Monday, December 27, 2010

It’s Time to Address the Stick

IMG_9454Just before our guests arrive, we send them a document of what to expect living aboard our boat. We do this to prepare them, and also so that they do not get overwhelmed with all the ‘rules’ once aboard.  After all, our lifestyle is a bit different than most people’s, even though for us it’s become our normal (although I sure would love a nice long and relaxing bath!).


Of our ‘rules’, no topic gets more comments from, and creates more anxiety for, our guests than the toilet.  No subtopic creates more angst than the dreaded ‘stick’.  In fact, our current visitors, who have rented a house while they are here, have sworn to high heaven that they will not be going to the bathroom on the boat.  And for the most part, they’ve lived up to their promise.  Unfortunately for us, that has meant less time on the boat than we would have otherwise wanted, and only one of their kids has been ‘brave’ enough to sleep over here. We have insisted it’s really no big deal.  Other guests have done it.  On the other hand, it’s created a lot of laughs.


Here’s what triggers the anxiety, directly from our ‘Welcome Guests’ document (and note particularly item #3):


Toilets: Boat toilets (called “heads”) are very sensitive, and any repairs are very difficult and expensive.

1. NO TOILET PAPER OR ANY FOREIGN ITEMS IN THE HEAD. Throw all toilet paper in the garbage can located under the sink. For very soiled toilet paper, zip lock bags are also provided under the sink. If any toilet paper accidentally gets into the toilet, DO NOT FLUSH – please fish it out with the wood stick beside the head and throw it into the garbage can.  Do not throw anything else into the toilets either, including hair, q-tips, cotton balls, etc.  These items will damage the macerator, which is similar to the blade in a blender, and repairs can be expensive.

2. To flush, hold down the flush button until you see the water becoming clear again. If it takes more than 10 seconds, stop, wait a few seconds, and try again. If it is not flushing, let us know. Any waste left in the toilet begins to smell quickly, especially since it is mixed with the salt water used by the toilets. With each flush, pour about a tablespoon of vinegar into the toilet (vinegar is located in each bathroom), which helps with the smell as well as to keep the toilet bowl and pipes clean.

3. If your ‘poop’ is too large or hard to go down, use one of the wooden sticks to break it up before you flush, then use a baby wipe (located in each bathroom) to wipe off the stick. Replace the stick in the plastic zip lock bag and throw the wipe in the garbage can.

4. The tanks hold only 15 gallons of water. Once full, you will hear the toilet’s overflow spilling into the water after you’ve finished flushing. Let us know right away if this happens.

5. If there are ANY problems at all, please let us know right away.

6. Our rule: you dirty the toilet, you clean it – cleaning supplies are located in each bathroom.

7. Unless we are underway in heavy seas, keep your bathroom hatch (window) open to ventilate your bathroom.

8. When we are at a dock, please use the bathrooms on shore whenever possible.

The wooden stick happens to be one of those paint store sticks used to stir paint.  For the first time, my brother-in-law Paul questioned why these sticks were not disposable.  I had to think.  Well, we have three bathrooms, so that makes for a lot of sticks.  On the other hand, not every poop, nor everyone’s poop, requires stick assistance.  Perhaps we should be writing our names on the stick so that you only have to touch your own sh-t-stick?  In fact, that is the reality given that each of my kids has his/her own bathroom, and between Michael and I, only one of us (and I won’t say who) ever requires the use of the stick (as a result of having borne children).  We’ve never had a problem with the re-use of the stick.  After all, this trip is partially about leaving a smaller footprint on this planet.  It’s the second R in the triple R’s to save our world. But what of our guests?   Paul has a point.  Do guests want to be sharing our sh-t-sticks?  I certainly wouldn’t, even if they are family. 


This week, we’ve gone out to a paint store here in Huatulco and acquired new sh-t-sticks, and these are even plastic!!  Not great for the environment, but more hygienic for guests.  And we don’t want to scare any more of them off.


Some other interesting notes about the toilets:  Not only do we put vinegar into the toilets with each flush to help with the smell and to keep the bowl clean (someone told me she uses Polident to keep her porcelain bowl clean – cruisers are so resourceful!) but about once a week we pour a couple of tablespoons of oil down there as well.  This helps keep the mechanism working well.  It’ll make you think twice next time you ask for that oil and vinegar dressing on your salad, no?


When the toilet’s holding tank reaches its maximum of 15 gallons and overflows into the water, we have to stop using that head as it is illegal to dump waste into the marina waters, and it’s just plain rude to do so in a beautiful anchorage.  This is why when we are in a marina, we use the bathrooms on shore as much as possible, as this gives the holding tanks a longer life. In the States and Canada, there are services that come and suck out the waste from the holding tanks, and there are pump out stations as well.  However, these are unheard of here in Mexico (and I understand in the rest of the world).  So the only option for getting rid of waste is to dump it by opening the valves to the holding tanks when you are at least three miles off-shore.  The kids have a great time watching the water as we are underway off-shore and empty the tanks.   I for one am completely grossed out by it. 


We have never held our guests to the “You dirty it, you clean it” rule.  However, I am proud to say that both my children clean their own toilets, a skill that will come in handy one day I am sure.


And we have had our share of head breakdowns.  Like when the macerator in one of the heads was making weird noises, like it was chewing up sand.  We think some barnacles got up into the through-holes and were gradually degrading the macerator.  Michael decided to take apart the whole thing, including the plumbing tubes leading into the holding tank.  The resulting shower was not pretty.  Or the time Harrison dropped a tiny piece of Lego down his toilet and Michael had to fish it out using one of his McGyver methods.  Since then, we’ve been talking about adding No Lego Playing While On The Toilet to our rule list. 



Signing off from Marina Chahue, Huatulco, Oaxaca

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Exciting and Safe Arrival in Huatulco

After three days and three nights motoring (and this time a little more sailing), we've arrived, and are now docked, at Marina Chahue in Huatulco.

With all things cruising, there is always something interesting that happens -- but its how you deal with it that really matters.  This time, after our delayed departure from Z-Town due to an engine alternator repair, we headed off down the coast.  Around 6 am the morning of Day Two (yesterday), cruising along using our starboard engine at about 8 knots, the engine just all of a sudden went into neutral.  Why you might ask?  It turns out that our throttle cable snapped!  I think this happened either when the alternator was repaired or when we completed our 1,000 hour service.  I am guessing that one of the mechanics must have leaned on the part of the cable that connects to the throttle on the engine which caused it to be fatigued and then, over time while underway, snap.

Now, its not just that we have to get it fixed (I tried while underway to no avail) as we have guests coming to visit this week and next, but equally, if not more importantly, we had to bring the boat into a narrow marina entrance and safely to a dock using one engine.  You might think:  "What's the big deal? You've got another engine."  Catamarans are very maneuverable with two engines that are separated from each other by about 20 feet.  This allows them to be easily controlled and catamarans are actually easier to handle then single engine mono-hulls.  The problem is that when only one engine is working and you are moving slowly (like in a marina), the boat actually just wants to go in a circle. (As a side note, when we are motoring, we generally run only one engine at a time, as at higher speeds, the boat moves straight ahead; using the two engines does not give us significantly more speed but only uses more fuel.)  So we had some special planning to deal with as we approached a marina we had never been into before and also did not know what dock we were going to because the marina office was closed today (Sunday).

Before we entered the channel entrance to the marina, we fully prepared the boat for docking.  We had dock lines on all corners and midship, and fenders on all sides of the boat.  We then put our dinghy into the water which we planned to use for assisted steerage.  Danielle and Harrison got in the dinghy with a VHF radio and took instruction from us over the radio as we practiced maneuvering the boat by pushing on the starboard bow with the dinghy's engine in full throttle to push us to the left.  Then we did the same on the port bow to push us to the right; all this in strong currents and choppy seas.  Danielle and I then dinghied into the marina to check out the lay of the land before coming in with Whatcha Gonna Do.   Barb remained aboard with Harrison and maneuvered the boat to keep her place in the building seas.  It was actually Barb's first time handling the boat at sea by herself.

After getting the lay of the land, Danielle and I returned to the boat and she and Harrison dinghied into the marina in front of us.  We were informed by a fellow boater that as one enters the marina, it is imperative to line up the range markers that are on land to make sure you are lined up properly in the middle of the narrow channel. We lined up, watched for any swell and began to make our way in.  Now, as sailors know, if you are moving, you generally have better steerage and as such, I decided to go slightly faster into the entrance in an effort to have better control.  Barb felt that we were coming in too fast but we needed the speed.  We made it smoothly into the marina and began to line up for docking.  Danielle came around to the side in the dinghy and pushed out our bow so we could line up the boat parallel to the dock and then gently  push her in .  With the benefit of the wind pushing us onto the dock and Danielle's dinghy prowess, we came smoothly to the dock where a couple of people grabbed our dock lines and tied us up.

All said, it could not have gone any better.  Our advance preparation and confidence gained, in large part due to sailing and instruction at OCSC in Berkeley, were critical to a safe and smooth docking.  Now we just need to get our throttle repaired (hopefully quickly) as we have guests arriving on Tuesday who, I know, will want to go sailing.

Michael (safely docked at Marina Chahue, Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In A Group or On Your Own

To many people, there's only one way to get an education-conventional school. Homeschooling is another option, but both have their advantages and disadvantages.

In a regular school, there are many other students so kids have the opportunity to work with partners and in groups. There are certified teachers and set curriculums so you always know that you're learning the "right" things and are up to your state standards. School allows children to socialize and to always be with people their age. Parents also have time to work without needing to deal with their kids.

Along with conventional school also come disadvantages. Most students complain about homework and how much of their free time is taken away, making them form their lives around schoolwork. You always have long, busy days and then little freedom after school. Students also have to move at the same pace of the class, even if they're ahead or behind.

Studies have shown that students learn more and better in smaller classes because they get more individual attention. Imagine if there was only one child in each class. The student's needs would be the teacher's needs and focus would be centered on one person. That's what homeschooling is like. Many parents and children say that after they'd been homeschooled and went back to school, they were ahead. Kids also experience more free time because there's no homework. The length of their school day also varies. Going back to school may be hard for homeschooled students because they would have loads of homework, but they would have learned how to do school in three to four hours, so homework might be easier. Independence is another skill learned by homeschooled kids because homeschooling is mostly independent study. That factor could help in college. Parents also feel closer to their children because they see what their child is learning and spend more time with them. In the winter, you could take your child skiing and not worry about them missing key subjects. If you are homeschooling on a trip, you have a flexible schedule and can take days off to do day trips.

But homeschooling is not perfect either. Socially, children miss out on working with others and interacting with kids their age. Students may be very bored of only seeing their family's faces and lonely without friends. There are no field trips to museums or other places that you can go on without pushing back the end- of-year date. Parents might worry that their child is not getting the right education without certified teachers. Without an ending time, days may go until dinnertime if students are distracted that day.

I feel very lucky to experience both in my life, because they each teach important life skills. But, you be the judge.

Off the Pacific coast of Mexico
125 miles north of Huatulco

Friday, December 17, 2010

Books Books Books

Perhaps one of the biggest gifts of this adventure is having the time to read. I brought a bunch of books with me that had been sitting on my nightstand for years, and its not surprising that once I started them, I couldn't get through them. I quickly left them at the various book exchanges along the way. It's also not surprising that the most memorable books for me have been related to cruising or to Mexico. A must read for anyone setting out on this kind of trip is The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew by Lin Pardey. Not only does it go through the basic care and feeding of crew, but it also has explanations of refrigeration, showers/baths, and great tips on provisioning (including how much you need of each type of produce for how long per person, and what stays best for how long unrefrigerated). Another must read is The Motion of the Ocean by Janna Cawrse Esarey, which very realistically describes relationships at sea. The author took a two year honeymoon sailing to the South Pacific, and writes very honestly about depression, sex, and the highs and lows of being together 24/7. It reads very much like an Eat, Pray, Love saga.
On our last passage I finished the 646 page small type Mexico by James Mitchener. Loved it. Although written by an American in the person of an American/Mexican, it gave me a much better appreciation for the vast and deep history of Mexico from the first inhabitants to the Spanish conquest to present day politics. My dear friend Dennise who grew up in Mexico City remembers liking the book, but does caution me that it is written by an American after all. It is interesting that she says that. I had believed that being on this trip in Mexico, we would get to know the Mexican people but as hospitable and helpful as they are, I get a sense that it is a closed culture that is difficult to break into unless you are 'one of them'. I'll have to ask Dennise more about this.
Our ditch bag (i.e. the bag that contains our emergency paraphenalia in case we have to abandon ship) contains a copy of Adrift: 76 Days Lost At Sea by Stephen Callaghan given to us by our friend Neil Blecherman, and is another must read if you are to undertake offshore sailing. Not only is it incredibly well written and an inspiring adventure story, it also contains intricate illustrations from how to lay out your life raft to making your own solar still for drinking water to rigging up a spear gun. I'm sure I'll be posting more on Emergency Preparedness at some point and at that time will certainly be referring to this book.
On this passage, I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I couldn't put it down, and found myself dreaming in Southern drawls and dialects of the 'help'. Or shall I say, "Law, I been done and dreamin o the South"... Excellent and much recommended - especially to my book club friends.
I now have only 20 more titles on my nightstand to go through. As I get to new book exchanges, I have to hold myself back from claiming even more. Although I had planned to begin reading The Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck next (before we get further away from there), my priorities have had to shift somwhat as Danielle has just finished The Secret Life of Bees and has asked me to read it so we can discuss it. She is reading so quickly that she's taken to re-reading some of her books. I think I'd shoot myself if I ever had to do that. Maybe that's the reason I have 20 unread titles by my bed?
Harrison has also almost finally gotten the reading bug. It's been tougher to find titles that he likes but when he finds one, he'll read for hours. The blessing of not having TV! Michael too has been reading more than I've ever seen him. His choices are usually spy novels a la John Grisham, or else the titles look more like Diesel Mechanics for the Sailor. And thank goodness for that.
Somewhere on the Pacific Coast of Mexico between Zihuatenajo and Acapulco
17 degrees 2.343 minutes North
100 degrees 48.312 minutes West
PS. As we are heading towards Acapulco and with the sun rising in the east, it is right in front of our boat. It is interesting to note how much we are actually traveling east while heading "down" the Pacific coast.
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Zihuatenajo – Take 2 -- UPDATE

Well, the alternator is fixed – AGAIN.  Hopefully, this time for good.  I went to watch them repair it and to see what type of parts were put in.  Not that I am a mechanic, but it always pays to closely oversee any work done in Mexico.  That said, it is impressive the number of mechanical shops, metal bending shops and other industrial type services here in Mexico.  There is a culture here of not throwing things out but rather trying to repair them – work with the limited resources available.  I would not be surprised that if I had wanted to get the alternator repaired in the US, the mechanic (at least most) would just say it needs to be replaced, rather than rebuilt – not that at the end of the day, I may still need to have mine replaced if this repair does not hold up.

So, we are now on our way, about 9 – 10 hours delayed (not too bad), to Huatulco and hopefully we will still arrive by the 19th.  The sun is setting and we are about to sit down for another of Barb’s excellent meals and a nighttime sail. 

Michael (17 degrees 29.8 minutes N by 101 degrees 26.9 minutes W)

Zihuatenajo – Take 2

With excitement this morning we raised the hook in Zihuatenajo Bay off Playa Ropa and headed out for our 3-4 day passage to Huatulco, where we are planning on meeting Michael’s sister Sandi and her family, and later our friends Bob, Elana and Maya.  About an hour out, we realized our alternator is not working.  We spent 4 days at Marina Ixtapa (the next bay over) getting it fixed when we first arrived here, and we thought it had been all taken care of.  Without the alternator charging our batteries when we are motoring (which unfortunately it looks like we will be doing lots of for this passage), the only way to charge up our batteries is with the generator.  Generator on equals using fuel.  Motoring equals fuel.  Three to four days at sea with the motor on equals too much fuel.  We cannot spare any extra.

About an hour out, we decided to turn around and come back to Z-town (what we gringos call it when we don’t want to try to spell it).  Fortunate for us, we were able to get a hold of the mechanic who worked on the alternator last week and he came out to Zihuatenajo to see what is going on.  We hope we’ll be heading out again tomorrow morning with a working alternator – even though it’s a Friday.  There is a sailor’s superstition that one should never begin a passage on a Friday, so we’ll say that we simply began today and will continue tomorrow.

This is not a bad place to be laid up.  This area is tropical, and therefore much greener than the landscapes further north that we have become accustomed to.  The town itself used to be a fishing village, and we enjoy sitting on the fisherman’s boardwalk watching thousands of pounds of fish being loaded up every day onto carts attached to the front of  bicycles.  Today, the town has a nice mixture of local and tourist amenities, and as a gringo, we are not overrun with time share salesmen or people pushing their necklaces and bracelets onto us.  We had perhaps the best meal yet in Mexico at the Porto di Mare, right on the boardwalk here.  Even more surprising than the meal was the service, which never seems to meet American standards very well anywhere else that we’ve been.  Danielle and I went to a yoga class, the kids have been catching up on homeschooling (we are still 10 lessons behind where we were this same time last year) before our guests arrive, we’ve been swimming a bit and exploring the town.

The lay-up here does put us a bit behind schedule though.  We were hoping to get to Huatulco by the 19th to get oriented and clean the boat after a long passage, before the Mandels arrive.  Hopefully, we’ll only be a day behind.  I am relieved we had built in some buffer time.

Zihuatenajo Bay 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anchored in Beautiful Bay outside Ztown

We arrived at noon today in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo after 76 hours of sailing (actually mostly motoring) from Mazatlan. That's a distance of approximately 426 miles! We hope to be here for about a week and then will head on to Huatulco (with a possible overnight stop in Acapulco depending if we know anyone there).
We are currently anchored in a beautiful bay outside the Ixtapa Marina where we will go into tomorrow morning to refuel and check out that town. After likely one overnight at anchor followed by one night in the marina we will spend the rest of our time anchored in Zihuatanejo Bay.
Its a busy little anchorage we are in. Three other sailboats are anchored and a bunch of fishing and tourist boats, not to mention the jet skis, are zooming around. It looks like there are about three palapa restaurants on shore and, when we anchored, a panga (a small fishing boat) came up to our boat. It turns out it had aboard a waiter from one of the restaurants offering to take delivery orders or to take us to shore. Looks like competition is working well even in Ixtapa. I wonder if they offer 30 minutes or free? Look out Dominos!
Michael (Isla Ixtapa, 17 degrees, 41.0 minutes N by 101 degrees 39.5 minutes W)
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dolphins On Our Bow -- A Special Edition

We have now been at sea for three days. This is our third night and by tomorrow, I think this trip will be our longest non-stop journey. Everything (so far) has gone smoothly though we would have much preferred more wind. Finally, later this afternoon, the wind picked up to about 10 knots and we were able to begin sailing with our screecher (asymmetrical spinnaker). Finally!

Well, after an excellent dinner (brought to you by Barb), the sun had set and with no moon out again tonight we had a very dark night of sailing. Yes, sailing! I was on watch and all of a sudden I hear a noise beside the boat. It turns out to be dolphins swimming alongside. But this time it was different. The water is super nutrient rich, particularly with photo luminescent plankton. So as the dolphins swam by they lit up the water like meteor trails in the sky. It was a spectacular sight to only see the luminescent trails as they swam by our boat, circled back and did it again. The trails were so long, they looked like gigantic snakes slithering through the water, but these were friendly dolphins.

This made for a special time on watch!

We are now about 80 miles outside of Ztown and hope to make our destination sometime tomorrow afternoon or early Thursday morning, but since we are only traveling at 4 -5 knots at this point, time will tell.

Michael (along the Mexican Pacific Coast)
(17 degrees, 52.9 minutes N by 102 degrees 55.9 minutes W)

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

On Gas and Wind

I'm on sunrise duty again. We're more than half way to Zihuatenajo and hope to make it in by tomorrow morning. We've been motoring for over 24 hours now as the winds are very light or non-existent and coming from directly behind us. That's the problem with Mexico cruising. Either there's a weather warning where we stay put, or there's a weather window, which means there's no wind.

Michael and I had a familiar conversation at 1:30 a.m. this morning, except it usually takes place in a car on a road trip somewhere: Should we stop and get gas? Although we started this passage with a full tank (105 gallons), our fuel gauge seems only to work intermittently. Most of the time it shows we are completely full. So Michael (aka McGyver) has taken to measuring the gas in the tank by using a long wooden dowel, and then measuring the fuel level with a ruler. We keep track of our engine hours, so this way we can figure out how much fuel we use per hour. Based on our estimates, we'll barely make it to Zihuatenajo, unless we get some real sailing in later today. That's what I'm hoping for.

Usually, in a car, like many men I know, Michael's the one to 'risk' it, which drives me crazy as I'm always worried we'll run out of gas and get stranded somewhere. I like the security of a full tank of gas (and, as an aside, a clean boat - another oddity of mine: I must start a passage with a clean boat - I was up 'til all hours the night before we left cleaning the windows...) This time, I'm willing to risk it, even if it means we have to bob around for a while going reeeeallllly slowwwwwly using only our sails. And of course cars don't have the option of hoisting a sail.

Like this longer 3 to 4 day passage, I figure it's a good dress rehearsal if we do end up going to the South Pacific, which we still haven't decided on yet. You see, this lack of wind requiring us to motor most of the time would continue into Central America. In the meantime, if we go to the South Pacific, there is much more wind. On the other hand, based on our calculations, we'd be spending 25% of our days getting to and around the South Pacific being on a passage (including 3+ weeks at sea just getting there, without seeing any land, or having the option of seeing any land, for that matter). But at least we'd be sailing, even if some of it is merely bobbing. With the continuous hum of the motor giving me a headache all day yesterday and continuing into today, the South Pacific is sounding much more attractive.

Sun is rising, dolphins at our bow. It's not all bad.

-Barb, 12 miles offshore, approx. 20 miles south of Manzanillo (we didn't stop for gas)
18 degrees 41.611 minutes North by 104 degrees 10.372 minutes West

P.S. Now that we've passed Manzanillo, we are officially the furthest south we've been yet. Another milestone.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Staring Into Darkness

It's 4:44 a.m. and I'm staring into darkness. I'm on watch for our 400 mile passage to Zihuatenajo. We are currently motor sailing as the True Wind speed is 2.7 knots coming from the North, which is directly behind us and too light to push us forward. With our starboard motor in overdrive (we only run one motor at a time), we are able to travel at over 8 knots (approx. 8 mph) running the engines at 2800 rpm. This is considered fast by sailboat standards. The engine temperature is around 180 degrees Celsius, which is good. Our autopilot is set at a course of 160 degrees, which is pretty much straight south. The radar screen stretching out into the 36 mile radius screen is completely blank as it has been for the last several hours, with the exception of the Tres Marias islands off our starboard side(which must be stayed clear of, given that they are prison islands according to our charts) and Isla Isabela, a bird sanctuary we visited when we were in the area last time, to our port. There is no moon, thus the darkness. Way up, the stars are incredibly vivid. Straight behind us, in the wake of the engine, bursts of phosphorescence illuminate the water. Other than that, it is difficult to see where the horizon is, where the ocean meets the sky. Given that we have a navigation station inside the cabin, I am able to monitor things in the warmth of the salon, but every 10 minutes or so, I go outside to do a quick check - temperature gauge on the engines are still looking good, sail is still looking good, and around us is still looking, well, dark. Not sure what I'm looking at in the vicinity. That's where your faith in your vessel and God come in. We hope it's not our turn to hit a lost container fallen from a container ship. We are very aware that most 'bad' things happen at night, but that's where we give up our control. We make sure someone is on watch at all times, we make sure our boat is in good sea-going shape, we wait for 'weather windows' before departing on a passage, we have our emergency procedures in place and our 'ditch' bags at the ready (the bags that you take with you when you have to ditch the boat, i.e. it's sinking - which is another blog post in and of itself) and the rest is up to the powers that be.

As we lie in bed trying to regain our rest for our next watch, we listen to every creak and sound that the boat makes. I'm still not totally used to these noises. Some of them sound like the boat is going to crack apart. Occasionally a wave comes and hits the inside of the hull and practically knocks me out of bed. Intellectually I know that this vessel can take much more than that, and hopefully much more than what we'll ever experience if we are prudent, but still the sounds are amplified inside the hulls where we lie awake listening. Anything out of the ordinary, and we jump up to question whoever is on watch.

The engine is purring after our 1000 hour service which had brought us to Mazatlan, where the only Yanmar-authorized mechanic in Mexico is located. Many boats have Yanmar motors, so you'd think there'd be more authorized mechanics around, but TIM (This Is Mexico - a phrase that I believe was coined by Toast Conger in her blog Toast Floats - see blogs listed at the right hand side of this posting). And like most things boat-related and/or Mexico-related, it took much longer than expected. I thought we were being conservative when we estimated we'd be in Mazatlan a week, and we left after two. Parts had to be shipped to Guadalajara for repair and service, new parts were ordered from elsewhere, and the engines were literally taken apart and put back together. This in and of itself is a cause for anxiety: The engines were working well before, but now that they've been tinkered with, what if they haven't been put back together properly? There was recently a sailboat that sank in the South Pacific due to a massive leak around the drive shaft after it had just been serviced due to faulty workmanship (google Aquila). Again, we try to be prudent, and the rest is up to the powers that be.

Our delay turned out to be a blessing, as noted in my last blog post. We saw the crew of Gypsy Wind every day, which included helping Kim celebrate her birthday - two years in a row! We could not have planned it better, and our two weeks took on a vacation-like feel to it, with lots of swimming and hot-tubbing, and way more restaurant meals and happy hours than we would have otherwise had. Perhaps it is their Eastern European roots that we share or their strong family values, but I do feel an incredibly strong connection to them. At one point Kim started talking to me in Russian and this couldn't have flattered me more. We watch closely and with admiration as they parent their two teenaged kids (and a third, who is close to Harrison's age - see Harrison's earlier blog about his friend Noah).

Time for me to pop outside to check the darkness, although the sky to our port is brightening up a bit by now and I can start making out the eastern horizon. No sight of land though, as we are more than 30 miles offshore. At least this far off, we hope to avoid fishing lines and running aground...

-Barb, at 21 degrees 08.713 minutes North by 105 degrees 53.244 minutes West
Posted by Single Sideband Radio in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

We've Departed Mazatlan

We departed Mazatlan today at 10 am enroute to Zihutenajo, about 400 miles south. At 5 - 8 knots, you can do the math. We will likely be cruising for about three days. We might stop in Manazanillo depending on how everyone is doing and weather conditions.

We left Mazatlan having had a great time there and getting a lot of boat projects completed. We spent nearly two weeks hanging out with our friends from Gypsy Wind including our kids having multiple sleep overs on their boat and ours. We spent many late afternoons at the Marina El Cid enjoying the pool and also went down to the Plaza Machado in the old town several times. I even did a street side karaoke of Sweet Caroline in honor of Kim's (of Gypsy Wind) birthday that gathered crowds and cheers!

We completed a major 1000 hour service on our engines changing out transmission and engine oil and coolant, replacing all belts and impellers (used for water cooling the engines), cleaning out the heat exchangers and servicing the turbos. Like everything in cruising, it took longer to finish, between waiting for parts and all, than we originally expected (nearly two weeks vs one week). Total Yacht Works did a great job. We also went up the mast to check all equipment, re securing various chafe protection gear and clean all the standing rigging. I had great help from Danielle and Harrison as they were up there doing lots of the cleaning.

Finally, I also completed that one year consulting project so all in all a pretty productive stop in Mazatlan.

Michael (somewhere along the Mexican coast)
(22 degrees, 32.205 minutes N by 106 degrees 15.268 minutes W)

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I’ve Become a Dock Worker (Part 2)

Well, as of today, I am no longer a dock worker.  Project completed.

Now looking for new projects……

Michael (in Mazatlan)