02/04/2011, Acapulco, Mexico
Our good friends Alex & Hugo with the crew of the S/V Lisa Kay
February 4, 2011
Still In Acapulco
The best part about sending out our updates is hearing back from all of you! It keeps us connected and it helps us not feel so alone. We also love hearing everyone else's updates when they write back. Thank you, thank you family and friends! However, many say," I'm glad you're having so much fun". But, it really isn't fun...I mean sometimes it is...some days I feel like the luckiest person in the world, but it's not like we just walk around ha-ha'ing all the time. Much of our time/challenge of living on a boat is trying to keep our selves happy, and having a purpose in life. No... let me re-phrase that...by keeping ourselves from falling into the deep, dark, hole of depression because we feel like we have NO control over our lives. Because let me tell you, being stuck somewhere (sometimes a less than desirable place) due to mechanical issues or weather, is a tough thing psychologically. Now, we each deal with this hopeless feeling in our own special way. Ben, well just let him fish with some guys, or jump in the water and swim, or scrub the side of the boat a little, and well he's happy. For me, let me walk to the grocery store (Ooh, I feel so independent!), maybe stopping along the way and give the homeless man 100 pesos for him and the kitties he's feeding, and I'm happy. Larry, I'm not sure...he's pretty much happy as long as we are. And for all of us, to feed a hungry, homeless animal brings us great joy. After living a year in Mexico, we have probably only been asked for money by a homeless person maybe 2 or 3 times, and one of those being an American tourist. In Fremont, Ca I would be asked probably 2 or 3 times a day if I was out running around doing errands. Go figure. So, we trod on, each one of us trying to find purpose in our day. Larry is still nursing his badly injured arm. Thank God we are still in Acapulco. Thank God we have Hugo and Alex, the gentlemen who oversee the mooring ball we are attached to, who will see us from a quarter of a mile away carrying groceries and will run to help. Who check in with us daily to see if we are okay. Who try to teach me Spanish. Who will take us or pick up for us anything we might need. Who love to take Ben out fishing. We have shared many meals together with them, including them bringing their wives on our boat for dinner. Neither of us spoke each other's language, but we became fast friends. Thank God we came to Acapulco. Finding a competent, honest mechanic (through Hugo and Alex), which are few and far between, has saved us what would have been an inevitable disaster down the road. So, yes, even though we are getting antsy to leave again because we feel stuck with our engine problems not being solved, we also feel very blessed.
From the notes of Larry:
We have an 8,000 watt generator powered by a three cylinder diesel engine. It began overheating and would automatically shut down. It circulates sea water through a heat exchanger which cools the fresh water that is circulated through the engine by a water pump. The sea water output seems to be diminished so I thought the raw water impeller was bad. Should be a simple fix. After pulling the impeller (from a spot smaller than the head of a needle) it looked fine. Still we are overheating. Hmmm, can't use that 110v water maker I just spent 10 days installing. Oh, and we can't fill up at the dock... cause we're not at one! Belt is new, water pump looks good, but still heating up. Time for the mechanic because I can't turn a wrench now with my left hand, and did I tell you I'm left handed? Mechanic pulls the thermostat out and tries it, because you really don't need one here, it's always warm, so no need for the thermostat to stay closed to heat up the engine. No change. Must be the heat exchanger. So he pulls it and takes it to the heat exchanger spa for an acid bath. Back the next day, put it all together, refill with coolant, and it overheats again. Come to find out after looking at the manual, there is a second part of the heat exchanger. Pull that out and take it to the heat exchanger spa for another treatment. Meanwhile, we are having to the use main engine (glad I installed that engine driven compressor) to run our 110v refrigerator/freezer. Did I mention Lisa just stocked us up with food for the next leg of our trip? After our second part returns from the spa our generator now runs flawlessly.
Now in the back of my mind I'm wondering when, if ever, the main engine heat exchanger was ever flushed, cleaned, or even checked, for that matter. After a quick conference with Lisa we discuss the fact that we have a knowledgeable mechanic, he speaks fluent English, we are in a city of 1.5million people (some of whom may own a parts store), and are sailing into Central America. We will be crossing into a very dangerous gale prone area with few marinas until we reach Panama, a few thousand nautical miles down the coast. OK, let's have some preventative maintenance done on our main engine. Having it shut down due to dirty fuel 5 miles off shore on our last leg was let's say... a little exciting. That kind of excitement I don't need again. So, our Belizian mechanic goes to work pulling the air cooling unit that feeds the fuel injectors (didn't know we had that), the oil cooling unit which cools our engine oil (didn't know we had that) and leaves the heat exchanger on. He looked in the hole and thought it look pretty clean. Go figure! After pulling all these parts you can now see our turbo charger. He calls me over to it and invites me to spin the fans blades with a screw driver. The unit is totally frozen. This explains our lack of top end speed and our inability to get more than about 2,100 rpms out of the engine. Prior to learning this, several "experts" told us our feathering propeller was taking to big a bite out of the water, therefore restricting the rpm's we could get out of the engine. Thought we needed to adjust it next time we have the boat pulled out of the water. Well, at least we know the cause and we are glad we decided to go ahead with the work. So the air and oil coolers go to the parts spa for their treatments and the turbo charger gets rebuilt. All the parts are back the next day and the mechanic, along with Alex and Hugo, spend the day reinstalling them. The mechanic insisted on a test cruise so off we go. And go we do, really fast, our 64,000lb boat has more speed than ever! But, now whenever we go above 2,100 rpm's the engine overheats. Arrrggghhh!!!!
Back to the drawing board. He pulls the fuel injectors and they look like the inside of a chimney, full of soot, really dirty. He sends those to the "laboratory" for a cleaning. They return the next day and reinstall them. He also brings a 5 gallon jug of "special cleaning stuff" to run through the fuel pump. So he takes the fuel lines off and puts them in the jug and out to sea we go. Unfortunately we get really good mileage so it takes hours of running off the coast to burn all this cleaner, which makes the boat belch black smoke out the exhaust. Lisa is great, she is making lunch for us all. We see our first whale jump totally out of the water, time after time until I grab the camera of course! Meanwhile the engine is still overheating. Arrrgghh again!!!!!! He now has us shut down the engine about 2 miles off shore, let's it cool down a little and pulls the thermostat out. We start it up and it proceeds to overheat again.
Okay, back to our mooring ball. Out comes the heat exchanger, off comes the water pump, and off comes the exhaust elbow which is full of exhaust stuff. The exhaust elbow goes to the acid spa with the heat exchanger. Mechanic shows up the next day with the water pump that checks out great, the now clean heat exchanger, and bad news about the exhaust elbow. After the stuff was taken out a hole was found in the liner. This was allowing salt water into the turbocharger, now we know why it seized up, and the blockage was so severe not enough sea water was being discharged to cool the engine.
Mind you, with each one of these steps (thinking the problem will be fixed), we are mentally preparing for a 35 hour trip to Huatulco, leaving very early in the morning as to arrive during daylight the next day. I'm starting to feel a little bipolar. Arrrgghh again!!!! So, the exhaust elbow repair man was supposed to have it repaired the next night at 6pm. That didn't happen. Maybe tomorrow????? But then of course we couldn't leave tomorrow even if they do fix it because our launch window will be closed. Our best chance for escape now is SuperBowl Sunday. Good thing that satellite TV dish works off shore!!!!
Well, elbow makes it back to the boat Saturday afternoon, is installed, and test drive goes beautifully! Huatulco here we come!
From the notes of Lisa:
Now you feel our pain!
01/26/2011, Acapulco, Mexico & Ghost Ships!!!
Ben's 73lb BIG fish!!!
January 26, 2011
On to Acapulco
With the water maker installed we bid farewell to Ixtapa and made an 18 hour passage to Acapulco. We always feel sad saying goodbye to the people and places that we've stayed for more than a few weeks, however it does feel good arriving in a new area to be explored. We've been warned fervently about Acapulco. Drug cartel, mafia, dirty, crowded. Yeah...I'm sure it's all that. But, it's also cool, old, and bustling. Floating on our mooring ball in the evenings is like sitting in a bowl of diamonds, with all of the twinkling lights. This is the first place since I can remember that we have not been eaten alive by mosquitoes and no-seeums, and actually can sit out at night. We have become very close with two gentlemen that over see some of the mooring balls in this anchorage, Hugo and Alex. They have taken a particular liking to Ben and his passion for fishing. On a deep sea fishing trip he took with them today he got to help pull in his first sailfish! Alex and Hugo have also been helpful in...yes folks...more repairs on our boat. I know...you're shocked! We just had a little engine problem several hours out of Ixtapa, well okay...the engine actually stopped...and we just drifted for awhile (no wind), but my amazing husband fixed it, at least enough for us to move on safely. Oh yeah, and when the generator also decides to stop working, well then you have problems with such things as power, refrigeration, not being able to run the new water maker etc... and so the saga continues!
A very wise woman recently told me how she thought that this new journey in Larry's life, meaning water, was the perfect compliment to his career in fire. Hmmm...thank you for that Margalit. I think you are right. I'm glad I get to come along for the ride!
Now the Ghost Ship part: If you look on Google Earth you at the Lat/Long shown above you can see the "Ghost Ships" on the bottom of the harbor.
01/14/2011, Ixtapa, Mexico
Night shot of Ixatapa Marina with S/V Stolen Kiss nosed into her slip!
January 14, 2011
Ixtapa and Morelia
How time ticks by. Happy New Year everyone! As much as we missed our families and friends for the holidays, we had a very nice Christmas here in Ixtapa and have really enjoyed the company of some of the other cruisers and crew that are here. We truly are like a little family and I cannot even express how good the camaraderie feels. Thank you Pax Nautica, Royal Albatross, Yat Ta Hey, and Adam and Zuzanna!
We have been busy though! The windless is fixed for the anchor. Also, one of the cars that run the main sail up and down the mast that came off on the way to Ixtapa is fixed, and the autopilot that stopped working on the way down here as well has been fixed by my amazing husband. You do know the definition of cruising don't you? Fixing your boat in exotic locations! And that is what we do best! Our new water maker (yes folks...45 gallons an hour this puppy makes!) arrived several weeks ago and Larry has been installing it for ten days. It is a huge job. There is a lot to be said for all of these mishaps, he is learning about this boat from the inside out, literally. But he is so crippled from tendon damage in his arm from having to hand raise the anchor so many times that the work is going painfully slow. Once again our buddy boat Santosha has moved on. We do however hope to catch up in the near future.
A highlight for Larry, Ben, and I was a three night inland trip we took just after Christmas. We took a luxury bus (big reclining cushy seats with foot rests, TV's for each passenger with a large selection of movies, documentaries, and internet, a beautiful bus attendant in high heels and all serving sodas, waters, chips and candy and...get this folks...cocktails!) The bathrooms were immaculate. It was amazing! So our five hour trip to the beautiful colonial city of Morelia cost us a whopping $37.50 each. Now, this was a rather adventurous thing for us to do, seeing as we really weren't sure where we were going, with no reservations, we just had one thing in mind...Monarch butterflies. Morelia had also just been the scene of a huge battle between drug cartels where they were literally turning over trucks and vehicles and setting them on fire to close off access for the police and the federali's to the city. There is so much fear brought on by the media that I have to say it is somewhat infectious. But we try to not let that influence us so we ask everyone, friends, tourists, taxi drivers, waiters, I mean everyone, "Would you go?" All but one said yes! So we went, and it turned out to be one the best trips we have ever taken. We stayed in the downtown historic section that reminded us of being in Europe. Morelia was founded in 1541 and its' historic area is a Unesco World Heritage site. The Hotel Virrey de Mondoza where we stayed was a spectacular old home renovated into a hotel with original walls dating back to the 1500's. We loved it and Ben was convinced it was haunted! After a lovely dinner at an outdoor restaurant on the town square with a view of the magnificent lit up church, the waiter helped set us up with a tour for the next day to the El Rosario Sanctuary of the monarch butterflies. Score! We did it! There are just a few things in life, such as Laguna San Ignacio where the mother gray whales give birth to their young that we stopped at on our way down the Baja, and now the butterflies here that we know if we don't stop and see them now, chances are we would never come back.
So, let me tell you why this "super generation" of butterflies is so special. This generation lives up to eight months, where the others only for one to two months. They have been coming to this area in Mexico for thousands of years, from Dec. - March, swarming and living in the pine trees, eventually mating in February. The males then die off and the females begin their migration north to Canada in March, depositing their eggs along the way and then they too die off. The new generation is born, depositing their eggs as they continue north and the cycle continues until the fourth generation which again will be the "super generation"! First of all, it is just fascinating that through some kind of genetic memory the subsequent generations know to return here year after year. Secondly, it is just incredibly beautiful and surreal to see these clusters of colorful butterflies in the trees and flying all around you, often landing on you. The pictures that you see just don't do them justice. We are so glad we went. The added benefit of this was that being on a small group tour, we got to meet people that were from other parts of the world and we had very interesting conversations. The ride was about 2 ½ hours each way, which went by surprisingly fast as we climbed from about 6ooo to 9000 feet. Some of the small villages we drove through reminded me of driving through the Alps. When our driver/tour guide made a stop along the way and insisted we buy chocolate for energy I knew this was the trip for me! Once we arrived at the sanctuary, having been at sea level just the day before, it is a bit of a shock on the system. And, it is cold! But, we managed just fine to hike the next 1000 and something feet to the butterflies. We returned back to Morelia tired but happy that evening with a lifetime memory. Ben was thrilled because he was able to get his dinner from Burger King (a rarity in Mexico), and then soak in a real bathtub in our hotel room! Dad and I were thrilled because we had a dinner date (alone!) at the elegant restaurant down stairs. Let me tell you, this trip has been good in so many ways!
Through some convincing by other tourists, we decided to stay an extra night and do a different tour the next day to Patzcuaro and Isla Janitzio. Once again we were with a great group of people where we even toasted in the new year (with tequila of course!) at 5 o'clock because one family was from the Netherlands so it was really midnight their time. (Perfect for us because we seldom make midnight!) Our first stop on this day was at the property of the artist, Juan Torres, who is well known for his Dia de los Muertos figurines. The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico around Nov. 2. It is a day of true celebration, giving families a reason to go visit their loved ones in cemetaries, often eating and drinking and listening to the favorite music of their deceased. The grounds of this artists haven were very unique in an artsy, funky sort of way. The gallery being in an old chapel.
Another interesting stop we made was in the village of Tzintzuntzan, meaning place of the hummingbird, in the indigenous language of the Purepecha Indians. We mostly stopped there to tour a beautiful religious complex called the Ex-Convento de San Francisco. As we toured these grounds, learning how this is where the Franciscan monks began the Spanish missionary effort in the state of Michoacan, we couldn't help but feel a little bit sad as we could look up the hill at ancient Tarascan ruins (from 600 BC) that had been blown up by the Spaniards because they thought there was gold inside. Somehow to us, the supposed love of Christ that they so wanted to force and the subsequent atrocities they committed on these people just don't seem to jive. As we walked around the property you can see stones with carvings from the ancient Purepecha that the Catholic Church "allowed" to be built into the buildings to gain the trust of the Indians and encourage them to turn their life towards Jesus. There are also ancient olive trees said to be the oldest in the America's, one for each year of Jesus's life, planted within the compound.
Lake Patzcuaro and Isla Janitzio were the highlight of the day. All around the lake are traditional Purepecha villages, each with its' own craft specialty which has maintained self sufficiency for the indigenous people. In the middle of the lake is Isla Janitzio, which reminded me of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France. We traveled to the island in this funky sort of barge boat, learning that 6000 people lived on it, no cars, and that everything is either carried up and down this island by hand or on their backs. Of course the thing to do was to hike up to the statue at the top, and so we did. Phew! And then once we reached the statue we wound our way up the stairs on the inside - stepping out at the top for an amazing view of the surrounding country. The statue is 40 meters high, representing independence hero Morelio. The murals inside depict his life. This colorful island really was something you have to see to believe.
We returned to Ixtapa the next day, tired but happy, mindful that we need to not only pay attention to the ocean that we are traveling on but the land that we pass by.
12/15/2010, Barra de Navida
View of the Grand Bay Hotel in Barra de Navidad, Mexico
December 15, 2010
Stuck in Paradise
Yes, we are still here, anchored in the lagoon of Barra de Navidad. As they say in the boating world, all plans are set in jello. They are jiggly, wiggly, and can fall apart or melt in a minute. Because, a minute can be all it takes for something to break...sigh....Santosha, our buddy boat family of Tammy, Patrick, and Jack, moved on a day early to Manzanillo to anchor in front of the lovely Las Hadas hotel. Tammy was feeling like she needed the extra day to finish her Christmas shopping in a larger city that would offer more. "No problem." we said, "We'll catch up to you on Saturday." Well, as we pulled up our anchor Larry quickly realized that our windless (the motor that pulls up our 75lb anchor and many feet of heavy chain) decided it was time to die. Now you might think, no big deal, just pull it up by hand and move on. But, it can only be pulled up at about six inches at a time, and at least we're only anchored in about 9 ft. of water here, therefore much less chain to pull in, only 50 feet. Could you imagine if we were in 30 - 60 ft of water, therefore having much more chain out? Besides, your anchor is kind of like your brake in an emergency. You wouldn't drive anywhere in your car if your brakes didn't work, would you? If our engine died as we were moving, our anchor could be the only thing that will keep us off the rocks. So, Ben and I patiently wait for days as poor Larry works on it, eventually hiring someone with expertise in these things. This person initially diagnosed it wrong as well, then sent the part to a shop in another town who eventually decided that they couldn't fix it! (Days slowly go by.) Next thing we know...it has been shipped off to Guadalajara. Again...sigh.... So much is out of your control on a boat that it is overwhelming at times. We've been at anchor now for three weeks and it is somewhat challenging. Water is an issue for example. We hold about 250 gallons. We can go about six days on this. That is three of us drinking, showering, washing dishes, flushing the toilet etc...you can't make water in a lagoon, the water is kind of a brown, muddy color and I'm sure full of sediment that would instantly clog the membranes of a water maker. However, our water maker has finally made up its' mind to die anyway. It needed to. It was probably original with the boat, so for a water makers life span it was old. So what do we do? We drive the boat to the fuel dock, that has one water spicket for a hose with non-potable water and we run it through our fancy dancy water filter machine which takes about an hour and a half or so to fill our tanks. Mind you, Larry has had to pull up the anchor, six inches at a time, by hand, which as I said before, it is a long, hard, painful process. Then we drive three miles out to sea to macerate and discharge our holding tank (because you definitely don't do that at anchor either), and so our day goes. But you see...the days are ticking down to Christmas...and Ben and I are getting antsy...and we don't want to be stuck in this lagoon any longer. And we feel pressured, because we are now with a "buddy boat", and you don't want to hold them up because you have a problem. So, there are definitely pros and cons to this situation. We decide to leave, (after I have a mini breakdown!) and rather than stopping in Manzanillo to enjoy the Las Hadas resort, we will just travel 35 hours straight to Ixtapa, and yes, once again, Larry raises the anchor by hand.
12/07/2010, Barra de Navida
Yesterday, just before we were pulling into Barra de Navidad, Ben caught his first MahiMahi/Dorado/Dolphinfish all by himself. It is so cute to watch him rig his lines on either side of the boat, one being a hand line, the other his pole. Then he lets out an empty liter bottle filled with some rocks. This creates a disturbance in the water, like a bait ball of fish would, therefore attracting the big fish and wham...there's Ben's Mahi! (Thank you Stan for this great fishing tip!) Needless to say, we really stink at killing things. I mean this is the most beautiful fish ever, bright lemon yellow, turquoise, light green, and silver, and it is fighting like heck for its' life. Larry says, "We can't kill it!" Ben says, "Why not?! It's dinner!" I stay quietly out of this one. Ben comes to his own decision to let him go. So Larry takes a picture of him just as Ben is pulling him in and then the fish falls off the hook (thank you Lord!). We have since had to convince Ben that he wasn't a 50 pounder, probably more like a thirty, but it's still the biggest story on the boat, The Mahi That Got Away.
12/06/2010, Tenacatita, Mx
Six AM. On the move to Barra de Navidad! The cute little town we spent five weeks in last May, in the beautiful Grand Bay Hotel marina. We are so excited to see our old friends there! Here is another place where we were able to find an English speaking church in the town of Melaque, making lifelong friends; Wynn, Lou, and Rouette.
After leaving Puerto Vallarta we had about a 24 hour trip to the anchorage of Tenacatita. We have been here as well before, this being the great spot where we took our dinghy on the 'jungle cruise" (see video on facebook, Lisa Anderson), as well as had daily visits by Nick and his gang, the friendly dolphins that come and scratch their backs on our anchor chain. Sure enough they were here again. The cool thing was, that this time we were able to kayak and paddle board around them. They keep their distance, but it still is a surreal experience. The night before we left Tenacatita, the 3 of us spent a quiet evening watching the documentary movie "The Cove". It is not easy to watch, but is a must see. It is about a small town in Japan that from Sept. thru March every year they round up dolphins into a cove, hand pick the ones they want to ship to various dolphin swim parks around the world (selling at $150K a piece) and hacking and slaughtering the rest to eat. It is a bloody scene. Watching this on film is difficult, but listening to the dolphins squealing and clicking in horror is almost too much to bare. Depressed yet full of activist fire, we made our way up on deck afterwards to check out the night sky, and what do you know, there they were, our friendly dolphins, swimming around our boat, scratching their back on the chain! Earlier that day, Ben actually hopped in the water with them. Now, that is the kind of "dolphin experience" we want to have.
The next morning we moved our boats a couple of miles to anchor in front of the small village of La Manzanillo. Cute and quaint, not only is this village full of artisans and friendly people, but enormous caymans as well. Ben and Jack got to feed them fish and we all watched in awe as these prehistoric creatures lolled about. We were so fortunate to hook up with a panga driver who picked us up from our boats, escorted us through town, and then took us by water to the spectacular resort called Tamarindo. As we walked the path along the beach of the resort it reminded me of a place you would see on the TV show "The Bachelor" or something. (Yes, I've been known to watch that show a time or two!) A niche of paradise, in a gorgeous location, decorated beautifully, down to the shell of a sea star in the sand ashtrays. We had a wonderful lunch by the pool, including their famous Tamarindo margaritas. We had been lucky enough to meet the owners last summer on their yacht and have wanted to come ever since. Definitely a place not to miss if you are ever in the area. Or, if you are ever looking for a quiet, beautiful, warm get away, (there is an award winning golf course as well), this would be the place.