Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Marina Chiapas: Boat Chores

It's hot and muggy here. During the day, the sun blazes but there is often an afternoon breeze that makes it bearable. At night there is no breeze and the hot air just lays heavily. The cabin fans help a bit, but I'm sweltering most of the day and night in 90 degree humid heat. The only pleasant conditions are between about 3 and 7 a.m., when the temperature drops into the mid-70's, refreshingly, pleasantly cool.

I'm getting boat chores done though, despite the heat.

On Monday, I got a ride into town with Memo, the general manager of the marina. (Memo is the short form of Guillermo, like Bill is for William.) I needed to pick up some solvent, he needed to pick up a new pump for the marina's domestic water system. I was able to help him a bit, working out if the motor for the pump was sized correctly. He was able to help me find the methylated spirits I was looking for. His family is connected with a local hospital and we went to the chemical supply store where the hospital gets its chemicals for lab tests etc. They have everything. I bought what I needed and then asked if I could buy some acetone for fiberglass work. I found out that to buy that solvent I needed to write a letter explaining how I intended to use the acetone and produce identification. Apparently, acetone is used to make methamphetamine and the authorities have placed restrictions on its sale here.

Memo and I enjoyed a taco lunch on the way back to the marina. I asked him about the tsunami that I had heard hit the marina in September of 2017.  I thought it was just a few waves that moved the docks around. It was much worse than that. The three tidal waves were so high, they lifted the floating docks over the tops of the pilings that secure them. The tops of these pilings are nine feet above the high tide! The wave inundated the land around the marina, getting high enough to flood out the electrical controls of the travelift, which are about at chest height. Fortunately, the docks jammed themselves amongst the pilings and didn't float away and no boats were damaged or people hurt. Memo told me it was quite a repair job to get the marina back in operation. Looking at the place now, there are few signs that anything had happened, although I notice they park the travelift on higher ground than they used to.

Yesterday I got started on my big project; resealing the perimeter of the forward window on the port hull. Both forward windows have leaked, the one on the starboard worse than the port, but it is in the head, so a little water there is only an annoyance. Water leaking from the port window gets onto the bedding of the berth, which is more than annoying, especially if someone is sleeping there. Neither are big leaks, but leak enough when pounding through head seas to want to fix them. The leaks appear to be due to the original sealant not bonding well to the Lexan window material.

The windows are otherwise securely adhered to the hull, so I decided to just replace the sealant to the depth of the thickness of the Lexan. Yesterday I sliced and dug away old sealant. It wasn't too hard or dirty, but it was hot, sweaty work, crouching on the dock under the blazing sun. When I got the sealant out, I set to removing its residue from the fiberglass and edge of the Lexan with sandpaper. That worked pretty well, but was tedious. And hot.

This morning, I wiped down the surfaces carefully with my newly obtained methylated spirits to get them free of any remaining contaminants. Then I applied the new sealant, Dow Corning 795, a silicone sealant used for structural glazing of buildings and recommended by other Leopard cat owners who have repaired their windows. It was easy to get the sealant into the joint with the caulk gun and I tooled 90 percent of the sealant with a popsicle stick to a nice finish. Ten percent is tooled not so nice. I tried making it look better, but every time I touched it, it just got worse. So I stopped and accepted it as "good enough". I'll probably take a stab at a cosmetic repair after it has cured.

I sure hope this repair works, because I'd really not like to do it again. Especially in the tropics.

I got done with the window repair earlier than I expected so I jumped to pickling the watermaker for while I'm gone for almost two weeks. You have to flush the watermaker every five days with fresh water so microbes don't grow and foul the membrane. If you can't do that, you have to "pickle" it to kill the little buggers. When I last left the boat in Ixtapa, Roy was on board and did the flushing. No Roy this time, so pickling required. It was hot down below as I pickled.

I also got laundry done by one of the marina guy's wife. Doing laundry this way involved no sweltering.

Just a few more things on the list, and them I'm ready to leave Intermezzo again for a little while.

Window Repair: Digging out the old sealant

Window Repair: All cleaned up and masked

Window Repair: Finished, looks good enough five feet away

Window Repair: Finished, but not perfect close up

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Marina Chiapas: The End of Leg 2

Intermezzo arrived at Marina Chiapas early this morning, completing Leg 2 of The Voyage from Ixtapa, a passage of 589 nautical miles.

The highlight of the final day and night of sailing was yesterday afternoon’s booming reach under full mainsail and Code 0.  We hissed through the smooth water at 7 knots sailing as close to the wind as the Code 0 would allow to stay on our rhumbline. Looking at the wind instruments, I thought they weren’t working right. How could we be sailing at 7 knots boast speed at an apparent wind angle of 60 degrees in only 8 knots of apparent wind speed? I puzzled over this until I figured out that the boat was going so fast in such light wind that we had turned the wind blowing behind us into wind ahead of us.  Just like a fast racing sailboat would do. I’ve never done that on Intermezzo before, a heavy, short waterline cruising cat.  It was a blast for three hours until it got dark and not prudent to have so much canvas up only one of us on watch, so we rolled up the Code 0 and unfurled the jib. We continued sailing at a more moderate pace until midnight when the wind died completely and we motored for the rest of the night in no wind, almost mirror-calm seas.

We tied up in the friendly and professional Marina Chiapas, which Intermezzo has visited twice before and washed the boat before it got too hot.  We chased that with a cold beer at the restaurant next door. Then Roy cleaned up his side of the boat so that he could leave to fly back to Canada to catch his daughter’s regional basketball games.

So, now I’m solo again until I fly out on Friday. Before I leave I’m going to tackle a significant project, in addition to all the minor "leaving-the-boat-behind-chores"; re-caulking the bow windows which leak a bit in big head seas.

I can’t upload pictures when I post to this blog via satellite, so catching up here with a few pictures from Leg 2:

Piedras Blancas outside Bahía Zihuatanejo

The gale forecasted for the Golfo de Tehuantapec that we had to wait out

Intermezzo at anchor in Bahía Organo, one of the nine Bahías de Huatulco
Returning from our kayaking excursion to Bahía Maguay 

Sunset enroute to Puerto Chiapas

Captain and Crew at the end of Leg 2

Intermezzo in Marina Chiapas, waiting to start Leg 3 to and through the Panama Canal

Saturday, March 9, 2019


15.36N 93.80W
Enroute to Puerto Chiapas

It's flat.

The sea is very calm, the humidity makes the air fuzzy, we can't see land, no topography on any horizon. The swells are so far apart, even they seem flat. As flat as waves can be, that is.

I remember this from my first crossing of the Tehuantapec. After all the excitement of potential gales and heavy seas for the first half, the second half is just a long slog of...flatness. Like driving across Kansas after the Rocky Mountains.

Do I sound bored? I'm not really. Plenty to do. But flatness pervades.

Roy saw a whale. I didn't. That was exciting for him.

Two fishing pangas came alongside earlier today. I gave the first pair of fishermen two Cokes, the second pair some precooked rice, salsa and cookies. (Our provisions suitable for charitable giving are sparse.)

We snagged two fishing lines, one due to my inattention, the other due to bad luck. We freed ourselves quickly.

We most of the afternoon yesterday and last night in light airs, the boat making a steady 3-4 knots. This morning the wind died to nearly nothing and we've been motoring since. If we keep up our present speed we should arrive at the harbor entrance to Puerto Chiapas about 0600 tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, it's flat.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Crossing the Tehuantapec

15 54N 54 52W
Enroute to Puerto Chiapas

We're ghosting along again, sailing gently downwind. Crazy how just 24 hours ago it was blowing 35-40 knots here.

This afternoon, a panga with three fishermen came alongside and asked if we'd seen any of their fishing gear- the buoys, flags, strobe lights, and hooked lines between them that they leave drifting to catch fish. They must not have been able to retrieve them before the gale. I figure they are halfway to the Philippines by now. I felt kind of bad for them losing their gear; it's a big financial setback. I feel worse for the fish hooked to that gear which are now just "by catch" instead of food. Well, I guess their food for something; nothin goes to waste in the ocean.

When you cross the Tehuantapec, you're supposed to "keep one foot on the beach" and follow the shoreline to avoid big swells from strong northerly winds. Well, the winds are light and from the west, the waves are small, and winds are forecast to diminish. So, I'm going to live a little dangerously and cut right across the gulf, reducing our sailing distance by 20 miles.

We're sailing in a patch of phosphorescent jellyfish. They're all over the place, about a foot in diameter, flashing like miniature green fireworks. The keep me company on this dark, moonless night.

Departed Huatulco for Puerto Chiapas

15 53N 95 40W
Enroute to Puerto Chiapas

We got up early this morning, recovered our stern anchor with aplomb, weighed the Rocna and were off. We're on our way on the last two days sailing on Leg 2 of The Voyage, heading for Puerto Chiapas, our final port of call in Mexico.

Roy and I both noted the nice smell of the land in Huatulco as we departed. It's lightly spicy, slightly sweet, a bit floral, like a potpourri you might have in your closet or chest of drawers to make your clothes smelling nice, hinting of the fragrance of a chai tea.

We sailed nicely close hauled in about 8 knots of wind, making a steady 5-5.5 knot over the ground. Then at noon the wind died so we furled up the jib and are motoring, heading offshore to see if we can find the wind again. It's a beautiful blue day with light chop on the nose, gentle swells from the starboard bow.

We've been catching and releasing bonito like crazy all day. They aren't the tastiest fish, but I think we might keep a small one later to make into poke for dinner.

I've been exchanging emails with our new crew for Leg 3, John and Kim, and I finally spoke to them briefly this morning while we still had cell reception. They owned a catamaran and cruised for seven years in the Caribbean, notching up over 7,000 nm under sail. They're from Missouri, are looking to buy a new catamaran and are excited about making the Panama Canal transit, something that's been on their bucket list. I'm looking forward to them joining the boat later this month and meeting them in person.

Yesterday we replaced a malfunctioning switch for the electric winch and then took a kayak trip to the bay next door, Bahía Malguey, which has a long line of palapa restaurants along the beach. We saw lots of people. We ate tacos and ceviche. We drank beer. We had paletas (frozen fruit bars) for desert. We kayaked back. A very nice finish to our time in Huatulco.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Bahia Organo: Tamed the Swell

Last night Intermezzo lay beam to the swells coming into Bahía Jicarol and rocked so badly it made for a challenging night's sleep. I say "swells" because there were two swells, one coming from the east the other from the southeast. When they combined, the boat was rocked violently for several waves at a time, then would subside into tolerable rocking, only to be shaken again in a few minutes. It was far from a peaceful night at anchor.

This morning we moved the boat to Bahía Organo, a larger, deeper bay that provides protection from the larger easterly swells. Only the smaller southeast waves make it to where we dropped anchor. To ensure our comfort, we set an additional stern anchor to keep the bows of the boat points into the swell. Much, much better.

Bahía Organo is another beautiful bay, with a steep, sandy beach at its end, rocky cliffs on each side. I swam to the beach and took a walk on a trail through the jungle that leads to the highway about a kilometer away. It is dry season, so the much of the vegetation is brown and dormant, interspersed with larger trees with green leaves, green vines and ground cover. The jungle gives of pleasant dry, spicy, almost-burnt smell as it bakes under a hot sun.

The Tehuantepecker blew hard today but is still forecast to subside on Friday. We're planning to leave early that morning. So one more day, lazing around, waiting and then we're underway again.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Bahia Jicarol: Rocking and Rolling

We're rocking and rolling here at anchor in Bahía Jicarol waiting out a Tehuantapecker. The gale force winds in the Golfo de Tehauntapec spread out like a fan, sending swells right into the little bay in which we are anchored, Intermezzo often lying abeam to them and rocking back and forth with gusto. This afternoon we shifted the boat as deep into the bay as we could without getting too close to the rocky shore, but it hasn't helped much. We'll move to another bay with better protection tomorrow.

Last night I realized I'd left my hat on the beach when we went kayaking there. (For those of you who follow this blog, you'll remember that I lose my favorite hat more often than I like, but somehow I've always recovered far.) I was a little annoyed at having to kayak back to the beach in the dark to retrieve it. My annoyance turned out to be a treat. The bio-luminescence was amazing, a dense bright stream of sparkling stars flaring out from the bow of the kayak, a pool of sparkles with each dip of the paddle, a trail like the Milky Way behind me. When I returned to Intermezzo with my hat, Roy had to go out for a paddle to enjoy the plankton fireworks.

Today we got the Code 0 sorted out from our furling failure and hoisted, ready to go. I also spent a fair amount of time underwater, replacing the propeller anodes and cleaning the props, sail drives and slime along the waterline.

The weather forecast is looking good for a Friday morning departure, when the Tehuantapecker subsides.