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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shake Rattle And Roll

Still no camera for pics...
one of these days I'm going to solve that dilemma.

we've been livin' it up in the cheapest marina in La Paz, Marina Don Jose.
$400 a month, all inclusive.
That does not mean the jacuzzi and swimming pool are included because there isn't any jacuzzi or swimming pool. It just means we don't have to pay extra for water or trash or electricity. And that is a super-duper deal considering we are running the A/C!

Would we recommend staying here during a hurricane?
In fact, should a hurricane rear its ugly cyclops this direction, we plan to hightail it to Marina Costa Baja or to Singlar. If Marina Palmira has space that will also be a consideration. As for Hurricane Miriam, she is slow moving and doesn't show any indication she will hit La Paz. And as of 5 hours ago it is reported that she is weakening from a speed of 105 to 80.

But if a hurricane threat isn't bad enough, how about an earthquake??

Yes, La Paz experienced an earthquake - the latest report being 6.2 in magnitude. Schools have canceled classes so that the Civil Protection Service can check the structural integrity of the buildings.
Is this the Faulkner Family's first earthquake?
We apparently experienced one once in 2009 while underway to some little island in the Sea of Cortez.
Didn't feel a thing.
Then once while visiting California we found out that we had experienced "tremors".
Didn't notice.

This earthquake, however, we felt on the boat right in the water.  The entire hull shimmied and shook like something had a hold of it. I honestly - honestly - thought we had a very large mammal scratching its back on our boat bottom.

No damage reported. Very exciting time. Of course the VHF radio went crazy - everyone reporting and contradicting and questioning. Nothing like being sandwiched between two natural (potential) disasters and the cacophony of excited cruisers jamming frequencies as they talk over each other on the radio.

No tidal waves. No tsunamis. No... wait...
Tsunami was last year.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that this is as bad as it gets.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Living By Land Rules - on a Boat

Suddenly we have schedules to adhere to...
Appointments to keep...
Without meaning to exactly we've sprung from having leisurely, wake-up-when-your-body-tells-you TO...
Alarm clocks, appropriate dress and rushing about.
We live aboard Hotspur, but we live like land lubbers.

To top it off, now language REALLY is an issue!
I've said it before and I'll say it again:
Living in a Spanish speaking country and speaking Gringo Spanish is very helpful.
Finding items at the grocery store, for example, is so much easier if you speak some Spanish.
Try miming out 'carrot', or hand signals for 'milk'... or can you imagine, God forbid, 'toilet paper'?

Asking directions for locations around town is another biggie - and mainly because street signs in Mexico are a non-custom. Luckily, hand signs and miming really do work well when you are trying to understand where to go. But knowing the difference between
RIGHT (a la derecha)
TURN RIGHT (doble a la derecha) and
can mean the difference of finding your destination - or not.

And ordering food in a restaurant and knowing the difference between Bistek Hidalgo and Bistec Higado is the difference between having a nice meal and - well, not...just ask Jim.

I didn't say speaking Spanish would be easy. But once you've got Gringo Spanish 101 under your belt I think you'll find that life living in a Spanish speaking country is a little easier... except in situations where you have to speak Beareaucratic Spanish. That is the worst. And no amount of Spanish but FLUENT Spanish will help you maintain your sanity... and even then...

We arrived in La Paz with the goal of enrolling the kids in school-
that, my friends, requires more than just speaking Gringo Spanish.
It requires the finesse of pleasantries mixed with a large pail of BS and just the right sprinkling of firmness. It is a cultural language Salsa:
A side step here
and a swish of the hips there
and a coy smile,
batting of lashes,
and oozy sweetness mixed with name dropping,
papers peppered with large stamps and important signatures,
and in my case -
resorting to calling a local friend for help in exchange for buying her very expensive school uniforms v.s. going to Walmart for a fraction of the cost.
It's all about helping out, right?

As of Monday, Carolyne is thankfully in school and I am officially exhausted.
She attends a sweet little public school right around the corner - easy walking distance and very popular. So far, the cost has been her uniform - which with 3 blouses, 2 jumpers, 5 pairs of knee socks, 1 PE skort, 1 PE T-shirt and 1 pair of shoes has cost roughly $100US. And if we're lucky, the school will provide us with a voucher worth about $45US.

Carolyne is in a classroom with 32 other students. Her teacher speaks little English. We have arranged for Carolyne and Tim to have Spanish lessons at 50 pesos an hour each Tuesday and Thursday.

Carolyne, who told me, "Just so you know, Mom, I hate you for making me go to Mexican school", is loving her new school, teacher and classmates. By day 2, she corrected my Spanish - and was right! I am thrilled! Our daughter will be speaking fluent Spanish by the end of the school year! And her diagnostic test that she took placed her high in Math, Science, Social Studies and Mexican History... how she pulled off the Mexican History I will never know. But one thing is for sure - we've not done a shabby job with her homeschooling. (Yet I found a typo in this post but now I can't locate it - who cares... please deal.) We told her, "Whatever they ask you on your test about Mexican History the answer is BENITO JUAREZ."

As for our son, it has been much harder because he is much older and not fluent in Spanish. We need something close to a miracle to get him into school. After weeks of persistence, we finally have the Mexican Department of Education's approval for Tim to attend. Now, we just have to find a school to accept him. We've been turned down by three public schools so far.
On the flip-side, Tim has a job working at a restaurant this fall...IF we can get our Immigration status resolved. Dealing with Immigration is a whole different type of bureaucratic nightmare. And that, my friends, is another type of dance- one I haven't figured out yet.

(accent on the first syllable unless otherwise indicated)

Me puede dar... (may pway-day dar...)
Can you give me...

Use this phrase any time you want someone to give you something or pass something to you. We use it in the restaurants when ordering or at stores when there is an item behind the counter that we can't reach. We use it when we are asking for information or requesting anything from another person. It is a super useful phrase to learn!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Last 15 Days

It’s hard to sum up the fast paced life we’ve lived the last 15 days, but here it goes…

We leave La Cruz-
only to turn around again.
Must fix exhaust and sea water leaking in bilge-
It’s a boat.
Find other serious problems-
We ignore them because they won’t kill us just yet-
It’s a boat.

Leave La Cruz once more-
Motor (no wind) to Los Muertos-
Almost catch something BIG and fast on the line (tuna?)-
Lose it.
It’s called fishing.
Something is wrong with our fuel consumption-
It’s a boat.

Play with our friends on Third Day one last time in Mexico-
So good to see these people!
We hug.
Wave goodbye and try not to cry as they head north to California-
Very sad.
Very sad indeed.

Anchor in La Paz-
Enjoy cool breezes on warm afternoons.
Celebrate Just A Minute selling fast!
And play with our JAM friends-
So good to see these people!
Until it time for them to leave for Washington-
We hug.
Very sad indeed again.

Pull into cheap marina to finish boat repairs.
So hot in marina; so very hot-
We buy air conditioner.
Cooking is a joy again.
Baking cherry pie!

Fly Aero Calafia to Guaymas solo to retrieve our car –
Airplane is 10 passenger-
$150US one-way.
Old woman next to me clutches her red rosary white knuckled and never smiles.

White girls traveling alone in Mexico?
Not scary at all.
Except when man with sour beer breath and teeth like silver dimes stuck loosely in his uppers won’t leave me alone on bus ride.
But I’ve watched local people handle these circumstances and so I handle it the same.
Pretend he is invisible.
Shortly, he quits talking to me-
He backs away-
Disappears like a vapor.
My fake cell phone conversation with fake boyfriend, Blaine, might have helped.

Marina Seca Guaymas boat yard is where car has been stored.
Car has dead battery when I arrive.
Felipe, boat yard worker guy and my hero, charges battery for 15 minutes but no life left.
Buy new battery and drive to Baja Ferry-
$300US to ferry from Guaymas to Santa Rosalia with vehicle-
Maybe I got screwed?
Ferry man will accept cash only.
I have no choice.
Pay the ferry man what he wants.
Reminds me a little of Charon and the River Styx.

Make it safely across - must have paid enough.
Visit friends in Santa Rosalia-
We hug and play Scrabble.
So good to see these people!
David David treats me to breakfast.
Guillermo invites me to lunch.
Buy 2 new rear tires there.
Car is costing a lot.

Drive to beautiful Burro Cove and wave at anchored friends off beach.
Friends dinghy over.
We hug.
So good to see these people!
Spend night on Topaz with Dodie and Brian.
Visit Geary – Sonrisa Net guru.
Geary plays Amazing Grace on the bagpipes in the morning-
A beautiful and moving wake up call.
Dodie makes a queen-sized breakfast.

Stop in Loreto because windshield is getting too dusty to see out of.
A man brings a bucket with water and fills my empty windshield wiper tank.
People are nice.
A 4 hour drive and I’m back in La Paz with my family.
We hug – and kiss.
So good to see these people!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pimping Stainless & Insurance

Since I have bad-mouthed some nitwits here in La Cruz I feel the least I can do is mention some really great professionals that we have had the sincere pleasure of working with.

Pedro (Peter) Vargas in La Cruz for stainless work. Awesome! Ask for him at Marina La Cruz. His workshop is within walking distance. Can't say enough good things about him!! His product was very good and service on a timely basis.

Falvey Insurance:
Bob Falvey was really wonderful to work with. Great communication and overall super underwriter. I believe they used Mariners Insurance for our claim. Give Bob Falvey a call for a quote. Excellent service!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Art of Dealing with People Effectively

I was taught that if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all.

We hired two guys here in La Cruz - gringos. They were supposed to do our boat repairs. They were paid installments to do the repairs. You pay installments and not the whole kit and kaboodle so they don't run off without doing the work, right?

Nitwit #1 attempted to do the work and showed up every day - good communication. Problem - he is desperate for money and taking on work he doesn't know how to do. And because his debts are chasing him he asked for 100% payment up front. Not being totally trusting, we gave him a percentage... which we will never see again. He was fired and we took our repairs to a local Mexican man, Pedro, who did excellent work. Nitwit #1 told us that the reason his quality of work was so hideous was that he hadn't been paid 100% up front.

Nitwit #2 is capable. He has experience and needs the work. He began repairs on Hotspur and it looked promising. But,after paying him an installment he ran up to the bar and disappeared... for days. And, a portion of his work began to fail. Nitwit #2 left word with a friend of his yesterday that he is sick. (Who wouldn't be sick if you begin drinking at 8:30 in the morning and don't stop for a few days?) Day 4 and Nitwit #2 showed up after 1pm - looking for his tools which he left aboard. I kept my mouth shut - a difficult job... I even considered putting duct tape over my mouth to insure that demons didn't fly out when I opened it. But that wasn't necessary. Jim got half our money back (because that's all that was left) and Nitwit #2 had his tools returned to him... after he repaired what was failing.

My camera is broken or I would post photos of these two Dingdongs. Jim won't let me use his camera for a number of reasons - one has something to do with diplomacy. The other has something to do with me having butter fingers and dropping things.

So, if you think this post is in bad taste, you should compare it to the bad taste I have in my mouth. And Nitwits who might be reading this? You won't see one penny in the future - not one red cent - until the work is completed. Done. And to my personal satisfaction. The type of satisfaction that I clap my hands together delightedly... and possible jump up and down a bit. And you need money for parts or materials? Okay - make me a list... a complete list... and I'll go buy the parts and materials.

And maybe I'll compile a list and post it online of all the jippers, rip-offs and cons out there.
I'll call it JIP... Jerks, Imbeciles and Pirates.
Or I could call it RIP... Rascals Inadequately Performing
Or I could call it just plain CONS... Cut Off Non-performing Scumbags

Well, I feel a bit better!
So, I will sign off now.
Time to provision, wait out Hurricane Fabio and head to La Paz.
JIPS, RIPS & CONS - Beware!! Blonde Enraged Woman Avoiding Rascally vErmin

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Short Video of Sea Turtle Caught in Trash

We caught some brief video footage of the sea turtle we rescued a few posts ago. If you missed it you can read about it here. So anyone who wishes to second guess my animal identification skills (Jesse!), you tell me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Not So Fair Weather and Fishes

A couple of posts ago I mentioned the magic of radar – the equipment’s gift at identifying storm cells long range so that we can change course to avoid them altogether.  And that is still true… except that the storm cells have gotten smarter. Much smarter! The last few nights we have had some pretty crappy weather.

We hurried out of Marina Ixtapa – our 1 night there costing us 714 pesos… roughly $50US. We didn’t use any electricity and we only filled up with 80 gallons of water. It’s an incredibly expensive marina, especially considering it is the summertime in the tropics and only fools like us are there. But, it was a great place for Jim to solve our fuel leak. And because we carry spare auto pilot parts he was also able to make Sybil, our auto pilot, more civil… and thankfully so because we really needed her to have her best face forward for what was ahead.

The squalls we encountered appeared out of nowhere-
Splotches on the radar popcorning into little bursts…
Growing rapidly...
and then suddenly converging to form a giant monster popcorn storm ball!
One after the other… we couldn’t change course to avoid them.
I kept thinking of Captain Ron’s words:
“It’s just a little squall. They come on ya fast and leave ya fast.”

But, on my watch around 2:30am we encountered a nasty tempest which clocked around and hit us from behind. I was soaking wet in my favorite raggedy dress… the one I never wear in public because it has holes and rips in embarrassing places – but it is ever so comfy – except when it gets soaking wet. The wind picked up – pelting rain right inside the cockpit. I picked up one of my beautiful new multi-purpose cockpit cushions and used it as a shield. I was drenched and the wind grew to 30 knots. – which is not necessarily a big deal to us except we have never encountered that with rain and lightening… in the pitch black of night… underway.

It was so dark that I couldn’t see the sea state – maybe that’s a good thing. But we passed 6 large container ships – some of them just a mile off. 
I think I hate that worse than the weather – 
big ships passing us in the night… 
can they see us? 
Will I have to flash our spotlight? 
Will they answer if I call them on the VHF? 
Oh... and those ships? I couldn't see those on the radar because the big, fat monster popcorn storm ball was hogging up the screen! 
But, those ships are very well lit and in the pitch black of night I saw them approaching from relatively far away. I think.

Good news... the next evening we caught our first tuna in 3 ½ years – a small Big Eye. Do you know how I KNOW it was a Big Eye? Because my kids identified it for me. My fish specialists. And they are never wrong when it comes to fish. And just in case they are... I didn't take any photos.

This was what was going on as we reeled it in:
Me: It's probably just a stupid Bonito.
Kid 1: No, it's not.
Me: OMG! Look! It's a shark!!
Kid 2: Mom, it's not a shark. It's too shiny.
Me: Oh.
Me Again: Oh! I think it's a Wahoo! OMG! We caught a Wahoo!
Kid 1: Mom! No! It's not a Wahoo.
(Kid 2 returns with fish identifying book and crosses to man who reels in fish)
Kid 2: It is clearly a Big Eye Tuna.
Me: OMG! We caught a tuna! We caught a tuna!
Kid 1: Mom... settle down.
Me: That's right - we caught a tuna! Uh huh! Uh huh! der-der-der-der... der-der... der-der - Don't touch this!
Kids 1 & 2: It's "CAN'T touch this!"
(Kids 1 & 2 cringe and do puking gestures)

So a little belittling from the swabs and getting wet and rolling around was worth the divine seared tuna dinner we had! We landed in La Cruz late this afternoon. Tomorrow? We're getting a grip on the insurance company and our repairs that still haven't been fixed from the accident in El Salvador.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bleep Troubles, Bleep Headaches and Good Deeds

I'm writing from Marina Ixtapa, 5 miles from Zihuatenejo. It is perhaps the most expensive marina we have ever stayed in and has the fewest amenities of any marina we have ever stayed in. We're paying $42 a night, electricity and water not included... during low season. There is no internet - unless you pay extra... a lot extra. There is no pool. The are no laundry facilities. So why in the bleep are we here?

We have a fuel leak. We noticed a bit of diesel in our bilge in Chiapas, but couldn't find the source. We checked the tank and confirmed that it wasn't there - a huge relief. Once we left Chiapas though, we noticed a huge surge in our fuel consumption - an unhappy expense. In Huatulco, we stopped for the night and jerry canned extra diesel to the boat. Searching again was futile - we couldn't find the problem. Then, it became clear as we continued on towards Acapulco. Jim saw the fuel lift pump start spraying diesel out of the gasket.

We needed to repair our fuel leak. We ascertained we could make it to Zihuatenejo at midnight. It's a wide open anchorage and we've been there before, so entering at night wasn't an issue for us - although we typically don't enter anchorages in the dark. On the way, our auto pilot began acting psycho. The starboard button refused to move the rudder. Then, the unit refused to turn off.

With Marina Ixtapa so close, we agreed that it would be smartest to go in regardless of the cost. It's a beautiful setting, but it's not worth the money in our opinion. Once we got into a slip, Jim fiddled with the motor and then gave me a parts list to get in town. I caught a bus back into ZTown only to find once I arrived that Auto Zone is closed on Sunday. Closed! On Sunday!!! So, Jim tinkered with Sybil, our auto pilot, for 6 hours before it began working again? The problem? It's a piece of bleep. We have no idea what is wrong.

The idea of spending another $42 plus dollars in Marina Ixtapa has given me a case of hives - or perhaps it's the 92* temps that have me itchy and scratchy. I am very grateful, at least, for the cold showers here. Monday, Carolyne and I visited 7 stores - SEVEN! - before we found the parts we needed to fix the fuel leak.

On a happier note, while motoring along a couple days ago Carolyne saw a floating bag - a large, plastic woven bag - the type that 50 lbs. of pinto beans come in. As she watched it, she noticed a flipper waving out from underneath the bag. It was a sea turtle stuck in it. We turned Hotspur around and put  her in neutral. As we sidled up near the turtle, Carolyne took a boat hook and wrangled the bag off the animal's back before the turtle dove down under the boat. We waited - and waited. The turtle then popped up on Hotspur's other side - completely bagless! It was clearly tired and stressed, but it waved its little flipper in thanks before it dove back down into beautiful blue water. That is such a good feeling! Then, Jim fired up the engine and the bag promptly sucked into the prop. Oh well, a good excuse to dive into the water and take a lovely, cool swim.

With the fuel leak mostly repaired and Sybil seemingly sedated, we're out of Marina Ixtapa. But before we left, we did see a crocodile - a very large crocodile! - slide past us on the top of the water. We didn't stop to look if it had any trash stuck to him.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Exciting Crossing!

NOTE: Revise the name of the fish down below. We're from Colorado and we know diddly-squat about sea creatures. So, I got the name of the fish wrong, so what??? Thanks for pointing out PUBLICLY, Jesse! No really, thanks. I hate being stupid dumb. 

I bet you are thinking I’m just dying to talk more about our new boat cushions, aren’t you? Well, sorry to disappoint, but we had far too many exciting things happen to drone on about the little things in life that make me happy.

Cloud patterns crossing the TPec - not so ominous

Same pretty cloud patterns, but with thunder heads in the distance
Truly, we crossed the Tehuantepec. We’ve done it before, but not during hurricane season. It was a last minute decision, but the weather window looked really good. Really good! We were having trouble getting approval from the insurance company to do repairs in Chiapas and we didn’t have time to goof around. So, we went for it. It couldn’t have been a better crossing – unless we could have sailed the entire way and saved fuel money. But, we did sail- quite a bit- and enjoyed every minute of it.

We had a full moon both nights.  I love full moon night crossings. That little bit of light on the water is comforting as well as beautiful. Even though we have radar, being able to see in front of you lessens anxiety.

Fuzzy photo of dolphin turning to look at us - did I mention my nice Olympus camera quit working?
Humidity, perhaps????
And I don’t know if it’s because we’re lucky or super stupid, but we didn’t see a single panga, a solitary fishing boat or any sign of a trawler, container ship or sailboat. I suspect it’s the time of year people don’t go crossing the Tpec. Storms are rampant. And hurricanes are born here. But for us, our favorite crossings are those where there is no traffic.

Our Raymarine showing us numerous storm cells approaching Hotspur.
We've learned how to dodge diligently.
Speaking of storms, we saw many of them on radar before they came too close - another reason for not being a sailing purist. We steered around and behind and sped up in front of all kinds of little storm cells thanks to our trusty radar. Jim saw 12 on the screen at one time. The lightening is what is troublesome to us – not the rain or wind. And, we had lightening on all sides of us this trip. But, we managed to stay out of range.

But the main reason we had such an excellent time this trip across is that Tim reeled in a monster fish!

I had set our faithful feather – the ugly, faded one that has been so good to us. I had it riding perfectly on the surface, popping every so often to draw attention. And the water was a gorgeous aquamarine color that morning. Simply breathtaking. When one of the crew asked nicely for grub from the kitchen wench, I went below to make French Toast. I heard the excitement at the breaking of the first egg.

While I was down below, Tim and Jim saw something tug on the line - a fin or something was batting at the squiddy. Tim ran to the pole and tugged on the line. That was all the coaxing needed. All of a sudden, the fish lunged and took the lure.

I ran back on deck to see Tim already struggling to reel in something very large and fighting hard. My heart dropped. I just wanted something to cook for dinner – not something the size of a garage door! But, I grabbed the fighting belt and strapped it onto my son’s waist. He heaved and hoed (is that spelled correctly? Hoed?) breathlessly, but managed to reel in the beautiful specimen to Hotspur’s waterline. It was a gorgeous fish!

A Black Marlin SAILFISH with deep purple and blue hues on it’s hood.

Mexicans do eat marlin SAILFISH – smoked usually. But we Hotspurvians do not eat marlin SAILFISH that isn’t on a menu – already caught, cleaned and cooked. So there wasn’t a long discussion about what we were going to do with it. But…

Tim wanted to remove our favorite feather lure from the marlin’s SAILFISH's mouth – I really didn’t think it was a good idea even though I am also very fond of this lure, but since when have the men on this boat listened to me? So, with leather work gloves, Tim hauled the massive fish up to the toe rail by hand until the weight of the fish bent the hook. The marlin SAILFISH thankfully slid off the hook unceremoniously and plopped heavily back into the ocean. He was tired, but unscathed and he hurried off to find a real breakfast elsewhere.

Black Marlin STUPID SAILFISH! In 4 years of living on a boat in Mexico , we have never caught a marlin OR A SAILFISH. We’ve seen plenty of them – have even had them inspect our lures with their bills… batting to test the authenticity of the squiddy and never falling for our tricks. But we got the best of this one this time!

As for dinner, we had a fishless meal. Once we had the wind and got the sails up no one has the inclination to try and mess with reeling in the catch. Too much of a hassle to lower the sails and stop the boat and all that jazz. But that’s okay - I made Hotspur’s skillet lasagne, our favorite comfort food. I'll post the recipe later. It's a goody!

See? Story is the exact same with or without the word SAILFISH!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Upholstery in San Salvador

Tapiceria de Josue isn't much more than this
Here is my suggestion on how to go about getting your boat cushions recovered if you are visiting Bahia del Sol, El Salvador.

Get in touch with Martin, a Spanish speaking chef and van driver at the Bahia del Sol hotel. Everyone knows him - just ask. Justo, an employee in the hotel office, can call him or you can call Martin direct at 7942-6646. There are other drivers, but I suggest Martin because he is my favorite – a really wonderful human being.

Martin's van
After you reserve Martin’s van, get a group together to help cut the expense of van fare – plan on $90 roundtrip. With 8 people, that is only a little over $11 per person roundtrip. But remember, you will be taking your old cushions with you, so account for space and number of people that will fit. We had 18 cushions and had 6 passengers. We charged them each $12 and we paid the difference. 

Talk to your passengers and find out where they want to go and what they need. Write a list for Martin so he knows what places you'll be stopping. For example:
Coplasa for upholstery fabrics, zippers, snaps, foam, Velcro, plastic hooks and closures, elastic, thread, buttons, etc…
Deposito de Telas for upholstery fabrics and regular fabrics
Vidris for hardwares (just like an Ace Harware Store - tools, tubing, hoses, paint, wasp spray, etc…)
Galleria Mall: Radio Shack, Northface, Quizno’s, Wendy’s, Starbucks…
Grocery Stores: Super Selectos, Walmart or Pricemart (Pricemart requires a member card and Martin has one)
Or anywhere else… phone cards, electronics, barber shop, etc...

On the day you will be going, give Martin your list of stops when he picks you up. Bank will likely be fist so you have money to buy things, right? After that:

  1. Tapiceria de Josue is next. You will give your old cushions to the owner, Carlos, and he will write out the amount of fabric you need to purchase and any other items you need, such as snaps, piping, thread, zippers, Velcro, etc…
Tapiceria de Josue
Carlos Ortiz 12 Av. Nte. Y 21 C. Ote.
San Salvador
Tel: 7317-3762

Looking at fabric
  1. Martin will take you to pick out your fabrics and other materials at Coplasa and Deposito de Telas. He will then take you back to the tapiceria to drop off your upholstery and notions. You’ll be expected to pay Carlos 40% - 50% of the total in cash.
 3.  Now, Martin will take you to any of the other places you want to go, saving the grocery stores until last so that meats and cold items don’t get too hot.

It will be another trip to pick up your cushions. And you'll organize it similarly. 

It's a little crazy... I won't deny it.
We had one of our friends volunteer to ride in between the foam on the trip from the upholstery store back to the Tapiceria. But he's a good friend and he looked so cute squished in back! We called to him several times along the way to make sure he hadn't fallen out the back. But, the trip was so much fun with everyone and the out come - new gorgeous cushions at a great price - are so worth it!
Our cockpit is stark white

New interior upholstery! $4 a yard!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Little Things in Life

Yes, we are still sitting in Marina Chiapas, the southern most sailing stop in Mexico. It’s a brand new marina with brand new clean bathrooms, brand new dry storage area and a brand new palapa restaurant.  Summer rates are brilliantly priced at $200 per month – a very good deal. Electricity is free. But, we just paid $575US to sit here because summer rates don’t start until July (you can push for June successfully – but not May).

Already 2 named storms have morphed ahead of us these past few weeks and blown north. While we waited for a weather window to cross the gnarly Tehuantepec, Jim scouted out potential boat yard repairmen who might be able to make our boat repairs right here in Chiapas. Although we found a Huatulco man, we just couldn't make it work. We certainly will not stay here for the summer on board.

I think this part of cruising is the hardest part. Being in a country where customer service is lax means learning to wait respectfully and  patiently. Throwing a tantrum and stomping your feet won’t get you what you want here… well, maybe you’ll get what you want but no one will want to be a part of your life and cruiser rumor spreads faster than a computer virus. It is this cruiser’s humble opinion that being a very polite nuisance is more effective in Central America.

And as for the weather – I haven’t figured out how to make it work in our favor. But this upcoming week looks very promising!

BEFORE: Although they don't look terrible in the photo, these cushions were flat,
stained,had cigarette burns on them and were made out of a scratchy fabric I hated!
Staying positive means thinking of positive things. And instead of dwelling on the not-so-positive- aspect of our visit to El Salvador, we had a very positive outcome there concerning something very trivial and materialistic – but something that has bothered me for a long time. 
Our very old, flat, scratchy interior cushions.
And our falling apart, stained, dull cockpit cushions. 
And let's face it - right now, it’s the little things in life are the icing on the cake!

BEFORE: Same hateful scratchy fabric on settee
If you are planning to cruise to Bahia del Sol or Barillas…
If your boat has the ugliest cushions known to man…
If you have a little extra cash to blow on beauty and comfort…
We strongly suggest that you consider having your cushions recovered in San Salvador!
BEFORE: White vinyl cockpit cushions were badly stained. That's duct tape on the seat
where a rip began running. Duct tape is usually a good temporary fix, but in this case
it oozed down into the rip and left a nice sticky goo around the edges to
collect dog and cat hair.

It takes a little planning. It takes some organization. And, it probably also takes a van to make it happen…
But we had 18 cushions recovered (new foam and fabric and labor – 8 cockpit and 10 interior) for a mere $525US.

In the next post, I’ll tell you 5 easy steps to make it happen quickly and efficiently. And share the AFTER photos!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Need House-Sitters Anyone??

We're putting our feelers out.
Do you know anyone anywhere in Mexico who needs house-sitters for one to six months?

We are considering leaving Hotspur in the marina and taking some time on land. And this is the time the snowbirds migrate north. So, if you hear of anyone looking to have their home cared for appreciatively and lovingly in their absence, please have them contact us: Jim & Meri (meriev<at>yahoo<dot>com)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hurricane Bud

Sitting in Marina Chiapas isn’t the end of the world. 
But we're adjusting our attitudes. 
We wanted to head north and west and the weather won’t let us. 

BUD is west of Hotspur, the cute little white boat sitting... sitting... sitting in Marina Chiapas
A second named storm has reared its ugly head since we arrived here on May 11th. And we thought we were being so smart by scooting back into southern Mexico a tad early – just before hurricane season.
On other years, we would have been correct. 
But - not this year.

From the National Hurricane Center:

Yes, ‘Bud’ is its name. That happens to be the name of my favorite uncle on my father’s side of the family, so how bad can it really be? 

Hotspur is in no danger at all. We are thankfully south of all the action. Good ole' 'Bud' just happens to be in our way.   Track Bud's path here on Facebook if you want.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

When I Realized I Really Screwed Up

It was a couple weeks ago and I was researching maritime law on the computer in the restaurant at Bahia del Sol. A cruising friend in the marina walked up to me and with total seriousness said, 
“This is going to end very badly.”
She was talking about the accident.
I knew right then I had screwed up royally.

If I hadn’t been stupid, things might not have taken a turn for the worse.
If I hadn’t been naïve, feelings might not have been hurt.
It is ridiculous to think that just because “we’re all cruisers” that we all think the same way. 
"Good faith" doesn't mean the same thing to all people.

What I did wrong:
When the liable party told me that their insurance agent agreed to review Hotspur’s case, I should have gotten their agent information immediately. I should have followed them to their boat to get it. This stupid error of mine may have cost us peace of mind and harmony our last two weeks in Bahia del Sol.

Should you be involved in a cruising accident, I have listed a few suggestions below that just might keep all hell from breaking loose. The last thing you want to have to worry about after an accident is how your repairs are going to be paid.

LESSON #1 - Insurance information

If your boat has been damaged by another and they have insurance, get their agent’s name, phone number, email address, etc… Get it immediately. Don’t wait.

And then… make that phone call. Right then. Don’t delay. Don’t make excuses and tell yourself that everybody is on the same page.

If I had done what I am advising you to do, things might not have gotten hairy ugly.

LESSON #2Paying Out of Pocket

This is advice for anyone who has caused damage to another boat. If you want to settle out of pocket (maybe you are self-insured or maybe you don’t want anyone filing a claim with your insurance company), remember… you want to entice the party that has suffered damage to accept your tantalizing offer. Do this very quickly following the accident… a day or two is sufficient. Eight days later is too long.

DO bring a few written estimates from local repair shops. It not only shows you care about the speedy recovery of the other vessel, but it may give you some bargaining power.
DON’T show up empty-handed and complain about how expensive your own repairs are costing you.

DO tell the damaged party what you will do – what you can do. Bring cash – and be serious. If the repairs on average cost $3,000, for example, consider bringing $1,500 to the table. It may not be accepted, but it might. Putting that cash on the table just might be persuasive enough to seal the deal or move it forward in a positive direction.
DON’T show up empty-handed and tell the other party that you won’t pay to repair their boat.

DO be creative. If you have some experience in fiberglass, suggest that you might do the repairs. Or maybe you know someone who will do you a favor.
DON’T show up empty-handed and without solutions. Remember, you want to be a problem solver!

LESSON #3 - The uninsured, the self-insured and those who refuse to pony up their insurance info

Don’t panic if you are damaged by a party without insurance.
If you have boat insurance now, go check your policy. Some policies cover uninsured vessels – much like uninsured motorists in auto insurance. Go check it now.

If the liable party has read my LESSON #2, you might be okay. If they read it, but chose to follow all my DON’Ts, then you may have to go to the port captain or the police.

Really think about this before you approach the authorities, especially in foreign countries. If it’s only a few hundred dollars, maybe it’s not worth the hassle. No telling what might happen. But, if it’s thousands – you may not have a choice.

Likely, the liable party will not wish to go to jail or have their boat impounded. However, you may be stuck where you are until a resolution is reached.

LESSON #4: - Having liability insurance

Hotspur always had liability insurance while in Mexico. First, it’s the law there. Second, it is super easy to obtain online and it’s very affordable.  We've used and

When Hotspur was ready to leave Mexico, we checked all around for basic liability insurance coverage in Central America. What we failed to realize was this:
If your boat is 10 years old or older, many insurance companies require a hull survey less than 2 years old before they will offer coverage in certain parts of the world.
Hotspur had just been hauled out in Guaymas in Dec/Jan… if we had known we could have had a survey performed then.

What happened to us could happen to anyone.
What happened to the vessel that hit us also could happen to anyone.
I think being self-insured is risky.
But many cruisers choose to travel that way. Like us in El Salvador.
Even though liability insurance wouldn't have helped us in the case of another boat hitting us, had we had full coverage we could have handed our little problem over to our agent and washed our hands of the details. Instead, we had to be in the hairy middle of it - and I regret that more than you will ever know.

Hotspur just returned to Mexico for repairs and the insured’s agent recommended we meet one of their surveyors here. And…
we purchased liability insurance online before we left El Salvador.
I can breathe again!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Happened?

Any boating accident, just like any car accident, usually isn't intentional. And, when there is loss of life or injury it is a tragedy. Luckily, there was no one killed or injured. But, talk about putting a damper on things.
This is what happened:
  • Hotspur was unmanned – we were out of the country.
  • Hotspur was secured to a mooring ball at Santos Marina in El Salvador.
  • A gale blew and Hotspur held fast to her mooring.
  • The boat in front us broke off its mooring- the mooring chain (belonging to the mooring field) failed.
  • The boat’s owners were on board the underway vessel, but had dis-connected their starter battery and couldn't start the engine.
  • Their boat struck Hotspur.
  • According to the underway vessel, they eventually got their engine started but couldn't power off Hotspur because the boats were entangled.
  • Help arrived and finally separated the two boats.
  • Hotspur now has a hole in her port hull that penetrated through to the deckside.
  • Hotspur has numerous other damages, including 13’ ripped teak toerail, bent and broken stanchions and front pulpit, and gouges and scratches in the fiberglass and gel coat.

Light shining through gash on Hotspur's port side

Hole on Hotspur's deck side and partial shot of broken teak toerail

Some of the gouges in Hotspur's hull

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Negative Cruising

There are parts of cruising that can be a great, big, fat downer. Sometimes it's the weather. Sometimes bad luck. Sometimes it's changes in policies. Sometimes it's other cruisers. I will talk about some personal experiences down the road, but for today I'd like to ask for your help

There has recently been a change in policy in that affects a favorite anchoring spot. It will also affect the town connected to the favorite anchoring spot. Find out how you can help!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What To Do?

Jim and I discussed what we should do when we discovered that Hotspur had been struck by another boat when she was secured to her mooring. We were in Antigua, and had just rented an apartment for a month and had just paid for weeks of Spanish classes for all 4 of us. Since I am the strongest Spanish speaker, it was decided that I would go back to El Salvador and get an idea of the damage Hotspur suffered. But, I had been sick for 5 days with an intestinal bacterial infection and was on antibiotics. Well, at least I felt much better.

A shuttle picked me up in Antigua at 3:45am last week. By the time we reached Guatemala City and discovered that the bus to San Salvador had already left, I began really needing a hot cup of coffee. Around 7:30am, a man walked in the door holding a cup of frothy, steaming something that strongly resembled a mocha latte! It could be, I told myself. After all, we are in the big city! I asked him what it was and how much. I swear he said that it was a Leche Cafe. He stepped out the door for a few minutes and I waited. He didn't come back. Curious, I stood up and walked to the door and peered around the corner. To my astonished surprise, the man was kneeling down on the ground milking a goat.

Yes, my Leche Cafe was really Leche de Cabra. He brought me my steaming cup of freshly squeezed goat's milk and everyone in the waiting room looked at me expectantly. Things ran through my head - what would this do to my guts? I was getting ready to go on a long bus ride. The goat steam curled up in front of my eyes and I just couldn't bring myself to shamefully refuse my order. I held my breath and took a long gulp of the warm milk. Once my gag reflex relaxed, I realized I quite liked the flavor. I drank the entire contents. Licked the frothy mustache off my upper lip. Who cares if it's not the most sanitary. I figure I'm already on antibiotics. I have a photo, but who knows where it is?

I arrived in San Salvador just in time to be picked up  by a group of friends who were on their way back to Bahia del Sol. Is that lucky or what?

Poor Hotspur. She has a large gash in the port hull that punched through to the deckside. She has at least 19 gouges, a 13' area of ripped toe rail, bent stanchions and scratches out the wazoo. Friends of ours got together and taped up the lesions so water couldn't enter. We are so grateful to all our cruising friends.

With hurricane season coming upon us very shortly, we are feeling the pinch - and panic. What are we going to do??

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hotspur's Been Hit!

We have left the boat for exactly a week yesterday on a mooring in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador so that we could travel inland and see some of Guatemala. Since we have been away, two nasty storms have knocked boats off their moorings.

The first happened last Tuesday - we received an email saying that Hotspur had broken off and dragged into the estuary. I about had a coronary when I got the email! 15 minutes later, we received another email saying it was a mistake. It was not Hotspur, it was our friends on Taking Flight, who are also traveling in Guatemala right now. Good news is that she landed in the muck and not the rocks, so no damage. With the help of lovely cruisers, Taking Flight was pulled off at high tide and re-moored.

But, my coronary returned yesterday morning when I received these photos of Hotspur and news that after another bad storm, several boats broke free - and although Hotspur hung on tightly to her mooring, she was hit by another boat that did not!
Cap rail ripped off and fiberglass gash. Stainless Rub rail missing.
More "owies" in the port hull

Bent stainless stanchions

And if you think this looks bad, one J-Boat, Tolerance, drug anchor and hit some concrete pylons. The boat is a loss. Many other boats sustained damage and as of today we don't know who or how much. Luckily for Hotspur, the damage looks cosmetic. But now one of us needs to go back and get repairs started before hurricane season is upon us. Who knows how long it will take - many boats need repairs made.

The crew on Hotspur left Panajachel and arrived in Antigua last Wednesday. We rented a guesthouse for a month. We start Spanish classes this morning and have paid for 2 weeks of lessons for the everyone. Since I am the strongest Spanish speaker in the family, looks like I'll be catching a bus back to El Salvador and leaving Jim and the kids to finish their lessons. That's what we're thinking today, anyway.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Panajachel, Guatemala

I have said before that traveling with pets is a blessing and a curse. And when you want to travel inland, it is only a curse. Many cruisers we have spoken with who have pets have agreed that as much as we love them, they are a hindrance to our traveling. You can’t take them on the buses, you can’t leave them alone on the boat for long, you can’t guarantee that you’ll find someone to babysit or that your pet won’t rebel at being left and chew up or pee on something valuable belonging to the babysitter. It is a difficult challenge.

To our great fortune, we found a permanent home for Bad Kitty. A lovely woman on one of the islands agreed to take Bad Kitty, hoping that eventually that the cat will be sleeping in bed with her and her dogs. I don’t know about that one, but I truly think Bad Kitty will be much happier as a land cat – pouncing on unsuspecting locusts and wrestling the greatest of grasshoppers.

I love the ladies walking with their wares on their heads!

Church in Panajachel with tuk-tuk (cheap taxi service) driving by

Watermelon eating girl and indigenous people in background
And our timing couldn’t have been better. A van heading to Guatemala with 7 of our cruising friends aboard had room for 4 more. For $100 (including tip), we found transport to Panajachel, Guatemala for all 4 of us straight from Bahia del Sol.

It took about 7 hours, good roads and easy border crossing. No extra costs since El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua share the same Visa-free land travel. It is different if you are travelling by sea.

Smiling family climbing steep cobble stone street
San Juan


All the pretty colors!
Panajachel’s climate was so much cooler than in Bahia del Sol. It rained frequently, but not all day. Unfortunately, that also meant cloud coverage – not great for photos. But the vibrant colors of the souvenirs bursted through the images anyway: bags, jewelry, hats, wooden sculptures, woven baby booties, huipils and smiling people.

We found El Amigo Hotel– small, clean, private bath and 3 doubles for $24US (yes, we negotiated). Breakfasts nearby are very affordable - $3US including coffee. We found the vendors to be easily talked down from their original price of items. I bought a gorgeous hand woven table runner for $11US - gorgeous! The bidding began at 250Q ($33US). We negotiated a tour of the 3 pueblos across the lake for 300Q ($40US) and got to spend time in each for 1 1/2 hours each... Santiago, San Pedro and San Juan.

All the lake towns we visited were very touristy - lots of Europeans and North Americans come to study Spanish and laze away the days all the while enjoying the beautiful views of the 3 surrounding volcanoes.

I'll have more photos tomorrow...

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Tribute to Weather Guru, Don Anderson

Here is a very nice tribute to Don Andesrson, fellow cruiser & weather guru. I wanted to write one of my own, but I think Laura’s sums it up. I also was a net Controller for Summer Passage weather back when we had Windfall in 2009 and 2010. I had so hoped to get back in the swing of things when we finally replaced our SSB/HAM we have on Hotspur, but Don took a sabbatical soon after. There is nothing – and I mean nothing – that makes you feel more secure as a cruiser than talking with a person who has a true grasp of the weather patterns. Don wasn’t perfect, but he had a gift for understanding weather. A real gift. And he was a character, which made us adore him all the more. I will sure miss him and we Hotspurvians sure do appreciate him. Don, thank you and fair winds!
What Laura has to say about Don (and ditto!) on Just A Minute:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lagoon 380 Catamaran For Sale By Owner

Just A Minute anchored in tranquil Este Ton

Our friends on Just A Minute have recently put their catamaran for sale in La Paz as their cruising life comes to an end and a new adventure on land waits for their arrival. If you are looking for an awesome, cruiser-ready catamaran priced extremely well and located on the West Coast, check out their post:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Week in El Salvador and Deviled Eggs


Anyone who has spent any time in Mexico and especially over Easter knows that it is saner to stay inside than to venture outdoors in the crowds. Loud music, parties until daybreak, whole families and crazy drunk party animals play for 10 days preceding Easter Sunday.

s/v Jace at the re-naming ceremony, now called s/v Knee Deep
It is the same in El Salvador. The beaches are littered with people, the streets are lined with stacking traffic and the bays and estuaries are teeming with jet skiers and motorboats – driving fast and furious – every day a little closer to your sailboat anchored out. It is rumored that yesterday speeding tickets were generously handed out to obnoxious jet ski drivers too close to the marina. $200 a pop – ouch!

The hotel is full and the swimming pools and restaurants are busy. We heard the wait to catch a bus to Zacatecalouca was 3 hours long yesterday. The weather gets a little hotter everyday and the humidity gets a little higher bit by bit.

El Salvador Cruiser Rally Deviled Egg Day
Jim and I decided early last week that we weren’t going anywhere until Easter Sunday had passed us by. As much as we are itching to travel inland and take some Spanish immersion classes, hike volcanoes, enjoy cooler weather in mountain towns… we made the choice to hunker down, low-key, hang out and do a few boat projects until the madness is over. Stainless needs cleaning/polishing, oven needs scrubbing, bug screens need washing and repairs made, shade cloth needed design tweaking, etc...

Fran's curry mint eggs

Blythe Spirit's tequila jalepeno eggs
As Easter is upon us today, we expect to make plans early this upcoming week to put Hotspur on a mooring and head towards Guatemala via bus. This means major work to be done to prepare the boat for rain and humidity. We do not want to come back to a boat disguised as a petri dish, green and moldy.

SunDancer gets cutest ever eggs!

Wasabi eggs by Taleria

Heather and her cuteness
So, we had a deviled egg competition on Easter Sunday. Afterwards, we ate the contestants. Some of the entries were really good! But Jim said mine were the best! Truly, there were some very good ones!


12 large boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
¼ cup mayonnaise, not Miracle Whip
½  teaspoon curry powder (add more later if not strong enough)
½ teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 Tablespoon caper juice from caper jar
3 Tablespoons capers
Smoked paprika or cayenne pepper

Gently scoop yolks from eggs into bowl. Add mayo, curry powder, horseradish and caper juice. Use immersion blender and blend until smooth. If mixture is too dry, add more mayo and/or caper juice until creamy. Add more curry if you think more is needed, ¼ teaspoon at a time.

Replace heaping spoonful of egg mixture into whites until all the egg mixture is gone. Gently press 3 or 4 capers onto the tops of each egg. Sprinkle tops with smoked paprika or cayenne pepper. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

What To Do in Bahia del Sol When You’re Not By the Pool?

Jan is a former cruiser and Canadian who now resides on one of the islands across from Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. She purchased her property in 2004. It was just 3 acres of wild, tropical land. It took her 5 weeks and 5 men helping with machetes to clear a space for her house, but today it is a school for the local kids to learn English. And, for the cruiser kids and adults to learn Spanish!
Naome, Tania, Bianca and Alex

Monika and boys

Every Monday and Thursday she has a group of El Salvadoran children come to her home for lessons after school. These kids are so sweet, many of them terribly shy. But after a few visits with them, they climb out of their shells. Jan asks the cruisers to come visit so that the kids get practice.
Mick off s/v Knee Deep (aka Jace) opening the cholla nut the only way possible!

Carolyne and Abby of s/v Andiamo III

Jan has come up with games to help the kids reach out a bit more. Passing a ball in a circle – the tosser says a word CATORCE! – and the catcher repeats the word in English FOURTEEN! The tosser says BLUE! - and the catcher replies AZUL! The tosser yells QUIEN! - and the catcher must say WHO!

Or Jan has a list of colors. The list of colors in Spanish is given to the English speakers and the list in English to the Spanish speakers. Groups are formed and then each group ventures off onto the 3 acres to write down anything and everything they find in those colors.
Grama – Grass
Hoja – leaf
Llina – Flipflops
Guineo – Banana (it was unripe and still on the tree)

Shirt – Camisa
Mango – Mango
Bird – Ave
Flower - Flor

Yesterday, Carolyne and I were the only ones to show up and with only three El Salvadoran girls to show, it was a perfect fit. For 3 hours we practiced our Spanish and helped the girls with their English. I brought quesadilla, a type of cheese cake made here in El Salvador and we shared in the snack.
Jan's pineapple
Her Jocote tree - similar to a plum

Cashew nuts almost ripe

Cashews just budding

The class erupted into a water fight when Jan introduced water balloons! The girls played until sundown, giggling and running and soaking wet. And all the girls wanted to get together again today – for the fun of it.
Jenny, Daniela and Carolyne armed!

Jan instigating lots of fun
 If you want your kid to learn another language, this is the way to do it!

Jan hosts a chicken dinner each Wednesday night. It costs $10 per plate and the proceeds go to her school. Next week she wants to take the kids to San Salvador to the Children’s Museum, Tin Marin.