La Paz BCS to Puerto Escondido (To Loreto, in search of La Vacuna)

The navy pass by on Sunday
Another baba 40 (Karuna) arrives into La Paz, good looking boat 😉
Arturo at work, calls by to drop off his faulty GoPro and borrow my snorkel mask
The dinghy loaded up with drinks and food + one bicycle

Monday 15th March 2021
Up at 6:30 as the sun rises, a cup of coffee, then to work. At 7 I will leave La Paz, possibly for the last time, and head north to Loreto. I’m hoping I might be able to get vaccinated there, then I will sail over to the mainland, possibly somewhere around San Carlos/Guyamas and from there head south to Puerto Vallarta. That will all take a month or two, depending how much I like the places en route. Last night I had a farewell meal with Arturo, I’m not sure when we will meet again, hopefully not too long. 

I setup the GoPro 9 on the bow to do some time lapse, I haven’t used it yet, and I’m keen to learn more about it. At 7am I haul anchor and start making my way down the long buoyed channel that leads out of La Paz bay and into the Sea of Cortez proper.

Boat traffic is light, but I’m struck by the five Cruise ships, mothballed at anchor.

Three are sister ships, the westerdam, the zuiderdam, and the edam or something like that. Another two cruise ships look similar, and I think are from the Carnival cruise line. It’s scary to think they will soon be pressed back into service and crammed with holiday makers, hopefully antivaxers and covid conspiracists. Best keep them all together in a big floating box in my opinion, what could possibly go wrong, other than accidentally cruising over the edge of the earth.

Not long after I pass the Pemex oil terminal and power station I’m in open water and I can spot quite a commotion ahead of me. There appears to be hundreds of pelicans and seagulls swarming around a few small boats, I assume it’s fishermen, but as I get closer, they’re right ahead of me, I spot a large pod of dolphins, maybe a hundred or more diving, jumping and generally having a big feeding frenzy. I end up steaming right through the middle of it. The smaller boats who keep out of my way are tourist pangas, who diverted here to see the spectacle. Once in the middle of it, I’m surrounded by dolphins and swooping pelicans. What a great way to get the day going.

Shortly after it’s all over and as the sun gets higher I can tell it’s going to be a hot day. I have a 9 hour passage to San Evaristo, so I settle down and start a few small jobs around the boat.

I don’t catch a fish, but do see many Manta rays doing their dance. 

At 5pm I get the anchor down and relax, The mainsail helped for about 2 hours, but mostly it was motoring. One fact yachties might find interesting, is that you can keep the engine block cold-start heaters on for 2 hours by accident and they don’t burn out on the MD22 🙁 .  After running hard for 10 hours, I feel confident the new timing belt has gone back on ok. 

The anchorage at San Everisto

Retired General Tom and Debbie on the motor boat ‘At Ease’, my neighbours from Marina De La Paz, are anchored two boats down from me here. 

Up early again for a long slog to Agua Verde. It would be nice to have some time at these stops, but I have been here before, on several occaisions now, and I’m on a mission to get to the clinic in Loreto before they run out of vaccine.

The route from San Everisto to Agua Verde

The waves are substantial, and of a short period, i.e. close together, so it’s not a very comfortable ride, but another huge pod of dolphins in the San jose chanel cross my path. We all love them, but they’re a serious bunch of fish committing mass murder as they travel along in these big groups. I don’t feel so bad about trailing a hook behind me now, I didn’t catch anything yesterday, the first time this cedar plug hook has let me down, and today is no better. To make matters worse, as you can see in the video of the trip later, a seagull is convinced the painted cedar plug is a real fish and tries to eat him. As it’s dive bombing the hook, I’m terrified it will get caught and I won’t have a clue how to help it. The thought of reeling in a seagull on the end of the line struggling to escape causes me to bring the hook in as soon as I can and wait until the skies are clear before I launch it again. The wind reaches 20 knots (apparent) on the nose, so we are struggling at 3 knots for some of the time. I have the engine running flat out at near maximum revs for a couple of hours, it’s supposed to be good as it burns off excess carbon at the higher temperatures, but who knows, I’m not a mechanic, despite earning my timing belt badge. After we hang a left at Point San Marceal I manage to get some help from the sails for an hour as we approach Agua Verde. Again, Tom on ‘At Ease’ is anchored there along with a couple of sailboats. It’s a little crowded in the only corner of the bay protected from the swell, and I tuck in behind them, it looks like I’m too close, and I’m worried they might be nervous with my proximity, but I also feel quite sure I know the anchorage well, and there’s not going to be a problem. As it turns out, we are all perfectly separated, even when we swing 180 degrees in the night.

Agua Verde, the reef to the east protects us from the swell

Up early again to get away before the wind builds, that turns out to buy me about 30 minutes, soon after I leave the calm cove and hit the exposed sea, the waves and wind build and it’s a long 5 hour slog to cover the 23 miles to Escondido.

Agua Verde to Escondido
Some nice rocks I weave through en route
These rocks are the top left in the chart above (i think)

The entrance to Puerto Escondido is via a very narrow channel, perhaps 60ft wide in places and only 10ft deep. I had heard it was being dredged and some special marks were out, but it turned out to be an easy entrance.

The dredged channel entrance

The actual harbour is a natural bay and hurricane safe area. It’s like a big lagoon, with huge hills and mountains all around. To the north east there are two gaps, or windows, where northerly winds can blow through. Refreshing in the summer, but in a gale can make some waves in the harbour.

The harbour at Escondido
And the satellite view of the above chart

Once in the harbour I picked up a mooring buoy, completed the log book and put my feet up for a bit. Next a quick dinghy ride ashore to check in and book a car for my trip to the clinic tomorrow.

I made a 10 minute condensed video of the trip, it’s on Youtube, but embedded here. It’s 1080p HD so should look ok on a big screen.

Thursday 9AM

I pick up the hire car and head into town. It’s a glorious day and I’m pondering on what a strange life I have these days, I realise I’m more used to driving on the right side of the road than the left now, and as I’m driving through a back road to a small town in Mexico to get a possible vaccine, where I don’t even speak the language when suddenly a couple of mules pop out in front of me. I can’t help smiling.

You looking at me? you looking at me?

So onto Loreto, I pull into a deserted emergency clinic where I’m told they have been administering the vaccines, but they have none left, possibly next Tuesday or Wednesday. They take my name and phone number and tell me they will phone if they get any. I’m quite chuffed as I manage to converse in Spanish, with minimal help from Google translate.

I push on into town, but take a different route, just for the heck of it and end up by the arroyo, which is the dried river bed at the side of town. There’s a dirt road across it, and I follow a track along its side to the sea. It’s stunning scenery, and quite green, I expect due to there being a lot of fresh water at some point in the year.

Steeper than it looks
This gull is trying to carry quite a big fish, its mate seems to be keeping a lookout.
I wonder if all of this shingle is transported down from the mountains along the arroyo

I wander around town, past the old mission, the first in BCS I think, they are remodeling this part of town and it’s very dusty and noisy.

I wander down to the beach, the centre of town is odd as there’s a few trailer parks here, I guess from a simpler time, and big hotels have been built around them.
I drive along the coast a little in town, then decide to see what the main highway is like to the north of town, I have the car for a day, but nowhere to go really. I have just left the centre and I’m passing a few out of town stores when I can see a road block ahead, and I know straight away this isn’t right. there’s no police cars or anything official looking, as I get closer, a man has blocked most of the highway with his car and has just waved the car ahead of me through, to his left is a big grizzly looking guy with a submachine gun across his chest. No uniforms or any hint of who they are. With some relief I’m waved through, but I realise quickly that I have to return this way, loreto has one road in and one road out!

The roadblock ahead

So I drive north for a bit, but it’s just scrubland desert, cactus after cactus and I’m soon bored, it’s a couple of hours to the next town and I don’t want to risk driving back in the dark so I head back to the road block. This time he stops me, I wind down the window, he looks into the car then shouts at me “GO”, which of course I do! I’d love to know what that was all about, Narcos, undercover police? who knows. Loreto did set up roadblocks to stop people coming into town at the start of the covid pandemic, but that was different.

Millions of acres of this.

So I push on back to the marina and notice a very odd looking boat in the boatyard, I’m assuming it needs a keel, surely it can’t use a drop-keel?

Might have a problem with leeway

Back on board I decide to tackle the mess on the chart table.

How it started
How it’s going
One view from the cockpit

Finally to wind the day off, some home made guacamole and strawberries as the sun sets

The pelicans are hungry too.

Paul Collister

MD22 Timing Belt Replacement

So if you’re not in the business of replacing your Volvo MD22 timing belt, I suggest you skip this blog entry.
I’m writing this for a few reasons, firstly I’m very chuffed with myself to have completed this task, secondly, I wanted to document the steps I took in case I need to do it again, or in the slight hope it will be useful to others.

When I first bought Lady Stardust, she was lying in Glasgow, Scotland, and I would make weekly/fortnightly drives from Liverpool to check / work on her before Max and I sailed her back to Liverpool. On one of those long drives north, the timing belt snapped on my vauxhall (GM back then) car. The belt had been due to be replaced, but I had missed the service that it was meant to be done on. The result was that the engine was a right-off, and the car as well. In the end, I did get it repaired at around the same cost as buying a replacement car. Since then I have lived in fear of the thing same happening on this engine. The User Manual from Volvo states:

It was this advice that had me avoiding the job, but given that it was now 5 years since I bought the boat, and much longer since the last time an engineer might have changed the belt, I thought it high time I made an effort.

Fortunately I found an entry in the ever helpful yachting and boating forum YBW Forum link on how to do it the easy way. I also found a useful video on YouTube, but this went too deep and missed a few of the important stages out. YouTube link

The volvo engine is actually a rebranded Perkins, the Perkins engine I think is a block from China that was only made for a brief period, I have read reports that the Perkins engine was considered one of their worst, but I have also read the simplicity of this engine made it the go to engine for off grid reliability, back in its day. It was also used in the Austin/Rover Maestro and Montego vehicles for which I have the Haynes maintenance manual, these cars/vans had their fans, but I’m not sure they were ever really considered high quality.

Fresh Water pump at the top, Crankshaft Bottom and Generator Right

The first job was to remove the cover , this requires the alternator to be loosened and then the belt removed, followed by the pulley on the water pump.

Belt off, Pulley next, then the cover slips off.

Removing the four nuts that hold the water pump pulley took forever. They were on really tight, and I was worried about breaking anything. Two knuckles gave up their covering to this task.

Once off, the cover came away, revealing the workings. The inside of the cover was quite clean, indicating no other problems.

Top Left – Camshaft, Top Right – Fuel Pump, Bottom – Crankshaft.

Now the big deal here is that the timing belt obviously controls the timing of everything, so the valves (Camshaft) open and close in time with the pistons (Crankshaft) and the fuel injectors (Fuel Pump). When the belt snaps, the pistons can smash into the valves and can do massive damage to the valves, pistons, con rods, and other bits I don’t really know about, but it’s a bad deal.
So it’s important that when I take the belt off it goes back with all the pulley/cogs/shafts in exactly the right place. To aid in this the engine designer added a load of holes to help lock things in lace. This is what you need the specialist tools referred to above is all about. Drifts, which is another name for a tube/pipe or cylindrical bar, are inserted in various places, but Haynes suggest using the blunt end of a 6mm drill bit for this job.
The first one in goes into the crankshaft from above, you crank the engine around with a big spanner until the drill drops into the hole. This is at a point called Top Dead Centre (TDC) I think.

Next the crankshaft is locked in place with a similar drift into the flywheel. This part of the engine cannot be accessed easily, but I can see I need to clean it up, I think the water spill from the sea water pump last year has done some damage.

Finally two M6 screws go through holes in the injector fuel pump cog and into the engine block that locks it in place.

Once everything is locked off, the idler pulley and the tensioner pulley are removed and the belt slides out.

This is the tensioner pulley, that cost me another two knuckles and an allen key, which now lives in the deep bilge.

What is a little annoying is that the belt shows no sign of wear at all.
I replace it anyway, and ponder on the fact that the arrow on the belt is pointing the wrong way. I don’t understand how a belt can have a direction, it must be a subtle engineering thing, but I’m sure the original was on back to front. I put the new one on, but realise I cant get it to fit on the cogs properly. What’s more my logical mind is convinced there’s no way it’s going to go back on.
At this point I’m wondering why I didn’t do this at the dock, there’s a small gale due at the weekend, If my anchor drags, I will need the engine. I re read the manuals and find I missed a bit, partly because its in a section that refers to some screws that just don’t exist. Later I compare pictures and realise my engine is a little different from the manual. Anyway I have to remove the idler wheel, once I do this everything falls into place and the belt goes back on. I don’t have a meter to tension the belt to factory specs, but instead use the formula everyone else recomends that it should twist no more than 90 degrees at the longest part. It feels just right twisting at around 60 degrees, which is what the old belt was like. It doesn’t need to be over tight as it’s not a drive belt, like the generator.

Once it’s back together I remove the drifts and fire it up. Amazingly it works.

I clear up my mess, and in true Paul Collister style I find a screw left over. It’s been this way since I was 5, but I’m sure it must have fallen out of the toolbox and isn’t relevant.

I retire to the cockpit to have a soda watch the dolphins swim by.

Paul Collister.

PS As I write this, the gales is going well, and the anchor chain just wrapped around the keel, making the boat point the wrong way and heel a lot. I started the engine, and backed away from the chain, and the boat swung back into the wind. I’m so glad it works. The problem is the wind is 25+ knots from the north, yet a strong ebb is making the boat point south, so we are fighting both.

A disappointing start

Friday 5th March
It’s friday, I’m meant to be leaving the marina on Tuesday but the weather turns rough next week, the mainland crossing I planned would happen after several days of 25 knot winds from the north, so although I would cross at the end in 20 knots on the beam and go very fast, I would also have big waves on the beam making it very uncomfortable, and maybe even unsafe if they were high enough. There’s a few hundred miles of open sea to the north, which is quite a large fetch for the waves to build in.
So I will leave the marina on Tuesday morning and drop the anchor in the bay here and wait for a good weather window.

The Marines

The week started with a lot of chopper and boat activity from the local navy base. They were practising hoisting people off and onto boats.

Maria still visits now she has worked out the boat is back to front

On Wednesday I took a trip down to the shallow end of the bay to see a boat that had broken free from its mooring. I know nothing about it other than that it looks like it was a sturdy ocean going yacht once. It does have the look of a long abandoned boat, the hatches and lockers are open, and I suspect she may have been striped over the years, but I believe she was happy on her mooring 2 miles further up the bay until Monday. She is now aground near the beach and will become an eyesore and hazard. I expect the owner is not interested and the authorities have no budget to allow for recovery. I suggested to Arturo that we rescue the boat, put it back on its mooring and he could move onboard and save some rent. Of course, once the boat had any value, owners or debtors start to appear. I firmly think abandoned boats need to be confiscated and sold/removed asap.

A British ship (but made in Germany)

A British ship arrived today, the Michaela Rose, this is a rarity, we hardly ever see British flagged vessels as we sail around the world, no shortage of UK ensigns with daft symbols on them, signifying flags of convenience, cayman islands etc.

The Cayman flag, no offence to the real Cayman islanders

It’s crewed by a few English guys I could hear their jolly banter, they also played Elton John and the Beatles quite loudly, I’m not sure this is a strict requirement of being UK flagged, if so I’m in trouble. It’s a 50m older style ship, has come from San Diego and I think is on charter.

The varnish work is done for another year, it’s looking great in places, and the hatchet job it really is , in others.
I’m going to wash the fibreglass topsides tomorrow then load the dinghy onto the deck, ready for the off. I tried to polish the hull with a polishing power tool that’s been lurking in the tool cupboard for many years. I never tried it before as it’s 110v 60hz (USA Power) and in Asia we generally had 240V, so it sat in the cupboard. Anyway, I got nowhere, I popped to the chandlers, thinking the auto polish I had bought in Malaysia and never used, was no good, and bought some expensive boat stuff, against my better judgement, still no improvement, I tried a little gentle rub with some 1000 grit paper and could see the gelcoat disappear rapidly, so stopped that game quickly. I’m going to have another go at it on Sunday, in the meantime I will do some reading and youtubing. It always looks so easy in the YBW or practical boating articles.
Arturo came and cooked a big pan of Shrimp soup for me, very tasty, later I tried to say “In England we would say” in Spanish only to have him give me a hard time on pronunciation as you can see in the vid below.

‘We would say’ = Diriamos (conditional, potential, simple, first person plural)

The authorities have reduced us down to ‘Yellow Alert’ as hospital admissions drop. The Malecon, beaches and piers are open again, and the signs requiring masks to be worn have disappeared, although most local people I see, and myself, continue to wear them.

I decided to give the fridge a good defrosting today, It took a while, and a huge amount of self restraint not to hack at the last bits of ice stuck behind the ice box. The urge to break the ice off is ridiculous, I know that if I poke too hard, i will break the evaporator or pipes leading to it, and that usually ends up with a bill for a few thousand dollars, plus a week or two in dock with no cool drinks, yet I still stand over it, wooden spatula in hand, because that’s safer I think, waiting for it to be safe to poke. Once I start poking I need someone to pull me away. If anyone can bottle that desire/graification and flog it, they’re onto a fortune.

I had to dispose of many small jars of gooey stuff Kathy left behind.

Back at the marina offices, it seems the birds are very active building nests and scurrying around. These lovely classically styled tile roofs make a good nesting spot for the birds as you can see below.

Back on the boat I have a final wash of the cockpit before mounting all the MOB (Man Overboard) gear. It’s not a lot of use when sailing solo, but should I pass someone strugling in the water, at least I have things I can throw at them. A drop of phosphoric acid brought the teak up looking like new.

Polished and raring to go.

On Sunday Arturo and I have a final Sunday dinner.

On Monday I realise the boat is heeling far to much to starboard. This was also a problem on Lady Stardust, and I had always thought it was a design fault, which it sort of is. However seeing Greg’s baba 40 in the dock a few months back, sitting perfectly vertical made me decide to do something about it.

To calculate the list (leaning to one side) I strung a bit of cord up with a weight at the bottom, measured the deflection and the length, followed by a recitation of the SOH,CAH TOA rhyme we learnt at school, and went for TOA, tangent = Opposite over Adjacent. I didn’t have my log book with me, I must have left it in the 70’s somewhere, but figured my iPhone calculator could do it.

Several frustrating hours later I had a number, 3 degrees of starboard list

I have been waiting 50 years to use SOH,CAH,TOA, thank you Mr Foster (maths teacher).

The problem with the list, besides the boat looking stupid in the Marina, and the starboard side of the boat having more growth on the boot top, is that water collects in places around the sinks where it shouldn’t, also it just doesn’t feel right.
The problem stems, in my opinion, from the fact that the best place to stow batteries is under the stb quarter berth bunk, initially the boat could probably run on half the number of batteries I have now. Add to that that the Quarter berth becomes the obvious place to dump stuff you rarely use, like fold up bikes, aircon units, diving gear etc. Also on this baba, the lockers on the starboard side are easy to access compared with the port side, so tend to get very full, especially with heavier things like paints, tools, nuts and bolts, spare rigging etc.
So on Monday I started moving all the heavy stuff that is not needed in an emergency, over to the port side behind the main sofa. The Aircon, which I should sling, was moved to the port sofa. And the empty port water tank was topped off.

As you can see from the baba Swingometer of list, things are a lot better now.

Off to the supermarket for some last minute provisioning and I was intruiged by what looked like dandelions in the herbs section.

A typical restaurant sign. Rules of Entry, Must wear masks, must use Gel, keep you distance, don’t lean on the counter.

Above is a sign many restaurants display, giving the strict rules to observe for dining. I would like to have one of these as I think soon people will be ripping them up and / or burning them as the pandemic ends, yet my great grandchildren will probably look at them with disbelief that such a time existed. They will be on a par with the war museum posters like ‘Dig for Britain’ or ‘Careless talk costs lives’

This is Arturo hanging out with his sea lion friends.

Tuesday 9th March
After 3 months tied to the dock, I cast off the lines, well actually Debbie from next door threw them to me. I timed it for slack water, but as usual the current didn’t agree with me and I started drifting immediately towards Debbie & Tom’s motor yacht. A quick blast on the throttle and we were out of their way, and 15 minutes later I was dropping the anchor just off the Malecon, where the tide did seem to be just about to turn. It’s very quiet out here, it’s also a very hot day, quite humid with a rather grey sky.
On the morning net, I heard there was a free walkup facility for vaccines in Loreto, if you are over 60. So that’s an option I must investigate. I think it’s true here as well, but harder to find out about. I also received an email from my UK doctor today inviting me to take my vaccine.

As the day comes to a close, I presume the Brits decide that if the good ship Sister Midnight is leaving, they must follow, and so steamed out just now.

I make some Guacamole and enjoy the sunset

I’m back into power conservation mode. The batteries are a few years old now, and don’t hold their charge as well, so I have to keep an eye on everything.
I put Diamond Dogs by Bowie on the sound system and cranked it up while I sat in the cockpit, something Kathy wouldn’t appreciate, and remember that it’s about Orwell’s book 1984, which is weird as Arturo just bought me a copy of 1984 in Spanish. Something I plan to read in full over the next few weeks. When we stayed in Deià in Mallorca, Spain we met the son of Robert Graves, the english poet and author. I may have remembered this wrong but I think his mother taught herself Spanish by reading Don Quixote in its original Spanish form. 1984 sounds like more fun to me, I recently re-read the book in english so I have a head start. I can thoroughly recommend both 1984 and Animal Farm as being particularly relevant to these modern times, there’s another link, as when we lived on board Stardust ( a bowie song) in Barcelona, we would often walk along ‘La Rambla’ in front of the building that George Orwell was on the roof of, firing his rifle during the Spanish civil war. I presume he spoke some Spanish.

Paul Collister

It’s varnish time again.

Sunday 21st Feb 2021.
So I guess you worked out this isn’t a post from Kathy. It’s a week now since she left and I have started on the task of making the boat look like new. I’m leaving in two weeks as my monthly term with the marina runs out, and it’s time to find warmer water.

Since Kathy left I have been doing small jobs on the boat, a little bit of programming, and quite a bit of lazing around. I’ve tried to up the Spanish learning a bit, but haven’t fully immersed myself as planned. But I’m optimistic I’m going to learn a lot over the next few months.

Arturo is learning the art of varnishing, today he spent two hours stripping old varnish off the eyebrow and grabrails on the coachroof port side. I have asked him to be here for 8am tomorrow so that he can get the first coat of varnish on. I have managed to get a first coat on the rub rails and two coats on the cap rails. I spent an hour today cleaning the steel bars that run along the rub rails to give them extra protection. In all the port side of the boat is starting to look great. With two weeks left I plan to spend one week on the port side, then flip the boat and repeat on the other side.

Sadly neglected teak

Arturo unknowingly guided the CEO of an airline (French I believe) around the islands a few months back, he did the whole thing in French, and the owner of the company was so impressed he recommended that a group of his employees use Arturo as their guide when they visit La Paz, so yesterday Arturo led them around the islands listening to him tell them the history of the islands, the story of Hernan Cortez, the mating habits of Sea Lions, and some nonsense on cloud types I taught him. It all went very well, and hopefully Arturo is building up a following and reputation here. I expect he will be running his own high end Eco tour company in a few years time.

Maria has now taken to flying into the cabin and wandering around when I’m not paying attention. Not just to the breadboard, but the length of the boat!

While working on the deck I decided to pour the contents of a diesel jug into the main tank, and then get it refilled at the local station. This will save me taking the boat to another marina to refill. However after I had put about 5 litres of the fuel into the tank I stopped as the diesel looked odd.

I took a sample into a cup and it was definitely the wrong colour, it also smelt of paint. This was worrying, after an hour the fuel looked the same, often a contamination will separate out and sink or float. looking at the container it was stored in, it’s clear the inside is a different colour where the diesel was. I have concluded that the diesel dissolved the inside of the container over time, it may have been in there for a year by now, and that it was so fine it had bound to the diesel fuel like a stain. I disposed of the fuel and the container, I just hope that the fuel I put into the tank isn’t going to be a problem.

I had to do some cleaning in the bilge area of the main cabin and I’m always shocked when I see how much machinary, wiring and plumbing there is. Is this normal, looks more like I would expect on the Space station than in a sailboat.

Another job I finally got started was the starboard whisker stay fitting. This is a bracket that attaches one end of the whisker stay to the boat, the other end goes to the bowsprit, its job is to stop the bowsprit swinging from side to side as the headsail fills with wind, and to some extent when the mast pulls on it.

It had a crack in it, and I have been meaning to do something about it for years, but dreaded taking it off as I suspected it would be very difficult to do. In the end, it took me all of ten minutes. Now I need to find a welder to make me a new one, I had thought it could be repaired, but I think a new backplate is in order.
It’s amazing how stuff like steel can just crack, I doubt this was ever under any real strain.

Monday 22nd Feb
A trip to the optician starts the week off, I wonder if this might be a good way to get the coronavirus and almost back out, but I double up on the masks and take a risk. My eyes are really struggling to read small stuff, and I’m getting headaches if I’m on the laptop for too long. The visit goes well, and they are very diligent in cleaning all the equipment just before I stick my head in it. The poor guy who died in the boat near to us is suspected to have caught the virus from his dentist, but I think they have to get a lot closer than opticians.

The rest of the week is mostly about sanding and varnishing. Arturo is quite handy with a heat gun and scraper now. In trying to find a new scraper I empty out one of the lockers and decide a good clearout is called for. I have a theory if you have done 10,000 miles through countless countries, over several years and you still haven’t used the 7/16″ 6 inch PVC tube, or the vacuum cleaner extension pipe, then they can go. The lockers are a lot more empty, tomorrow I will need a 7/16″ 6 inch PVC tube.
We pop over to a local stainless steel fabricator who is happy to build me a new whisker stay bracket for $2500 (peso), around £90, not cheap, but not outrageous either.

While resting in the cockpit in between coats of varnish, this guy flies in and takes up a sentry position on the monitor steering, and doesn’t seem to care about Arturo and I sitting right next to him. Arturo wonders if it might be one of the local ‘tropical cormorants’ that are around here. It’s quite a big bird and I’m glad Maria and Carlos aren’t here.

By thursday I have slapped about 5 coats of varnish on the port cap rail, and the same amount on the rub-rail. The eyebrow and grab rail also have 3 coats and more will go on, possible once I leave town. The port hull is washed, but not yet polished.
At 3:30, when the tide is turning we leave the slip and head out for a 5 min trip into the bay, long enough for me to move the lines and fenders over to the other side as when we head back into the marina I reverse into our slip so the starboard side is now against the pontoon and we can start cleaning that up.

I take advantage of the engine being hot to change the oil & filter, It’s been 170 hours of engine running since the last change. I think the manual recommends every 100 hours. I wondered if I have recently changed it, but the log I keep says it was last march, a year ago, so that would be about right. I wonder if I forgot to put an entry in the log and as I’m writing this I realise I havent put today’s oil change into the log. So who knows. What I do know is that I aligned the level of new oil exactly to the max oil marker, then I remembered you have to push really hard to get the dipstick to go all the way in, which it did, now I have about 3mm too much on the dipstick. I don’t want to have to extract it, so I need to search the web until I find someone who says it’s ok.

One of the advantages of being ‘Stern In’ is that I get a clearer view of the sunsets from the cockpit, and tonight is spectacular.

The new bracket arrived on Friday and Arturo helped me fit it, I tried to teach him the art of sikaflexing without getting it everywhere, but ended up showing him how to remove sikaflex from unwanted places.

It’s shiny enough, how long will that last I wonder.
Bedded onto the hull and doing its job holding the bowsprit in place

This is one of the things I enjoy a lot about the cruising lifestyle, having to find local trades folk who can make fancy things from basic materials, at short notice, and for reasonable prices. When something like a steel bracket breaks, or a plumbing fitting that’s a bit bespoke fails, just grab said part, head off down the pontoon asking along the way, and you’re soon enough in a workshop with an engineer saying, yes of course I can make that, come back tomorrow.

Mariachis waiting to entertain at estrella del mar

Next on the list was a leaking deck prism, these are blocks of glass in the shape of a prism, fitted into the deck and when the sun shines, they spread light far and wide inside the boat. I love them, except that they require a large hole cutting in the deck to sit in. This invariable leaks, as this Port/Midship one did.

Ripping out the old sealant

Unfortunately, as I dug out the old sealant, and criticised the poor workmanship of whoever put it in, I started to recognise the flaws in the fitting. I think the rubbish job, may well have been mine from a few years ago. I decided it couldn’t have been, and proceeded to do the same sort of repair I would have done back then if it had of been me, which means it’s going to leak again. To make matters worse I have decided to rebel against all thing ‘Marine’ that are very similar to non Marine things, like glue and sealant. So I’m using an off the shelf builders sealant at £3 a tube, instead of the fancy Sikaflex at more like £20. I might not be so cavalier if the job was below the water line, but worst case scenario here is that Kathy will get drips on her head if it rains a lot!

Arturo is here every other day or so when there is no work on the tour boats. He is getting better at varnishing and is very good at scraping and sanding. We now have 3 coats of varnish on all the woodwork, with 7 coats on the cap rails. The boats looking a lot smarter. I polished all the steel in the pulpit area, and the bowsprit and platform are looking good.
In 7 days time I will chug on out of the Marina, still not sure of where to go, but the most likely destination is Mazatlan over on the mainland, a sail of around 36 hours, So I would leave at 7 AM and arrive in the afternoon on the following day.

Paul Collister