Tuesday, December 23, 2014


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.

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