Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Home At Last

Being back in the Guaymas boatyard is like being back home.  We rolled in at sunset, finding our friends Desiree and Damon (S/V Gaia) sitting under their boat, holding court with a bottle of tequila.  Desiree ran to our car and gave us hugs through the window.  "Come over and tell us where you've been!"

We took more than a week driving from Olympia to Guaymas.  On the Oregon coast we found Heather on couchsurfing.com and enjoyed a nice evening with her and Gail.  In northern California we took a hotel room for the night then rushed down to Culver City near Santa Monica to Naida's house.  Naida and Marco (S/V Linda Rae) have a house a few miles from the marina and we stayed there for four nights catching our breath and getting all the measurements we needed to order a new forestay and roller furler.  Andrew, the yard manager down at Marina Guaymas Seca, climbed aboard our boat and measured things on the foredeck and sent them to us via email.  We then talked to Ed at Downwind Marine in San Diego and he said, "Come get your furler."

In San Diego we visited Ed and bought cabling and furler parts then visited with our friends Hal and Nina (S/V Luna Sea).  We stayed at the famous Vagabond Inn there in Shelter Island.  After speed shopping for all those items we cannot find in Mexico we high tailed it across the southern California hill country and the Arizona desert and found a Motel 6 just north of Tucson.

Dunes in the Arizona Desert

We drove across the Nogales border crossing and got the red light at the Mexico customs station.  I think we got flagged because of the weight of the car.  The customs agent poked around our belongings in a desultory manner until we volunteered to show her our wine.  This she examined with gusto, checking the volumes and making certain we were under our limit.  The five thousand dollars' worth of boat parts we were carrying remained undisturbed with no duty paid.

With a sigh of relief we left the crossing and wove our way to the Immigration office at KM 21 where we picked up our six month's visas.  Heading south towards Hermosillo, Connie and I whooped and hollered.  Home at last!

The first night we slept in the car.  Day two we unpacked a few things, cleaned up the galley, and prepared our cabin so we could have a clean place to sleep.  Now, a week later, we are in the work groove, cleaning the dust and grit outside and inside the boat, stowing our gear and provisions, and starting in on the big to-do list.  Even though we've got loads of things to get done, we are taking our time, enjoying hot tea in bed in the morning, and knocking off to watch the sun set each night.  I can't tell you how happy we are to be back home at the boat.  It is where we should be all year long.

Eggplant with a nose.

Being a boat, Traveler has a little evil streak that I'm sure you have noticed.  This time she pulled a little stunt by completely discharging all three of the main batteries.  Even though they were disconnected all summer, every one of them registered below 12.2 volts..... meaning, they were damaged if not dead.  One registered 7 volts, one 12.1 volts, and one 12.2 volts.  I cranked up the charger hoping for a miracle but after two days I gave it up and found a Bob in San Carlos who brought me two new 8Ds, and one Group 27 battery.  It cost an arm and a leg and would have cost my first born child if I had one.  We got delivery and hoisted those fat boys aboard.  So as not to feel too bad about the unplanned expense, my plan is to sell the Oldsmobile van to pay for the batteries.

Then I started in on the first big project, replacing the two black iron diesel tanks.  (As you remember, last April when we tried to cross to Hawaii, one of the tanks developed a crack and we had to turn back.)  I took everything out of the two cockpit lockers and the rear lazarette and disassembled the wood partitioning walls inside.  Then I removed all the vents and fuel connections to the two tanks.  The tanks were lightly tabbed with fiberglass to the hull so I used a chisel to break through the material on both sides.  After removing the rusted connecting bolts the two tanks were free.

Tank halfway out.  It just fits thru the access door.

I took the main halyard and ran it through a turning block at the end of the boom and down through the starboard cockpit locker, tied it to the starboard tank,and  hoisted it up six inches out of the way.  Then I was able to lever the port side tank to line up with the access door in our main cabin.  Rigging a lift line and a handle I pulled upward and was barely able to budge the tank.  Clearly what was needed now was some real manpower, younger and stronger than me.

I called Omar.  You remember Omar.  He's the gentleman who became part of our family last year as we spent three months together trying to get our new engine installed.  Omar said he'd be right over.

"Right over" means later the next day when Omar showed up with his brother Arturo.  The two of them heaved and shoved but the tank seemed to be stuck.  Connie got down in the port side locker, braced herself against the hull, and gave the tank a mighty shove.  It popped over a few inches allowing the men to lift the heavy iron tank up and out of the deep bilge, into the aft stateroom, up the stairs, and into the cockpit.  When I suggested we rig a hoist to lower it to the ground, Omar said, "No. We'll just throw it over the rail.  It will feel good!"

Omar and Arturo tossing a tank.

So Omar and Arturo heaved it over the lifelines and tossed it overboard where it crashed to the ground in a puff of dirt and dust.  Big grins all around.  Everyone in the yard turned their heads.  Applause broke out.  Then the brothers muscled out the second tank and tossed it overboard as well.

Albert, the local HDPE, PP & ABS welder came to the yard, measured the tanks, and is now building me new plastic ones in his San Carlos shop.  Meanwhile I'm cleaning the cavernous bilge and getting my ducks in a row to install new tanks, hoses, valves, and fuel/water separators.
On our checklist is exercising the thru hull valves. We try to do this every month while on the boat.  Of thirteen, one was frozen, its handle twisting off when we tried to force it open.  Oh joy of joys!

Even with a somewhat daunting looking task list ahead of us, we are still very happy to be back on our dear Traveler.  Late in the day when I walk through the yard and the guys sitting under a nearby boat holler over at me, I change course and join them for a beer or two.  We sit in the shade, a motley group of grey haired men, telling sailing stories, and discussing the various repairs we are immersed in.  If I listen closely I can just make out the distant sound of singing and playing as Connie down below on Traveler is composing a new song. A good life it is.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

That's the Life for Me!

Traveler on the Hard

Poor Traveler sits up on stands in a dusty lot in Guaymas, Mexico, her decks covered in tarps, her running rigging tackle wrapped in foil, and her windows taped over with sun screens.  It's hot there at the Guaymas Seca boatyard where the lowest temperature at night is 85 degrees, too hot for us mere gringos.  I personally need LESS than 85 degrees in order to sleep at night.  The folks who live in Guaymas have concrete, block, and stucco structures shaded by trees.  The families move between the cool inner rooms in the heat of the day out to the fresh breezes found at the doorways in the afternoon. Then they move onto the porches or spill into the street as the cool of the night settles in.  In the darkness the kids play and the adults sit and enjoy the relief of the night airs.

Deer on the Mountain

Here on the mountain we do the same, opening up the windows at night when the outside temperature is finally cooler than the inside temperature.  Here in northern California it's chilly at midnight and roasting hot by noon.  The drill is: windows open at night, closed in the daytime.  Connie and I are staying in a house under construction.  Our sleeping room will someday be a nice large bathroom.  Right now it's simply a room with tiled floor and walls and unconnected pipes where the fixtures will eventually go.  The beautiful tile work keeps the room cool even when it is 95 degrees outside, great for napping. We like our room.

Bountiful Harvest

We are lucky to have such a place to spend a few summer months, a quiet place with deer, quail, and three sweet cats.   Our friends are building a guest house off the back side of the shop that presumably we could use for our sleeping quarters if we visit next year.  Digging holes for its foundation we found solid rock so we hauled a big compressor and a 90 pound jack hammer up the hill from town so we could break up the rock.  I took a one minute stint on the jack hammer just for fun and it totally kicked my butt.  Better a younger man than I for that job!
Scott Jack hammers

With the current three year drought some local wells have run dry and many people are getting their water tanks topped off by tanker trucks you can hear slowly grinding their way up the gravel roads in the mornings.  Fires are a constant hazard.  Two weeks ago a fire blew up east of here, coating the horizon with billowing smoke.  I set up my lawn chair where I could see across the valley and watched through binoculars the California Fire spotting planes circling then guiding the airborne tankers with their red-dyed, flame retardant drops.  The fire moved off to the north and was finally contained and doused.

Four days ago a fire far to the south of us blew up from 10,000 acres to 50,000 acres in one day, forcing evacuations in a 30 mile radius.  Local hotels are booked and farmers are boarding livestock for their neighbors across the county.  An entire small town burned to the ground.  My heart goes out to those who not only lost their homes but their jobs as small businesses went up in flames.

Ezrah, Michael, Connie, Tom

I've been researching various places where we might want to settle down once our sailboat cruising lust dies down. One of the reasons we left Puget Sound is because of the dark, wet, cold winters there.  In contrast, we found Mexico to be heaven in the winter time.  For sunny warm days and cool nights, northern California has a  perfect climate so we were starting to consider settling here but now, as we see the increased fire danger and water shortages, we're rethinking the suitability of this area for our little retirement ranchette.  As we look toward a warmer, dryer future perhaps we should place more importance on locating where there is an ample water supply and less risk of fire.  This brings us back to Puget Sound, the new sunny place in the Pacific Northwest.  Who knows? With the melting polar caps Connie's little Tumwater house might someday be oceanfront property!

Connie and Tesla
Yesterday we were remembering how nice it was to live on the boat, having our private little nest where we make our own schedule and decide fresh each morning what we'd like to do that day.  It's nice visiting with friends and family during the summer but we do miss our independence.  When you stay with someone, you live their life style.  You immerse yourself in the comings and goings of the house and subjugate your interests for theirs.  This is grand fun for a while, and we've been lucky to experience such a varied existence but after a while we find we yearn for more privacy and want to take back some control of our lives.

Both Connie and I love exploring the sea and the land, and we've become comfortable doing so, even feeling that when we are traveling we ARE at home. We decide which way to turn and how long to linger.  Connie's suggestion? Let's arrange it so we can live on the boat full time!  Come November we hope to get back to the boat and spend the winter in the warm Mexico waters.  Then we'll try for Hawaii again and end up in Puget Sound in the summer.  When autumn rolls around, instead of heading south, we'll find a place to tie the mooring lines and see what it's like to spend a nice warm and dry winter on the boat in Puget Sound.  Now that's the life for me!

Coming Back Alive

Keith Dekker
Connie Bunyer 2011

This ship it has it's problems, the anchor’s made of wood.
It floats around up on the top, it doesn’t hold so good.
The sails are torn and tattered; they let the wind go through.
We lost the tiller yesterday, the charts and compass too.

The food is spoiled, the cooler stinks, I think I saw some mice.
The meat is gray, the cheese is green; when can we get more ice?
There is no fruit or veggies, the scurvy’l reappear.
The thing that really scares me most is we’re running out of beer.

Chorus:     We’re coming back alive, we’re coming back alive.
            Didn’t think we’d make it, looks like we’ll survive.
            When we get back to dry land, I’ll never go back to sea.
            I’ll walk on land that doesn’t move.
            Hey, that’s the life for me!

The cook he hates the captain, the captain hates the crew.
The first mate yells at everyone, especially me and you.
I might just jump, I'll swim away, get off this lousy boat.
The bosun tried it yesterday, he sank he didn’t float.

The dinghy sank last Friday, it was an awful sight.
It’s where we kept the Cuban rum, I must have cried all night.
The captain says, “Get over it!” he says, “We’ll do just fine.
We may still have some whiskey left and the bilge is full of wine!”


If we get back I tell you, I’ll kiss that flat ol’ ground.
Shake hands with everybody, big hugs for every hound.
Then I’ll be movin’ inland yes, that’s the life for me,
Far from this old ocean and the Salish sea.

I heard the ship go bump last night; it was ‘bout 2 or 3.
I went outside to have a look; it was too dark to see.
First mate went out and came back; his shoes were full of sand.
I looked and yelled, “Holy cow! I think we’re close to land!”


Once we made it back to dry land, it didn’t sit so well.
The traffic it was crazy, the weather hot as hell.
I really miss the water, yearn to be afloat.
So back we went double time and now live on this boat.

We’re comin’ back alive, we’re comin’ back alive.
Didn’t think we’d make it, looks like we’ll survive.
When we get back to the water, where the wind blows free,
I’ll sail on seas that always move.
Hey, that’s the life for me!
Hey, that’s the life for me!
Hey, that’s the life for me!