Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas in Guaymas

2000, 26 December 2014 - Alongside Fonatur docks, Guaymas

Well Christmas is done, the lights and tree have been stowed in the bilge locker for another year and Gosling is ready to sail. (that was the plan)....
We have had a nice Christmas here with the other cruisers at the docks. There are 4 other boats and Ian and Ellen in their van up in the parking lot. They were here for the past 2 nights so that they could participate in the pot lucks and fun but have now departed for their road trip. Christmas Eve was on Golden Heart, (Cynthia and Lee from Duncan, BC) hosted the gang and Fran’s tourtiere was a hit, as always. Christmas dinner was on Gosling with a Pollo De Navidad, a Mexican Christmas staple, a chicken marinated in fruit juices that cooks to the most delicious chicken you will ever taste. To back that up Ian made up a South African dish, babutti (sp), a lightly curried meatloaf. All this topped off with Fran’s trifle, liberal amounts of tequila, mescal, wine and Ellen’s homemade Baileys. How we were able to play Mexican Train afterwards is anyone’s guess. We wrapped it all up at about 21:30 after a round of Tums. Good thing we stocked up with the Costco bonus container before we left the US.

Greg and Janis (Gitana), Ian and Elln (Kasasa) Christmas dinner in Gosling
You want what for Christmas??????
Today, after the tree was taken down from the bow, we were able to set up, the genoa on the furler, the last of our sails to rig. The rig was tuned last week so, essentially, we are ready to go. We did a total wash-down yesterday to get rid of the remainder of the boatyard dust and the crap that keeps coming down from an osprey that has taken up residence on top of our neighbour’s mast. When the wind is just right he lands a stream of white crap right over us. If the boat wasn’t occupied he’d be getting a few slingshot loads up the oiseau (yes, I know, French for bird, but appropriate here, huh?)Thankfully we have lots of water here at the dock so wash-downs are easy.
Not much happening on the Malecon this year, in fact, it has been really quiet. There is a go-card outfit that has set up shop but he isn’t getting much business, unlike the skating rink that was here 4 years ago. Locals are walking around all bundled up in jeans and parkas while we Norte-Americano gringos are still in shorts and t-shirts. They don’t seem to notice. We will soon have to give in if the temperatures keep dropping. Days are comfortable but evenings get quite chilly and the 3 comforter nights are the standard now.
We are still being plagued by antenna problems. The VHF radio has been acting up and a VSWR test has revealed that the cable we installed last month is suspect.
20:30, 30 December, Same location
We spoke too soon…. When Omar came to do the valve clearances he discovered a problem that has now been sorted out. It has taken a few days but he is very much in demand and we have to wait our turn. The VHF radio that we thought was working OK at launch turned out not to be. The techs were called back and they found a short in the masthead plug and we now have excellent range and reception. This time alongside has given us the time to get a few more small projects done, mostly cosmetic in nature and normally not critical enough to earn too many ‘round to it’ points. The main accomplishment has been the re-design and installation of the anchor chain fairlead. The Bugel anchor that we obtained in Panama was not compatible with the original fairlead and needed an extension to get it away from the bow. We had lots of scrapes after last year’s trip, all of which were touched up by Francisco last month. The new fairlead is a modified cantilever arrangement with a heavily modified stainless steel fairlead adapted to the existing bronze arrangement. Ken (Naughty Moments) may be able to recognize it as his old one. It hasn’t had a trial by fire yet but we hope to be reporting positive results in the next blog after we use it a few times. Fran has been busy creating a new batch of sourdough starter, making a bunch of ‘bake-in-the-mason-jar’ rum cakes that she has been handing out as Christmas and New Year gifts. She also began making ocean plaits after asking other boaters on the dock for old halyards. While doing the laundry she showed one of the halyard donors how to make one. Now, Fran is  of this as a nice change from chair caning……. She also made a new set of fender covers.

Modified standard fairlead (sorry no 'pre' photo)
Installed with original pin and sheave
Set to go with added protection of a stainless sheet 'bib'.

New tan fender covers

Ocean plait - our new gate mat.
We have had a wonderful few weeks here. Canadian boats have outnumbered the American boats for most of the time but we are now equal and we have added a few more invitees to the Annual Cruisers’ Party at our place next August. The cruising camaraderie is a special bond that is not easy to describe but it is real and enduring as many will attest.

Well, if all goes according to plan we will be sailing southwest tomorrow morning towards Bahia Conception or San Juanico. Pura Vida (Mike and Judie from Portland, OR) should be in company. It is tempting to remain here for New Year’s Eve but these delays have gone on long enough, and besides, the winds should be good for a crossing tomorrow. For the next few weeks we will be in poor internet conditions. We will be in La Paz by the 17th to pick up our son and daughter-in-law for a few weeks of cruising the islands.

Now if that pesky Arctic air can deviate a bit further north so that we can get some decent warmth back to this country......

Fran, J-G, Gosling and Rosie (in Kelowna) wish you a happy and prosperous New Year, filled with love and happiness. All the best for 2015. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Finally waterborne!

21:30, 12 December 2014, Still in Gabriel’s yard

Hard to believe that we are still here, on the hard after almost 6 weeks but we see the tunnel, and maybe the light at the end. Not sure, as it might be a train coming but there is a light…..

The mast is up and the lights, VHF and wind systems are working, the painting is finished and we have begun to get at the list of chores to ready us for a mid-week splash next week. Over the weekend we will get the bottom paint done and shift any excess stuff to the truck and trailer where it will be stored until we get back. Early next week we will move the truck and trailer to a storage location in San Carlos where we stored the van when we were here last. In a way we will miss the crowded comfort of our little Casita on wheels with our dusty patio and party lights, but the indescribable feeling of being afloat will make up for it until it is time to return here. It will be time to strike out the Christmas tree and the decorations for the last week before Christmas. We hope to be in Bahia Conception for the holidays.

Our visit to Alamos was a very nice change to the daily drudgery of the boatyard.Alamos is a beautiful colonial town that appears to have been bypassed by progress as we know it. It has been the domain of the rich for decades, fueled by the rich silver mines that surround it. It has the requisite church and associated park with its requisite band shell, indoor market which spills out into the adjacent streets, a few trinket shops and a set of carnival rides to support the religious festival that was occurring while we were there. The main part of the town is made up of huge squares bordered by streets. Like many of the colonial Mexican towns each square is divided into properties with living quarters built around a courtyard. Over the past century this town has been discovered by Americans and upper class Mexicans. Entire squares have been bought and combined into mega homes with absolutely stunning courtyards. Our hotel was one of these, a combination of 4 properties painstakingly redeveloped over the past 20 years by an American entrepreneur and his family. The Hotel Los Alamos is now one of the top 5 star mid-sized hotels in the world.
Our hotel, Hacienda de Los lamos

The bar had over 560 different tequilas and mescals ranging from $5 to $125/shot.
We tried the $10 cheapies and loved them.

07:30, 18 December, Last day on the hard.

Yahoo! We are splashing in a few hours!!! Our work has progressed to the point that we can do the remaining bits afloat. The hull has received its coat of anti-fouling, seacocks have been serviced, the engine has been run up, anchor and dinghy recovered and the mess of accumulated junk around the boat picked up and trashed. Amazing how the stuff collects. My precious saw horses have been adopted by friends who will store them for us until our return in April.

We moved back aboard Gosling 3 days ago and, yesterday we made the final commitment by driving the truck and trailer to San Carlos and putting them in the storage yard for the next 4 months. The Casita was a comfortable alternative and we are glad we had it while working on the boat. Thanks to Ian(Kasasa) for driving us back to the boatyard otherwise it would have been a long and complicated bus adventure.

Our plan, today, is to go directly to the Fonatur docks, as is our normal routine after a stay at Gabriel’s yard, to clean the yard dust and grime, complete the rigging (including tuning of the rig), installing the main and genoa and completing the transition from our summer storage state to a proper sailboat. We also have the techs coming back to finish some work on Saturday. The time there will also allow us to start on the list of mall projects that seem to pop up continuously. On that list is varnishing the woodwork, a recurring chore for all boaters. Thankfully we have very little exterior teak, but what we have is still a pain to maintain.

Ian and Ellen will be splashing on Tuesday and Fran overheard Ian saying that he was preparing a Christmas Eve South African meal. (He is in a quandary though. Normally the main dish is elephant…..) The thought of something exotic (not the elephant) was sufficient to have her insist on another change of plan.  Now we are spending Christmas with them at the Fonatur docks and will be leaving for the Baja side on the 27th (the 26th is a Friday, bad karma to leave on a Friday….)

Better get ready for the lift.
Prepping the slings
Lifting. Note the left front tire... scarey but OK (after the fact)
Gosling, back in her natural element
20:30, 19 December, Fonatur dock, Guaymas

It is a howling black-ass night out there but the wind in the rigging is music to our ears (OK, it is irritating at times) and the slight rock of the boat is nice after all these weeks of anticipation.

Our launching went well. It is always a scary sight to see your home away from home transported from the relative safety of the yard to the water by a contraption that appears on its last legs, but appearances are deceiving and we made it without a hitch. Once lowered into the “ditch” we did the rounds of the likely places for a leak to happen and, apart from a slight drip at the “dripless shaft seal” (which disappeared after the shaft began to turn) all was well. The straps were released and, with help from the travel lift crew we turned Gosling around and headed into the bay. 25 minutes later we were nestled into a slip at the Fonatur docks and began our list of outstanding chores beginning with repairing a leak that we discovered halfway here. It wasn’t where we expected a leak and it probably didn’t open up until we began to motor over but it was sufficient to get the bilge pump operating a few times. Sometimes you have to be a contortionist to work on a boat and this was one of those jobs, a worn out fitting linking some drains to a seacock under the engine room deck and behind the water heater. My multitude of spares (the cruiser packrat syndrome) came in handy this time and the problem was resolved after a few scraped knuckles, swearing and a bucket of sweat, oh yes, and a t-fitting, some hose that I got from Steve (Warren Peace) last year and a few clamps. Better than new!

Today the mainsail was rigged, Forestay reconnected (it had to be removed for the travel lift), the boat washed down, outboard tested and the boat readied for “tech Friday”. Omar will be here to tune up the engine, Salvador will be checking the systems he installed last week and Jesus will be tuning the rig.

Apart from the wind it is very quiet for a Friday night in downtown Guaymas. Mind you it is a cold evening. Fran like to gauge the nights by the number of duvets we use. She had 3 last night, but then she hasn’t been feeling all that well lately. For the last few days she has been having stomach pains and trouble sleeping. Yesterday she decided to seek medical advice. At a nearby walk-in clinic she was seen by a physician who did a very thorough examination and gave her a prescription, all for a $3.00 fee (no typo, three dollars). The drugs were almost 8 times that much, and, 24 hours later, we are happy to report that she seems to be on the mend.

We were surprised to learn that Phil (Manasea) is in the yard here. He just launched last week from the same location as us but found some leaks on his way over. He was hoping to get south for Christmas but now it looks like his repairs will scuttle that plan.
Only in Mexico, a truckload of piƱatas

20:00 the following evening, Fonatur docks.

After a very windy night and morning the air is very still but this blow is supposed to last for another few days. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a better night’s sleep tonight. Shit, just as I write this I can hear the wind picking up… Well the Christmas tree is anchored in place with lots of lines. Last year the top actually blew off and I had to go diving after it. That won’t happen this year. The water is too freaking cold, and, besides we have lashed it together quite well.

Another busy day and much accomplished. The BBQ is back in operation after a rebuild with a new burner and other bits and the main outboard is working great after a carburetor cleaning. Seems to need one every year on our return, even though we drain the fuel out of it before we leave. The Christmas tree is up and lit, the electronics are working as well as can be expected. We will have to live with a reduced VHF range until the new antenna arrives in the New Year. Fran is feeling better and all is well with the world. Oh, yes, and the malecon is absolutely quiet, a rare event for a Saturday night.

Today is our youngest son, Michael’s 40th birthday. God, we are old!! Happy Birthday Mikey. In mid-April 1974, HMCS Skeena returned to Halifax from a spring deployment in the Caribbean, the magic happened, and Chris slept through it all….

Next blog will be delayed until we reach some sort of efficient internet capability. Once we leave here we will be heading to the Baja where service leaves a lot to be desired.

Merry Christmas everyone and the very best in the New Year.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Has it been a month already?

21:00 Saturday, 29 Nov 2014 Still on the hard

Stifling yawns at 21:00 and Fran asking me to get my ass to bed. This is the cruising lifestyle when lights out is a few hours after sunset (3 hours in our case) and the entire boatyard population is quiet and, all are most likely, already asleep. Just a few lines and I will follow suit.

Whoever coined the phrase ”One step fwd, 2 steps back” must have been a sailor. It has been a week of stepping back and forth with projects hitting glitches because of a variety of reasons, and now it is Saturday. Gabriel only allows workers to be in the yard a half day on Saturdays. To top it all off it is dense fog out there, with lots of dew. That means that the masking and primer work for our upper deck touch-up work isn’t going to be done this morning. Francisco (our painter) needs the humidity level below 30% and, although, the weather has been ideal all week, he was occupied on other projects. So, now we are hoping for a dry sunny beginning to next week.

We have accomplished a few things this week. The mast is down and resting on my homemade saw horses and the parts needed to rewire the mast have been ordered or purchased. The wire alone for the masthead light set, 52 ft of AWG 12 in 4 colours and a 30 ft piece of 3 lead AWG 12 for the steaming and deck light added up to well over $300 at the only source in San Carlos. The VHF wire is still outstanding and it will be available on Tuesday. The problem we had passing the new lead for the wind indicator was very obvious once we had the mast opened up. Most masts have an inner tube where such wires are passed to protect them from chaffing by the lines that run in the mast core and to stop them from rattling. Kemp masts of Southampton (UK) had a unique solution for this. The inside of the mast has a track, similar to the track for the sail on the outer side. Initially the one inch aluminum tube had a series of slugs attached and these slid up the track and, voila, a solid, non-moving protective shield through which the wires had been passed, only our tube had become detached and had slid down to the mast base. When we removed the mast we found shorted wires and evidence that the lightning damage had affected the tube, its fasteners and its contents.
OK, Fran try to look like you are enjoying waxing the mast!!
20:00 Sunday, Same place

The replacement tube is finished. Spent most of the day on the 56 ft of 1 ½ in PVC tubing. The slugs are attached, sections glued and riveted and it is ready to be inserted into the mast. Tomorrow we get the wiring bundled and ready to send up the tube. The mast has been waxed and polished, the standing rigging has been cleaned, blocks serviced and all corroded fasteners on a variety of fittings replaced. Curious passers-by have been satisfied by my BS and all is well with the world; and we actually took some time off this weekend. Yesterday we spent much of the afternoon with Bill, Linda, Ellen and Ian at the Soggy Peso, a beach bar at Algadones Beach where Catch 22 was filmed. We finished the afternoon off with a sundowner at our patio; a 12x12 outdoor carpet from Walmart, folding chairs and table, froo-froo lights above, cocktails and nibblies, all this while they are digging out from the first snowfall back home. Life is grand….

New PVC tube

Old aluminum tube (with gravel...)
Slide and slug arrangement

With sunset at 17:45 nights are long. Good thing we have lots of movies and TV series to watch. Just finished the first season of Hell on Wheels. Great series!!

21:30, 2 December, haven’t moved….

A frustrating few days but tomorrow should be better. The painting was begun yesterday with most of the upper-deck large surfaces. The colour is off slightly due to the aging of the initial coat but the remainder will be adjusted to match. Francisco is being run off his feet with all of the projects he has and today the humidity was too high for him to continue our job. We’d rather wait for ideal conditions than to have him rush the job. Tomorrow we should have the mast all ready to re-install but the painting schedule will dictate when that will happen. We made some progress today obtaining bottom paint and prepping the prop for its annual treatment. This year we will try non-ablative bottom paint. Another technique gaining popularity is to heat up the prop and apply Lanacote to the hot surfaces but Lanacoat is a scarce item here. Maybe next season.

Ready for paint
Francisco mixing paint. Notice his high-tech equipment!
Somehow it all comes together.
19:30, Saturday, 6 December 2014, same, same

PROGRESS!! Yes, indeed, the last few days have seen some definite progress. The mast is ready and will be re-rigged next Wednesday. Jesus and Salvador were impressed with my tube and even more so when it went in without a hiccup. Passing the wires through was an easy process after that. Meanwhile Francisco was finally able to paint the trim surfaces and the hull. All that remains is the non-skid fixes and he hopes to do that on Monday or Tuesday, weather permitting.
Jesus (rigger) and Salvador (electrician) Mast is ready!!

Last night was the annual Christmas parade in Guaymas. These are nothing like what you’d expect up north. It seems like every children organization; kindergartens, schools, clubs, etc. dress up their wards in some Christmas theme, put them in the back of a truck or a trailer towed by a truck (with a massive sound system in the back blaring out some form of Christmas carols) and parades them down the main street of town. There are the odd school band, a few floats (with more kids), ambulances, fire trucks and police cars, driven by the lucky ones who weren’t required for crowd control (supervisors probably) and an occasional glimpse of Santas (with really lousy beards). The street is packed with crowds milling around for a good view while masses of policeman try to push the crowds back to the sidewalks. Interspersed in the milling throngs are food carts, carts full of cheap Chinese light-up crap, balloon clowns, candy apple and candy floss sellers and a handful of local entrepreneurs selling baked goods out of Tupperware containers. For reasons unknown, it takes forever for the parade to wind its way down the street. By the end of the first hour we had had enough and squeezed our way through the crowd to our favourite taco stand. Then we had to do the trek back through the crowds on the Malecon to the car. The food carts here are bigger and have churros, fried bananas, corn (plastered with sour cream, cheese and whatever fire-pepper juice you want to apply, bags of chips and cheezies that you also spice up with fire juice and wonderful hot dogs that have to be sampled to be appreciated. We settled for the churros, essentially a straight piece of donut with your choice of cream, goat milk caramel, chocolate sauce or strawberry puree. Ain’t Mexico grande….

Big day in San Carlos today; swap meet at 8AM followed by the annual Christmas bazaar on the waterfront at the marina. Essentially more junk, but nicer and most of it hand-made instead of coming out of a shipping container from China. Fran just loves this event while I am much happier at the swap meet.

Tomorrow, something entirely different. We are off on a bus tour to Los Alamos, a small town about 3 hours north-west of here. The tour is organized by Mike Mulligan, a local (and well known in the US) balladeer in the style of Jimmy Buffet. It was a good opportunity to get bonus points from Fran when the offer came up, especially with her birthday coming up on Wednesday. It will be good to get away from the boat for a few days and sample more culture. No more Christmas parades, please!