Search This Blog

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!