Kicks on 66

Monday 10th Jan
Kathy and I spent the week before our trip keeping our heads down, we had to take a covid test 24hr before our departure, if we failed it, we would be looking at more lost flights, hotel bookings, car hire etc. After the fiasco of Christmas and France/Switzerland we didn’t want to take any risks, we had hoped to hook up with lots of friends over Christmas, but that will have to wait.

A plane to take us to Phoenix

So with an early start (6am) and a quick taxi ride to Manchester airport for our flight to Phoenix Arizona, with a few hours at Heathrow on the way. Arriving in Phoenix Sky Harbour, we picked up a very snazzy BMW 5 car and hit the freeway to our Sonder room downtown. Sonder do a serviced apartment where you basically have a studio flat with a very decent kitchen/dishwasher/clothes washer etc. The plan was to use that as a base for the first 4 days while we get over any Jet lag.
Arriving at a huge complex of apartments around 8pm, we located our room only to find another couple in it. A double booking? Not a good start, it was 3am our time, so I was not mad at the idea of chasing around for a bed. However a phone call to Sonder revealed they had changed our room and the email notification hadn’t reached me yet (It finally arrived just as we were leaving 4 days later). It was a great apartment and very relaxing

Tuesday 11th
In the morning we drove to Cave Creek, an old frontier town just outside the built up part of Phoenix. It seems to just be a tourist spot now, lots of shops selling lovely trinkets and clothes. I think most of the original town has gone and what we saw were recreations. We had a lovely lunch there before returning to our base.

Wed 12th
A lazy start then a 15 minute walk to the downtown centre of Phoenix. There’s a heritage square with some of the original buildings that have been restored and house a visitor centre and museum. Frankly it was a tad disappointing, the square was small and mostly closed for winter. The buildings were old, but not as old as most of the houses I have lived in back in the UK. Outside of the square comprised of soulless high rise offices, hotels and apartment blocks. We looked for a shopping area as Kathy and I both had a few things we needed to buy that we had forgotten. We could only find a few artisan or high end designer stores. We wandered back to the apartment disappointed, but did come across a funky bar area a little way from the centre and stopped for drinks.

Thursday 13th
We decided that Scottsdale was the place for shopping and it also had a pretty old town. The town is more like a village that has been amalgamated into Phoenix, but sits away from downtown on the banks of a canal.

We stumbled on a lovely little Mexican restaurant for lunch, I had a very tasty Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs) and Kathy went for Salsa and chips.

We wandered around the artisan shops and the old town, which was totally visitor orientated.

Friday 14th
Time to check out of our Sonder and drive to Flagstaff. Flagstaff is an interesting town, and central for several excursions we plan in the area. It’s just a few hours drive north from Phoenix and we break the journey up by stopping in the lovely town of Sedona. The scenery in the area is stunning. Vast aresa of flat desert then rocks jumping out of nowhere

As we travelled north we gained altitude towards 6000 ft, the temperature plunged quickly from a very warm Phoenix to a cold and snowy situation.

The view from Flagstaff.
In flagstaff we checked into one of the zillions of motels that exist along the side of the highways here. They are very basic, and quite small, but cheap and cheerful, and do the job. We have the room for 4 nights, and it works out just fine. The motel is on a very special road here. It’s got a new number (I40) the I is for interstate, but it is also called ‘Historic route 66’ Most of this historic route has long gone, but bits remain, and for reasons I struggle to understand, it has taken on a great mythic status. From here on in, it will be impossible to avoid Route 66 memorabilia. Kathy, like most people is very thrilled we are travelling this famous stretch of road, I’m enjoying trying to understand what has happened and if I could make Meols Drive just as famous back home. I think getting your road named in a few big albums helps.

We head to downtown Flagstaff and wander the streets getting coffee at one of the trendy cafes here. It has a lovely laid back feel and we pop into a thrift shop to buy some cutlery to eat with when bringing back food to the motel.
Something we had stupidly overlooked was how cold it is up here in the winter. There is snow piled up everywhere we go. I was just thinking La Paz Weather all the time.
From the town we drive north to the Northern Arizona state museum. I’m keen to know about the area before these towns were built, before the railway and route 66 arrived. The museum is fantastic, well worth the $15 admission fee (It reminds me how lucky we are to be able to go into museums and art galleries for free back home). I learn a lot about how the lands were occupied by various groups of peoples over time, more recently the well known tribes of the Hopi Navajo and Apache people. The Apache being two separate distinct groups bundled together into one tribe for convenience by the European settlers. To exist in the harsh lands here, the tribes initially were nomadic and relied on a great understanding of weather, crops, animal migrations etc in order to find areas with food at any particular time in the year. Learning about the First Nations in Canada and the pre-hispanic peoples in Mexico has opened my eyes to the indigenous people across the whole of this continent. Later I try to visit a Hopi settlement.

After the museum we head into a national park to look at a volcano rim that has spewed lava in a massive river which has set. It’s quite a sight.

From the lava fields we head to see some ruins at Wupatki National Monument. The website states:

People gathered here during the 1100s, about 100 years after the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano, gradually building this 100-room pueblo with a community room and ballcourt. By 1182, perhaps 85 to 100 people lived at Wupatki Pueblo, the largest building for at least fifty miles. Within a day’s walk, a population of several thousand surrounded Wupatki.
Although it is no longer physically occupied, Hopi believe the people who lived and died here remain as spiritual guardians. Stories of Wupatki are passed on among Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, and perhaps other tribes. Members of the Hopi Bear, Sand, Lizard, Rattlesnake, Water, Snow, and Katsina Clans return periodically to enrich their personal understanding of their clan history. Wupatki is remembered and cared for, not abandoned.

The area around here is called the painted desert and is quite stunning. The vastness of the prairies contrasting with the eroded rocks that rise up with big flat tables on top (Mesas).

On the way back we call into a pizza place and order a takeaway. an experience in itself. The smallest pizza we could get was way too big for the two of us, also the same price as a night out in Liverpool.

We head off in the morning to Meteor Crater, this is a huge hole in the ground. It’s quite amazing to stand on the rim and look down.

It’s hard to appreciate the size, it’s over a kilometre across (.75 mile) and 170 metres deep (560. feet). There’s an astronaut fully decked out in space suit standing at the bottom. Something to do with NASA training them here (or where they filming something ?). The onsite museum had a lot of interesting information on meteorites.

We accidently ended up taking a wrong turn on the way here and ended up on a bit of abandoned route 66.

Route 66

So next we head to Winslow so Kathy can stand on a corner. I think that’s actually the whole reason we are in Arizona for three weeks. The Eagles have a song with the lines:

“Well, I’m a standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me”

We are not the only people there wanting a piece of that corner, we have to queue for our pics, but it’s a laid back atmosphere and probably a lot busier in season. there’s only a few shops open as it’s a Sunday, but thankfully they have a lot of ‘standing on the corner’ merch for Kathy to sweep up.

I’m much more interested in an antenna just behind the corner. I presume it’s a microwave dish, but I can’t remember ever seeing anything this shape before.

On the way back we are mostly following the Santa Fe railway which brought much prosperity to the area when first built. It runs from the east coast to the west coast, and takes in our motel front garden. The nuisance is offset by the Casey Jones hooter you hear every now and then, and the clanging bell. You have visions of the old railroad transporting cattle or pigs to the big cities. The reality is more of hundreds and hundreds of 40ft Shipping containers full of Asian goods heading east from the east. These trains usually have three locomotives at the front and sometimes two or three in the middle as well.

On the way back from Winslow we take a diversion to visit a Hopi tribe settlement and ruins, however it’s too late and the park rangers have closed the access road. I have often wondered about the Hopi since I first saw the film Koyaanisqatsi as a young man. It had a massive effect on me then, as did the soundtrack by Philip Glass.

We have such action packed days that I’m going to do a blog post very week, otherwise I will be overwhelmed with photos of places my failing memory won’t be able to recall.
Next stop the Grand Canyon, tomorrow on Martin Luther King day, nothing to do with the fact that National parks are free on MLK day.

Paul Collister

Christmas in England.

17th December 2021
I have been neglecting the blog somewhat due to all the travel and Christmas related stuff.
I left La Paz, had a few great weeks of sailing around the Sea of Cortez, ending up in Escondido. I then flew home to Liverpool to be reunited with Kathy and prepare for a Christmas in the Swiss alps with my kids. At this point the word Omicron was unknown to me.

Leaving La Paz as a tanker is arriving.

November 2021
I have left La Paz and I’m chilling in the local islands of Espiritu Santo. I attempt some boat jobs, starting with the foot switches for the anchor windlass. Sadly the Solenoid is not making a good connection when wanting to reverse the windlass. Later I have a great snorkel around the rock.

Time to get a new solenoid, the relay contacts must be worn
Anchor chain when Kathy isn’t flaking
Track from La Paz to Espiritu Santo
Coronados bay on Espiritu

Day 3 2nd Nov: Off to Isla San Francisco.
Sail for 2nd half, boat sailing really well to wind, 2 hours at 5 knots close hauled and heeling a fair bit but not enough to get any waves on board.
The bay has a mega charter motor boat, big slide and lots of toys and jet skis etc.

Track from Espiritu to Isla San Francisco
Isla San Francisco

Day 4 3rd Nov
Chilling in the bay and work on the SSB Pactor, get an email out and reply from Kathy. Millions of ferrite rings don’t solve the problem I have of RFI, which means the radiated signal from the transmitter and aerial is getting back into the electronics and causing the system to crash. I have to run at low power, and this varies depending which frequency I use. In the end 10Mhz seems to be a good compromise early in the day.

Day 5 4th Nov
I’m up early and see a few of the party boats have left. As usual it’s a glorious day, blue skies, gentle breeze and the sun rising quickly against the mountains that make the backbone of the Baja Sur peninsula. I might leave this afternoon and head over to San Evaristo, this will break up the journey to El Gato a little, only by a couple of hours, but it all helps, especially if I’m going to skip Gato and push onto Agua Verde, as I have had to do twice before due to swells from the wrong direction at El Gato. 

Today’s main task is to stop the PI computer constantly rebooting. I spend several hours trying to work out why it is rebooting – it seems to crash not long after startup, usually a few minutes. I don’t find out why but it seems to crash when I move the board. I come to the conclusion it’s a power supply problem, and the slightest movement of the power supply cable causes a crash. I’m not convinced, but by suspending it by its ethernet cable, it’s working ok. 

I try to send Kathy an email using the HF SSB rig but I can’t connect to any base stations. It is 13:00 and there’s a lot of static on the airways. I try again at 19:00 and I think it gets sent.

Before this I dinghy over to the North of the bay and snorkel with some lovely big fish. I say lovely, some of them give me evil looks and bare their teeth at me. I don’t hang around.

The water is a lovely temperature for swimming, but this will change over the next month for the worse. I also like swimming just before sunset, and when I get out the water in the setting sun, it’s starting to get chilly.

Day 6, 5th Nov Leave for somewhere north, not really sure, started off thinking of a short hop across the channel to San Evaristo, but decide I should take advantage of the flat calm weather with no wind or waves/swell for several days. I’m getting good wx reports from NOAA over the Pactor SSB link daily now.
I decide to follow the coast of the Island, Isla San Carlos, and anchor near the north end behind a little spit. It goes from 40 metres or more to 2 metres in just a few boat lengths, so I am anchoring on the side of an underwater cliff really, this is great when the anchor is pulling up the hill, towards shore, but likely to pop out if the wind sends me the other way. My first go at anchoring seems fine, but I only have 1 meter of water under the hull and I haven’t really reversed hard on the chain, if it’s set well, I should reverse to just about 1/2 meter under the hull and the pull forward in these still conditions to be in about 4 meters of water, it’s right on low water, so ‘things can only get better’ as they say. However, I bottle it. I can see the bottom and it looks way too close, so I steam ahead and have another go. I set the anchor in 17 metres of water and reverse back until the anchor sets fully and I’m in 4 meters of water. This will do. I have a little kayak around and beach in the ugly lump of plastic and take a walk. Just as I get out of the kayak I’m faced with 4 cows and a couple of herders marching them along the beach. This is an uninhabited island, as far as I thought, yet this is like a scene right out of a Hollywood western.  We exchange pleasantries, and they continue their march, eventually turning off the beach and up a dirt track into the hills where they disappear out of view, leaving me in a somewhat confused state. I say cows, however they had the horns of an antelope

Day 7, 6th Nov, Again taking advantage of the calm, I pop over to Tembici 4 hours north on the Baja peninsula.

Here, there is an old derelict hotel. Apparently, some time ago, a local pearl diver, who was quite poor and couldn’t even afford his own boat, found a giant pearl despite getting very poor offers from the pearl merchants in La Paz, he made enough money to amass a fishing fleet and build a hotel here. When he died, family disputes caused the hotel to fall into disrepair. And now it stands as an empty shell. I don’t know if this was prior to Steinbeck writing The Pearl, which although similar, had a more tragic ending. Here, I dive on the hull and remove as much growth as I can reach. Just as I’m learning to freedive, and feeling comfortable with it, my ears have given up on me. In particular my right ear, which I think has a blocked ‘euston-station’ tube, meaning I can’t get much deeper than a meter before it starts to hurt, and I’m unable to equalise that ear.  
Next stop Agua Verde, let’s hope there are not as many flies there.

Arturo shot this while taking some people dialing

Day 8, 7th Nov  (Sunday)
Arrive in Agua Verde, an uninteresting trip, AV is busy with camper vans, and a mega yacht at anchor. Bit of a panic with the anchor alarm. Turned out to be a problem with the app/GPS on the iPhone. It was giving me 48m as best GPS accuracy, however the iPad was fine. A reboot of the iPhone fixed it, but very disappointing. I don’t think Steve Jobs would have let that bug get through. I reconfigure the boat’s external wifi and internal router to work with the shore based wifi, just need to go over to the village tienda and buy some credit now. 

This is where my notes stop. I chilled in Agua Verde for 4 days I think. The road to the sand spit was being widened by a big digger (JCB) and was rumoured to be organised by an American lady who wants good access to the spit. I don’t know if that land is being developed, I hope it remains available to the public, it’s such a lovely spot. I climbed up the hill on the sand spit and took some pictures.

Track to Agua Verde
Track to Agua Verde
The road widening in Agua Verde
The village cemetery
The spit / Isthmus at Agua Verde

From Agua Verde I spent a week or more working up to Puerto Escondido where the boat is now, via Isla Coronado where I spent a few days.

Isla Coronando

The boat is swinging on a mooring ball provided by the marina. This costs around $400 / month, which is crazy for a mooring, but there was nothing cheaper on offer and to be fair they have the best showers of any marina I have stayed in. Also it’s a lovely spot, very safe and they keep an eye on my lines. The hurricane season seems to be over now.
27th November 2021
Yesterday I rented a car, and drove into town to get my Covid test. Today I returned the car to the airport and took a flight to Phoenix Arizona. After a 5 hour wait I boarded a flight to Heathrow then onto Manchester. Unlike the Heathrow flights from Mexico City, which are empty, this one was fully booked. It was a long journey, starting Saturday morning at 9am and ending in Manchester on Sunday evening.
It was good to see Kathy waiting for me at Lime St station. I did my covid testing and after a day I was free to join in the Christmas revelry in town. (not)

Puerto Escondido Anchorage
You need a serious chair for serious fishing

The main reason for my return was to take my grown up kids on holiday in the Swiss alps over Christmas, I haven’t seen them over the last two Christmases, however we heard that Switzerland had introduced 10 day quarantine for non EU (that’s us) visitors. My son Isaac and his partner were keen to go skiing and so this wasn’t going to work. Thinking that everyone would be cancelling their Swiss holidays and moving to the French alps, we cancelled our chalet and rebooked in France. Our flights were good to Geneva as that airport sits on the border of France and Switzerland and has a French exit. I changed the car hire to collect a French car on the French side only to find out the price had doubled since I booked the Swiss car! Having paid the non-refundable booking fee for the French chalet in Chamonix, which did look lovely, the Swiss removed the restrictions. Too late now. However it became clear we had to enter Switzerland before we could transit to the French sector. Not a problem, until a few days ago when the Swiss brought in new rules meaning we need 48hr PCR tests, which we quickly organised to be taken two days before we flew.
Yesterday the French banned the Brits from visiting their country, so I’m now in the process of cancelling flights, car hire etc.
Hopefully we can find a place in the UK for our Christmas break. Maybe Covid won’t be so bad next Christmas?

Although I tell everyone I’m from Liverpool, in fact I’m from the suburbs over on the Wirral, and I’m only really getting to discover the town properly now as I wander around exploring for exercise. The centre I know well, but the next ring around the town, especially the University campuses is very interesting. Walking around I snapped a few pics of Liverpool.

Christmas has started
The School of Engineering building ( I think) The light constantly changes
Kathy enjoying an Indian meal, something hard to find in La Paz
Lamb Banana, a Liverpool special, with my mate on the arse
Another university engineering building
New developments at the Hospital end of the university of Liverpool Campus
The Spire, an Eco building?
The Georgian Quarter
The Liverpool Philharmonic Concert Hall.

Liverpool hosted the G7 summit discussing the Russian build up on the Ukraine borders. Above you can see how security ended up closing off many streets in Liverpool.

Kathy enjoying the Christmas market with her family
The view from Everton Park
From Everton Park
The Albert Dock
Victoria Gallery & Museum
St Georges Hall
The Metropolitan Cathedral (This used to be known as Paddy’s Wigwam, probably not PC now)

Paul Collister

A quick note from Loreto

Hi everyone, I made it to Loreto fine, and went further up to Isla Coronado.

No sniggering at the back please.

It’s been a great few weeks, mostly motoring, with a bit of sailing, but mainly lazing around, snorkeling, beach walks and reading.
I haven’t had much internet, and no high speed internet, to allow me to upload pictures and videos, but I have today managed to upload to YouTube a clip I made in the Coronados. The first fish is an Aguilla (eel) and the second I think is a Mobula Ray, it’s hard to appreciate its size from the vid, but from the end of its tail to the front is about the same as my height, just under 6ft or a couple of metres.

If I get a chance I will post a real blog when I get to Puerto Escondido in a few days. Then I fly back to the UK next Saturday.

Paul Collister.

Leaving La Paz for Loreto

Monday 25th October.
I just have three more days here in the marina at La Paz then I will head off to the north ending up in Puerto Escondido for my flight from neighbouring Loreto back to the UK at the end of November.
The last two weeks have been a bit lazy, the first week was spent mostly at the keyboard trying to get my Raspberry pi working with the ADC, unfortunately at some point the SD card, that contains the operating system and all the software and data got corrupted, I tell myself this happened just before I was going to back it up, but that’s probably a lie. I spent a day trying to recover my software from the SD card, which I succeeded with a little, but decided in the end to start from scratch again. Is there a prize for the quickest rebuild of a LAMP system?
Once it was all back and running, I spent a day working out how to backup the SD card. Next the ADC needed to be connected and I didnt have the right connecters. Eventually I got it all working and reading voltages when I decided a week was enough playing and as I only had 10 days left I better make a list of chores that needed doing.
The usual jobs, like getting fuel, water, supplies, gas (lpg), do a laundry run, wash the dinghy and boat (best to use water while I have it for free), furl on the headsails, refit the sprayhood, take the covers down and load the dinghy onto the foredeck were added to the list and tackled one at a time over the next week.

While the spray dodger was off, I was able to access the teak work on the coachroof and give it a couple of coats of varnish, it’s looking quite smart now, but also highlighting the areas I haven’t done yet.

I also slapped a bit of varnish on the bowsprit.

One job on my bigger todo list was check and replace if needed all the chainplates.Now a chainplate is a long bit of steel, or iron on some boats, that is bolted to the side of the boat and the wires that support the mast are fixed to it with turnbuckles. If they fail, and they can, the mast can snap. I don’t know when they were last replaced, if ever. However there were signs of rust on one chainplate below the deck, so I thought I would check that one out.

A touch of rust creeping in there

This starboard locker had suffered a lot of water ingress when I bought the boat and I had quickly fixed the leak in Malaysia, however it needed to be sorted properly.
The first job was to remove the chainplates and then the damaged vinyl on the surfaces, I had hoped to just do a small area, but the job grew, and I decided to do both chainplates in that locker and also the next locker.

First problem, the bolts are too long

The first chainplate came out and had some crevice corrosion. It’s usually like this, a line running around the plate where it is sitting inside the deck. Water gets in from the deck, but there is no oxygen there, consequently a special type of corrosion occurs. It’s amazing how a bit of water can cause the steel to be eaten up so badly.
I took the chainlate off to a local fabricator to have it copied, I’m still waiting to know if he can do it before I leave on Thursday, otherwise I will be delayed, but out at anchor as I have to be out of this berth.

I don’t feel safe relying on this.

To be fair, as this boat is a cutter rig there are shrouds all over the place, and the failure of one shroud might be ok if the mast wasn’t under a lot of strain at the time.

You can see below the holes in the deck where the chainplates emerge. There was no obvious damage to the core of the deck, but I raked out the core balsa material to about 1cm back, then I filled the void with thickened epoxy. this will protect the deck against future failures of the seal.

Two starboard rear chainplate holes
Clean and ready for new vinyl covering

So unable to find the vinyl I bought in Guymas I went off and bought a lot more, only to find the original as soon as I returned to the boat.
I would like to say I have added upholsterer to my CV but you would have to be pretty desperate to ask me for help with any fabric work. Below is the only angle where you can’t see a bad join. Once things are in the lockers it will look very professional.

Below you can see the cleaned up chainplate backing plates on the fresh white vinyl, this is as good as it will ever get. I’m very impressed, if only the other six looked as good. That will take a bit longer me thinks.

Sunday 24th October
So I finally finished cleaning up the boat, I have to wait for the chainplate to arrive before I can fit it and seal them both at the deck level. The second chainplate was in good condition which gives me some hope for the other ones.
So I headed off into town and onto Arturo’s rooftop terrace to checkout some Blue cheese he has found.

The fire brigade join a protest march

The police lead the march for Cancer Awareness
Now that’s an oven.
What a great location to chill, 360 deg panarama
The main cathedral in the city square viewed from the terrace.

So just a few more jobs to do and then I can leave the Marina. I’m really looking forward to being out again, no aircon, but a nice sea breeze, dolphins for company, and after a couple of days getting used to the boat, I will head off into the islands for 3 weeks, with next to no contact with the world, although I will be working on my SSB pactor while out. I returned from the UK with a big bag of toroid rings so I’m hoping to sort out the RF interference.

It’s been a little difficult writing this blog with the knowledge that one of my favorite readers, commentator and friend is no longer going to be reading any more of my posts. Kathy’s sister Bobbie very sadly passed away just a couple of weeks ago, Kathy was with her in Milan and has now returned to Liverpool. Bobbie was a lovely person and took a lot of interest in our travels, she understood and enjoyed my slightly dry humour and I always had her in mind when trying to pen something funny. We will miss her terribly.

My next blog will probably be mid November from Puerto Escondido.

Paul Collister.

Problem Solving

I enjoy problem solving, which is just as well and probably why I’m living on a boat happily, there are no end of problems to solve, some not even boat related, like my next trip home. Firstly though an update on the fridge

Monday 4th October 2021
I head off to the ferreteria (Hardware store, I’m assuming from the latin Ferrum (iron), as in Ironmonger) to pick up some squirty expanding foam. As commented last week, you get a lot of foam, presumably reusable, but probably not in reality as it will gum up the nozzle and hose, still at $10 for a can, it’s not the end of the world, and a small cost in the larger fridge scheme of things. I have read one should treat it like sikaflex, in the sense it will make a mess everywhere, but I think not, it seems easy to manage and it’s only at the end when I try to wipe up some excess that I start getting it all over me and the locker. Fortunately it clears up well. I have the fridge on full now and I have just started to get ice crystals in my diet coke, so that’s perfect. Also the Tilapia fish fillet I put in the freezer bit is rock solid.

Now the fridge is finished, I stow everything back in the Lazarette and tidy up the cockpit. I have the air con running a lot but I really don’t care for it. The boat is either too hot or too cold and noisy, can’t seem to find a good balance.

I have ordered a small ADC for the PI computer, in fact I ordered two from MecardoLibre, the Mexican version of eBay, postage was free for two and the same price as a second unit! This little device should plug into my Raspberry PI computer and allow me to monitor voltages (and currents via a shunt) around the boat. The plan is to get the data displaying on this website for all to see, in particular so that I can monitor the health of the boats batteries and also if the bilge pumps are running and when, while I am away from the boat over Christmas. In all honesty it’s really just an excuse for me to do some programming and as I have said before, make a light come on in England when the bilge switch lever moves in Mexico. The ADC which stands for Analog (variable voltages) to Digital (0s and 1s) Converter, is very sensitive, and it will be interesting, and probably a challenge to use. I’m expecting large current flows, like the Starter Motor or the Windlass or Bow Thruster will create voltage swings in the earth loops that will cause it to go crazy with it’s readings, then when you add in the fact that my cable runs to the sense locations will behave like antennas for the SSB, the data is open to much corruption. Perhaps software Low Pass Filters might be the answer, we will see.
I visit Arturo to try a selection of cheeses we have acquired here. I insist he tries the Brie, which he later admits to quite liking, despite the fact he winced the last three times I made him eat it. I think like most vices, smoking and spirits, there is a pain threshold you have to go through. I presume the French are fed it as babies so won’t understand this.

We sit on his rooftop terrace looking out over the bay, it’s quite a view, perhaps one of the best in La Paz. In the distance the cruise ships are preparing to return to service as many have already done at various Mexican ports.

A potential Hurricane appears on the forecast, a long way south, and not looking like a threat yet. I had secretly hoped we had escaped the season but hurricanes have been known here right up to December, albeit very rarely.

The UK government announced the removal of Mexico, and scores of other countries, from its Red List today, which makes it a lot easier to get home. I start to look for flights from Mexico City back to England but find the British Airways site crashing. I wonder if this is due to demand. Will demand mean prices rise now, or will more airlines start up old routes and the prices drop.

The plan is to leave La Paz in 3 weeks time, and spend November slowly sailing my way up to Puerto Escondido, near Loreto, so I can leave the boat there on a mooring ball for Christmas, and catch a flight from Loreto to England. I log on and find BA have sorted their website out, it’s still a bit slow, but not crashing. It seems like the flights are very expensive £1000+ return, but when I check out the flights from Loreto to Mexico city I find there aren’t any. This is a blow. I had just assumed all regional airports would connect to the capital. It seems if I want to fly back from there I will have to go via Phoenix/LAX or Dallas. It’s difficult if I have to get back to La Paz or Cabo San del Jose, and will involve a long bus ride or taxi and hotel. So here’s a rough idea of what I need to coordinate with my guess at prices so far

Water taxi from Boat to marina$5?
Taxi from Marina to Airport (Loreto)$40
Flight to Arizona (one way)$300
Arizona Hotel 1 night$60
Flight To Manchester via European Capital (return)$900
Train from Manchester Airport to Kathy in Liverpool$15
Boat storage at Loreto for 2 months$800
versus Boat storage at La Paz for 2 months$1630

Up early and off to the street craft/organic market for some Vegan pesto. I manage to converse in Spanish, and the lovely lady there humours me and lets me pretend I can speak Spanish for the transaction, which included me asking if she would be there ‘con pesto’ on Tuesday. So after nearly 2 years in Spain, studying the language and I can now buy pesto in the market, to be honest, I was hoping for a bit more.

From there I head to Steren, this is a computer/electronics store, I think it’s a bit like Tandy, or Maplin, I get there at 9AM it’s starting to get hot now, and I’m pleased to be there before the sun starts burning me, however I see the store is not going to open until 10AM, I can’t wait an hour here out on the edge of town. I cycle on to Home Depot, maybe they might have the cable I need. I want some two core shielded flex, I’m thinking or running this to the battery shunt and feeding into a differential input on the ADC which I believe has arrived. They don’t have any, but I do buy 20m of Satellite receiver cable for about £10, this will allow me to run sensor leads that can be screened from RFI (SSB interference).

On my way to Home Depot I pass a very nice area with expensive looking houses down pretty side streets, when I emerge onto the main road, on one side there are lots of offices, mostly Abogados (Lawyers/Solicitors) and on the other side of the road a big prison.

I can see why the legal fraternity might have offices close to the jail, but I wonder if they live in the fancy houses too. everything on your doorstep.
I cycle on to the best electronics shop in the centre of town, and he has some microphone cable with 2 cores, so I buy 10 metres of that, it may come in useful, who knows. What I can’t find is a 12v USB Hub, I have seen them online, I want to find a way to power the PI computer and an attached hard disk all from 12v.

Cycling along the waterfront at the western end of town, I see it’s a big tide and the car park has flooded. I’m not sure they are quite ready for a 1m sea level rise here.

Looking out into the bay, I spot the remains of another abandoned ship

I know I’m colour blind, but that looks quite blue to me.
Zooming in on the above pic

Arturo had left some items in Ventana on Saturday, so for a change I decided to hire a car for the day, head over to ventana, an hour drive and then afterwards we would use the car to do a big shop. Ventana is some distance along the coast from here and is much more exposed. It’s opposite Jacques Cousteau Island. Arturo is doing his divemaster course here at the weekends. We hire a car for just MEX$800 around US$40, or £28, which is not bad for a day however no sooner had we left the centre of La Paz than I was pulled over by a policeman on a motorbike.

He informed me, via Arturo, that I had gone through a red light, I didn’t think I had, but they are easy to miss, so it’s possible. He took my driving license off me and explained there was a fine of 1660 pesos. Around $80 or £60. Arturo offered him 100 pesos, but had to up his offer to 200 quickly as the cop was not amused and kept saying it was 1660, even producing a sheet of fines I suspect his mate had printed for him. He also explained the fine could not be paid at the station as it was closed on Sundays and so I would have to visit the station on Monday to get my license back. I suggested to Arturo we offer him 1000 to be on our way, but stupidly, I took it as a chance to practice my bigger numbers in Spanish, as soon as I said mille peso, the cop’s eyes lit up, and Arturo gave me evils. The cop took the 1000 pesos and we drove off with Arturo cursing me, convinced the cop would have accepted 200 pesos if we had tried harder and I hadn’t been so stupid to say mille peso out loud. Anyway, I figured £35 to get off with a traffic violation, which would have got me points on my license back home was not the end of the world. Arturo disagreed for the next 15 minutes, until we were pulled over by another cop in a big 4×4 travelling the other way, he thought perhaps we were going too fast, but somehow, despite the fact we were in a group of ten cars all travelling at the same speed, it was me, Mr Gringo, that caught his eye. Arturo was quick off the ball to tell the cop we had just given a fortune to his mate down the road, and wasn’t that enough for one day. Amazingly the cop looked a little embarrassed and wished us well and took off, probably after his mate on the motorbike. It was turning out to be an expensive trip.

the view from the cafe

Arturo is doing his divemaster course at a dive centre/family resort in Ventana, the place has lots of cabinas (chalets) were people stay and can take boat trips to go fishing/snorkeling/diving or learn to kite surf. It’s a fantastic spot and we had a huge breakfast before exploring.

looking down to the beach

There were a group of buzzards flying around, they look like eagles to me. I caught a bit on video which might work.

Some luxury homes on the coast

The countryside is looking pretty green thanks to the recent close passes of hurricanes which dumped a lot of water. Much more may arrive next week.

One of the problems with driving at night here is that cows and other largish animals can wander out onto the road, and without any lighting, they can be a big problem.

A tienda in the middle of nowhere.
More green stuff

Once we were back in La Paz, we scooted up to Walmart and I picked up a stack of drinks which are always a pain to fit on the bike. Just need to stash them all away now.

Back on the boat I sorted out Kathy’s paperwork so she can get back into the UK from Italy and also checked to confirm my flight booking for Loreto to Phoenix hadn’t gone through, despite American Airlines saying they took the payment. They didn’t take the payment, but I bet they will the minute I rebook it and refuse to refund me. I’m looking forward to some fun on the helpline tomorrow. It seems by some convention, a Brit can only pay in pounds and a Mexican can only pay in Pesos. Good games.

Paul Collister.

Fridge & hull

Tuesday 28th Sept.
Today Carlos and his uncle Arturo arrived to clean the boats bottom, it looked bad from the waterline, but Carlos was happy to report the antifouling was doing a great job and what barnacles were there scraped off easily. For those who don’t know, I have lumps of Zinc or Aluminium strapped to various parts of the boat underwater. These zincs, or sacrificial anodes, to give them a more proper name, exist to protect the boat from galvanic corrosion. Basically, the metal underwater, like the propellor/prop shaft, thru hulls and bow thruster will all dissolve in the water over time, due to small electric currents there. We put Zinc, or Aluminium in the case of the bow thruster, on the metal parts so that they will dissolve first before the less noble metals. Carlos told me the Zinc on the Max Prop had gone completely, which is bad news, he replaced it for me, the hull zincs are 80% good but interestingly the bow thruster zincs are down by a third. I told Carlos that I was pleased that they were working. I had replaced them in the spring because the previous anodes had not worn out at all in the 5 years since the bow thruster was fitted and I couldn’t understand why. I showed the old ones, which I had kept, to Carlos and he quickly spotted that there was a sealant on the mating face of the anodes, he was right, and I didnt notice that when I replaced them at the last haulout. So the yard in Malaysia that fitted the bow thruster has put something like sikaflex behind the anodes and consequently they had failed to work, and had not been protecting the bow thruster properly.

In the future somebody may be staring at the corrosion inside the bow thruster and scratching their head, being the optimistic type, I’m hoping there isn’t much damage. At least the anodes are protecting the device properly now.
Having that job completed, the fridge was next. I had been researching options for a few days. Back home a complete replacement of the fridge system, all the parts, would set me back around US$1000, I could buy that system in the USA for the same price, however I would have to pay a lot in shipping and taxes, possibly another $500. I could replace the faulty evaporator only, this part is only around $250, but the connecters between it and the compressor have changed over the last few years, so I would have to buy one compatible with the old compressor, and if the compressor failed later, I would have to find a replacement compatible with the old connectors, which might be difficult in a few years time. Also the old connectors require you to get the gas refilled when the connection is broken/made, so that’s two callouts to an engineer to cost in. So I took the plunge and ordered a new system, with shipping/taxes etc it’s costing me $1400, a lot of money, but as Kathy says, we do need it. The current system has worked well for over 12 years so I can’t complain.

My fridge has been delivered to the freight forwarder DekoMarine in San Diego, So today I may start to remove the old system in preparation for the new. I’m waiting to get an idea of delivery times as I have never used this freight forwarder before, but they come highly recommended.
The morning VHF net mentioned that a boat was being moved into the anchorage by the navy, it’s the closing stages in a sad story of a sailor with mental health problems that has been struggling for many years here to get his boat repaired so he could sail south. He seems to have become more and more delusional over the years and was living on his boat here believing the whole world was out to persecute him. Recently he had shot at fishermen passing too close to his boat on their way back to port. I heard he has now been deported after claiming title to a dissued boat yard. He keeps a blog, in which he appears to still be here, it’s confusing. I can’t help thinking if he could have got timely professional medical help things might have had a much better outcome. As it stands, one man loses his boat and dreams, and La Paz gets another rotting hulk to deal with one day.

Thursday arrives and I have stomach ache, last night I had a big fry up, it was meant to be a healthy salad, but something went wrong at Chedraui and I ended up with potato fritters/eggs/tuna steak and mushrooms.
I spend the whole day in bed. I receive an email to say the new fridge will arrive Friday, which is great.

24hrs in bed, but I’m feeling better today. I check at the office in the afternoon and the fridge hasn’t arrived yet, it’s too late to do the install anyway. Arturo calls round for a beer later and we have a good chat and ponder over the anomalies of our respective languages, I get very confused over the word ‘sided’ as in ‘two sided’, and wonder how to explain to him the logic in that. He surprised me by not being able to hear any difference in the words, dog,dock and duck when I say them, presumably because of the ‘g’ sound in Spanish.
Just crazy wild evenings eh!

Up early and the fridge has arrived. I’m impressed.

First all the old bits have to come out, the compressor, the evaporator and the thermostat.

The new one is an isotherm 2501 model, it’s top of the range in capacity, but quite heavy on the electricity, about 4 amps on a high cycle here. Made in Northern Italy.

The fridge is surprisingly hard to work with, it looks easy, but all the angles are wrong to be able to turn a screwdriver and see what you’re doing.

Eventually, after 6 hours of solid fiddling, I get the old evaporator out and the new one fitted in.

After that, the rest was easy, but I really struggle with the quick connect refrigerant line connectors, you have to tighten them just right (9.5n/m), and I worry I have over or underdone them. Anyway it fires up and the ice box is getting cold quickly. Success, I refill the fridge with cans of drink and head off to by some food to stock it up.
As the evening progresses I become more disappointed with how long my beers are taking to cool. By 10 pm I see the thermostat has cut out, meaning its as cold as it thinks it should be, however it’s nowhere near cold enough yet. I’m wondering if it’s because that whole area has been hot for a day or two now, or perhaps it needs to settle, maybe there’s an air lock trying to work it’s way through 😉 . I feel I already know way to much about fridges and don’t want to have to learn more. I set the thermostat to maximum volume and decide to see what’s there in the morning, probable some very frozen expensive lettuces! It’s a price I can pay.

I think Maria, or a copycat has returned

Sunday arrives and the fridge is very cold, but not freezing anything as it would have done on maximum before. However the cans of drink are just the perfect temperature, and everything is great, except I don’t know if things will freeze in the ice box. Later in the day I work out the problem. There is an option for either the fridge thermostat or a fridge/freezer thermostat, a quick google reveals I had the fridge/freezer thermostat on the old system and the new one came with the fridge only thermostat. I’m still a little confused, but I’m happy I can fix things easy now, should I need to get it colder. We have a real torrential downpour in the afternoon, great for the vegetation, but the roads are all messed up and one young woman dies when a part of a road is washed away.
Once the sun comes back out I head off for a couple of hours kayaking around the moored boats, I’m interested to see what this troubled man’s boat, SV Disperser, looks like. It’s a huge ferro-concrete ketch with a Jet Ski on deck, two big wind generators, and looks in reasonable condition compared with many other older boats left to rot here. It needs to be protected and sold, I’m sure it could be fixed up reasonably easily, but I’m expecting it to be stripped, and left to drag onto the shore in the next big blow. Very sad.
I walk up to the cow supermarket later and get some fruit, I need to improve my diet. The rain water has brought mud, sand and possibly other less desirable things onto the malecon and adjoining streets. There’s also a noticeable increase in bugs around the place.

Tomorrow I will try to hunt down some foam filler to fill the hole that the fridge hoses pass through, then I can put the boat back together properly and start making her seaworthy. Next weekend I may go out for a spin.

Paul Collister

Back aboard in La Paz

Sat Sept 25th 2021.
I’m back onboard after 8 weeks back in the UK. All is good.

Hurricane Nora wimped out before reaching La Paz, but was soon followed by Hurricane Olaf. Olaf was potentially quite dangerous, but turned left before La Paz. You can see the satellite pictures below. Nonetheless there were significant winds here, I believe in the 50-65knt range. Several boats dragged or broke free in the moorage and I have seen one on the sandbanks of the Magote, I think there are more. Despite warnings, headsails were shredded in the Marinas.

Nasty looking Olaf

My journey back was uneventful. I lost my kindle somewhere along the way. Goodness knows how, I’m so careful these days with my possessions. I await lost property to contact me, it seems BA have no interest in helping, and like most airlines, hand over anything they find to the airports lost property, who in London subcontract that to another company who can turn a profit on my loss. Lost Property in Mexico city are impossible to contact remotely.

So I started from Liverpool at 5 am, on my journey by train to Manchester International Airport, to connect with my Heathrow flight in the afternoon. The lady below was very helpful but seemed a little deaf. Is the the future?

Could be any airport
My flight to Mexico, should you be on this plane, could you look for a kindle near seat 39d
Two of my favorite places in the Emerald Isle.
11.5 hours later
My hotel

Due to arriving in Mexico in the evening a hotel was called for. However my morning flight was at 6AM so I only got a few hours sleep before the alarm was ringing at 4AM. Thinking I would have the airport to myself at this silly hour, I was surprised to see the place rammed.

Mexico DF Security check at 5AM
Flying towards La Paz, the sun just rising and the Magote sand spit, top right
Sister Midnight on the port beam!
The State Marina just on the edge of the city
The sun rising as we disembark

It was great to get an uber back to the boat from the airport, La Paz hadn’t changed much in 8 weeks, but it was getting very hot in the cab.

Back on the boat all was fine, I spent Thursday cleaning up, I couldn’t see any water damage, with the boat being very dry for a few years now, then torrential rainfall during the hurricanes, I expected some of the seams around the hatches, or deck fittings to have leaked, but there was no sign of that. The high humidity and heat had taken a toll in the form of bacterial growth (mould type growth) nothing a quick wipe down didn’t fix.

Below you can see how the oven started to rust, but again, it soon cleaned up. Ready for my lovely new Joy Division oven gloves. Which is a reference to a song by Birkenhead group ‘Half Man, Half Biscuit’, Birkenhead being my home town for many years. A great band, they have a video here

After clearing up, installing the Aircon on the coach roof hatch, and putting up some canopies I headed out for fish tacos with Arturo.

Great to have sunsets on the Malecon again

La Paz is getting better for Covid cases and many of the restrictions have been lifted, the Malecon and the jetties are now open again. A lot of people have stopped wearing masks, and the waterfront bars look busy.

Below you can see a tree downtown that didnt survive the storm. I noticed when cycling around that many roads have deep holes in them where the tarmac was washed away.

The biggest issue I have right now is the fridge. As expected the gas has leaked out, and I need to find a new Evaporator, or possible a whole new system

The old compressor.

For now I use the fridge as an ice box, and top up each morning with a 3kg bag of ice which I pay $1 for.

It’s 35deg most days now and on Friday I launched the dinghy, fired up the outboard and headed out to the Magote for a very relaxing swim.

I will be here for about 9-10 weeks before I return to Europe to spend Christmas with the family. I expect to get sailing north in a few weeks.

Paul Collister.

Nora Oh Nora

  • Tropical Storm. Winds 39-73 mph.
  • Category 1 Hurricane. winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt) …
  • Category 2 Hurricane. winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt) …
  • Category 3 Hurricane. winds 111-130 mph (96-113 kt) …
  • Category 4 Hurricane. winds 131-155 mph (114-135 kt) …
  • Category 5 Hurricane. winds 156 mph and up (135+ kt)

Nora approaches, currently a tropical storm, but expected to become a hurricane any hour.

The main problem is down to location, as I mentioned before, the boat and the hurricane seem to be in the same location. I’m a few thousand miles away.

The hurricane could still change course, but it seems unlikely. It is predicted to make landfall over the southern tip of the Baja peninsula this weekend and will then pass over La Paz. The only hope at the moment is that it stays as a Cat 1 hurricane. Even as a cat 1, the winds could reach 82 knots, or 95 mph. This could be very bad for many boats, but with some limited protection in the marina, it may not be too bad. If it becomes a Cat 5 hurricane, then I might no have a boat to return to.

Being the optimistic sort, I’m hoping it will weaken and change course a little to the east.
Despite my personal interest, it’s certain that many people will be badly affected, many homes will be damaged and there will be lots of flooding and potential landslides, which often lead to loss of life.
Let’s hope for the best.

Paul Collister.

Back In Liverpool.

Tuesday 20th
My tooth is kicking off again and I’ve been attacked by something that likes to bite in the night. It’s the worst biting I’ve had to endure for many years, I must have a hundred bites on each hand, some have swollen up a lot. So between the bites and the toothache I didn’t get much sleep. I rush around as best I can doing final jobs on the boat, but I’m exhausted quickly and decide Kathy is just going to have to return to a mess, better I focus on the critical jobs. Arturo comes round for dinner, even though I can’t eat, we have a good laugh and he is invaluable in helping me get the heavy sailbags into the cabin, and also in getting the boat covers and AirCon inside.

Quite a messy boat still

Up early, my hands looks a mess and I’m hoping the airline won’t get worried. I laugh with Kathy on a quick WhatsApp call that I look like I have leprosy. She doesn’t find it quite as funny as me. It’s getting close to flight time before my Covid results appear, I’m Negativo, so will be able to board the flight. The government have said to use the VeriFly app to speed up my processing at heathrow, so I look for the app and can only find one app called VeriFly, written by a company I have never heard of, with not many downloads and a 1 star revue slagging it off. In the days of Pegaus (nasty surveillance app) I don’t want to use it, however when I see it recommended on the BA site as well, I give it a go. I upload my flight details, my details, my test results, my booking ref for the two tests I had to order for the UK (£90)and my personal locator form. It churned for a few minutes before telling me everything was checked and approved. I was impressed, and keen to see if it made a difference.
I locked the boat up at 10:30 and ordered an uber to the airport, after more form filling there I was on a flight to Mexico city.

Boarding at La Paz

Once there I had many hours to kill before the BA flight to Heathrow, I tried to sleep, but there was nowhere to get comfortable. I was feeling a little feverish now and was desperate to get on the BA flight and get my head down.
Once boarded and fed, I was able to lie down, I was in the middle aisle and had all three seats to myself, as did every other passenger travelling alone. I wonder if that change to the seating assignments was built into the software or had to be patched in. I don’t remember future pandemic planning ever being mentioned in any of my software specs. I slept until we were flying over Cork in Ireland and thought fondly of my time there, and for some odd reason an encounter with a man who ran a launderette out in Ballincollig, a small town I used to live and work in. His accent was so strong I couldn’t understand a single word he said. We had a long conversation while I was trying to retrieve my washing once where he explained something to me and I responded with “Sorry, I still didn’t understand any of that” and this repeated for a long time, I think until I went home without my washing.
Soon we were walking the corridors and transporter trains of Heathrow T5. I had a different route from most as I was transiting to a flight to Manchester, at the transit immigration desk, the people in front of me were having a hard time as they had not given an address they were isolating in, nor had they ordered the testing kits, they were told that would all have to be sorted before they could come in. There were only about 20 of us in the queue and I was near the front, but after a scan of my passport I was waved through and reminded to take my Day 2 test. On the one hand I thought this VeriFly app has really worked, but then I thought it more likely he just wasn’t interested in checking anything, because he only mentioned the Day 2 test and not the day 8 test I wondered if he thought I had already been vaccinated, or maybe not come from an AMBER country. I didn’t really care, I only had an hour to find my next flight.
The flight to Manchester was delayed by an hour due to the APU (generator) failing, the cabin had overheated and they had to hook the plane into the airport Aircon. One of the other passengers worked on these planes and was giving a blow by blow account of what was going on to his mate, I loved hearing the technical details, but didn’t like the bit when he said the plane would be pulled out of service as soon as it landed in Manchester.

Yep Rain, must be in Manchester

Arriving in Manchester quite late I missed the train to Liverpool I had hoped for, the next train got halfway and I had to change to a train that had been cancelled, I believe due to staff shortages caused by the pingdemic, as they call it, staff who had been notified they had been in close contact with covid positive people. Contrary to the media, it seems to me the real problem is they might be infected and should isolate, rather than we are losing too many staff because we are getting too many people close to infected people.
Eventually I get into Lime St where Kathy is waiting for me. It’s great to see her at last.

Friday 3oth July
My test results are in and I’m cleared to rejoin humanity. Liverpool people on the whole don’t seem to fussed about masks or social distancing, it’s not required by law, and even where organisations request it, like on the trains or in supermarkets, most people don’t bother. It’s weird. I might be a pessimist, but I have just travelled from the boat to Kathy’s flat wearing a mask (6 in total) for 40 hours with just a break for meals. I had to sleep on the planes with my mask on, even then I thought it was worth doing for the collective good. Saying that, the numbers coming out of the government look quite good. I was expecting them to be much worse.
It’s been a busy 8 days since I arrived, mostly ordering stuff on ebay and Amazon for the boat, getting things renewed and updated online, mostly paperwork. Kathy looked after me well for the first few days when I was exhausted. My bites are mostly deflated now and I have a few big black scabs!
My knife from Friday Harbour has arrived. This was a present to myself. Basically Kathy and I are fans of John Steinbeck, In 1940 he sailed from Monterey, a place we stayed in on SM, in a ship called ‘The Western Flyer’ to The Sea of Cortez to document the intertidal marine life with his good friend and marine biologist Ed Ricketts. He wrote a book called ‘The Sea of Cortez” and subsequently ” The log from the sea of Cortez” which documented the voyage. This year I have basically followed his route around the sea. The Western Flyer was later left to rot, until recently when fans of Steinbeck formed the western flyer foundation, with the aim of restoring the boat into a floating classroom where people could continue to study the marine world. Getting back to the knife, some of the old timber frames (White Oak) were beyond repair, and rot free sections were used to make handles for knives produced up in Friday Harbour (San Juan Islands, WA). I bought one of these at a seriously artisanal price, but given the history, the fact they are great knives, and also that they take the guy a week to make each, I figured it was a good deal. You can see how they are made here

The knife made by Dave Ber from the timbers of the Western Flyer

There hasn’t been any hurricanes developing since I left, but today we have one that’s forming and looks like it might get to hurricane strength, but it looks like it will keep heading out to the west and not be an issue. I will be checking the hurricane situation every 6 hours until I return.

Sadly I missed the visit to La Paz of the Mexican Navy tall ship Cuauhtemoc training vessel last Saturday. She looks splendid.

The Cuauhtemoc in La Paz

Paul Collister

Last few days In Mexico

Tuesday 13th July 2021
I’m feeling good and there’s lots of cloud cover today, so the temperature should be lower. A perfect day for replacing the outlet pipes on the toilet!
I need a whole day for this job as so many things can be a problem. There are three hoses, one from the toilet to the Y-Valve, this determines if the waste goes to the holding tank, or out of the boat. From the Y-Valve a hose goes high to the Anti-Syphon fitting, this stops water flowing back from the sea into the toilet, and another hose from the Anti Syphon to the through hull which goes out of the boat. I have pumped lots of water through the system and disinfectant, so it’s not a bad job really, however the hoses are badly clogged with Calcium deposits. It takes about 4 hours to replace the pipes, and I make quite a mess, in the head and also in the cockpit where I’m chopping up the hose. Eventually I get to hose the boat down, then I hose myself down. I’m expecting the system to work much better now, but in fact I can’t really tell much difference.

Calcium deposits inside the hose.

I’m now starting to tidy up the boat and start packing for the trip home next week.

Maria visits most days but doesn’t stay long.

I check the bilge pumps today and find one of them has stopped working, the big one for emergencies only. It turns out to be a break in the wiring hanging down into the bilge. This area is pretty hostile with oil, sea water and engine fumes all hanging around. It takes me a few hours to fix, and I completely cover myself in oil.

I’m finally able to book my covid PCR test, websites in Mexico aren’t really designed for foreigners, or for Chrome it would seem. Stick with firefox or better still Safari if you want the clever javascript to work.
In the evening Arturo and I head off for some Fish Tacos and for me to test out my Spanish a bit more.
After Tacos we walk up to the ice cream shop, and buy some Trolebuses, They have a grand display of famous Mexicans on the wall and Arturo persuades me to ask the owner for permission to take a photograph, so I try with “Puedo tomar una fotografía, por favor?”. The owner very happily agrees and then kicks off a conversation with Arturo who he recognises from a year ago when Arturo first visited the store.

Checkout those Sombreros!, Arturo points out which ones were revolutionaries.

I wake up at 3am with toothache, the same place I had before, where the dentist said I needed root canal treatment. Since one of the fleet here died from covid, presumed to have been caught from his dentist, I’m going to wait until I’m home for treatment, so for now I’m having Codine/Ibuprofen and antibiotics to keep the pain down.

My tooth is up and down pain wise, but I decide to head out to the Magote for a swim today. It’s been rather hot here, 36c+ ish most days, and the last few days, rather humid. However when Arturo arrives, around 3pm, the sky has gone black. Perhaps Tropical storm Guillermo is sending the clouds over, but as the sky darkens, the temp drops a little and squalls start to pass by. Guillerm is passing us way to the south and heading out west. by the time we can see blue sky again, it’s time for dinner so we head off to Restauante El Zarape.

Up early for a PCR test as required by HM Gov back home. It’s not a lot of fun. I had no idea what it feels like to have a 1 foot long cotton button shoved up my nostril and into my frontal lobes. I’m glad that’s over, but I think I have two more tests waiting for me in a box wending its way to Liverpool.
My neighbour returns, they are a 60ft Sailboat, with a dinghy almost as big as Sister Midnight. All very flash. I usually keep my distance from these ships as they are generally on charter to rich folks and the crew run around like crazy servants. However in reality, the crew and skipper are generally nice people, and this proved to be the case again. When they were reversing into the slip, the dockhand lost the stern line and the wind blew the boat onto me. The skipper was on the case and avoided a crash, but not before he saw a concerned Collister rushing to the side with a fender in hand. Once docked he came around to apologise and ask if he had done any damage. He also wanted to know if I had a barbecue gas bottle as the had run out of gas and his guests were waiting for dinner to be cooked, freshly caught Marlin I believe. I lent him a big bottle of gas and he went away happy. Later he returned with the gas, and a plate of fine food he had cooked for me. He is Mexican but said in his best English/American “Thanks you saved my ass there”, which in all honesty is a little over the top for my English sensibilities. Still it’s nice to help a neighbour out, and he will be here during the hurricane season, and has offered to keep an eye on the boat for me as well as Arturo.
Today I have also booked my two AZ Vaccine shots in the UK, the UK does not recognise the Chinese Sinovac yet, so in order to spend my evenings/early mornings raving in the sweaty clubs of liverpool, I will need to have the UK Vaccine passport. Now having two shots of Sinovac, followed by two shots of AZ will either kill me or make me bullet proof. I need to do a little research, but I expect it will be more of the latter.
This reminds me of a little cryptology story I heard. With most symmetric encryptions, you run the algorithm with the secret key on the data to get the encrypted result. You basically repeat the operation to decrypt. However some people had encrypted several documents individually, then added them into a bundle and encrypted the bundle, which accidently decrypted the original. Thinking a double encryption was better when in fact it was the total opposite. I’m no expert, but I’m hoping vaccines are different. I will do my homework.

The following is an extract from the English language Mexican newspaper “The Mexican news daily” and it always surprises me what a diverse country Mexico is.

‘Vaccination is such a vexed issue in some Sierra communities, such as the Mayan town of San Juan Chamula, that if an outsider even mentions it to residents, he runs the risk of being detained, led to the town square by a rope placed around his neck and fined 100 to 200 pesos (US $5-$10), the newspaper Milenio reported.
Neighboring Chamula is the municipality of Zinacantán, where vaccination against a disease that has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Mexicans is equally unpopular.
“Everyone agreed not to allow vaccination,” said local artisan Juana Bárbara Vázquez, explaining that people believed that many deaths have been caused by inoculation against Covid-19. “They’re scared,” the 46-year-old told Milenio.
“The truth is I’m not going to get vaccinated either. I think I’m fine as I am because everything is calm here in town, thanks to God nothing has happened to us,” Vázquez said.
She said that most people believe that pox – a traditional corn-based spirit commonly fermented in people’s homes – will protect them from Covid because it’s considered an infallible remedy for all ills.’

So if I wasn’t on the wagon, I could try some of this Pox.

The wind generator blades came in.

Sunset at the weekend.

The Vaquita is a dolphin of which only ten are estimated to exist, and they are only found here in the Northern part of the Sea of Cortez.
They are being caught as Bycatch in the massive illegal gill nets put out to catch Totoaba. Totoaba are only found here as well, but are not yet extinct. These fish are very important to the Chinese as they can make their penises grow and help them live forever and ward off evil spirits. I made that bit up, but it’s roughly right. They only use the bladder from the fish, and one bladder can fetch $10,000.

The Vaquita, about to go extinct

Of course with such prices on offer, the fisherman, and it is claimed their cartel backers have bought big expensive fishing boats and outboards, spent a lot on nets and are not going to let the government or NGOs like Sea Shepherd get in their way. There have been battles between the fishermen and the Navy over the last few years, as these fish and their grounds are protected, but the fishermen need the cash. Petrol bombs have been thrown at the Navy and Sea shepherd ships. More info here
This week the Mexican government announced they are removing the protected areas the fish inhabit and so have basically given in to the mob.
A very sad day, The Vaquita will be lost to this planet very quickly and the Totoaba not long after.
The fish farm Arturo works on is actually all about Totoaba, its ambition was to provide a less damaging supply of fish, but also a percentage of their fish are released into the sea to keep stock levels up. Their cages are well offshore and they claim to be very environmentally safe. But I suspect all fish farms say that.

So this will be my last blog from Mexico until September. I might put a note up to describe the process of repatriating during Covid, but I don’t thing I have much to contribute until Autumn when Kathy and I return and will head off out, back into the sea before the water cools too much.

Paul Collister.