Friday, January 20, 2017


January 15, 2017

We had intended to have a last breakfast at La Dulcinea, but they were closed on Sunday morning, as was almost everything else in our neighborhood in Tapachula.  We ended up going around the corner to La Fonda Inn where they had a nice, if pricey, breakfast buffet for 135 pesos.  I don’t know that it was worth three times the price of La Dulcinea’s ham and eggs, but I enjoyed the hot cakes, tamales, empanadas and fried plantains.

We checked out of the Hotel Cervantino and called a taxi to ferry us and all our loot from the previous night’s shopping trip to Home Depot to the marina.  The panic over gas prices seemed to have eased a bit.  The taxi driver charged us only 240 pesos instead of the 300 pesos we had paid the last time.  Taxis running from the marina into Tapachula charge only 150 to 200 pesos, but it is probably easier to pick up fares in Tapachula than out in the middle of nowhere.

The marina was in amazingly good shape, considering there had been 700 guests at a wedding the night before.  The locals were having fun taking selfies in front of the elaborate decorations on the launch ramp.  The women’s restroom was still being used as a storeroom for the caterers, though, and was stacked with boxes of plastic cups and candles.

I had an appointment to chat with my friend, Jan, in El Salvador via Facebook at 11:00 am.   I was planning to visit her the following week, but we needed to make plans.   I went up to the office after I got the wind scoops re-rigged and waited for her until noon, but I never heard from her.  I would later learn that she had run out of minutes.

I Painted the Wood with Fungicide
Since we had no workers coming that day, I took the opportunity to start varnishing our new floor.  My first step was to paint all the new wood with a fungicide to protect it.  I also painted the areas in the boat where the mildew had been the worst, since the varnish was mostly gone, anyway.  It didn’t take long to dry in the heat.  I was able to get a first, thinned, coat of varnish done before the end of the day.  We lowered the new removable floor to the ground where I could work on it in the shade of the hull.  It was comfortable down there, but I had to keep an eye out for scorpions.  The scorpions here are called bark scorpions.  They are large and one of the most poisonous varieties in the world.  Fortunately, they do not climb ladders.

We still didn’t have any food, so dinner was an envelope of beans and some tortillas from the convenience store, spiced up with a can of enchilada sauce that was unlikely to survive another year on the boat.

January 16, 2017

Varnishing the Salon Floor
Santiago, the carpenter, had said that he was coming early on Monday, so I got up so as to be ready for him.  He didn’t show up until nearly noon, but I had time to get most of a coat of varnish done before he arrived.  Scott hadn’t finished reinstalling the soft hatch and it was hard for them to work around the wet varnish, so Santiago left Alberto to handle part of the work and returned to his shop to finish constructing our new window screens.  Alberto refastened a metal screen in the engine room that had been removed to facilitate replacing the floor and then started replacing the many teak strips in the headliner that had gone missing over the years.

The Soft Hatch Open
Every time Scott needed to work on the electronics, he had removed the headliner.  Most of it was out when we left in 2013.  When I had tried to reinstall it along the way, I discovered that we had left a large number of the teak strips in our garage in California.  We finally gave up on ever reuniting them with the boat and asked Santiago to replace them.  He had precut the strips to the proper width, but Alberto had to adjust the lengths to fit.

I couldn’t do any more varnishing with Alberto making dust and Scott
scraping old Lifecaulk off the soft hatch, so I took a nap, practiced the guitar and worked on my blog.

On Monday, we learned that the marina manager, Enrique, with whom we had been happily dealing for the past three years, had left to pursue a better opportunity in Acapulco.  He was rumored to have received three times the salary and Acapulco is much more cosmopolitan that Tapachula, so we understood why he wanted to leave.  We were still sorry to see him go.  He had always made Marina Chiapas a pleasant place to visit.

January 17, 2017

Teak Strips in the Headliner
Tuesday was another busy day around Fool’s Castle.  The only reason I managed to get any varnishing done was because the floor panels were on the ground under the boat.  I got one coat on them before Alberto arrived to fix the broken step between the main salon and the aft cabin and finish installing the teak strips in the headliner.  Brass screws just aren’t available in Tapachula, so we had asked them to use stainless steel.  Rather than countersinking flat head screws, they had used pan head screws because they were more secure.  They didn’t look very nautical, but were still an improvement.  They were very thorough and I had to keep an eye out to keep them from “fixing” things so that we could never get them apart again.

The Soft Hatch Rebuilt
Scott spent the morning rebuilding the soft hatch, while I scraped the old bedding material off the pieces.  We needed to get it in place so Alberto could reinstall the headliner below it and Abel, our canvas man, could install the hatch cover above it.

Restitched Hatch Cover
I spent the afternoon restitching the hatch cover and trying to stay out of Alberto’s way.  Santiago appeared in the late afternoon with our screens.  He had done an excellent job of replicating the originals and only had to grind off a few places to get them to fit.  He was very surprised when I asked him for the old hooks that had secured the originals in place.  He questioned why I wanted them because they weren’t stainless steel.  He was amazed when I sanded one of them and showed him they were bronze.  He joked that, had he known, he might have “lost” them.

The Step That Needed Reinforcement
Abel and his son/brother/assistant(?) arrived just before dusk to install the new hatch cover.  It was bedlam for an hour or so with Santiago and Alberto working on the screens and Abel working on the hatch cover.  I was glad to finally conclude my business with Santiago, although both he and Alberto had been joys to work with and I would miss them.  Four new teak framed screens, new teak strips for the headliner and all the installation thereof, a new support structure for the aft step and the reinstallation of the metal screen in the engine room had cost us 4700 pesos (about $235.)

Our New Hatch Cover
It was getting dark when Abel arrived and most of the work on the canvas was done in the dark.  We had sufficient stainless hardware to attach the cover, but were short on the #8 ½ inch stainless screws we needed to attach the hardware to the boat.  We installed each of the twist snaps with one instead of two screws for the time being and Abel affixed the corresponding pieces to the canvas.  He had done a nice job of constructing the cover that we had requested.  The canvas covered the entire area that would have been enclosed by a dodger if we had one and had five PVC ribs to keep it from sagging and collecting water.  It wasn’t the fabric we would have chosen had we been at home, but for 1800 pesos (about $90) we figured we couldn’t go wrong.  We were satisfied enough that we ordered a matching wheel cover to replace the ragged one had.  Abel promised to return with that in two days.

By the time we were finished with the canvas, it was nearly 9:00.  We ate canned pozole and smoked pork chops for dinner and both passed out directly afterward.

January 18, 2017

Having fallen asleep at 9:30 the night before, I was up by 6:15.  The hot water for the showers at Marina Chiapas is solar, so there isn’t really any hot water in the morning.  It is steaming by the afternoon and plenty warm at night.  I was surprised that it was acceptably tepid at 6:30.
I was back to the boat by 7:30 and sanded and varnished the floor panels under the boat.  I had to wait for Scott to wake up before I could vacuum the remaining floor in the main salon and varnish that.  We had eggs and the remaining smoked chop for breakfast and then set off for Tapachula.  We had been at the boat for 2.5 weeks and this was the first morning that no one was due to arrive at the boat to work for us.

We took a collectivo into Tapachula and discovered that the increase in gas prices had finally resulted in an increase in fares.  Our trip into town cost 25 pesos instead of the former 20.  We rode the collectivo north until it turned west away from where we were heading and then continued on foot to the Ticabus station where I needed to purchase a ticket to go to San Salvador the following Saturday.  I had neglected to bring my passport along, so was unable to get a seat assignment, although I did buy my ticket.  I did manage to verify that the reservation I had made for a hotel room in Guatemala City was confirmed.  If I got there, I would be able to sleep overnight.  The trip to San Salvador would take two days.  While I might possibly have been able to catch the second bus from Guatemala City to San Salvador, that would have put me in San Salvador at 8:00 in the evening with no way to get to Bahia del Sol where I was going.

Tapachula Street Scene
Bus station business concluded, we checked out the Hotel Mo Sak where I had made a reservation for Friday night, not wanting to worry about arranging transport early Saturday morning when I would need to be at the Ticabus station by 6:15.  The desk clerk was very friendly and confirmed my reservation that I had made on  Then we walked back into the center of Tapachula and went to the bank for pesos, some of which I then exchanged for Quetzales so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the money changers at the Guatemalan border.

The border between Chiapas and Guatemala had been the most difficult border I had faced during my travels from Tapachula to Colombia in 2014.  It had been my first bus border crossing and I was fleeced by someone pretending to be an official assistant.  I later learned that there should have been only a small fee and I could have easily handled the transaction myself, as I did several subsequent times at different borders.  This time I was prepared to say no to everyone and make my way straight to immigration.

Galerias Signage
We took another collectivo from the center of town out to the Home Depot, where we bought the stainless steel screws we needed to complete the installation of the canvas.  Then we crossed the road and had lunch at the Burger King in the Galleria food court before finally, three days before leaving, going to the grocery store.  We didn’t buy much, just some chips and guacamole makings, spicy chicken wings for the following night’s dinner, and some packaged of beans and chilorio to leave in the boat for the next time.

Another collectivo delivered us to the marina where I just had time to get another coat of varnish on the salon floor before it got dark.  We weren’t hungry after our big lunch, so I had time to relax and write before giving up and going to sleep.

January 19, 2017

Varnishing Finished
Despite having passed out early the night before, I slept hard until 7:00.  I quickly performed my morning ablutions and set to work sanding and varnishing the salon floor.  When that was done, I descended the ladder and then put another coat on the floor panels.  After a brief rest, during which Scott rebedded the fiberglass cover over the soft hatch and installed the missing screws in the hatch cover hardware, I brushed on the last coat of varnish on the salon floor.  We were done with our projects and had only to straighten up the boat and pack before our departure.

We were still expecting Abel to appear with our new wheel cover, but I made a batch of guacamole and we had chips and a beer while we waited.  Dusk came and then night fell and still there was no sign of Abel.  We began to get concerned, as we did not plan to be at the boat by the following evening.  We suspected that Abel had a day job, since he never appeared before evening.  I had visions of him at home, madly sewing away, trying to finish the cover.

At 8:00, I gave up on waiting for Abel and made spicy chicken wings and black beans for dinner.  Abel never appeared.  It began to sink in that we were leaving.  Poor Fool’s Castle would be in Chiapas until at least the next fall.

January 20, 2017

Donald Trump was inaugurated and I, for one, was glad to be far away where no one cared.  I got up
Ready to Go
early and made an omelet out of the leftovers in the fridge.  Then I set to work stowing all the tools and parts that were scattered about the boat.  It was such a mess when we arrived that I had wanted to cry.  I didn’t want to return to more corroded batteries on the console or rusted tools on the upholstery.  I put everything in its place and hopefully out of the way of any drips or condensation.
We spent a good part of the day in the office arguing with Scott’s bank and arranging to pay the bill for the past year’s storage.  There was a couple there who had bought a boat in Mexico and were having a terrible time getting a new temporary import permit because the old one had never been cancelled.  They had paid the fine weeks before, but were still stuck in Chiapas after seven weeks.  I felt for them and tried to be patient as I waited for poor Memo to take care of them.  With Enrique gone, Memo was very busy.

We had informed Abel early in the day that we were leaving that afternoon and needed to see him before we left.  Finally, we had lowered our luggage to the tarmac, taken out the trash, given away the perishable food, sealed up the boat, and were just waiting for Abel to arrive with our new wheel cover.  Another call to him resulted in a promise to come within 30 minutes, but he still did not arrive.  A storm was coming in and the cloudy sky made it darken early.  True to form, Abel arrived at dusk.  He was apologetic, but had been having trouble with the snaps on the wheel cover.  Fortunately, it fit.  We thanked him, called a taxi, and transferred to our hotel in Tapachula.

Hotel Mo Sak
Hotel Mo Sak was several steps above Hotel Cervantino.  I had chosen it because it was the hotel on closest to the bus station.  It turned out to be a surprising treat.  The staff was even friendlier (if that was possible) and the room was large, unexpectedly air conditioned, and boasted a comfortable king sized bed, refrigerator, microwave, and hot water.  The tariff for all this luxury was still only $25 a night.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


January 8, 2017

The carpenters were taking the day off and Scott was staying off his poor, blistered feet, so I decided to take a day of rest, also.  I scrubbed the aft deck in the morning while it was cool and we still had the hose, but mostly I practiced the guitar and read.  It was hot.  The floor was still missing from the main salon, so we had to climb around the boat like monkeys.

The Marina Store
All the major stores were still closed, so we were making do with three-year-old dry goods and what we could obtain from the marina store.  I was getting tired of cold beans on tostadas, so we went to Restaurante Baos for dinner.  Scott had arrachera and I had chicken breast stuffed with plaintains and served with what amounted to barbeque sauce over rice.  Restaurante Baos is a pleasant location and it was nice to get out of the hot boat for an hour.

Scott at Restaurante Baos
The difference between the rich and the poor is striking here in Chiapas.  The patrons and the employees of the upscale restaurant were noticeably different racial types.  One couple with a baby had even brought their nanny along to watch the baby while they ate and shared a bottle of wine.  The patrons were generally so light skinned that we were not immediately pegged as foreigners.  It was easy to understand the frustration that led to the recent looting while sitting in that restaurant.  We were definitely dining with the 1%. 

January 9, 2017

I got up at 7:00 and spent the morning practicing the guitar before the carpenters arrived.  They were supposed to come at 9:00, but didn’t arrive until about 10:30.  I had plenty of time to chat with my Canadian friend, Greg, who has both a house and a boat here and a Chilean woman we met who was looking for an electrician for her boat.

Mostly Completed New Floor
Once the carpenters arrived, I was tied to the boat in case translation was required, so I spent most of the day restitching the canvas covers.  When my back could take it no more, I shifted to working on my blog.  It was a long day.  Since it was so difficult to get to the galley with no floor in the main salon, we hadn’t eaten lunch since we arrived in Chiapas.  The carpenters worked until after 7:30 and we didn’t feel it would be right to eat when we were keeping them from their dinners.  We were pretty ravenous by the time they finally left.

The floor was finished, though, and looked pretty good considering it wasn’t made with any of the materials we would have used at home.  It had taken the carpenters at least a day longer than they had anticipated and, since they did such a nice job, I paid them for their extra time.  Removing (at least as much work as building) and rebuilding the entire salon floor and support structure, including a removable floor and sound deadening subfloor had taken three days.  It cost us 9,000 pesos or about $450, materials included.  Anyone needing a carpenter in Marina Chiapas should definitely look up Santiago Gutierrez.

We were still on short rations, so I had intended to make rice with hot dogs and stewed tomatoes, but the tomatoes had gone bad, as had all the sauces aboard.  I then decided to make Kraft macaroni and cheese, but that (use by date of 12/06!) had gone off, too.  That neon orange cheese does not actually last forever.  Our powdered milk had all turned a strange, brown color, too.  The best I could rustle up was ten-year-old macaroni with hot dogs and some diced tomatoes from a tetrapak with herbs and spices.  It was dull, but filling.  By the time we finished dinner, even I was ready for bed.

January 10, 2017

When I went up to the showers about 7:00, our mechanic was already at the marina, although he didn’t arrive at the boat until after 8:00.  We had hoped he would be done quickly and we could head into Tapachula to scrounge for food, but that was not in the cards.

With minor modifications, the “U” that the machinists made for us worked fine and I breathed a sigh of relief.  Getting the engine to start was another issue altogether.  Neither of our battery chargers were working properly and the solar panels were disconnected.  As a result, our one good battery was low.  Poor Marvin tried everything.  He borrowed a good charger and brought another battery.  After charging our one massive 8D and linking it in series with his truck battery and connecting the solar panels directly to the battery, we finally got juice, but the engine didn’t start.  He worked, without success, until the sun went down and we lost the solar.  We were getting concerned because he was
fool's Castle on the Hard in Chiapas
due to leave for a job in Vera Cruz the next day.

While we were waiting for Marvin to fix the engine, Abel, a young man who does canvas work, came to see us about a cover for our hatch.  Fool’s Castle did not have a dodger, so the hatch was out in the elements and it had leaked badly since what we called the “soft hatch” was removed to facilitate removing and replacing the engine.  It was this leak that had caused the floor to rot out and we wanted to correct the problem before our new floor got damaged.  After discussing various options with Abel, we settled on a cover that would go from the eyebrow ridge behind the hatch, side to side and down to the lower edge of the hatch.  Abel suggested that we use waterproof material, rather than sunbrella.  He said he could make the cover for 1800 pesos, which was ridiculously cheap.  We agreed to go for it, figuring that it would be worth the price (about $90) if it worked at all.  He promised to come back the next afternoon to do a fitting.

Once again, we had gone all day without eating and were ravenous by the time Marvin left.  We still had no groceries, so we ate the remainder of the bland pasta from the night before.

January 11, 2017

I got up at 7:00 so as to be able to clean the main salon before Marvin arrived and took the floor out again.  I managed to get one side done, but it was pretty awful.  Many of the things left sitting on the console had disintegrated after sitting in the sun for two years.
The Mildew Was Worst Around the Windows

Our new battery had charged overnight, but Marvin still couldn’t start the engine right away.  He worked and worked on the engine, but couldn’t get it to start.  Finally, he called a friend who came to look at it after work.  He agreed with Scott that it seemed to be the timing of the injection pump.  Marvin promised to come back in the morning to fix it.  He was postponing his  to fix our engine.

Abel had stopped by earlier in the afternoon to take more measurements for our hatch cover.
At the marina, preparations were underway for a massive wedding that was to happen on the following Saturday.  The daughter of one of the marina owners was getting married.  The yard hands were busy moving all of the boats to one side of the yard so that they could park cars on the other side.  A dance floor was constructed on the launch ramp.  We would have to clear out for a few nights, since we weren’t technically allowed to live aboard in the yard.

January 12, 2107

Marvin was supposed to arrive at 8:00 and I got up early to clean the other half of the main salon before he arrived.  He didn’t arrive until 10:00, but I still hadn’t finished cleaning because the trim around the reflective sunshades over the windows had turned to a fine black powder that went everywhere when I touched it.  The woodwork behind the shades was black with mildew which had eaten through the varnish and stained the wood.
Some of the Worst Mildew

Once again, Marvin spent all day disassembling and reassembling the injector pump.  We were trapped in the aft cabin where Scott mostly snoozed while I worked on restitching the canvas.  Scott did manage to rig his fancy new three-stage anti-germicidal water filter and fill both of our tanks, which we had emptied the previous day.  He used power from the solar panels to run the UV light in the filter.  By the end of the day, Marvin was all but done with the pump, but was lacking some seals for the fuel lines.  He agreed to come back the next morning.  We packed a few days’ clothing into tote bags and took a collective back into Tapachula where we moved back into the Hotel Cervantino.  The hotel staff was happy to see us again.
We were happy to have air conditioning again.  We bought some beer and ice at the Modelo store.  All of the neighboring OXXOs had been looted and remained closed, but the Modelo stores were all back in operation.  After relaxing for an hour with cold beer in our cool room, we went to Taco Tinos for dinner.  This time, they were happy to serve us and we got seven tacos and two sodas for 96 pesos (<$5.)  We went to bed fairly early, but I had a devil of a time getting to sleep on the hard bed.  The boat was hot, but the mattress was comfortable.

January 13, 2017

Flowers for the Wedding
We had breakfast at La Dulcinea and headed out to the boat, arriving about 10:00.  Marvin was already working on the engine.  Wedding preparations were in full swing.  Truckloads of chairs and tables had been delivered and the workers had removed a section of the fence and curb around the yard so that the wedding guests could drive straight in (and avoid the really bad pavement near the actual entrance.)  By the end of the day, they had even striped the yard like a parking lot.  The florists had set up shop between the office and the restrooms and were arranging truckloads of flowers, which had to be stored in the office because it was the only place with air conditioning.

A Section of the Fence Was Removed
Marvin finally got the engine running about 11:00 and it sounded heavenly!    Of course, we wouldn’t be able to put the boat in the water until the wedding paraphernalia was removed from the launch ramp, but we still had to fix the steering, anyway.

I had spent the morning reading the local newspaper because I was fascinated by the coverage of the local unrest over gas prices, which echoed the issues that had sparked the rebellion in Chiapas earlier in the century.  I was also interested in what they had to say about Trump’s promise to build a wall and make them pay for it.  The Mexican government appeared calm, but determined not to be disrespected and without any intention of paying for a wall.  It was refreshing to read objective journalism for a change.  I spent most of the afternoon working on restitching the canvas.  We were waiting for Santiago to come by to give us a bid on a few more small carpentry projects and hoping that Abel would come back with the hatch cover.  Santiago came and went and we waited for Abel until 5:00, but he never showed.  Then we grabbed a collective back to Tapachula.

Dining at Huacol
After refreshing ourselves at the hotel, we walked over to the big plaza known as El Parque and had dinner at a café on the square.  It was a beautiful evening and lots of people were out.  Clowns were putting on a show in the amphitheater.  We explored the 6 th Avenue shopping area a bit after dinner before returning to the hotel.  All seemed pretty calm and normal, although there was a large police presence and we did hear some strange, loud noises after we returned to the hotel.  Scott retired early, but I stayed up to work on my blog while I had good wifi.

Vendor in El Parque

January 14, 2017

We hadn’t planned on going to the marina on Saturday because of the 700 guest wedding that was taking place there, but our carpenter needed the broken window screen frames to use as patterns and wanted a deposit for the materials for the jobs we had hired him to do. Eight AM found us at La Dulcinea where we met an interesting family who gave us some insight into the immigration problems some people were facing.  There were an Italian Canadian man and his Cuban fiancée with her younger brother.  The couple had not gotten married in Cuba because getting married there involved paying expensive fees.  The woman and her brother had flown to Guyana, the only place Cubans could fly, and spent nearly two months making the perilous journey overland from Guyana to Chiapas.  Two days before, Obama, in the name of normalizing relations with Cuba, had retracted the policy of giving Cubans automatic asylum.  The poor woman was stuck in Mexico.  She could no longer get into the USA and couldn’t get into Canada because she was not yet married to the Canadian.

Mexico accepts Central American refugees, but requires them to spend their first year in Chiapas. If they stay out of trouble, they can then move freely through Mexico.  Hearing this explained to me why the citizens of Chiapas were so upset with the government over Central American immigration.  They must have felt like the government had dumped all these desperate people in their already poor state where they were depressing wages.  It was like the US government had decided to send all the Syrian refugees to Arkansas.

Collectivo Stop in Tapachula

Riding in a Collectivo
Pondering this, we took a collectivo to the marina to meet Santiago.  The marina was crawling with workers, busily arranging flowers and decorating the entire marina with potted plants and lighted trees for the wedding.  Small sailboats with their sails hoisted were anchored in the turning basin as decorations.  It was a spectacle of excess which served to highlight the disparity between rich and poor in Chiapas.

We met with Santiago and then spent a couple of hours hoping that Abel would turn up with our hatch cover.  I cleaned up the last of the debris from the engine repair and practiced the guitar while Scott took a nap.

We headed out about 1:00 and took a crowded collectivo (the first one that passed was full and that is saying a lot when we have seen as many as 23 people stuffed in) to Home Depot to buy varnishing supplies, hydraulic fluid, and fasteners to replace the soft hatch.  Our errands completed, we returned to the hotel and relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon.  I ducked out to go to the music store to buy a guitar case and some strings.  The strings cost about the same as at home, but the case I got for about $11 was very similar to the one I had tried to buy (and fortunately failed) for $60 before we left home.
Launch Ramp Being Transformed to Wedding Site

Lasers as Decorations

As darkness fell, we left the hotel to go to dinner.  There was a religious procession filling 6th avenue, which was preceded by people throwing firecrackers.  Everything was peaceful, but many shops displayed signs saying, “Exigimos seguridad,” or, “We demand security.”  Most stores had repaired their damage and reopened, but many of the OXXOs remained boarded up and closed.  We wondered if they were anticipating more chaos.

We returned to El Parque and ate dinner at a different restaurant called Rancho Grill.  Scott had steak and I had chilaquiles with carne asada for 69 pesos (<$3.50.)  It was another beautiful, warm evening and we took a turn around the park to look at the fountains before walking home.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


January 1, 2017

Popocatepetl Steaming
Scott and I started the new year by boarding a plane from Los Angeles to Mexico City.  We were walking down the jet way at midnight.  Despite having arrived before 6 AM, the line for immigration was long and we were afraid we were going to miss our connection to Tapachula.  Finally, all the Mexican nationals were processed and additional windows were opened for foreigners.  We found our luggage and made it through customs in time to catch our flight, but not in time for our luggage to make it to the plane.  We arrived in Tapachula hot and sweaty and without our luggage.  We did, however, get a cool view of Popocatepetl, the volcano near Mexico City that has been erupting recently.  It was glowing and steaming as we flew by.

The airline promised to call us when our luggage arrived, as there were to be two more planes from Mexico City that day.  Since we had no luggage to carry, we walked out to the highway and caught a collectivo into town for a whopping 20 pesos ($1.)  We settled into the Hotel Cervantino, where we have stayed  whenever we needed a hotel in Tapachula.  The hotel is basic, but reasonable and friendly.  I double room with air conditioning ran us $14 per night.

The Hotel Cervantino

We were tired from flying all night, so rested for the remainder of the day, only rousing ourselves to get dinner at El Pastorcito, our usual haunt on the corner near the square.  As it was New Year’s, many places were closed and El Pastorcito was jammed.  Fortunately, we got there before the worst of the rush and managed to get a table.  We got plates of the local specialty, which is a mixture of pork and chicken with cheese and vegetables, served with a pile of tortillas.  We were hungry, not having eaten all day, so managed to polish off large plates of food.  Then we went back to the hotel and slept some more.

January 2, 2017

Our Luggage Made It to the Boat
We never heard from Aeromexico on New Year’s so, rather than try to talk to them on the telephone in Spanish (speaking Spanish on the telephone is my idea of a nightmare), we stopped off at the airport on the way to the marina.  Fortunately, our bags were waiting for us and we were able to collect them without delay.  Then we took a taxi the rest of the way to the marina, where we were finally able to change into shorts, sandals, and clean shirts.  We also unloaded all the heavy boat parts and sailing gear, which reduced our baggage by at least half.

Enrique and Memo in the marina office, were happy to see us.  We soon conferred with our mechanic, Marvin, and agreed that he would come to work on the boat at noon on Wednesday.  Theoretically, that would give us time for a carpenter to repair the rotten floor.  We also agreed to hire someone to help clean the boat.  Then we headed out to the boat to survey the situation. 

The Rotten Floor
The exterior of the boat didn’t look too bad, but the rot in the floor had spread from the floor behind the doors covering the engine to the bottom step of the companionway, one of the doors covering the engine, and part of the floor under the settee in the main salon.  A young man named Miguel arrived and, for some reason, we thought he was the carpenter.  He set to work removing the rotten parts, but we were surprised that he didn’t have any tools.  When later the actual carpenter, Santiago, arrived, we were somewhat relieved because he was much more competent.  He conferred with Miguel about what needed doing and we assumed that Miguel was Santiago’s assistant.  It wasn’t until the next day that we realized Miguel was supposed to be our boat cleaner.  It didn’t matter, anyway, since we didn’t have any water to wash the boat.

Our day at the marina passed quickly and Memo gave us a ride back to the hotel about 4:45.   We bought some beer and Scott took a nap.  Then we had hamburgers for dinner at La Dulcinea, a café next door to the hotel, and took a short walk to find ice cream for dessert.

January 3, 2017

I had told Miguel that we would be back at 10:00, so I got up at 7:30.  We had breakfast at La Dulcinea.  Breakfast was much more satisfactory than the previous night’s dinner.  It wasn’t that the food had been bad.  There just wasn’t much of a selection and we had been hungry.  For breakfast, we had eggs scrambled with ham, accompanied by black beans, yogurt, and toast, and washed down with coffee and juice.  I got to speak a little Italian with the proprietor, but trying to speak Italian while thinking in Spanish just about made my brain explode.

Marina Chiapas
We took a collectivo to Home Depot to buy cleaning supplies and ran across the highway to Auto Zone for a couple of rolls of shop towels.  It was 11:15 by the time a second collectivo dropped up at the marina.  Poor Miguel had been waiting for us “for hours” according to Memo.  I did feel bad about it, but at least I was able to make some headway in cleaning, despite the fact that we still didn’t have any water.

There Was Mildew Everywhere
Miguel spent all afternoon chiseling rotten wood out of the companionway and settee floor, while I cleaned the ports and woodwork in the aft cabin.  First, I rigged the four wind scoops I had brought with us.  They made the interior of the boat a lot more pleasant temperature than the previous day.  I also washed the mattress cover.  Scott thought we had washed it three years before in Ixtapa.  I didn’t recall the last time it was washed, but after putting a wet water bottle down on it created mud, I knew it was time to wash it.  I took the cover, some detergent, and a bucket up to the marina showers and set to work.  Ten buckets of water later, it was much cleaner, although the water still wasn’t rinsing clean.  The first six or seven buckets had turned completely black.

Our batteries were completely flat and refused to take a charge, so Scott hauled one of them out of the boat and took a taxi back to the Auto Zone to trade it in for a new one.  Once that was installed, we were able to get lights and water pressure.  Unfortunately, our vacuum cleaner motor had seized up in our absence.  Scott soaked it in penetrating oil and we hoped for the best.

Five o’clock came around very quickly and Scott wanted to leave before we missed the last collectivo.  He had worked up blisters on the bottoms of both feet from his sandals and was pretty miserable.  I made the mistake of telling the conductor that we were going to the plaza, not realizing there was a larger plaza further north.  Despite the fact that we tried to get off two blocks from our hotel, they insisted on taking us to the large plaza, which turned out to be about 9 blocks away.  Poor Scott had to limp all the way home.  It was an interesting walk, though.  There was a massive tent erected in the plaza and people were ice skating under it.  It was very odd to see people ice skating when it was 80 degrees at night.  We walked down 6th Avenue North and that was definitely the happening place in the evening.  Scott was too miserable to want to linger, so we bought beer, ice, and sandwich makings on the way home and settled into our room for the evening.  We watched a movie and then Scott went to sleep while I caught up on my writing.

January 4, 2017

Cruiser Air Conditioning
We didn’t want to keep Miguel waiting again, so we skipped breakfast and just stopped into a bakery on the way to the corner where we catch collectivos to the marina.  The large bakery, which is usually full of a variety of bread and pastries, was filled wall to wall with roscas de reyes, a type of ring cake traditionally served on Three Kings Day.  The best we could do for breakfast were plain bolillos.  We grabbed a couple and ate them while we waited for a collectivo.

We arrived at the marina just before Miguel.  He chiseled away at the rotten wood while I re-rigged the wind scoops.  They were doing a good job of keeping the temperature in the boat down around 90, instead of the 100 degrees it can be without ventilation.  It was still a hot place to work.  

After I removed all the tarps and window coverings, I set Miguel to scrubbing the topsides of the boat because our mechanic was supposed to come at noon.  The exterior of the boat was fairly filthy.  Miguel worked on it all day and didn’t quite finish the aft deck. The boat looked much less abandoned for his efforts.  I spent the day cleaning the woodwork in the aft cabin, center cabin, and aft passageway.  Then I started on the aft head.  It was especially unpleasant in the center cabin, which has no hatch.  I had to keep coming up for air.  Scott’s feet were bothering him, so he couldn’t do much except try to repair the seized vacuum.  He got it to run, but it made such a racket that we couldn’t actually use it.  We waited all day, but the mechanic never came.

Scott Getting a Haircut
I had asked the collectivo driver how late they ran and he had told me 6:00, so we were able to work until 5:00 before heading home.  We stopped at the Walmart shopping center so that Scott could get a haircut.  Then we bought some Gatorade and paper towels and took a city bus (6 pesos= about 30 cents) back to the hotel.  We tried to get dinner at Taco Tino’s, but they wouldn’t serve us because it was 7:30 and they closed at 8:00.  They still had food left and it looked good, but they must have been saving it for themselves.  We walked another block to La Fonda Inn, a fancy place with white tablecloths where we were the only customers.  I had delightful liver and onions and Scott had chicken mole.  The Victoria cervezas were icy cold and we each downed two.  Despite the fancy surroundings, the total came to about $16.  Tapachula may be dull, but it’s not expensive.

I had only slept about 3.5 hours the night before, so I collapsed when we got back to the hotel.  Unfortunately, I was up every two hours all night with severe muscle cramps.  I downed a glass of Gatorade every time I got up, but it didn’t help that much.  Working in the heat all day took it’s toll.

January 5, 2017

We got up early enough to eat a nice breakfast at La Dulcinea and still arrive at the marina by 9:00.  I
La Dulcinea Under the Arch
replaced all the window coverings and rigged the wind scoops before it got hot.  Then I finished cleaning the head.

Santiago, the carpenter, and his assistant, Alberto, arrived a bit before noon.  They set to work removing the remainder of the rotten wood.  They had the proper tools and things went pretty quickly until they got to the floor joists, which were glued and screwed in place and had to be chiseled out.  It took them all afternoon to remove them and I felt sorry for them.  They had good attitudes, though, and joked about having to be there for a week.  Once again, Scott couldn’t do much, so he decided to go to Home Depot and buy a new vacuum.  I spent the entire afternoon cleaning the galley, which seemed to go as slowly as the wood removal.  I had to scrub out every cabinet and drawer and the stove was a disaster.  By the time I completed that chore, I was wiped out.  Fortunately, it was nearly 5:00.

Tapachula has a Pollo Campero on the main drag.  I had become addicted to Pollo Campero in Guatemala and Nicaragua and drooled every time we passed it.  I insisted that my reward for slaving away in a hot boat be fried chicken for dinner.  Scott went along with me.  Apparently, table service ends at 6:30 and we arrived at 6:32.  We got our dinner to go.  Poor Scott has hobbling, so we tried to get a taxi, but every one that passed was completely full.  We stood on the side of the road, munching fries and waiting for a taxi, until we finally gave up and took a passing collectivo.  This time, we knew to get off just two blocks from the hotel.  We ate our chicken at a table in the courtyard and then went upstairs to watch a movie and write.

January 6, 2017

Roscas de Reyes at La Dulcinea
It turned out that the reason Pollo Campero wouldn’t serve us, last night, and there were so many people on the street and we couldn’t find a taxi was because there was a large protest against the 3 peso per liter hike in gas prices.  Gas apparently went from 13 pesos per liter to 16 pesos per liter overnight. This hit people hard in a country where the minimum wage is 65 pesos per DAY.  In Chiapas, people were also angry that Guatemalans were coming across the border and taking their jobs.  I had noticed that things looked noticeably more prosperous than they did when I was in Chiapas in December of 2014.  Attracting immigrants was the downside of this prosperity.
We got home without incident, but the protest apparently turned ugly later and, by the time we got up, all the major stores (Walmart, Chedraui, Coppel, and even most of the OXXOs) had been looted.  There was nowhere to buy bread.  La Dulcinea had to serve us cookies for breakfast because the stores were all looted and the bakeries were only making roscas de reyes for Three Kings Day.  Our hotel was keeping the iron gates closed and most businesses were tightly closed in expectation of more trouble.

Broken Windows at an OXXO
We ate breakfast and then checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the marina.  It was quiet out there, but the convenience store was cleaned out and closed by midday.  Even the stores in Puerto Madero had been looted.
I set to work cleaning the dinette in the boat until our mechanic, Marvin, arrived about 1:00.  He didn’t get far before discovering that we lacked the correct hose to replace the one that had caused our engine to blow in the first place.  The hose that ran from the water pump to the exhaust manifold needed to make a 180 degree turn.  This caused most hoses to kink and deform and ours had consequently expanded into the path of the alternator belt, which cut a hole in it and let the cooling water out.  The space for the 180 degree bend was very limited and we could not relocate the pump, manifold, or belt.  We had to get creative.
Mainaval, Machine Shop in Puerto Chiapas

Machinist Welding Our Fitting
Knowing that the Home Depot was likely to be closed and having been advised not to go back into Tapachula until the situation quieted, we elected to take a taxi over to the fishing boat docks where we had heard there was a machine shop.  Our taxi driver was a most helpful young man.  He knew right where to go and helped up explain what we needed to the machinists.  The shop, Mainaval, offers industrial marine maintenance.  It is located on Uno Norte between the cruise ship terminal and the Herdez cannery.  Despite the fact that it was 3:00 in the afternoon on Three Kings Day, they were willing to help us.  They had a good supply of plumbing fittings, but nothing that would make a 180 degree turn in the space our engine allowed.  They had to make us something.  First, they tried to bend a stainless steel pipe, but it deformed just like the hose had.  They ended up cutting three pieces of pipe at 45 degree angles and welding them back together to form a square “u.”  It was slightly larger than we had hoped, but better than anything else we had available.  Several of them worked until after 5:00 and, for 600 pesos (about $30), we left with something we hoped would work.  Our helpful driver, who had waited the whole time, delivered us back to the marina for a total of 100 pesos.  We gave him all of our change as a tip because he had really been too generous with his time.
Relaxing in the Cockpit

It was too late to get anything else done for the day, so we sat in the cockpit an enjoyed a cold beer.  I arranged for the carpenter to come the next morning via text.  It was nice to be out of the hotel and listen to the squawking chacalacas and the navy trumpeter at sunset.  Scott was exhausted and could barely stay awake long enough for me to clean off the table and serve cold beans and chilorio on tostadas.  He was snoring by 7:30.

January 7, 2017

Our boat was a hive of activity on Saturday.  Our carpenters, Santiago and Alberto, arrived by 9:30 and Miguel showed up shortly after that.  I felt somewhat guilty, but I had saved the worst of the cleaning for Miguel.  He cleaned the v-berth and the forward head, where the mold had been an inch deep in places.  I felt guilty enough that I tackled the center cabin, which was not too moldy, but was hot, airless (no hatch) and cluttered with tools, parts, and sailing gear.  It took me almost all day to sort the clutter and return it to its proper places.  Miguel also had time to wash all the canvas covers.  It became apparent that I could spend the rest of my time in Chiapas restitching the canvas, but at least it wasn’t in tatters.

New Floor Joists
The carpenters worked from 9:30 until after 6:00, but still didn’t finish.  They managed to remove the last of the bad wood and fashion the replacement pieces for the supports, settee floor, and step.  Unfortunately, they took the floor with them to stain it and the support pieces were not firmly attached, so we still had no easy path from the aft cabin to the galley and no way to clean in the main salon.

We were having trouble getting our one functional battery to charge on our little, portable charger.  The solar controller had failed.  Scott turned off the DC system by late afternoon.  This made it impossible to cook dinner.  We had tostadas with cold beans, chilorio and tuna for dinner.  With all the grocery stores looted and closed, our food choices were limited.  All our juice boxes had gone bad, but I did have some pina colada flavored Tang to mix with rum.  Scott settled for lemon lime Gatorade.  While the timer on our ice maker had died, it still got cold enough to make ice in trays.  We might starve, but at least we had cold drinks.

Scott had spent all day resting his badly blistered feet, but still was ready for bed by 8:00.  Unfortunately for him, every trip to the bathroom required a quarter mile walk.  At least the heat kept bathroom trips to a minimum.  I managed to read and stay awake until almost 10:00 before I started passing out.  A second rum and I would have been asleep by 8:30.

I made one last trip to the restrooms before bed.  The guard dogs, Mastile (mast) and Amura (hull wall), ignored me.  The security guards were fast asleep and sprawled near the top of the steps leading to the restrooms, where I nearly stepped on one of them in the dark.  I had to retreat and use the other set of steps.  They slept soundly through my entire visit.  I hoped the dogs would alert them if there was any trouble.