Winding down as the rainy season starts

It’s a quiet life here in Chiapas, but there’s a constant flow of boats arriving from the south, usually after transiting the Panama Canal, heading north, and boats doing the same but in reverse. This is the last place you can stop at when clearing out of Mexico heading south, and the best place to clear in when heading north.
It makes for an interesting mix of sailors, many more Europeans arrive and also a few east coast USA sailors from places like Florida. One thing to be sure of is there are very few novices here, most have already sailed half way around the world, others often on their second circumnavigation.
Below is a picture of our neighbour and friend Onno’s boat, Lost Pearl. He left a while back and sailed to El Salvador crossing the dangerous bar (Sandbank) to get inland.

Below you can see him a few days later crossing the bar. This must have been a tense moment for Onno as one of his friends lost their boat in the same spot just a few weeks earlier. The surf pushed him down onto the bank and his keel snapped off. At least Onno got through just fine.

Lost Pearl surfing into El Salvador

I was woken the other morning around 6am to a bang and thought another boat must have hit me. Bleary eyed I climbed into the cockpit to see some frothy water but no other boats. I climbed back into bed none the wiser. Later on shore I was asked if I felt the earthquake, it was local and pretty substantial.

Major mains rewire
The marina wont allow me to work on the outside of the boat, paint/ sanding/ varnish etc so I decided to undertake one of the rewiring jobs I have been meaning to do for 5 years. That is changing the boat to run on 110v AC shore power. When the boat was in Asia, it was setup to run on 240v and all the wiring inside was 240v. I set about changing it back to the original 110v USA standard. As part of this I properly wired in the boats 3 kW AC inverter so I can run the boats internal AC sockets from the inverter. I also changed the engine battery charger so it runs on 110v now. I also have a 1 kW 110-240v transformer powering a square pin uk mains socket, which should meet the highest demands from Kathy’s hair straightening devices.

The shore power plug had to go as part of this job

Another job I have to do every couple of weeks is climb the mast and remove the nest that the locals have built.

The next insides job was to clean the locker in the heads next to the sink. It was rather grim in there due to damp/leaks from before I had the boat, and I had never paid it much attention. So I took out all the little pieces of wood that makeup the shelves and repainted them, a few had to be binned so I made templates for new ones out of carboard boxes that once were full of Oreos.

The heads locker

Cardboard templates


Final Gloss coat

Finally all back together

It’s raining most days now, so I spend a lot of time on the laptop learning new stuff. I have decided I must become proficient at Python programming. It’s a great language. I am a C programmer, and I think pretty competent at it too, but it’s just not a language for these days when wanting to write code that takes advantage of the internet and all thats available out there. I also decided it’s time I got my head around this thing they call AI. So Ive been writing AI programs in Python to help me understand it all, I also pay Microsoft $10/month for Co-Pilot, which is an AI assistant I use to write code. What’s my opinion, I know you didnt ask, but on this I must say that the LLMs like Chat GPT and the enhanced LLM that is Co-Pilot, I’m blown away. I can write code about 5 times faster now, when I get stuck, AI jumps in and educates me, I do feel like I’m cheating a bit. I wrote, what I felt, was some pretty smart code, where I wrote a stock exchange API simulator for testing and it worked perfectly after very little effort, but my smugness was short lived as I realised, I was only a co-author and AI did a lot of the trickier stuff. I also realised that I would have to accept that as the new norm. Regardless it’s amazing, I type a line of code, and the AI writes a block of code below, with comments, anticipating exactly what I was thinking I need to do next.

Took me a while to finish this, thank goodness for juicers

Also I’m loving learning how LLMs (Large Language Models) work, I had to do a lot of maths study to work out what was Stochastic gradient descent, and probably the hardest bit was understanding how words can live in a 100,000+ dimensional space. It’s something I believe has great promise.
As part of this learning exercise, I have set myself a target of writing a program that will use AI to buy and sell bitcoins and Eth automatically. I know everyone is already doing this, and there’s plenty or programs out there, but mine will be better, and I will start off with £100 and I expect to be up there with Musk and Bezos pretty soon. I better start thinking up some conspiracy theories and also what shape I want my rocket to be.

Above is a picture of the mizen mast of SV Sitka, I think the boat might be names after the mast wood, which is also sitka. It’s a common wood in Canada, the boat’s home, and also very common for boat spars. As you might spot, it’s also popular with woodpeckers

This is the hole one woodpecker made in the mast. So along with some others here I have been helping to prevent further damage. I put a ladder up the mast and closed off the hole. The owners return in a couple of months and will have to do some serious repairs, as the mast wont be strong enough now

The view as you approach the marina

A visitor

I take a bus into town most weeks for fresh fruit and veg. One day I wandered into the old central area. I had been advised not to visit due to the large number of migrants, many Haitian, passing through. However it turned out to be just fine. I met some lovely people in small tiendas. I did visit one mercado that was past its sell by date, I followed a staircase down into the basement, out of curiosity, and was confronted with scenes worthy of a horror movie, the place looked like a bomb site, with random stalls setup selling meat, but nothing I could recognise, blood was dripping everywhere along the pathways, the smell was awful. The vendors looked very miserable. I was keen to escape back to street level

I visited the main museum here, it was a little sad because they had very few exhibits, mainly a cinema projector and some glockenspiels. Tapachula is close to some very ancient historical sites.

A turtle sanctuary at the marina

Should be Alister’s ‘tree of the day’

There seems to be some big roads being built here

Back on the boat chilling in my hammock

Each day I do a small 1km walk around the marina, below is the sun setting over the channel that leads into the marina.

Another Yachtie who is also a keen bird photographer

Sister Midnight at sunset

My FM Auto car radio packed in. It’s lasted 2 years, the one before lasted about 3 years. both showed rust signs on the case. They’re not designed for boats, but at about £7 each they are good value. I use them mostly to feed bluetooth from my mac through to the cabin speakers. I hate the waste, but doubt I would find a more reliable option, even if I spent £300 on a ‘Marine’ equivalent. In the end I bought two new ones for 300 pesos (£14) on Mercado Libra, delivered free in 2 days.

Final jobs before I leave involve measuring the thru hull fittings that I need to buy back home. The one below is the gas locker drain. The handle snapped of last time I tried to exercise it. It’s going to be a nightmare to change as it’s completely inaccessible.

I also tried to stop the little drip on the holding tank discharge seacock by rotating the handle several times between open and closed. This had the effect of making it leak even more. So much so that I couldn’t leave it like that streaming sea water into the bilge. I was further worried as there was some doubt about if the yard was going to be able to haul me out, they had problems with not having any boat stands left. I couldn’t leave the boat like this in case the bilge pump failed, something that’s very feasible.
So I had to try to repair the seacock in place. It’s a cone type, so I needed to remove the cone and clean it. I really needed to grind the surfaces in situ with grinding compound, but this wouldn’t be possible. I pulled the cone out and the pressure of the sea water, some 1 meter below the hole caused quite a fountain, It’s a 1″ hole and the water was coming out like a fountain. Using lots of rags I was able to control it until I got a bung in. I cleaned up the cone, reinstalled and was rather disappointed to find the situation was even worse. A second go, with the addition of some gas pvc tape, then some butyl putty got it under control. The bilge pump goes off every 3-4 hours for about 30 seconds. However I think the rainwater may be finding a way to the bilge, something I’m trying to hunt down every time the rain kicks in

Sat 15th June 2024
The current plan now is to stay up late on the 4th July celebrating the many ‘Portillo moments’ (see Hubris) in the UK General Election. then haul out the next day. On the 6th I will take a coach to the Capital of this state and spend a couple of weeks being a tourist, visiting wild countryside and historic ruins.
From there I will find a way to Mexico City for a couple of days before flying to Washington DC. I have an AirBnB in Washington for 8 days, I’m really looking forward to seeing the monuments and visiting the museums. From the Capitol, I will get a train to Manhattan, where I have a few days before a flight from JFK takes me back to the UK arriving at the end of July.

Paul Collister.

Zihuatanejo to Puerto Chiapas

We have completed our travels now for this season. 600 Miles over the last three weeks have brought us to Marina Chiapas in the state of Chiapas, right at the bottom of the Pacific Mexican coast, about 50km from the Guatemalan border. We are safely tied up in a very protected marina and Kathy will fly home in a few days. I am here for a few more months, and will use the time to do some boat upkeep, and also to travel inland and explore parts of Mexico I can’t get to by boat. In June I will haul the boat out and leave her as I fly home for the hurricane season. Returning either November or next year after Christmas to go North or maybe South.
We covered a lot of places, had some adventures and met a lot of new people, so there’s a lot to cover in this blog.

I have been playing computers during the latest trip and now have a new webpage where you can see our current location and our track over the last fourteen days. It’s at
I also have a dedicated page just showing the trip covered by this map shown below. It uses google maps and you can zoom in for more detail. It’s still a work in progress and I have restricted the resolution to allow for faster downloads, it’s still slow, but if you time out, just try again. We may be overloading the server this end by watching Masterchef through our server proxy.
The link is here

Leaving Zihuatanejo, 10th March 2024.
It was a little sad to be leaving Zi, it’s such a chilled place, it has everything you could need as a cruiser. I had parts delivered to us and repairs and upgrades were done. We enjoyed the sailfest and guitar festival and had some fine dining before we finally hauled anchor and continued south. Nemo the diver had cleaned the hull and fitted the new zinc on the propeller the day before we left so the boat was moving nicely. We had made friends with many boats in the bay at Zi while we were there. Onno our Canadian/Dutch friend from way back in Guaymas was running a very entertaining morning net, a chat for the local cruisers each morning on the VHF radio on channel 22a. Many of the boats there were going south to transit the Panama Canal and we joined their WhatsApp group, ‘South to El Salvador and Beyond’. They were mostly also members of a rally called ‘The Panama Posse’. We attended a meetup in one of the bars ashore to hear about various ports southbound, of course we would not be going that far south, but it was good to learn about the ports in southern Mexico we would be visiting.
At the talk Pam, who was a veteran of traveling this coast gave a good talk and we watched a video about getting into the lagoon in El Salvador; this has a bad bar (sandbank across the entrance) and you need a pilot to get you through, there’s always a good chance of a wave catching you out. It looked scary but exciting and I was seriously considering hauling out there. However just before we left Zi, we heard that Mark, one of the British cruisers, who had a Moody sailboat, a strong British built model, that I visited just a few days earlier, had been hit by a wave and grounded on the bar. His keel had snapped off and he had to abandon ship in the surf and be rescued by the pilot boat. By the time he was able to return to his beached boat, it had been stripped of everything. A very sad ending to his adventure and to his boat ‘Rum Truffle’.

So we headed south and did our first of many overnighters to Papanoa. This place was renamed to Vicente Guerrero (national hero, and founder of independent Mexico) and turned out to be a lovely spot where we were able to go ashore and wander, eventually having drinks at one of the many beach bars. It’s a popular holiday destination for Mexicans.

Puerto Vicente Guerrero (Papanoa)

Hammocks are available under the dining area, some in worse state than others

Isla Roqueta
From there we headed on another overnight passage to Acapulco, but we timed it to arrive the evening before and drop anchor at Isla Roqueta, just at the mouth of Acapulco bay.

In October last year, I was preparing to launch the boat a thousand miles north west of here, when hurricane Otis struck Acapulco. We were all hoping the hurricane season would be winding down, but a hurricane had just devastated La Paz and this one heading to Acapulco didn’t look good. However it was only a ‘light’ one, I think a cat 2 at worst and it wasn’t getting much press, as it was expected to weaken as it hit the coast. However the opposite happened! In the 24 hours before landfall it ramped up to a massive Cat 5. Wikipedia states:
Otis was the first Pacific hurricane to make landfall at Category 5 intensity and surpassed Hurricane Patricia as the strongest landfalling Pacific hurricane on record.
The destruction and loss of life was massive.



A place for old VWs to rest

There was once many marinas and moorings for a thriving tourist industry. All of that had been swept away. At the western end of the bay, boats of all types, from pangas to mega yachts were stacked up on top of each other.

Courtesy of El Pais

There was a lot of debris in the bay and rather than risk anchoring we took a mooring from Vicente, a man who had a mooring field there. He lived on his boat on one of the morings and rented out the rest. However on that fateful night, his wife went ashore as the storm started and he stayed on board with his son. I understand the waves reached 15 meters and his boat was ripped from its mooring. His son went overboard and died while Vicente was washed out to sea, where he drifted for a day clinging to a fender before the navy found him. Sadly his wife was killed ashore during the storm. It was remarkable to see him trying so hard to help us, and make our stay pleasant. The cruising community had been pushing for everyone to give him business and help him get back on his feet. I’m sure there are many other tragic stories arising from that storm.

We went ashore and checked in with the port captain, grabbed some groceries and went back to rest on the boat. Amazingly on our return, I noticed I had once again lost our passports. Just like I did in Los Cabos 5 years ago. Passports that had visas and residency permits in. Panic was about to set in. Since the first loss I have devised a system that can’t go wrong, the passports leave a certain plastic bag to pass to the authorities and when returned go straight into the plastic bag. The bag was in front of me ‘sin pasaportes’. Logically this could not happen. I checked the logic of my scheme and it was perfect, the passports had to be in the empty bag. I checked several times but the bag remained empty. Was I dreaming, losing my mind! Kathy pointed out that I must have left them at the port captains office, which I prayed to be the case. I jumped in the dinghy, sped ashore, grabbed a very pricey cab and headed to the now closed captains office.
After a restless night, and a few more checks of the empty plastic bag, morning came and I zoomed into town again and into the captains office where the kind ladies all looked at me, a somewhat distraught and frazzled Brit, then at each other with a giggle as one of them held up two passports. I wondered if they had run a sweepstake on how many minutes after opening time before I showed up.
The thought of going through the process of trips to Mexico City for emergency passports, new passport application when home, then visa appointments for USA and Mexico, overnight stays in London and queues for the USA embassy, this cock up could have meant the end of my cruising life. I couldn’t face all that hassle again. I’m now working on improvements to my plastic bag protocol.

After I had recovered the passports I headed off downtown to the market area. This was very vibrant, obviously it had suffered a lot of damage too, but sometimes it’s hard to know what is hurricane damage and what is just the usual busted up old Mexican buildings.

Sister Midnight on Vicente’s mooring ball

Special measures against a rough wall

The following day we decided to take in some culture and a beach walk.
We headed to the Naval museum. This place is run by Marcelo and I phoned him to check they would be open, however when we arrived it was closed, so instead we visited the mask museum next door, that was very interesting and has provided some nice pictures from which I might make some emojis.

On leaving the museum, the managers told us that the naval museum was now open so we had a good look inside. Marcelo runs the place and also builds the models on display.

Marcelo in front of one of his collections.

These ships all played a big part in Spain and Mexico’s history. It was from this area that the Spanish transported goods and troops between Mexico and the Philipines. British pirates (the forerunner of the Royal Navy) also were active here.

From the museum we walked the short distance to the castle built by the Spanish after pirate attacks in 1615.

Lunch overlooking the bay

From the castle we walked down the hill and had a small lunch in a very run down, but atmospheric restaurant overhanging the beach. The very attentive waiter was delighted to have English guests from Liverpool, and soon enough the DJ joined in by playing music for us.
From the restaurant we then walked a few miles along the beach were everyone seemed to have put the hurricane behind them and were enjoying the sea and sun.

The bay sparkles at night
Just after we left, forest fires broke out above the city.

Soon enough it was time to leave, we dropped our mooring lines and headed south to Punta Galera as a possible overnight stop, but when we arrived the swell and breaking waves made it feel quite unsafe. It probably would have been fine, but not very relaxing, we would have had to anchor very close to the breaking waves on the beach. So we headed off into the night to arrive the next day at Puerto Angel.

Puerto Angel
Here the swell was also big and we made it ashore once in the dinghy and picked up some fresh bread and some fruit. the town was lovely, a very relaxing atmosphere. There were a lot of fishing pangas on the beach and the way they get there was fun to watch, I have a video clip below.

Beaching your Panga

Before we left, I made a Kayak trip ashore for supplies. I hadn’t done this before. I’m ok on a kayak paddling around calm rivers and mangrove bays, but getting through the surf line with a full load of provisions is another thing. I was fortunate and got the timing right. So we hauled anchor and continued towards Chiapas.

Huatulco, 24th March 2024
Huatulco has a nature park that includes many beautiful bays and extends over 30,000 acres. We moved along through several of the bays finally settling in Bahia Maguey. This is a very popular holiday destination and the local towns of Santa Cruz and Crucecita are very pretty.

Fellow cruisers waiting to cross the gulf of Tehuantepec

Bouncy dinghy landing on Playa Maguey

La Crucecita

I’m at a loss
A delightful vegan restaurant in Crucecita

There were several other boats here and like us they were waiting for the right time to make the next leg southward. Here we are on the western side of the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and need to cross it to the last port in Mexico at Puerto Madero. The problem is that this crossing is fraught with danger. The land is narrow here between the Pacific and the Atlantic. There are also mountain ridges on either side of this gap, creating the perfect conditions for wind to build up and blow through the gap. A phenomena called the Venturi effect can cause extremely strong winds to flow whenever there is a strong weather condition on one side.

Below you can see the weather map for the time we were in Huatulco. The yellow line shows the shortest route, but you have to make sure you time that correctly. We opted for the slightly longer route that hugged the coast as we went around the bay. Partly for safety reasons but mainly for two other reasons; one, it wouldn’t be so boring and two, we could visit Costa Azul.

Before Costa Azul we anchored at Puerto Arista. This is what’s called an Open Roadstead anchorage, meaning that it’s open to bad weather from anywhere, and although the anchor should set well, in anything other than calm weather, it’s dangerous or at least uncomfortable. We anchored on our second night to get some sleep and to wonder at the huge waves crashing onto the beach in front of us. The following morning we upped anchor and headed for Marina Chiapas, our final stop and another overnighter.

Puerto Arista

Costa Azul
En route we did a Sail-by (Drive-by for boats?) to Costa Azul. The reason being that Kathy and I had both read a very amazing book called 438 Days, about an El Salvadorian fisherman called Alvarenga.

438 Days is the miraculous account of the man who survived alone and adrift at sea longer than anyone in recorded history—as told to journalist Jonathan Franklin in dozens of exclusive interviews.”

Costa Azul was the small fishing town where this adventure started, and along the lines of ‘standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona‘ we felt obliged to visit. Alvarenga himself had been caught out by an unexpectedly strong wind blowing through the Tuhuantepec gulf, known as a norteño. As we approached the shore, some fishermen in Pangas sped past and gave us a friendly wave. Having understood a lot about the fishing community from the book, we felt there was a good chance these guys may have been around at the time and even joined the search for the missing fishermen. There where two in the boat at the start of the journey.

Costa Azul

After another short overnight passage we arrived at our final destination at around ten in the morning. We made a slow passage up the winding estuary into the marina where our fenders and mooring line came out for the first time in many months. Being tied up, no anchor alarms running, no swell, and no need to worry about water or power we were finally able to really chill out.

Approach to Puerto Madero

Marina Chiapas

Officials came on board and did the immigration customs and port documents. They were quite serious about it all here, more so than any other port we have visited. I would never dream of taking a photo of these guys, but our neighbour did and posted it on whatsapp, so I have included it here. There was also a big dog that had a good sniff around the boat. He found nothing which confirmed my fears that the weed you get these days just doesn’t compare with that from the 80s. 😉

There are many Rays living here

The next day we headed into town, taking the local minibus Colectivo and filled our bags with all Chedraui had to offer. The pic below shows workers running a new overhead power cable outside the shopping mall.

Back at the pool we can relax, the heat is quite something here, mid 30’s and climbing, very tropical, very humid. Ok if a breeze is blowing, but not so nice when trying to get to sleep.

Below I have included a recent photo from facebook to remind myself about the entrance to the El Cid Marina where we have had a few close calls. The tourist boat below must have mistimed the waves, or lost power at the wrong time! Whatever happened the waves at the channel entrance finished off the boat.

Entrance to Mazatlan Marina and El Cid Marina

So this seasons sailing has ended and Kathy flies home in 2 days’ time. It’s been fun since launch, and the boat has performed very well. I have until November to decide where the next boating adventure will take us.

Paul Collister 6th April 2024.

Las Hadas to Zihuatanejo

We arrived into Las Hadas in the first week of Feb, we covered this place a lot last year when we anchored here, it’s an interesting spot, but we were here just to provision. There’s some great big fancy supermarkets a short walk away, so Kathy is able to stock up on vegan food. The main highlight of our visit was making friends with a couple of Americans, Grey and Sarah, it’s often 50/50 when you meet new people from the States, but we were pleased to find these guys were very firmly in the right 50%. We had dinner with them later in Zihuatanejo before they had to run down to Chiapas and haulout and return to work. We swapped many notes and I hope to meet up with them later this year when we return to Sister Midnight in Chiapas.

Sailing south to Zihuatanejo

Isla Grande 8th Feb 2024
Sarah and Grey left very early from Las Hadas and we followed an hour later to make a long day sail to Isla Grande, a lovely island just off Ixtapa.
The Pacific has some big swells running at the moment and we arrived just after sunset and had to anchor in the dark as the twilight had just disappeared. We tried to tuck in behind a rocky outcrop to avoid the swell. As we were manoeuvring a catamaran appeared in front of us, it was anchored but with no lights on at all. I don’t know why people think that’s acceptable. It was made worse by many bright lights behind it on the shore.
We didn’t make great speed on the way, and the light wind didn’t help, but mostly the growth on the hull was a problem, and I confirmed this with a swim under the boat the next day.

The following morning, after a somewhat rolly night, we upped anchor and scooted the 7 or so miles south to the slightly better protected bay at Zihuatanejo. Here we anchored close to the shore in relative calm.

We love Zi, and made use of the supermarkets, the great mercado and the local provisions. Hilda & Ismael provide a service to boaters and will bring you water/fuel/propane, take your laundry etc etc. A great service and delivered to you at anchor.

We arrived just in time for the Zihuatanejo Sailfest Festival. Lots of boats take part, 20-30 this year, and various events like sunset sails with paying guests, a sponsored race and regatta, all to raise money for the charity ‘Por Los Niños’ (for the children). This is a great charity that raises many thousands of pounds each year to pay for schools, school refurbs, tutoring etc. It has been going on for decades and can claim to have had a major impact on many kids’ life outcomes over the years.

I had the bottom cleaned and the diver pointed out the anode had completely eroded away, leaving the expensive MaxProp vulnerable to attack. I provided him with a new anode to fit, I always carry spares, but it would seem I had bought one that was too small. So we decided to order some online and wait here for 10 days for it to arrive. It did look fine to me just a week before, so I’m mighty confused. In the meantime, I’m hanging a grounded zinc over the stern close to the prop hoping this will help. I don’t expect it will, but psychologically it feels better. The idea of a £4000 prop melting away isn’t great.

Rally day

Or possibly race day

A printing press?

The anodes arrived along with a new water foot pump and a repair kit for my engine water pump shaft.

A lovely new foot pump

I made short work of fitting the foot pump and the sleeve for the shaft on the water pump is stowed for another day.

However it seems I have repeated my mistake with the zinc anodes for the prop. Three shiny new ones arrived and they are the wrong size, 63mm and it seems they should be 70mm. I fell for the advert that said they were universal and fitted all maxprop classic models. They don’t. Further investigation revealed a pull down size list on that showed the option for the 70mm version, which if I had checked my notes, I would have realised, that’s what I have.
So back to Amazon, and as I write this my anodes have left California, been processed in Ontario Canada, sent onto and processed in LA and today arrived and left the facility in Cincinatti Ohio. I think tomorrow they should arrive in Mexico and on Tuesday arrive in Zi, where they will sit up the road from here for 5 days before they are delivered. I have a diver booked for three days after they arrive to clean the hull and fit the zinc. Fingers crossed.

We decided to treat ourselves to a very posh meal at a very posh restaurant, as they had an excellent vegan menu. By Mexican standards it was a little pricey, but worth every penny.

Sunset as desert arrived

La Ropa, the beach opposite the main town.

In the meantime we have decided to sit tight and enjoy the guitar festival that started yesterday (2nd March). This is quite a big deal here, some very famous acts appear at various venues around town, the artists travel from around the world to take part and perform for free. The proceeds of the festival go to providing music education in the local schools. We bought tickets for the opening concert where about ten of the acts performed a couple of ‘taster’ songs each. It was great except for a group of drunken gringo women who insisted on yapping loudly during the performances.

Below is the scene from a local coffee shop where Steph and Stu from the English boat Matador performed. There are many similar performances all over town over the next few weeks. Zi is a very musical place.

Hopefully in the next 7 days the zincs will arrive because I have the diver booked for 8am to fit them on Monday 15th, once fitted we haul anchor and head south. One stop before we arrive in hurricane devastated Acapulco. This will be interesting, late last year hurricane Otis, a Cat 5 Hurricane (peak winds of 165 mph), the most destructive and expensive in Mexican history hit. There were many marinas here before, they have all gone, many boats too, I understand the coast is littered with luxury yachts and many smaller boats. The harbour is full of sunken debris. The resort was a major tourist destination, and many high rise hotels were stripped bare of fixtures and fittings by the strength of the storm, rooms were suctioned of all their contents and all that remains are the shells of building. Much worse was the human cost with 52 lives lost and many missing and many injured.
From Acapulco we continue south and should arrive at Marina Chiapas near the Guatemalan border at the start of April, from where Kathy will fly home and I will work on the boat. It’s a marina so I can do some of the jobs that are difficult at anchor, like untwisting the anchor chain. I will haul out there then fly home for the summer.

Paul Collister 3rd March 2024


Blog 1st Feb

8th January 2024

So another year starts and the toilet is leaking again. It’s only salt water but needs attention. In fact I think I may have caused the problem by not knowing how to use a screwdriver properly; you would think at the age of 65 I would have got it by now, but no, there’s a special thing to do with self tapping screws in plastic that you have to turn the screw backwards first. Well you learn something every day.

Anyway all the best to you all for the new year and I hope you have a good one. It’s certainly going to be an interesting year in the USA and the UK and probably in many other parts of the world too.

Fireworks in Barra for 2024

We arrived in Barra without any issues and I set about fixing the two main problems. Firstly the DC-DC charger that wasn’t working, on closer inspection I found a 60A fuse that looked in a bad way, it had a melted case and I assumed it had blown. This was the feed to the DC-DC. I presumed it blew because I had accidentally shorted the feed when I was swapping the DC inputs and outputs around, but on removing the fuse I found one of the nuts that clamp it down was loose, very loose. Either it had worked its way loose with vibration (unlikely) or I had never tightened it up properly (much more likely). With it being loose it might have generated a lot of heat. On checking the fuse, it hadn’t blown. I replaced it anyway, tightened it up, checked it was tight, asked my nurse to check again and then tested it out. It worked great, and charging was restored. 

Next I looked at the water pump; it had stopped dripping. After running the engine for an hour, the area under the pump was damp, so I’m guessing the salt has built up around the hole and is reducing the water flow. As it’s belt driven, I’m going to leave it a bit before I attempt to change the seal. I’d like to buy some new seals anyway, so will probably do this job after we visit the next big city of Manzanillo.

Barra is lovely, it has pretty much everything we need, fresh bread, 2 artisan bakers if needed, and a French baker who motors around the lagoon announcing on VHF Ch22 that he has baguette, croissants, cakes, wine, coffee etc for sale. There’s lots of fresh fruit and veg, a lovely street market every Thursday, where I bought a new hammock to replace the one the moths took a liking to. There’s also a water taxi that will take you from your boat to the town jetty for $6 return.

Town square – Barra

Every week we are also entertained as a new boat gets caught out by the sand bank on the way into the lagoon. As someone who has run aground more times than I care to admit, I won’t  scoff

They floated off the next day

Last week we walked along the beach to the next, slightly bigger town of El Malaque. Lunch on the beach and a bit of shopping before we took the short taxi ride back. 

The lagoon between Barra and Malaque

I have also tackled some of the other boat jobs. I’m currently fixing things at twice the rate they are breaking, which gives me some hope. The outboard engine has a problem with fuel leaking from the fuel cock (tap). Isaac brought me out a new tap and I finally got around to fitting it. Sadly it didn’t solve the problem. I bought a new tap in La Paz a few years ago, but ordered the wrong part. So far I have spent £100 on taps trying to fix this, and finally I realised it’s the rubber hose that connects the tap to the carburettor that is leaking. I can’t see how, but it appears to have become porous at the end. The hose has a specially preformed shape and I did try to order one, but they aren’t available, hence a google for ‘how to make pre-formed hoses’ had me thinking I could make my own. Unfortunately I don’t have any spare 6mm rubber hose on board but had a go with some PVC hose, I was really impressed at what can be achieved with some basic tools and the boat’s cooker. I managed to make a replacement part which not only bends in two dimensions, but three!. Unfortunately, that type of PVC isn’t really suitable for petrol, I’m sure it would work in a pinch, but I’m on the lookout now for some new rubber hose which I can practice on.

Now the boat seems to be in a reasonably good state, I’m turning to playing with the computers again. I brought out a new Raspberry PI 4 with me in October and I finally got it wired into the system. It is running a SignalK server and I’m going to try and get it talking to the BMSs on my new Lithium batteries and the Victron solar MPPT and Battery shunt using Bluetooth. I have never really done anything with bluetooth, but there’s bluetooth libraries for python that work on the PI operating system, so that should be fun.

I removed this hatch to work on the mounts
Here a typical boat disaster, stainless bolt into an aluminium frame
It’s not coming out, ever, especially now I rounded the Allen head
Beach bar at Barra/Malaque
Typical Mexican village setup

Friday 12th Jan.
We motored/sailed from Barra for 3 hours north to the bay at Tenacatita, mostly so I could swim under the boat and clean the prop and give some of the hull a clean. It’s also a lovely spot to chill. The DC-DC charger performed well on the way and the hull seemed not to slow us down much. On diving I found the prop to be very furry and quite a few barnacles taking hold on the hull, I’m a little disappointed with the antifoul and wonder if I will get two years out of this application. I caught a black skipjack tuna on the way here and I almost threw it back in as I don’t really like the taste, it’s a very dark, gamey meat type. I’m going to give it a try tonight as I hate wasting fish.

The beach opposite us at Tenacatita

Monday morning and …
It’s Monday morning and time to leave the delights of Tenacatita and head back to Barra de Navidad for supplies, except ,when I start the engine there’s a terrible squealing noise. It sounds very much like a fan belt slipping so I immediately think alternator belt, I guess this goes back to my early days of car ownership, when this would be a common issue. I yank the engine box off and stare at the alternator belt running around, I’m wondering if there is anything I can do with the thing running to diagnose the problem, I’m thinking pushing the belt with a stick or some similar mad idea when I notice smoke coming from the back of the engine!.  Crikey, this could be a fire, I leap into the cockpit and stop the engine. Jumping back down I’m refreshing my memory as to where the fire extinguishers are but realise there’s no need as the smoke is coming from the belt driving the raw water pump. Feeling around I see the pulley wheel (that can’t be the right name) on the end of the camshaft that drives the water pump belt is really hot, I soon deduce that the water pump is not turning freely and that the belt is slipping at the camshaft end, hence the smoke and heat.

So basically my previous idea that I could ignore the dripping from the water pump was a very bad idea. The sea water had got into the pump’s bearings and they were seizing up. Now I do have spare bearings and seals, I also have a spare pump, but it leaks as well, so I had options. Anyway the rest of the day was spent rebuilding the water pump.

Spare pump will now need new bearings as well.

Firstly I had to disassemble the pump and that meant removing the shaft that sits between two bearings that are pressed in. The manual is clear, it is removed from the pulley end. I assumed that meant it travels away from the pulley end, wrong, it wouldn’t go the way I wanted and the puller tool I used managed to wreck the threaded end of the shaft making it unusable. I explained to Kathy that I’m just not a mechanical engineer, if I was any good at this I would have known that that amount of force on the puller was crazy, anyway I managed to get it apart eventually, cleaned it up, replaced the seal and bearings and put it all back together. I had to cut off half the threaded end as I had misshaped it so badly it was a millimetre wider than it should be and no nuts would go on. Once back on the engine I was feeling confident it should work but was very unhappy to find it was squirting out water worse than before. However it was pumping water around the engine and not making any fuss about it. 

By now it was too late to leave for Barra as I didn’t want to arrive in the dark there, it’s not the easiest of anchorages with depths generally around 2-3 metres.

New Lip Seal, and old bearing

Tuesday 16th 

We depart Tenacatita again, this time I have wrapped the area under the pump, including the starter motor, and the electrics box in tin foil and I have Primark’s (Uk version of Target for very cheap clothing) finest t-shirts stuffed into every crevice under the water pump to catch the leak. Every 15 minutes I swap the t-shirts for dry ones and all works out well. We anchor in Barra at lunchtime and find ourselves inbetween two other Baba 40’s , Greg and Kristen on Sonrisa, and Geoff on the famous Sailors Run. Geoff wrote a great book about his solo non stop sail around the world a few years ago in his Baba 40.
By now I have worked out that something is amiss with this water pump malarkey.  The spare pump was rebuilt but leaked when I first tried it back in La Paz a couple of years ago. The engineer who rebuilt it said he wasn’t surprised as the shaft had a lot of wear. However I was confused then as it was quite a bad leak. Now this current pump was dribbling water out and slowly rusting the bearings, but with the new seal water was gushing out (slight exaggeration for dramatic effect).  The first pump the engineer fixed had worked well, I had provided the seals and bearings, but the second pump he repaired, he had provided the seals and also bought extra seals for me, one of which I had just used. So off to the internet to research, and it’s very difficult to get details for the Volvo pump’s components. Volvo give them special numbers and special prices, the pumps are made by Jabsco, who very kindly also don’t give any details of the parts used for their pumps they supply to Volvo. However I eventually find a site that supplies seals for Volvo pumps which gives dimensions of 16mm for the inside seal that goes on the shaft. The seals the engineer gave me as spares, and presumably the one he used on the leaking pump are in fact 17mm. I’m excited and have concluded that the amount of water pissing out the seal is exactly 1mm’s worth.  However the bearings are for a 17mm shaft, so perhaps that’s what led to the mistake on the seal purchases. So I have ordered a stack of 16mm seals and 17mm bearings and I will be chilling here in Barra until they arrive, hopefully next week. A pain in the arse that all these troubles may have been caused by a very simple mistake of 1mm a couple of years back, but an interesting exercise for me in mechanics. How these lip seals work is another mystery to me, it’s just a sliver of rubber on a rotating steel shaft. Somehow the rubber and the sea water must produce a lubricating surface, clever stuff me thinks.

I decided to do something I’m more capable of, mainly wiring up some sockets. Kathy remarked on how our devices, phones, kindles, iPads etc, are very much like tamagotchis, we seem to spend all our time running around feeding them electricity. and changing their charging cables for fear they might die.

I use my iPhone as the anchor position alarm, so hate it whenever it dies as I have to re-enter the anchor pos. So I added a few more power outlets, some USB, and a higher power charger (SAE) to drive the Starlink system.

Part of this task required me to add some fuses. I took advantage of the time we now have to get Kathy with her eagle eyes to help me sort the fuses out, I find it very hard to read the values stamped on the end with my failing eyesight. between us, and with the help of a magnifying glass we got them all sorted.

This really is the high life eh! at least it’s sunny here.

I ordered seals and bearings from a store in Manzanillo, but also ordered them online from a local ebay type supplier which quickly arrived at the marina.

I figured the seals and bearings at the ‘seals and bearings shop’ in Manzanillo might be a better quality, and as I have learned, you can never have too many seals and bearings, so I took a coach ride to town, to pick them up. It’s a one hour trip there and took me through some wonderful countryside including many banana farms, and a coir warehouse which had hundreds of thousands of coconut husks stacked up in fields ready for processing.

Palms trees amongst the banana fields

Back on the boat the foot operated salt water galley sink pump had started leaking again. I fixed this a few times, but the plastic casing has cracked as the screws rusted and expanded. If you pump slowly, it doesn’t leak much and only leaks when you pump (or so I thought).

The trip to Manzanillo went well except for the fact they wouldn’t let me on the bus home without providing photo-id, which I didn’t have. I explained that was a bit mean as they had been happy for me to take the same coach to the city. Was this a secret plot to repopulate the city I wondered. On production of the morning’s bus ticket they had sold me, they relented and said ‘just this once’ I would be allowed to travel without ID. I pondered for a while on this, and the best explanation I had was from Arturo, who thinks it is related to the large numbers of migrants arriving on the southern Guatemalan border heading north to the USA. I had hoped they were looking for gangsters, cartel members, or maybe international terrorists, but was disappointed they wanted to know I wasn’t an illegal migrant from Columbia or some other struggling country.

new bearings

So with 14 bearings, and 14 seals I set about fixing the pump.

Putting the new 16mm seal in the current leaking pump solved that problem and the engine was up and running again. The shaft itself did not seem too badly damaged in the seal area.
Looking at the other repaired pump that leaked, I found that the engineer had in fact fitted the right seal and was correct that the leak was caused by excessive wear on the shaft. I’m hoping to find a workshop that can fix this, so I will have a spare.

Worn out shaft

So with the engine back and the rest of the boat in decent shape we started to make plans to head south.

A sunset drink at one of the bars we walk past each time we go shopping was called for first.

A couple of days before we left we were seeing quite strong afternoon winds, so much so that a green boat not far ahead of us started to drag. I spotted him as he came alongside the boat right next to us.

I hailed the boats on the VHF but it turned out they were both away. The green boat only had a very small amount of chain out and it eventually caught on the white boats anchor chain. This caused it to come to a stop perfectly alongside the white boat. After a bit of VHF chatter with other nearby boats we decided to head over and see what could be done. In the end we tied the boats together with a stack of fenders in between and laid a second anchor to try and pull them apart a little. Later I found the green boat owners number on the internet and called him. He was on a bus an hour away, but was quick to sort things out when he arrived. He had a few gouges on his cap rail but the white boat suffered no obvious damage. I watched the green boat try to re-anchor several times, but he couldn’t get his anchor to hold at all, not surprising given the small amount of scope he was laying out.

Manglito Restaurant, Barra
Moonrise from the anchorage

We took a bus ride to Cihautlán to provision for our next leg, and also just to see an inland town. A lovely spot with some great little shops.

Cihautlán Bus stop

So with some extra food and drink on board we checked out at the port capitanias office and set sail for the little cove at Carrizal. Here I planned to do a bit of snorkelling and clean the hull as the water is lovely there. We motored out of the Lagoon with no wind at all, but once we cleared the harbour wall we picked up some wind and managed to sail the whole way. About half way, I had reason to look under the cabin sole (floorboards) and noticed they were full of water. I checked under the engine, and the water was very high. I mentioned to Kathy that we were sinking and she asked if I was joking, when I said no, she seemed a bit more concerned. She asked how bad out of ten, and I said I didn’t know yet, but it could be bad, but not to worry, we can see the shoreline.
Normally the automatic bilge pump turns on when water enters the bilge, this was now 3 foot under water and I couldn’t tell if was running and not keeping up, blocked or just not working. I had tested it before Christmas, but perhaps I should test it more often.
Next I powered up the emergency bilge pump and we waited to see if the level dropped. I had run around the boat pulling all the floor covers and couldn’t see any water rushing in, so was feeling a bit more relaxed. Within 30 seconds we could see the level had dropped and pretty soon the bilge was empty of water and I couldn’t see any more coming in.
So after a bit of head scratching I came to the conclusion the problem had been the sea water foot pump that had been leaking. The previous day I noticed some water underneath it, and given that neither Kathy or myself had used it in a day, I decided to turn of the seacock that supplies it. Up until that moment, I presume it had been filling the bilge up.

We arrived safely in Carrizal cove after a lovely gentle 5 hour sail. It’s quite rolly here, so I dinghied out and laid a stern anchor. This pulls the boat so we are pointing into the waves. this makes the boat rock up and down lengthways, and is much much better than the nausea inducing sideways rolling the swell can create.

Location on Mexico’s Pacific Coast

Thursday 1st Feb 2024: Water Water Everywhere

We wake to a lovely morning in Carrizal, however the fresh coffee tastes a little salty. Since the salt water tap is out of action, I rigged up a large bucket of sea water on the stern for cleaning dishes, and Kathy suspects thats the problem. So I dispose of a cafetière of expensive coffee and start again, same problem. I pour a cup of fresh water from the tap and drink some, yuk, it’s salty.
So the fresh water tank has sea water in it. This is annoying, as I paid good money for maybe 8, 20ltr garrafons and carried them from the shore to fill up that tank, and the whole lot are wasted now. Further checking and the starboard tank is good. For comparison, the starboard tank has a reading of 20 parts per million of salts, and the port tank 3500 parts per million. Sea water has over 35000 ppm so the tank has about 10% salt water in it (or so google says). We will continue to use it for washing dishes and cleaning, until it’s empty, then flush it out and refill. In the meantime I have to work out how the water got in to the tank. I presume it must be related to the bilges filling up. There is a connection from the salt water wash-down pump to the fresh water system, but it’s protected by a one way valve, perhaps this opened. This mornings work means that that connection no longer exists, the only person ever to have used it was Tim, when he visited me in Malaysia and used the deck wash pump to shower with after swimming and insisted on using fresh water. Since then it has only been used for cleaning the anchor and deck with sea water, so no great loss there.

I had a lovely swim, great coral and many species of tropical fish here.

Tomorrow we will probably leave and do the 90 minute trip to the Hadas Resort where we can anchor, and visit all the big box stores of Manzanillo.

Paul Collister
1st February 2024

Ending 2023 in Mexico

Christmas Day 2023.
While waiting for the Christmas dinner to cook in the oven, I thought it’s time to get started on a blog update. Apologies for such a long delay, but it’s been hectic. Things will slow down now and I will have more time to catch up on writing, reading and hopefully I can do some of the more pleasurable jobs on the boat.

October: The launch and problem solving.
The launch went well, sadly the primer hadn’t dried fully before. the antifoul was applied to the areas under the stands, so the antifoul was gooey, it seems to have settled now, but I also picked up a load of blue paint from the slings. Still, it was free paint, mustn’t grumble. The engine fired up, there were no leaks, and once the travel lift departed, I was able to re-attach the mast stays and the yard crew were ready to turn me around, however at that point the wind picked up, so I waited an hour, then in a lull the crew returned, we swung the boat around with some long warps and I motored off doing the 2 mile trip to the other side of the bay, and a slip in the government run marina there.

Launching at Gabriels yard into 8ft of water

Onno, who had launched a few days earlier, and who I had made friends with, was there and took my lines. Dwayne from ‘sipsi môr’ was also there, which was nice.  

Sister Midnight safely tied up at marina Fonatur in Guaymas (2nd from right)

Guaymas is still very run down, but I enjoyed my time there, the Day of the Dead events where just about to start and I saw a much more sombre version of things here than in La Paz last year. People refer to it as a festival or celebration, but really it’s closer to a remembrance service and not a party event, and definitely not an event put on for tourists. There are many days where different people are remembered and even a day for pets.

I had lots of work to do in Guaymas, one of the jobs was repairing the solar panel mounts, rewiring some of the battery systems for the new Lithium batteries. I also had a lot of cleaning to do. The boat needed to be smart, in time for the arrival of my son Isaac and his partner Holly in just a few weeks time.

Below is a GPS antena, it was ripped of its mount by the wind generator spinning around and the rope that normally calms it, got caught around the antenna and ripped it off. I had chucked out the Garmin chart plotter some time ago so I took the the cutters to this guy and freed up some space on the pushpit rail. A few days later I couldn’t figure out why the AIS couldnt get a gps fix, I also couldn’t figure out where its antenna was. Eventually it dawned on me that the Garmin I threw out had an internal GPS antenna and this guy was actual a spare I had used for the AIS. I had to make an inline coax repair to reinstate service. Another job to be done properly later.

After refuelling I said my farewells to the friends I had made and headed out into the sea. I had decided on a direct run over to the Coronados on the other side of the sea.

This was an overnight sail of around 120nm or 24 hours at 5 knots.
The boat performed well as you would expect with a perfectly clean hull and a polished propellor. I managed a day in the main bay at the Coronados swimming and snorkeling before the wind picked up from the north and I had to take shelter on the southern side of the island. Some of the nicest anchorages are only comfortable in certain wind directions and at this time of the year the wind becomes increasing stronger and from the North.
From the Coronados I headed south taking in Agua Verde next for a few nights, then San Evaristo for a night followed by a few nights on Isla Esperitu Santo in my favorite cove, Bahia Candeleros.

Not touched up, just dodgey iphone software I suspect

Super Yacht mentioned later

Now it was only a week until Isaac was due to fly into La Paz, so I scooted on down there and anchored off Marina La Paz in my usual spot. I took the dinghy into the Marina and asked in the office about a space, of course there was no space available, however the young ladies there seemed genuinely pleased to see me back and one of them even fished out an envelope with money in it for me, apparently I had left some deposit with them they hadn’t returned last year. It’s a great marina, but sadly some parts were damaged and La Paz as a whole took a battering from hurricane Norma. I believe around 40-50 boats were ripped from their mooring and ended up on the beach, most of which were unable to be recovered before either being damaged beyond repair, or as was more likely to happen, being stripped clean by thieves. Many boats sank in the other marinas and several docks were destroyed.

This boat has a wild story, SV Disperser.

The Disperser again. Many will be glad to see the end of this

Nov 11th: Isaac & Holly arrive
My son and his partner Holly arrived into La Paz airport and I took a cab out to meet them, they stayed in a boutique hotel in La Paz on their first night, I figured a night in a rolly anchorage might not be great after a long transatlantic flight. It was a really nice spot I wouldn’t mind staying in myself. The next day we headed out and got them kitted up with hats from the local market, and snorkeling kit from Ferre mar, the very reasonable chandlers here.

Supporting the local Sombrero industry
Enjoying a drink at one of our fave spots, Harkers bar

Later we dinghied out to their new home for the next two weeks. They settled in quickly. They had spent a week living on our baba 30 in Barcelona once, and Isaac had spent many summer holidays saling around Greece on our 28ft sloop ‘Oracle’. Spoilt kids or what, but then perhaps my dad thought we were spoilt having our own caravan on a farmers field in north wales back in the 60s.
The next day we headed back into town and did a big provisioning run to Chedraui as we wouldn’t be seeing ay more supermarkets on this trip.

The following morning we headed north back to Candeleros, on the way we passed a very large luxury super yacht that had sunk during hurricane Norma. I’m keen to know the story to this as I had heard the captain was holed by another boat colliding into him in Marina Costa Baja, (the posh one) and had motored out to let it sink in the bay.

We anchored in Candeleros and the fish immediately started to entertain, with one large fish snapping a smaller one in half leaving the fishes rear half flapping around while it munched on the head! Turtles, sea lions and other aquatic forms appeared and seemed to please my guests.

We did a bit of rock climbing in the valley at the back of the cove.

Candeleros beach had been somewhat reshaped by Norma and now their was quite a large lagoon now behind the beach.

From Candeleros we headed up to Isla San Francisco, now the northerly was picking up and I wasn’t sure we could get further north, but Isaac and Holly were keen to try, so after a short trip over to San Everisto, we headed north up the channel, it was a very boisterous ride, but to their credit they handled it well, the bow was bouncing from very high to going down to sea level. We pulled into Los Gatos and with the help of a stern anchor to keep us pointing into the swell, we had a very pleasent stop. Isaac loved the huge schools of fish there. They had both taken to snorkelling.

Los Gato

In the bay at Bahia El Gato we met up with a couple who were kayaking along the Baja coast, everything they needed, food & water, tent, cooking gear etc had to be stored on their kayaks, we let them use our Starlink so they could get weather and update their social media feeds. They were in touch with a guy I had met earlier who was paddle boarding the length of the sea. There’s no end of crazy people out there! but hats off to them for taking on a challenge like that.
The next day we left for Agua Verde, another rough sea, but we bashed on north. Agua Verde is a favourite for myself and many other cruisers here, it offers protection from every direction if you pick the right one of the three beaches. We did some fun snorkeling then took a walk out to the caves with the ancient hand painings, passing a small palm oasis.

The cave requires quite a climb but you are rewarded with great views of the sea. The hand paintings are quite small, and perhaps of dubious origin, but it was a fun trip.

Small handprints in the middle

More cacti

We spent a couple of days in Agua Verde before pushing on to Loreto. We tied to a mooring buoy in Puerto Escondido and hired a car to explore the area. I’m feeling a bit like a tour guide having done this three times now. We did some shopping in Loreto then had lunch there before driving up the mountains to visit the old Mission at San Javier.

Sea Lions in Loreto

A great restaurant in Loreto

San Javier Mission

The next day it was time to head back to La Paz, we drove there in the hire car, The ten day trip from La Paz to Loreto was completed in reverse in about 4 hours. We stopped halfway and found a back street eatery where I practised my Spanish and we had some lovely Huevos Rancheros for lunch.

I dropped Isaac and Holly off at the airport around 4 pm and with it being too late to drive back to the boat, I went online and booked a room in La Paz for the night. They call the roads here ‘free range’ because the animals, cows, horses etc roam freely over the roads at night and cars are often written off after colissions on the unlit stretches of road.

The next morning I headed back, after a delightful stop in a little hotel where my room had a nice kitchen and I cooked my dinner and made a nice packed lunch. I hit some kind of horsey event on the way back and was stuck in a very slow queue for an hour or so.

Nov 25th Back to Escondido and sailing to Maz
Back on the boat I headed to the fuel dock, Refueled and I filled both water tanks with some of the most drinkable water available on the Baja, it comes from a spring nearby, that I believe was actually mentioned in Steinbeck’s book chronicling his trip around the sea here (The log from the Sea of Cortez).
For those of you who follow sailing blogs, you will probably know of Tally Ho, but maybe not a similar build ‘Salt & Tar’ who I have followed over the years from tree to ship. Well I took these snaps of her moored just across from me in the bay. They had gone back to California, but it was great seeing the boat here, I also met up with another blogger couple here, ‘Sailing Sitka‘ who I got to know as they were hauled out next to me in Guaymas, funnily enough, they have just dropped anchor next to me here in La Cruz. Finally I bumped into Nelson and Terey here who I had met a year earlier in Topolobampo just as the trouble kicked off with the arrest of the son of El Chapo Guzman.

Salt & Tar

Striking sunsets

We are getting more days of cloud and strong northerly winds now, winter is here, but the water was still good for swimming and temperatures still close to 30c.

29th November 2023
So as November came to a close I slipped the mooring ball and headed directly to Mazatlan, where I would be leaving the boat before heading to the capital at Mexico City to meet Kathy.

The trip was great, it was around 310 nautical mile (nm) or 64 hours, so I had two nights at sea. I have become very comfortable with setting the alarm clock for 15 minute snaps, I wake up, check the engine gauges, if it’s running, check the sail trim and wind direction, check our course track against the desired route and then scan the horizon for objects that might bump into us. I can do all of this in under 2 minutes, then I’m back asleep again. by sunrise I’m ready for a full day awake without feeling tired.

Some Dolphins who came to visit

I sailed into the old harbour at Mazatlan, dropped anchor and had a chilled time for a couple of days.
I went ashore and took advantage of the fantastic mercado, I especially liked the Atun Ahumado (Smoked Tuna) they sell. I also bought a lot of boat bits from a great chandler they have here up by the tuna factory. One of the jobs I did here was to replace the main hose feeding the holding tank. I won’t dwell on it, but it was an awful job to have to do, I’m glad it’s over.

Sailing towards Mazatlan with the Yankee polled out
Waiting for the cruise ship to clear the channel before I can enter
I was sure this was in my home town.

For Sale, So tempting
They are very proud of their engineering here, I suspect a marine crankshaft
Nautical/Marine college
Unloading Salt
I bought some shrimps here, fresh and very tasty

You don’t normally have to wait this long for a taxi.

Nelson dropped anchor next to me, he had followed me down from Escondido a few days later, and we had many good chats about boating and Mexico, He speaks the language fluently and has been visiting here for a very long time.
After a week or so in the old harbour I motored around to the fancy marina at El Cid so I could get fuel, clean the boat with fresh dock water and get her ready for Kathy’s arrival. I also felt safer leaving the boat on a slip while I flew to Mexico City. We have had two very bad experiences grounding on the way into El Cid, but this time I went at high water with a calm sea and it was a doddle.
Things have been so rushed and the three months of leaving the boat n the dessert means that the varnish is stuffed, I slapped a coat down on the port cap rail, but it’s all going to have to come off and I need to go back to bare wood and start again. So not having time for that, I focused on the stainless, and at least got the boat sparkling in the bright sun.

Dec 11th: Off to Mexico to get Kathy
With Kathy’s flight arriving late in CDMX, it meant a hotel for the night, rather than paying over $100 for a hotel room at the airport, I opted for an apartment (Airbnb style) 5 minutes from the airport for $50, this was great, it was near a supermarket, so we also saved on food as I cooked dinner and breakfast for Kathy. What I hadn’t banked on was the apartment being on one of the main routes to the Basilica of the virgin of Guadalupe and that day being the festival of the virgin, where literally hundreds of thousands , if not a million people walk to the church on a Pilgrimage. The crowds were amazing, many had paintings of the virgin on their back, some even had life size statues strapped to their back. Many were bringing large quantities of food to offer up.
The main problem for me was taxis couldn’t get near the apartment, we managed in the end. I met a very frazzled Kathy at the airport around 11pm she had had a rough flight with Air France, which had done nothing to help Anglo-French relations. Then she had to endure long queues at baggage and immigration . Still she relaxed back at the apartment, and it was great to have her back. She also brought me loads of boat goodies.
The next afternoon we flew back to Mazatlan, took a taxi to the boat and proceeded to start the next leg of our pacific voyages.

Lot’s of these guys at the El Cid hotel/marina
Kathy adjusting to the slightly better weather here.
Mazatlan old town centre

After a few days of chilling and provisioning at the local Walmart, we moved the boat back to the old port. from there we made a few trips into the old town and had a nice vegan dinner with our new friends Terry and Nelson who were still there waiting engine and steering parts.
I repaired two shrouds, these are the wires that hold the mast up. They should last for at least ten years, but two had cracks as shown below, and they are only 7 years old. The type of crack indicates it could be crevice corrosion, which can be very serious, in fact the whole fitting could be just rust underneath the shiny steel and could fail any minute. I used fittings called Sta-Lok to repair them, these are re-usable and I had been very nervous about fitting them, worried I might not get it right and risk losing the mast. As it turned out it was very easy and the second one I did in 5 minutes.

The small crack
Preparing the Sta-Lok fitting

21st Dec: Off to La Cruz for Christmas
We left early on the 21st for La Cruz, an overnighter, there was no wind so we motored the whole way. I managed to snag a fishing line on the way and found myself towing two large marker buoys. I saw them the same time as a panga appeared with the fishermen owners. They managed to extract the line from my bobstay where it had snagged and no damage was done, so we waved goodbye and sailed on, just ten miles further on I spotted a line just as we ran over it. No harm done, but this is the first time we ever actually snagged a line in many years of sailing the seas in Sister Midnight. (I’m excluding reversing over my own lines)
We arrived the next afternoon into La Cruz, dropped anchor and rested. I had now developed a cold and Kathy wasnt feeling 100%, so we took it easy. The next day we went off to get the final ingredients Kathy needed for the Christmas dinner she was looking forward to cooking. We went to a ‘La comer’ which is a bit like a UK Waitrose, very posh. Spent a small fortune, but got some great items hard to find elsewhere, like Kathy’s plant based butter, vegan sausages etc.

Lovely old ketch in the anchorage in La Cruz.
La Cruz, Sunday Market.

Now we have finished our Christmas meal and feel suitable bloated, ready for more eating and resting before we sail south, Barra de Navidad is next and possibly we will return to Zihuatanejo as we liked it so much earlier this year

28th December: Barra De Navidad.
We have just arrived in Barra De Navada, Jalisco State and I’m able to finish the blog. Our departure was delayed due to having a flat engine starter battery, I had to be ingenious in finding a way to charge it, but we managed it after an hour. However on our trip down, the DC-DC charger stopped working, so that’s a new job. Also I noticed the raw water pump is dripping, so that will have to be repaired or replaced. It never stops. Still we had a fast overnight passage here with quite a lot of decent sailing. Some big swell is predicted for La Cruz tomorrow so we decided to do a runner. It’s lovely and calm here in the lagoon and we will stop here for at least a week.

Paul Collister

Leaving Gabriels boatyard

5th October 2023
Taxi to the Manchester airport, short flight to an airport in Europe (probably Amsterdam, can’t remember, they all look the same), then onto a 12 hour flight to Mexico city. Because of a last minute flight change, 6 hours of hanging around Terminal 2 at CDMX where I manage to lose my glasses. Then a short 2 1/2 hour flight to Hermosillo, an hour wait for a taxi to the coach station and then a 90 minute bus ride to Guaymas, then finally a 20 minute taxi ride to the boatyard where they are waiting for me to remove the forestay on the boat and load it into the travel lift and move me from the storage yard to the work yard.

I thought I was getting a cold the day before I left, and possibly unwisely took up an offer of a winter flu virus jab the morning I flew out, the end result of all of this was I arrived at the boat feeling pretty ill, the intense heat, high 30’s didn’t help. So as soon as the boat was chocked up I crawled into bed and slowly cooked for a few days until I had enough strength to drag the Air con unit out from under the v berth and throw it on the coachroof pushing icy air into the boat. Phew.

The boat being loaded into the travel lift for its move to the work yard

A few days after arriving Josh, a boat dealer and importer delivered my batteries which he had organised to be shipped from San Diego for me. This was going to be my main job inside ther boat. There are 8 LiFePo4 cells (3.5v @ 280Ah lithium Iron Phosphate) plus a spare that make up 2 banks of 4 cells, giving me a total of 12v @560Ah. Equivalent to around 800-900Ah in Lead Acid. For thse of you not literate in Ampere Hours, that’s a massive amount of power for a small sailboat, if I had space I could install a dishwasher, washing machine / dryer, Stannah stair lift etc.

Makes me think of 8 bits plus parity for some reason (8/n/1/e)
Sorry to non nerdy types

The views from the boat are pretty cool, and of course the yard has dozens of really interesting sailboats around. A few deserted, but many old ones in the process of being given new life. I soon make friends with other yachties preparing their boat for the season. The heat is really too much to be working so life starts around 6:30am when it’s a little cooler. I’m having all of the old antifould removed and a new primer coat applied. It’s a bit over the top, but I want to ensure a get a good adhesion with the new paint and I get a consistent coverage over the boat. I am able to employ a local called David to do the work, however he hardly turns up and it seems he has rather overstretched himself by agreeing to take on far too much work. It seems to be very difficult to get staff here, much like many other countries post covid. Now there is a long waiting list to get paint jobs done here. So I resign myself to a long wait and decide to get on with other jobs like building the new battery banks.

Once the Aircon was working I donated this fan to another sailor who claimed it became a life saver for him.

My cracked Apple screen before it went black

Now I mentioned how I paid £750 for a new screen on my macbook when I returned home, well guess what, I may be doing the same pretty soon. I don’t want to talk about it any more or I might get upset. 🙁

So in between building batteries I have to service several of the seacocks and thru hulls, these are things that let water in and out of the boat. If they fail the boat can sink, so they all need checking over.

Cleaning and repairing the one way valve that stops the shower sump filling the galley sink

Port side well on the way.

Sadly there had been a big storm that passed through while I was away and it had ripped one of the solar panels off its frame, the panel was intact, but gouged a little, the frame was twisted and snapped in several places. It’s hard to be sure but I think about 90% is still working ok. However I had to pop off into town looking for an aluminium tube supplier. I think most towns in the world have one, I just had to find it. I figured if I could find one in remote Borneo, Guaymas should be easy.

Damaged panel and snapped support frame

The elusive aluminium shop

It took a while walking around town, but I enjoyed exploring and practising my directions in Spanish. Eventually I found a place and bought a 4 metre length which they happily cut into the desired sections I needed, short enough to fit into a taxi for a ride back

The main high st in town is getting a big makeover
A famous wooden boat I am told
Workers hard at work.

Suddenly David turns up with several assistants and in one day they strip the boat and get a coat of primer on! the next day they finish and I’m only half way through the batteries job.

Batteries in situ ready to rock and roll

So I get the batteries installed, in each box there is a 300A BMS (Battery Monitoring System), which is a computer that monitors each of the 4 cells, that’s what the thin wires are for. if any individual cell is acting odd, or under stress, the BMS shuts the whole system down. I’m hoping by having the two batteries in parallel I have some redundancy. Once again my carpentry skills were somewhat lacking and my first box had to be binned as it was 3 cm to short, don’t ask how that happened, I measured three times!

Clouds gather

2 weeks have passed and at this point we are close to being ready to launch. However ‘there’s a problem’, Hurricane Norma is heading up the coast in our direction. It’s most unlikely that it will reach us, that’s why we’re here, but I decide to delay launch until it’s gone so I finish the jobs and schedule the launch for Tuesday 24th October 2023.

A bargain if you have $20,000 USD spare

It looks like Norma will hit Cabo San Lucas at the bottom of the Baja peninsula and might track over to La Paz before dying out as it crosses over to Sinaloa. So while waiting I decide to clean the topsides. I can’t remember it actually looking this good before.

Topside deep cleaned. Needs polishing/buffing now
Does my bum look big on this

So the day before launch, the crew arrive with the travel lift and hoist me up, the blocks are moved along with the props/stands so that the covered areas can be painted.

The straps are joined under the boat with big pins
Then we are hoisted

Once in the straps the travel lift remains here overnight and tomorrow morning I will be lowered into the sea, backwards and will have to do a difficult 180 deg turn to be able to leave. The channel is very narrow.

The Hurricane passed through Cabo as predicted and hit La Paz much harder than expected. Sadly two of the marina saw big losses, Marina Cortez in particular is full of sunken boats, many others have large chunks of hull missing, I expect the damage to boats will run to the millions, but that’s very much a first world problem. I expect many Pacenos (locals) will have lost their homes in the flooding, many vendors had to close, and the town was still without electricity as I write. Part of the Malecon was ripped up, but for me the worst was losing a friend during the Hurricane.
Bob had lived on his sailboat Adios and was moored next to me for the year I was in the Marina, I got to know him well and had a lot of respect for the man. As a young man working in SF as a insurance estimator, he watched the sailboats entering and leaving the bay and decided that was the life for him, he quit his job, bought a small sailboat and sailed to Hawaii and back solo as his first offshore passage. In those days there was no GPS s he did it all by sextant. He was 90 when I last saw him and still went out kayaking most days. I was looking forward to seeing him again in a few weeks. Sadly he was found dead in his boat after the storm had passed, it is presumed he had a heart attack, his berth was close to the outside of the marina and quite exposed, although the boat was undamaged it must have been quite a wild ride for 24 hours. It’s very sad, but then I expect he would have much preferred to go quickly onboard his own boat than in a nursing home or hospital.
RIP Bob.
I’m off to bed now and will be launching at first light tomorrow. I have a space booked in a little marina just 20 minutes away in the centre of Guaymas, where I will stay for 2-3 days getting the sails on and generally preparing the boat for passage to La Paz where I will be meeting my son and his partner in a couple of weeks, then we are off to explore the Islands.

Paul Collister

Mazatlan to the UK

12th August 2023.
I’m writing this on a Pendolino train from Liverpool to London Euston. I’m off hoping to see some Perseid meteors with my good friend Dominic and other friends I haven’t seen in a while. We will be outside of London in the Oxfordshire countryside, but right now it’s looking very cloudy.
I left the boat hauled out in Guaymas at the end of June and flew home. It’s always a bit of a worry leaving the boat alone for a few months. I think this is the longest I have been away in the seven years since I bought her. The trip up to Guaymas from Zihuatanejo was just shy of 1000 nautical miles, so a decent solo passage for me, and by the time I hauled out and secured the boat on land, both the boat and myself were quite tired.
I have detailed the trip in a bit more detail below.

24th May 2023, Arrive in Mazatlan
The passage to the old harbour at Mazatlan was good, and this time I felt confident enough with my Spanish to call the port traffic control station on the VHF radio. They usually talk in Spanish and are very busy with the tourist boats that constantly ply their way from the harbour to the nearby islands. No response, disappointing, but at least I refreshed my Spanish.
This harbour is great, I planned to do some shopping for boat bits I will need for the relaunch which are best purchased in the big city, however I managed to strain some back muscles and was basically crippled for a week. I couldn’t get ashore and just moving around the boat was difficult, so I just rested for a few days.
Eventually I ventured ashore, I was still in a lot of pain, but was hoping some exercise might free things up, which it sort of did, along with a lot of soreness.
I found a few great chandleries not far from the harbour, and a plumbers merchant where I could buy 25 metres of clear plastic hose to redo the fresh water lines. I also picked up the correct shackles for the Spade anchor. I restocked at the supermarkets and bought a stack of smoked tuna from the main market known as ‘Pino Suarez’. As good as La Boqueria on the Ramblas in Barcelona, but half the price, and fewer tourists like me.

There’s no shortage of visiting cruise ships
The overnight ferry from La Paz
Lovely houses on the walk to the chandlery
Weird stuff too

I found that everyone was selling ciruela, it must be the season, but I didn’t know what a ciruela was, so avoided them, however a local had made me try one in La Cruz and they tasted great. I now realise they are very similar to plums, something I had never been fond of, although like many of my childhood food hates, I may never have tried one, but rejected it as a child because of its colour. Anyway they tasted great and I bought loads here in Mazatlan from street stalls.

Hose and Tostadas, there’s no stopping me now
The nightly trip around the harbour by the locals enjoying the on board Banda band complete with very loud Tuba.

Leaving the old port of Mazatlan I saw several of the tour boats that were constantly moving in and out of the harbour, actually taking their guests around the big rock islands that are scattered throughout the main Mazatlan bay.

6th June
I move the boat to the El Cid marina for a few days for some fuel and to get the hull scraped. A local diver and his father come out in a panga to the marina and cleaned the prop and the hull. The boat really needed it.
El Cid has the harbour entrance that made me swear and Kathy get frightened for her life the last time we visited. The entrance is very shallow and has sunken lumps of sharp concrete that will pierce the hull should the waves push you off the exact centre. Big party catamarans coming out can make navigation a challenge. I was careful not to try it at low water again. This time the tide was high, but there was also a fair amount of current flowing. I approached the entrance with trepidation, here big rollers travelling across the Pacific build up into waves that could ruin your day, however it didn’t look too bad. As I approached the entrance a huge wave arrived out of nowhere and would have been a problem if that had caught me. I backed off and started counting the seconds between the waves so I could time the entrance. I thought I was ready when a voice came over the radio ‘Sailboat at the entrance, come in now, it’s safe’. I assumed this was one of the staff of the El Cid resort, who has a good view from the breakwater. So I throttled up and managed to get into the channel and over the shallow bar just before a big wave broke. Feeling like an accomplished hardened sailor I then motored to the fuel dock where I made a complete arse of myself by trying to go alongside the fuel dock with 3 knots of current pushing me off. A fellow sailor came to my rescue and on my second approach to an adjacent dock, I managed to tie up. From the fuel dock to my berth I managed to screw up again and completely got the turn into the slip wrong and had to reverse out and do a 180 degree turn, head out the marina and return for attempt two, which was textbook and gave me a little bit of cred when I explained to the onlookers what freak tides we were having 😉
I have refuelled here several times before, but I was assured the hotel/resort was great, and it was not expensive. They have a stack of pools and eateries so I decided to chill for a few days at the pool while I prepared for the last part of the season’s sailing.

Boats needing some TLC on the entrance channel to Mazatlan Marina
El Cid Marina, Mazatlan
Marina/Resort Lobby
Chilling by the pool.

Walking along the Malecon, I came across this group of Banda musicians messing around after a day’s work on the beach, they played some great music, and I felt privileged to hear them. No one I have played the music to agrees with me, but I still think it was great.

Just feel that brass!

8th June. Leave to El Cid marina for Topolobampo
I had planned to stop at Altata on the way north, but the high swell that was building put me off, so off to Topolobampo with two nights at sea before I would arrive. There were a few big fishing boats on the way, but nothing very eventful.

Approaching Topolobampo

Shrimper fleet in Topo

11th June Arrive at Isla Maria Sand Dunes
To get to Topolobampo you have to follow a channel that extends out into the Sea of Cortez for several miles. It’s very shallow either side of the channel and for large parts of the route you can see and hear thousands of birds on the sandbanks. I usually travel just outside of the buoys that mark the channel, as I don’t want to have to deal with the harbour master who controls the channel. Once I pass the first headland that juts out from port, I turn, right next to the sunken shrimper and two miles to the north I anchor in 10ft of clear beautiful water. I catch up on my sleep here before heading into the Marina right in town.
There, like everywhere else, things are quiet, with a definite out of season feel. I provision for the next leg and enjoy a fish meal on the Malecon.
One of the reasons for coming here was to refuel, however I have managed to sail so much that I don’t really need any, and after a couple of days I leave for the last leg north to Guaymas


I visited the museum at Topolobampo as it was open. Their main exhibit is this biplane, along with many photos from when the plane was operational.
I think the plane is famous for the ‘Battle of Topolobampo’ which was the first naval-air skirmish in history.

They seem very proud of their plane (Photo courtesy of the Topolobampo museum)

14th June Dept for Guaymas.
I leave the marina and again return to the sandbanks to anchor overnight. This allows me an easy and early start from the anchorage.

The dunes before Topolobampo
More dunes before Topolobampo

The wind blows perfectly and I make a great passage to Guaymas. I had expected to arrive late, probably in the dark and had decided to anchor out at one of the many bays a few miles from the town. However, as I approached I realised I could make it into the town with plenty of daylight left, so I phoned the Marina manager and checked if they had a berth, which they did, so I motored straight down and into the slip. Job Done.

Sailed past this guy on the way in

16th June Marina Fonatur
This Marina is downtown and walking distance from the shops. It’s also directly across the bay (10 minutes cruising) from the shipyard I am hauling out in. In a few days I will cross over to Gabriels boatyard and motor into their travel lift slings and that will be that for this season. But first I must get all the sails off the mast and furling systems. Everything needs to be prepared for the possibility of a hurricane. The hurricane season has started and at this point there are many views on what will happen. It’s a El Niño year (The Boy) and this causes a vast belt of hot water and air to spread across from the Panama area extending far out into the Pacific. Often this heating will cause hurricanes to form easily, however this year, for reasons not fully understood, the water north of the Baja and off the Californian coast is much colder than normal. I think this causes a lot of wind shear, and wind shear kills hurricanes. So far the hurricanes haven’t been up to much, mostly heading west off towards Hawaii, however August/September is the time to really worry.
This boatyard doesn’t have to worry about the sea, but it does suffer from flooding and I believe a recent hurricane caused so much water to flow through the boatyard that several boats were toppled.

Probably the headsail being stowed

20th June Haul Out at Gabriel’s boatyard
Crossing the bay to the haul out was fun. I didn’t have the location of the travel lift, but I did know I had to approach it at right angles to the shore, and line it up straight from some distance out. Much of the bay is only a few feet deep and a narrow channel allows access to the lift. I had some tracks left on Navionics from other boaters, which proved useful. Once I was close, I couldn’t see the travel lift, and my expected destination looked like a deserted bit of coastline. However with the binoculars I saw a couple of Mexican marina staff standing at the end of the dock waving at me. A few minutes later I was tied up organising the slings for the lift.
I had been warned that the lift was quite small and that I would need to remove the forestay to fit in the slings. This is a pain, but I have done this before, however here they wanted the next sail stay, the inner forestay (Staysail) removed. I haven’t had this off for seven years and I knew it would be a struggle with the corroded screws. Anyway I eventually got it free and we were in the slings and chortelling along to our new home in the storage yard. Here you cannot stay onboard overnight so when it is time to return and launch the boat, I will be moved to a ‘working yard’ where I can clean/paint etc.
I spent the rest of the day packing and putting the boat to bed, and the following day I grabbed a taxi to the bus station and took a bus to Hermosillo, the nearest airport I can fly to Mexico City from.

Here you can see why both forward stays had to be taken off
Sister Midnight in the storage yard at Gabriel’s yard, Guaymas

I wonder why I left that fender out? will it still be there in October?

As you can see from the picture above it was getting really hot. In the boatyard away from the water it was very hot, this year hotter than normal and the yard workers were complaining. Fortunately I had plenty of water bottles on board and handed them out to the workers who really seemed to appreciate them.

I had hoped to spend a few nights on the boat putting it to bed for the next 3-4 months, however with the heat and the management keen for me not to stay on the boat, I quickly closed her up and grabbed a taxi into town to the coach station to get my bus to Hermosillo.

21st June. Bus to Hermosillo.
I think there’s an airport at Guaymas, but it doesn’t seem to have any airlines operating there, so I had to take a coach to Hermosillo, quite a large town a couple of hours to the north.

Very hot, but nothing a Mango Raspado can’t cure

Town square/centre

I had two days to kill in Hermosillo so I took in some of the highlights.
This imposing building below is basically the town hall, and has amazing murals inside, as do most town halls

Town Hall

Huge murals all over the place.

23rd June 2023:
Time to head home, I left the hotel around 7am and had a crazy taxi driver take me to the airport. He was cursing at screaming at every other motorist, but amused me no end with his taxi driver talk, aimed against the Mexican government, the council, the police etc. A bit like an angry London cabbie on speed.
I flew home via Mexico City, Paris Charles De Gaulle then Manchester. All went very well, flying AeroMexico right up till Paris.

26th June
Great to see Kathy again, who was waiting for me at the Lime St train station. The next day was not so great as I head down to the Apple Store and pay £750 to an Apple genius to get the cracked screen on my MacBook Pro replaced. Genius is the right word I suppose, getting people to pay that much for a $75 part is genius.

29th June
One important task on this trip home is to head to the USA embassy in London and get new visas for us both. We need these to enter the USA with the boat.

Back in Little Venice, London. An old watering hole of mine
A scary swimming pool next to the USA Embassy
Battersea Power Station (Post Floyd)

While in London we visited friends and also saw Isaac’s (my son) workplace. He works for a very hi tech company with offices in the centre of Soho. They have so many goodies for their staff we were quite amazed. Things like a bar, games room, pool tables, cinema and all the food and drink you can consume.

Kathy at the V&A Cafe.
London’s Borough market
Tower Bridge

5th July
Visa applications were processed and soon we were back in Liverpool. I took advantage of the various tests that our health service provide for free, Aorta, bloods etc. Seems I might live a little longer.

12th August.
Our visa arrives which is great. Soon I’m back off to london to hook up with lots of friends and family I haven’t seen in ages.

Back in Liverpool I settle down to various chores that have been waiting. I have some programming to do, and I start ordering lots of bits for the boat I plan to fit when I return.

My Office in Liverpool

August 2023:
Just six weeks until I return to the boat now. There’s going to be a lot to do on my return. My son and partner will be visiting for a few weeks, then in December Kathy will join me and we will sail down to the Barra area for Christmas. Later in the year I’m hoping to host more friends and meet up with old sailing buddies before next Spring when I think we will be sailing back north. Nothing is finalised yet, but instead of heading into the South Pacific, we may be heading back to Canada and onto Alaska.

Paul Collister

I lost my anchor! (And various other mishaps)

Tuesday 23rd May
I’m finally back in the Sea of Cortez, or at least at the entrance, anchored here in Mazatlan old harbour.

It’s a few weeks now since we finished our trip south ending in Zihuatanejo, before I left I took in a local festival of young people performing traditional song and dance.

I also lugged a starter battery across town to make sure I would have a way to start the engine should I need to after the sun went down and my batteries were depleted.

One of the 5 dead batteries on board

The view of the bay at Zihaut with Sister Midnight centre stage.

It was around this time that I dropped my MacBook (Laptop) in the cockpit. Not a big drop, maybe a foot onto the wooden deck. and not in a violent way either, and it seemed to survive, however a few days later when I turned it on the display was black. No visible sign of any damage at all to suspect I had cracked the display. However as the days passed a bigger and growing crack appeared. Fortunately I have an external screen I can use, and after many hours of trying to enable it blindly, I got there. This was the first of several gutting and expensive failures. It seems this is going to set me back £600-800 to repair, more than most laptops cost. My iPhone is also playing up, it’s an iPhone8 and getting on, normally my phones are on the seabed by this point, so I could think of that as a positive. Much as I love Apple products, the expense will be the ruin of me.

Off to Barra Navidad.

Here in the protected lagoon I can finally relax and get some boat jobs done, there’s a small leak from the saltwater foot pump at the galley, taking it apart reveals a broken rubber diaphragm. I have an old one I can use to fix it, but I don’t know how to reassemble it, the big spring must be clamped down somehow, and I give up.

Salt water foot pump. (destined for the tip)

An attempt to use the monitor windvane on the way here caused the chain to come off, this actually broke on the N pacific crossing and has been operating under paperclip power ever since, I have a spare chain, but not the will power to dismantle the whole thing and fit it. I will wait until the boat is on land where I can pick up the bits I will drop in the process.

There’s some nice walks around Barra de Navidad and I followed the beach to the busier and very pleasant seaside town of Melaque, this poor puffer fish should have known better than to mess with the big waves crashing on the beach here.

My European/American neighbours I met in Barra
Frequent visitors to the boat, looking for a possible nesting location?

So after a very chilled week in Barra doing some research on how to fix the boats ailments I proceeded onto La Cruz, to take a place in the Marina for 2 weeks. This will be the first time the boat has been tied up to the shore for over 4 months, and my aim was to give the boat a big clean with fresh water.
I arrived just as a festival was starting, fireworks every night and lots of activity in the town.
It was also great as I met up with Clay & Brenda on the yacht Sanssouci, We first met them around San Francisco in 2019 and travelled together down the coast and around to La Paz on our trip here. They were on their way to the South Pacific and when covid hit, they instead headed back to Canada, quite an eventful bash back, involving rescuing a family in a mayday situation. They had waited until this last year to try again, and they were here in La Cruz awaiting their Visas for French Polynesia having sailed down from BC Canada for a second time. Sadly due to boat issues and the late arrival of their visas, they decided to give it a miss again, the weather forecasts aren’t great now, and they are now in Ensenada heading back to Canada. I hope they get to do the passage one day. I enjoyed a couple of lovely vegan meals on their luxurious big Beneteau.

Party time

The fish market in La Cruz is quite a site, it’s always busy with a wide variety of fish on sale.

One of my objectives since arriving in La Paz has been to buy one of the buckets that most Mexican men seem to carry around. I finally found one, it was not easy and I began to wonder if I was not allowed one, being a foreigner. Now. I could soak my lines that had become salt encrusted, and even do some clothes washing when on passage.

I managed to slap a bit of varnish on

One of the things you can’t do when at anchor, is anchor work. With the new windlas the chain has been jumping out of the gypsy (See pic below), I noticed it was also very twisted in the locker and wondered if that might be the cause, of course I knew it was going to be the gypsy, but grasping at straws I laid the chain out on the dock, removed all the twists and took the time to clean it and replace the markers. The chain is 60m long and the first 30m , the part most used, has lost its galvanised coating and is starting to rust, the other half not so bad at all, so on somebody else’s suggestion, I reversed the chain so the rusty bit is in the locker and the galvanised end is now on the anchor. I’m thinking now the rusty bit will rust faster and it’s only when the wind picks up and I need to put out more chain will I remember that the rusted away chain is supposed to save me from the rocks. Watch this space.
Anyway the whole exercise ruined several t-shirts, a bit of the dock, some skin on my hands, and made no difference to the chain jumping out of the windlass. An email to the firm that I bought the windlass from 5 years ago, confirmed I had bought an ISO standard 10mm Gypsy, and I measured my chain and discovered I had a DIN standard chain, this is the problem, checking with Lofrans, a new Gypsy will set me back nearly £300, not cheap this boat fixing lark. Fortunately I found one on eBay for £70 which is now waiting for me in Liverpool.

The old and new gypsies, side by side

While cleaning the boat and polishing the steel, I found that two of the lower shrouds, these are the steel wires that hold the mast up, had cracks in them. They are meant to be good for at least ten years according to most boat insurers, and these are about six. No problem, just a few thousand pounds more and I can get new ones shipped over. There are cheaper options I can explore.

Punta Mita
Finally it’s time to start heading north in earnest, I have stocked up on food, fuel, had the hull cleaned again and I plan to sail to Mazatlan in one overnight passage. I leave the marina for Punta Mita, a little bay within Banderas bay which makes a good overnight stop before popping out into the ocean propper.

At Punta Mita I drop the anchor. My beloved Spade Anchor, The anchor pictured below, that is one of the most expensive, but also most effective having a unique lead filled tip.

I feel it bounce along a rocky bottom and not find any sand, it’s mostly sand here so I pull up the anchor thinking I will motor a few boat lengths away from the shore and try again, except up comes the chain, no anchor to be seen anywhere. This is a new experience for me, and I’m about to go into shock when I think, quick, slam a GPS waypoint into the chartplotter, if nothing else, this will be a reminder of where it all went wrong. The wind is gently pushing me out to sea so I sit on the bow platform and try to think this through. No amount of thinking makes the anchor re-appear so I look at the spare CQR anchor sitting next to the empty home of the spade and think, well it’s showtime CQR, I have never used this anchor before, and it can’t be deployed from the port side of the boat where it lives due to problems to do with chain, the gypsy and the fact it’s mostly on a rope rode. So I move the sad lonely (ex spade) chain around to the CQR and shackle it on. 15 minutes later I drop it to the seabed, where it quickly sets. We had a CQR on the Greek boat we used to share with our Irish friends Tim and Paul, and in all the years I used it, I don’t think it ever set once, it was just 35lb of iron lying on its side on the seabed, so I’m mightily relieved to have it set so well. I jump over the side with my snorkel on to find visibility to be about 1 metre and the anchor is 7 metres down.

I’m able to examine my GPS track using the GPX files created by the navionics chart plotter and work out the exact point where I dropped the anchor and where I pulled up the chain, and the boat traveled a curved path between these two points which were about 40m apart. Of course the GPS can be +- 10m, but is usually more like 2-3m on the open sea.

You can also tell the speed of the boat increased at a certain point which could be a clue.
I dinghied out to the spot later and put some buoys down at the area I needed to search and tried my hand at freediving down, but as I can’t free dive, this didn’t go well. I spotted some tour guides preparing boats for the guests of the luxury hotel I was anchored off and dinghied over to them to see if they knew of any local divers. It was with a little trepidation, as cruisers often go on about being chased away by hotel staff, and not welcome anchoring close to the resorts in case we spoil the view for their guests, or something. Anyway, these guides couldn’t have been more helpful, two of them jumped into my dinghy with snorkels and started diving in the area. I asked what I should pay them, and they wanted no money, just to help me find the anchor. They couldn’t see either and said they would try again tomorrow. I waited overnight but the next day the water was no clearer so I set about researching where to buy a new anchor. I put a post on a facebook group for local sailors and a man in La Cruz offered me a very good deal on an anchor he didn’t need anymore. Marty on the power boat next to me suggested I ask a proper diver to come and scour the seabed, and that he had seen pangas with compressors in the local fishermen’s port, a small port surrounded by a large breakwater that housed about 40 pangas and was a mile away, so the next day I dinghied down there and asked around. One man understanding my situation immediately grabbed a snorkel and said let’s go, again he wanted no money, just to help. I explained I wanted a scuba diver and so we walked over to a guy who was up for it, once he finished his Huevos Rancheros breakfast. The three of them then followed me back to the scene of the crime and they spent an hour searching but again the visibility was too poor. They thought in a few days things would be better and I should call back and seek them out then.

Hero Fishermen/Tour guides

Disappointed, I decided to go back to La Cruz and pickup the anchor on offer, stay the night there, restock on fresh food and return, hopefully to clearer water.

La Cruz Days festival
Wednesday street market
The view from La Cruz Fish Market
New rope for the snubber
On the docks at La Cruz.

I bought the 44lb Bruce with chain and 200ft of heavy rope from fellow cruiser Brian for about £100, these are fine anchors, not an easy fit for my bowsprit, but manageable. This was a great deal, and I figured that should I get the Spade back, I would have no trouble selling this setup.
The next morning I headed back, there was a strong wind blowing from Punta Mita to La Cruz, so rather than battle and waste fuel, I sailed out into the bay away from Mita then tacked back, It was great fun with the rail almost in the water, and making 8 knots, I had too much sail up really, but it wasn’t for long, as I’m hanging on to a very bouncy boat, a call comes in from Martin, the Mexican tour guide who found me the scuba diver to say they had been back to the site and had recovered the Anchor. Just F’ing Amazing, I hadn’t left the marker buoys, so they had taken transits from the first dive a few days ago and remembered where I said I thought it was. I was so pleased. I dropped anchor outside the panga port and dinghied in. I got the anchor, pushed lots of $500 peso notes into their palms and headed back anchor in the dinghy. By now the swell had built up and big waves were breaking across the harbour entrance, there was no way I could get through there without the boat being flipped over. I would have to get my timing just right to get out between the big waves. I tied everything down in the dinghy, I didn’t want the anchor falling out again! When there seemed to be a gap/lull I went for it, wishing the motor would just go faster, I could see the approaching swell building, but I only had to travel maybe 80 ft to be past the worst of it and then I was out and safe. All went well

So below is a picture of a new shackle, this is what the shackle looked like that joined the anchor to the chain.

This is what my shackle looked like when the diver found it!

You can see the corrosion is extensive, but mostly it is internal. I saw no problems the week earlier when I undid it and refastened it to the other end of the chain. I expect I didn’t inspect it very well, that’s a lesson learnt.
Also one should not use stainless steel shackles for this job. The spade has a galvanised shackle on it now.

On the corrosion front, when servicing the head pump out system, I noticed corrosion on the nuts that hold the seacock together. These are old cone type seacocks, and the two nuts that hold the top plate on had corroded and there was nothing stopping the cone popping out and causing the boat to fill up and sink. Not good!
I tapped the seacock to test my point and to my horror the cone not only popped out, it shot out, hit a bulkhead, bounced and disappeared into the bilge. Leaving me with a fire hydrant type situation pouring water into the boat.
Now each seacock has a big wooden bung attached to it just for this circumstance, so I grabbed the bung and rammed it into the whole, but somehow the water continued to pour in, I think the bung maybe oval in shape. I was able to reach down and find the bronze cone, shove it in, and tie it down while I worked on a proper repair.

So finally with my anchor back on board, I headed off to Mazatlan. I wanted to use the Spade when I arrived so killed the motor when I was en route and the sea was calm and transferred the CQR onto the deck and replaced it with the spade. This took some careful planning as there was no way to get the anchor back from here if I dropped it in over 100m of ocean.

Mazatlan ahead

I dropped anchor in the old harbour and the spade set instantly. A big sigh of relief. I will stay here for a week or so.

PS This has been doing the rounds on Mexican Social Media, it’s the American Maths team finally celebrating beating the Chinese in the world maths contest after 30 years. (I don’t know if it’s true at all, but it made me chuckle)

US maths team beats China for the first time in 30 years

Paul Collister

24h May 2023

Heading north to Guaymas

It’s nearly 2 weeks now since Kathy boarded her flight at the small airport of Ixtapa. I’m about to start my leisurely trek north to Guaymas, back into the Sea of Cortez. I plan to haul out in a yard known as ‘Gabriels’ as it is he who runs it. I understand it’s basically a fenced of bit of desert where the boat will be propped up for the 3 months during which the hurricanes may or may not whiz by. Another section of the desert is separated for those who want to work and live on their boats, I will have mine moved to the work area in October when I return and get the hull antifouled. This will be the first time I have left Sister Midnight alone on the hard and I will have to remind myself about what’s involved. Guaymas is in the Sonoran desert and will be very hot and dry, but with it being hurricane season, it could also face some serious downpours. 

Before Kathy left we took a trip over to the resort at Ixtapa to see the Crocodile sanctuary, boy they are big crocs, and they are so still most of the time, scary. There were also lots of Iguanas and impressive white vulture type birds, I’m not very good at species of anything.

After seeing the crocs we had a drink on the beach then got the bus back to Zihuatanejo.

Great decoration

One morning as I was re-anchoring I was forced to reconsider where to drop the hook, which was swinging over the bow ready to go due to a mussel diver suddenly surfacing in front of me, we waved at each other, to make it clear we were both aware of the danger, when I noticed the Hallberg Rassy yacht below sailing towards us as it was leaving the anchorage. I thought this wasn’t the best time or place to be showing off your anchoring skills whilst under sail, and I worried that he might not have seen us or worse, the diver, as he was tearing along and heading straight for us. I waved and gestured at the diver, and I think he saw and changed course away from the diver and more towards me, I thought best get out of here quickly so I motored away from everything quickly. I went round the block as the HR raced past, the diver was further away now and I re-anchored safely. The HR Skipper dropped by later in his dinghy to apologise and explain he has engine problems and had to use his sail to get out. Seemed like a nice bloke.

Later that day Kathy and I enjoyed a last meal at a wonderful restaurant on the northern hillside overlooking the bay, they did a lovely vegan dish for Kathy and a fine fish steak for me.

The view of Zihuat bay from the restaurant
Casa Bahia

So in the 2 weeks since Kathy left, quite a lot has happened. 

Mon 3rd April: Kathy flies home
The main event, after getting the bags ashore in the dinghy was the first taxi wanting 350 pesos to take us to the airport, I offered 200 for a laugh, he countered with 300, I said it was two much and he laughed and walked off, the next taxi in the rank had already agreed 250 with me the day before so in his cab we jumped and sped off. 

The fare back is more like 800 pesos as they have a monopoly over who can collect at the airport, so after Kathy went through security, I walked to the road at the edge of the airport and flagged down the next taxi leaving the airport, who was happy to take me back to Zihuatanejo for just 200 peso (£8) rather than have an empty cab.  My friend Arturo says the English are the meanest when it comes to money, don’t know what he means 😉

Back in town I started provisioning for a couple of months back at sea. Mostly dry goods and cleaning stuff.

I decide I may as well clean the port water tank now Kathy has gone, getting to it is quite a chore, but in the end it works out well. I do need to source new gaskets.

Table Removed and inspection covers off. Cushions need a deep clean

Having cleaned the tank, I contact Ismail the local fix it up man, who brings me a load of water, plus I use him to get 140 ltrs of fuel and a bottle of propane refilled. This works out to be quite expensive, but it saves me a lot of hassle.

More liquid supplies

Now we start with the first of the expensive jobs
I spot a crack in the rigging, I inspect the rest of the rigging and find a crack in another shroud, both lowers, and both unlikely to bring the mast down should they fail, but bad enough to require me to change them ASAP, I also need to go aloft and check the other end of the shrouds, also the fittings inside the two headsail furler drums aren’t easy to access but must be checked. I can replace the two faulty shrouds for a few hundred pounds, but in reality, the whole rig should be replaced, last time, just 6 years ago, this cost me around £6000, so not cheap.

Probably crevice corrosion

Thursday 6th: I try to clear out
I headed ashore to clear out with the Port Captain, but hadn’t banked on them taking the whole week off due to Easter.  Instead I did more provisioning and had another chilled day.

Monday 10th
One of the problems with Zihuatanejo is sewage, for a while I thought I had a problem with our holding tanks, as I would wake up in the middle of the night to a strong smell of sewage, however it turns out to be the town discharging into the bay. We were anchored very close to the Town Pier, a mistake I think. Perversely I think the excess of organic matter causes there to be a lot of life in the water, and a lot of growth. So I was having to haul the anchor chain every few days and give it a scrub down. Every few days we would motor out of the bay into the big ocean to dump our holding tanks, and on the last trip I had noticed we were struggling to make 4 knots, at quite high revs, it seems the hull is very badly fouled, too much in fact for me to be able to travel north, unless I could arrange in transit refuelling, like the fighter jets do. So I arranged to have a local couple come out and clean the hull, I had to collect them from a dock I hadn’t been to before, and realised as I approached in the dinghy, that it must be very close to the said sewage outlet. Yuk, anyway we all dinghied back to the boat where they spent 90 minutes scraping and scrubbing. They did a great job, but they, and the dinghy, ended up covered in what I at first thought was grit, but in fact turned out to be very small critters all wriggling around. 

After dropping them back at the dock, I cleaned up and went back to the capitanias office and managed to clear out. I find them to be very helpful and efficient, unlike several gringos who seemed to resent the whole business of clearing in and out. If they find it hard here, I hope they don’t ever sail to SE Asia. The problem for one of the sailors was that this office requires you to bring copies of your documents as unlike other offices they say they can’t copy them. One particular gringo angrily pointed out the copier in the corner of the office and was insinuating they have this rule just to make things hard for us poor sailors. I don’t know why, but I expect they have their reasons, and Sailors should always have copies anyway, it’s not a big deal.

From the captains office I walked out of town a little, in what turned out to be around 35 deg C blistering sunshine to buy some oil. I have to do an oil change real soon. With the oil I headed back to Soriano, a Hyper supermarket and filled a trolley with liquid refreshments, and fresh goodies, bread cakes etc. A taxi back to the dinghy and then back to the boat and away to the far side of the bay to the La Ropa beach so I could swim and check out the cleaning job.

That should get me to the next supermarket

Las Ropas means ‘the clothes’ and the beach got it names after a Chinese ship was wrecked here and its cargo of clothes wash washed ashore in 1910. Presumably it was known as ‘la noname beach’ before then. As I hauled the anchor up I was hosing down and scrubbing the chain with the deck wash hose when it suddenly stopped working. A check at the pump showed that there was a blockage at the water intake side, related to the recent cleaning I presumed, so I got a bucket of sea water and slowly continued the job.

Tuesday 11th
The engine refuses to start, nothing when I flick the switch, I rummage around with the wiring harness, just in case there’s a bad connection, but nothing, I pull the engine box off and flick the hot start solenoid override switch, only to hear a whimpering noise from the starter, looking at the batteries, they’re showing a very low voltage and I twig the batteries are flat. 

I have been waiting for this day for a while now, the batteries were bought as a temporary measure in Japan, almost exactly 5 years ago, to replace the previous batteries that had lasted 5 years. However we have taken to discharging these more since I plumbed in the 3kw Inverter and we started making toast with the electric toaster most mornings. The addition of Starlink and the watching of BBC until late at night hasn’t helped. So I wait for the sun to charge them up then around 10AM I have enough charge to start the engine, that will then put a lot of charge into the batteries, except it doesn’t. On closer inspection I see the alternator isn’t doing any charging. I’m not big on coincidences, and two engine electrical faults both happening at the same time means they must be related. I measure the feed voltage to the alternator and it’s zero, so that’s easy when I wiggled the wiring harness behind the engine control panel, I must have disabled this wire somehow, except I didn’t. Very odd. It’s getting hot and I want to get going, the engines running so I think I will fix it later, but realise without the engine giving me lots of amps, the batteries are still quite low and using them on the anchor windlass in their poorly state will be a bad move. So like hot starting the starter, I hot start the alternator by connectingg a little 12v bulb I have on a pair of wire tails between the + and the 61 terminal, the alternator fires up and I have an extra 35 amps flowing into the battery. Things are good to go, but I’m getting that horrible feeling that big things are breaking faster than I’m fixing them.

I head over to Isla Grande (Ixtapa) which is only 8 miles or so away, I can’t wait to be in lovely clear water so I can do some swimming, it’s been getting hotter and hotter every day. Once there I set about fixing the deck wash, it turns out a shrimp has decided to climb into the recently cleaned thru hull fitting and was sucked into the system. I have to take a few pipes and fitting off to find the little bugger, he’s turned to rubber now and doesn’t look much like  a shrimp anymore. I decide as I have it all in bits I will clean the grocko  filter on that system as it’s bound to be clogged, the lid won’t come off, after an hour of battle, and a bit of lost skin, I win, only to find the filter 95% ok. Cleaned up and reinstalled, I get back to hosing down the bow area.

Wednesday 12th, I need to fix this charging problem, and set about checking all the connections on the panel, I decide to replace a few older connections and replace the buzzer with a better one I have had on board for a few years waiting its turn. Everything is looking smart there, and it’s feeding the voltage down to the alternator just fine. However it’s not arriving there. The cable goes to a junction box at the back of the engine, and from there to the front where the alternator lives. To get to the back I have to do a lot of cupboard emptying and dismantling, when I reach the box I’m thinking it’s a pain to dismantle it, it all looks solid, lets just check the alternator connections again. I follow the wire from the 61+ terminal on the alternator and it weaves its way up to my starter motor override switch. And there it terminates in another switch, installed by the previous owner in order to disable the alternator, and some idiot has knocked it to the off position by accident. A measured amount of cursing at full volume ensues, the switch is flicked, the engine starts, the charging charges, and another byproduct of this is that the taco (Rev counter, not the edible type) starts working again. Will I miss these four wasted hours of my life I wonder.

The mess created just chasing down a bad connection.

Looking at the engine in all its glory, with the covers off I think it makes sense to do the oil change now. So out with all the bits and off we go. Now I wonder if anyones knows if Einstein had anything to say on the matter of Oil changes, It seems to me that gravity works differently during an oil change, Oil never flows down onto the rag under the source, but always just misses it, as if it bends towards the thing you really don’t want to get oil on. Then you have the weak force, the strong force, and the get oil over Pauls shoulders and forehead force. All unstoppable.

Thursday 13th, Wake up on the sofa last night at midnight having fallen asleep watching a YouTube boat building video. I see the battery voltage is down to 11.5 Volts. Very bad. I also had problems earlier with not being able to charge the Mac using the 12v-240v 300W inverter. So I empty the Quarter berth and dismantle the bed to access the battery bank. There are 4 house batteries in parallel, giving me about 400AH and a separate 100AH battery, from the same batch for the engine starter. I normally have them all in parallel giving me one 500AH house bank which I use to start the engine. I have gone back to splitting them up so that I can flatten the house bank, but rely on having a separate engine battery to start the engine in an emergency.
Going through each battery, I find one of the house batteries is in very poor shape, falls to 10V with a small 5A load, and the starter battery isn’t much better. I disconnect the weak house battery, and set the switch to keep the house and engine batteries separate. Tomorrow I will see what happens with the batteries. No internet at night now.

Having put everything away, in a much neater manner I book flights home, confirm my haul out date with the yard in Guaymas and jump into the Kayak. I land on some rocks in some swell, I wonder about the wisdom of this, but I’m rewarded by snorkelling with some amazing fish, sea snakes, rays and I find the biggest bestest shell ever, looks brand new and has a slimy thing living inside. I want to take it home, but I leave it there as it would be mean on the resident.

I have scribbled down a rough itinerary for my trip north, I will leave this Sunday 16th or the day after, depending on how this norther, further north plays out.

Paul Collister 14th April 2023