Leaving La Paz for Loreto

Monday 25th October.
I just have three more days here in the marina at La Paz then I will head off to the north ending up in Puerto Escondido for my flight from neighbouring Loreto back to the UK at the end of November.
The last two weeks have been a bit lazy, the first week was spent mostly at the keyboard trying to get my Raspberry pi working with the ADC, unfortunately at some point the SD card, that contains the operating system and all the software and data got corrupted, I tell myself this happened just before I was going to back it up, but that’s probably a lie. I spent a day trying to recover my software from the SD card, which I succeeded with a little, but decided in the end to start from scratch again. Is there a prize for the quickest rebuild of a LAMP system?
Once it was all back and running, I spent a day working out how to backup the SD card. Next the ADC needed to be connected and I didnt have the right connecters. Eventually I got it all working and reading voltages when I decided a week was enough playing and as I only had 10 days left I better make a list of chores that needed doing.
The usual jobs, like getting fuel, water, supplies, gas (lpg), do a laundry run, wash the dinghy and boat (best to use water while I have it for free), furl on the headsails, refit the sprayhood, take the covers down and load the dinghy onto the foredeck were added to the list and tackled one at a time over the next week.

While the spray dodger was off, I was able to access the teak work on the coachroof and give it a couple of coats of varnish, it’s looking quite smart now, but also highlighting the areas I haven’t done yet.

I also slapped a bit of varnish on the bowsprit.

One job on my bigger todo list was check and replace if needed all the chainplates.Now a chainplate is a long bit of steel, or iron on some boats, that is bolted to the side of the boat and the wires that support the mast are fixed to it with turnbuckles. If they fail, and they can, the mast can snap. I don’t know when they were last replaced, if ever. However there were signs of rust on one chainplate below the deck, so I thought I would check that one out.

A touch of rust creeping in there

This starboard locker had suffered a lot of water ingress when I bought the boat and I had quickly fixed the leak in Malaysia, however it needed to be sorted properly.
The first job was to remove the chainplates and then the damaged vinyl on the surfaces, I had hoped to just do a small area, but the job grew, and I decided to do both chainplates in that locker and also the next locker.

First problem, the bolts are too long

The first chainplate came out and had some crevice corrosion. It’s usually like this, a line running around the plate where it is sitting inside the deck. Water gets in from the deck, but there is no oxygen there, consequently a special type of corrosion occurs. It’s amazing how a bit of water can cause the steel to be eaten up so badly.
I took the chainlate off to a local fabricator to have it copied, I’m still waiting to know if he can do it before I leave on Thursday, otherwise I will be delayed, but out at anchor as I have to be out of this berth.

I don’t feel safe relying on this.

To be fair, as this boat is a cutter rig there are shrouds all over the place, and the failure of one shroud might be ok if the mast wasn’t under a lot of strain at the time.

You can see below the holes in the deck where the chainplates emerge. There was no obvious damage to the core of the deck, but I raked out the core balsa material to about 1cm back, then I filled the void with thickened epoxy. this will protect the deck against future failures of the seal.

Two starboard rear chainplate holes
Clean and ready for new vinyl covering

So unable to find the vinyl I bought in Guymas I went off and bought a lot more, only to find the original as soon as I returned to the boat.
I would like to say I have added upholsterer to my CV but you would have to be pretty desperate to ask me for help with any fabric work. Below is the only angle where you can’t see a bad join. Once things are in the lockers it will look very professional.

Below you can see the cleaned up chainplate backing plates on the fresh white vinyl, this is as good as it will ever get. I’m very impressed, if only the other six looked as good. That will take a bit longer me thinks.

Sunday 24th October
So I finally finished cleaning up the boat, I have to wait for the chainplate to arrive before I can fit it and seal them both at the deck level. The second chainplate was in good condition which gives me some hope for the other ones.
So I headed off into town and onto Arturo’s rooftop terrace to checkout some Blue cheese he has found.

The fire brigade join a protest march

The police lead the march for Cancer Awareness
Now that’s an oven.
What a great location to chill, 360 deg panarama
The main cathedral in the city square viewed from the terrace.

So just a few more jobs to do and then I can leave the Marina. I’m really looking forward to being out again, no aircon, but a nice sea breeze, dolphins for company, and after a couple of days getting used to the boat, I will head off into the islands for 3 weeks, with next to no contact with the world, although I will be working on my SSB pactor while out. I returned from the UK with a big bag of toroid rings so I’m hoping to sort out the RF interference.

It’s been a little difficult writing this blog with the knowledge that one of my favorite readers, commentator and friend is no longer going to be reading any more of my posts. Kathy’s sister Bobbie very sadly passed away just a couple of weeks ago, Kathy was with her in Milan and has now returned to Liverpool. Bobbie was a lovely person and took a lot of interest in our travels, she understood and enjoyed my slightly dry humour and I always had her in mind when trying to pen something funny. We will miss her terribly.

My next blog will probably be mid November from Puerto Escondido.

Paul Collister.

Problem Solving

I enjoy problem solving, which is just as well and probably why I’m living on a boat happily, there are no end of problems to solve, some not even boat related, like my next trip home. Firstly though an update on the fridge

Monday 4th October 2021
I head off to the ferreteria (Hardware store, I’m assuming from the latin Ferrum (iron), as in Ironmonger) to pick up some squirty expanding foam. As commented last week, you get a lot of foam, presumably reusable, but probably not in reality as it will gum up the nozzle and hose, still at $10 for a can, it’s not the end of the world, and a small cost in the larger fridge scheme of things. I have read one should treat it like sikaflex, in the sense it will make a mess everywhere, but I think not, it seems easy to manage and it’s only at the end when I try to wipe up some excess that I start getting it all over me and the locker. Fortunately it clears up well. I have the fridge on full now and I have just started to get ice crystals in my diet coke, so that’s perfect. Also the Tilapia fish fillet I put in the freezer bit is rock solid.

Now the fridge is finished, I stow everything back in the Lazarette and tidy up the cockpit. I have the air con running a lot but I really don’t care for it. The boat is either too hot or too cold and noisy, can’t seem to find a good balance.

I have ordered a small ADC for the PI computer, in fact I ordered two from MecardoLibre, the Mexican version of eBay, postage was free for two and the same price as a second unit! This little device should plug into my Raspberry PI computer and allow me to monitor voltages (and currents via a shunt) around the boat. The plan is to get the data displaying on this website for all to see, in particular so that I can monitor the health of the boats batteries and also if the bilge pumps are running and when, while I am away from the boat over Christmas. In all honesty it’s really just an excuse for me to do some programming and as I have said before, make a light come on in England when the bilge switch lever moves in Mexico. The ADC which stands for Analog (variable voltages) to Digital (0s and 1s) Converter, is very sensitive, and it will be interesting, and probably a challenge to use. I’m expecting large current flows, like the Starter Motor or the Windlass or Bow Thruster will create voltage swings in the earth loops that will cause it to go crazy with it’s readings, then when you add in the fact that my cable runs to the sense locations will behave like antennas for the SSB, the data is open to much corruption. Perhaps software Low Pass Filters might be the answer, we will see.
I visit Arturo to try a selection of cheeses we have acquired here. I insist he tries the Brie, which he later admits to quite liking, despite the fact he winced the last three times I made him eat it. I think like most vices, smoking and spirits, there is a pain threshold you have to go through. I presume the French are fed it as babies so won’t understand this.

We sit on his rooftop terrace looking out over the bay, it’s quite a view, perhaps one of the best in La Paz. In the distance the cruise ships are preparing to return to service as many have already done at various Mexican ports.

A potential Hurricane appears on the forecast, a long way south, and not looking like a threat yet. I had secretly hoped we had escaped the season but hurricanes have been known here right up to December, albeit very rarely.

The UK government announced the removal of Mexico, and scores of other countries, from its Red List today, which makes it a lot easier to get home. I start to look for flights from Mexico City back to England but find the British Airways site crashing. I wonder if this is due to demand. Will demand mean prices rise now, or will more airlines start up old routes and the prices drop.

The plan is to leave La Paz in 3 weeks time, and spend November slowly sailing my way up to Puerto Escondido, near Loreto, so I can leave the boat there on a mooring ball for Christmas, and catch a flight from Loreto to England. I log on and find BA have sorted their website out, it’s still a bit slow, but not crashing. It seems like the flights are very expensive £1000+ return, but when I check out the flights from Loreto to Mexico city I find there aren’t any. This is a blow. I had just assumed all regional airports would connect to the capital. It seems if I want to fly back from there I will have to go via Phoenix/LAX or Dallas. It’s difficult if I have to get back to La Paz or Cabo San del Jose, and will involve a long bus ride or taxi and hotel. So here’s a rough idea of what I need to coordinate with my guess at prices so far

Water taxi from Boat to marina$5?
Taxi from Marina to Airport (Loreto)$40
Flight to Arizona (one way)$300
Arizona Hotel 1 night$60
Flight To Manchester via European Capital (return)$900
Train from Manchester Airport to Kathy in Liverpool$15
Boat storage at Loreto for 2 months$800
versus Boat storage at La Paz for 2 months$1630

Up early and off to the street craft/organic market for some Vegan pesto. I manage to converse in Spanish, and the lovely lady there humours me and lets me pretend I can speak Spanish for the transaction, which included me asking if she would be there ‘con pesto’ on Tuesday. So after nearly 2 years in Spain, studying the language and I can now buy pesto in the market, to be honest, I was hoping for a bit more.

From there I head to Steren, this is a computer/electronics store, I think it’s a bit like Tandy, or Maplin, I get there at 9AM it’s starting to get hot now, and I’m pleased to be there before the sun starts burning me, however I see the store is not going to open until 10AM, I can’t wait an hour here out on the edge of town. I cycle on to Home Depot, maybe they might have the cable I need. I want some two core shielded flex, I’m thinking or running this to the battery shunt and feeding into a differential input on the ADC which I believe has arrived. They don’t have any, but I do buy 20m of Satellite receiver cable for about £10, this will allow me to run sensor leads that can be screened from RFI (SSB interference).

On my way to Home Depot I pass a very nice area with expensive looking houses down pretty side streets, when I emerge onto the main road, on one side there are lots of offices, mostly Abogados (Lawyers/Solicitors) and on the other side of the road a big prison.

I can see why the legal fraternity might have offices close to the jail, but I wonder if they live in the fancy houses too. everything on your doorstep.
I cycle on to the best electronics shop in the centre of town, and he has some microphone cable with 2 cores, so I buy 10 metres of that, it may come in useful, who knows. What I can’t find is a 12v USB Hub, I have seen them online, I want to find a way to power the PI computer and an attached hard disk all from 12v.

Cycling along the waterfront at the western end of town, I see it’s a big tide and the car park has flooded. I’m not sure they are quite ready for a 1m sea level rise here.

Looking out into the bay, I spot the remains of another abandoned ship

I know I’m colour blind, but that looks quite blue to me.
Zooming in on the above pic

Arturo had left some items in Ventana on Saturday, so for a change I decided to hire a car for the day, head over to ventana, an hour drive and then afterwards we would use the car to do a big shop. Ventana is some distance along the coast from here and is much more exposed. It’s opposite Jacques Cousteau Island. Arturo is doing his divemaster course here at the weekends. We hire a car for just MEX$800 around US$40, or £28, which is not bad for a day however no sooner had we left the centre of La Paz than I was pulled over by a policeman on a motorbike.

He informed me, via Arturo, that I had gone through a red light, I didn’t think I had, but they are easy to miss, so it’s possible. He took my driving license off me and explained there was a fine of 1660 pesos. Around $80 or £60. Arturo offered him 100 pesos, but had to up his offer to 200 quickly as the cop was not amused and kept saying it was 1660, even producing a sheet of fines I suspect his mate had printed for him. He also explained the fine could not be paid at the station as it was closed on Sundays and so I would have to visit the station on Monday to get my license back. I suggested to Arturo we offer him 1000 to be on our way, but stupidly, I took it as a chance to practice my bigger numbers in Spanish, as soon as I said mille peso, the cop’s eyes lit up, and Arturo gave me evils. The cop took the 1000 pesos and we drove off with Arturo cursing me, convinced the cop would have accepted 200 pesos if we had tried harder and I hadn’t been so stupid to say mille peso out loud. Anyway, I figured £35 to get off with a traffic violation, which would have got me points on my license back home was not the end of the world. Arturo disagreed for the next 15 minutes, until we were pulled over by another cop in a big 4×4 travelling the other way, he thought perhaps we were going too fast, but somehow, despite the fact we were in a group of ten cars all travelling at the same speed, it was me, Mr Gringo, that caught his eye. Arturo was quick off the ball to tell the cop we had just given a fortune to his mate down the road, and wasn’t that enough for one day. Amazingly the cop looked a little embarrassed and wished us well and took off, probably after his mate on the motorbike. It was turning out to be an expensive trip.

the view from the cafe

Arturo is doing his divemaster course at a dive centre/family resort in Ventana, the place has lots of cabinas (chalets) were people stay and can take boat trips to go fishing/snorkeling/diving or learn to kite surf. It’s a fantastic spot and we had a huge breakfast before exploring.

looking down to the beach

There were a group of buzzards flying around, they look like eagles to me. I caught a bit on video which might work.

Some luxury homes on the coast

The countryside is looking pretty green thanks to the recent close passes of hurricanes which dumped a lot of water. Much more may arrive next week.

One of the problems with driving at night here is that cows and other largish animals can wander out onto the road, and without any lighting, they can be a big problem.

A tienda in the middle of nowhere.
More green stuff

Once we were back in La Paz, we scooted up to Walmart and I picked up a stack of drinks which are always a pain to fit on the bike. Just need to stash them all away now.

Back on the boat I sorted out Kathy’s paperwork so she can get back into the UK from Italy and also checked to confirm my flight booking for Loreto to Phoenix hadn’t gone through, despite American Airlines saying they took the payment. They didn’t take the payment, but I bet they will the minute I rebook it and refuse to refund me. I’m looking forward to some fun on the helpline tomorrow. It seems by some convention, a Brit can only pay in pounds and a Mexican can only pay in Pesos. Good games.

Paul Collister.

Fridge & hull

Tuesday 28th Sept.
Today Carlos and his uncle Arturo arrived to clean the boats bottom, it looked bad from the waterline, but Carlos was happy to report the antifouling was doing a great job and what barnacles were there scraped off easily. For those who don’t know, I have lumps of Zinc or Aluminium strapped to various parts of the boat underwater. These zincs, or sacrificial anodes, to give them a more proper name, exist to protect the boat from galvanic corrosion. Basically, the metal underwater, like the propellor/prop shaft, thru hulls and bow thruster will all dissolve in the water over time, due to small electric currents there. We put Zinc, or Aluminium in the case of the bow thruster, on the metal parts so that they will dissolve first before the less noble metals. Carlos told me the Zinc on the Max Prop had gone completely, which is bad news, he replaced it for me, the hull zincs are 80% good but interestingly the bow thruster zincs are down by a third. I told Carlos that I was pleased that they were working. I had replaced them in the spring because the previous anodes had not worn out at all in the 5 years since the bow thruster was fitted and I couldn’t understand why. I showed the old ones, which I had kept, to Carlos and he quickly spotted that there was a sealant on the mating face of the anodes, he was right, and I didnt notice that when I replaced them at the last haulout. So the yard in Malaysia that fitted the bow thruster has put something like sikaflex behind the anodes and consequently they had failed to work, and had not been protecting the bow thruster properly.

In the future somebody may be staring at the corrosion inside the bow thruster and scratching their head, being the optimistic type, I’m hoping there isn’t much damage. At least the anodes are protecting the device properly now.
Having that job completed, the fridge was next. I had been researching options for a few days. Back home a complete replacement of the fridge system, all the parts, would set me back around US$1000, I could buy that system in the USA for the same price, however I would have to pay a lot in shipping and taxes, possibly another $500. I could replace the faulty evaporator only, this part is only around $250, but the connecters between it and the compressor have changed over the last few years, so I would have to buy one compatible with the old compressor, and if the compressor failed later, I would have to find a replacement compatible with the old connectors, which might be difficult in a few years time. Also the old connectors require you to get the gas refilled when the connection is broken/made, so that’s two callouts to an engineer to cost in. So I took the plunge and ordered a new system, with shipping/taxes etc it’s costing me $1400, a lot of money, but as Kathy says, we do need it. The current system has worked well for over 12 years so I can’t complain.

My fridge has been delivered to the freight forwarder DekoMarine in San Diego, So today I may start to remove the old system in preparation for the new. I’m waiting to get an idea of delivery times as I have never used this freight forwarder before, but they come highly recommended.
The morning VHF net mentioned that a boat was being moved into the anchorage by the navy, it’s the closing stages in a sad story of a sailor with mental health problems that has been struggling for many years here to get his boat repaired so he could sail south. He seems to have become more and more delusional over the years and was living on his boat here believing the whole world was out to persecute him. Recently he had shot at fishermen passing too close to his boat on their way back to port. I heard he has now been deported after claiming title to a dissued boat yard. He keeps a blog, in which he appears to still be here, it’s confusing. I can’t help thinking if he could have got timely professional medical help things might have had a much better outcome. As it stands, one man loses his boat and dreams, and La Paz gets another rotting hulk to deal with one day.

Thursday arrives and I have stomach ache, last night I had a big fry up, it was meant to be a healthy salad, but something went wrong at Chedraui and I ended up with potato fritters/eggs/tuna steak and mushrooms.
I spend the whole day in bed. I receive an email to say the new fridge will arrive Friday, which is great.

24hrs in bed, but I’m feeling better today. I check at the office in the afternoon and the fridge hasn’t arrived yet, it’s too late to do the install anyway. Arturo calls round for a beer later and we have a good chat and ponder over the anomalies of our respective languages, I get very confused over the word ‘sided’ as in ‘two sided’, and wonder how to explain to him the logic in that. He surprised me by not being able to hear any difference in the words, dog,dock and duck when I say them, presumably because of the ‘g’ sound in Spanish.
Just crazy wild evenings eh!

Up early and the fridge has arrived. I’m impressed.

First all the old bits have to come out, the compressor, the evaporator and the thermostat.

The new one is an isotherm 2501 model, it’s top of the range in capacity, but quite heavy on the electricity, about 4 amps on a high cycle here. Made in Northern Italy.

The fridge is surprisingly hard to work with, it looks easy, but all the angles are wrong to be able to turn a screwdriver and see what you’re doing.

Eventually, after 6 hours of solid fiddling, I get the old evaporator out and the new one fitted in.

After that, the rest was easy, but I really struggle with the quick connect refrigerant line connectors, you have to tighten them just right (9.5n/m), and I worry I have over or underdone them. Anyway it fires up and the ice box is getting cold quickly. Success, I refill the fridge with cans of drink and head off to by some food to stock it up.
As the evening progresses I become more disappointed with how long my beers are taking to cool. By 10 pm I see the thermostat has cut out, meaning its as cold as it thinks it should be, however it’s nowhere near cold enough yet. I’m wondering if it’s because that whole area has been hot for a day or two now, or perhaps it needs to settle, maybe there’s an air lock trying to work it’s way through 😉 . I feel I already know way to much about fridges and don’t want to have to learn more. I set the thermostat to maximum volume and decide to see what’s there in the morning, probable some very frozen expensive lettuces! It’s a price I can pay.

I think Maria, or a copycat has returned

Sunday arrives and the fridge is very cold, but not freezing anything as it would have done on maximum before. However the cans of drink are just the perfect temperature, and everything is great, except I don’t know if things will freeze in the ice box. Later in the day I work out the problem. There is an option for either the fridge thermostat or a fridge/freezer thermostat, a quick google reveals I had the fridge/freezer thermostat on the old system and the new one came with the fridge only thermostat. I’m still a little confused, but I’m happy I can fix things easy now, should I need to get it colder. We have a real torrential downpour in the afternoon, great for the vegetation, but the roads are all messed up and one young woman dies when a part of a road is washed away.
Once the sun comes back out I head off for a couple of hours kayaking around the moored boats, I’m interested to see what this troubled man’s boat, SV Disperser, looks like. It’s a huge ferro-concrete ketch with a Jet Ski on deck, two big wind generators, and looks in reasonable condition compared with many other older boats left to rot here. It needs to be protected and sold, I’m sure it could be fixed up reasonably easily, but I’m expecting it to be stripped, and left to drag onto the shore in the next big blow. Very sad.
I walk up to the cow supermarket later and get some fruit, I need to improve my diet. The rain water has brought mud, sand and possibly other less desirable things onto the malecon and adjoining streets. There’s also a noticeable increase in bugs around the place.

Tomorrow I will try to hunt down some foam filler to fill the hole that the fridge hoses pass through, then I can put the boat back together properly and start making her seaworthy. Next weekend I may go out for a spin.

Paul Collister