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Gear and Preparation

Gear and Preparation

Aldabra in San Diego

Aldabra has not left her slip since we arrived in April. For the first several weeks after we arrived, Dana and I stayed on the boat and worked on projects. Pat would join us on some weekends because working on the boat was a good break from his real job.

We put in a new macerator pump for the forward holding tank and reattached the hoses. (My first unsupervised electrical project.) We removed the forward water tank and checked for leaks. Finding none, we put it back in. We also replaced the fill line for the forward water tank. The original hose was the kind that was reinforced with metal wire and it had rusted, so particles of rust were getting into the tank. It was really hard to get the old hose out but we felt a huge sense of accomplishment to have a new, clean one in place. And of course, we changed the engine oil and oil filter. We also did regular cleaning and maintenance on both Aldabra and the dinghy.

During those first few weeks, San Diego was a ghost town. We could go to a few stores for supplies. We could walk the path along Harbor Island and eventually walk along the beach. But most places that I wanted to show Dana were closed. Balboa Park, Presidio Park, Cowles Mountain.

Toward the end of May, Dana moved back up to Santa Cruz, and I headed back to Mexico by plane with my friends Tom Wurfl and Mark Coleman. We delivered Wind Rose, owned by our friend Steve Roberts, from Puerto Vallarta to Ventura. Based on what I wrote about the bash on Aldabra in March/April, it would seem as though another bash would be crazy. But the second one was quite pleasant. It helped that I was better equipped with warm clothes and that the weather was warmer. It also helped that we didn’t have the drama of uncertainties that we had in March.

The trip was quite straightforward, taking under two weeks. We picked our weather windows and kept moving, stopping briefly in Mazatlan for (I think) one night and in San Jose del Cabo for 30 minutes for fuel. We then stopped in Bahia Asuncion for fuel and to wait out some stronger wind before going to Ensenada. We arrived in Ensenada in the early morning and were checked out and underway again by early afternoon. (Rather than waiting for the exit papers, we asked the marina guy to email them to us once he got them. If we had been stopped by the Mexican Navy, they would have turned us back to the marina, but fortunately we were never stopped and we did get the emailed papers in short order.)

We had a couple of things break on the northbound trip. Tom and Mark did temporary fixes and when we got to San Diego, the parts were waiting and they executed the repairs in less than 45 minutes, repairs that would have taken me all day. (Replacing the fresh water pump and a fitting for the dripless shaft seal.)

After spending the night in San Diego at Tom and Helen’s house (a nice meal, a shower and a full night’s sleep), we headed up to Ventura and were met by Steve the next morning in his marina. My first professional boat delivery. I hope there will be more.

Once I returned to San Diego, I moved off the boat and into my mother’s house. My very generous brother-in-law has loaned me his car so I can return to the boat several days a week to continue with projects. Pat helped me reinstall a sensor for the forward water tank and wire in a new red and green bow light for night navigation. He also helped me remove the two bow rollers and rebed them. Aldabra had taken some water in at the bow, and I’m hoping we have corrected the problem. I still need to test it with large volumes of water.

The current project is a big one. Tom removed the counter tops in the galley, which was not an easy job. I then used his oscillating multi-tool with a scraper blade to remove the silicone. One the surfaces were cleaned up, I painted the wall behind the galley. Next, Tom drilled holes in the surface and we began pouring foam insulation into the space between the boat hull and the refrigerator, stove and freezer. I’m hoping the insulation will help the refrigerator maintain its temperature better in warmer climates. We’re not done yet, but the results have been encouraging. The only “oops” was when the foam found its way unexpectedly into a couple of compartments that didn’t need any foam. I had to cut those foam surprises out. (From the time you combine both Part A and Part B into a bucket, you have 30 seconds to stir them up and another 30 seconds to a minute to get the foam poured into the hole before it starts expanded. The temperature needs to be 74 degrees and low humidity. We’ve been able to achieve the right temperature in the early morning but it hasn’t been possible to have a low humidity day recently.)

Today, the counter top guys came to make a template. The next step is for them to manufacture the new counters, with a big, single sink. I can’t wait.

I’m also waiting for all the salon cushions to be reupholstered. I’m actually glad that they’re off the boat while the galley project is underway, but I do have to pester the guy doing these.

Gear and Preparation, Places

In Transition (More Like a Christmas Letter than a Blog Post)

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted an update. Sometimes I don’t have Internet access, but that excuse hasn’t been valid for a while. My last post had me flying to San Diego in February for a brief visit. When I returned, I took Aldabra to Tenacatita, just north of Barra de Navidad. I hung out in the anchorage for more than a week, doing some walking and swimming and visiting. The log book also reminds me that I fixed a pump in the head and troubleshot issues with the watermaker and the solar panels. Got both working.

I returned to the Barra marina for the arrival of my friends Pete and Cookie Schaus of Boulder, Utah. Once they arrived, we spent a couple of days in the area and then pointed Aldabra back up to Tenacatita. We stayed there at anchor for a few days (swimming and beach walking) before heading north to Bahia Chamela, for just one night. It would have been nice to stay a bit longer, but we could see a brief weather window for a calm rounding of Cabo Corrientes, and then no other foreseeable opportunity.

Pete and Cookie enjoying life on the boat

Anchored off the little village, we enjoyed a shrimp dinner onboard and got a bit of sleep before pulling up anchor at 3 a.m. the next day. We motored all the way around the cape and arrived at Punta de Mita at 6:30 p.m. The next day we motored to the marina in Paradise Village, essentially ending the short 2019 cruising season for Aldabra. Pete and Cookie were troopers, making the best of living in a marina for the rest of their vacation. One highlight of that was taking a boat across the bay on their final evening to see the Rhythm of the Nights performance. It’s a combination of a boat ride to a remote cove, a dinner and a performance that is sort of like a Cirque du Soleil show. It was fun.

The reason why Aldabra’s cruising season ended so quickly was twofold. First, the boat needed to be hauled out again to get the bottom painted. Second, I had planned for a short season so I could focus on getting the boat and myself ready for Aldabra’s next big adventure, sailing to the South Pacific in early 2020.

As March came to a close, I began projects on Aldabra, interspersed with beach walks, swimming, dinners with friends and attending seminars. Jeff from El Gato helped me install a new tachometer (electricity still intimidates me) and a remote switch for my windlass so I can operate it from the cockpit if circumstances permit. Plus there were the usual chores.

Fellow Cruisers Celebrating Jules’ 60th Birthday

In early April, I traveled briefly to San Diego and Santa Cruz (taxes) and returned to the boat with my nieces Emily and Julia. We enjoyed a bit of vacationing. A trip to Sayulita and then to San Sebastian in a single long day. A beach day. A day sail. A dinghy ride up the river from the marina to see birds and iguanas. An evening at Rhythm of the Nights. And dinners out. They also helped me hoist the dinghy onto the foredeck for summer storage and then wash it.

After Emily and Julia left, I pickled the watermaker successfully. But in changing one if the filters, I broke a fitting that required me to shut off my fresh water system. I ordered the part from Amazon Mexico and arranged for it to be sent to Andy Barrow, who has a home nearby. I would be able to get the part a couple of weeks later.

On Easter Sunday, Al Garnier of Chez Nous helped me take Aldabra over to the Opequimar boatyard at Marina Vallarta. I spent the night at the dock and the next morning the crew hoisted Aldabra into the yard. I checked into a hotel across the street while they began work. It took more than a week for Alvaro’s crew to strip and sand the boat bottom down to the original gelcoat, revealing the original boot stripe that had been painted over by the previous owner to raise the waterline. (This becomes necessary on cruising boats that are weighed down with all kinds of equipment and spare parts. It’s one reason why we’ll never win any races.)

Aldabra stripped of paint. The lower boot stripe is in the gelcoat

The boat was tented from the deck down to the ground to contain the paint dust, so it was hard to monitor progress. And the yard was so dusty that I was reluctant to hang out and work up above. The only work I did was to prepare the deck for the replacement of one of the sissy bars that Alvaro had to remove and repair. Otherwise, I stayed clear except for passing by three times a day just to take a look.

Looking out my hotel room window

During my week and a half in the hotel, I enjoyed an air-conditioned room with a view of the cruise ships going in and out of Puerto Vallarta, convenient showers and the Internet. (I caught up on Netflix shows I had wanted to see.) During the days, after a leisurely breakfast, I walked from the marina in every direction. On one day I walked the malecon. On another I visited several downtown art galleries. Next I walked to the airport to research rental cars. And I walked to Costco. Buses are very convenient in Puerto Vallarta but I was walking for exercise because the hotel swimming pool wasn’t designed for swimming. I walked on the busiest roads because I don’t know the Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods well enough to use the side streets. So the walks were hot and noisy. But I got my steps in. I also hung out a bit with Jim and Liz from Gypsy Wind while their boat was in the yard getting its bottom painted.

Alvaro’s crew did great work and eventually Aldabra had a newly painted bottom, a subtle black instead of red. On the morning she splashed, I motored her back over to Paradise Village and Al was there to catch the lines. (When singlehanding, I’m always stressed about leaving and approaching docks, so it’s a huge relief to return to the slip without crashing into anything and have someone there to catch the lines.)

Aldabra with her new black bottom paint
In the sling ready to splash

Once Aldabra was back in the slip, it was time to get serious about working on the boat. I would have about six weeks to get projects done and prepare Aldabra for the summer hurricane season. That would mean working full time almost every day. I started by installing the new fitting that would revive my fresh water system. The subsequent days sort of went like this:

  • Inventoried bins of spare parts and supplies.
  • Defrosted refrigerator and freezer.
  • Laundry.
  • Removed all gear from forward compartment below anchor locker in anticipation of rigging inspection.
  • Jamie from Totem conducted a bow to stern rigging inspection. He found many things that needed my attention.
  • Jason from Ullman Sails came to take my mainsail and jib for repairs.
  • Began removing lines from boat and rinsing them in buckets.
  • Discovered Alvaro’s crew had not rebedded sissy bar properly and water was coming in. Removed the sissy bar, prepared the deck and rebedded.
  • Ran a new vent hose for the forward water tank.
  • Began removing blocks and accessories from the deck and rails to be stowed below deck for the summer.
  • Flew to San Diego for 4 days for my mom’s birthday. Bought a car.
  • Arturo repaired a broken stanchion for the railing.
  • Cano from E2 Yacht Services helped me rebed the stanchion.
  • Removed the six opening portlights. In each case, some of the screws were so corroded that I had to drill them out. Cleaned up the mounting surfaces and rebedded the portlights. The whole job took almost a week and I’m still not sure the portlights won’t leak just a bit in heavy rain.
  • Cano’s crew polished the stainless railings and the hull.
  • Defrosted the refrigerator and freezer again.
  • Went shopping for screws with Cano.
  • Laundry.
  • Replaced a bunch of drain hoses leading from the cockpit to the lazarette and then overboard.
  • Cano replaced the exhaust hose while I assisted with tools.
  • Eddie dismantled the boom and vang.
  • Eddie inspected and cleaned the standing rigging.
  • Changed the motor oil and the oil filter, topped off fuel tank.
  • Hosed down the deck to get rid of metal shavings from Eddie’s work.
  • Eddie and helper loosened shrouds and worked on removing port chain plate. They weren’t able to figure it out. The next day I finally removed it and cleaned and prepped the surfaces.
  • More inventory of parts bins.
  • Went to Zaragoza to buy wire, then installed new antenna feedline for SSB radio.
  • Eddie and helper put spacers on the chainplate pin and we rebedded the chainplate. They tightened the shrouds and retuned the rigging. They took the boom.
  • Tightened a bolt on the steering quadrant and cleaned up some surface rust.
  • Removed and cleaned up the handles on the foward hatch, determined that I needed to replace them.
  • Inspected engine bolts, tightened one, clean rust off of a couple.
  • Replaced hose clamp on fuel hose.
  • Cleaned stove.
  • Cleaned pantry.
  • Hooked up inner forestay to deck plate.
  • Cleaned aft head.
  • Re-organized gear.
  • Drained engine coolant and replaced it.
  • Jason brought the repair sails back to the boat.
  • Cano washed the outside of the boat and cleaned the bottom, took the cushion covers off to wash in a washing machine.
  • Made templates of four windows that need to be replaced.
  • Removed the windows from the spray dodger and stowed below deck.
  • Removed bimini extension and stowed.
  • Collapsed bimini, put it in its boot and lashed it to the railing.
  • Stowed all jerry cans below deck.
  • Jeff helped me clean battery terminals and crimp a connector to the end of the new SSB antenna feedline.
  • Jeff helped me fresh-water flush the dinghy motor.
  • Jeff hoisted me up the mast in the bosun’s chair so I could clean the backstay.
  • Finished reloading all the bins back into the lazarette.
  • Lashed the dinghy to the deck.
  • Ran extension cord into the boat to install dehumidifier.
  • Laundry.
  • Installed forward shade cover above deck.
  • Organized.
  • Cleaned galley.
  • Installed aft shade cover above deck.
  • Final preparations before leaving boat.

This list probably doesn’t include all the boat projects, there were lots of other little ones that consumed time. And I’d like to point out that this is all being done in fairly hot weather. Let’s face it, life on a sailboat is mostly frustratingly hard work. Equipment in a marine environment is just always breaking. And every project takes way longer than expected. But it wasn’t all work. I did get in several beach walks and dinners with friends as they returned to the area to put their boats away for the season.

In mid-June I took my usual flight back to Tijuana and crossed the border to San Diego. The next morning I drove to Tom and Helen’s house to pick up my life raft. (They had kindly brought it up from Mexico in their truck.) Then I drove to Marina Del Rey to spend the evening with David and Susan Rose. (David plans to join me on the crossing to the Marquesas.) I joined in their regular Wednesday night trivia night, which was a lot more fun than I had expected even though I may have known only one answer. The next day I drove up to Santa Cruz and stayed with my friends Walter and Glenn and their kids Will and Kate. They have a separate apartment that proved very comfortable for me. The day after I arrived, I drove to Alameda to deliver my life raft to be repacked and recertified, which has to be done every three years. Sal, the owner of the business, inflated the raft and walked through all the parts with me. When you examine your own life raft, your main thought is hoping you never have to see inside of it in the conditions it’s designed for. I then left it there and went to see my friend Terry Chan. We chatted and ate all afternoon and I drove back to Santa Cruz that evening.

Life raft inflated on the shop floor

The next day, my friend Haller and I hiked about seven miles in Nisene Marks Park. It was gorgeous. The fog engulfed the forest and made it feel magical as we walked on soft paths of redwood detritus under lush green branches and ferns.

I was in Santa Cruz to report to jury duty, which I did by calling in each evening. As it turns out, I was excused each day. Since I never knew whether I would be free each day, I couldn’t make plans with friends. But I did join my friends Jim and Linda to visit the harbor, and we got a chance to visit with my friend Pete on Mazu. I also spent time with one of my boating mentors, Matthew, who gave me splicing lessons for dyneema rope. I also ran into Anne from Redwood Coast II at West Marine but she was working, so I’ll have to wait for my next visit to catch up with her. Finally I retrieved my life raft and headed south.

I returned to San Diego in time for my niece Teela’s baby shower. She and her husband were visiting for the weekend, along with lots of family members, including my grandniece (14 months) and grandnephew (10 months). Very fun.

Once back in San Diego, I’ve settled into a bit of a routine. I’ve been hiking almost each day up Cowles Mountain and then spending most of the rest of the day studying for my ham radio license exams. I’m going to take both the technician test and the general test on the same day, in about a week. I took one day off from studying to take a first aid and CPR class with my niece. I’ve been able to spend time with my mother and my sisters’ families, and visit with Tom and Helen from Catatude and Jan and Alan from Kemo Sabe.

Next on the agenda is a quick trip back to Puerto Vallarta in a couple of days to take some measurements and photos that were lost when my phone died without being backed up. I’ll fly in, stay the night, work on the boat the next day and then fly back that night.

As soon as I complete my ham test, I’ll begin a week-long course on diesel engines, followed by a two-week course to prepare for a captain’s license, followed by a week-long course on outboard engines.

When I’m not in classes, I’ll be studying charts and weather patterns to plan for the trip to the South Pacific.

Gear and Preparation, Passages, People, Places

Year Two Has Begun

Flying the new spinnaker

Transiting back and forth between California and La Paz from late August to early November, I prepared for another year of cruising. The professionals in La Paz, Sergio, Will, Hector, Luis, Fabian and Arturo finished up their boat projects, and friends Chris and John came down from California to help. I now have more solar power, wind generation, WiFi in port and satellite Internet for weather offshore. In California I picked up needed parts and had dental work done. I also got a little bit of time to visit with friends and family, although it would have been nice to have more time.

I returned to La Paz on November 2 to make final preparations for the season. After each work day it was nice to hang out with Bobbi and Stephen from Sam Bassett or visit with old friends such as Bret and Marne on Liahona and Steve and Sherri on Pablo. Jane and Jerry McNaboe (from Aeolian) joined me on November 15 and we left La Paz two days later. After stopping at Costa Baja for fuel, we motor sailed straight to Isla Isabel. Winds were light so the two-day trip had only about four hours of sailing without the motor. But those four hours were a nice spinnaker run. We learned a lot of lessons about how to deploy the new asymmetrical spinnaker.

Aldabra at Isla Isabel

Isabel was calm and uncrowded. We hiked on the island through a forest of nesting frigates, over to the other side where the blue-footed boobies hang out. Afterward, we snorkeled near our boat on the east side of the island, where I got stung by something with long tentacles. It was painful at first but then was fine, except it looked like I had a tattoo.

Blue-footed boobies

Blue-footed boobie

More blue-footed boobies

We left very early on the morning of November 20 and arrived before dark at Punta de Mita, the northern point at the opening of Banderas Bay. We stayed the night there and then headed the two or so hours into the marina at Paradise Village. Although there had been very little wind and a lot of motoring, it had been a nice passage with warm winds, calm seas, stars and dolphins. And Jerry and Jane made it very easy and relaxed.

The next day was Thanksgiving, so we joined Jeff and Jules from El Gato and Dennis and Jerri from Ultegra at Arroyos Verdes, just above Bucerias. It was a nice dinner and a nice evening. Before Jane and Jerry moved off the boat on Sunday, to join their family at a nearby resort, they helped me with a lot of chores, although we did get a little bit of beach time. While they vacationed with their family, we did get a chance to take the whole group out for a very nice day sail, and I later joined them at their resort for a day of relaxation.

The docks in Paradise Village are filled with old friends as well as new arrivals, so it has been fun to catch up with everyone. I even ventured over to the Sunday market in La Cruz and got to see other old friends.

Today is Monday, December 4, and I have two new crew arriving. We plan to head out of Banderas Bay this afternoon and round Cabo Corrientes late tonight. The wish is for wind and minimal swell, although the forecast doesn’t include much wind. The goal is to get to Chamela tomorrow morning.

In closing this first blog post of the season, let me just say that I think about what’s going on in my home country every day. I’m grateful to my news sources when I have access to the Internet. With each new bit of news I feel sicker. It’s hard to reconcile this life of permanent vacation with the travesty that goes on every day.

 

 

Gear and Preparation, Nice to Haves, Places

Back in La Paz After Language School in Taxco

I got back to La Paz on August 17 after a little road trip followed by six weeks of language school in lovely Taxco, which I’ll tell you about shortly. But first, an update on Aldabra. While I was away, Sergio Galindo and his team were working on two important modifications to the boat. One is an arch on the stern, which holds additional solar panels, a mast for a wind generator and davits for the dinghy. They also repositioned where the outboard motor mounts when it’s not on the dinghy, created new mounts for antennas and made a new space for the BBQ so it doesn’t set the canvas on fire when in use. In addition, they built a new setup on the bow for my anchor and for the tack of my new asymmetrical spinnaker, which I will pick up in Santa Cruz in the next couple of weeks.

The dinghy davits will enable me to raise and lower the dinghy by myself when necessary. The additional solar panels and wind generator should allow me to charge the batteries while at anchor for long periods of time without running the motor. The bow setup will make it easier to raise and lower the anchor. And the asymmetrical spinnaker can be used without putting up the spinnaker pole. So all of these improvements will make life aboard much easier.

I arrived back in La Paz as the workers were installing the new arch

Looking aft toward the new arch

Since I got back to La Paz, I’ve also done a bit of work myself, even in this extreme heat. I installed an accumulator tank for my fresh water system to take some cycle time off the water pump. I was hoping it might solve a problem I have with a small amount of fresh water leakage, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. I still need to solve that mystery. I replaced the joker valve on one of the heads, which was really a good idea. I should have done it a long time ago. I cleaned part of the exterior of the boat in the aftermath of the arch construction. I serviced 3 of the 5 winches. And I pulled some antenna wire halfway through the boat (extracting it from bundles of wire) so I can rerun it from the arch. All of these were hot, sweaty jobs that took longer than one would imagine they should. In the middle of these jobs I would walk or take taxis to search for parts.

Chava, of La Paz Yacht Service just finished revarnishing my saloon table and my companionway steps. He’s going to do a bit of fiberglass repair for me once the wiring for the new solar panels is finished. Hector is about to get started on dinghy chaps for me. And Luis Cosio and his team will continue to look after the boat.

With all this work under control, I’m renting a car in a few days to drive up to California. I’ll take some things that I don’t want on the boat anymore. And in California, I’ll pick up several items that I can’t get in La Paz. Once I return in about a month, the wiring for the solar and wind generation can be installed. I’m looking forward to the three-day drive to the border (maybe that’s crazy) and to seeing friends and family in San Diego, LA and Santa Cruz.

So now I’ll backtrack a bit. After leaving La Paz at the end of June, I flew to Puerto Vallarta. I stayed in an air-conditioned room in Paradise Village for two nights. It felt like a bit of luxury after working so hard to get the boat secure for hurricane season. With zero responsibilities (temporarily), I joined Jeff and Jules from El Gato (and their dogs Chance and Roxie) for a little road trip. We drove to Guadalajara the first day and spent the night in an nice inn. There was a festival going on that night near the church, so we wandered through after dinner. The next day we drove to Cuernavaca by way of Mexico City. It was somewhat eventful in that we couldn’t get through Mexico City in the rental car because we didn’t have the necessary electronic pass to get us on the road south. After multiple attempts, all ending up in the wrong place, we backtracked and ended up on a scary mountain road at night, arriving rather late to our very nice little inn, as the only guests. The next day Jules and I walked twelve miles through town, not always in the best neighborhoods. And on our second night, the three of us took advantage of the hotel’s game room, with lots of three-way competitions playing things I’ve never played before, such as air hockey and roller ball.

From there it was a fast trip to Taxco, a must-visit colonial city. I think we were all charmed. Taxco is a densely populated hill town surrounded by forest. The cobblestone streets are steep, narrow and windy. It’s mostly known for silver mining and later the design and production of silver jewelry. You may have read about William Spratling from the U.S. who started the silver jewelry industry there in the 1930s. It took on a life of its own after that and enjoyed quite a run, although the silver business is a bit in decline now. There are a zillion vendors of silver jewelry now but some of it is unoriginal and much of it is cheap. It hasn’t helped that Taxco is in the state of Guerrero, which receives a lot of attention for drug violence. You hardly see any gringo visitors on the streets. Most of the tourists are from Mexico. (We never felt a threat to our safety.)

Five of us (two couples from two different cruising boats and me) rented a house in Taxco. The owner (Don Andres) is part of the silver trade. He had a history with Spratling and his shop represents some good designers. But his business isn’t what it once was. In any event, we enjoyed living in his house and were well looked after by a couple (Jaime and Carmen) who lived on the premises. (Toward the end of our stay, we met the daughter of a friend of Spratling. Her father had purchased Spratling’s house in Taxco and his ranch outside of Taxco. The purchase included many of the Spratling jewelry designs so she has kept up the tradition of producing many of his designs and maintaining his legacy. We went with Violente Ulrich to the ranch and enjoyed a tour and many interesting stories about those days gone by.)

Wandering through the grounds of the Spratling rancho outside of Taxco

Silver worker at the Spratling rancho, finishing up a Spratling-designed piece

The house we rented was in a typical residential barrio, about a 15 minute walk from school. We got acquainted with the various people in the barrio and felt quite at home.

The house we stayed in in Taxco

View from the back of the house

Looking up from the house toward the Christo statue

Here’s the Christo statue from up top

School was at the local branch of UNAM (CEPE), Mexico’s national university. The administration, the faculty and the staff were so welcoming and helpful. To give you an idea, when one of our group got sick enough to require hospital care, the faculty members considered it a given that they would reorganize teaching assignments for the morning so that the head of the Spanish program could accompany our sick comrade to the hospital. It didn’t actually come to that, but that is how kind and attentive the faculty is.

Two teachers and two students at our cooking event

Spanish teacher Lydia and dance teacher Olviedo Layo

Our group of 5 students

The school is in an historic complex that once was a monastery. The buildings are beautiful and the grounds include a garden of cactus and herbs use for healing and cooking. Summer is a quiet time, especially because drug violence has scared many North Americans away. So we had very small classes. One of our group, Jeff,  had six weeks of private beginning Spanish lessons with a wonderful instructor, Alecia. Two others, Jules and Rick were the only two students in Itzel’s basic Spanish class. And Cindy and I were joined by two young Canadian students (Dea and Myles) in our intermediate class, instructed by Jorge, the lead of the Spanish program. The four of us also had a literature class instructed by Iztel. The only other student, Renee from Canada, was in an advanced class. Other courses took place while we were there. A family from Washington state had their own private classes. And a group from Cal State Long Beach had some courses as a group. (And a summer camp of young children brightened up the campus for a few weeks.) But our instruction was very targeted and intense. The instructors laughed because they hadn’t before met 5 students of our age (between 50 an 65) who acted like their performance would determine the rest of their lives. Unlike the young Canadian students, we weren’t taking these classes for college credit. But we were all driven and obsessed and the teachers appreciated it. Jorge liked that he could bring up all kinds of topics in conversation (historical, cultural, artistic, political) and Cindy and I could engage with him. We took latin dance classes with Olviedo Layo, who is also the theater director. While we were there he directed a play written by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, who was born in Taxco in the 16th century.

Other cultural events occurred while we were in Taxco, including international film and guitar festivals. At the school we also participated in a cross-cultural event with young English students from Mexico as well as a cooking event. (We made apple pie.) We were so lucky to have this summer opportunity. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in language or culture.

Looking down on Taxco from the top of a hill

Another view of Taxco

Another view of Taxco

And another

And another

Looking down at the church in the zocalo

On any given evening you might see a celebration in the streets

Marching celebration

When we first stared our 6-week program, Jeff and Jules and I would take weekends for urban hikes around the city, and we covered a lot of ground. But a couple of things happened to curb our wanderings. First, our coursework was really intense, and each of us had enough studying to keep occupied all weekend. Second, our group members started to get sick. I had a couple of weeks of gastro discomfort. Jules got Zika, which made her a quite weak for more than a week. And Rick and Cindy got really sick with bacterial infections that send them to the hospital. Luckily, you can get great medical care in Taxco.

In closing, I have to mention the Volkswagen bugs, as we call them in the U.S.  In Taxco, they are called vochos. I wrote a little blog post about them in Spanish for the UNAM CEPE website. I have very fond childhood memories of Volkswagens: Bugs, buses, squarebacks, rabbits, etc. So I couldn’t believe when I got to Taxco that 90 percent of the cars there are vochos, Volkswagen bugs. I thought maybe all the bugs that had disappeared from U.S. streets had found a home in Taxco. But no, these bugs are originally from Taxco. There is a Volkswagen factory not too far away. Most of the taxis in Taxco are white VWs. And there are many private bugs of various colors, along with a few buses and other models. The vochos have so much gumption up the steep hills and so much personality. You can’t help but be charmed by them. Especially if you remember the first bug your father brought home for a family of 6 in 1966. Yes, we all fit in that little car.

One of many Taxco taxis on a typical street near the center of town

Another white vocho taxi coming up the hill toward the zocalo

The narrow streets require a lot of negotiation between vochos

No problem getting around tight corners with a bit of finesse. The take the front passenger seat out of the taxi for easy entry and exit. An typical ride in town is 25 pesos.

Gear and Preparation, Places

Getting Ready to Leave Banderas Bay

When my family came to visit in Banderas Bay, they brought some gear that I needed. So I’ve been able to replace a broken feedpump for my watermaker. With the help of my brother-in-law Brian, I was able to replace the faucet for the galley sink that had quit on me. And I’m almost ready to install new wheels for my new dinghy. We were about to install them before discovering that I need some metal pieces fabricated so that the wheels will fit on the dinghy. So those parts will be ready in two days, and then we’ll head south from Banderas Bay toward Zihuatanejo.

We plan to stop in Chamela, even though my good friends, Todd and Laura Russi, who have a home there won’t be there. (They were able to stop by the boat for the night on their way back to California and I’m hoping to see them in Chamela in March.) We also plan to stop in Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad before arriving in Zihuatanejo in early February.

After a few weeks in Zihuatanejo, I’ll start heading back north, aiming to get to the Sea of Cortez to spend the months of April, May and June there.

Gear and Preparation

Aldabra’s Spa Week

Aldabra on the hard in Shelter Island Boatyard

Aldabra on the hard in Shelter Island Boatyard

Aldabra was hauled out on Monday, September 12 for an inspection of thru hulls, cutlass bearing and rudder bearings. Also on the list were repacking the stuffing box, tuning the rigging, installing mast steps, servicing the engine and cleaning and waxing the hull. The rudder bearings and the cutlass bearing were deemed solid, but they’re replacing the cutlass bearing anyway, just because it may be 20 years old. And the thru hull valves were all lubricated.

The yard did a full inspection and we agreed that the shaft needed to be removed and sent to the machine shop for either repair or replacement. I’m waiting to hear which it will be. The rigger also did an inspection and will be making some adjustments to the boom, spinnaker pole and mast, along with the tuning and mast-step installation. Because of the delay caused by the shaft, I decided to have them paint the bottom and remove and replace the stripe and name on the hull. The bottom painting wasn’t due for another year, but this way I can forget about it for 3 years. After all the work is done, a marine surveyor will do a survey report, which is helpful for insurance and any marinas I visit.

While Aldabra is out of the water, my niece Emily and I have been installing netting inside the boat and buzzing around Shelter Island to break in the dinghy motor.

Gear and Preparation

View From the Mast

Looking down at Aldabra from halfway up the mast

Looking down at Aldabra from halfway up the mast

This shot was taken as I was doing some work halfway up the mast. You can see several of Aldabra’s solar panels. There are also two more on the rails that are folded down at the moment. We’re pretty sure these panels will handle most of my electrical needs. You can also see on the deck the yellow jugs for extra diesel fuel (and one red for gasoline) that will be stored on the deck because there is never enough storage inside a boat.

Gear and Preparation

Almost ready to leave

After a few years of preparation, Aldabra (a 1997 Catalina 42 Mk II) is nearly ready to leave Santa Cruz and set sail for parts south. We recently did a test sail to the San Francisco Bay and back and everything worked. With a month to go, we’re finishing up some projects before I move all my gear onboard to set sail.

This has been no small undertaking and I’m forever in debt to Jim Foley and Chris Bryant. Jim has ingeniously done most of the refitting himself and coached me at every step. Chris has done major electrical work in cramped quarters for the solar and battery management as well pumps, fans and lights and switches. He’s also cleaned up a lot of the previous wiring. I also got great help from marine-industry professionals. Matthew Coale did the rerigging, installed new navigation lights and coached me on rebedding hatches and replacing the steering cable. Johnson Hicks installed the new navigation and communication electronics, Monterey Bay Canvas did the canvas and upholstery, SeaTech Systems configured the laptop with electronic charts and a host of useful software, Homer Lighthall did fiberglass repairs and John Poole installed the refrigeration system.

This doesn’t mean that all the projects have been completed. Here’s what will have been done and what will still be on the list for completion, perhaps in San Diego.

Power

New Yanmar 56HP diesel engine, transmission, ventilation, fuel/water separation filter, diesel generator and fuel tank removed, seven solar panels and controller installed and connected to Ample Power system, new AGM batteries installed, new inflatable and outboard motor, with towing line and anchor.

Sail

New mainsail and jib, used 3 oz. genoa added to sail inventory, which includes spinnaker, second jib and drifter. Storm sails in new condition were already on the boat. We also have a sea anchor and drogue.

Rigging

Standing rigging replaced, lifelines replaced, much of running rigging replaced, steering cable and chain replaced, winch mounted on mast, boom bails replaced, installed boom preventer.

Ground tackle

New Manson Supreme anchor with rode and snubber added to secondary bow anchor and stern anchor, new Maxwell windlass installed.

Water

Fresh water system refurbished (hoses, fixtures, pumps and fittings), Spectra watermaker refurbished and reinstalled, hot water heater replaced.

Waste

Waste system refurbished (heads, hoses, pumps).

Navigation

Navigation lights replaced with LEDs, new B&G system installed (autopilot, chartplotters, broadband radar, AIS, forward scanning sonar), back-up CPT autopilot installed, paper charts and cruising guides

Communications

New VHF radio, SSB radio with Pactor modem, Iridium satphone, WiFi booster, on-board PC with backup laptop

Exterior

New cockpit cushions, bimini, dodger and sail covers, sun screens, nearly all hatches removed, refurbished and reinstalled.

Interior

New interior cushions and upholstery, all interior lights replaced with LEDs, cabin fans installed, screens for all hatches repaired

Galley

Freezer rebuilt, new Sea Frost refrigeration and freezer systems installed, galley floor replaced, new oven/stove

Safety

New Viking 6-person liferaft mounted on deck, jacklines and deck fittings installed, ditch bag assembled with EPIRB, VHF radio, portable watermaker, signaling gear, fishing gear, medical kit, food, etc., personal AIS/strobe devices for crew on watch, emergency bilge pump

Convenience gear added

Cordless electric winch handle, flopper stopper, rail-mounted step

Other gear onboard

Dive gear, reference books, cookware, photography equipment, emergency tiller, spare prop

Remaining on the list: mast steps mounted, interior storage systems installed throughout boat (fabric and netting), rainwater cache system, complete cleanup of electrical wiring, and of course fix everything that breaks along the way