Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I called Andres about the air conditioner on Monday morning, but he never called me back.  It turns out that his cell phone was disconnected and, while I had his wife’s number and called her, she didn’t forward the message.  Monday was a wasted day except for a short run and trip to the bank in the morning.  I decided that, since there is nothing to do in Ixtapa except tourist stuff, we should just act like tourists.  We went out to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant.  Scott has chicken parmigiana (or chicken Oaxaca, as he called it) and I had squid in garlic sauce that was tasty, if not very Italian.  Ixtapa was quiet after the end of the holiday week.  We were the only people in the restaurant.

Tuesday, I was determined to accomplish something.  I called Andres again in the morning and just got a message.  I put a second coat of teak oil on the rub rail while I waited for him to call.  When he didn’t call me back, I had Scott write down everything that was wrong with the air conditioners and then I translated the document into Spanish.  I am getting very well versed in Spanish technical terms related to mechanical, plumbing and electrical items.  Once I completed the document, I hopped on a bus and took it to Andres.  I didn’t actually expect to catch him, but he was in his shop.  We reviewed the document together and he agreed to come out to the boat later that evening.  I continued on down the hill to the Bodega Aurrera (grocery store) and did some shopping for perishables before taking the bus back to Ixtapa.

Andres arrived just as we put the pork chops on the barbecue.  He couldn’t wait to get out of our hot boat, so he and Scott disconnected the air conditioners and took them back to his shop.  We had some trouble convincing him that, even though the electrical circuits on the boat are 110 volts, the air conditioners have capacitors that cause the compressors to see 220 volts.  The 110 compressors that he installed on Saturday night burned up at that voltage.  Unfortunately, he broke the hose barb off the water pump for the rear air conditioner in the process of removing it.  The hose barb was an integral part of the pump housing, not a screw in fitting.

Golf Course and Crocodile Sanctuary
Scott and I must have been on the same wavelength because we both suddenly decided we wanted to eat breakfast in the restaurant overlooking the golf course next to the marina.  Despite the sign advertising, “The best breakfast deal in Ixtapa,” it was expensive.  The food was okay, but the view was excellent.  We sat on the terrace and watched crocodiles disturb the surface of the water hazards.  I wouldn’t go looking for a ball in there.

Some people, upon arriving in a new town in Mexico, explore the shops, bars and restaurants.  Not us.  We make the rounds of all the machinists, auto parts, plumbing and hardware stores.  Wednesday was no exception.  We wanted to get the water pump fixed before the air conditioners were returned.  Scott removed the pump (A bloody pain – I did it once.) and we set off to find a machinist who could cut threads into the remains of the pump housing so that we could screw in a new hose barb. We stopped by Andres’ shop to drop off the controller for the air conditioners which he had forgotten and he gave us a recommendation for a machinist down the hill.  The machinist threaded our pump housing for a whopping 50 pesos (<$4.)  He also sold plumbing fittings, so we bought several items from him to replace the water shut off valve that had broken earlier.

We needed a new fluorescent light bulb for Scott’s trouble light, so we continued on to the Bodega Aurrera, but they didn’t have the right kind of bulb.  We crossed the street and walked back up the hill, stopping in every hardware store along the way.  Finally, we found a guy who didn’t have the bulbs, but ran out and got them for us while we waited.  He showed me a picture on the internet of frozen Niagra Falls.  It was just WRONG looking at that picture when it was nearly 90 degrees outside.

Determined to try to enjoy Ixtapa, I spent an hour at the beach before rushing back to wait for Andres, who had said he would bring the air conditioners back around 4:00.  We never heard from him.  I wasn’t too surprised, since I thought his estimate was rather ambitious.  Time management is not Andres’ strong point.
Thursday, I decided to do absolutely nothing and see if Scott noticed.  He didn’t.  I finished one book and read most of another.  I had had a sore throat since Sunday morning and hoped a day of rest might cure it.  Fortunately, I didn’t have any other symptoms.  I didn’t call Andres, either.  I was just hoping someone else would come up with a plan for a change.  I was tired of herding depressed cats through peanut butter.  It was starting to get to me.  At about 6:00, just as I had put a chicken in the oven, Andres sent me a text and said he would be there at 8:00.  A little later, he revised the time to 8:40.  At 9:00, he texted me that he was going to eat dinner and then come, but asked me to please let him come that night because he couldn’t come the next day.  Around 9:45, he texted me that he had a flat tire and couldn’t get there for another hour and a half.  We agreed that he would come early the next morning because he had to leave by noon to catch a flight.

I woke up to sprinkles and a rainbow on Friday morning.  It was after 11:00 before Andres finally arrived with the air conditioners.  He had overslept.  He and Scott hurried to connect the equipment so Andres could rush off.  He and his wife were going to Acapulco to visit the doctor because his wife has a brain tumor.  He only charged me for the difference in the cost of the compressors.  Unfortunately, they stopped working again shortly after he departed.  The new compressors, while larger, are still 110 volts.  They didn’t get as hot as before, but still aren’t what we need.  Despite having sunk 7300 pesos into this repair, I just don’t feel like Andres has the knowledge or mental space (now that I know about his wife’s illness) to deal with our problem.  Meanwhile, it’s hot and we’re stuck, waiting for a decision from our potential insurance company about whether they will accept the amended survey that Ingemar sent them.

Having spent years arguing with my insurer over surveys, I was not optimistic.  Scott still harbored a hope that somehow this new company would accept the original survey and insure us for the trip to Sweden.  My experience was that my survey had to be perfect before I could get insurance and it was almost impossible to obtain a perfect survey on a used boat.  I ended up having to remove perfectly serviceable systems because they had small imperfections that I couldn’t afford to repair.  It would take a lot of time and money to get a perfect survey on Fool’s Castle and Ixtapa wasn’t the place to work on it.  Scott was talking about hauling the boat and storing it on the hard until we can resolve some issues, but he hadn’t done any research on what that would involve or cost.  I felt like was trapped in an endless loop.  I was seriously contemplating leaving the boat for a few days and going somewhere else, just so that I could feel like I was accomplishing something.

The only things I managed to do over the weekend were to get the broken air conditioners stuck back into their compartments and battened down and install the remaining fan in the main salon.  It is tiny and only improves conditions in about two square feet, but it’s something if you sit right under it.  The switches on all the fans we bought in San Diego are flaky.  This one doesn’t work at all, so I had to rig it with a screw and a twist tie.  The pre-existing wiring is attached to the cabin lights circuit, not the fan circuit, so it is always on unless we want to stumble around in the dark.  Scott had a cold and did nothing except help me put the big air conditioner back into the cabinet, although he did take me out for dinner on Saturday night, which was a huge relief.  It was wonderful to walk a couple of miles in the cool evening air and not have to sweat in the galley. Of all the places I imagined getting stuck or leaving the boat for a few months, Ixtapa was not on the list.  However, stuck we are.  I want desperately to have the boat in a condition where we could sail away or leave the boat, depending on the answer we get from the insurance company.  Scott, however, was too depressed to accomplish anything at all.

Life in Ixtapa is extremely boring.  I get up earlier than I want to because I need to use the restroom and our holding tanks are full.  This means that I have to put clothes on and hike up to the marina office.  This can be an adventure because the restroom lights attract bees if anyone leaves them on at night.  One of the windows has a torn screen and they get in through that opening.  Two mornings out of three, there are dead and dying bees all over the floor and living ones clustered around the lights and windows.  I pick my way through the bees (carefully, since I got stung last week) and try to find a commode that is bee free.  There is no hot water in the showers.  Cold showers are more pleasant in the afternoon or evening, but I seldom get around to taking one if I don’t do it first thing.  The water isn’t freezing.  Beers straight out of the refrigerator aren’t freezing around here.  Last night, I drank one over ice just to get it cold enough to be refreshing.  Now I understand why people drink micheladas.  Beer over ice tastes better with Worcestershire and hot sauce in it.

By the time I get back to the boat, I am too awake to go back to sleep.  I eat a hardboiled egg and maybe make a cup of coffee.  I play games on my phone and listen to the very brief and uninteresting radio net at 8:30.  Maybe I read, study Spanish grammar or work on my blog.  The internet only works at the office and doesn’t come on until they open at 9:00.  At least it isn’t hot yet.  Scott, if he gets up at all, doesn’t move until 10:00 or so.  After he wakes up, I make myself a smoothie.  By then, I need to go back to the restroom, so I take my phone up there and do my internet business.  By noon, it’s too hot to be outside.  We hide in the boat.  Scott sleeps, reads, plays solitaire on his computer and checks his email for communication from the insurance company.  I fume at his lack of motivation, do whatever boat chores I can, play computer games, read, study Spanish and go up to the office to use the bathroom and the internet every few hours. 
We can barely move in the boat because the center cabin, main salon and dinette have tools, and boat parts scattered everywhere.  It is a good thing that I have lost a lot of weight because the stack of floor boards from the engine compartment would block access to the refrigerator and ice machine if I couldn’t squeeze between the sink and the mast, which I couldn’t at the beginning of this trip.  The mess depresses me because I feel like the boat has returned to the state in which I found it, despite having spent the last four months working on it and trying to make it habitable.

By late afternoon, it is 90 degrees in the boat.  We have screens on the hatches, but not for the big side windows, so we have to keep those closed or we would be swarmed by bees during the day and mosquitoes at night.  Our fans are totally inadequate.  By the time I’m ready to start dinner, I have to wear a bandana around my forehead to keep the sweat from running into my eyes and my clothes are soaked.  Cooking is torture.  The galley is the hottest part of the boat because it is small, poorly ventilated, and heated by the exhaust from four refrigerators, freezers and ice makers, not to mention the heat produced by the stove.  When dinner is ready, I have to clear the mess off the table in the main salon so that we can find enough room to eat.  Scott does do the dishes, but then he just goes to bed.  I sit up, sweltering and trying to amuse myself until around 10:00, when I can make one last trip up to the restroom and hope to sleep until 5:00 or so without having to go to the restroom again.
We still hadn't heard anything from the insurance company on Monday.  Scott didn't feel well and I was hot and bored and angry, so I didn't accomplish anything, either.  Finally, after it cooled down a bit, we walked into town and had dinner at Mama Norma's y Deborah.  Scott had a Mexican combo and I had chicken cutlets in an orange habanero sauce that was spicy, but good.  I resolved to have a more productive day on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, I woke up before dawn and decided that it was time to see what was at the end of the ciclopista where I had been running.  I had never made it past the 5km point.  I decided that I was going to alternately walk and run the entire path.  Since I had been sick and hadn't run in over a week, I took it slow.  I ran one kilometer and then walked the next.  The path runs for a kilometer from the marina to the crossroads just before the town of Ixtapa and then curves around and heads off along the road to Playa Linda.  At about 3.5 kilometers, it crosses the road and at 4 km it leaves the road and heads off into the jungle, roughly following the path of a large river through an ecological preserve.  The jungle in Mexico is not very tall.
Spoonbill Left of Center

At about 7km there is a nice rest area with a deck for viewing the numerous birds that frequent the river.  Despite entire schools of bait fish leaping out of the water, there were no birds near the viewing platform.  At 7.5 km I found the birds.  There were dozens of them in a mixed flock of several types of egrets, storks (I think) and roseate spoonbills.  I had seen the spoonbills flying, but not on the ground.  Their undersides are bright pink, so they are quite spectacular on the wing.

Crocodile Habitat in Playa Linda
I had my headphones on, but thought I had heard an intermittent growling noise. I figured it was probably some panguero's outboard.  However, when I got to the 8km mark and emerged from the jungle into the town of Playa Linda, I realized that I actually HAD been hearing crocodiles roaring.  Fortunately, although they were roaring at me, they were on the other side of a fence.  

End of the Ciclopista
Birds Roosting in Uprooted Trees
The path took a right turn at Playa Linda and followed the coast out to the end of the road where there is a nice RV park on the beach.  I left the paved path and followed some surfers out to where the river meets the sea.  It was a very beautiful place.  Many large trees that had been uprooted and carried downstream had grounded on the sandbars at the mouth of the river and made handy roosts for the many birds.  It looked like a long paddle out to the break for the surfers, however.

I made a U-turn and headed back towards Playa Linda.  By this time, it was 9:00 and it was starting to get hot.  I started alternating running and walking every half kilometer on the way back.  I actually encountered a young man who was running while carrying a surfboard.  I made a couple of side trips to check out the beaches.  They were very clean, beautiful and empty.  I could see Isla Grande from there.

Ecological Preserve
 I made it all the way back to the marina by alternating running and walking and was still able to run the last half kilometer, although I was pretty wiped when I got back.  Scott greeted me with the incredible news that our insurance as far as Sweden had been approved.  This was quite unexpected.  We still need to figure out how to pay them and get that handled, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Scott spent some time looking at the generator, although the necessary repair remains elusive.  We have made it this far without the generator, so we can live without it.  At least our alternator is now fixed and can charge the batteries.

I have decided to pretend that I am on vacation for the rest of our stay in Ixtapa and check myself into a hotel with a pool and air conditioning before I go mad.

Beach West of Playa Linda


  1. Hi Rene and Scott - Congrats on the insurance! Loved the story of the walk. I look forward to reading more. Hang in there - your next door neighbor - Michelle