Winding down as the rainy season starts

It’s a quiet life here in Chiapas, but there’s a constant flow of boats arriving from the south, usually after transiting the Panama Canal, heading north, and boats doing the same but in reverse. This is the last place you can stop at when clearing out of Mexico heading south, and the best place to clear in when heading north.
It makes for an interesting mix of sailors, many more Europeans arrive and also a few east coast USA sailors from places like Florida. One thing to be sure of is there are very few novices here, most have already sailed half way around the world, others often on their second circumnavigation.
Below is a picture of our neighbour and friend Onno’s boat, Lost Pearl. He left a while back and sailed to El Salvador crossing the dangerous bar (Sandbank) to get inland.

Below you can see him a few days later crossing the bar. This must have been a tense moment for Onno as one of his friends lost their boat in the same spot just a few weeks earlier. The surf pushed him down onto the bank and his keel snapped off. At least Onno got through just fine.

Lost Pearl surfing into El Salvador

I was woken the other morning around 6am to a bang and thought another boat must have hit me. Bleary eyed I climbed into the cockpit to see some frothy water but no other boats. I climbed back into bed none the wiser. Later on shore I was asked if I felt the earthquake, it was local and pretty substantial.

Major mains rewire
The marina wont allow me to work on the outside of the boat, paint/ sanding/ varnish etc so I decided to undertake one of the rewiring jobs I have been meaning to do for 5 years. That is changing the boat to run on 110v AC shore power. When the boat was in Asia, it was setup to run on 240v and all the wiring inside was 240v. I set about changing it back to the original 110v USA standard. As part of this I properly wired in the boats 3 kW AC inverter so I can run the boats internal AC sockets from the inverter. I also changed the engine battery charger so it runs on 110v now. I also have a 1 kW 110-240v transformer powering a square pin uk mains socket, which should meet the highest demands from Kathy’s hair straightening devices.

The shore power plug had to go as part of this job

Another job I have to do every couple of weeks is climb the mast and remove the nest that the locals have built.

The next insides job was to clean the locker in the heads next to the sink. It was rather grim in there due to damp/leaks from before I had the boat, and I had never paid it much attention. So I took out all the little pieces of wood that makeup the shelves and repainted them, a few had to be binned so I made templates for new ones out of carboard boxes that once were full of Oreos.

The heads locker

Cardboard templates


Final Gloss coat

Finally all back together

It’s raining most days now, so I spend a lot of time on the laptop learning new stuff. I have decided I must become proficient at Python programming. It’s a great language. I am a C programmer, and I think pretty competent at it too, but it’s just not a language for these days when wanting to write code that takes advantage of the internet and all thats available out there. I also decided it’s time I got my head around this thing they call AI. So Ive been writing AI programs in Python to help me understand it all, I also pay Microsoft $10/month for Co-Pilot, which is an AI assistant I use to write code. What’s my opinion, I know you didnt ask, but on this I must say that the LLMs like Chat GPT and the enhanced LLM that is Co-Pilot, I’m blown away. I can write code about 5 times faster now, when I get stuck, AI jumps in and educates me, I do feel like I’m cheating a bit. I wrote, what I felt, was some pretty smart code, where I wrote a stock exchange API simulator for testing and it worked perfectly after very little effort, but my smugness was short lived as I realised, I was only a co-author and AI did a lot of the trickier stuff. I also realised that I would have to accept that as the new norm. Regardless it’s amazing, I type a line of code, and the AI writes a block of code below, with comments, anticipating exactly what I was thinking I need to do next.

Took me a while to finish this, thank goodness for juicers

Also I’m loving learning how LLMs (Large Language Models) work, I had to do a lot of maths study to work out what was Stochastic gradient descent, and probably the hardest bit was understanding how words can live in a 100,000+ dimensional space. It’s something I believe has great promise.
As part of this learning exercise, I have set myself a target of writing a program that will use AI to buy and sell bitcoins and Eth automatically. I know everyone is already doing this, and there’s plenty or programs out there, but mine will be better, and I will start off with £100 and I expect to be up there with Musk and Bezos pretty soon. I better start thinking up some conspiracy theories and also what shape I want my rocket to be.

Above is a picture of the mizen mast of SV Sitka, I think the boat might be names after the mast wood, which is also sitka. It’s a common wood in Canada, the boat’s home, and also very common for boat spars. As you might spot, it’s also popular with woodpeckers

This is the hole one woodpecker made in the mast. So along with some others here I have been helping to prevent further damage. I put a ladder up the mast and closed off the hole. The owners return in a couple of months and will have to do some serious repairs, as the mast wont be strong enough now

The view as you approach the marina

A visitor

I take a bus into town most weeks for fresh fruit and veg. One day I wandered into the old central area. I had been advised not to visit due to the large number of migrants, many Haitian, passing through. However it turned out to be just fine. I met some lovely people in small tiendas. I did visit one mercado that was past its sell by date, I followed a staircase down into the basement, out of curiosity, and was confronted with scenes worthy of a horror movie, the place looked like a bomb site, with random stalls setup selling meat, but nothing I could recognise, blood was dripping everywhere along the pathways, the smell was awful. The vendors looked very miserable. I was keen to escape back to street level

I visited the main museum here, it was a little sad because they had very few exhibits, mainly a cinema projector and some glockenspiels. Tapachula is close to some very ancient historical sites.

A turtle sanctuary at the marina

Should be Alister’s ‘tree of the day’

There seems to be some big roads being built here

Back on the boat chilling in my hammock

Each day I do a small 1km walk around the marina, below is the sun setting over the channel that leads into the marina.

Another Yachtie who is also a keen bird photographer

Sister Midnight at sunset

My FM Auto car radio packed in. It’s lasted 2 years, the one before lasted about 3 years. both showed rust signs on the case. They’re not designed for boats, but at about £7 each they are good value. I use them mostly to feed bluetooth from my mac through to the cabin speakers. I hate the waste, but doubt I would find a more reliable option, even if I spent £300 on a ‘Marine’ equivalent. In the end I bought two new ones for 300 pesos (£14) on Mercado Libra, delivered free in 2 days.

Final jobs before I leave involve measuring the thru hull fittings that I need to buy back home. The one below is the gas locker drain. The handle snapped of last time I tried to exercise it. It’s going to be a nightmare to change as it’s completely inaccessible.

I also tried to stop the little drip on the holding tank discharge seacock by rotating the handle several times between open and closed. This had the effect of making it leak even more. So much so that I couldn’t leave it like that streaming sea water into the bilge. I was further worried as there was some doubt about if the yard was going to be able to haul me out, they had problems with not having any boat stands left. I couldn’t leave the boat like this in case the bilge pump failed, something that’s very feasible.
So I had to try to repair the seacock in place. It’s a cone type, so I needed to remove the cone and clean it. I really needed to grind the surfaces in situ with grinding compound, but this wouldn’t be possible. I pulled the cone out and the pressure of the sea water, some 1 meter below the hole caused quite a fountain, It’s a 1″ hole and the water was coming out like a fountain. Using lots of rags I was able to control it until I got a bung in. I cleaned up the cone, reinstalled and was rather disappointed to find the situation was even worse. A second go, with the addition of some gas pvc tape, then some butyl putty got it under control. The bilge pump goes off every 3-4 hours for about 30 seconds. However I think the rainwater may be finding a way to the bilge, something I’m trying to hunt down every time the rain kicks in

Sat 15th June 2024
The current plan now is to stay up late on the 4th July celebrating the many ‘Portillo moments’ (see Hubris) in the UK General Election. then haul out the next day. On the 6th I will take a coach to the Capital of this state and spend a couple of weeks being a tourist, visiting wild countryside and historic ruins.
From there I will find a way to Mexico City for a couple of days before flying to Washington DC. I have an AirBnB in Washington for 8 days, I’m really looking forward to seeing the monuments and visiting the museums. From the Capitol, I will get a train to Manhattan, where I have a few days before a flight from JFK takes me back to the UK arriving at the end of July.

Paul Collister.

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