July 2012 - Being a marina rat in La Paz

Back to Home ... s/v Stella Blue home ... What's New

Back to Home ... s/v Stella Blue Home ... What's New

I'm a marina rat for the summer, and will stay tied to the dock. After living aboard for four years, and cruising full time for the last three, and spending the last seven months on the hook, this boat needs some serious attention. I have learned a lot about what is really needed on board and what is superfluous.
I want to get about 1000 pounds of stuff off the boat, and get an inch or more of waterline back.

Staying on the hook all the time really takes a toll on the boat. Salt water scrubs will remove surface dirt, but also leaves a salt residue that attracts the morning dew and promotes corrosion.

It's time to take everything out of every compartment on the boat, clean and scrub, and reorganize.

I'm starting to consider what will happen after Mexico, so it's time to get the boat ready for the next big thing. Of course, the next big thing might be to head back to the USA and get a job. I don't know if I'll be able to wear shoes again, though, so I'll definitely be in Mexico for another 15 months, and then we'll see.

La Paz really slows down in the summer. I've never been here during this time of year, instead heading North into the upper Sea of Cortez.

The marina is full of boats with absentee owners -- there's only one other boat on my dock with someone aboard -- and the morning VHF cruiser's net is dominated by the expatriates who live in La Paz. When they announced a cruiser's swap meet, the only one until October, it rearranged my priorities really fast. I had two weeks to rip all the compartments open and sort everything. Everything in the V Berth ended up in a big pile in the main cabin.

I've always called the V Berth 'the garage' because it's full of all the stuff one would normally put in a garage. Nuts, bolts, hoses, wire, bicycles, tools, spare parts, etceteras.

After spending so many years on a total refit, including replacing every hose and wire on the boat, I have a lot of odds and ends.

Some things were easy to discard, like the 'Sailor Moo' book that has been here ever since the Cow Joke on the C&C internet list.

Other things just have to stay on the boat, like this 48 year old teddy bear. I don't sleep with it, but I just can't put it in the trash.
Back to the V Berth with you.

Sorting through the wire and hoses was time consuming, but worth it. I still have a lot of good tinned Ancor wire on the boat, and a lot of good hose, but probably pulled fifty pounds of scrap off. I really have no use for 16 gauge triplex wire, or little one foot sections of heavy 1/0 battery cable.

I filled three dock boxes with stuff, and rented a car to haul it to the swap meet. (Renting a car also means I can run errands without riding my bike through the 105F heat.)

Before the swap meet, though, I gave a lot of stuff away to my friend Sergio Galindo, who is the top stainless steel guy in La Paz. He used to live in the SF Bay area, and did a lot of work on my boat up there. He's done me a few favors down here as well -- like coming to my boat within an hour after someone hit me and bent my stanchions. I had a bunch of spare stainless steel on board, and that weighs a lot. Perhaps it was silly, but I thought extra 1 inch tubing and miscellaneous hunks of stainless steel plate might come in handy. I didn't buy it for spares, it was just left over in my garage from other projects during the refit.

But heck, the refit has been over for years, and I don't need to haul this stuff around. There went a lot of weight.

I didn't take pictures of the swap meet, but it was interesting. For me, it was a fire sale. The objective was to get the stuff off the boat. Some folks thought I was nuts to sell a garbage bag full of good wire scraps for 20 pesos, but those folks didn't know that I've already rewired the boat and there isn't a wire or a connector that I didn't install myself. Same goes for the hose.

Of course, any good wire or hose that has any conceivable value is still on the boat.

And I didn't give away my spare spare alternator, and couldn't sell it at half its value. Don't ask how I ended up with two spare alternators -- it's a long story.

Click on pictures to see them full size























































With the V berth empty, I could repaint the headliner and refinish the teak.

The foredeck hatch is open whenever possible, and at anchor the boat heads into the wind, so the foredeck hatch scoops up the breeze and funnels it through the boat. That's a good thing.
Especially when it's really hot.

It really beats up the boat, though. Between the constant salt breeze and the UV exposure, the paint job that I did in 2002 is failing around the hatch. It's fine everywhere else.

Heck, ten years is pretty good, considering the abuse. I'd previously painted with Interlux one part paint, but over the years I've become enamored with Rust-O-Leum, since every time I've used them side by side they hold up the same.

Down here, of course, they're both imported and are outrageously expensive. So I repainted with Comex oil based enamel.

In painting, it's all about the prep. I scrubbed the headliner with TSP (Tri Sodium Phosphate) with is a very harsh etching cleaning solution. It is also incredibly environmentally insensitive, so I only use it when absolutely necessary. After the scrub and rinse, I wet sanded with 80 grit and then 220 grit before painting. I hope that lasts.

I actually did the teak bulkhead first, because I've seen masking tape pull paint off but have had better luck with varnish.

That poor bulkhead was in sad shape when I bought the boat, and refinishing it has been on my list for many years. The teak veneer catches all the abuse that comes through the foredeck hatch, and was in horrible shape. I actually thought I might have to sand it smooth and just paint it.

However, it cleaned up very well. The veneer on these 30 year old boats is very thick. During the course of the refit, I noticed that the original teak veneer was nearly 1/16" thick, whereas new teak veneer plywood had a skin so thin it could barely be sanded before the initial finish.

With the V berth 'kinda sorta' back together, I started on the engine room.

Again, I'm taking everything out, scrubbing like heck and making it as shiny as it was back when I rebuilt it the first time.

First, though, some basic maintenance is required.

I rebuilt the water pump last fall, and clearly screwed up installing new seals. It started leaking, and after only 140 hours the entire pump turned into a little ball of rust.

Fortunately I have a spare. I also have about 50 pounds of miscellaneous bronze fittings in sealed containers in the bilge. Good thing, because I could not get the old fittings off the old pump. Perhaps banging on it with a 2 pound sledge would have worked, but I gave my 2 pound sledge away to Sergio. (sigh)

Belts again. After the belt broke in Santiago last winter, I replaced it with a Gates Red 7425 belt. I'd been using 7425 belts since the repower with the Ample Power alternator. However, the belts I used in the USA were NAPA Gatorback belts. These Gates belts stretch more, and my alternator was at the end of the arm and the belt still wobbled at idle.

I tried the next size smaller, and for the first time was able to make it fit. Last fall I replaced one of the engine hoses with a section of wire reinforced exhaust hose, because the original hose was chafing. The new hose can be shoved out of the way just enough to let me push the alternator a little closer to the engine, and the smaller hose fits.
Hooray. Else I was going to need to make a new alternator bracket.


Then, clean and scrub.

I inspected the steering again, after tightening up the cables last fall. They're still in good shape. It's dirty down there, though. I noticed that there was an oily residue on the hull, and thought that perhaps my diesel tank leaks from the sender (the black thing between the two yellow elbows) when the tank is topped off. Yet, there isn't more dirt around the sender, so perhaps the oily stuff is runoff from when I lubricated the steering cables last year. I think I used T9 spray.

Anyway, the entire engine room and lazarette is now scrubbed and clean.


Tools. I have more tools than points on a compass, and half of them have become pretty rusty from salt water, salt air, and humidity.

Anything with a spot of rust was painted with Naval Jelly, the rust scrubbed off, and then coated well with WD-40.

That should keep them working for the next few years.



The outside of the boat needs a lot of work as well.

It was time, after 10 years, to repaint the cowls on the dorade boxes.

The last time, I painted them with Rust-O-Leum *quick dry* flat white. It lasted about ten years, although it started to show signs of wear after six. Other dock neighbors who spent three times the money on special 'Nicro Cowl Paint' had problems after a year.

I think the 'quick dry' paint worked because it had an acetone base, which melted the paint into the surface of the PVC.

After a few days riding my bike around La Paz, I found a flat white spray paint with an acetone/toluene base. The interior is blue. We'll see how long this lasts, but my bet is another ten years.

Back inside, I emptied the starboard and port lockers above the main cabin benches.

I really should have been storing dry goods and canned goods and other foodstuffs on the starboard side. The starboard side is easy to access, while the port side requires some climbing. (I modified the port side berth to make it as wide as a real bed.)

But the last six months before taking off cruising is a very hectic time.

The starboard side always held manuals and technical books. The port side held odds and ends. So I cleared out the port side locker and shoved the dry goods in there, and four years later it's still full of food.

Well enough of that.

The food is now stored on the starboard side, where I should have put it years ago.


I did find a nice science project in the old food locker.

Man, am I glad this was stored right side up at the bottom, because the top of the can had popped open. It hadn't spilled, but I did manage to spill some of the contents when pulling it out of the cabinet. Fortunately it was so old that it didn't smell. It looked a lot like crude oil.

I remember when it popped, because the sound was so loud I was sure something on the boat had broken. But I couldn't find a problem at the time.

Did I mention that I really need to take everything out of every compartment, clean really well, and reorganize?



While I finally have the starboard locker clean and empty, it´s time to fix something that I should have fixed a couple of years ago.

This is an ugly picture of the area right next to the deck hull joint.

My main wiring harness on the starboard side, which is a *really* heavy bundle of wire that includes the windlass wire, audio wiring, and a half dozen other wire runs, fell off the tie-downs a couple of years ago.

The whole thing was hidden by a few hundred charts in tubes, but most of those charts were given away at the last swap meet and I can now access the area.

The old tie downs were plastic, which I had epoxied in place. The epoxy is still there, but didn't get a good bond with the plastic tie downs, so the bond failed. I added the black tie downs that are screwed into the bottom of the deck. I should have done that in the first place, but was trying to avoid drilling holes into the balsa cored deck.

In the midst of all the cleaning chaos (and trust me, there's so much stuff on this boat that emptying a compartment creates total chaos) I accidentally dropped my good Hienkel french knife on the galley floor, and it actually shattered.

Bummer. That was a birthday present in 1994. Well, it helped make a lot of really good meals.

But now I have to find a knife shop in Mexico, and get a new good knife. Heck, I still have a bunch of knifes on board, but the french knife is any cook's 'go to' tool.



Heck, I've been doing a lot of other maintenance things that I forgot to mention.

Like, servicing the cockpit drains. They were really slow, and that's a safety issue. So I pulled the hoses and cleaned the insides, and jumped overboard and made sure there wasn't a barnacle problem, and cleaned the sea cocks and fittings. That took a few days.

It took a few days because it is *really* hot.

The MO is to do one thing, take a break, then do another thing, take a break, then do another thing, and stand on the dock under the hose, then take a break....

This fly trap is actually nice. I forgot I had it. It stinks, but I have all the hatches open so I don't really care.


Here's a pic of the bottom of the sink in the head. The drain finally corroded off 6 months ago, leaving the hose to dangle. (BTW, that's a good reason to wrap some SS seizing wire around the hose and tie it up to a secure place above the waterline.) I really don't use the head sink, so just closed the sea cock and put it on my to-do list, and went back to my book.

I had to cut the old fitting off with a fiber reinforced cutting wheel on my Handy Dremel Tool. Really. I tried wrenches, but sometimes you just have to cut it off. Cut a groove, stick a screwdriver in there and give it a twist.

Just for grins, I got on my bike and rode over to the best Plomeria in town, with the old part in hand. I said "Estoy buscando para una de esta" and the guy behind the counter said "Just a minute, be right back" and a few minutes later handed me a part made by 'EZ-Flo' out of Ontario Canada. Part number 30035. Hmmm. It was a perfect match. Ontario Canada. Who 'da thunk I'd find it in Mexico. It must be a pretty common standard plumbing part, and given that it's a Canadian company it makes sense that it would be used on a C&C.

While I was under the sink I put a new hose on the shower. Lots of things to fix on a boat, even if you think you've rebuilt everything.


Over the course of the last few years the outboard has seen plenty of wear and tear. I inspected and replaced a couple of fuel lines, as well as the fuel filter. The filter was five years old.

I originally replaced it with a big automotive filter, which has a lot more filter surface area. That's probably why it's lasted so long, even with the dirty gasoline you get down here.

The hose from the tank to the outboard was failing from wear and tear, as well as UV exposure, so I made a new one. This time I used good 1/4" A-1 fuel line hose, which is about twice as thick as the cheap hose that comes with the outboard.





August, and I'm still cleaning. It's time to focus on the head, and pulling everything out of every compartment and scrubbing.

One might wonder why I have twenty rolls of toilet paper on board.

Well, provisioning the boat with bulky items is a real pain when all you have is a bicycle or a dinghy, so when I *do* rent a car or take a cab, I stock up on non-perishables.



Oh. This rusty can of Lysol was on the boat when I bought it.

Yup, it's definitely time to do this job.



A big surprise!

In 2002 (yes, ten years ago) I painted the headliner and made teak rings for the dorade box ports.

For the dorade box in the galley and head, though, I made the rings out of fiberglass so they could get wet and be scrubbed easily.

But I didn't get around to painting the headliner in the head for another year, and managed to lose the trim ring. I knew it was on the boat somewhere.

Ha. It was in the back of one of the head cabinets.

It was definitely time to reorganize the boat.



Then there's the actual head itself.

The human body excretes a lot of excess minerals through the kidneys, which can settle and build up in the waste holding tank, and along all the hoses and pumps in the system.

So after pumping out the tank at the pump-out station, I flushed the entire system with lots of fresh water, then filled it with a dilute vinegar solution. That helps to break down the mineral deposits, so they can be pumped away.


Gee, that's better.

I found a pair of glasses I'd forgotten that I have,
and a bunch of other stuff.



There's still a little bit of 'drama in real life,' even when being a marina rat.

This boat is sinking. I probably should have noticed it, since it's the view from my cockpit. It's practically a derelict, though, and just sits there. I think this boat is from the Mediterranean, where they have entire fleets of them taking tourists out for short trips. (Note the gangway at the stern, because in the Med boats don't tie up on the sides. There isn't enough dock space.) Somebody decided to try the concept here in La Paz, but it didn't catch on and the boat was abandoned at the dock.

With big gas powered pumps going full blast, the boat was raised back to the water line. It's a safe bet that the interior is ruined, but no one seems to care. Note the mass quantities of bird crap on the windows.


Oh, yeah, and then there's the occasional dock fire.

This was right next to me. A big 80 foot mega-yacht had the end tie on my dock. (I'm also out at the end, because the breezes are better there.)

It had a 100 Amp hookup, but the dock wiring wasn't up to the challenge. I heard a big boom one evening, and stuck my head out of the boat to see three foot flames, so I grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran over there.




Well, it was something to watch. Fortunately I was out on the dock giving my pots and pans the Easy-Off treatment. It's very tough to really scrub things when you're on the hook and living off watermaker water, so this is a chance to make all the stainless steel stuff shiny and new again.



Anyway, there's another couple of months worth of work to do on the boat. It's pretty slow going, because by noon it's about 105F, and even with the awnings up it's between 110 and 115 inside. So work goes really slow.