Wednesday, December 31, 2014


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.

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