January 2021

Again there’s not a lot happening, Kathy and I both have children/grandchildren and friends back in the UK recovering from Covid, caught over the Christmas period. Thankfully no one is seriously ill, but it does show how quickly this virus is spreading. La Paz has just moved from level 4 to level 5, out of a possible 6. More restrictions, but nothing too bad. The Malecon is closed 24/7 now and restaurants have more restrictions on table separation.

Downtown La Paz Cathedral
Morning delivery of one of 6 sacks of fresh oranges for the marina restaurant.

It’s worrying as more and more people arrive from the states to escape the winter and restrictions up there and travel around here on holiday, of course many Mexicans just can’t afford to stay off work, there’s little in the way of state support here. We are restricting our outings more, and feel quite safe on board. Kathy’s flight back home in 4 weeks is still on, but as of now we are not sure if she will be required to stay in an expensive hotel upon arrival in the UK.

So I am slowly starting to do jobs around the boat, I have got the dinghy covers repaired, and decided to track down the small leak. I find a little gap in the join between the sponson and the deck, and repair it with some extremely expensive glue I buy locally. The fabric is Hypalon, something that is no longer manufactured, but the glue, which I would normally pay £7 for back home costs me £35. Reading the label I find out it’s made in Colwyn Bay, not far from my home in the UK. It’s good to see british manufacturing being exported to Mexico, I wonder how much glue they will need to sell to make up for the cost of Brexit, quite a lot I expect. Anyway, the repair made no difference, so I filled the dinghy with water again and searched for the leak. It appeared to be just passing through the metal bottom of the boat as if by magic, but closer inspection revealed a crack, and sure enough that was the source of the leak. There is an identical crack on the other side as well, but that doesnt leak. I taped over the crack with some gaffa tape and that stopped the leak. It’s not a solution, but it proved the point.

The crack viewed from outside once i scraped the paint off

Doing a little research it appears this is not uncommon, and the manufacturer warns that operating the dinghy underinflated can cause these cracks, if the transom, the back of the dinghy moves, it strains the join. I keep the tubes inflated but wondered if perhaps on the passage across the pacific where it had deflated a lot, if I had maybe pushed on the transom for support when working on the foredeck. Disappointing all the same. I found a guy on the internet who had sold his dinghy with exactly the same cracks as he had had it replaced under warranty. My warranty is in year 4 of 5 so I have tried to chase the manufacturer, but as I bought it in Thailand, they are in the USA and they have no rep in Mexico, I’m not hopeful. Repairing it should be possible, but it’s likely to fail again. Hopefully I can get another 4 years out of it, then it will have paid for its keep.

This used to pump sea water to a fountain on the malecon, now it justs powers a lot of LEDs

I was made up to find the local cheapo marine supplier had a big stock of Zinc anodes just the right size for me. I bought a couple and the diver will fit one next week when I get the hull cleaned. If it fits as expected, I will buy a few as they have been hard to get round here.

Zinc Anode, two go on the rear end of the hull

We had a ride up to the ceramics shop Ibarra, where they hand make pottery, crockery, pots, tiles etc etc. I really wish I had a house here that I could fill with these colourful items. The shop is very tranquil, several staff working in the yard, shaping, moulding and painting their work.

$35 is pesos, thats about £1.50 for the gorgeous little handmade unique tiles.

So next onto the Gas. We ran out of gas so I thought I would write a little about the gas system for those who don’t know much about boats and gas. If you have a caravan, or trailer as I think they call them over on this continent, then you probably know this stuff, but boats have an added complication, there’s nowhere for the gas to escape to and that makes it dangerous.
We have two bottles of gas on board, they are made of aluminium, and should last forever, or at least longer than me. Most gas bottles people have are made of steel and in a marine setting they corrode very quickly. Mine have to be serviced every so many years, 7 I think, we had ours done in Seattle as they were very out of date, they didn’t mind that so much in Asia, except in Japan, where they refused to go anywhere near a foreigners tanks. I normally get 4-5 months out of a tank, but a little less when Kathy is here and doing lots of cooking. In La Paz we can just drop our tanks off with the car park attendant here on Tuesdays or Fridays in the morning and he returns them filled at lunchtime. One tank costs me around £10-15 which isn’t bad for 3 months cooking.

WC = 47.7lb = 20lb/9kg Propane

The tanks live in a sealed locker at the back of the cockpit. There is a drain at the bottom of the locker out to the sea, and an electric shutoff valve which defaults to shut when there is no power. We turn the electric valve on when we cook and off as soon as we finish. We enjoy ribbing each other whenever we forget this.
It’s important as propane and butane gas is heavier than air so settles on the ground. Inside the boat there is no way out so the gas will go under the sole (floorboards) and build up in all the cavities of the bilge. There’s not a lot of ventilation down there and at some point it could explode if a flame or spark came its way.

Tank removed for refill

So the tanks are isolated outside of the cabin with their own drain overboard and the feed into the cabin is only connected when we are cooking. I have replaced all the parts that decay and so I feel confident it’s safe.

Saying that, once the new bottle is back in place, I stuff the locker with all manner of dangerous goods, small gas bottles for the camping stove and DDT fuel additives, in case there is an explosion, it might as well be a good one 😉

Maria has returned, I assume it’s her, given how as soon as she arrived she made her way to my breadboard, knowing that I wouldn’t have put any food out for her yet.
She seems to have a mate who has started arriving with her, he? is more wary of me.

Maria’s friend

I’m busy working on software for work at the moment, not really enjoying it, but it should be finished soon. Varnish work awaits, and this week has seen the temperatures start to rise, it’s getting pretty warm in the day now and I can see how soon I will be kicking myself for not doing these jobs when it was cooler.

Paul Collister.

Christmas & The New Year in La Paz.

Just a quick update, there’s not a lot happening, and won’t until Kathy heads back to the UK in 5 weeks and I head off to sea, probably to the mainland.

Our view on New years eve from the boat

It’s been a quiet time for us over the Christmas period. As you can see from above, the big boats that berth on the long outside pontoons have loaded up with beer/food and passengers and shot off, out to the islands I expect.
Our time has been spent tidying up the boat, and shopping for ingredients for the Christmas dinner. Kathy has been hunting for various british bits and bobs that are hard to find here, like chutney and sage & onion stuffing.

We took a walk along the Malecon on Christmas Eve and watched someone enjoying the winds which had built up for the Christmas period.

I took on the job of making some salsa to accompany the main meal. So I bought fresh Guacamole ingredients

Avocet, Cilantro, Limón, Chile, Cebolla y sal
Red salsa, just tip it into a blender and away you go.

Kathy did a wonderful job of producing a full christmas spread + Mexican salsas and Tostadas. We invited Arturo over to join us and experience what we brits do every year. He really liked the cauliflower cheese, which makes me wonder if he really is Mexican. Yuk.
We didn’t have any crackers to pull, as that’s a very British thing. I think some Canadians have them, and also Australia has a version.

Very tasty nut roast
All vegan of course, except for a little salmon I slipped into Arturo and my meal
I found our lights when we looked for somewhere to stow the decorations in Jan

And so into the new year. Restrictions are still in place and surprisingly haven’t been extended yet. We are taking extra care now as I’m sure the new strains of the virus will be arriving soon, if not already. We won’t know because very little testing of the public happens in Mexico, unless you are ill. Also there was lots of Christmas partying. I have just read that in California USA, which is the next region going north, and where most people here commute to and from, the virus is at very dangerous level. Ambulances are scarce and have been told not to bring people to the hospital if they are not breathing, i.e. if they can’t be resuscitated in situ, then not to tie up an ambulance bringing them to ER. Also some hospital are rationing oxygen. Let’s hope the vaccine gets out there soon and works as expected.

I have spent this quiet time writing software and building systems. I’m trying to build my own mail server, not something that would have been too challenging for me in the past, but with new security requirements required by mail systems these days, I’m having to learn new skills. I’m enjoying it.

The varnishing will start soon. I got a quote for repairing the dinghy chaps (sponson covers) which was more than I paid for them in Thailand, so I have asked the Thai’s for a price for new ones. In the meantime I might have a go at repairing these myself. I may even buy a sewing machine (second hand) for the boat to help out.

I need to buy a new hammock, the one I have been using can no longer support me, as I found out in the most brutal of ways.

Hopefully I can get over to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta in a few months, it will be warmer there and I can checkout the mainland side. I have a picture below, courtesy of google maps which gives an idea of the route I would take.

Paul Collister