Thursday, March 27, 2014


We didn't hear from the generator guys on Monday afternoon, but that was really no surprise.  Neither did we hear from them on Tuesday, which was disappointing.  We were also having trouble getting a wi-fi signal in the boat, which made the waiting all the more frustrating.  We decided we were going to tackle the tasks up the mizzen mast early Wednesday, before it got hot, so I took the shade structure down Tuesday evening before we went to bed.
Feeding Antenna Cable into the Mast
We got up early on Wednesday and by 8:30, I was up the mast.  My first task was to install the antenna for the new chart plotter.  Fortunately, there was already an antenna mount up there that fit.  All we had to do was to feed the cable down through the mast, which is never all that easy.  Having been through this drill before (This was the 3rd antenna that I had installed on the mizzen over the years.), we had brought a fish tape with us.  I threaded that down through the hole, Scott attached a loop of nylon cord to it and I pulled it back up.  Then I taped the cable to the cord and we were able to feed/pull the cable down through the mast fairly easily.

Enlarging a Hole in the Mast
My next task was to mount the wi-fi antenna on the mast.  We hoped that mounting the antenna higher would give us a better signal.  More about that later.  The antenna was designed to be mounted on a pole.  It had places for two hose clamps to go through the housing and around a pole.  Unfortunately, a mast is not a pole.  The sail must be able to slide up and down the track in the rear of the mast.  There cannot be a band of steel wrapped around the mast.  We had to get creative. Since I knew from experience that drilling a hole in a thick aluminum mast when you have no leverage is nearly impossible, I elected to strap the antenna through some holes in the support for the GPS antenna.  This wasn't easy, either, as it was difficult to bend the metal clamp sharply enough to feed it through the holes, which were close together.  I had to do it three times, of course, until we found the size of hose clamp that would allow the antenna to rest against the mast.  That done, we still had to feed the cable through the mast.  Of course the USB connector on the cable wouldn't fit through any of the existing holes in the mast, so I had to enlarge one of them.  Fortunately, it was much easier to enlarge an existing hole, even though it was on the far side of the mast and I had to drill towards myself, than to start a new one.  It still took all the strength I had and left me no way to hold on, making it difficult to stay in position.  I was using the largest drill bit we had, but the connector still didn't quite fit.  Scott had to file the corners off the connector before we could repeat the fish tape drill and feed the USB cable through the mast.
Rigging the Flag Halyard
Antenna work done, it was time to move on to the easy tasks. Scott raised me to the top of the mast and I rigged a block for a flag halyard up there.  Our boat is an approved Coast Guard Auxiliary Facility but, if we were operating under orders, we would need to fly a large American flag from the mizzen masthead. Scott wanted to be prepared.  Once the block was installed, I threaded the flag halyard through it.  While I was up there, I noticed that the rigging was incredibly filthy.  Dirt retains moisture and can lead to rust.  The last thing we needed was rigging failure, so I decided to take advantage of being up there and wash it on my way back down.  Of course, that involved hauling a very heavy bucket of water up a line, hand over hand. Thank you, CrossFit!  I felt like a circus acrobat as I washed the rigging.  I needed one hand to balance the bucket on my lap and the other to wash.  This left no way to hold on, so I was just dangling and spinning wherever the wind took me.  As I got lower, the shrouds were wider apart and I had to launch myself from side to side without losing the bucket or dropping my rag.  It must have been entertaining to watch.  I finally set foot back on the dock three hours after I had first ascended.

Raeme, the Shop Where Our Generator Was Fixed
After my morning exertions, I ate some long overdue breakfast and then took a nap.  When I woke up about 3:00, we went up and took showers and then headed over to the generator shop, arriving there about 4:00. The generator still wasn't completed, although it looked like the actual winding was done. It was clear that the new coils needed to be tidied up, linked together and tested for continuity before we could take it home. While we weren't surprised, we were angry and frustrated.  I knew that it really wasn't the fault of the poor fellow who was alone in the shop, but we had to make it clear to him that we could no longer afford to be patient.  We had waited for nearly two months and were now several weeks behind schedule.  We needed to leave with the coming weather window.  We told him it needed to be ready the following day by 4:00.

Back at the boat, despite my efforts in mounting the wi-fi antenna on the mast, we had almost no signal.  It was much worse than it had been when we first installed it.  I took my phone up the dock and verified that the wi-fi at the office was working fine.  We just weren't connecting to it.  It seemed that our main mast was directly between the antenna and the signal from the office.  We moved the bow of the boat over about 18 inches and then it worked fine.  We were able to eat buffalo wings for dinner and watch an episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix.  Domestic harmony was restored.

Entrance to Marina Chahue
Thursday was the first day of spring and another dull day spent working on a mosquito net for the companionway.  I needed to create something that would stay closed to keep the bugs out, but be easy for Scott to push aside, as he has little patience with such things.  I came up with the idea of a net that would be attached at the back and along one side, but had the second side held into the track for the sliding cover by a rod of metal that could be lifted up to pass through.  The front would be held down by a long, narrow sandbag sewn into the flap that overlaps the screen hatch board.  I walked over to the beach near the harbor entrance to get some clean, dust free, sand for the sandbag.  I had just finished sewing on the velcro about 4:00 when my Mexican cell phone started vibrating.  It was the fellow from the generator shop.  Our generator coil was finally ready!

We dropped everything, grabbed a taxi and headed over there.  Although we had no way to test it at the shop, it looked okay.  They had drilled out the broken stud in the casing and painted it bright red.  They must have felt guilty about taking so long because they only charged us 8,000 pesos (just over $600) instead of the 9,000 they had quoted us.  We were relieved to load it into the trunk of the taxi and head back to the marina.  The taxi driver was very interested in our boat and generator and I stayed and talked with him about it while Scott went to get the rusty old shopping cart that served as a dock cart in Huatulco.

It was too late to accomplish any mechanical work by that time, so I left Scott with the boat and went back to the grocery store to stock up on meat, produce and beer.  Corona was on sale, so I got a twelve pack for about $9.  I had walked to the store in the 90 degree heat, but took a taxi back.  We have discovered that the Chedraui store has a lot of American products squirreled away in what looks like the gourmet foods section.  It was there that I finally found diced tomatoes and had earlier located coconut milk.  Scott was delighted to discover a limited selection of Pop Tarts.  They also stocked a surprising selection of diabetic and gluten free foods, not that we needed them.  We still had not been able to find anything other than tiny jars of peanut butter and had to go to Soriana to get the granola bars that Scott likes.  Tortillas and tortilla chips are made fresh and are sold in the bakery section of Mexican grocery stores.  While I had enjoyed the chips very much everywhere else, the Chedraui in La Crucecita made the most disgustingly greasy chips I had ever encountered.  Oil literally pooled on the bottom of the bag.  This was too bad because avocados sold for a mere 29 pesos a kilo (about $1 per pound.)  They were considerably cheaper than apples at 45 pesos/kilo.  I made a lot of guacamole and slathered it on everything I could think of besides chips.

The Megayacht Docks in Marina Chahue
Earlier in the week, we had hoped to leave on Friday, but our generator coil wasn't finished in time and the promised weather window didn't actually materialize.  The marina began to fill up with boats that had arrived, hoping to take advantage of that weather window.  I set an alarm and got up at 6 AM in order to run four miles over to the hotel zone in Tangolunda and back before the sun got too high.  I identified the comical looking birds with feathered topknots bobbing on their heads like antennae as white throated magpie-jays. Our North American bird book was beginning to fail us.  We lacked a book for Central America, so had to do some detective work on the internet.  There are lots of noisy Kiskadee Flycatchers in the marina, but I was not able to identify the large black and yellow birds flitting around in the jungle.  These turned out to be black headed trogons.

Our Shiny New Generator Coil
Scott spent Friday researching how to test the generator without re-installing it first.  I started work on mosquito nets for the remaining two hatches.  It was beastly hot.  Temperatures inside the boat soared to 98 degrees.  As all of my cool clothes were at the laundry, I was reduced to lounging about in my bikini, drinking micheladas.  Having discerned that my liver function was slightly off while we were at home, I had resolved to limit myself to one alcoholic beverage per day.  Micheladas (beer, Clamato, lime juice, worcestershire (known in Mexico as "Salsa Inglesa" or "English Sauce") and hot sauce over ice were a blessing.  Not only were they cold and refreshing, but they stretched one beer into two drinks.  I had taken to drinking beer with lime juice over ice, anyway, since our refrigerator didn't get it cold enough for my taste.

Saturday was equally hot, although somehow it didn't bother me as much.  Scott still wasn't enthusiastic about wrestling a heavy generator in the engine compartment, so he spent much of the day testing the coil. Finally, about 2:00, he decided we needed to go to the hardware store.  For some reason, we seemed incapable of remembering that stores close at 2:00 on Saturdays.  When our cab pulled up in front of Casa Pepe, they had already started rolling down the doors.  Fortunately, they were kind enough to stay open long enough for us to buy the small wrenches and C-clamps that we needed.
Ferre Tornillos in La Crucecita

Luckily, the owner of the local screw store was not in a hurry to go home and was still open when we finished with the hardware store.  We crossed the street and bought new bolts to reassemble the generator.  It was very hot and ice cream sounded like a good idea.  The ice cream store in the hardware ghetto didn't open until 8:00 PM for some reason, so we walked over to the main plaza and bought popsicles from a vendor in the park.  We sat in the shade, eating our ice cream, while I amused myself reading the protest signs posted on the gazebo in the center of the park.  They were exhorting the president to listen to the poor, treat them with respect, and provide decent housing .  The signs would not have been out of place at an "Occupy" rally. After our break, we walked back to the marina and were ready for a cold drink. We went out to dinner to avoid cooking in the hot boat.

Raising the Generator Engine
When Sunday rolled around, we could delay installing the generator no longer.  Hot or not, we had to get started if we were to be ready to leave by Wednesday.  We needed the boom to raise the generator, but I balked when Scott suggested that I take down the awning.  Instead, I moved the boom over to the starboard side of the boat and re-positioned the awning.  This actually provided us with better shade than we had had previously, since the sun was coming from that direction.  I didn't want to re-rig the shade structure, but managed to tie some of the panels to the rigging in such a way as to provide us with shade from above and to starboard, which helped to keep Scott cool while working in the cockpit.

Scott Wrestling with the Coil
When mounted, the generator coil is flush with the side of the engine compartment.  In order to remove it, we had to dismount the generator, raise it up, and move it backwards.  Our eight kilowatt generator has a 20 hp engine which is larger than the engine in my 35 foot boat. Moving it about is no small feat.  First, we ran a block and tackle from the boom down through a hatch and attached a lifting harness to the engine in order to raise it off the floor.  We then moved the engine back and set it back down on the floor. Then Scott wrestled the 70 pound coil and housing down the companionway and into the engine compartment, where he reattached it to the front of the generator.

Swinging the Reassembled Generator Into Place
One of the rails supporting the motor mounts had rusted through, so we had had a new one fabricated.  I winched the engine back up off the floor and Scott attached the new rail to the bottom of the engine while it hung suspended.  He had experienced a great deal of trouble when he removed the engine from its mounts because there was not sufficient space between the engine and the wall of the engine compartment to turn a wrench.  Scott had directed the machine shop to drill some additional holes in the replacement rail that he hoped would give him better access.  The area under the generator was covered with half an inch or so of greasy, rusted bits of metal and dirt.  We attempted to vacuum it up, which was quite a process since our vacuum hose had collapsed in parts.  Scott cleaned under the generator while I attempted to keep the vacuum hose in a reasonably tubular shape.  We eventually had to amputate a foot or so of the softest part of the hose, but the engine compartment finally became a much more pleasant work environment.

Next, we attached the mounts to the rails.  Scott tightened the bolts while I held the engine out of the way with my toes, my leg fully extended as I suspended myself above the gaping pit of the engine compartment. There must be a law requiring that all mechanical work be performed at the absolute farthest possible extension of one's limbs. We positioned the engine over the rails, with lots of winching up and down on my part while Scott struggled to get everything aligned. The last bolt required my sticking my foot into the far corner of the engine compartment to press on a crescent wrench attached to the rail and lever the motor into place while Scott fit the bolt into the hole.  Finally, the generator was back on its mounts and Scott could tighten it in place.  It was time to call it a day.

The Blessed Fan
Despite having started my day at 6:00 AM with a run to Tangolunda, Monday was a frustrating day for me. Scott's back was sore from the day before, so he didn't start working on the generator until almost 4:00. By the time he realized he needed to go to the hardware store, they were already closed.  I wanted to clean and oil the teak in the cockpit, but a pipe had broken and there was no water available in the marina for most of the day.  I did manage to get the teak in the cockpit cleaned late in the day, but ran out of light before I could get it all oiled.  Once again, it was hot.  It had reached the point where 95 degrees felt reasonable cool.  Our large fan operated 24 hours per day and we moved it back and forth from the main salon to the aft cabin. Unfortunately, there were no level surfaces upon which to set the fan in the main salon.  We had to balance it precariously on the slanted chart table and bungee cord it to the reading lamp.  The smaller fans barely made a difference unless you sat right under them.

Sangria Flavored Soda
Tuesday, we got started slightly earlier.  Just after lunch, we headed over to the hardware store to buy wire ties and an easy out and tap so that Scott could remove a broken bolt and re-thread the hole.  I managed to explain to the clerk what we needed and learned a few new words in Spanish.  "Easy out" is "extractor" in Spanish and "tap" is "machuela."  Wire ties are "cinchos de plastico."  From the hardware store, we headed over to the Soriana to stock up on groceries to get us to El Salvador.  This was possibly my last chance to buy bags of refried beans with chorizo and queso and pina colada flavored Tang.

Scott worked hard on the generator from 4:00 to about 8:15, when he fired it up and immediately shredded our beautiful new coil because it was not wrapped tightly enough and tangled with the fan.  Scott was livid.  I was disappointed, but we had made it to Huatulco without the generator.  We would have to push on to Florida without it, as well.

We worked hard, getting ready to leave, on Wednesday.  All the items we had stowed below when we left for the United States had to be dragged back up on deck and lashed in place.  I finished oiling the teak in the cockpit and disassembled and stowed the barbecue.  The weight of the dinghy and motor riding on the davits behind the boat had pulled the stern rail away from the side rail.  The day before, I had winched the stern rail back into place and secured it there with a ratchet strap, but the motor had to be lashed to the deck next to the spare outboard.  Scott spent the day installing the new pump for the autopilot and replacing all its wiring. I organized and stowed all the tools and spare parts that Scott had scattered about the boat from stem to stern.  While it would have been nice to have the original freezer repaired so that we could use it for a refrigerator, having the space where it once resided to use for storage was a great boon.  We could now access our oddball tools and spare parts without having to unload all the items stowed in the center cabin in order to get to them.

I went up to the office to pay our bill and check out.  The harbormaster checked the weather for me and pronounced us good to go.  He used the Mexican equivalent of NOAA at  It's in Spanish, but has good weather information.  I also use, which has animated wind maps for the visual learners out there.  While I was in the office, I ordered a couple of 5 gallon bottles of water.  We were getting low and planned on making water on the way to Chiapas.  If our watermaker failed us, at least we would have enough water to get to the next marina.  There were still last minute chores to do, but we were ready to leave by Thursday afternoon, which we hoped would allow us to arrive in Chiapas during daylight on Saturday.

After having been in Huatulco for two months, it was almost like leaving home all over again.  We re-provisioned and restowed seemingly everything.  Just like the first time, new tasks appeared out of nowhere that had to be completed before we could leave.  The water company delivered our two jugs, but wouldn't accept our bottles from Barra de Navidad in trade. We had to empty the jugs into our tanks while the delivery fellow, who spoke perfect English, patiently waited.  I spent the evening installing tie downs so that we could secure the new freezer.  Scott wanted to replace the gypsy on the windlass.  (The one we had didn't really fit our new chain.)  It was 8:30 before I even started cooking dinner and bedtime by the time we finished.  Fortunately, our planned departure was not until Thursday afternoon.

Thursday dawned clear and sunny.  I was eager to get underway and finally get a chance to cool off.  We would, however, miss the good wi-fi and being able to watch Netflix in the evenings.  We hoped our new wi-fi antenna would allow us to find a signal further south.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Beach Clubs in  Chahue
Beach at Chuhue
Despite the 85 to 90 degree daily temperatures, it is winter here in Huatulco.  All the trees are bare.  The jungle looks dry and dead.  Summer is the rainy season in Mexico.  The lack of cloud cover just adds to the heat.  It's wonderful time to enjoy the beach.  By Monday, I had spent so much time hand sewing that I was starting to feel like a Jane Austen character.  I decided to go to the beach club.  There isn't a lot in Bahia Chahue and that, in the opinion of the Canadians upon whom I was eavesdropping, is what makes it so wonderful.  The beach is just as sparkling clean and the water as turquoise blue as over the hill in Tangolunda, but there are no large all-inclusive resorts and no crowds or jet skis.  The beach clubs are laid back and the service is good.  I could have sat by the pool at the Huatulco Beach Club all day for the price of a drink, but there were few chaises there and all were occupied, so I wandered next door to the Castillo Huatulco Beach Club where for a cover charge of 100 pesos I got a chaise under my very own shady palapa.  I spent the afternoon finishing the two books I had been reading and then walked back to the marina along the beach when they started folding up the chairs.  If you're going, arrive early to get a spot with a chaise.  The Huatulco Beach Club has a lovely bar with a beautiful view and would be a perfect place to have lunch or a sunset cocktail.  The pool is nice, but there is nowhere to sunbathe around it.

When I got back to the boat, I found it locked.  Scott had apparently arrived at the beach club around the time I left.  He returned a few minutes later and we had a beer in the cockpit, since we had missed out on having a drink together at the club.  There was a cool breeze, the temperature had dropped a bit, I was relaxed from my day at the beach and felt entirely contented with the world.  I felt so grateful to be living this life that it brought tears to my eyes.  That did not, however, prevent me from feeling a pang of jealousy when we saw a recent arrival slipping out of the marina on their way to El Salvador for the El Salvador Rally.  We have signed up for the rally, but will not make it for the opening day, since it starts on March 15th.  Unlike the Baja Ha-Ha, where all the boats travel together from place to place, the El Salvador Rally ( ) is a destination rally.  Boats gather at Bahia del Sol in El Salvador for a month of fun events.  We won't stay very long, since we need to get to Panama, but we will get a chance to see some of the friends we have made along the way.  The low entrance fee of $66 also nets you discounts at marinas along the way, so it pays for itself pretty quickly.

This trip has been all about patience.  Sailing is slow.  Making the boat work well enough to sail is often even slower.  We have spent more time in marinas, fixing things or waiting for them to be fixed, than we have spent sailing. We spent a month in La Cruz, 10 days in Barra de Navidad, a month in Ixtapa and have now spent six weeks in Huatulco, although we were in the USA for four of those weeks.  Our generator was supposed to be fixed by March 1st and then that date was amended to March 11th.  When we arrived on the 11th, they said it would be done by the 13th.  We can see that they have made progress, but it has been slow.  It is often said that "manana" doesn't mean "tomorrow," it just means "not today."  We have been pretty lucky because this is the first time we have encountered the "manana" problem since we've been in Mexico.  Everyone else we have dealt with has been amazingly prompt.  It did, however, appear that they would be able to fix our original freezer for about forty bucks.  That will allow us to use one of the freezers as a refrigerator, which will be a good thing, since our refrigerators are only cooling to about 65 degrees in this heat.

Each time we make the trip to Sector V (where light industry is located) to check on our generator, we take advantage of the taxi ride to do other errands in the surrounding area.  The first time, we discovered the neighborhood where all the hardware stores were.  La Crucecita is very organized.  Like businesses tend to be located together, with the exception of Oxxo stores (like 7-11), which are found absolutely everywhere.  On Tuesday's trip, we went back to the hardware store to search for a 12 volt outlet so that we could wire power for the new freezer and fittings for the new autopilot pump.  Casa Pepe is a pretty good hardware store.  They had the copper tubing and fittings for the pump, but not the 12 volt receptacle.  The clerk and I amused ourselves learning the names of different fittings in our respective languages while Scott rummaged around, looking for what he needed.  Ever helpful, our clerk gave us directions to a couple of auto parts stores he thought might have the outlet.

It turns out that auto parts stores and repair shops are located in Sector T (for "transportacion".)  That sector was just across the main road, so we walked over there.  Our directions were a little spotty, but I had seen some of the landmarks and knew we were close.  I asked a woman in a restaurant for help and she directed me to one of the shops.  They didn't have what we wanted, but gave us directions to the other shop.  "Cancino's" is the local auto electrics place.  It was run by a large fellow who hid himself in the back behind a pillar and acted like he would rather not be bothered by customers.  I asked him for a 12 volt outlet and, when that drew a blank stare, I asked him for a cigarette lighter.  He still looked confused and wanted to know what for, so I made the mistake of saying that I wanted to plug in a refrigerator.  He then sent us around the corner to an electrical shop, but they only had 110 supplies.  Frustrated, we stopped at another auto parts store.  They didn't have the outlet, but seemed sure that Cancino's would have one.  The clerk told me exactly what to ask for (a cigarette lighter BASE.)  We crossed the street and disturbed the fellow behind the pillar again.  This time, he rummaged in the back and produced what we needed.  It cost us less than five bucks.  Finding parts in Mexico is often a matter of more detective work than shopping.
Buzzard in the Trash

It's easy to get used to this place and, especially in Huatulco where everything is new, forget that this is at best a second world country.  One of the things that will remind you is trash.  Huatulco is clean.  It is not that there is a lot of litter.  They just deal with trash differently than we do.  Construction debris is often used to fill potholes in dirt roads.  Trash is collected in stake-bed trucks, not the giant automated garbage trucks that one sees in the USA.  The people who collect it pick through it for recyclables and other salable items.  It is probably a very efficient system.  Garbage cans here are usually 50 gallon drums without lids.  This allows animals to make quite a mess, especially since there is often more garbage than cans.  In Huatulco, there don't seem to be raccoons or dogs getting into the trash, but the buzzards do a fine job of scattering it around. Perhaps they do a better job, since they can fly.

Scott woke me with a coughing fit at 6:30 AM on Wednesday.  This was actually a good thing.  The heat makes it difficult to get to sleep, so I had been staying up late and arising after 8:00, when it was already too hot to run comfortably.  I had gone for a run on Sunday morning, but was really feeling the heat.  At 7:00 AM, the air was still cool enough to be pleasant.  I ran over to the beach in Santa Cruz and back (2+ miles.) I slacked off on running when we were in the USA, so was having to work up to longer runs again.  I did do some push-ups, sit-ups and squats first.  My first day back at the gym when I went home nearly killed me, so I have resolved to keep up with my CrossFit exercises to some degree.  The good thing about running in the heat is that it makes taking a cold shower in the morning much more acceptable.

Our friends on Liebling came back to the marina on Wednesday.  They had been in Chiapas.  They gave us a report about how some of our other friends are doing and also a review of Puerto Chiapas.  The marina is nice and the slip fees are low, but it's a 45 minute cab ride to town.  We don't plan to stay there any longer than we need to rest and maybe buy groceries.
New Chart Plotter

Scott made progress installing the new Northstar chart plotter that we received from our sponsor, Steve Hamber, a distributor of marine electronics.  The chart plotter was working, but GPS data on distance to waypoint was intermittent.  The dinette is a tangle of wires, once again.  It was nice having all the ceiling panels back in for a little while, at least.
Tangle of Wires in the Dinette

Since we now have a better wi-fi signal, I decided to sign us up for a Netflix streaming plan.  I went to the website, but was discouraged that the only streaming plan available cost $99 per month.  It took me some time to realize that the website knew we were in Mexico and this was actually 99 pesos.  I signed us up and we are now (sometimes) able to watch movies.  This makes sitting and sewing all day much more bearable.

Thursday, I got up in the morning and started working on replacing the furling line.  We bought a larger headsail while we were in La Cruz, but hadn't been able to install it because it required a longer furling line.  We had brought a length of line back with us from the USA.  I took the old line off and, when Scott got up, we took down the old sail, raised the new one, and rolled the fresh line onto the furler.  The old line was very rough and hard on the hands.  This one is much softer.

We went back to the appliance repair shop to check on our generator and freezer.  The owner was out on a service call and his employee didn't know anything, although he thought the freezer was fixed.  We could see that no further progress has been made on the generator.  I left my phone number, but he never called me back.  We were getting frustrated and starting to think we had made a mistake in taking the generator there.

Friday was another wasted day except that I got up early and went for run over the big hill to Tangolunda and back (3+ miles.)  Scott made some more progress on the wiring for the electronics and I continued to work on sewing window screens while binge watching Orange is the New Black.  It was breezy, so I rigged the wind scoop, which really helped to cool off the boat, even though the weather was actually a bit hotter.

Shop Where Our Generator is Being Repaired
Saturday looked like it was going to be a wasted day until, about 3:30, Scott decided that we should go to the generator shop again.  We took a taxi over there, but they had closed for the day.  We then went to the hardware store in search of parts for the autopilot, but they were closed, too.  We had to settle for going to the grocery store.

I had intended to get up early on Sunday and go running, but just couldn't drag myself out of bed that early. I finally got up around seven and puttered around until Scott got up at nine and then made Paleo banana pancakes for breakfast.  It was exceptionally windy. I spent the day working on the window screens and trying to keep the boat from slamming into the dock every time a big gust of wind hit us.

Monday morning, I woke up at 6:15 and couldn't manage to wrest the covers away from Scott, so decided to get up and run.  Once again, I ran over the hill towards Tangolunda and made it almost all the way to the hotels this time.  I took a wrong turn coming back, so got to run up part of the steep hill twice on the return. At least it was early and only about 75 degrees out.  I appreciated my cold shower when I got back. Amazingly, Scott got up around 8:00 and we were able to head over to the generator shop before 11:00.  We found them actually working on our coil.  The owner's nephew said it was going rapidly and should be ready that day or the next.  He took my number and promised to call when it was completed.  It seemed we had finally bothered them enough times.  Our freezer, however, was pronounced dead.  The circuit board was shot.  At least that gives us another accessible storage locker.

From the generator shop, we headed over to Casa Pepe, the hardware store, to buy some small, deep sockets so that we could change one of the burners on the stove and take another crack at finding the fittings necessary to mate our (semi) new pump to the existing autopilot.  We got the sockets, but failed to find the correct fittings.  Nobody there knew of a shop that sold hydraulic fittings, so they sent us back to Sector T to ask someone there.  We went back to the helpful auto parts store that had assisted us in finding the 12 volt socket.  There always seem to be a bunch of mechanics hanging out there and they compete to see who can be the most helpful.  Once again, they came through with the name of Grupo Mafico, a hydraulics shop located two blocks behind the Goodyear tire store in Sector I.  We took a taxi over there and got to see another neighborhood of La Crucecita. Grupo Mafico was a great find.  They had exactly what we needed.  We bought our parts, stopped at my bank which was conveniently located nearby, and then walked back to the marina, stopping at "We" for beers and burgers on the way.  Strong winds are forecast in the Gulf of Tehuantepec for the next few days, but a weather window should be opening on Saturday.  We just might be able to get out of here, after all.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Megayachts in Huatulco
We were both a little slow getting started on Monday morning due to the lingering effects of jet lag. Scott strung up the wi-fi extender.   Although it will ultimately need to be mounted on the mizzen mast, it does allow us to get wi-fi in the boat, which is handy, but allows us to waste too much time playing games and surfing the internet.  I thought I would convert my Netflix account to a streaming plan so we could watch movies, but the only plan available here costs $99/month, so I abandoned that idea.  Eventually, we got up a head of steam and went ashore.  We had not paid the marina before we left, so they were eager to see us.  The used pump for our autopilot (keeping our fingers crossed that it will work) that Scott had ordered from the Raymarine shop in La Cruz had arrived.  I paid the marina for the month we had already been there, but we were unable to agree on what to pay after that.  There are different rates for daily, weekly, and monthly tenancy and they do not allow you to change from one to the other.  If one is going to be here more than 15 days, the monthly rate is cheaper.  We still had no idea how long we would be in Huatulco, so we put them off another day, even though the main office wanted to know what rate we would pay for their forecast, until we could visit the generator shop.

Machine Shop in La Crucecita
Heat Exchanger and Rail
We walked up to the ATM to get another batch of pesos in case our generator was ready.  We had a little trouble flagging a cab down in front of the bank, but a short walk up to the busy Pemex station yielded several.  Our cabbie took us up to the shop where we had left our generator but, of course, it wasn't ready.  The repairman claimed to have had difficulty acquiring the parts, but said he now had them and the generator would be ready by Friday afternoon.  We suspected he just didn't want to start on such a big job until he was sure we were coming back.  We had expected that, although it was still a disappointment.  We hopped back in the cab and drove around the corner to the machine shop.  Apparently, they had more faith in us.  Our motor mounting rail and heat exchanger were ready.  They claimed they could not find a leak in the heat exchanger, but it was plugged up.  They had cleaned it out and reassembled it for us and built a shiny new replacement rail for a total of 1100 pesos (<$85.)

With all those heavy parts, we couldn't do much else, so we took the taxi back to the marina.  Scott dropped the parts off at the boat and we turned around and walked back up to the grocery store to purchase some provisions.  It was hot, so we took a taxi back to the marina.  It was two bucks well spent. Our brief visit to the U.S. had left us unaccustomed to the heat and humidity.

New Freezer
Scott pretty much slept for the rest of the week.  One of the reasons that we had gone back to the United States was to get Scott some help for his depression.  He claimed that he was not nearly as depressed as before, but his body was requiring a lot of sleep as he adjusted to the antidepressants.  Knowing that we had a long list of projects to complete before we could leave for Puerto Chiapas, I was champing at the bit. Tuesday, I yanked the old freezer out of its compartment under the dinette.  We had hoped to fit the new one in there by dropping it down into the bilge below the floorboards, but the curve of the hull did not leave us quite enough space.  My next idea was to stow the spare dinghy in that locker and locate the freezer in the aft cabin where the dinghy had resided.  That scheme was also doomed to failure.  The transom of the dinghy was half an inch to long to fit in the locker, even after re-rolling it as tightly as possible.  Plan C is to put the dinghy under the V-berth where the life vests are stowed and relocate the life vests to under the dinette.  Executing that plan will have to wait until the generator can be reinstalled, as the generator case is in the way.  Fortunately, the freezer fits in the aft cabin just fine and actually looks a lot better than the stack of junk it replaced.  It may not fit anywhere, but it does hold more than the old one and seems to run colder.  There is an outlet to plug it into the 110 power, but Scott will need to rig a 12 volt power source before we can use it while at sea.

Screen with Shade Open
Screen with Shade Unrolled
Knowing that the generator wouldn't be ready until at least Friday, I paid the marina for another month.  We could stay until March 25th without incurring further marina expense, although we really need to get moving sooner than that if we are going to stay on schedule.  I spent Wednesday and Thursday sewing window screens by hand.  While we had screens for all the hatches, many of the frames were broken and they were problematic to use.  The wooden frames were bulky and they had to be completely removed in order to open and close the hatches, which left them taking up space in the salon whenever it rained or we left the boat.  We had a nifty screen for the master cabin that doubled as a sun shade.  We wanted more of those, but their $200 price tags put them out of our budget.  I decided to make screens that could be secured over the hatches with velcro and have a second layer of black fabric that rolls up like a tent flap, but can be unrolled when shade is desired.  I had sewed the shade portions while we were at home, but had not received the screen material in time to construct the rest.  Our sewing machine wasn't working, anyway, so I didn't gain much by making them at home.  Sewing the screens by hand is a slow process, but I finished a couple of them.  The one for the forward cabin was especially important, since that cabin is often occupied and the original screen was only marginally functional and often collapsed.  Scott took me out for dinner at the sports bar, which is called "We" for some reason.  This place is so overrun by Canadians that they were playing two different hockey games.  I was enjoying watching the Kings slaughter Winnipeg, but Scott made me leave after the 3rd quarter because the jazz band playing outside was driving him crazy.  I admit that jazz and hockey were a bad combination (or maybe just required more beer to appreciate.)

Scott arose before 10AM on Friday.  That was encouraging.  He started the process of installing the new chart plotter, but ran out of steam.  By 4:00, he was ready to head over to check on the generator.  Since appliance repair is the ostensible activity of the shop, we took the broken freezer with us.  I have no idea why we didn't try that before buying a new one, but I guess it didn't occur to either of us.  The generator was not ready.  It was taking longer than expected, although we could see that they had made progress.  The repairman said it would be ready on the following Tuesday.  We hooked the freezer to a battery and showed him what appeared to be wrong.  He agreed to take it apart and check all the electrical connections, so we left it with him.  We needed to buy some new bolts to reinstall the rail, so he directed us to the local "casa de tornillos" (house of screws.)  There seems to be at least one in every town and they are wondrous.  It took us a while to find it, but we did locate several hardware and building supply businesses in the same area.  We got the bolts we needed and checked out what was available in the local shops.  Then we wandered over to the plaza and had a beer in an upstairs cafe overlooking the park before walking back home.  I made pork with red Thai curry for dinner.

Saturday was Scott's birthday.  I had hoped we could spend the day sipping rum drinks beside the pool at the local beach club, but Scott elected to sleep late and spend most of the day playing computer games and surfing the internet.  We did manage to get out of the boat after if got dark and took a nice walk over the hill to Santa Cruz, where we ate beef fajitas in an unremarkable restaurant by the beach and listened to the music from a dance concert that was happening nearby.  On the way back, we stopped in a cafe near the marina and had some celebratory dessert.

I spent the entire weekend sewing window screens.  We now have a screen for one of the big side windows and I am working on the other one so that we can get some cross ventilation going when we aren't at a dock where we can run the giant fan.  Of course, to get airflow, we have to take down the sun screen.  It's a trade off.  Scott made a lot of progress with installing the new chart plotter on Sunday.  He spent a lot of time splicing together incompatible cables and figuring out how to translate the signal from one manufacturer to that of another so that the chart plotter would interface with the GPS and (as yet non-functional) autopilot.  The autopilot is a project for a future date.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Pumpkin - the Best Reason to Visit Home
Fernweh - (n.) An ache for distant places; a craving for travel.

Just Part of the Prunings from My Yard
Four weeks at home may not have been enough time to see all my friends, catch up on yard work, and hunt down all the boat parts, clothing and food items we needed, but it was long enough for me to start yearning to be cruising again.  Arriving in Huatulco felt like coming home, even though we had only been here for a week or so before we left.

                                                                                                                                                   Our trip back was actually kind of hilarious.  Our flight didn't leave until 1 AM.  Ingemar drove us to the airport.  We were traveling with two big duffel bags, two heavy carry-ons, a cardboard box full of boat parts and a chest freezer wrapped in a purple yoga mat because the original packaging exceeded the allowable size for checked luggage.  This amounted to nearly 250 pounds of baggage, which caused Ingemar's Lincoln to bottom out when we left the driveway and required two luggage carts.  I had called ahead to ask whether or not we could check the freezer, but the clerk at the check-in counter was reluctant to accept it.  We had to schlep it over to security and ask the TSA folks, who fortunately said, "No problem."

My next fear was getting everything through customs. We had elected to bring everything with us on the plane, rather than shipping it, because FedEx had advised us that we would need to hire a customs broker and provide original invoices (which we didn't have in many cases) for everything in order to get our goods through customs if we shipped them.  We had a five hour layover in Mexico City and speculated that we should be able to talk our way through customs and pay any necessary duty during that time.  Sure that we would not just be waved through with our two carts, giant purple freezer and monumental stack of belongings, I had admitted to carrying food on my customs declaration form.  They waved us through, anyway.  We didn't end up paying a cent of duty!  The security guard at the place to drop off connecting baggage, however, rejected our cardboard box of boat parts.  We had to go to the ticket counter, stand in a long line, and check it there.  Fortunately, someone pulled us out of the line when we were only part way through.  Having been up virtually all night, we were glad to be able to grab some breakfast and coffee.

It took forever for our luggage to arrive once we got to Huatulco and our freezer was the last item off the plane.  There were no carts, so we had to hire a porter with a giant hand truck.  It cost twice as much to get back to the marina in a collectivo van than it had to arrive there in a taxi, but we were the only ones on the van, so at least there was room for our luggage.  It had taken every peso I had to pay the fare, so I had to get the driver to stop at the bank in order for me to get pesos for his tip.  Luckily, that also allowed us to buy dinner.

The weather was a sunny 91 degrees when we arrived.  It took two trips with a rusty, rattle trap shopping cart to get our bags to the boat.  Pedro, whom we had hired to look after the boat, had everything in ship shape when we got back. Unfortunately, it seemed a little desolate.  Most of our friends had moved on and our favorite restaurant had closed while we were gone, another victim of Fonatur's outrageous rent.  After a long nap, we hiked across the road to a nearby sports bar for dinner.  We watched part of the Oscars there, but were too sleepy to stay up for the rest.  The balmy evening felt delicious.  I definitely felt like I had returned to my "real" life.