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.

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