much more competent.  He conferred with Miguel about what needed doing and we assumed that Miguel was Santiago’s assistant.  It wasn’t until the next day that we realized Miguel was supposed to be our boat cleaner.  It didn’t matter, anyway, since we didn’t have any water to wash the boat.

Our day at the marina passed quickly and Memo gave us a ride back to the hotel about 4:45.   We bought some beer and Scott took a nap.  Then we had hamburgers for dinner at La Dulcinea, a café next door to the hotel, and took a short walk to find ice cream for dessert.

January 3, 2017

I had told Miguel that we would be back at 10:00, so I got up at 7:30.  We had breakfast at La Dulcinea.  Breakfast was much more satisfactory than the previous night’s dinner.  It wasn’t that the food had been bad.  There just wasn’t much of a selection and we had been hungry.  For breakfast, we had eggs scrambled with ham, accompanied by black beans, yogurt, and toast, and washed down with coffee and juice.  I got to speak a little Italian with the proprietor, but trying to speak Italian while thinking in Spanish just about made my brain explode.

Marina Chiapas
We took a collectivo to Home Depot to buy cleaning supplies and ran across the highway to Auto Zone for a couple of rolls of shop towels.  It was 11:15 by the time a second collectivo dropped up at the marina.  Poor Miguel had been waiting for us “for hours” according to Memo.  I did feel bad about it, but at least I was able to make some headway in cleaning, despite the fact that we still didn’t have any water.

There Was Mildew Everywhere
Miguel spent all afternoon chiseling rotten wood out of the companionway and settee floor, while I cleaned the ports and woodwork in the aft cabin.  First, I rigged the four wind scoops I had brought with us.  They made the interior of the boat a lot more pleasant temperature than the previous day.  I also washed the mattress cover.  Scott thought we had washed it three years before in Ixtapa.  I didn’t recall the last time it was washed, but after putting a wet water bottle down on it created mud, I knew it was time to wash it.  I took the cover, some detergent, and a bucket up to the marina showers and set to work.  Ten buckets of water later, it was much cleaner, although the water still wasn’t rinsing clean.  The first six or seven buckets had turned completely black.

Our batteries were completely flat and refused to take a charge, so Scott hauled one of them out of the boat and took a taxi back to the Auto Zone to trade it in for a new one.  Once that was installed, we were able to get lights and water pressure.  Unfortunately, our vacuum cleaner motor had seized up in our absence.  Scott soaked it in penetrating oil and we hoped for the best.

Five o’clock came around very quickly and Scott wanted to leave before we missed the last collectivo.  He had worked up blisters on the bottoms of both feet from his sandals and was pretty miserable.  I made the mistake of telling the conductor that we were going to the plaza, not realizing there was a larger plaza further north.  Despite the fact that we tried to get off two blocks from our hotel, they insisted on taking us to the large plaza, which turned out to be about 9 blocks away.  Poor Scott had to limp all the way home.  It was an interesting walk, though.  There was a massive tent erected in the plaza and people were ice skating under it.  It was very odd to see people ice skating when it was 80 degrees at night.  We walked down 6th Avenue North and that was definitely the happening place in the evening.  Scott was too miserable to want to linger, so we bought beer, ice, and sandwich makings on the way home and settled into our room for the evening.  We watched a movie and then Scott went to sleep while I caught up on my writing.


January 4, 2017

Cruiser Air Conditioning
We didn’t want to keep Miguel waiting again, so we skipped breakfast and just stopped into a bakery on the way to the corner where we catch collectivos to the marina.  The large bakery, which is usually full of a variety of bread and pastries, was filled wall to wall with roscas de reyes, a type of ring cake traditionally served on Three Kings Day.  The best we could do for breakfast were plain bolillos.  We grabbed a couple and ate them while we waited for a collectivo.

We arrived at the marina just before Miguel.  He chiseled away at the rotten wood while I re-rigged the wind scoops.  They were doing a good job of keeping the temperature in the boat down around 90, instead of the 100 degrees it can be without ventilation.  It was still a hot place to work.  

After I removed all the tarps and window coverings, I set Miguel to scrubbing the topsides of the boat because our mechanic was supposed to come at noon.  The exterior of the boat was fairly filthy.  Miguel worked on it all day and didn’t quite finish the aft deck. The boat looked much less abandoned for his efforts.  I spent the day cleaning the woodwork in the aft cabin, center cabin, and aft passageway.  Then I started on the aft head.  It was especially unpleasant in the center cabin, which has no hatch.  I had to keep coming up for air.  Scott’s feet were bothering him, so he couldn’t do much except try to repair the seized vacuum.  He got it to run, but it made such a racket that we couldn’t actually use it.  We waited all day, but the mechanic never came.

Scott Getting a Haircut
I had asked the collectivo driver how late they ran and he had told me 6:00, so we were able to work until 5:00 before heading home.  We stopped at the Walmart shopping center so that Scott could get a haircut.  Then we bought some Gatorade and paper towels and took a city bus (6 pesos= about 30 cents) back to the hotel.  We tried to get dinner at Taco Tino’s, but they wouldn’t serve us because it was 7:30 and they closed at 8:00.  They still had food left and it looked good, but they must have been saving it for themselves.  We walked another block to La Fonda Inn, a fancy place with white tablecloths where we were the only customers.  I had delightful liver and onions and Scott had chicken mole.  The Victoria cervezas were icy cold and we each downed two.  Despite the fancy surroundings, the total came to about $16.  Tapachula may be dull, but it’s not expensive.

I had only slept about 3.5 hours the night before, so I collapsed when we got back to the hotel.  Unfortunately, I was up every two hours all night with severe muscle cramps.  I downed a glass of Gatorade every time I got up, but it didn’t help that much.  Working in the heat all day took it’s toll.

January 5, 2017

We got up early enough to eat a nice breakfast at La Dulcinea and still arrive at the marina by 9:00.  I
La Dulcinea Under the Arch
replaced all the window coverings and rigged the wind scoops before it got hot.  Then I finished cleaning the head.

Santiago, the carpenter, and his assistant, Alberto, arrived a bit before noon.  They set to work removing the remainder of the rotten wood.  They had the proper tools and things went pretty quickly until they got to the floor joists, which were glued and screwed in place and had to be chiseled out.  It took them all afternoon to remove them and I felt sorry for them.  They had good attitudes, though, and joked about having to be there for a week.  Once again, Scott couldn’t do much, so he decided to go to Home Depot and buy a new vacuum.  I spent the entire afternoon cleaning the galley, which seemed to go as slowly as the wood removal.  I had to scrub out every cabinet and drawer and the stove was a disaster.  By the time I completed that chore, I was wiped out.  Fortunately, it was nearly 5:00.

Tapachula has a Pollo Campero on the main drag.  I had become addicted to Pollo Campero in Guatemala and Nicaragua and drooled every time we passed it.  I insisted that my reward for slaving away in a hot boat be fried chicken for dinner.  Scott went along with me.  Apparently, table service ends at 6:30 and we arrived at 6:32.  We got our dinner to go.  Poor Scott has hobbling, so we tried to get a taxi, but every one that passed was completely full.  We stood on the side of the road, munching fries and waiting for a taxi, until we finally gave up and took a passing collectivo.  This time, we knew to get off just two blocks from the hotel.  We ate our chicken at a table in the courtyard and then went upstairs to watch a movie and write.

January 6, 2017

Roscas de Reyes at La Dulcinea
It turned out that the reason Pollo Campero wouldn’t serve us, last night, and there were so many people on the street and we couldn’t find a taxi was because there was a large protest against the 3 peso per liter hike in gas prices.  Gas apparently went from 13 pesos per liter to 16 pesos per liter overnight. This hit people hard in a country where the minimum wage is 65 pesos per DAY.  In Chiapas, people were also angry that Guatemalans were coming across the border and taking their jobs.  I had noticed that things looked noticeably more prosperous than they did when I was in Chiapas in December of 2014.  Attracting immigrants was the downside of this prosperity.
We got home without incident, but the protest apparently turned ugly later and, by the time we got up, all the major stores (Walmart, Chedraui, Coppel, and even most of the OXXOs) had been looted.  There was nowhere to buy bread.  La Dulcinea had to serve us cookies for breakfast because the stores were all looted and the bakeries were only making roscas de reyes for Three Kings Day.  Our hotel was keeping the iron gates closed and most businesses were tightly closed in expectation of more trouble.

Broken Windows at an OXXO
We ate breakfast and then checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the marina.  It was quiet out there, but the convenience store was cleaned out and closed by midday.  Even the stores in Puerto Madero had been looted.
I set to work cleaning the dinette in the boat until our mechanic, Marvin, arrived about 1:00.  He didn’t get far before discovering that we lacked the correct hose to replace the one that had caused our engine to blow in the first place.  The hose that ran from the water pump to the exhaust manifold needed to make a 180 degree turn.  This caused most hoses to kink and deform and ours had consequently expanded into the path of the alternator belt, which cut a hole in it and let the cooling water out.  The space for the 180 degree bend was very limited and we could not relocate the pump, manifold, or belt.  We had to get creative.
Mainaval, Machine Shop in Puerto Chiapas

Machinist Welding Our Fitting
Knowing that the Home Depot was likely to be closed and having been advised not to go back into Tapachula until the situation quieted, we elected to take a taxi over to the fishing boat docks where we had heard there was a machine shop.  Our taxi driver was a most helpful young man.  He knew right where to go and helped up explain what we needed to the machinists.  The shop, Mainaval, offers industrial marine maintenance.  It is located on Uno Norte between the cruise ship terminal and the Herdez cannery.  Despite the fact that it was 3:00 in the afternoon on Three Kings Day, they were willing to help us.  They had a good supply of plumbing fittings, but nothing that would make a 180 degree turn in the space our engine allowed.  They had to make us something.  First, they tried to bend a stainless steel pipe, but it deformed just like the hose had.  They ended up cutting three pieces of pipe at 45 degree angles and welding them back together to form a square “u.”  It was slightly larger than we had hoped, but better than anything else we had available.  Several of them worked until after 5:00 and, for 600 pesos (about $30), we left with something we hoped would work.  Our helpful driver, who had waited the whole time, delivered us back to the marina for a total of 100 pesos.  We gave him all of our change as a tip because he had really been too generous with his time.
Relaxing in the Cockpit

It was too late to get anything else done for the day, so we sat in the cockpit an enjoyed a cold beer.  I arranged for the carpenter to come the next morning via text.  It was nice to be out of the hotel and listen to the squawking chacalacas and the navy trumpeter at sunset.  Scott was exhausted and could barely stay awake long enough for me to clean off the table and serve cold beans and chilorio on tostadas.  He was snoring by 7:30.

January 7, 2017

Our boat was a hive of activity on Saturday.  Our carpenters, Santiago and Alberto, arrived by 9:30 and Miguel showed up shortly after that.  I felt somewhat guilty, but I had saved the worst of the cleaning for Miguel.  He cleaned the v-berth and the forward head, where the mold had been an inch deep in places.  I felt guilty enough that I tackled the center cabin, which was not too moldy, but was hot, airless (no hatch) and cluttered with tools, parts, and sailing gear.  It took me almost all day to sort the clutter and return it to its proper places.  Miguel also had time to wash all the canvas covers.  It became apparent that I could spend the rest of my time in Chiapas restitching the canvas, but at least it wasn’t in tatters.

New Floor Joists
The carpenters worked from 9:30 until after 6:00, but still didn’t finish.  They managed to remove the last of the bad wood and fashion the replacement pieces for the supports, settee floor, and step.  Unfortunately, they took the floor with them to stain it and the support pieces were not firmly attached, so we still had no easy path from the aft cabin to the galley and no way to clean in the main salon.

We were having trouble getting our one functional battery to charge on our little, portable charger.  The solar controller had failed.  Scott turned off the DC system by late afternoon.  This made it impossible to cook dinner.  We had tostadas with cold beans, chilorio and tuna for dinner.  With all the grocery stores looted and closed, our food choices were limited.  All our juice boxes had gone bad, but I did have some pina colada flavored Tang to mix with rum.  Scott settled for lemon lime Gatorade.  While the timer on our ice maker had died, it still got cold enough to make ice in trays.  We might starve, but at least we had cold drinks.

Scott had spent all day resting his badly blistered feet, but still was ready for bed by 8:00.  Unfortunately for him, every trip to the bathroom required a quarter mile walk.  At least the heat kept bathroom trips to a minimum.  I managed to read and stay awake until almost 10:00 before I started passing out.  A second rum and I would have been asleep by 8:30.

I made one last trip to the restrooms before bed.  The guard dogs, Mastile (mast) and Amura (hull wall), ignored me.  The security guards were fast asleep and sprawled near the top of the steps leading to the restrooms, where I nearly stepped on one of them in the dark.  I had to retreat and use the other set of steps.  They slept soundly through my entire visit.  I hoped the dogs would alert them if there was any trouble.
Mastile

Amura

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

RACING FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO HAWAII – THE PACIFIC CUP 2016

Day 1 – July 11, 2016

Please excuse the abbreviated nature of this post.  Power is scarce on a race boat and it is difficult to write on an often wet and heaving boat.
The Crew of Aeriagnie - Cecile, Ben, Rene, and Scott

We started the race at 10:30 on a foggy morning and tacked out the gate, keeping in the center of the ebb tide.  It was the first time we had sailed together as a team, but things went well with a minimum of hollering.  It was windy in the gate and briefly lighter outside as we headed for the southern edge of the shipping lanes.  The wind quickly began to build until we found ourselves in a full scale gale.  The wind blew from 35 to 45 knots all day and night, with 8 to 10 foot seas and green water breaking over the boat.  We were all wet to the skin and shivering.  We quickly realized that the secondary winch on the port side was slipping.  One of the first big waves knocked a
The Golden Gate on the Morning of Our Start
solar panel off its supports, shearing the set screws.  We tied it down with a piece of line and kept going.  We were escorted out of the bay by a pod of humpback whales.
Whale Escort

Umbrella Shelter in the Head
Scott and I were terribly seasick.  The weather forecast called for three days of that gale and we were all a bit dispirited.  The hatch in the head leaked so badly it was like taking a shower to go in there.  We started sheltering under an umbrella every time we used the head.  We were barely out the gate before the first boat dropped out.  A second boat dismasted the first night.



Day 2 – July 12, 2016

Morning dawned with clear skies and lighter winds.  
I started to feel somewhat better and soon Scott
Ben and the "Clothesline"
started to recover.  We had a relatively pleasant day of sailing with fewer mishaps.  Because of the broken winch, we had to cross sheet the genoa, so we had to crawl over or under the line every time we went aft to steer.  It made a good clothesline, though, and we had lots of wet clothes and bedding to dry.  We taped plastic over the head hatch and that stopped the leak.   This was fortunate because half our supply of paper products were already reduced to papier mache.  Scott and I had the midnight to 4 am watch.  We saw two ominous squalls, but managed to pass between them.

Day 3 – July 13, 2016

Scott at the Helm
The day was cloudy, but we sailed on under genoa, storm jib (staysail) and reefed main.  It was still chilly, but I finally dried out enough to stop shivering and managed to eat something.  I treated myself to dry socks, which helped.  I finally managed to get some quality sleep.

Day 4 – July 14, 2016

We awoke to another cloudy morning.  Another boat had dismasted during the night and two more had dropped out for other reasons.  Cecile complained that the communications schedule was cutting into her sleep, so we decided to change the watch schedule so that the morning check in and
Cecile on the Radio
evening standings report would fall during her watches.  This involved us extending the daytime watches by an hour each.  Scott and I were on from 8:00 to 13:00.  We were sailing nearly dead downwind, so were having a hard time holding our course.  With much swearing and yelling, we poled out the genoa and went wing on wing.  This worked well for an hour until Cecile came on watch and decided that we needed to move the pole to the other side so that we could sail a higher course.  That involved another hour long fire drill, but we finally managed to get things set by 13:30.  I had been fantasizing about what to do with the extra time.  I took a sponge bath, changed clothes, cleaned the galley, and finally got around to writing my blog for the first time since we left.  Photos had also been few, as things had been too wet and hectic for photography.  The night was very dark.  We couldn’t see the sails or the horizon.  Our only frame of reference was the too bright screen showing the compass heading.  At times, it felt like we were spinning in circles.

Day 5 – July 15, 2016 

Another Grey Morning
Morning found us still sailing dead downwind under steely skies.  Another couple of boats had dropped out or failed to start, bringing the total to eight.  We found our first flying fish on deck and fried him up and ate him.  The squid were not so appetizing.  We wallowed along all day and then put a second reef in after dinner.  Dinner was the Kalua pork I had made before leaving.  I also made a big green salad, which was much appreciated by our digestive tracts.  It started to clear just before dark.  There still was no sunset to speak of, but we could see the moon through gaps in the clouds, which made steering much easier.  We were in good spirits.  I suggested using the lid of one of our food containers as a red lens for the compass screen and that worked well.

Day 6 – July 16, 2016

Another day of slogging downwind under grey skies. We shook out the reef at morning watch change.   Somehow, I had envisioned more warmth and sun for this race.  The wind direction had shifted so that we were forced to sail west, rather than south, so conditions were not improving.  By mid-afternoon, we took down the staysail.

In the evening it got squally.  We were rocketing along downwind, trying to cheat south.  At times we reached 11 knots coming off a wave.  When I went below at 10:00 pm, I mentioned reefing, but everyone thought we could drive through the squalls.  Our racing fangs were sharp.  About 4:30 in the morning, I was driving when the boat rounded up and then dived back down hard.  The boom vang gave way with a crack and the main boom shot up in the air.  This was a good thing, since we then accidentally gybed, blowing the preventer block, but somehow avoiding taking out the running back and the mast.  All was chaos, as the crew swarmed on deck and we fought to get the boat back under control and put a third reef in the main.  We didn’t notice the vang had died until well after daylight.

Day 7 – July 17, 2016

After the excitement of our accidental gybe, we were very subdued the following day.  We proceeded
Our First Fish
west under triple reefed main and storm jib all day.  I was exhausted, having stayed up late on my morning watch to let Cecile and Ben catch a little of the sleep they lost when the vang broke and then been awakened early for my next watch to take down the pole and roll up the genoa.  Just before I was called up on deck, Ben and Cecile caught a Mahi Mahi.  He was flopping about underfoot as we changed the sails.  Eventually, Cecile filleted him and we put him in a bag to save for dinner.

Day 7 saw us reach the halfway point.  We had planned a party to celebrate the event.  I was so tired that I passed out and missed the entire production.  Cecile cooked Mahi Mahi and made salad, which they washed down with chardonnay.  I slept, although I did eat some of the tasty fish and salad when I got up for my 6 pm watch.  Tired as I was, I didn’t dare touch the wine until after my watch at 10 pm, when I sat up long enough to drink a glass of wine and munch a few Pringles.

Once again, the evening was squally with intermittent showers.  Cecile and Scott spent the evening hours repairing the boom vang.  They reformed the bent mast fitting and reattached the eight screws that had pulled out of the mast and then reinforceded the vang with three metal bands.  It seemed to be holding.  For purposes of race communications, we had remained on California time, but we were now so far west that it didn’t get dark until 10:00 at night.  Dawn did not show its face until well after my watch ended at 6 am.

Day 8 – July 18, 2016

Triple Reefed Main
Sailing inexorably west under dismal, cloudy skies was getting to all of us.  We finally gybed and headed for Hawaii, which improved everyone’s mood, even though we were still rolling downwind and now somewhat skeptical of our boom vang.  We pulled down the storm jib and poled out some of the genoa.  The weather continued squally.  Aeriagnie seemed to want to go 7 knots no matter what we did, but our progress slowed from 165 miles per day to 129.  We saw a ship in the evening and the moon came out during our late night watch, which was very welcome.









Day 9 – July 19, 2016

Buona Sera Passing By
On the ninth day, we finally saw the sun.  Not that we awoke to big open blue skies, but at least the sun played hide and seek with us all day.  I finally shed my fleece pants and big foul weather jacket.  We continued all day under triple reefed main and poled out genoa.  Buona Sera passed us with a big show of spinnaker that Aeriagnie could never have controlled.  Squalls came and went, but none of them dumped serious amounts of water.  In the evening, we had a bit of a sunset and even glimpsed a bit of rainbow.  We concentrated on sailing fast and covered 137 miles.

Day 10 – July 20, 2016

Ten days without a shower tied my previous record sailing from Cabo San Lucas to Turtle Bay in 2001.  We probably had enough water for bathing, but could never have managed it on the heaving boat.  It got warmer as we continued south and, though it was still mostly cloudy, I shed my long underwear and fleece jacket by afternoon.

Me Steering Through Squalls
We shook out the third reef about noon and the boat remained manageable.  I went below for a nap at 14:00.  I awoke at 16:00 with the boat slewing all over the course.  By the time I decided to drag out my computer, we gybed and it became nearly impossible to remain in my bunk.  It seemed like conditions were miserable but, when we reported for duty at 18:00, it was beautiful out.  We passed a very pleasant watch with only one big squall and lots of rainbows.  We had put the third reef back in before the squall hit, so passed a reasonable night.

Day 11 – July 21, 2016

Gin & Tonics in the Cockpit
It became apparent during the morning check in that tropical storm Darby was going to interfere with our arrival in Hawaii.  We discussed at length whether to try to speed up and get there before the storm or hang back and let it pass ahead of us.  The crew all agreed that we could never make it in time, but Cecile wanted to try.  We rolled up the headsail about 11:00 and motored as fast as we could straight for Hawaii until the radio hour at 17:00 when it became clear that the deadline for safe arrival had been moved forward from Saturday evening to 2:00 Saturday morning.  With 600 miles left to cover, we could never make it.  We turned off the engine, turned on the autopilot and made a round of gin and tonics. Our new goal was to sail as slowly as possible.  The weather was gorgeous and we all spent the evening lounging in the cockpit.
Our First Real Sunset


Day 12 – July 22, 2016

The weather was gorgeous all day and the wind cooperated with our goal of sailing slowly.  I had found sleeping on Aeriagnie very difficult, due to her excessive rolling motion and lack of padded surfaces.  With a gentler motion, I was finally able to catch up on sleep and I slept all day when not on watch.  Around dinner time, we caught two Mahi Mahi, the second of which bled all over the cockpit and the lines coiled on the sole.  I was covered in fish blood by the time we got that mess cleared away.

Scott with Our Mahi Mahi
After the 20:00 weather briefing, we reviewed our storm strategy, but decided to keep sailing directly for Kaneohe.  We believed that the storm would stay far enough ahead of us for us to continue without diverting.  We had been in last place for most of the race, but had moved up a spot.  We hoped the confusion about how to avoid the storm might improve our standing if we sailed a direct course while others were forced to divert.  The night was overcast and rained a bit, but remained warm.  The moon peeked out from time to time.

Day 13 – July 23, 2016

Despite the overnight clouds, we had another sunny day of sailing with slightly higher winds.  The 8:00 weather briefing failed to change our strategy.  We caught another Mahi-Mahi in the early afternoon, but only Cecile was disappointed when he got away.  None of us wanted to deal with more fish guts when the refrigerator was already full of fish.  Cecile cooked some of the fish for lunch and it was excellent.  We continued sailing straight for Kaneohe. The day’s standings showed us in 4th place in our class.
Flying Fish Make Great Appetizers

Day 14 – July 24, 2016

The weather continued clear and we sailed hard towards the finish.  Someone threw out the line and we caught two more Mahi Mahi within an hour.  I even hauled one aboard myself.  The cockpit was covered in fish blood and it got all over the lines and then all over us.  The crew issued a desist order after the second fish.

Sometimes the Floor Was the Safest Place
Once the communications boat reached the harbor, no one operated the radio net, so we didn’t know our standings for the day.  It seemed lonely out there without hearing from the others and we felt a little bit abandoned.  Scott made us a lovely dinner of curried fish and coleslaw and we shared a bottle of wine.  I saved my share until after my watch and used it to help me sleep.  Sleeping was always difficult for me due to the constant creaking and wild rocking of the boat.

Day 15 – July 25, 2016

When Scott and I came on watch at 2:00 am, Ben was seasick.  It was pitch dark and very disorienting and he had become dehydrated from sitting outside in the sun driving all day while Cecile handled the radio and other tasks.  Scott and I had been able to split the driving more equally and we were in better shape.  The moon finally rose later in our watch, which made it easier to steer.  Steering in the pitch dark with nothing but a number on an instrument for input was very difficult to do for long periods.

We Couldn't See Much of the Islands
With Ben out of commission, Scott and I had to drive most of his watches as well.  We all knew that this was the day we would finish, which helped us to keep going even though we were tired.  We had to check in when we were 100 miles from the finish, which happened about 10:30 in the morning.  The winds were the lightest we had seen thus far and we shook the last reef out of our main.  All day, we continued on the same heading we had been following for three days.  I felt like we were being drawn in by a tractor beam.  All we could see of the islands was a bank of clouds.  When we got close enough that we should have been able to see Oahu, all we could see was the shoulder of Haleakala on Maui.  We checked in again when we were 25 miles away. 

We never did see Oahu because it got dark before the clouds lifted.  The first we saw of our destination was the green and white flashing beacon that marked one end of the finish line.  The winds got lighter and lighter and we approached the finish.  It seemed like forever before we made the 5 mile check in, but at least the driving got easier.  The hard part was locating the finish line in the moonless night.  We had to line up two lights and then call the race committee on the radio when we crossed, all while writing down the coordinates and shining a light at the race committee.  We were very busy.  It completely escaped us that we should have noted our finish time, but it was around 22:30.

Shortly after we finished, we were met by an escort boat which led us down the Sampan Channel and through the coral fields to the Kaneohe Yacht Club.  It was so dark that even with our escort displaying a strobe light, it required concentration to keep him in sight against the shore lights.  The water was very shallow and the depth sounder indicated we should have been aground, but we made it without mishap.

Suddenly, we were in the marina and they were telling Cecile that, after having the whole Pacific Ocean to maneuver in, we had to back into a 20 foot slip.  She managed it handily and there were lots
Aeriagnie in Her Lei
of people on the dock to assist in tying us securely.

A large crowd of people assembled to meet us.  Our first visitor was the safety inspector who verified that we still had all the required gear.  Then we were presented with a participation plaque.  Ben’s family sent us a beautiful lei for the boat.  Finally, the lei and tray folks arrived with leis for each of us, mai tais, and trays of pineapple which we devoured immediately.  Tired as we were, we repaired to the bar for another round of drinks.  It must have been at least 3:00 am before we got showers and actually hit the hay.

Kaneohe Yacht Club

Greeting Committee (Not Ours, Which Was at Midnight)
Crew of Aeriagnie After the Race