April 12-17, 2011
We are running the engine this morning, bringing our batteries up to full power after two days at anchor. It is loud and the whole boat vibrates. We only need to run the engine for a short time - an hour or so - Owen tells me. As I resign myself to the noisy vibrations, I sit down with a cup of coffee and decide to write a blog entry. I have been composing this blog entry for days, for weeks, as the sun rises and sets each day and I have not found a moment of peace to write. This morning when I am asked to do something - I say, "No, it is time to write." Griffyn is looking at the Mercy Watson books (which came in the mail yesterday Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Lois!!!), Tamsyn is writing her sentences (morning writing about the day before), Owen is reading about boat electronics. The box of children's books which we received yesterday (sent from WA, USA) was like opening a box of Christmas presents - we were all very excited to see again some of our favorite stories. There was also two bags of junk jewelry - I can imagine lots of projects for those beauties and had been saving them for years for the time when the kids are old enough to make something with them. There were old wooden dominoes, buttons and yarn along with the books. These books are invaluable in a country that doesn't speak English - children's books especially are hard to find. We are enjoying these immensely and know that we may not get another package from our family for some time (considering it took me two months to figure out how to get this one down here - with out a side trip to Guadelahara).
Well we left the dock last Saturday and are now at anchor (not too far from the dock). Being at anchor is free (we paid a monthly slip fee the at Del Palmar boat yard.) Thus far I love living at anchor. The view is like the view of Seattle from a ferry far out in the sound. We are surrounded by reflections of the bright sun and blue sky dancing on the waves. The sounds of the boat yard, the paint dust, the large power boat engine exhaust fumes, the desert dirt, the constant trail of visitors past our boat on the dock (even though they are our good friends) have ceased. The kids have stopped bouncing up out of their seats at the slightest sound outside the boat. There is a moment of peace this morning. It is quiet (well it will be once the engine is off), clean and beautiful here. Madrona moves gently on the waves while I drink coffee and write.
Carving out the time to write has been impossible over the last couple of weeks - hence the blog silence. The banda ancha (our thumb drive internet connection) has been completely unreliable - making blog entries almost impossible to maintain, much less check email or make phone calls. For instance it has taken me 3 days to write this entry and the banda ancha (when I finally am ready to upload) is dead again. All I've attempted in the last couple of weeks is one phone call to the US (which had such a poor connection I had to give it up after trying for an hour.) The list of items that needed to be purchased, repaired or stowed was mountainous and of-course Owen had to come down off the mast. He is down. The rig has been replaced. We now have a completely new rig (8 new shrouds, a forestay, a back stay and an inner stay). The forestay has the headsail furled back up on it again (with a re-sewn clew), the back stay has the SSB antenna attached, the shrouds hold the pin rails (which hold the dock lines) and the Serious radio antenna.
The last couple of weeks were filled with tons of jobs that had to be done to get us off the dock. Jobs that require power and water. And the endless shopping trips (on foot) for food and supplies which were adventures in themselves. Imagine shopping with two children trapped in a boat for long periods of time, they wanted to ride their scooters down the Malecon, get ice cream, play at the beach and the incessant demands, "I'm hungry", "I'm hot", "I'm thirsty", "I have to use the banyo", fueled the mood and pace of each expedition. Often a 3 mile shopping trip for 3 items took a whole day. And we have found that just because the store is a hardware store doesn't mean that you will be able to find the hardware you'd expect to find in this type of store in the U.S. - we have found items all over town - often in places you wouldn't expect. We found a razor for Owen which opens up and uses stainless steel blades (no plastic) at a hardware store (not the local drug store). Once Owen knew the blade would work with his thick beard we had to re-locate "the" hardware store that sold the replacement blades - that took many shopping adventures.
Many boat repair jobs took multiple attempts before they were successfully completed - for instance replacing the gaskets on the ports. Every port on the boat was hard, deformed and needed to be replaced. The first time we attempted to wash the cabin house - the ports leaked so bad we had to abandon the project abruptly to salvage piles of lists, boat notes, repair manuals, etc. on the navagation station. We panicked about all the electrical panels near the nav station, the charts, and everything else piled up there. The cushions in the salon were soaked through. Some ports leaked much worse than others. We couldn't really wash the boat until the ports sealed properly (or at least we had some sense of where to put the towels). So we began replacing gaskets. The 3 smaller round ports were easy - they held the first rubber gasket we tried very well. Easy means that we could replace about three gaskets in 24 hours allowing time for the silicone and caulking material to cure (become hard). The 8 oval ports, made in Taiwan by drunken foundry workers were more of a challenge. Some only required a second attempt, meaning after we removed the first replacement gaskets which were not thick enough, they held the second thicker gasket material we tried. And a few ports were so poorly forged that we had to carve our own gaskets from gasket materials. Those ports still do not make a perfect seal - but we were able to wash the cabin house with minimal water leaks. We also had to repair the gaskets and re-weld a hinge on the two hatch windows. A benefit of living off a boat yard as opposed to living in a marina is access to heavy equipment and labor. We hired the boat yard welder to weld a broken hinge for the butterfly hatch. And as with most boat repairs one seemingly small repair generally leads to a much more extensive (and expensive) second repair, because the "small repair" was really just the scratched paint covering an enormous whole (so to speak). For each project we tackled over the last couple of weeks most required double or triple the energy we anticipated to complete the repair. Owen and I often fell asleep right after the kids were down. Each dock neighbor (sailor) we discussed our current repair project with would come back with the standard response, "sounds like a boat." Bill (SV Cloud XI) said boat stands for Break Out Another Thousand. Carlos (master of waterworks at marina de La Paz), said, "The job of a boat is to sink and the job of the skipper is to keep it afloat." Our boat was loaded with nav equipment and spare parts when we bought her. Most of the boat systems we have brought back to life (after sitting on the hard for 3 years in a desert) work great and she is sound (she's a Tayana!). The long list of things that needed to be checked, repaired, replaced or cleaned has mostly been done. We were able to wash the boat before we left the dock.
School was put on hold during this period of intense activity, the kids watched a lot of movies and thank God for legos. I learned how to bake in the oven, learning to make bread again (in an oven heated by one burner and a small broiler - no insulation.) I'm not sure why a "Force 10 oven/stove" is considered the best - without insulation it is hard to maintain temperature. I brought a pizza stone down with me - and that helps hold the temperature (and makes great pizza) but I have to be vigilant when baking. There has been a learning curve of-course and because flour is heavy (to carry for miles) we eat our mistakes. Today I am making bread pudding. I learned how to use the sewing machine we purchased from another boat. I made Tamsyn and Griffyn pencil cases and then fleece pants. I intend to make new sheets for the V-berth, lee cloths, a rain catcher, shorts & shirts for all of us and a couple dresses. Tamsyn would like a Dorothy dress (like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz). That will be a project for the more advanced sewer. I was able to find some blue and white gingham. The only patterns (for clothing) for sale here in La Paz are at one fabric store which sells a magazine of current styles and one (yes one) large sheet of pattern paper with every pattern design in the magazine on it. Can you see it? - 15 patterns drawn on top of each other - you get to figure out what sleve part goes with what shirt - and it is all in Spanish. I will be working with out patterns. Luckily like many situations here on the dock there is an expert sewer around and she has begun teaching me the basics of sewing clothes. And many years ago in college I took a basic pattern making course and do remember how to think about a body on paper. And as with bread - we will wear our mistakes (they take a lot of effort). Sailors' dress is somewhat more relaxed than landsmen. I have given Griffyn, Owen and Tamsyn hair cuts - they all look quite good. I'll need one soon too - or maybe I'll grow my hair out.
Perhaps the best thing about living on the dock has been all the great people who also live on the dock. They have been invaluable as Owen and I learn to repair or make or salvage the parts of our home that need to function (virtually everything). Sailors are a tremendous resource to one another. The community is generous, extremely knowledgeable, adventurous and creative. Everyone we have met and become friends with has helped us in some way whether it be learning how to make bread, figuring out a new gasket solution, or just having a beer. Tamsyn and Griffyn have made friends with a number of the local kids as well.
And I could not end this blog with out telling you about some of the people who made life on the dock special for all of us on Madrona. There was Steve and Lulu (SV Sempre Sabado - which translates as "Always Saturday"), who were always there when Owen had a question about anything. Steve helped Owen begin switching out the shrouds when the local rigger (remember rig-amortis) couldn't make time for us anymore when we finally got the cable. Steve has been a tremendous support to Owen, the newest boat owner on the dock. And Lulu who came by our boat many times offering freshly baked items - one day with a plate of warm cinnamon rolls. I was still sick at the time and had had little food for a couple days. I decided to eat that day. I wanted to write a whole blog entry entitled, "We Love Lulu." She has shared recipes and encouraged my bread baking and oven experiments. Lulu was there with advice and encouragement when it all felt so new and overwhelming to me. She even spent a day with Tamsyn sewing on her boat. Thank you Steve and Lulu for all your support. There was Dave and Carolyn (SV Aztec), Dave kept everyone laughing during his afternoon cockpit cocktails, he had a way with Griffyn that was light and serious at the same time. And Carolyn who misses her own grand children took a shine to Tamsyn. They had the best cockpit and often invited us over for afternoon drinks. They were part of what made the dock feel like home for us when we were finding our way in the new lifestyle of cruising. They were greatly missed when they left the dock. There was Ivar (MV Dee Jay, a big old wooden power boat) who has lived in La Paz for the last 15 years with his wife (a local) and their two boys. Ivar was up early every morning at his boat making coffee for anyone who had a cup. He offered me and the kids many rides to grocery stores, took the kids to the park and generally was the local expert on where to get anything. He is a friendly Texan with a heart of gold. I will miss his morning coffee chats as much as Tamsyn and Griffyn will miss his two boys, Gabriel and Alejandro. There was Sherri (SV Banjo Jane), who is anchored near us now. She taught me not to be afraid of my new sewing machine. She learned to sew as a child when her mother said, "here is the sewing machine, I'll buy you any fabric and patterns you want," (but refused to buy her daughters new clothes for school). So Sherri and her sister became great sewers - sewing all their own clothes. Sherri has driven me to all the fabric stores in La Paz, helping me get fabric for all the projects we need to make (rain catchers, lee cloths, etc.) as well as helping me get started dressing the kids. She's as tough as nails, won't take guff from anyone, lives alone on her 40 ft yawl and reminds me of my sister, Kelly. She has been a great friend and teacher to me. There was Captain Dave (SV Hu Song) who has been a great support to Owen with all types of boat issues. Dave is a licensed Captain who sailed Hu Song up from the Carolinas and is heading back home to B.C., Canada. There was Gael (SV Gravlox), a French Canadian who loves to race, who had his boat in dry dock at the boat yard for much of the time we lived on the dock. He is a sweet heart and kept us laughing. We will miss him. And we also met two nurses, Roland and Karin (SV Meliora). Karin is an emergency room nurse (formerly from Los Angeles) and Roland is a recovery room nurse. Karin brought me 7-up and saltines when I was sick and was a great resource for all types of questions we had about medical things. It is great to know we have that kind of expertise within reach (a quick email). Owen was able to help Karin out with her computer a couple times. And Tamsyn and Griffyn became pirates with the gifts they brought the last time we saw Karin. I can't imagine a better community of souls for fledglings like us as we stretch our wings and learn to fly. Thank you.