Spanish Lessons (y mas)

Sunday 17th May
Today we hear the lockdown in La Paz has been extended from the 1st June for an unspecified period. This is due to the rate of infections in Mexico not having peaked yet, although it’s still pretty low here in La Paz. The hurricane season has officially started here as well (15th May) so I could be blown away at any moment, although historically not a lot happens until the middle/end of the summer.
I decide to head of to Ley, a giant Mexican hypermarket, in fact the largest Mexican chain of supermarkets in North West Mexico. I hadn’t been here before, but found it much busier than the supermarkets closer to the Marina. It’s a little bit further out of town, so good exercise.

Bimbo Bread, it’s everywhere.

There wasn’t much difference in the goods on offer, but I did manage to buy some Mexican made vegan chorizo and hamburgers which actually tasted quite good.

Tasty vegan options at last

Back on the boat the last of the cushions was fitted, and I retired for the day not wanting to over exert myself.

Spotted near the beach on the way home. It’s ruined for me by the uneven roof drains.

I wake to several emails asking why the systems I built to monitor wind and solar installations are failing. A quick check reveals the server has run out of disk space, this is an oversight on my part and a warning system needs to be put in place. I spend an hour deleting log files and archiving off old data. I now have 30% free space, but will need to work on this to ensure the problem doesn’t repeat in a few years time. The system, which is mission critical(ish) only has 50GB Storage. This might have seemed ok at the time it was built, but I now have memory sticks with more capacity.
It’s too hot to be outdoors, so I set to work on decoding the data from my ancient ST50 Speed and Depth instruments. They talk a secretive language to each other over a single wire network. I have no idea about the electrical or data protocol, but decide to put a scope on the wire and see if I can work something out. I don’t have a scope so set about using the sound card on my laptop to act like one, only trouble is the macbook air doesn’t have an audio in jack, so I move onto using a USB audio stick to capture the signal. I don’t know if this will work but it should be fun.
The previous night I had sent an email off to a guy who makes a hardware device that converts this SeaTalk 1 protocol to the more open standard of NMEA, asking for any tips, and just as I’m rummaging around for hardware bits to start my project he sends me an email with stacks of data on the electrical signals and the data content. Just amazing, I realise I can interface the SeaTalk to my raspberry pi with just two resistors and a FTDI USB serial adapter, which I have. They only cost peanuts to buy. A few hours later and I’m pulling in the depth readings and the Speed over water. Tantalisingly I’m getting data packets showing the water temperature, but it’s always 0xFF which makes me think it’s not reading it. Brits of my generation and older often have a fascination with water temperature, as we spent all of our childhood holidays at beaches were the temperature is generally in the hypothermia generating range. Water temperatures above 20 deg C tend to over excite us.

Data capture hardware πŸ˜‰

Now I can log location and depth as I travel around and use this information to generate my own chart data, It’s like having my own black box data to analyse, next time I go aground!
Arturo, my new Mexican friend I met at the airport some months back phoned and we agreed that I will pay him to teach me Spanish via Skype for an hour each day, starting on Tuesday.

I had a disturbing dream last night based on a report I had read about Prime Minister Johnson just before I retired to my bedchamber.
He was at a meeting when a quite complex process was being laid out and he said, “crikey, that’s a lot of work, and quite complicated, who’s responsible for seeing that through then?, he said looking around his ministers”. Ministers looked around awkwardly in silence until a civil servant spoke up and said, “Well Prime Minister, I think it’s you”.
Then the Prime Minister was on the TV reading from a todo list, and he was saying how much he had to do, he reached an item, ‘Pay Europe several Billion pounds as promised’, which he read out and said, “Crikey, I forgot about that one, bugger”.
I will leave you to work out which one was real and which one was my dream/nightmare.

The local authorities tour the marinas shouting ‘Stay at Home, Stay Alert’ or similar over their tannoy

Come the afternoon I hooked up for a video call with Arturo for the first of my daily 1 hour Spanish lessons. I was rather apprehensive about how this would go, Arturo isn’t a teacher, but has recently qualified with a degree in language studies and speaks good English and French, so he knows a lot about language structure. He is also a very enthusiastic clever guy. I needn’t had worried, it was a great lesson and we firmed up my understanding of conjugating AR verbs, which was nice. Later I firmed up his bank balance a little, which was under strain as there is no work in town for him at the moment. So a win win situation.

I took off on my cycle this morning to find a Ferrateria (Hardware store) to buy some lamp oil for an old battered lamp I had found in the locker in the shower. It was rather rusty, but should clean up. In the UK these lamps are expensive, if you can find them, but I remembered they were only a few Euros in Nidri, Greece the last time I was there. I found a store that had the oil and it had shiny new lamps for just Β£4, so I bought one and threw the old one away.

I like to read in the cockpit as the sun sets, but the cockpit has no lighting since I replaced the spray dodger/canopy and I thought this lamp would be nice. However as it turns out, the flame burns very low. I don’t know why this would be, other than the fuel isn’t up to par. Most strange, it looks great though.

I’m going to have to wire up some LED lighting for the cockpit.

I cycle around a bit as it’s such a nice day and I need some exercise. The blossom is lovely right now.

After a delicious fish & salad dinner I set about writing software to process the new readings coming in from the instruments I now have connected to the ship’s computer. It’s really only the depth readings I’m interested in. I had thrown together a little bit of Python code to read in the data and display it in a raw format, but Python isn’t a language I’m fluent in, so I started again in C, this is my bread and butter language. However, reading from devices like USB sticks on Linux isn’t something I do often and had to read up on that. Eventually just after midnight, I managed to get the packets in and decoded ready to store in a database. This will be more fun, I’m expecting Facebook and Cambridge analytica will be banging on my door soon wanting the data, I’m sure they have algorithms ready to turn tide height, speed over ground and wind speed in La Paz, into a ‘prime selling opportunity’ for somebody.

Up early, feeling groggy, and off to Chedraui for some fresh bread. The weather is lovely now, cool nights, and 31 deg C most of the day with a gentle sea breeze.
Another great Spanish lesson where I learn how to use the verb Poder (really useful for “I can not understand you”, “can you speak in english please” etc).
People arrive late in the day and move onto the boat next to me, it’s a fast sailboat, Jeanneau 49 DS I think, fin keel, and they have come to return it to California. They plan to leave on Saturday.
I make Guacamole and sit in the cockpit coding my new Tide height system. By 23:00 I have it working and running on the PI Computer as a task logging the tide depth every minute to the database. In a few days time I will have enough data to compare with the official tide predictions for the area. I bet like me, you can’t wait to see how that turns out πŸ˜‰ .

I wake up at 01:00 after having fallen asleep watching some boat porn, I’m not sure what it was, but I think it may have been ‘Salt & Tar’ stepping their new mast. Anyway YouTube has rolled on to a BBC programme about Sailing in the Sixties, and I would usually switch off and drag myself to bed, but instead I wake myself up and watch an hour of people building kit dinghies like ‘The ‘Mirror’. A lot of dinghies were sponsored by newspapers back then, I actually raced a ‘TV Times Dinghy’ in Portsmouth as a kid. It was cut out of a big block of polystyrene, I’m lucky to tell the tale, it started disintegrating half way through the race, these boats would dissolve in most chemicals, and portsmouth harbour was full of oil slicks back then. Later in the show they move onto Chichester and then Knox Johnson with their ‘around the world voyages’ There’s a lot about Donald Crowhurst, which is a very sad tale, if you don’t know it I suggest you check him out. Sadly there’s little mention of Mottisier, a Frenchman who really stole the show as he was really the first man to sail solo non stop around the world, he would have got the prize but couldn’t be bothered to sail to England to collect it, instead he carried on and did another half a world eventually chilling out in somewhere nice like Tahiti. It seems to me the French have always had the edge over the British in sailing matters, but I wouldn’t expect the BBC to highlight that (Obviously I’m excluding Nelson).
Enjoying breakfast in the cockpit I noticed there are a lot of small birds around right now.

Next door the crew are busy provisioning for their trip and getting all the boats systems ready. I quite envy them, they should have a lovely sail/motor up to the USA.
I pop to Office-Depot for some stationary and take a detour on the way back for extra exercise. I had often spotted a big hotel/apartment block that I assumed was under construction, or maybe shuttered now for the virus but managed to get a bit closer today and was disappointed to see it’s in a bad way.

Ugly affair, needs knocking down.
I wonder what happened, some developers dream shattered I expect
Could this be my next boat, I feel I could keep on top of the systems better! I bet it’s fun

Back at the Marina, I unpack, taking time to wash down all the goods with soapy/bleachy water before they go into 3 day quarantine in the Quarter Berth.
Then my Spanish lesson, I’m just about hanging in there, but I think if I left it a few weeks I would forget everything.

So before I head to bed I get the last of the database entries for the tide height as logged under the boat here in the marina. I now have 24 hours of tidal data from 00:00 on Friday Morning to 23:59 Friday Evening.
I have plotted it below. I have had to remove a few samples which were out by more than 50%, not sure what is going wrong there as I average out 60 samples taken 1 per second for an average reading every minute. You can see the results below.

Then I overlaid the forecasted tide from my tidal prediction software app. This uses a formula which is based on the effect of the orbiting bodies out there, mostly the moon, and some local parameters. As far as I’m aware it’s not table driven. The overlay is in white. I was very impressed at the match.

‘Exit Strategy made their exit this morning. I now have a lot of space to starboard.

Off to the laundry to do the washing, it can’t be put off much longer, and we’re coming up to the monthly change of t-shirt anyway.
I know it’s important to be working on a vaccine right now, but does that mean work on the ‘Automatic Tissues in pocket detecting Washing machine’ is going to be delayed!
I spend the afternoon mostly glued to the twitter screen and the BBC news as it looks like the leader of the British government, Dominic Cummings, may be about to lose his job, It’s possible his part time assistant, Mr Johnson, may be in trouble then. Exciting days.
Watching the sunset from the cockpit, I notice my new neighbours pointing at the water, closer inspection reveals a small fin moving quickly along the surface. A few minutes later there’s quite a commotion in the water, somebody is trying to eat somebody else. All goes quiet for a bit, then starts up again 5 minutes later, this goes on for an hour. I never get to see any fish, just frenzied activity just below the surface.

They take law enforcement seriously here! You wouldn’t want to walk around the corner at arrivals and be facing this bunch if you had something to hide.

Paul Collister

Mostly Cushions.

Sunday 10th May 2020:
The days total achievements amounted to fitting a few mosquito screens around the boat and shouting at twitter posts. However I was pondering my existence on a boat during lockdown while doing the dishes, so I might as well bore you with my meanderings now as a way to fill some space.
I had just watched a video blog (Vlog) from “SV follow the boat” about how well cruisers are already prepared for this type of pandemic life, in as much as we generally have several weeks of food and supplies on board, we are by the very nature of sailing self sufficient and while running the tap to rinse the dishes, always a luxury, I was further reminded of a piece Vanessa and Robert wrote about their trip around Vancouver Island, partly with us last year, and how living aboard made them really appreciate how few material things you need in life. So I thought I might write a little about how our fresh water works on the boat.
Of all the things needed for survival, water is right up there, you can go a long time without food, but without water you’re doomed quite quickly. We have a 10 litre bottle of water under the sink we keep for emergencies, but rely on our two steel water tanks to supply all our needs, drinking/cooking/washing. Each tank holds about 200 litres (50 gallons), to put that in perspective, an average bath uses about 120 litres, so we carry enough for just over 3 baths, and if we had room I would definitely fit a bath. It’s not a massive amount of water. When we left Japan for Canada, it took us 5 weeks, but we provisioned for 7-8 weeks worst case, we had a water maker, but didn’t want to be dependant on that, because as it has just shown us, it can fail at any point and isnt easy to repair, especially out at sea. So we would have to exist on 400 litres over 8 weeks , or 7 litres a day (just under 2 gallons). We actually made landfall in Canada after 5 weeks with one tank empty and the other quite full, so that worked out well. But to achieve this you do have to train yourself not to do certain things. Leaving a tap running is a big no no. Filling the sink with water is also out. And showers are rationed and short.
The galley has three taps (Faucets should you be tuning in from America), the main hot/cold mixer tap supplied from a pressure activated pump, just like you have at home. This is often turned off on passage as it is very wasteful.

The other two pumps are activated by pedals you pump with your feet below the sink. One provides cold water from the tank, the other sea water from outside. Most of the dishwashing is done with the sea water, then a quick rinse of the dishes with the fresh pump, I try to get the water to cascade over many dishes at once, rather than treating each dish to its own rinse. I love the foot pumps as you can dispense tiny amounts of water, if I just want to dampen a cloth I can get a teaspoon sized amount out easy, with the main pressure pump it’s much harder to control.
Here in the marina we have hot water, we normally get hot water at sea when the engine has been running for half an hour or so, the engine’s radiator water (Heat exchanger to be nautical) is used to heat up fresh water, but being connected to shore power in the marina, there’s an electric heater that kicks in. So I had a full sink of hot water to soak the dishes in. This is a rare treat for me, and I felt a little guilty about it, even though I’m in a marina with water literally on tap. I still rinse with the sea water, as it has become habit now.

Not much better than Sunday, lots of polishing around the boat and a trip to the Immigration office to be told I had missed my middle name off one of the application forms and I would have to go back online, start a new application and return in a day or two. I picked up some fresh bread, avocados and coriander on the way back. I think I have too many avocados now.

Near the Immigration office

Today I got stuck into polishing the woodwork in the cabin. I bought some spray polish, it’s called Pledge in the UK, it’s like instant gloss for those of us too lazy to do it the old fashioned way. It worked great, but I did wonder how much harm the chemicals involved might be doing to my lungs.
Mike from SV Elsie Jones came over for help with his electronics. He sat in the cockpit, 2 metres away (ish) and we chatted through face masks about boaty things. He’s quite ancient and had some good yarns to tell. He’s from Manchester originally, the boat is named after his mother who is welsh, but he lives in Thailand and bought the boat here in La Paz and planned to sail there. Those plans are scuppered for this year so he booked a flight home, La-Paz to Mexico City to Dallas to Japan to Thailand, quite expensive, then found out he’s not allowed to transit at Dallas. I doubt he will get a refund. I advised him to find out why he can’t transit, I’m sure he should be allowed, he’s travelling on his Irish passport, his Irish links are quite tenuous, and he wondered if that was why. You can’t transit through the states now if you are coming from the UK, Ireland or a schengen country.

I decide to get up at 06:30, after a very restless night. For some reason around 02:00 I woke with my heat rash stinging, I thought I would try to learn my pronoun rules with the verb Ser and Estar. Once you have this cracked, a lot of Spanish gets easier. Things like: “Yo soy, tΓΊ eres, Γ©l es, elle es”, for “I am , you are (informal), he/she is”, and all the plurals, they are , yous are etc. I fell asleep reciting these and of course went straight into a nightmare that lasted until 6:30 of me not being able to get them right. Prior to that I was working for both Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in some hellish office were everyone seemed to be mad. I expect their offices probably are quite mad.
So as the sun rose, and the kettle boiled I unpacked the printer from its several layers of plastic bin bags to see if it would print off just one last Visa application before it died, one with my middle name this time. All went well and I headed off to the immigration office after a very pleasant breakfast of coffee, toast and Danish pastry in the cockpit.
Passing the Arjona chandlery on the way, I popped in to see if the fuel switch for my outboard engine had arrived from Mexico City, looking at the invoice it was 8 weeks ago when I ordered it. They had promised to phone/email me when it came in but never had. They seemed very pleased to hand it over to me when I arrived, and I’m looking forward to fitting that shortly. The old one leaked sometimes and filled the cockpit with the smell of petrol.
I arrived at immigration, puffed out and very sweaty, it seems to be getting hotter earlier every day, I know that’s how the earth’s orbit works, but it seems that 9:30am is the new 12:00 now. Must be a virus thing. I tried hard to get my forehead temperature down by waving my head in the breeze, waving my sombrero around my head and taking deep slow breaths. The reason being they take your temperature before you can enter the immigration office and on Monday I was borderline, I tried to explain that I’m an old man who has just spent the last 20 minutes cycling up a hill in the heat, but it didn’t matter, they let me in anyway and seemed happy to see me, a quick check of my new documents and I was told everything was fine and my visa would be ready before 1 pm. I also didn’t need to pay for it, thereby saving me a trip to the bank.
I was surprised how well things were going, and I did wonder if it was because of my trousers! I had read the night before on facebook how someone else got great service in that office the day before, and they pointed out they had dressed up quite formal for their visit. I always dressed up in SE Asia, as immigration / Customs and Quarantine people consider themselves to be very important people and to go in in shorts and t-shirt is a sign of disrespect, but in Mexico everybody seems to wear scruffy jeans, even when in the immigration office. Anyway, I was in long trousers, button up shirt, and I even combed my hair, despite it not being the weekend. Who knows? I popped back at 12:30 and my visa was ready and they were all smiley faces, even getting me to jump the queue, much to the surprise of the Canadians who were only on their 4th visit. I chatted with them, they were on a boat out in the anchorage, I told them I was on Sister Midnight, they replied, “oh we heard you on the net, and we saw you in Cabo, You’re the guy who lost his passport aren’t you”. Fame at last πŸ™

On the way back from the Immigration office, visa in hand

Back on the boat and Carlos the diver had been and left after fixing up the gouges in the coachroof that the dinghy had made. They are coming back tomorrow to sand/polish and match up the colour. I’m not expecting it to be perfect, but it will be a lot better than it is now and one day I will get someone to do the whole of the boat from bow to stern so it looks like new.
Next up I dragged two of the sofa cushions out onto the dock and with some of the soap given to us as a gift in Osaka, I started scrubbing them. I have a supply of fresh water and endless sunshine to dry them, so I thought I should give it a go. I have no idea when Kathy and I will be able to agree on new fabric for the cushions, so if I can just get them looking a bit better it’s got to be worth a try. anyway I’m running out of things to polish.

From Kathy’s side πŸ˜‰
My side, not much better

Woke up with a headache, it must be hell for hypochondriacs these days. I decide to ponder my fate in bed for a while and decide it’s reading too much twitter that is probably giving me a headache. I get up, do a bit more cleaning. Carlos returns and admits he can’t match the colour of the gelcoat and has brought reinforcements, a gentleman whose name I miss, but he has a tub of what looks like orange paint with him, and he sets to work. I stay below as I make it a habit never to watch skilled craftsmen doing an important job, I feel the extra pressure can only make things worse.
Later that night just after the sun sets I watch the International Space Station make an almost overhead pass.

Shopping day today, I have noticed that either I’m getting weaker or the bike needs oiling. I decide I will go to the supermarket every other day now that I’m in the marina, and that I will cycle beyond the police checkpoint and back to get some extra exercise.
I can imagine some people might get freaked out by the checkpoints, Police, Army and Navy guys hang around stopping every car, each of them holding on to their AK47 automatic weapons. It doesn’t bother me, perhaps because when in Afghanistan, it would often seem like I was the only one without a machine gun or mortar launcher hanging off my waist. I wave and they always wave back. I smile at them, and hope they smile back, but with everyone wearing a mask, it’s hard to tell. I miss the smiles you normally get from everyone as you cycle around here.

Tortilla machine
I don’t think this needs a caption
Heineken 00 (Cervaza Sin Alcohol)

I spot what may possibly be the last bottle of alcohol free Heineken in La Paz. It’s sitting on the floor with the other misfits, like the bad boys sent to detention or the group W bench. This bottle left its five friends in the 6 pack carton at some point and has joined the other oddballs on the floor out of the way. Twice I have taken it to the checkout, both times to be told it can’t be sold as there is no entry in the tills lookup table to give it a price. It’s future is uncertain. I will visit it on subsequent trips to see how it fares.
Later, encouraged by the cushions I have washed so far I work on some more before retiring to the cockpit for Guacamole as the sun sets and I spot another pass of the International Space Station. I track it on my phone and it starts to disappear just after it passes over Houston.

I do another shop, I have decided to start building up a decent stock of supplies should I have to make a long offshore passage. I may go north in the sea of Cortez to avoid the hurricanes in a few weeks time, but I also am working on a Plan B should that not be possible. My plan is to head out to Hawaii and reprovision there before heading north to Canada or even Alaska depending on where the Pacific High is. this will give me a few months at sea and more time to work on my fishing skills, starting with Tuna down here and ending up with Salmon towards the end of the trip.


The sea/organic life in the marina is quite something here, the water must be very nutrient rich, the shrimp noise from under the boat is really loud, and as you can see above, plant life is quick to grow on anything not moving fast here.

I stow away some more pot noodles, salt, flour, instant yeast and tinned goods, and wash the remaining cushions. There’s one stubborn one not dry yet, but I’m amazed at how well they cleaned up, amazed and embarrassed that I took so long to sort this out.

Paul Collister

Time to leave the anchorage

Sunday 3rd May 2020
Another pretty lazy day, It took a while to get the blog up and editing the underwater video footage was a pain, I deleted the best footage by mistake. I have heard that some of the popular sailing video bloggers make a fortune, all I can assume is that they’re a lot better at video editing than me. Still they must spend a lot of time doing the drone footage, finding the right music, and just simple stuff like setting up cameras, time lapse filming, charging devices etc. Then after the editing, there’s the uploading to youtube, dealing with all the subscribers, patreon etc. How do they find time to sail, or in my case polish the stainless steel and varnish the brightwork. Well hats off to them, but it’s not for me. You will just have to put up with old fashioned blogs with the odd bit of rubbish video.
I hear that the server I host this blog on struggles to feed video without a lot of buffering, I can believe that, I think I share one server with about 20 other users. We all have virtual servers, on one physical computer, and often the servers are hacked and used to send out stacks of junk mail. When this happens all of us on that server experience problems with our emails getting rejected by various networks with spam blocking filters.
I replaced the video of the overgrown hull which I was hosting on the server with a youtube embedded version. This seems faster, but I was bombarded with copyright infringement notices for the Jaws imitation music. YouTube said I didn’t need to do anything, but I should choose from two options, delete the music, or replace it. I was reminded of the good old early computer days, when your floppy disk was broken, and you tried to save a file you got the options of Abort/Retry/Ignore. As I remember they all did nothing other than make your disk drive grunt for a few seconds, then the message was redisplayed.
I found a way out of the dilemma and the video seems to play better now, perhaps it will be taken down, I don’t know. I did choose that music version because it was from a copyright free site. Oh well, I’m not going to waste time worrying when there’s still dull stainless steel shouting out my name.

In to town early, shopping, and back on the boat by 11AM. I did plan to go to Immigration, but decided to leave it until Wednesday. I’m going to move into the Marina on Tuesday, Water supplies are low, the hull needs cleaning, and if I need to make multiple trips to immigration it will be easier. I’m not sure how long I will be there, the marina does seem to be a lot quieter now, so my virus fears aren’t so bad. I will miss the dolphins, the sunsets, and the cooling winds I have at anchor. But I will have electricity, hot water, all the toast I can toast, and I can give the boat a good wash down and get some of the salt off.
The plan had been to do some work today programming, but it turned out that I need to wait for some specs to come through, so instead I continued to polish the stainless, today I did half of the cockpit area, It’s starting to look great. I cleaned and polished the sheet winches, something I have never done before.

They came up looking stunning. I was really shocked, they shine so bright, it’s like being on somebody else’s boat, the kind of boat that is properly maintained, like an expensive boat that might race at Cowes or something, certainly not the type of boat I might own. I can imagine this boat might actually look smart one day. I’m definitely going to get the fiberglass gelcoat spruced up at some point and I will buy a proper low speed buffing/polishing tool soon.
Just as the sun was setting, a dolphin, or a gang of them, and I think gang is the correct collective noun in this case, leapt out of the water, quite close to me, really quite high, completely out of the water by a good foot or two, before landing on the surface with a big splat, not a graceful dive, but I presume a splat designed to create a shock wave to kill the fish there. And not just one show of acrobatics, but this happened 5 times in rapid succession, which is about how many dolphins were there, so perhaps they all had a go, or one was very hyper. Then there was a bit of a frenzy with tails sticking out everywhere. For reference five leaps & dives takes exactly the same time as it takes to grab an iPhone, put in the passcode, select the camera icon, point and just miss all the action!
While messing around on the youtube platform I noticed that a video I posted many years ago (2006) has now had over one million views, now I know a million isn’t what it used to be, but I’m quite chuffed to have reached a milestone of a million, a million anythings would have impressed me. Before I get carried away, I think the video is just proof that it’s all about the marketing. It’s called ‘Waves in the Atlantic’, a name I chose because when I used to take my kids to the Rhyl Sun Centre swimming pool complex in North wales, every hour or so, the PA would announce, “Waves in the main pool” and the wave machine would start up as scores of kids and parents would head to the pool to be thrown around (so basically a private joke only I would get). Anyway, it seems a lot of people google “Waves in the Atlantic” and I think I might have had one of the first videos with that title, I’m presuming that as people clicked on it, the number of views went up. I doubt they watched it as it’s quite boring, and not the cruise ship rolling horror story they were expecting, but as the clicks went up, so did the ranking in the search results, and like magic, 1 million people have clicked on it, well subtract my 50 or so clicks.
I still like it because it’s one of the few times I felt I captured the rolly experience of a big ocean. It’s here if you want to check it out.

Up early, headache, sneezing, a bit dizzy, will I last the day? I expect so. I get started on preparations to bring the boat into the marina. It’s a little tricky as the engine hasn’t run for a few weeks and the anchor and chain has been getting quite groggy for a while. The growth on the chain looks bad. First I do the engine checks, the oil is a little low, but that’s ok, the water coolant is also a little low, but that’s easy to top up. She starts first time, which is normal, especially in these high temperatures. I was rather worried that the thru hull for the engine water intake, that’s the hole in the bottom of the boat that water is sucked through to cool the engine, may be blocked with all the weed on the boat, but it’s fine. I take the covers off the engine and shine a torch around to make sure there are no oil/fuel or water leaks. All is good, but there’s far too many toast and breadcrumbs on the top of the engine for my liking. I don’t know who’s putting them there, but it has to stop.

I plan to head into the marina at 14:00 around slack water, we are near spring tides now and the currents can run fast. My problem is the bow thruster is fouled up, the prop is very barnacled and the hull is well rough. So I won’t have as much maneuverability as I would like, so avoiding the fast tides seems smart to me. Having got the boat ready, removed the anchor snubber and put out some fenders and lines and I’m ready, but 2 hours early. So time to finish off the stainless polishing in the cockpit. with 30 minutes to go I put away my polishing kit, the cockpit looks nice now, start the engine and prepare to weigh anchor (22kg last time I looked πŸ™‚ ). The first job is to remove the growth on the chain, it’s pretty bad and I don’t want all of that going into the chain locker and stinking the place out. I’m assuming there are already a few dead crabs in there from when I last hauled the thing up. I get a wire brush and as the chain comes up, foot by foot I scrape the sea life off the chain, and hose it down. The problem is after two foot the hose stops pumping water.

15m of weed firmly stuck to the chain.

Back down to the cabin, up with the floorboards and lets have a look. It seems the sea water isn’t getting to the pump. I check the filters, expecting them to be blocked but they’re not. Now I’m thinking Apollo 13 again, I reroute the supply of water so instead of coming from outside I’m using fresh water from the remaining tank. this better work, otherwise we will run out of precious water before we reach the docking stage. It doesn’t work, I tried to call Houston, but there was no reply, I expect their working away on the replica of Sister Midnight they must have, trying to come up with a fix. Time is running out, the tide will turn soon and I will miss the re-entry window to the marina and have to spend another night out here.
I have a plan, if I can route the water from the Lunar module, sorry, I mean the water maker thru hull to the deck wash pump, then it might just work. Unfortunately, the water maker thru hull is 1″ and I need to connect it to a 1/2″ pump fitting and I only have 3/4″ hose.
Still nothing back from ground control, so I lash together various fittings until I have a rudimentary system.

This is going to look really smart in a few weeks time

It seems to work, but I’m quite expecting the pipe fitting to blow off under pressure soon. Carbon monoxide levels start to drop πŸ˜‰
Back on deck and the tide is about to turn. I haul up the chain, two foot at a time, then scrub and hose it before letting it down into the locker. It takes a few minutes to do every two foot, and I’m trying not to work out how many feet are in 40 metres, which is how much chain is out. Every 10 metres I have to rush down below, crawl across the bed and flake the chain in the locker. I didn’t think this bit out very well, as I’m covered in seaweed/sea-life from the scrubbing and deck-wash hose, plus I didn’t close the window above the bed, so I think I may need to change the bedding soon.
Thankfully after 15 metres, the chain seems to be clear of weed, not sure why, perhaps this mostly lies in the sand and the scraping action isn’t great for little creatures to make their home.
The anchor pops up and looks disgusting, but we are clear and drifting with the wind now. the tide has almost stopped, so into gear, slow ahead and off to the marina, a good 5 minute journey.

Marina Cortez to the left, then Marina de la Paz, then finally Palmar boatyard

I rev up the engine and the whole boat shudders, the engine groans, so I back it off a bit. I’m assuming the badly fouled prop (playing at the Dublin Castle) is the cause, props need to be carefully balanced, just like car wheels, and this is very unbalanced. I tried the bow thruster to see if I could shake some growth off it, and to see if it had any effect, however it just beeped at me as if two say ‘you having a larf’.
I find my berth, the marina have two guys waiting for me, I’m turning to starboard for a port tie, there’s a boat to starboard of my berth and I think it’s going well, I’m going quite fast as I’m not sure how well the turning will work when the dockhand starts frantically gesturing for me to turn more to starboard, not sure why, but I do, and almost hit the yacht to starboard. I think he was wrong, I turn back to port, pull in and a quick full astern stops me and kicks the stern in nicely. The same dockhand tied my bow line to the mid pontoon cleat then tried to get my yankee sheets off as a bow line. Perhaps he’s new here.

I have a garden solar lamp on the pulpit now, more use at anchor, but mostly a novelty.

I jumped ashore, thanked them, adjusted the lines and relaxed. Great to be in safely. Then I realised I had gone back in time to a pre virus era, I had no mask on, was standing right next to the dockhands, passing them ropes. No hand sanitizer in sight. I’m almost certainly going to be on a respirator by the time you read this.
It’s been a good few weeks since I was in a dock, so lots of boat washing to do, I launched the dinghy to get the deck clear, it was covered in seaweed. I spent an hour giving the boat a good clean, connected the shore power and sat down for a well deserved Cerveza Sin Alcohol.
No sunsets or dolphins, but I enjoyed my dinner in the cockpit until I noticed a couple arrive on a dinghy and tie up opposite me, they joined another couple on the pontoon opposite and proceeded to spend the night being jolly. I was going to pop over and say hello, ask how often they met up, and was the shrieky women, with the ear piercing shrillish laughter, that travels for miles in every direction there most nights? As I may be leaving sooner than expected, but I didn’t. All of the shops have run out of beer, perhaps that might put a stop to it, or maybe they have stockpiles, or worse, several bottles of gin. I think I have earplugs on board somewhere.

More headaches, I’m definitely on my way out. then again it might just be related to my infected tooth. That pain is firmly in the root now, and my tooth itself is fighting fit. I’m woken by a cracking sound from the hull, as if something is breaking. I jump out of bed, run on deck but can’t see anything. Back below and it repeats. I spent the whole day repeating this dance to no avail. My latest theory is that there’s crap in the water bashing the hull as it drifts past. I was going into Immigration today as my visa runs out, however I realised it runs out today and I’m not sure if that’s in the morning or at midnight, and they won’t renew it until it runs out, so instead I decide to wait until MaΓ±ana. The printer wont print my documents anyway, out of ink.
I spend a bit of time doing documentation for the software I’m about to write for some swiss solar power sites, then decide to check out the part numbers for the new toilet parts. Quite a dilemma really, the repair kit, which is mostly rubber seals/gaskets and rubber joker valves is $100, the whole pump assembly including all those valves is $130, and a whole new toilet is $200. I decide to dismantle it again, It was working great after I last fixed it just a few days ago, I’m assuming I did something wrong when I put it all back together. It’s stopped pumping water from outside for the flush. At least I’m working on the sea water side of things. There’s a blockage somewhere, I spend an hour chasing through hoses until eventually I find the problem, it’s a little fish, the size of a goldfish, he’s perfectly squeezed into a valve in the top of the toilet pump, but his tail is snagged on the outside so he won’t flush out.

As Kathy said, hardly a ‘Finding Nemo’ outcome

I felt for the poor guy, it must have been an awful death as I pumped away trying to get water through. I expect it’s like the opposite of waterboarding for a fish, having air poured over your head. I wonder what secrets he gave up!

Visa day, Up early and off to the immigration office, I just managed to print out the forms I needed and a begging letter requesting humanitarian help, before the printer ran out of ink. I bought the printer in Malaysia a few years ago so it’s done amazingly well to last this long on the original cartridges.
Of course the Immigration office had a problem, “computer says no”, and I have to go back on Monday. It’s a good cycle to the office, but good exercise, and I can certainly tell I’m not so fit compared with a few weeks back. It’s also not great cycling with a face mask on in this heat, on the plus side, I’m swallowing a lot less flies.
I did some shopping on the way back and tried several stores for an inkjet cartridge, but it seems they only stock them for printers that are sold here. Disappointing to say the least. Throwing away ink jet printers is one of my pet hates. I picked up a kilo of fish from my friendly fisherman on the beach, he remembered me and was very smiley and cheery. I usually tip him for the fish, 10%, or 30p, not a lot really but he seemed to appreciate it. It must be difficult for the locals right now, the streets were very quiet, but I sensed a few more places open than usual. I think Mexico is hoping to reach its peak of new cases in the next week and then they may relax restrictions.
For the afternoons chores, I pulled out all of the anchor chain and rope rode and laid it out on the dock. It needed a fresh water wash and scrub. In bed last night the smell of fish from the chain locker was overwhelming. I took the opportunity to hose down the inside of the locker. I’m also going to reverse the rope rode while I have it out, there’s been a bit of hockling (untwisting/knotting of the rope) near the chain.

50m Chain, 40m 3 strand 1/2″ nylon

A lazy start to the day, I’m suffering from heat rash which is waking me up on a regular basis through the night. I tried to get some lotions I use back home, but they have never heard of them here. Simple stuff like Calamine Lotion. Lots of Farmacias, but they all sell the same limited range. I will keep on looking.
Before the diver arrives I clean the chain, and the chain locker. I manage to get a new splice in the rope and discard about 30ft that is looking a bit flakey. That’s enough rope to make a lot of baggywrinkles.

The new rode/chain splice. Some people pay for this, but it takes about 2 minutes to do.

Later in the morning Carlos the diver arrives , He is soon below with his cousin or uncle I think, they scrape for a good hour and do a wonderful job. They clear a lot of blocked thru hulls so I hope the deck wash will work now. They also help me put the chain back into the locker.

Diving by DeWalt!

Carlos compliments me on the boat, asking if it’s a Hans Christian, which I’m quite happy to be confused with, The Hans Christian is a very pretty and solid boat, and possibly owes a lot to the same designer, Bob Perry, as Sister Midnight. I’m sometimes compared to a Tayana 37, which is a little bit of a snub. Boat owners can be quite snobby πŸ˜‰ Anyway, Carlos points out the he and his uncle can do any boat job but specialise in painting and fiberglass repairs. I ask for a quote to fix up some missing chunks of coachroof that the dinghy gouged out on the passage over from Japan. I almost fall over when, after a bit of deliberation between themselves, they come up with a price of $50! I think I have already spent that much on gelcoat repair kits before deciding I could never get the colours to match. They start on Tuesday!
Carlos helps me stow the chain back in the locker before he leaves and I head below to see if the deck wash works now.
I redo all of the piping so the deck wash pump is fed from the correct sea cock/thru hull. It still doesn’t work, so I start pulling pipes off to poke a wire thru the fittings/hoses to find the blockage

Not sure why it says exhaust on the hose, who has exhaust that narrow?

Pulling this very sturdy looking hose, that has been on the boat since I bought her causes it to snap, without a lot of effort. Once again, I’m reminded this boat only stays afloat based on the laws of probability. Not because of my good preventative measures. Eventually I find the blockage, another poor fish tried to swim through the 3/4″ to 1/2″ reducer and never made it. His body swelled up and blocked the fitting. Yuk.
The deck wash is now working and the dead watermaker has a reliable source of sea water again, should it ever come back to life.
On the plus side, I have realised I’m in the right place to renew all the pipes and fitting in the bilge, there are great plumbing suppliers here and chandelries for the oddball stuff. It should be better than ever soon.

The heat rash is really annoying now, I head off to search for Lanolina Anhidra, but to no avail. I find some other emollients I’m hoping will work.
It’s been very hot in the marina so I decide to cover boat, this cover hasn’t been out of the locker since we were in Langkawi, Malaysia. I can barely remember how it goes on, but it does a great job of cooling the main cabin.
Hopefully I can work in there during the day now.

I always thought Doritos were called that because they came from Mexico, but no, in Mexico they are Sabritas, doesn’t really matter, they are all from the coca cola empire.
This guy is a few boats along from me, I’m wondering if he is now implementing Plan C

Paul Collister.

Week n in Lockdown (where (n > 1) && (n < ∞) )

Sunday 26th April 2020:
It’s getting hard to justify being a lazy slob on Sundays now, when I’m doing very little on all of the other days, but today was a very lazy day. Yesterday I had a great long chat with my son Isaac on his 24th birthday. And today I had another lovely long chat with my daughter Yasmin.
I did a lot of reading up on viruses and realised they are bloody complicated things and that the scientists are a long way still from understanding this new Coronavirus. Here in La Paz, the lockdown seems to be working, I heard from a local that the hospital has next to no Covid patients, and that the deaths in town were really low, much lower than normal as car accidents make up a lot of the deaths here, and not many people are out, especially at night as there is a curfew after 10pm for all travel except emergencies. Like most places there hasn’t been much testing going on so it’s hard to know how many people have had it, but as everyone seems to be observing the strict lockdown, it may well be down to a handful of cases now. Of course once they start lifting restrictions here it could / probably will all kick off again. We shall see.
In about 2 weeks time, some airlines are planning to double the number of flights in and out of Mexico.
I used skype to call British Airways in the USA about my cancelled flight, I asked for a refund and within two minutes it was processed, the next day the money was in my account, hats off to BA, so glad I booked direct and missed out on the Β£5 saving via expedia.
So today I had my usual hour trying to learn a few more Spanish words. I watched a lot of dolphins frolicking around the boat, checked the hammock was still working ok, and had a great time watching boaters getting into trouble with the authorities. Recreational boating is not allowed right now, so going out for a day trip fishing has been banned, yet for some reason about a dozen sports fishing boats headed out this morning, full of Mexican families looking to have a fun day out in the bay fishing and picnicking. I sort of felt for them as they headed back, screaming past Sister Midnight riding high on their bow wave doing about 25 knots when they spotted the police boat and its support Jetski. The happy laughing folks on the speedboats suddenly stopped laughing as they killed the throttle, fell off the plane and then tried to sneak behind our yachts and make their way over to the far side of the bay where they were hoping to sneak in around the back of the authorities. It didn’t work as the JetSki roared over to intercept them, they had to wait until the big motor launch came along side and spent some time investigating them before they were released. This went on for a couple of hours and I saw about 8 boats stopped and interrogated. I have no idea what their punishment was but if you break the curfew it’s a few hundred dollars fine, so this could be similar.

Not long after the sun set and I decided to make another effort to find the north star Polaris. I did try when Jim was out here as the stars were so bright further up in the Sea of Cortez away from the city’s lights. but now I had the laptop and a wealth of online resources. I soon found Ursa Major and followed the two stars at the end down until I found the north star, I checked with the boats compass and it was close enough, I doubt if I could do more than hit a continent if I had to steer using that as my only guide. Those norsemen did pretty well to find there way around with that and a rusty nail hanging from a bit of string.

It’s getting hot here now, so I went for swim around the boat at slack water (No current to take me away), the growth on the hull was bad. I swam around and wondered if the boat would be able to get back to the marina with such bad growth. In theory with my new diving certificate/knowledge, I could dive myself and clean things up, but for $40 I will get a local guy to do it soon.

The video above shows the extent of the growth. The prop and bow thruster were much worse, but I powered up the engine and gave them a spin, that removed a lot of the growth. As you can see at the end, it scrapes off quite easily, but it will take a while.

I spent the rest of the day in the hammock reading about Baja California South and hearing all about how they shot the Titanic movie here and how many famous stars from Hollywood would pop down here to party. The area was very popular in the period when gambling was banned in the USA and before it was banned here. Kathy and I visited a cultural centre in Ensenada which used to be a famous casino built by Jack Dempsey, a famous boxer?, possibly funded by AL Capone and frequented by many hollywood stars of the day.

It’s going to be very hot all week, 37 in cabin today, hotter outside. I headed off to to supermarket early to avoid cycling back in the heat, but sadly by the time I reached the boat on my return the chocolate I bought was liquid and sloshing around inside the wrappers. Interestingly, the hershey’s bars tasted better after a second setting!
I called in to see Mike on SV Elsie Jones on my dinghy ride back to the boat, he’s an interesting guy from Manchester UK, but has been living in Thailand. Like many people he’s stuck here unable to continue onto his South Pacific voyage and now has to worry about where to put his boat for the hurricane season.
I did more swimming, reading and watching the dolphins who now visit every day.

Talking of hurricanes the season has started early, some people are predicting a quiet season this year, I’m not sure why as NOAA are predicting a few more hurricanes than the average, as the oceans are hotter than normal, and warm water is the main ingredient for a successful hurricane. NOAA issued a notice about the possible early formation of a tropical storm that looked rather close for my liking. This caused me to start my hurricane planning a few weeks earlier than I had planned. A bit of research showed me how devastating recent hurricanes have been in the area. My research is ongoing, but I may decide to head north soon, depending on covid. This particular disturbance fizzled out quite quickly.

Chucked out a few emails to see what was needed from me for some possible programming projects.
Later for dinner I had pasta, now I usually cook my pasta in sea water, but this time when I filled the pan with water there was quite a few bits in the water, I usually ignore these, very small, probably a bit of yesterday’s dinner I missed in the wash? however these dark specs were darting around the pan, closer inspection revealed that they were very very small fish. I was a bit shocked so dumped it and used fresh water. Later I wondered what was wrong with me, I almost had big fish for dinner, so my logic was completely irrational, just like I would love to be able to eat barbequed crickets in a nice Thai sauce as we saw in Phuket, but really struggle with the whole idea.

Got some replies re work, so started to get myself back in the zone. However the holding tank was smelly so made concentrating difficult. I ended up spending the day fixing the toilet/holding tank and cleaning the bilge. Not a lot of fun, but needed to be done. All is good now, however I need to replace a few parts on the head, including a very expensive Y valve.

Getting into the work thing now, but not really enjoying it. I can tell how much I’m into the work by how many other jobs I find that are essential to be done asap. For example, while searching through emails to find a work related thread, I noticed just how dull the table in the cabin had become. Work would have to stop while I gave this a polish, of course this only led to other essential cleaning jobs. In fact by the end of the day, the cabin was looking great, but I hadn’t got a lot of work done.

Guilt at the lack of work had me starting early before it got too hot.
I decided to reorganise my work, over the years I had often reorganised things to make it easier, I usually forget what I have done and start all over again. Today will probably be no different. My plan is to go over all the work I did on these projects, refresh the documents and move them and all the code to GitHub, a safe place where I can keep one master copy of everything I do up in the cloud. I’m quietly confident this will work, that is until next year when I forget that’s what I did, and go looking for the code elsewhere and end up in a mess again.

A shiny table

Most evenings at sunset I sit in the cockpit and munch on either homemade guacamole & tostadas, or some fruit. This week has been a disaster, I forgot to buy avocados early on, then the ones I bought mid week refused to ripen, despite the heat. Don’t worry (as if you would), I’m on top of it know, in fact, I may have 6 overripe avocados to get through in two days!

Yesterday on the morning radio net one of the local gringos came on to let us all know the coronavirus thing was a complete hoax (he had the official figures no less!) and we had all been part of the biggest con job ever. Nobody replied to him and the net controller politely moved onto the next subject of ‘Local Assistance’ for anyone wanting to find out where to buy stuff or get services etc.
Quite incredible.

Paul Collister.