Captains Corner

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

El Salvador Finally In Our Sights. But First, Chiapas Mexico!

On the 8th of February we packed our two, 20 lb. exhaust expanders, filters, diapers for the engine bilges, towels, rags and loads of other boating products we needed, some small items for other boaters that they ordered and we were delivering, put them all in FOUR huge canvass duffel bags and left for LAX at 9 p.m. for an 11:30 flight, with an eight hour layover in Mexico City.  Believe it or not, it was the only flight we could get.    And, let me not forget, we also had Aggie and a big crate for her because she needed to travel as cargo.

Expander.  We had 2 of these!

We arrived at LAX, put through all four bags, 
Aggie (all dressed up, with bows) and her crate and had four carry-ons.  Jewell carried one expander and I carried the other.  We both had big computer cases with all our electronic items.   

 At 10:30 we were going through security and we were stopped by TSA.  It seems that our expanders could be weapons (do you think it is possible to pick up a 20 lb. piece of steel and throw it at someone???) and needed to be checked into luggage.  With only about 10 minutes to spare, we repacked one carry-on bag with both expanders, threw in some towels we had wrapped them with, and Jewell did her best OJ Simpson impersonation and ran with a TSA woman back to ticketing. Jewell had been quite upset about all that was happening so I stopped on my way to the gate and bought her a present of a 1 lb box of Jelly Belly’s.

The last time I saw these!

Meantime, our plane boarded and we were five minutes from the doors closing.    I started to worry that Jewell would not make the plane and notified the agent that my dog was on board and I needed to get off the plane or they needed to wait until she arrived. Frantic calls were placed to the ticket counter to try and find Jewell. Just as they were going to call and remove Aggie, Jewell came running to the plane.  Another $150.00 later (for a 5th bag), and with the help of the TSA agent, Jewell boarded and the doors closed behind her.

In Mexico City we collected our 5 pieces of luggage, our dog, our dog crate, and three carry-on bags and attempted to go through Mexican customs.  (We, however, left the Jelly Belly’s on the plane.  Separating Jewell from Jelly Belly’s is tantamount to losing a child.  Needless to say, I haven’t heard the end of it!!!   “Where’s my Jelly Belly’s” is a constant cry on the boat.)

Oh, please, don’t make me write about what happened next!!!!   Jewell says I must……so, we were stopped once again by Mexican City customs.  Paid our customs penalties, and were able to put our 5 bags through to Huatulco, grabbed Aggie, her crate, our three carry ons and went into the airport.  And, guess what…..we couldn’t go past security without depositing Aggie for transport on our next flight.  Which meant she would need to be in the crate for our 7 hour stop over and the flight to Huatulco.  We didn’t have it in us to do that to her.  So, we sat outside of ticketing, which was in the front of the airport right by the front doors.  I never knew Mexico City got this cold (about 45 degrees).  So, rather than sitting in a comfortable club, we were stuck, with Aggie, in ticketing.   It was so cold that we had to buy blankets.

Finally at 11:30 we went through ticketing, gave them Aggie, went through Security, and boarded our plane.  You’re just not going to believe this!!!!  Upon boarding, we smelled something that was so foul we gagged (as did the other passengers).  The holding tank broke.  They picked up the center carpet to explore the problem, and then decided to disembark us.  The floor was very sticky from the carpet tape from the removed carpet.  Every time we took a step, we walked out of our shoes, which were sticking to the floor.  I’m NOT kidding.  Back we went, by bus, to the boarding area.  So now where is Aggie??  We kept scanning the tarmac hoping she was not sitting out in the cold and all the engine noise.  Finally we saw her.  We were worried and she was sound asleep waiting as we were for the next plane.  It took an hour and a half, and another plane arrived.  Finally we were on our way.

We arrived with no other incidents.  Took a huge van to the Marina, Lucio met us and all was well.  Our dear friend Chris helped us put the expander on the port engine.  He and Jewell even let me  help.  Yes, don’t laugh, I bet you didn’t know I even knew what tools looked like.  Voila.  The finished installation.  

See proof I did help!
Installed and ready to go.

I asked Jewell out of kindness if she wanted me to go with her to the markets to get the provisioning done for the passage, and usually she takes pity and says “no I’ll go”.  But this time she says yes why don’t you come with me.  OY.  So here I am trying to remain interested.

OY!  I can't believe I am in Super Che' the market in Huatulco.

On the 13th of February we left Huatulco.  This is the part of the crossing you all have heard us talking about. The Tehuantepecs.  The winds through this pass can reach upwards of 60-75 kts an hour with waves up to 20-40 feet.  They have blown tankers 200 miles off shore.  The reason for this is the small piece of land that separates the gulf from the pacific.  It is only 175 miles wide.  So when the winds start blowing in the gulf and the Caribbean they funnel straight into the Gulf of Tehuantepec, Here is a map:

They tell you that the safest route is what they call one foot on and one foot off.  Meaning 1 to 2 miles off shore in about 60 feet of water.  The only time it is not necessary is if you have a good weather window of about 5 days. And then you can take the rhumb line that would run straight from Huatulco to Puerto Madero.  After our prior experiences, the Universe took pity on us and flattened the T-Pecs allowing us to take the rhumb line and cut out about 50 miles off our trip.

Calm seas during the crossing.

After 30 hours of travel we arrived in Chiapas/Puerto Madero approximately 12 miles from the Guatemala border. 

This is a map of the areas we have visited.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

El Salvador Here We Come, Finally?

Off to the races already.  While we were still in Los Angeles lightening apparently hit the marina and another charger failed and fried our brand new AGM batteries.  We ordered a new charger in L.A. and on December 17th we left L.A. for Huatulco with high hopes of  going south within the week.  Two new batteries (not under warranty) came in from Puerto Vallarta.  When the batteries arrived one was broken.  It took another week to get another one.  Nothing is easy!!!

We spent New Year’s with friends who threw a crazy hat party.  Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that Kristen brought us a half dozen crazy hats a few years ago, so Jewell and I thought we’d be the hit of the party.  Wrong!!!   We were ordinary in comparison to some.  See the pictures attached.  Not even having the best hats is easy!!!

Look closely at the hat.  The male counterpart was on the flip side of the hat.
With the help and guidance of our new friends Chris and Gerry, the owners/captain of the Misty Michael, we got the charger and batteries installed.  Then our thruster relay went out.  Oh well, I ran a boat for 20 years without thrusters so I wasn’t too worried. Oh, if it were only that easy!!

Gerry (standing) Chris and then Deb
One more great asset that came with Chris and Gerry was Goof.  She helped us in the department of missing Aggie.  She was sleeping while we were playing a rousing game of Mexican Train.  I don't know how she slept through it.

Goof Sleeping
Without the stern thruster, we took the boat out for a run to test the new batteries and charger.  About an hour out we heard Lucio yell “fire”!!!   Jewell yelled “shut down the port engine”.  We had a small crack in the exhaust expander that attaches to the engine exhaust (something that should last 100 years!!!).  There was no fire, just a lot of black smoke from the exhaust.  I needed to bring the boat back to the Marina on one engine, with no stern thruster.  Funny how you lose your memory and skills when the boat almost runs itself.  It wasn’t as easy as I remembered!!!  We radioed ahead and there were several people on the dock to help us but we pulled right in, on one engine, without a hitch….Compared to the rest of our story, this was pretty easy!!!


Just before we were scheduled to go back to Los Angeles, some friends from Puerto Vallarta were able to make a stop in Huatulco on their way to Panama.  The boat Locura and Captain Joe and his wife Lori and our good friend Dan.  They came over and we had one of our musical parties with wigs and all.  It was a blast.

Lori and Cap'n Deb
Dan on the bongos

The parade down the docks with the wigs on!

Disappointed that once again we couldn’t get moving South, we went back to L.A. with our cracked 20 lb. exhaust expander and ordered two to be fabricated “just in case”.     A small reminder as to what the words are for BOAT…..It’s “Bring On Another Thousand”….but in our case it’s “Bring On Another Ten Thousand”…..nothing is easy!!!