Thursday, December 18, 2014


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.

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