July 2014 - After 14 months... an update

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

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

The final comment on this page is about my Iridium Phone.

The Kaufmans, who scuttled 'Rebel Heart' 900 miles off Baja, have sued their Iridium Service Provider because the phone was suddenly deactivated in the middle of the emergency, with a sick baby on board and the boat taking on water.

We have the same reseller, and since the law suit was filed a lot of things have happened with my service that don't make any sense. The problems aren't with Iridium, but with the way the reseller provisioned my service. Looking into it, I'm learning some bad things, but will reserve public comment until I have all the facts. I don't want to get sued.

But I'm not happy about this.

On the last page I mentioned La Gata, the marina cat at Marina Palmira. Someone always feeds her because she's such a good cat,
so I didn't feel too bad about saying goodbye, although
I have always looked forward to saying hello whenever I'm in town.

She got sick. Apparently when she was spayed, she was pregnant, and has been carrying calcified embryos around inside for the last three years. Not good. A cruising couple took her to the vet and after some surgery she seemed to be better. After being nursed back to health on board the boat, the couple liked her so much that they adopted her and took her home to Sacramento. (They have a Valiant 32.)

But she didn't get better, and developed some serious cancer.
The pic at left is from her new home in Sacramento, a couple of days before she died. I imagine she was about six or seven years old, which is actually a pretty good life span for a cat with no owner in Mexico.

Lucky cat. She was abandoned, lost her tail, and yet managed to make a home for herself with people who fed and cared for her. And then she realized every Mexican Kitty's dream, and was taken back to the USA where she lived out her days in luxury, in a big house on the hill.

Click on pictures to see them full size

So that's this update. I seem to have a total lack of motivation these days, and am actually thinking about heading back north and getting a job just to give myself a kick in the pants. Otherwise, I could sit here forever.

Oh, wait... that's how I ended the last web page update 14 months ago.

I guess I *can* stay here forever.


There's no point trying to recap the entire last year, because it was pretty much like the year before and the year before that.

Summer 2013 was hot, and I caught a lot of fish up in the Sea of Cortez.



While up in the Sea, my good old Heart Freedom Marine Charger/Inverter quit. It had been damaged pretty badly due to some bad marina electrical work after an electrical fire on a dock in an unnamed marina. The marina guys actually were repairing and replacing wiring while the circuit was live and still feeding all the boats on the leg, and managed to get hot/neutral/ground all mixed up. They did a lot of damage. Nice guys, but they can't mix concrete or deal with electrical problems.

Solar can keep up with refrigeration in the summer, but my batteries are old and after I discovered that my 12V TV can play AVI movies I've started using a lot more power than planned, so the little Honda 2000 generator has become an important part of my power management plan when just hanging out at anchor. So without a battery charger I have to use the diesel engine to keep the batteries up, and that creates other issues.

So back to La Paz for replacement. This ProMariner charger was in stock at Lopez Marina. It's a respectable brand, and is a new generation solid state charger. I'm amazed at how much smaller and lighter the new battery chargers are.

I didn't get an inverter to replace the old one. In five years of full time cruising I've used the inverter two or three times, and only once (during the bee incident) was it really necessary. If I need to use a power tool when away from shore power, I always have the Honda 2000.

Going back to La Paz was a good idea. I could have had the unit sent up to me on a bus, but as with any project this involved a half dozen trips to the chandlery for wire, fuses, and little parts.

And since I was back on the dock I did a lot of other little projects.

This is my horn, which I absolutely love. It has to be thirty years old, and you just can't find these anywhere, except occasionally on eBay. But with the way I hang it next to the wheel, it has started to rust out. So I cleaned it up really well and laid fiberglass around the weak part, and painted it. The cruising lifestyle really keeps you busy.

Then there was a quick haul out and bottom job. Fortunately, I have absolutely no projects under the waterline, and this was the fastest and easiest haul I've ever had.

Ever. In my life.

This is the best local 12 volt fan I've found down here, and it's carried by all the AutoZone chain stores. It draws 1 amp, and moves a heck of a lot of air. It's also about three times noisier than a Caframo, which is my favorite 12 volt marine fan. They were designed to be mounted in a truck or bus, with the engine running all the time, so they aren't as efficient at the Caframo.

The good 12V Caframo fans only seem to last me about a year down here, because I tend to run them 24x7. I've never seen them in Banderas Bay, but up in La Paz they cost about $80US each, and I burn up three of them a year.

So I've mounted some of these fans around, because they only cost 170 pesos. I'll save the Caframos for when I really want efficiency and quiet.

After getting a nice three month rate for the summer, I'm just going to sit here until it cools down. It rains here a lot, and as far as I'm concerned it can rain every day. Rain and cloud cover works for me. Last summer, up in the Sea under the blazing sun, my skin started to go crazy. I think that I've spent too much time in the sun for too many years.

This awning setup is a good compromise for both the dock and at anchor. It doesn't provide as much rain and sun protection as a full blown fancy full awning setup, but it provides some key advantages. It's modular, so you can set it up in sections. More importantly, you can take it down fast in sections if a gale pops up in the middle of the night. I actually lash it down with cheap clothesline, so that when weather gets stinky really fast I can just run up the deck with a pair of kitchen shears. And it allows you to get around the decks and up to the bow without too much trouble.

The foredeck awning can stand alone, but still can fit over the dinghy, which I store upside down on the foredeck. Covering the foredeck hatch allows me to leave it open in the pouring rain. At the dock I stick a big 120 volt fan in the hatch, which moves a ton of air through the boat, just like being on the hook in a 10 knot breeze.

The middle part is just a big tarp of Sunbrella, which can be mounted a number of different ways, based on the conditions, without having to take off the main sail. It also allows me to keep a few hatches and ports open in the rain. That's a big deal down here. Ventilation is a priority.

And, yeah, the cockpit awning is the one that's up all the time. It can zip down the the edge of the dodger, and with solid side panels is as close to a full enclosure as I've ever wanted. At the moment I only have one side panel on, to block the afternoon sun.

Also, at the moment, I actually can't zip it down to the dodger because the metal parts on the expensive YYK zippers are corroded. Last year I replaced all the zippers on the dodger, and should have done the awning too. I used metal originally because I thought it would last longer than plastic. However, the UV rots out the plastic teeth on the zippers faster than it rots out the slider, so I will only use plastic sliders in the future.

So, gee, the next picture I have is six months later, and I've sailed all the way down to Banderas Bay again.
It was perfect sailing, and I arrived with all my jerry cans full.
I guess I stopped taking pictures, because I wasn't updating the site. Also, I was just hanging out and living in Mexico.

One can only take so many whale pictures, dolphin pictures, fish pictures, and sunset pictures.

Spending a day in jail in La Paz was interesting. It was 11 am, and I walked to the bank, and was heading to the grocery store.  A police car pulled up next to me, two Policia got out with guns ready, and the officer in charge said 'Show Me Your Papers.' I laughed, because I honestly thought they were joking, or possibly trying to shake me down for lunch money. Apparently we don't all share the same old cold war movie cliches, and they were very serious.

I learned later that there was a city wide man hunt for a middle aged gringo child molester from Texas. The guy was unshaven, and was last seen wearing a Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts. Of course, most of the gringo sailors in Mexico have beards, and wear Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts. It's almost a required uniform.

Unfortunately, the bad guys's name was 'Willy.' They asked me my name, and I said 'Wally' and it was game over. I was hustled into the back of the car, and headed off to jail. That was scary, because I honestly didn't have a clue about what was going on, and no one knew where I was. I could disappear and no one would notice for months, just thinking I was on the boat somewhere else. As we drove down, I saw other gringos and almost shouted for help out the window, but decided that probably would make matters worse.

It took all day to get it straightened out. I'm glad I never lived in Texas. I'm also glad that I don't have a car, because the bad guy was known to be driving a car. I'm also glad that I have kept my California drivers license current since 1977, even when I was living in Chicago or New York or on a boat in the Caribbean, because the worst thing I've ever done is get a speeding ticket. At my age, if I was a bad guy, somebody would know about it.

Once the police realized that I wasn't the guy they were looking for, and that I really was a guy on a sailboat who had been in Mexico for years, they were totally cool. The Jefe gave me a ride back to the exact spot where I was picked up. I was so happy I almost offered to buy them lunch. I wish I had, but at the time I just wanted it to be over and to be left alone..

A cockroach crawled inside the thermostat for my freezer and electrocuted itself. Fortunately, it just shorted out a connection without damaging anything, so a quick cleanup and vacuum solved it. I keep a spare thermostat on board. Spare parts are important, because being without refrigeration for more than a few days down here can be a real annoyance.

I'd been planning to head back to La Paz and the Sea of Cortez for the summer, to have more spare parts shipped down, and also to deal with immigration. Immigration is a concern, because this year I have to become 'Permanente' or else leave the country. I tried to become Permanente last year, but the immigration rules had changed and were subject to interpretation by local bureaucrats. One guy in La Paz didn't understand the new rules, and insisted that I had to sell $250,000 of my USA investments and move all the money to Mexico. (I'll bet he had a cousin who was a Financial Manager and was willing to manage my life's savings for me.) That was ridiculous. I have no idea how many red flags would go up if I actually tried to move that much money from the USA to Mexico, but it's a safe bet I'd make the DEA top ten watch list.
So I stayed Temporal for another year, because if you're Temporal long enough you can become Permanente by default.
This year I'll say I just moved to Puerto Vallarta, and try it here.

My freight forwarder in San Diego says he can get parts to me here without them being stolen by Customs in Guadalajara, so I'll give that a try.

It rains a lot more here in Banderas Bay in the summer, and that's just fine with me. Rain and cloud cover is a lot cooler that the Baja sun.
Of course, we're well inside the hurricane belt, so that's a concern.

I got a good rate on a three month stay at summertime rates in La Cruz, so I'll just sit here and enjoy life.

Speaking of enjoying life, that hunk of tuna weighs over a kilo, and I watched it be cut right from the fish. It cost me $170 pesos, or just over 10 dollars. The fishing boats pull into the other side of the marina, and there's a fish market at the top of the dock.

I eat a lot of sashimi and fresh fish.

One of my favorite lunch things on a blistering hot summer day is Tuna Cups. Take a cucumber, peel it, slice it into 2 centimeter sections, then take a spoon and scoop out the seeds, leaving just enough at the bottom to form a small cup.

Then you take the fresh tuna that isn't up to sashimi standards, chop it up and mix with soy sauce, wasabi, and a few drops of sesame oil, and maybe sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.
I'm working on variations, such as a mixing in fresh Cilantro.

Very nice.

With the fish market right there I'm having a lot of fun experimenting in the galley.

I'm working on a new idea, called Mexican Vichyssoise de Cameron.
It's sorta like a combination of Shrimp Bisque with leeks, served hot or cold, with a touch of fresh chile. I can't decide which chile is best, or how much, but I'm sure I'll get it right sooner or later.

I broke down and bought a Mexican Food Processor. I know, it looks like a blender. Really, though, the blender is a key tool for cooking Mexican. Traditionally, folks use a carved stone mortar and pestle to grind chiles and spices together. However, even locals don't bother with that any more, and most every major grocery store has an entire aisle devoted to blenders. You really don't need a fancy one, because the only setting used is 'Pulse.' For your salsa and other stuff, you don't want to liquefy it, just chop it fine and fast.

It's been fourteen months with no updates to the web site. Here's why.

My original web page, in 1995, was written in raw HTML. In 1999, I purchased a very good and expensive WYSIWYG tool. Over the years there have been many changes but the good old tool still worked.
After 15 years, that tool is totally obsolete, the company that created it is gone but not forgotten,
and the code it generates isn't supported by all the new browsers, operating systems, and hardware platforms
in use today. I can honestly say that 15 years ago I never thought anyone would view this web site on a cell phone.
I can't imagine why anyone would want to do so.

Then my hosting provider stopped supporting classic FTP protocols, and I couldn't even upload new stuff.

Anyway, I finally found a good editor tool that doesn't force me to redesign the site's look and feel, and then it took a while to figure out how to use it, and make it behave like my old editor. I don't feel like learning a whole new way of doing things, just to slap a single web page up every now and then.

Unfortunately I discovered that the way I actually lay out my blog pages is obsolete, so just opening and saving old pages with the new editor won't fix the underlying HTML issues. So I'm going to have to learn a new way to do things.
The old pages, before I went cruising and got lazy, seem to be okay.

Anyway, if this doesn't look right on your browser you can let me know. If it doesn't look right on your cell phone,
then go play a game instead, or use your cell phone to actually talk to someone.



February in Banderas Bay, and I pulled into the marina to wash the boat.

My chain rode was in trouble, and I'd started working on a way to get 300 feet of new chain sent down. It was going to be very, very expensive. You just can't find good marine grade galvanized chain down here. There's lots of chain, of course, but not the kind that can be dragged through sand under salt water for months at a time.

After four years of dragging this through sand and rocks, it was a rusty mess. Every time I dropped the hook or pulled it back up, a full cup of rust fell off. That wasn't just a mess, I was getting concerned about safety. I've been caught by a 50 knot gale when on the hook, and more than one 40 knot, and I want my ground tackle to be totally solid.

Then there was a karmic miracle.

Someone who was about to cross the Pacific had brought down 300 feet of brand new chain, and needed to sell his old chain. It was barely used, with just a few rust spots, and is good for another three years of heavy use or even more if I get lazy and keep spending time sitting in marinas.

That saved me over $1000, because the customs and shipping charges to get new chain down here would have cost far more than the chain. I was actually considering renting a big car or truck, driving up to San Diego and hauling it back myself.