Wednesday, December 31, 2014

CHRISTMAS IN CHIAPAS

December 23, 2014

My goal for the day was to head into Tapachula to find corn husks for making tamales and to pick up salad fixings and ingredients for cookie baking.  Our little party that had originally looked like five or six people had grown to thirteen and would now include a gift exchange.  Sailors are some of the most welcoming people on the planet.  With the arrival of each new boat, it was as if unexpected family members had dropped in for the holidays.  If there are two boats in an anchorage or marina, no one need worry about being alone for the holidays.

The Chedraui in Tapachule
I had already determined that Walmart was out of corn husks, so I stayed on the collectivo well into Tapachula until I came to the Chedraui shopping center.  Going to a shopping mall on December 23rd was madness.  The place was mobbed.  I did, however, manage to get everything I needed for Christmas dinner, although I was unable to buy eggs.  They were out of packages of a dozen and I couldn’t carry, store, or use a two and a half dozen flat.  Every gringo in Tapachula (and I was surprised how many there were) was in that store.  I found that odd, since I never saw any in the Walmart.  They weren’t sailors, so I wondered who they were and what in the world they were doing in Tapachula.


I had no trouble flagging down a collective going my way, but it was a challenge to wedge myself and my shopping bags (Thanks heavens I only had two!) into that van.  It was completely stuffed and everyone was bearing as many parcels as he or she could carry.  I was the fifth person squeezed into the front row and was pressed so hard against the door that I couldn’t get my hand into my pocket to pull out my bus fare.  I had to wait until we stopped and the door was opened.  Fortunately, people began to get off once we cleared the city limits.  By the time we got to the fishing port, there were only three of us left, myself and two women going deep into Playa Linda.  The van driver didn’t feel like driving to Playa Linda because it was a busy day and he could make much more money making runs to and from Tapachula.  He flagged down a taxi and paid him to take us to our destinations while he headed back to town.  I didn’t mind the extra service one bit.  The driver let me off right in front of the boatyard instead of a quarter mile away along the side of the road.

Back at the boat, Scott was finishing up cleaning the oil mess out of the bilge and disposing of the carcass of the old air conditioner.  Once he put the floor back in, I made guacamole and chips, which tided us over until I finished preparing a dinner of spicy chicken wings and salad.  After dinner, I slathered myself with bug repellent and went up to the bench outside the office to work on my blog post.

December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve and Christmas are usually not holidays for me.  I only celebrate them for other people and usually spend them cooking fiendishly.  I looked forward to attending a potluck where I only had to produce a couple of dishes.  I decided to give myself a day off from boat repairs.  Unfortunately, my bladder awoke me at 6:00.  I decided to get up and use the extra time to run all the way to what passed for a town in Playa Linda.  Knowing that I would need to cover about 14km, I alternated running and walking every five minutes.  The sidewalk, upon which I had been running for the past week, was still under construction.  Someone had planted palm trees along it since the last time I had been there.  Many of them were in need of staking, so I had to push them out of the way as I passed.  They would be very attractive in a few years.  Playa Linda was making a real effort to improve its appearance.  Even the road was being repaved. 

Playa Linda straggles along the beach for about three miles from the Navy Base to the downtown at the end of the road.  The beach side of the road is mostly large villas and hotels, most of which appear to be abandoned.  The inland side of the road is poorer, but more populated.  Small homes and businesses line the road.  The sidewalk seemed to have had limited success in exercising eminent domain.  Some walls and buildings had been demolished to make way for the path, but others jutted all the way out to the road, causing the pavement to narrow or halt altogether.  The gaps became more and more frequent as I drew nearer to the town.  This was a shame, as the town generally grew busier and more prosperous in that direction and a continuous promenade would have been useful.  Roadside restaurants sported swimming pools and some of the hotels along the beach were still operating.  At the end of the road, there was a small town, mostly consisting of palapa restaurants on the beach.  The beach was wide and sandy, but not particularly attractive.  It was deserted at 7:30 in the morning.  The place reminded me very much of El Salvador.  Nothing was modern and everything appeared improvised with whatever materials were at hand.  Still, it was interesting to explore the town and see the villas interspersed with enterprises such as a tortilleria, a field of squash and a turkey farm.

After running and walking for a couple of hours, I was tired and rested for a bit before showering and briefly using the internet.  My main mission for the day was to bake cookies for Christmas.  I adapted a recipe for coconut lemon meltaways to local ingredients and made them with limes, instead.  Fortunately, I had coconut oil and a pound of almond flour squirreled away in the boat and coconut and agave syrup were readily available.  Our cranky old oven actually lit for me (usually, Scott has to help me) and the cookies were completed before noon.

Cargo Tricycle with Sound System
Cars with loudspeakers on top are a popular advertising medium in Mexico where no one is concerned with noise pollution.  The convenience store and restaurant at the marina had decided to do some advertising but, rather than use a car, they mounted their sound system on a cargo tricycle.  The employee pedaling the tricycle returned to the store for lunch and to use the restroom, treating us to frequent high volume advertisements for Punto Modelo y Restaurant Baos.  I came to know that ad by heart.  Scott spent the day relaxing, so I elected to do the same.  I was deadly bored.  Dinner was spicy pork that I had originally bought to use in tamales, but decided against at the last minute.  We retired early.


December 25, Christmas, 2014

Clean(er) Engine Room
We received the use of a hundred foot garden hose for Christmas.  Breakfast was put on hold until Scott had finished cleaning the oily mess out of the engine room.  Finally, it looked like the white painted space I had prepared before we installed the engine back in October of 2013 instead of an oily morass.  We were almost out of water in our tanks, so it was nice to have the hose to use for dishwashing.  A hundred feet of garden hose stretched across an asphalt lot on a 90 degree day makes for jolly solar hot water.  I cleaned up the dishes from the night before and then made paleo banana pancakes and bacon for breakfast.


Tamale Ingredients
After breakfast, I started work on the tamales for Christmas dinner.  As we were on the hard, with limited dishwashing facilities, I opted to start my filling with packaged chilorio, a type of spicy, shredded meat usually used for making tacos.  For the pork ones, I added garlic, onions and chile arbol.  For the chicken ones, I added garlic, onions and Oaxaca cheese.  Once the fillings were prepared, I started on the dough.  My bag of masa did not include the tamale recipe found on the ones sold during the holidays, so I had to find a recipe on the internet.  It was a different recipe than the one I usually used and included sour cream (which had to be imported from California.)  I made about three dozen tamales, tying them up in their corn husk wrappers with strips of corn husk and steaming them in two batches in our recently purchased tamale pot.  I put the finished tamales in a Styrofoam cooler to keep warm.  Coolers make great warmers and things don’t cool rapidly in 90 degree heat.  I finished the tamales by 15:00 and had time to make a big salad before we left for the party at 16:00.


Mary Ann in Gallant Fox
Nearly everyone in the marina came to the party and there were fifteen of us for dinner.  We had people from the USA, Canada, Germany, Denmark and Australia.  Gary and Mary Ann hosted the party on their Malo 39, Gallant Fox, a lovely Swedish yacht with air conditioning.  Gary cooked a turkey and made stuffing and cranberry chutney.  Brad and Joanne from Loukia brought mashed potatoes and veggies.  Others contributed salads and cakes.  Birgit made a tasty almond pudding with strawberries and a tart berry sauce.  Bruno brought wine.  There was more than enough food and the wine flowed freely.  It was a delightful party with great people.  Birgit was especially excited because they had sailed all the way from Seattle and it was the first time they had met other cruisers.  We retired, glowing with good cheer and thankful to be part of the worldwide sailing community.

Peanut Butter from the Gift Exchange





















December 26 and 27, 2014

Our Dishwashing Setup
We received no indication from our parts supplier that our parts had been sent before or after Christmas.  We assumed that no progress would be made until Monday, the 29th.  The marina repossessed the hose before we even awoke on the 26th, so I couldn’t wash the boat that day.  We spent the day being completely lazy and munching on leftovers.  Finally, after dark, the hose was returned and I washed the dust and grime off the foredeck and cabin top.


Saturday, the marina still needed the hose.  I got up and ran about four miles through Playa Linda.  On my way in, I found a beautiful artificial lei by the side of the road.  Having nowhere else to put it, I put it around my neck and kept running.  It was annoying, but too pretty to throw away.  Once into Playa Linda, I was chased by a dog until a young woman and her little girl called him off.  I ran into them again on my return and the little girl approached me.  She was about five or six and had bangs and big, black eyes.  I figured she must have been attracted by the lei.  Her mother told me she wanted to give me a kiss.  I bent down, we exchanged pecks on the cheek, and I gave her my lei, saying, “Feliz Navidad.”  It was a sweet moment and left me feeling good all day.

In the afternoon, we were heading for the road to catch a collectivo to town when Memo pulled alongside and offered us a ride.  He let us off at the Walmart shopping center where we returned the can of bondo we hadn’t used and picked up enough perishables to hold us until we left.  Scott stopped at a barbershop and got a haircut and much needed moustache trim.  The hose was available when we got home, so we were able to do dishes but, knowing that we would have it all day Sunday, I didn’t try to wash the rest of the boat in the dark.

December 28, 2014

With empty water tanks and a dirty boat, our lives had come to be controlled by our access to the water hose.  I got up early to wash the aft section of the boat before it got too hot.  The boat was very dirty and this took a couple of hours, leaving me dripping with sweat.  I rested and hid from the sun until after lunch, when I headed back out to scrub the aft deck with teak cleaner in preparation for oiling the deck.  Oiling could not commence until the teak was good and dry, so I returned below to wait for the teak to dry.  Two different kinds of wasps were trying to nest behind our headliner and we chased them off with fly swatters and insect repellent, hoping that our next return to the boat would not find it swarmed with bees.  Scott and I had both been stung since we arrived.

I had been unable to sleep the night before due to the heat.  I lay down to take a nap and ended up sleeping all afternoon.  By the time I awoke, it was 17:15 and I barely had time to scrub the foredeck with teak cleaner before it got too dark to see.  I made dinner, but then I was wide awake.  I went up to the office to use the internet and enjoy the cool air.  To do this, I had to douse myself with insect repellent to keep off the mosquitos and noseeums.  During the day, I had to put it on my feet to keep the ants from biting.  While washing the boat, I had flushed out a three inch long grasshopper.  I was starting to feel like I was losing the battle against the insects.

December 29, 2014

I wanted to run, but got up and started to oil the teak on the aft deck, instead, before it got hot.  I worked until 11:00 or so and then had to retire inside to cool off.  I did a bit more after lunch and then finished up in the late afternoon when a breeze came up.  It was 94 degrees outside.  Scott didn’t start working on the air conditioner until about 17:00.  He was not morning person enough to do anything before it got hot, so his window of opportunity to accomplish things was very short.  He had managed to contact our parts supplier and determine that the engine parts would not arrive until January 2, two days after we had left.  Scott got the air conditioner plumbed and connected the wires, but there was a fault in the wiring somewhere and it did not work.  Tracing that fault would have to wait.

December 30, 2014

Vicious Guard Dog
At 4:00, I had to make a trip down the ladder and across the yard to the restroom.  The marina had adopted a dog since we left last May and she did not like me.  She was chummy with all the marina employees and would allow Scott to scratch her head, but she wouldn’t allow me to get anywhere near her without a growl.  It seemed that she only liked men, which made sense since there were no women working at the marina.  She was a good guard dog and barked ferociously at me as I crossed the yard.  Usually, she just eyed me suspiciously, but there was another dog present, so she put on a good show.


I spent the morning oiling the teak on the foredeck.  We had left a partial gallon of teak oil in a lazarette when we left the boat earlier in the year.  In the blistering heat, it had separated and formed a solid mass around the bottom and sides.  We left it in the sun to melt and shook it and I was able to recover much of the oil.  The jelly like stuff hovering under the liquid oil actually worked well, because it was easier to work into the cracks than the liquid.  The solid part, however, had turned to rubber and did not melt in the sun as I had hoped.  Eventually, I had to give up on what remained and open the new can I had brought with me from Puerto Vallarta.

Cruise Ship in at Puerto Chiapas
In the afternoon, Scott discovered that his flight had been changed from late afternoon to 11:00 in the morning.  He scurried around the boat, packing and stowing loose sails and lines.  I removed the mosquito netting, hoping to keep it from getting all moldy from the condensation on the windows.  We hoped that the boat would stay drier with 50 fewer gallons of oily water in the bilge, but could not be certain how well it would be closed up after the engine work was completed in our absence.  The air conditioner repair was put on hold until the next visit.


We tried to go to Restaurant Baos for a farewell dinner but, after we got cleaned up and walked over there, we discovered they were having a private party.  We returned to the boat and had soggy leftover fried chicken, beans and the remainder of the salad fixings for dinner.  After three weeks of heat and boredom, we were ready to leave Chiapas.  I couldn’t help but feel that, given that we made zero progress on the engine work, our time would have been better spent in my pretty apartment in La Cruz.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

WAITING FOR PARTS IN SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS

December 14, 2014

We had gone to bed early the night before, so got up just after dawn to do a couple of things like put an extra coat of paint on the first aid kit latches before packing up and heading off to Tapachula to catch our bus to San Cristobal.  We took a collectivo to the end of the line in Tapachula and then walked a couple of blocks to pick up another collectivo that ran around the ring road (periferico) and deposited us directly in front of the bus station.  We checked our luggage and then Scott remembered that there was a good restaurant across the street, so we repaired there to eat breakfast and listen to live marimba music until it was time to catch the bus.

Chiapas Scenery
The bus route followed the coast northwest around the top of a mountain range and then turned north to pass through Tuxtla-Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas, before climbing up to San Cristobal de las Casas.  The entire bus ride took us eight hours.  We arrived in San Cristobal at 19:00.  It was Sunday evening and felt much later than it was.  We took a taxi to our hotel, which was about a mile from the bus station.  We stayed at B&B Le Gite de Sol, a hostel run by French Canadians.  Our double room cost us $13 per night including a lovely hot breakfast.  The bathroom was down the corridor and there was no heat, but the mattress was comfortable and the small room was comfortable enough with the two of us and a
Our Room at Le Gite del Sol
computer to warm it.  The staff was very friendly and helpful.  We were able to book a tour to Sumidero Canyon for the following morning.  Then we walked about three blocks us the street to a taqueria that was open and had coletas, which were a cross between soft tacos and quesadillas. 


December 15, 2014

Early Morning San Crisotbal
Christmas Tree in the Plaza
I got up before 7:00 and took a shower in the unheated bathroom.  The water was warm, but the tile floor was frigid and I was glad for my shower sandals.  Scott still wasn’t up when I got back, so I dressed and went out in search of an ATM.  I found one on the pedestrian street one block over from our hotel and then walked up to the zocalo and snapped a few photos.  On my way back, I stopped for a cappuccino to go.  Scott was ready when I returned and we adjourned to the hotel’s primary location (we were across the street) for breakfast.  We sat there, eating breakfast and basking in the sun until the van arrived to take us to the Canyon del Sumidero.

Buzzards' Beach
It took us about an hour to drive through the mountains to Chiapa de Corzo, the town at the gateway to the canyon.  Sumidero Canyon is a dramatic canyon (1000 meters deep at one point) where the Grijalva River cuts through the limestone mountains.  The canyon has been damned to provide hydroelectric power.  There are actually four dams on the Grijalva in Chiapas.  The Grijalva flows from the mountains of Guatemala, through Chiapas, to the Gulf of Mexico.  We boarded a motor launch that took us down the river for an hour or so to the reservoir.  The canyon was spectacular and we saw many birds, spider monkeys and crocodiles.  

Canyon del Sumidero

Christmas Tree Falls
 At one point we stopped to look at a waterfall that had produced vegetation in the shape of a Christmas tree.  It looked like a tree from afar, but was much more beautiful close up where we could see the moss, grasses and flowers growing there.
Falls Close Up

Crocodile Guarding His Plastic Treasure
Dam at the Bottom of Sumidero Canyon
Canyon del Sumidero
The canyon was impressive, but there was a disgusting amount of plastic floating in the water.  Our guide said that five tons per day washes down during the rainy season.  We saw a crocodile sitting on a pile of soda bottles like a dragon on his treasure.  We motored up to the damn where a panga was selling beer and snacks.  After stopping for photos, we turned around and motored back down the river to the dock where we had embarked.  After a short ride, we stopped at Chiapa de Corzo for a quick visit to see the famous fountain which was built in 1562 and is the symbol of Chiapas.  The fountain is a sort of baptismal sheltered by a brick structure of unique Moorish architecture.  It was under restoration and had a cyclone fence around it, making it hard to photograph.  The surrounding park was thoroughly decorated for Christmas.  Vendors sold sweets and crafts under the arcades surrounding the park.  We bought some cookies to tide us over until dinner.  Another hour in the van returned us to the zocalo in San Cristobal.
Font at Chiapa de Corzo
Ex Convent of Santo Domingo
 After a quick stop at the hotel, we took a walk across town to the temple and ex-convent of Santo Domingo.  The church facade is a baroque pink sandstone masterpiece added in the 18th century.  The church itself was built in the 1540s and was paneled with heavily carved, gilt wood.  The many paintings had darkened from centuries of candle smoke, but the overall effect was still impressive.  A large artisan’s market surrounds the church, crowding right up onto the church steps.

On our way back, we stopped into a wine bar featuring Mexican wines.  The first one we tried was a Cabernet Malbec from Baja California.  It was very good.  Impressed with that, we asked the Italian owner if there was something else we should try and he suggested an equally tasty petit syrah from the same region.  It was the first time I had tasted Mexican wine that wasn’t terrible and I was very pleasantly surprised.  After our wine, we stopped at a Lebanese restaurant for dinner before returning to our hotel to take advantage of the internet.

December 16, 2014
Steps up to the Mirador

We had gone to bed early the night before, so I managed to convince Scott to get up early with me and take a walk up to the overlook at the Iglesia de San Cristobal.  There were 276 steps up to the top and, unfortunately, the church was surrounded by pine trees that made it impossible to see any but brief glimpses of the view.  Lots of people were running up the hill and there were public exercise machines in a shelter in the park surrounding the church.  It was the breakfast hour by the time we got back, so we stopped for breakfast and coffee in the courtyard of the main location.  The hostess of the hostel didn’t speak much, if any, English, but she was one of the most welcoming people I had encountered anywhere in my travels.  The French Canadian owner spoke good enough English to handle matters requiring a common language.  The hostess and I got on fine in Spanish.

After breakfast, we packed and used the internet for an hour or so until it was time to walk to the bus station.    We had taken a taxi to the hostel when we arrived, since it was dark and we had no idea where we were going.  Armed with the excellent map provided by the hostel, we were able to walk the mile or so back to the bus station with no trouble.  Most of the way led along Avenida Insurgentes, the main shopping street for locals.  Busloads of people were arriving from the capital and elsewhere and the sidewalks were so crowded that it felt like we were swimming upstream.  Eventually, we arrived at the bus station and waiting there for an hour until our bus arrived about 11:45.

Mountain Scenery in Chiapas
The bus route to San Cristobal had followed Hwy 200 northwest along the coast and then cut inland to the capital of Tuxtla-Gutierrez before climbing up to San Cristobal.  This was the long way around but, as we learned when our return took us the more direct route of Hwy 190, was much faster.  It took us eight hours to get to San Cristobal, but 10 hours to get back.  We were still glad that we had taken the circular route, however, as the trip through the mountains was very beautiful.  The mountains near the Guatemalan border were very lush and green.  I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of roadside garbage.  If we had been in El Salvador, garbage would have been strewn everywhere.  Chiapas seemed to like its countryside tidy.

It was nearly 22:00 by the time we reached Tapachula.  I was tired and hungry and it was raining in places, so we grabbed a taxi at the bus station.  As usual, the taxi driver had no idea where to find the marina, but we had become quite adept at giving directions.  Due to the lateness of the hour, he charged us 300 pesos (about $21), which still wasn’t bad for a 35km cab ride.  Despite the fact that the Tapachula area was definitely the armpit of Chiapas, it was oddly comforting to return to the boat, even up on stands in the yard.  We shared a can of tuna for dinner and called it an evening.

December 17, 2014

I must have been very tired, because I slept in until nearly 8:00.  I showered and used the internet for an hour and a half and then returned to the boat to re-glue the Velcro securing the mosquito netting and clean another section of the main salon that had been sufficiently cleared to allow me access.  I cleaned the interior of the first aid container with its freshly painted latches and repacked the first aid supplies.  While repacking the first aid kit in the forward head, I realized that the forward head made a jolly steam room.  It had only a prism for light and no opening hatches.

About 15:00, we set off for Tapachula on a collectivo to visit Home Depot and finally buy some fresh food at the grocery store.  We had two windows in the aft cabin when the pop rivets securing the opening part of the window to the hinge had corroded away.  This was not a big problem to fix, as we had repaired the other two the previous season.  The hang-up was that Scott wanted to fill the void between the hull and the interior paneling with fiberglass while the windows were out of the boat.  We searched all over Home Depot and Autozone and, while we found a number of possible solutions, we did not find anything to thicken epoxy resin.  Scott was hesitant to use polyester resin (bondo) without verifying that it wouldn’t react with the fiberglass in the hull.  We returned without purchasing anything for that project, but we did get some connectors and tools he needed to repair the air conditioner and a few replacement solar lights.  We also got some reflective sunshades on close-out at Autozone that would work well to keep the sun out of our side windows.

By the time we had finished with Home Depot and Autozone, it was after 17:00 and we decided to eat Chinese food in the food court before doing our grocery shopping.  The Chinese food was much better than that I had eaten back in Nuevo Vallarta and it would have been an enjoyable meal if the local radio station had not been broadcasting from the mall and blaring their announcements at eleven on a scale of ten.  We had better luck at the grocery store than we had at Home Depot and managed to purchase all the meat, fruit, vegetables and beverages we could carry.  It was dark and nearing the hour when the collectivos stop running as far as the marina, so we were a bit concerned about finding a ride back.  We waited for some time and finally a collectivo advertising the destination of Puerto Madero slowed for us.  It was packed to the gills.  At first, they passed us by but, after taking a poll and determining that no one was actually going to Puerto Madero, backed up to let us on.  They found room for our groceries behind the rear seat and put Scott in the front seat with two others.  I squeezed into the front row with five (!) other people, facing backwards and perching on the edge of the hump containing the engine.  There were 23 people stuffed into that minivan.  Fortunately, people got off as we proceeded.  It was our good fortune that several other people wanted to go to destinations on the way to the marina or we might have been left behind.

December 18, 2014

I got up early and went for a three and a half mile run into Playa Linda and back.  A very nice stamped concrete sidewalk had been installed since the last time I had been there and I ran further than I had intended just to see how far it went.  Upon my return, I showered and spent the rest of the morning working on my blog.  I returned to the boat for lunch and did a bit of cleaning before napping most of the afternoon.  Our parts weren’t in, we were waiting for an answer from Nauticat about the fiberglass, and there wasn’t much else to do.  I got up about 18:00 and made chicken adobado and salad for dinner and then stayed up much too late, reading.

Fool's Castle in the Yard
December 19, 2014

Having stayed up too late the night before, I did not get up early to run.  I got up about 8:00, showered and used the internet.  Everyone in the marina was clustered around the office, either using the internet or waiting for Memo to take them to the port captain’s office.  I chatted with the owners of Gallant Fox and we decided to organize a potluck for Christmas dinner.  Finally, fearing that Scott would wonder what had become of me, I returned to the boat.  I made myself a smoothie (the best part of fresh food) and had a hardboiled egg for breakfast.  Eventually, Scott took off for Tapachula to collect the parts that, according to DHL’s website, had arrived there late the previous night.  We had elected to have them held in Tapachula because both times we had tried to send parts to the marina, they had been misplaced for several days because the drivers had no idea where the marina was located and kept trying to find it in Puerto Madero.

Unfortunately, Scott returned from Tapachula with only one of the two sets of bushings we needed.  Somehow, he had failed to order the other set, although we had received enough of the others for two extra cylinders.  Scott went online to order the missing bushings.  We did pretty close to nothing for the rest of the day as it was very hot.

December 20, 2014

Walmart Shopping Center in Tapachula
Having gone to bed early the night before, I had no trouble getting up early to run.  One again, I ran into Playa Linda, this time covering just over four miles.  It was still cool enough at that hour for the heat not to be oppressive and I covered the distance in good time.  After my shower/internet/ breakfast routine, Scott shooed me out of the boat so that he could tear up the floor and remove the large quantity of mixed oil and water slopping around in our bilge.  He sent me off the Tapachula to buy bondo and caulking so that we could repair and reseat the broken windows in the aft cabin.

I made a quick trip to the Home Depot and Autozone and stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fruit and meat.  I tried to get everything necessary to make Christmas tamales, but the store seemed to be out of corn husks.  Stores usually have displays of everything necessary to make tamales around Christmastime but, though I found a huge pyramid of masa and another of dried chiles, corn husks were nowhere to be found.

I returned from my shopping trip just in time for lunch and Scott had fortunately replaced the floor in the main salon.  I nibbled some lunch and lounged through the hottest part of the day.  Then I got up and removed the broken windows and cleaned off the old caulking while Scott worked on the air conditioner for a little while.  I couldn’t drill out the broken rivets because Scott was using the drill, so I gave up and went below to start dinner.

Improvised Menorah
Every year, during Hanukkah, I make latkes.  Usually, this is a quick process involving a food processor.  This year, the only implement I had to grate potatoes was a small, fine hand grater.  It took me quite some time to grate three potatoes.  I didn’t even try to grate an onion with that grater.  I just sliced them as thinly as I could.  Matzo meal was not available (neither were Hanukkah candles) in Mexico, so I substituted masa.  The latkes turned out nicely, despite their improvised nature.  We enjoyed our feast with French applesauce in squeeze envelopes.  Mexico doesn’t grow apples, either, although they do import them.

December 21, 2014

Holidays came thick and fast at the end of December.  It was hard to fathom its being winter solstice in the tropics where the sun sets about the same time every day and it was 90 degrees in the dead of winter.  If it hadn’t been for Facebook, I probably wouldn’t have noticed.  What was much harder to overlook were the numerous itchy insect bites covering our feed and legs.  They weren’t from mosquitoes.  We thought that many of them came from the ants that swarmed all over the area where we sat to use the WiFi, although jejenes (a type of noseeum) were also likely culprits.  Whatever was biting us was doing a thorough job and we were constantly scratching.  I had started putting on insect repellent before dusk every evening, but it didn’t seem to help, although it could have been the reason I never saw mosquitoes.

My goal for the day was to drill out the corroded pop rivets in our broken windows and replace them.  We searched and searched and could not find the appropriate sized drill bits.  Working in the shade of the hull, I used a large bit to trim off the rivet heads and then punched the bodies of the rivets out using a hammer and a screw.  Scott wanted to replace all of the rivets, but the ones in the frame side of the window were much more difficult to remove.  Even when I finally found the drill bits after spending most of the afternoon searching (They were right where we had looked for them a dozen times, of course.), I was unable to replace the rivets because the frame was not hollow enough for me to push the old rivets out of the way.  I drilled one of them out, but wasn’t able to put a new one in.  The good news was that they were in pretty good shape, each window had eight of them holding the frame side of the hinge, and they were unlikely to come apart.  By the time we reached this conclusion, it was getting dark and was too late to finish the project.
Baos Restaurant at the Marina

We lighted our Hanukkah candles and enjoyed a beer until we decided to go to Baos, the restaurant in the marina, for dinner.  Scott had enchiladas in mole.  I ordered fajitas, but was served a bacon burger.  When I sent it back, I eventually received a fajita sandwich on a baquette.  It was tasty, but not at all what I had been expecting.  So much for ordering fajitas to avoid eating grain products!






December 22, 2014

I had never been a morning person, but I truly enjoyed the gentle, warm mornings in the tropics.  Sure, it was often stinking hot by 9:00, but it was lovely to run at 6:30.  I got up and ran 4.25 miles through Playa Linda.
Reinstalled Window

My task for the day was reinstalling the windows in the aft cabin.  First, I had to reassemble them.  I reattached the hinge to the opening part of the window with four pop rivets per window. The holes were corroded and a bit rough, so I had to ream them out with a power drill before the rivets would slide into the holes.  Next, I slid the hinge on the opening part of the window into the hinge on the frame and secured it there with a set screw coated in anti-corrosive gel.  Before installing the window, I filled any small voids between the hull and the interior paneling with life caulk.  Then I ran a thick bead of lifecaulk all the way around the outer half of the window.  The tricky part was holding the outer half of the window in place while screwing it to the inner half in enough places to keep it from plummeting a dozen feet to the asphalt of the yard.  Once the window was secure, I used a flashlight to be sure that each screw matched up with the hole on the opposite side of the frame.  We had had leaks which might have been because some of the screws had gone under the outside frame instead of into the proper holes the last time the windows were installed.  That had kept them from cinching tightly against the hull all the way around.  Once all the screws were seated, I tightened them in a varying pattern to apply equal pressure all the way around until all the window frames were tight against the hull all the way around.  They looked good and I hoped they wouldn’t leak when the rainy season came.  We could then install the screens and keep at least the mosquitoes out of the aft cabin.  The jejenes (noseeums) could pass right through the screens.  Fortunately, there weren’t too many of them in the yard, although they were murder in the WiFi zone.


Guts of Two Air Conditioners
In the tropic heat, the window project took all day because it was necessary to retreat to the fan cooled main salon at intervals to cool off.  Scott’s project for the day was to move the (hopefully functional) air conditioner that he had made from a combination of two dead ones into the space under the bunk in the center cabin when it belonged.  It was considerably larger than the one it replaced, so it was a great relief to see that it actually fit.  Actually getting it working would have to wait for another day.  It was 17:00 and beer thirty.

In Mexico, you can buy pork leg that has not been turned into ham, but pork chops are likely to be smoked.  We had smoked chops and fried plantains for dinner along with a nice salad and then spent the evening reading.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

RETURNING TO CHIAPAS

December 8, 2014

I hardly slept for more than an hour at a time all night since I was afraid I would oversleep and miss my plane.  My alarm went off at 3:45 and I was glad to get up and get going.  I was ready long before 4:30.  I thought I heard a car about 4:15, so opened the door to find the very cabby with whom I had made the reservation poking around, trying to find me.  I was quite relieved to see him.  There was very little traffic at that hour, so we had a quick trip to the Puerto Vallarta airport.

The airport was fairly deserted at that hour.  I had agonized over what to do with the gallon of teak oil that I had purchased before I realized that I would be flying to Tapachula, rather than taking a bus.  Scott had talked to AeroMexico customer service and they had told him that there was no problem with bringing teak oil, but that if the flight was very heavy, they might limit me to three liters of liquid.  The plane was small, but only partially full at that hour.  Being a domestic flight, my bag didn’t have to go through a scanner before being checked and no one asked me about the contents.  I watched it disappear down the conveyor belt and wondered if I would ever see that $200 can of teak oil again.  I was desperate for a cup of coffee but, tragically, all the Starbucks were closed.

My flight to Mexico City left at 6:35 and took just over an hour.  Scott and I had planned to meet in Mexico City and take the same flight to Tapachula.  Unfortunately, when he arrived at the Sacramento airport for his 2:00 (Yes, 2 AM.) flight, it had been cancelled.  They re-booked him on a 6:00 flight, but it connected through Guadalajara.  He would not arrive in Tapachula until 22:00.  I had booked a hotel for us that he had stayed in previously, but he would not be there to help me to find it.

I arrived in Mexico City about 8:00.  A bus brought us from the plane to the terminal and there was a huge snarl at the door to the terminal because plane loads of people were trying to get out to board buses, but had to cross our long line to go through security once again.  People got into the wrong lines and it was a mess.  Once I got through security, the airport was not terribly crowded.  While using the restroom, I heard the last call for the flight to Tapachula that I almost booked before realizing that I wouldn’t have time to make the connection.  I would have to spend the entire day in the airport, but at least I would not be charged for missing my connecting flight as I had been the last time I passed through Mexico City.  AeroMexico doesn’t hesitate to book passengers on flights that they can’t possibly make, but they say it’s your own fault if you miss them.  I dislike the airline for that reason, but they are ubiquitous and impossible to avoid on routes to all but the most popular destinations.  Tapachula didn’t rate.

It was quite cold in Mexico City and my fingers and toes grew numb.  I finally found an open Starbuck’s and got a coffee to warm my fingers.  I was able to use the internet there and even to use the Starbuck’s user name and password on the Infinitum network elsewhere in the airport, which was very handy since the tables at Starbuck’s were always very crowded.  I caught up on my blog and read until my flight finally left around 15:00.  The flight to Tapachula was only an hour and a half.  After having been awake all night, I slept most of the way there.

Downtown Tapachula
I was very relieved to see that my luggage containing a gallon of teak oil had arrived in Tapachula unmolested.  To get a taxi at the airport, you must first buy a ticket at the taxi counter and then they assign you to a driver.  This keeps rates standard and makes sure the airport collects its taxes.  A private taxi from the airport to my hotel in Tapachula cost 230 pesos (about $16.50.)  That seemed like a good deal, although I later learned that it was only 150 pesos ($10.75) to return.  The airport is a good 25 km from the center of town.  The clerk at the counter seemed familiar with the hotel, but the taxi driver began to look concerned as we neared the central square and was quite relieved when I told him the address, which I had written down when I heard that Scott would not be with me.  I arrived at the hotel just in time to drop off my luggage and run out to get some dinner before it got dark.  Downtown Tapachula is probably not dangerous, but there is nothing attractive about it.  I was happy to grab some tacos al pastor from a taqueria on the corner.  My dinner of three tacos and a bottle of water cost me less than $3.  After dinner, I returned to the hotel and napped until Scott arrived around 23:00.


December 9, 2014

Neither Scott nor I had had any sleep the previous night, so we both slept hard and were a bit slow to rise.    Finally, around 10:30, we got it together enough to walk several blocks west to try to catch a collective to the marina.  I had no clue where to look and Scott couldn’t remember exactly which north and south street they took through town.  We asked someone and he told us to walk another two blocks east where we found a collectivo whose sign said it was going
to the Zona Naval, although he wasn’t actually going there.  He told us to walk another two blocks west where we finally caught our transport and settled down for the long ride.  The marina is something like 35 km from the center of town.  The fare on a collective is 20 pesos (<$1.50.)  We were often packed in a minivan with up to 23 people, but the price was right.

Marina Chiapas
Enrique and Memo at the marina were surprised and happy to see us.  I looked around the marina to see if I recognized any boats.  My friend, Venus, had already left, but out friend Peter’s catamaran was up in the yard with ours.  We headed up to the office.  The box with the replacement parts for the box of parts that had disappeared had just been delivered the previous day.  We opened it up and took and inventory.

Clutter Inside Fool's Castle
After visiting with the office, we headed out to the boat to check on the state of Fool’s Castle.  The outside of the boat was pretty filthy, but there were no glaring problems.  The inside was better than I had feared it might be.  There was black mold all over the hatches and windows and every horizontal surface was covered with clutter.    We hooked up the solar panels to charge the batteries, cleaned the mildew off a couple of windows, put sheets on the bed and took a nap.  About 3:30, we headed back out to the main road to catch a collectivo back to Tapachula. 

Fool's Castle in the Yard
I had a touch of the stomach flu and didn’t feel very ambitious.
We got back to Tapachula in plenty of time to walk around the plaza and find a restaurant for dinner.  We had stuffed, fried chicken breasts that closely resembled chicken cordon bleu.  They were very good, but I wasn’t able to eat more than half of mine, since I didn’t feel well.  Later, I lost what little I had eaten.











December 10, 2014

Lobby of Hotel Cervantino
We left the hotel a bit earlier than the day before and headed out to the marina.  When we got there, we were told that our mechanic would meet with us between 15:00 and 16:00.  I felt pretty lousy, but ate some crackers, drank some mineral water and cleaned a few hatches and windows between naps.  We waited for Marvin, the mechanic, until 17:00 when we started to worry that we would miss the last collectivo.  Memo called him for us and Marvin said he would meet us the next morning at 7:00.  We told him we couldn’t get to the marina by 7:00 because we didn’t have a car.  Memo said he would pick us up on his way to work at 7:30.  He was also kind enough to take us back to the hotel on his way home.


I still didn’t feel up to eating dinner.  Scott went out to the al pastor place on the corner and had a stuffed potato for dinner.  He brought me a plain quesadilla, which I managed to keep down.

December 11, 2014

We got up at 6:30 so as to be ready for Memo when he arrived.  We were ready at 7:30, but Memo was nowhere to be seen.  We waited until 8:00, but still there was no sign of Memo.  We began to get concerned that we would miss Marvin.  It looked like maybe Memo had forgotten us.  Enrique had once forgotten us on our previous trip to Chiapas, which may have clouded our judgement.  Finally, a few minutes after 8:00, we gave up and walked west until we found a bus heading towards Walmart.  We decided to stop at the shopping center to go to the bank and also to make a trip to Home Depot so that we could buy parts to convert an adaptor we had for our 30 amp power cord so that we could run our shore power off the 15 amp power in the yard.  The ATMs at the shopping mall were all down, but we had enough money to buy what we needed at Home Depot and pick up cleaning supplies so that I could assault the dirt on the boat.

It was 9:30 by the time we got to the marina.  Memo wondered why we hadn’t waited for him, although he admitted he had arrived shortly after we left.  Fortunately, Marvin had waited for us.  Our mission for the morning was to determine exactly which parts we did and did not have.  Over Labor Day weekend, we had driven to Tijuana, walked four boxes of parts through customs, and sent them to the marina via DHL.  Shortly thereafter, Scott had received an email from Enrique confirming that he had received four boxes of parts.  Two months later, when we told him we were coming, he claimed that he only had two boxes of parts.  Scott had requested proof of delivery from DHL and they claimed that the marina had signed for four boxes.  We had a mystery on our hands.  When Enrique had first told Scott that some of the parts were missing, Scott had ordered replacements for what  he knew was missing.  Those were the parts that had arrived just before we returned.

Boatyard at Marina Chiapas
Nasty Black Mold
We all trooped over to the ware-house to take an in-ventory of our parts.  After some digging, we dis-covered a third parcel containing our dinghy thwart, but the fourth box was still missing.  We were missing valve seals, some bearings and the bushings for the connecting rods and wrist pins.  Enrique went to talk to DHL on his way home for lunch and dropped Scott off at the hotel on his way.  I stayed behind and worked on cleaning the mildew off the remaining hatches and then commenced a thorough cleaning of the boat, beginning with the aft cabin where we sleep.  I cleaned our cabin and head, the galley except for the dinette, and most of the other surfaces I could reach that weren’t covered with junk.

Eventually, Scott took a collectivo back to the marina.  He had gone through his paperwork and determined that the missing box contained a complete gasket set and the missing bearings.  The bushings had never been ordered.  He dug through the spares on the boat and came up with the valve seals and necessary gaskets, but we still needed the bearings and bushings.  When the yard employees started heading for the highway, we packed up and followed them.  We boarded a very crowded collectivo and rode it to the Walmart shopping center, where we stopped to go to the ATM and grab some dinner at Taco Toro, our favorite spot in the food court there and, I fear to admit, our favorite restaurant in Tapachula.  My appetite was almost back to normal and I was able to enjoy a couple of their mixed tacos with cheese.

Back at the hotel, loud popping noises reverberated through the neighborhood every few minutes.  No one seemed panicked, so we were fairly sure it wasn’t gunfire.  It wasn’t mango season (I hit the deck the first time I heard a mango hit a tin roof.), so that left firecrackers as the likely source of the noise.  Mexico loves its fireworks. 


December 12, 2014

Our Room at Hotel Cervantino
With no early meetings, we took our time checking out of the hotel.  Scott went out for coffee and returned bearing a tiny gecko, knowing that I am partial to them.  He was very cute.    Eventually, we checked out and caught a cab to the marina.  Our 35 km ride to the marina cost us only 200 pesos (<$14.50.)  Taxis seems cheap in Chiapas unless you compare their prices to those of collectivos.  With all our heavy bags, it was worthwhile to pay for door to door service.

I started back in on the cleaning, beginning with the refrigerator and dinette and working my way through the forward head.  Scott dug through the marina’s warehouse and eventually found the missing box under a rudder and a sail, inside a larger collapsed box.  The complete gasket kit and missing bearings replenished our spares and left us missing only the buhsings.  Marvin could start reassembling the head while Scott ordered the bushings.

The latches holding the lid onto the case containing our first aid kit had corroded badly from the humidity.  I sanded off the rust and took them down the ladder to paint them with zinc primer.  While I was down there, I noticed that the yard employees were washing Peter’s catamaran and eventually Peter and I spied each other and started waving.  Peter had gone back to his home in France for six months since I had seen him last in El Salvador.  Like Scott, the heat was bothering him and he didn’t feel he could accomplish much.   I was glad I had stayed in Central America as long as I had and wasn’t as affected by the heat as they were.  (The cold, however, had paralyzed me when I returned home and it was still summer at that time.)  Peter and I compared notes and were disappointed to learn that neither of us knew the whereabouts of our friend, Venus, who had been in Chiapas until recently.

After my chat with Peter, I took my moldy mosquito screens up to the restrooms to wash them in soap and bleach.  They came mostly clean, which was a relief because they had looked disgusting.  Once that chore was accomplished, Scott and I took showers and then had a tasty and relaxing dinner at Baos, the restaurant at the marina.  It seemed that all the other cruisers in the marina were there, too.  I had chicken enchiladas in a black bean sauce, sprinkled with fried chorizo and salty hard cheese and garnished with fried plantains.  They were delicious.  Almost the best part, however, was knowing that we would be spending the night on our boat instead of in that hotel with the unyielding mattress and constant fireworks.  The marina was quiet, although we could still hear occasional fireworks coming from Playa Linda.  Mostly, we just heard birds whistling and geckos chirping (and our fans whirring, of course.)

December 13, 2014

Sunrise Over the Boat Yard
The main trouble with living in your boat while it is on the hard is that there is no salt water to flush the heads.  Therefore, we had to climb down the 5 meter ladder and walk a block to the restroom.  I woke up about 6:30 and, knowing I would never get back to sleep after visiting the restroom, decided to go for a run.  I ran a couple of kilometers down the road to Playa Linda and back.  Then I took a shower and used the internet for a while.

Since we had to wait several days for the parts we had ordered to arrive, it seemed like a good time to explore another part of Chiapas.  I made a hotel reservation for us at a B&B in San Cristobal de las Casas, up in the mountains.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy bus tickets online with an American credit card, so we decided that I would go into Tapachula to buy the tickets and do a few other errands while Scott stayed behind to work on trying to frankenstein two broken air conditioners into one that would work.

I took a collectivo to the Walmart shopping center, where I had the bright idea that I might find a travel agent and be able to avoid a long trip to the bus station.  There wasn’t one in the shopping center, but I did manage to buy a new SIM card for my old Mexican phone so that Scott and I could call each other, if necessary.  We should have been able to buy more minutes for the SIM card I had, but we didn’t have the phone number anywhere on the boat and the number recorded in Scott’s US phone had too many digits.  We tried a couple of permutations at the store, but I finally gave up and bought a new card before the helpful people at the store got too disgusted with me.  A new SIM card only cost about $8.


Plaza Central in Tapachula
From the Walmart, I took the city bus, the “Tapachulteco”, to the center of town where I had seen travel agencies while we were staying there.  I got off the bus, walked one block, and found a travel agency that sold bus tickets.  The helpful agent called the bus company and made a reservation and then sent his gofer to run the 10 blocks or so to the bus station to pick up the tickets.  I wasn’t expecting that!  I had a nice time conversing in Spanish with the agent and learned a lot about San Cristobal de las Casas, including that it is very cold there during the winter, which was handy to know.  When we finally concluded our transaction, I caught a bus right in front of the agency to take me back to Home Depot, where I bought some glue to reattach the Velcro securing our mosquito nets over the hatches and a new floor fan.  Our old one had toppled off the slanted chart table one too many times and was making a terrible racket when we used it.


I got back to the boat just in time to heat up some meat and beans for tostadas.  We hadn’t purchased any perishables because we were planning to leave for a few days and couldn’t be certain that no one would unplug our power cord.  Scott went to bed right after dinner, but I stayed up, working on my blog.  While sitting at the table in the main salon, typing away, I was stung by a bee.  This was the third time I had been stung on a boat and Kathy had been stung while on Comet.  Something about boats seemed to make bees aggressive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SETTLING INTO LA CRUZ

December 2, 2014

I had been very disappointed to discover that the CrossFit gym in Bucerias had closed.  I was determined to come back in at least as good shape as I had been when I left.  Having slacked off during my time on the boat, I now began my days with an ever increasing number of pushups, situps and air squats.

My first missions for the day were to drop off my laundry and get my hair cut.  I had seen a hair salon over on Huachinango (Red Snapper) Street, so headed in that direction.  There was a gringo gentleman in line ahead of me.  The hairstylist cut his hair with clippers and then proceeded to clip short his beard and all the hair on his upper body.  I had never seen anybody do that before, but it made sense in the warm climate.  For 80 pesos (<$6) I got a nice haircut.  It was the most I had ever paid for a haircut in Mexico, but still only a fraction of what I paid in the USA.  I could have had my hair cut for 40 pesos if I had been willing to do it at someone’s kitchen table, but I elected to splurge on the salon.

After completing my errands in town, I took the bus to the Mega to replenish my groceries.  This time, I managed not to buy more than I could carry.  I took a big bus home so as to have room for my purchases and then carried the whole load up the hill.  The hardest part of climbing the hill was not slipping out of my sweaty flip flops.  Coming down, the trick was not to slip on the smooth cobblestones or trip on the uneven surface.  I was getting quite good at hauling heavy loads up the hill without missing a beat.

It was 15:00 by the time I got home.  I put my groceries away, ate some lunch, and relaxed until 17:30 when I had to go down the hill to buy a ticket for the following night’s Amigos de La Cruz fundraiser and pick up my laundry.  After ascending the hill with yet another heavy load, I mixed myself a drink and cooked beef in green mole over Spanish rice for dinner.  It was late by the time I finished my meal and I had just enough time to catch up on my correspondence and watch an episode of The Walking Dead before it was time to hit the hay.

December 3, 2014

Wednesday was my day to catch up on my blog and I spent most of the day writing and uploading photos.  Before I knew it, it was time to head down to the Gecko Rojo for Mexican Train dominoes.  It was a particularly lively session but, after I finally won a game and raked in my pesos, I had to tear myself away to head up to the Amigos de La Cruz fundraiser at Roberto’s Xocolatl, the restaurant below my apartment.  The Amigos de La Cruz is an organization dedicated to the improvement of La Cruz and assistance to its citizens.  They provide recycling services and trash cans, beautify the streets and public facilities and assist citizens with medical care and school supplies.  I figured it would be a good way to meet people and find out what was going on around town.

Another reason I wanted to go to the party was that Tatewari (a flamenco band) was supposed to play at 19:00.  I got there about 19:00, but they had started early and their set was almost over.  The place was packed and it was difficult to find a seat.  I stood in line for 15 minutes, trying to get a drink before I sat down, but finally gave up because the bartender was only fulfilling orders for the waiters.  They brought out another table and I grabbed an empty seat there, since I at least knew the girls from the marina office who were sitting there.  The rest of the people at the table turned out to be cruisers from Sunday Morning and Giddy Up.  One of them even had a spare glass of wine, so things worked out well.  It was a bit too noisy to talk much, but we enjoyed the music and, when we were finally called to the buffet, the chicken and marlin fajitas were excellent.  The restaurant had a nice view (not quite as nice as mine) and a pleasant atmosphere.  After Tatewari finished playing, Bryan Savage took over.  Bryan Savage is an excellent saxophone player who has toured with every big name who ever needed a sax.  I am not a fan of jazz, but had long admired his playing and really enjoyed his set.  Not only did he play the saxophone, but he also played a mean flute and performed some Jethro Tull.  When the party died down, I climbed up the hill to my apartment and sat listening to the music, which I could hear clearly through the open window.

December 4, 2014

I finally felt well enough to get up and run.  I ran down the hill, through the town, along the malecon to the red light and then back up the hill to my place.  Running up the steep hill to my apartment after a two mile run was a challenge, but I made it without having to walk.  It was only slightly more difficult than walking up the hill with a load of groceries.

Improvised Chile Rellenos
After I cleaned up, ate breakfast, and took care of my morning correspondence, I walked back into town to pick up a few groceries because I had invited Don over for dinner.  Back at my place, I relaxed for a little while and then set about roasting and peeling poblano chiles to make chile rellenos.  I did not have an egg beater or an oven, so I had to improvise.  I learned that one cannot beat egg whites in a blender and that doing so with a fork was only somewhat successful.  I had just fried the chiles in my watery egg batter when Don arrived a bit early.  I drenched them in spicy enchilada sauce and heated them on the stove while I made a salad and fried up some turkey pupusas.  Don brought coffee ice cream for dessert and we had a satisfying dinner.

Secret Pathway to My Apartment
After dinner, we were leaving to return to the marina for movie night when I finally ran into my neighbors who were lounging on the front porch.  We met Dave and Lisa and their dog (also named Dave) who live to the left of me and Paul who lives downstairs.  Paul let me in on the secret path leading down the back stairs and through Roberto’s to the highway.  It was definitely shorter and, while one section was rather precarious, probably not any more hazardous than walking up steep cobblestones.  Don stopped at the grocery store, but I continued on to the marina to watch Captain Phillips, which I had seen (but not heard) on a bus somewhere in Columbia.  It was much more enjoyable with sound and there was a big crowd.

December 5, 2014

I got up rather late, but still found time for pushups, situps and air squats before the net came on.  After the net and breakfast, I headed out to get a second key made for my guests and to buy water.  I managed to find the locksmith that I had once seen on Calle Huachinango, but the place was deserted.  I walked back up through the town and started along the highway in search of a hardware store where I might get a key made.  I hadn’t gone far when I ran into Jen and Greg coming out of the vet’s with their two dogs.  I chatted with them for a few minutes and they told me where I could find a locksmith nearby.  The locksmith was practically next door to the convenience store where I planned to buy water.  He made me a key for a measly 15 pesos (about $1.10.)  I picked up two six liter bottles of water at the store and climbed the long flights of stair up to my aerie.

Not long after I returned home, I got a call from Carlos to tell me that he had finished with the passport office in Guadalajara (still no passport, but was finally promised one next week after almost 2 years) and was headed for the bus station to make his way here.  I found it interesting that the person most eager to visit me was only coming from Cabo San Lucas.  Neither Don nor I could convince any of our friends to come before the holidays were over, although I did have three visitors scheduled for late January and February. 

I went down to the Gecko Rojo for happy hour and then returned just in time for a barbecue with my neighbors.  I had suddenly realized that I was leaving soon and had a fridge full of food.  I shared my leftover chile rellenos with them and whipped up some bacon slaw to share.  I met the couple next door and another fellow who lives below me.  I asked Dave and Lisa, next door, how they managed the gnats, since all their windows were open and the floor was not littered with gnat corpses.  They told me they weren’t a problem if you didn’t keep fruit around.  I put my fruit bowl in the refrigerator and never had another problem with gnats.  It was a welcome relief to be able to open the windows again.  I get a nice breeze most of the time, but had been trying to do without opening the windows so that I didn’t need to sweep constantly.

Carlos and Zit Zin
The bus from Guadalajara dropped Carlos and his girlfriend, Zit Zin, off at the turnoff for La Cruz.  This saved them from going all the way to Mezcales, but it was too late for them to find a bus or cab.  They walked most of the way here before getting a ride in the back of a pickup truck.  I went down to meet them and show them the way up the hill.  It was nearly midnight by the time we got back and they had had a long day, so we didn’t get to visit much before it was time to go to bed.





December 6, 2014

We got up in time to listen to the morning net.  Carlos really wanted to see his friends on Emerald Lady, but they didn’t answer the radio, so he figured they were sleeping in late.  We decided to go out to breakfast before dropping in on them.  Carlos remembered a place he liked for breakfast, but they were closed so we ate at a cafĂ© near the entrance to the marina.  I had eggs and sausage, which turned out to be eggs and hot dog bites, but it was nice to sit and drink coffee in the morning sun and hang out with the kids.  After breakfast, we went in search of Emerald Lady.

Carlos & Zit Zin Dancing in My Apartment
We knew Emerald Lady was in the marina, but security couldn’t locate them on their list until Carlos mentioned that it was the boat with the girl with blue hair and then the guard knew who they were, right away.  We found them way on the outside of the marina and spent several hours chatting with them and relaxing in their cockpit.  Finally, we decided to have a little dinner party up at my house, later.  Carlos, Zit Zin and I left to go to the butcher and the grocery store and then went home to relax and start cooking.  I called Don on the radio to invite him and he told me that my friend, Perry from Felicita, had just arrived.  I invited him, too.  With John, Kelly, and blue haired daughter Rachel from Emerald Lady, that made eight for dinner. 

Dinner Party at My Place
Cooking for a crowd on a small stove without an oven and no decent pots, pans or bowls was a challenge.  We settled on beef fajitas with chips and guacamole, bacon slaw and a jicama mango salad.  I sliced and diced everything before people got there, so just had to cook things once my guests showed up.  We had a really nice party.  It was as if we were a big extended family related through Carlos.  Most of the food got eaten, which really helped to clean out my refrigerator.  We finished dinner just in time to head down to the beach for a full moon bonfire.  We almost forgot to eat the ice cream that Don and Perry had brought, but we hesitated long enough to absorb that.  It was a beautiful night on the beach and many people from the marina came out to enjoy the bonfire.  Mike from PV Sailing had set up speakers and we enjoyed his music until the neighboring beach club drowned it out with their own and we just had to listen to that.  By the time we said our goodbyes and walked back up the hill, we were all tired and satisfied from spending a pleasant day together.

December 7, 2014

Sunrise Over Banderas Bay
Carlos and Zit Zin had a reservation at the nearby Riu for three nights of all inclusive fun.  Check in time was 11:00, so we had a relaxing morning drinking coffee and munching a pound cake that Carlos had brought.  I lounged around a bit after they left, catching up on my email and Facebook.  Then I set off for Nueva Vallarta to go to the bank.  On the way, I stopped by the taxi stand and made a reservation for a cab to pick me up at 4:30 the next morning.  My reservation was written on a tiny chalk board mounted on a column and I admit I had my reservations about whether or not a cab would actually appear.  I figured I could trot down to the marina and have security call one if I got desperate.

My bank was at the mall, so I ate bad Chinese food in the food court for lunch.  There was so much breading on the sweet and sour chicken that each piece resembled a bao (pork bun.)  The prawn was likewise enveloped in dough, more closely resembling a corn dog than a fried shrimp.  After lunch, I bought some more minutes for my Mexican phone and found a store that actually sold bras in my size, but was dismayed to discover that one is not allowed to try on bras or bathing suits in Mexico.  I got lucky, but wouldn’t risk it with an expensive bathing suit.

After returning home, I started packing for my trip to Chiapas the following day and worked on my blog.  At 18:10, I was heating up the sauce to pour over the torta ahogada that Carlos had left me when I ran across Perry’s card and remembered that we were supposed to have met for dinner at 18:00.  Fortunately, we had agreed to bring our radios in case he got lost, so I was able to call him and let him know I was on the way.  Perry wanted to pick my brain about the trip south, as he was headed for Panama.  We ate dinner at the Cava Martinez, a nice restaurant on a side street in La Cruz that I had wanted to try.  I had shrimp enchiladas in salsa verde and they were excellent.  After dinner, we stopped by the Gecko Rojo for a beer, but didn’t stay long because I had packing to do.  We had entertained the idea of my crewing for Perry at some point because he was single-handing, but it didn’t look like the timing would work.  We parted and wished each other safe travels.  I trooped back up the hill to finish packing and try to catch a few hours of sleep before rising at 3:45 to catch my plane.