There’s been a run on Dettol & syringes here (not really)

I have given this page the title above, not to be a smartass or make a political statement, it’s just I want to make sure I’m reminded of this great wisdom that was recently imparted to me when I look back over the blog in years to come and we are back to more normal times.
Everything is just lovely here, out in the bay it’s very relaxing, quite calm and quiet. The anchor is firmly in place, and I’m popping ashore every 4 days to restock on bread, fruit & veg, and Cerveza Sin Alcohol.

Saturday: Out with the hammock. The temperatures have been steadily rising here, today we are hitting 35 Degrees Celsius. It’s expected to be getting up to the 40s next week.

Sunday: Saturday was exhausting, what with putting the hammock up, adjusting it, and chasing the pillow that blew out and went overboard So I decided to take Sunday off and just relax.
One thing that can be a worry out here is a phenomena they call ‘The La PAz Waltz’, this describes the crazy motion of the boats as they swing around at anchor. The reason it’s weird here is that in the bay we have two main channels separated by a shallow sandbank that runs down the centre, just a few feet below the surface. The bay is quite large, but has a narrow entrance at the end of the bank and consequently the tides can run quite fast, several knots most days.
As I mentioned before the current was enough to cause the boat a few hundred feet in front of me to pull their anchor out and he drifted down and almost hit us. So it’s always a worry that the anchor might come out and then I might drift onto the sandbank, into another boat, or get swept out of the bay with the current. There are several ways to deal with this. Firstly I have a chart plotter showing my position running 24/7 I can look at at any point to see where I am, I drop loads of markers down whenever I think I am at the extreme range of the chain in any new direction.

I have an anchor alarm App on my iPhone that makes a loud horrible klaxon sound when I drift too far from where I’m meant to be. This is a horrible way to be woken up at 3AM I can assure you, especially if it’s just because the iPhone couldn’t get a good GPS fix for a few minutes.
Finally I have the transits I take from the deck. For those who don’t know, transits are imaginary lines I make up between this boat and other objects, usually that don’t move on the shore. I did have a radio mast that lined up perfectly with a yachts mast when the tide was flowing into the bay. However that yacht left. Lining up masts of boats is problematic as unless they swing around the same as me, and none of them do here, then the transit is only good for one state of tide with the wind in a certain direction.
I do have one transit I love here, I have a picture below, when the tide is flooding strong, if I look between the masts of the ketch to port of me, it frames the two masts of the schooner behind it, and behind the schooner, bang in the middle is a third boats mast. It’s very reassuring when these all line up, as they have been doing for the last two weeks, as it means my anchor is well and truly set fast in the mud.


Monday: Off shopping to Chedraui, the big hypermarket where I’m shocked at the checkout to only be allowed to buy 2 cans of beer. It’s not even real beer. I could have bought two cartons of 12 cans each, but I only wanted 6 cans. It seems you can only have two, two cans, two cartons, possibly two 40ft containers of beer, but only two. I don’t really understand this, but I expect it’s bad software in the till that won’t let you have anymore than two items marked as alcoholic. I always hated it at the self service checkout when I had to get approval for my non alcoholic beer, and in America where often you just can’t put cerveza cero through an automated checkout. Come on ’till vendors’, get your act together.
As an aside, one of my first paid programming jobs in the early 80s was writing software for the tills in Austin Reed, on Regent St, London. I wrote a networking protocol that allowed the tills to communicate with an MP/M server and download PLUs and upload transactions. I had to connect all of the tills together and a grand total of the days sales appeared on a big monitor in the boardroom. I was astounded when the grumpy old directors were complaining that they took until 1pm to get their first million pounds of the day into the tills!

Tuesday: I decided with all of this sunshine, I should be making water with the surplus power from the solar panels, The batteries are fully charged by mid morning. The machine hadn’t been run in many months, possibly a year and when I fired it up it wasnt pumping sea water through the system.

Upon further investigation it seemed that there was a problem with the high pressure pump. I pondered on stripping it all down and investigating, but decided instead to make some Guacamole and have a gentle time for the rest of the day and to convert some left over nylon rope into baggywrinkles.

Baggywrinkles are used to protect the sails from chafing on the rigging.

Wednesday: Mike on Ikigai had anchored next to me in the bay, he needed to get some minor repairs done on his engine and we had a great chat, mostly about how crazy many of the yachties were here ignoring the social distancing. I stayed onboard and Mike was in his dinghy while we chatted. I lent mike my outboard to save him rowing ashore.
Time to rebuild the watermaker. The pump came out easy enough and it appeared to be seized, but may have just been very stiff.

Snapped bolt.

One of the bolts snapped off during the process, crevice corrosion again, probably caused by sea water leaking into the pump casing. Fortunatley I had the exact spare on board, which made me think the previous owner was expecting this? I was able to get the piston out and clean everything up and re-assemble the pump. What’s that phrase people often say to me, ‘Don’t give up your day job Paul’. The pump leaked badly and also didn’t pump, making me think the real problem might be in the motor that drives it. It could also be the membrane is so blocked that no amount of pressure will get water through it, but I doubt it.

The watermaker is over 20 years old and so probably due for replacement. I always wanted to build my own using off the shelf components, membranes can be bought easily around the world for under $100, but this unit has special proprietary ones, that will cost $800 to replace, last time I looked.
This is on the back burner now. I’m not going anywhere so no big deal.

Friday: another shopping trip, I bought a six pack of Cerveza Sin Alcohol this time, and that went through no problem. On the way back to Sister Midnight I stopped by to say hi to Mike on Ikigai, and drop off 20 ltrs of water he had asked me to get for him. He’s heading off to the north shortly, hoping to do some charitable work helping the locals who are in remote areas and might be struggling. Mike gave me a very fancy bluetooth speaker, RRP $$$, it had died on him, so I was hoping it might be a simple fix.

Now here’s a note of caution, not all teardowns on youtube are good. This one gets 90% of the way and realises he is doing it all wrong. I got 90% of the way and found out that he was right! bugger, still I managed to get this seemingly one mould piece of kit into lots of bits. I was hoping for a fuse, or a flat battery or something obvious, but Nada, so facing the second defeat of the week it is boxed up and waiting some inspiration before I take it apart again.
I retreated to the Hammock for the rest of the day and watched turtles and dolphins swim by while I read about the Myths and Legends of Baja California.

The sunshine wreaks havoc on your hair out here.

Thursday: Spending so much time sitting in the cockpit looking out I realised I had a lot of stuff on the back of the boat that didn’t need staring at, all the life saving kit like the Danbuoy, the horseshoe etc aren’t much use when solo and at anchor, so I moved them to the quarter berth where they will be spared the UV degradation. I also set about rewiring and tidying up the multitude of wires that run up to the solar panel and antenna on the rear arch. It’s looking quite sparse out there now and is begging to be polished. I also brought in the self steering rudder as the Marina will want to charge me for the extra foot it takes up sticking out the back of the boat when I finally move in there.

I recently saw Jamie on his ‘Follow the Boat’ vlog making a mat out of rope, this is a bit like baggywrinkles, in the sense of ‘what to do on a boat when you are bored’ I’m never bored, but always planned to do this on a long passage one day to while away the hours on watch. I have done a 5 week passage and never once felt the urge to make baggywrinkles or a doormat, but somehow this piece of rope was screaming out to be made into a rug.

Money for …

So I decided to get into this slowly and I have started with a small Celtic Knot. I might move onto the harder stuff later, but it’s kind of fun.

On the way back from the shopping trip I took a detour around the anchorage and was taken by how pretty this Canadian ketch was looking.

If you can’t read the next section in a Philip Marlow/Private eye voice, then just skip it, otherwise it’s too silly.

“It had been a while and i was about to run out of the hard stuff, Jimmy the Shark had hinted at a place a few blocks away, that for the right price might sort me out. I made my way over, and was let through the door by a wary old man. There was a grill between us, but he knew why I was there, 140 peso he said, as he slid a bottle of the stuff my way. 70% pure he said, I suspected it had been cut with some cactus juice, maybe aloe vera, but it looked the part. I handed over the money and made a quick exit before anyone took an interest.”

So back to Saturday, and work, and I mean real work. I have been wondering about making some money for a while now, and today I sent out a few emails about projects that I have been asked to get involved in to do with the solar power monitoring systems I built a while back. I’m not sure what my customer is doing now as a result of the virus, but I love the way their solar panels and the wind turbines have just carried on feeding power into the grid and raising invoices without a second thought to Covid-19. Wish I had some systems like that.

Paul Collister.

SV Sister Nightingale is Operational

Being at the cutting edge of technology on board Sister Midnight, I decided I should make preparations in case any of the ship’s crew ( i.e. me) come down with the virus. To this end I have fully equipped the ship with an emergency ward known as Sister Nightingale.
For those not familiar with British myths and legends, Florence Nightingale sort of invented hospitals in the old empire, and is thought of highly there, however some of her first ideas, which were experimental, killed off an awful lot of the british public unnecessary, so quite fitting the my government have decided to follow her example and build these ‘Nightingale hospitals’ around the UK.

Fever Control Station

This all started as a byproduct of installing the fan I had promised Kathy a few years ago. Once this was in I realised I was well on the way to having my own nightingale ward. Just needed to add a few extra items….

The Re-Hydration equipment
Air Conditioning / Temperature control
A Ventilator, (Doubles as a snorkel)
Emergency Oxygen (also handy as a scuba air tank)
overhead lighting

I have instigated a quick checklist I will have to follow before I can admit myself into the ward. Details below

Now I feel fully equipped to take on whatever comes my way.

Seriously, I hope you are all well, everything is great here. I’m working on the boat, I go ashore every 3 or 4 days for fresh bread and drinks, and spend the rest of the time being lazy, reading zillions of tweets, or doing boat jobs.

Last Saturday I polished the steel on the bowsprit pulpit, this gets mucky quickly as it’s in the firing line for spray when bouncing around on passage. I have found this pink cleaning liquid that everyone uses here. It’s magic on stainless steel. It’s basically oxalic acid with some other stuff. you just rub it on and the rust disappears and everything is shiny. If you wait a minute, it goes dull and grey, so you have to wash it off with fresh water fairly quickly, then a quick rub with a cloth and it looks like new. The only problem is if you get it on your skin, which of course I specialise in, then it stings like hell for a long time.

My tooth which had been hurting for a few days now was getting bad, so I made an emergency appointment with the dentist for Monday.
On Sunday my tooth was not so bad, so I had a lazy day and did a bit more cleaning in the main cabin.

On Monday I headed over to the dentist to find I have an infection and will need root canal treatment, and a crown. What joy, a lot of money, but worse a lot of time, it might take as many as 5 visits to the dentist, and the crown has to be made in Mexico city and sent down here. I can’t return home during this process so I’m wondering what to do. The pain has almost gone now and I have antibiotics to take should I need them. I also don’t think it’s the safest of things for me or the dentist to be doing at this time given the rapid increase in virus cases in Mexico.
After the dentist, I headed off to the Supermercado and stocked up on supplies, then back to the Marina. I had dumped a load of washing into the launderette machine on my way to the shops and it was ready now to be dried back at the boat.
Once all the washing was up and drying on the boat I remembered the main job I had been putting off, the toilet! It seems like only yesterday I was getting acquainted with the pipes and valves, but I think it was March last year when I last had it in bits. The lower valve was sticking, so I took it apart and cleaned it all up, and once it was reassembled it seems to be working a lot better. I usually flush it through very thoroughly, then let some bleach sit in the system before I start work, it’s quite a clean operation, what always gets me is the amount of calcium that is built up in the pipes and valves, this scrapes off easily enough, but as I’m looking at it I’m always thinking, ‘Is that really my bones that are wasting away’.

Wednesday was spent rubbing down the teak trim on the coach roof in preparation for varnishing. Thursday I popped ashore again, did some shopping and back to the boat in record time. More rubbing down of the teak, ready to varnish now.
Friday was meant to be varnish day, but by the time I was up and about the sun was already heating the boat up way too much, the wood was very warm, so the varnish will have to wait for a cloudy day or I will have to get up earlier. So I decided to do a bit of polishing today.
One of the things I love about the indefinite shutdown is I don’t have any deadlines at all right now. So I don’t have any excuses for not doing a proper job. Usually I have to weigh how long a piece of work takes and consider that I will be leaving port, or flying home, or some other event in x days time, hence giving me a great get out clause for only doing part of the job, or even rushing it. Now I have no excuse for not taking as long as it takes to do it properly.
Today I started at the bow, starboard side and worked my way back doing everything I could see that needed attention. Starting at the windlas, some ropes were fraying, so they were tidied, then I remembered that while Tim was here the windlass clutch was sticking a bit when he was deploying the anchor.

So I took the gypsey/clutch apart and gave it the best cleaning its ever had. It runs lovely now.
Next onto the stanchions/shrouds and lifelines. These came up lovely as well.

Earlier today I managed to catch some fish being chased acros the bay, there’s a little video below

Finally a very happy golden wedding anniversary to Kathy’s sister Bobbie and her husband Bruno, I’m sorry you aren’t able to get out to celebrate, but I hope you have a great day all the same.

Paul Collister

Just chilling and loving it

I took the trip into the marina by dinghy on Monday and booked a slip for the next 3 months. I explained to the manager that I would be staying at anchor until I needed to come in and use the slip, which will probably be when I run out of water or have a flight home.
As I write this I’m sitting in the cockpit watching the sun set with a glorious red sky, while dolphins swim around the boat. In the distance I can hear two dogs conversing across the bay from different boats anchored out here. I expect they are complaining about the virus. All in all it’s extremely peaceful and relaxing.
The government of Mexico have issued a 96 hour curfew for all of Mexico, and no one is allowed out of their homes or off their boats unless it is an emergency. This is fine with me as I wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

I think Software and Lens inadequacies in my iPhone make this a little more striking than reality

I do get a little irked by some of my fellow yachties who don’t think the curfew applies to them and that they can go off sailing elsewhere and ignore the restrictions, however it seems the military are quite active now patrolling the islands and evicting yachties who have pitched up there.

Tuesday was quite a lazy day, as most days are now. I wrote some software that allowed my Raspberry pi to pull in GPS data from my little usb gps stick ($10). I was mostly using gpsd for those who might be interested in linux/gps stuff. It was great seeing all the NMEA packets piling in off such a cheap device. I started to write some software to pull out the interesting data but hit problems with finding the right libs and header files for C, but that’s normal and at least we are on the way.
The main excitement of the day came just before sunset, I stuck my head out of the cabin and was rather surprised to see the big whale museum ship in trouble ahead of me, it was drifting down on me as the skipper was trying to get the anchor up and get out of the way. He must have been dragging. I felt bad as I had anchored quite close to him, and he probably could have dragged some way if I wasnt there a few boat lengths away.

However I expect he didn’t want to be dragging at all and as he wrestled to get his anchor up, it became clear his chain was tangled up in some of Davy Jones’s debris. He ended up motoring past me with his anchor still down, until he was in a deeper part of the channel where he then spent an hour, into the approaching darkness, struggling with what looked like a metal step ladder attached to his chain.

Eventualy he sorted it and went and anchored some distance away from me.

I have had quite a few people getting in touch concerned for my well being, and anxious about the situation here. Well I am grateful for your concern, but to be honest, I couldn’t be happier sitting out here at anchor. The only thing missing is Kathy. Hopefully she can get out here if I can’t get back there. It’s very safe here, the state authorities are taking the virus very seriously, even if the Federal government is struggling. Things will get worse I’m sure, but hopefully not as bad as they are back home. To get home right now, which is an option, requires a long bus ride, then 4 airports, and a lot of hanging around. I will probably end up back in Liverpool, exhausted, infected, and stuck in a small apartment self isolating for a few weeks. Give me dolphins and great sunsets any day.

A cruise ship anchored off in quarantine. No Passengers, but 650 crew with possibly a few infected.

Wednesday came and I started on the boat jobs. I got the wood glue out and repaired a broken galley draw that smashed sometime when a big wave hit us and the draw shot out and flew across the boat, I think possibly on the pacific crossing. I did some deck repairs in the cockpit and much to my delight I repaired the foot powered ‘galley gusher fresh water pump’. This is a foot operated pump that pumps fresh water into the galley sink. This has two purposes for me, firstly, should the main pressure pump fail, I can still get fresh water out of the tank, but more usefully it delivers a much more controlled amount of water. So helps to preserve precious supplies, especially when away from potable water for a while.

Someone’s house got the Mural treatment

Thursday was a quiet day, like wednesday it was quite overcast and cool, raining at one point. I headed into town to replenish supplies. I also had a water pump to drop of with Mike on Ikigai, getting to him was going to be interesting as the Malecon is closed so I had to take the back streets which are quite hilly.

Interesting trees on the way to Marina Palmira

It was good to see Mike, he is planning on sailing north just as soon as he can. His boat is looking much better, and is probably much more seaworthy than when I first met him back in Turtle Bay last year.
Marina Palmira is a nice place and I was reminded of just how many classic looking boats, a bit like my own are hanging out down here. I mean old fashioned looking, double enders (Pointy at both ends), ketches, schooners etc. These are considered good boats for crossing oceans, and that’s what most people down here are doing or have already done.

This is in stark contrast to when I would walk the pontoons in Greece, Spain or even Liverpool, where most of the boats looked the same, Beneteaus, Jeanneau or Bavarias basically. We oddballs refer to these as AWBs or Average White Boats, that’s a bit unfair really, as they are often great boats, just a very popular. I quite fancy retiring to the med on a 32ft Bavaria, will be great for the grandkids, whenever they arrive.

So today is Friday, I didn’t do much today, polished some stainless on the bow, wired up the wind generator, and did a bit of tidying.

I have been listening to the BBC World service podcast of the apollo 13 mission, I just stumbled upon this and it’s been fantastic, it came out a few years ago and is being repeated. I thought I would listen to all of the episode in a run this week, but was gutted to find I have to wait a week for the next episode, they are almost home, but barely alive. I have to say, it helps put the corona virus in context for me. These guys really were in trouble. Lovell at one point thought ‘this is really bad, Let’s just go home’ before instantly realising that wasn’t an option. I would have been terrified.

An Albacore dinghy, oblivious to the ‘don’t have any fun’ decree

The picture above is of an Albacore dinghy that sailed past me earlier today. The guy was having a great time, despite the fact it’s a two man boat. The reason I particularly liked seeing this was because it’s a British design, by a guy called Uffa Fox, there are a large fleet of these boats back in my home town of West Kirby, and they race often on the lake. The boat is basically a bigger version of the firefly dinghy, also designed by Uffa Fox. A firefly (1069) was the first dinghy I owned, probably when I was around 15 back in the early 70’s. I used to sail it on the lake as often as possible and had a great time in it.

The old lake, before my time, but Fireflys racing I think

Paul Collister

Quick update from La Paz, BCS.

I motored into La Paz and dropped the hook close to Marina Cortez, which is where I last sailed from when Tim & Asta arrived.

Marina Cortez and the channel marker buoy.

I was able to dinghy in to Marina de la Paz and pick up my mail that had only just arrived there, despite being posted 4 weeks ago and arriving in Mexico 3 days after leaving Liverpool.
While I was at the marina office I bumped into the manager outside, asking what the state of play was regarding slip availability in his marina. He informed me that he had slips but was only offering them on a minimum of 3 months rent. I said I may well be interested. The marina is relatively safe, I don’t know how well it would do in a direct hurricane strike, but it’s probably the best option available around here, plus there is good security and a strong community of Americans and Canadian liveaboards (often known as die-aboards) there to keep an eye on things.
Everything is closed and gloves and face masks are mandatory in the marina, and now also out on the streets.

I retrieved my bike which had been chained to the railings for the last few weeks and headed off to the supermarket.

No good without a selfie stick

The roads were quieter and the supermarket wasn’t busy and fully stocked.
Back at the marina dinghy dock, I loaded up Kathy’s bike and headed back to the boat. I thought I would leave my bike in the marina as I would probably do one last shop before I head off to the north to hide away.

The thought of where to leave the boat for the hurricane season, or where to leave it should I have to return home sooner was my number one worry.

One of the reasons people don’t like to anchor here is because it’s crowded and very busy with tourist boats and pangas racing through the moorings at all hours. However as I sat in the cockpit devouring a lovely tuna salad freshly made, I realised it was very peaceful here. The sun was setting over the El Magote sand peninsula, all the tourist boats have long stopped, even the fishermen seem to have disappeared.

El Magote sand strip peninsula and mooring field

This might be the quietest it has ever been since the days when Steinbeck visited on the Western Flyer in 1940.
The desire to go home to see Kathy and my kids is quite strong, however the lockdown in the UK means I couldn’t see them easily anyway. I would have to self isolate from Kathy, given that I might have to traverse 4 airports and maybe a few train stations to get back to Liverpool, I risk bringing the virus back to the UK.
Every day the Mexican authorities, locally and at a federal level are closing things down. The latest is the closure of the breweries. This has sent several dieaboards into a tailspin judging by the comments on the local VHF radio chat freq CH22. I don’t drink, and feel very strongly that drinkers should not be allowed to buy my alcohol free beer (Cerveza sin Alcohol) unless they are truly giving up the demon.

When faced with so many variables and unknowns it’s hard to make good choices. I like to whittle things down to what I do know for certain and also to try and get priorities sorted. My main worry is that the marina berths will sell out before I decide where to go. Without anywhere to keep the boat I would be forced to stay here and sail around until the pandemic and hurricane season is over (November for the wind, who knows for Covid), that’s not a great option, but might be fun. I have an option here that solves many issues if I need to go home, so upon reflection I decided to take the marina up on their offer of a slip for 3 months. This is not cheap, but when I put the cost I will pay here, against the cost of any other place the difference isn’t massive, and compared with how much money my investments (Pension fund) have lost, it’s miniscule. So I now have a place here for 3 months.
My next problem is that once I go into the marina I am expected to stay until the crisis is over. No day trips out, or jaunts around the islands. The boat is my home, and I am supposed to stay in it and not travel anywhere. The marina seem clear on this and I don’t want to go against the flow. I think it’s important that as visitors from a richer country we don’t appear to the locals, who will be suffering terribly from this, to be carrying on with our rich hobby on our luxury yachts without a care for anyone else.
My concern is that within the marina, the expat community are a tightly knit bunch, with a few virus sceptics amongst them, I think some are just ignorant of how easy this virus can be spread, and they are all mingling together, meeting for dinner in each others cockpits, sharing beers at sundown, using the communal showers etc. I really fear for them, many are elderly and this sometimes feels more like a retirement home than a marina, once the virus gets a grip, if it hasn’t already, they may be in big trouble.
The berth I have been assigned is right in the middle of this group!
So my current thinking is that I will dinghy in tomorrow (Monday morning) and do the paperwork for my berth, pay my dues and explain I will be bringing the boat in at a later date, probably when I run out of water on board. In the meantime I can sit out here, over 100ft from anyone else, feeling quite safe, and watch developments from afar.

On the flood tide, this guy gets a little close, but not a problem yet.

I need to make a trip up the channel anyway to take on fuel as I only have 1/2 tank and there is talk of fuel stations being closed, I think this is to stop people travelling over the Santa Semana (Easter) holiday period.

I’m going to be out here at anchor for a while, so I really have no excuse for not doing the jobs.
Firstly I decided to wire up the gas detector alarm I have been carrying around for a few years. Obviously it would have been premature to install it back then as I haven’t had any leaks for it to discover! However I wired it up in a temporary fashion and bombarded it with propane from my stove and an unlit lighter. Not a whisper, I could smell the gas but the detector kept flashing green. I think I need a new detector.
Next I had a look at the power controller for the wind generator. It seems this requires a dump load, a place to dump up to 25Amps of power if the wind generator is making it and the battery is charged. I’m working on how to do this. They also casually mention adding a diode to the feed from the generator, I presume this would need to be 25A, not something I keep on the boat. Another project for after the virus.
Next onto the Marine VHF Radios. I have made a few calls lately with no reply. I suspected both radios have faults, the main one seems to be very crackly and I suspected the cable to the hand mic. Sure enough it was a bad case of snap crackle and pop when I tried it on ch17. I used a UK VHF radio to listen on, this is a great radio I had on Stardust, but it doesn’t have the North American channels which are used a lot here. I took a few inches off the cable where it entered the microphone handset and rewired it. It’s in a bad way, and really needs a new cable, but I suspect the cost of this, even if it’s available would make it cheaper to buy a new one. I think it’s crazy to throw away a perfectly good radio costing around £150 for the sake of a cable that only costs a few pounds to make. Anyway, after my hacking at the decomposing cable, I was able to put it back together again and it works perfectly now. I hope I might get another year or two out of it yet.

The crackling wire offcuts
Like new, ish

Now onto the handheld, the audio level on the microphone seemed very low. It works well as a receiver but listening to me talking on it, I sounded very quiet and distant. As you can see I had to repair the aerial before as the rubber/plastic surround had decomposed, presumably through age and UV. But worse I have a habit of balancing the radio on the top of the binnacle where it tends to jump off and break into pieces on the cockpit deck.
The battery was being held in place by a generous amount of insulation tape wrapped around the body of the radio. I tested the audio level against my UK radio and it was indeed very quiet. I pondered what the problem might be and looking for the microphone slot I realised I had taped over it with a few layers of tape. Duh, I removed the tape and all is well, at least until the battery falls off, but that can be solved with some glue or something.

So a failure on the windgen and gas detector, but great success on the radios.

Paul Collister

San Jose del Cabo to La Paz

I’m writing a slightly longer, and probably more boring blog this week as I have a bit of time sitting at anchor, and I don’t suppose a lot of you are doing much either. Kathy is stuck in her apartment in Liverpool, wondering like most of us , when will things get back to normal.

Tim and Asta got their flights home and are now safely isolated in their house in Galway.

Asta enjoying her last day on the beach

Meanwhile I’m even more isolated, at least from a viral point of view, at anchor on Sister Midnight in the sea of Cortez.

A lovely slip in San Jose del Cabo marina

On Friday I tidied the boat up, and converted the guest suite (Quarter Berth) back into a store room. Basically this involved moving 5 suitcases and a lot of diving gear from Kathys side of our bed, into the Quarter Berth. 

The Marina office informed me that I would have to get fuel before 12 o’clock or wait until Monday as a big motor yacht was coming in, I had just ordered water to be delivered to the boat by truck and I wouldn’t have a lot of time after it arrived to get over to the fuel dock, so I prepared the boat to depart and waited for the water man. The water in the marina is good enough for washing with, but not good enough for drinking, so you get big jugs of water delivered by truck. Each jug carries about 20 litres and costs $2, it’s only $1 in the corner shop, but they don’t deliver. I put 12 jugs into the starboard tank and it was nearly full. Then it was full speed over to the fuel dock before the big boat arrived. I found myself queued behind two other sailboats waiting for fuel. If you’re wondering why I say ‘Sailboat’ these days, it’s because in this part of the world a big motor boat is called a yacht, strange I know. I always thought the definition of a yacht was a boat with a sail!

Later as the sun was setting I made a trip to the supermarket and filled up with goodies and dried goods. I have enough food on board for 4 weeks if needed, but for how long I could live on rice and beans is another matter. I’m disinfecting the food packaging as I bring it on board, then storing the dried goods in the QB out of reach to give the virus time to die off. I picked up a few items in the chemists which Im hoping to combine with some IPA (99% Alcohol)  I have on board in order to make some hand sanitiser if needed. 

Saturday was a lazy day, a bit of local shopping, and preparation for going back out to sea. I chatted with a group of Americans who were all very keen to get out of Mexico and return home. They fear Mexico might get quite unruly if the virus wreaks havoc here. Like myself, they are faced with many questions. Firstly their home country has more cases than anywhere else in the world and a leader who seems to struggle with the basics of science. Johnson may be better on the science front, but he heads a government that is happy to ignore facts if they are awkward for him. Both of our leaders seem more worried about their own position rather than the lives of their people. Still I digress. Secondly the Hurricane season approaches, although most of the damage tends to happen later in the summer, hurricanes have been here as early as May. So going home and leaving the boat here is risky. Finally it seems much safer from a virus point of view here than back home. Just ten confirmed cases and no deaths in the state (Baja California Sur). Just two cases in La Paz, but how accurate these figures are is unknown. If I play my cards right, I could be leaving here as things get bad to arrive in the UK as things are improving, or is that just wishful thinking.

I’m planning to find a safe place for the boat before I fly back in early May. Right now I’m thinking of La Paz, Puerto Escondido or maybe over on the mainland in Guyamas or possibly in Mazatlan. For now I’m heading north into the Sea Of Cortez again. I plan to anchor somewhere with good 3g and make enquiries about where to go. I also need to keep an eye on flights as things are changing all the time. There’s lots of military here (La Paz) with a Naval base in town. I expect it won’t be polite(ish) policemen telling you to stay indoors, but military men pointing machine guns at you. That might have more effect!

So this morning (Sunday 29th March) I left the Marina in glorious sunshine to head north back towards La Paz. The boat performed well, and I sailed for the first hour, then the wind dropped, then it turned to be on the nose as I was expecting. The wind was changing all the time and often went behind the boat. At one point the main emptied and filled with an almighty whack and the outhaul on the foot snapped off the traveler inside the boom. 

This meant the loose footed mainsail was flapping wildly around the show with just the reefing lines giving it some shape. After a bit of flapping, me and the sail, I managed to get some rope through the clew and brought the sail back to the boom and under control. An hour later the rope chaffed through and I had to repeat the whole operation, this time I used shackles to the old wire outhaul. Not perfect, but pretty good. After 5 hours of sailing/motor sailing at an average of 3.5 knots, the wind turned to the N and increased in strength to 20-25 knots. I increased the revs on the engine and we moved slowly to los Frailes doing between 1.5 knots and 5 knots, the big waves on the bow often slowed the boat right down.

It was a lot nicer a few days back on the way south with the wind behind, we saw lots of whales, here a video clip of some of them

Los Frailes was very busy with 8 boats at anchor, I’m keen to know if they are heading south or north. I anchored badly and by the time the anchor set I was just a few boat lengths in front of another sailboat, very much like mine in shape. I think we are well set in so it shouldn’t be a problem.

This horse came from nowhere and slowly strolled the length of the beach!

 It’s Monday and given that the wind is keeping me in this sheltered cove for a few days I decide to take on the wind generator. The wind is blowing strong across the bay and the generator would be a great way of keeping the batteries topped up through the night. However it feels like the main bearings for the machine are stuffed, it is seized solid. My first plan was to take the generator off the top of the pole, but I hit the first problem, aluminium fittings secured to a  steel pole,  they aren’t going to part easily, and given that the join is above the solar panels and it’s going to take a lot of force, I don’t want to risk dropping the hammer on the solar panels. So I decide to remove the pole from the bottom fitting, but I have the same problem there. Finally I take the blades off, the vane off and unscrew the base from the cap rail and bring the whole setup into the cockpit. Now I can’t work out how to get the shaft out and the bearings. So the job is put on hold until tomorrow.


Tuesday arrives and after a nice sleep in I get back on the wind generator job. I decide to try again to remove the generator from the pole, and with the help of some WD40 and a hammer I free the generator. By now the shaft is actually turning, but quite roughly. The shaft seems to be solid on the bearing and the bearing is very tight on the housing so This is going to have to wait. I try pouring some light oil onto the shaft and around the bearings. This actually makes a difference, so wherever the salt got into the sealed bearing, so is the oil now. After working the shaft around for 30 minutes of so, it’s running freely. It’s not completely smooth as it turns, but I think this is the effect of the magnets on the stator. Anyway, I put it all back together and attach the blades. 

I take the whole assembly forward of the cockpit. My plan was to hold the generator with the vanes pointing into the wind, I wasn’t sure if they would spin or there was still too much friction. So sure enough they start to turn, I’m impressed, but only for about 1/4 second, in the next 1/4 second the blade are spinning fast enough to do some serious damage, 1/4 second later I’m holding blades spinning faster than a helicopter in flight, and I’m thinking I might be in flight any moment, it’s quite scary, so I quickly spin my body and the generator so it’s end on to the wind, this will stop it quickly, however the blades catch something and BANG BANG it stops as two blades are snapped off. Gutted, it was spinning so well, now it’s a bin job. I already broke one blade in Malaysia and when I ordered a replacement I was told there are no more blades, I had the last one.  The generator is an Aero6gen .and was installed 20 years ago, so it’s done well, but it was of an older solid slow rotating quiet type which aren’t around anymore.

Not to write it off completely, I rearranged the blades so they were balanced, and put the thing back up. Once unleashed it spun like crazy, partly because it had no load, but also because it was quite windy. I’m going to reconnect it next time I’m at anchor for a while.  It never had a regulator, so may have played its part in the demise of my old batteries, I have an old 12v solar panel regulator that I may be able to use. It may not be a total loss.

The only other event today was the organisation of a pot luck dinner on the beach by the Californians from two different boats. In all I heard 4 boats agree to meet up, all organised on CH16. I declined, I don’t think now is the time to be partying! As it turned out the surf was too big for them to get their dinghies on the beach, so they all met up in the cockpit of one of the larger sailboats. It’s a shame, but that is one of the nicer aspects of cruising, gathering with fellow cruisers and talking nonsense all night long in the cockpit. Under the current rules my prime minister has banned me from such get togethers, and to be honest, I think I want to hold off on getting the virus for a good few months, I want to be on the Dyson Ventilator MK2 or preferably Mark 3, not Version 0.12 Beta.

Interestingly, the local fishermen here beach their boats each night by driving them onto the beach at full speed. You hear them motor out a bit, then turn to the beach and at full revs scream up onto the gravel beach. Quite a site. I may have to invest in a real camera to catch these things, but have a look at my little iPhones effort.

It’s an early night tonight as I want to be away before 8AM. Im heading for Muertos, along with at least 8 other boats from here. There’s supposed to be 5-7 days of calmer/southerly weather on the way.

Wednesday, Up at 6 and away by 7. I watched a lovely sunrise, while all the other sailboats scuttled away, most heading North, one heading south and probably around the cape and then north to America.
Two days ago I heard a report that all the ports in Mexico are now closed to all traffic, entering or leaving. This would be a pain for me, but yesterday I heard that this does not apply to private cruising boats, and that La Paz was in fact working as normal, as where many other ports. There’s a lot of confusion. Certainly it seems all the tourist boats have been told to stop, but then again, there ain’t a lot of tourists around.
Up came the anchor and on with the engine as I motored north to Muertos. The weather forecast predicted a southerly wind and when I got some signal I checked again and it was showing ‘Southerly 10 to 15 knots’, reducing to 10 in the evening. Not a lot, but Muertos is very exposed to the south and I wondered if the bay would amplify the waves to make it a bit miserable there. As I approached I could see the waves were quite big so I motored on around to the north side of the Point and anchored off Ventana beach. Very calm, but some left over swell from the north makes it a little rolly every now and then. The Americans, they of the Pot Luck group, ploughed on into Muertos, I wonder what kind of night they will have. Listening to them on Ch16, the VHF calling and distress frequency, I imagine they are all off their heads on coke or amphetamines, they are talking so fast and in a crazy hyper active way. I tried to talk to them, but they seem to only be able to talk, not listen. Very strange.
Salad for dinner before it goes off.

Mexico, the big picture
The bottom of Baja California Sur (BCS) The bullseye is my location, they are 1 mile rings
Zoomed in on Muertos (Bottom) and the beach top.

It was a rolly night, every now and then some big swell would hit the boat and find the resonant frequency of the hull, the boat would then rock and roll enough to wake me up. So at 7AM I was up and off. Heading to the La Paz region. I have arrived in a small bay , Bahia Falso, next to La Paz where I have 5 bars of 4G so I can upload this blog and also do some proper research about where to go next.

The chart version
Google earth

I have already heard the proclamation from the BCS district governor that everybody is to go into lock down. Everything but essential services are to stop, and people must stay indoors unless they are shopping. Much like everywhere else now. There have been 2 deaths in La Paz so far, so nothing major yet, but as in most poor places, the level of testing is very low.

Watch this space..

Paul Collister