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In LA after AZ and Joshua Tree Park

Posted on Thursday Jun 3, 2010

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We spent about a week with our friends Robert and Liz and their family in Phoenix. Where they had the pleasure of helping us after we broke down about a mile from there house! Hopefully the new fuel pump and filter will fix the problem as the old pump was the wrong size and I don't think the fuel filter was ever changed.

Anyway I think we mananged to successfully lower the properity values of most of the neighborhood before we left.

On our way to LA we decided to stop at the Joshua Tree National Park. And we were glad we did. There were very few people there and we felt like the massive park was all ours. We spent the night at Jumbo Rock campground. There were massive boulders around and just us, the animals and our wild kitties. (Can you see the WTM?)



The desert park was in full bloom with lots of flowers and bright colors. I don't know how we got so lucky. There are also several oasises deep in the desert with lots of animals and no one around. If we had more time we probably would have done some of the longer hikes, but we got to see a good portion of the park.

WTM breaks down but we found the wave cave

Posted on Sunday May 9, 2010

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We left Huatulco and found a nice beach town called Zipolite. Within yards of the beach we parked our beast and took the cat for a walk. It was a beautiful place with powderlike sand. We spent a quiet night there and an early morning fixing stuff on the RV.

Our goal was to make it to another beach on the other side of Acapulco. But after leaving the town of Santiago Pinotepa Nacional our engine acted up. We noticed a relay had been clicking on and off about every 5 seconds and I tried to locate it, but with no luck. Outside of town in the middle of nowhere the engine died.

Totally dead, no spark, no go. Fortuantely this didn`t happen on a blind curve. I was able to coast to the only pull-out for miles. I still couldn`t find the problem so we let it cool off and it started fine. So we turned around to buy some parts to jumper in a relay. After getting the parts we went to get some cash but the ATM machine ATE my card!! The bank couldn`t do anything until the next morning. So after watching the military raid a hotel and block off the street, then getting kicked out of a Pemex (mexican gas station which normally lets people park overnight) by a rude old dude, we finally found another Pemex whose guard even offered to keep an eye on us during the night. We waited most of the next day to get our card back only to discover it was EXPIRED. It would have been nice if the machine had at least told us why it kept our card.

On the way past Acapulco the engine clicking wouldn`t stop. Fearing another engine failure on a blind curve in the middle of nowhere, we sucked it up and skipped the bypass and plunged headlong into the road nightmare that is downtown Acapulco. Acapulco has become the slum town of Mexico. There is no other way to say it. We found a little RV park that was totally run down but was right near all the auto repair places. The next day we found this guy in an dusty lot and a small cinder block room with "Electrico" on the side. Not holding out much hope, we pulled in.

The owner wanted to buy our RV, but his mechanic and I ignored him as we poured over the engine, which refused to reproduce the problem. At one point I got so fed up I started moving and pulling things randomly until a large spark shot out of something and the CLICK of the ignition coil relay caused me to excitedly shout "Eso es la sonida!" We traced it to a bad diode that was shorting to ground and killing the power to the ignition relay. I was shocked when the mechanic reappeared 10 seconds later from behind the concrete hovel with a brand new version of this chassis mounted toyota diode. $22 later we were back on the road and better than new.

Our next stop was Playa Linda which is a spot we surfed 3 years ago with some other boats just outside of Ixtapa. It was so quiet and relaxing parked next to the surf. We slept hard knowing the WTM was running well again.


The next day we wound our way up the coast to a funky little RV park/restaurant/mini-store on the beach. We were the only ones there.... Jordan went bonko in the bushes and ended up covered in stickers.

So today we decided to go a short ways to Maruata. Wow is it beautiful. We are parked right by the main beach (i.e. free) with fantasic sand, clear water, cliffs and reefs all around.





Then we discovered the WAVE CAVE. We`ve probably seen thousands of caves and cliffs and blowholes, but the wave cave is cooler. From this hole in the wall comes spouting rushing waves. It creates its own little beach. See for yourself:

Cat in Training Photos

Posted on Friday Apr 30, 2010

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Tonight is our first night on the WTM. We are still moving piles of stuff around trying to sort it all out, but so far so good. We plugged into an AC outlet to hopfully get the fridge kickstarted....

Jordan is getting better at walking on her leash as you can see in the photos.


But she still hates it when it is time to go back home...

WTM and Cat-In-Training

Posted on Thursday Apr 29, 2010

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Our short list of things to "fix" on the RV turned into about 3 weeks worth of work. We found some sections of dry rot and had to remove several areas of the inside roof and replace two roof vents. This took a lot of time but the job was cheap and easy. Now the inside looks really good with new paint and roof fixtures. We also added a solar panel to keep the White-Trash-Machine green. And we put in an invertor for using AC power.

We also went through all the equipment and got everything working, from the fridge to the water heater. We even added a water filter so Sherrell can have her good tasting water.

Now we are about 90% moved on board the WTM. But what about the cats? Well Jordan has been learning the fine art of walking on a leash. She loves the outdoors so much that we have been trying to get her used to the idea of being outside but not being able to "go bonko". She is really good at maneuvoring on the boat with her harness and tether, but walking with her has been a real learning experience. Sometimes she gets wrapped up on things and panics, sometimes she sees other cats and gets feisty and sometimes she just has to be dragged back home. All in all she is doing pretty good and should be ready for the parks and the city. She is quite a crowd pleaser as everyone is interested in a cat on a leash. Jezebel on the other hand doesn't like change so we'll just have to see how she does...

Our plan is to spend a couple of days actually living on the WTM while "putting the boat away" for the summer. After 7 years this will be the first time we've left SARANA alone for more than a month. Fortunately, there are several people here to keep an eye on it for us. So we should be checking out the surf spots by next week and slowly working our way north along Mexico's coast.

White Trash Summer

Posted on Friday Apr 2, 2010

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I'm sure you're wondering why we've been so silient. We decided to tie up in Huatulco, Mexico this summer and go see our friends and family in the US. To do this properly (i.e. bring the cats) we needed wheels.

In addition to prepping Sarana to be alone, we have been researching RV's. Yes a full-on beater white trash machines (read: cheap). We found a class of 21' RV's that get about 16mpg (outstanding when it comes to RV's I'm told). So after scouting the internet ads we opted for me to fly to Phoenix, Arizona where there was the largest collection of these RV's. And as an added bonus I was able to crash at Sherrell's childhood friend's house and they even had an extra car for me to drive in my quest.

Well, I found it. And not only did I find our 6 wheeled (it has dual rear tires) WTM (white trash machine), I fixed it up, loaded it with Mirror Pond Ale, and drove it over 1500 miles from Arizona to Huatulco (not far from Guatemala). I crossed 12,000' mountain passes near snow covered 18,000' peaks in Mexico City. I crossed the desert, the forest, lakes, rivers, more mountains, more cities in an endless blur to return to Sherrell and our cats.

FIVE days of day-time driving and that has to be a speed record. I didn't have a single serious break down. In fact during my rest stops I spent time fixing things inside. The only problem was a $100 in bribes to some crooked cops near Mexico City and about 37 toll booths. (I took the paid roads because they are big beautiful smooth roads with emergency service phones and plenty of help if I broke down). It was a spectacular little trip to bring our WTM to Mexico.

The pictures make it look bigger than it is. This is a toyota mini-truck with a box on the back. In the box is a propane stove, a electric/gas fridge, bathroom, shower, sink, water heater, and of course the bed. It's smaller than our boat, but what the hell? This thing was built in 1986 and has retro all over it. One thing for sure is RV's and boats are worlds apart when it comes to quality. RV's are junk.
But we are fixing this one up. The engine and drive train are in great shape with only 80k miles. There are some issues with the hatches and the ceiling, but we've found materials here in Mexico and are starting to fix them. One hatch blew off when I crossed the area near the Tehuantepec. Ironic isn't it? The Tehuantepec is a nasty gulf to cross in a sailboat and here the RV is what takes the damage.
Got a parking spot for us?!

Tsunami Video

Posted on Saturday Feb 27, 2010

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You might have missed the little 8.8 earthquake and the media obsession with the tsunami hitting Hawaii, but other parts of the world experienced that little wave. Here in Huatulco in the southern part of Mexico we had a little surprise too.

We are in a small canal off the side of the marina (I call this area "The Cheap Seats") where there is no water or power, but the price is right! This smaller area was more dramatically effected than the main marina. I measured a 4'9" height change in about 90 seconds. Fortuantely these aren't true tsunami style waves, but are just smaller waves that cause large current surges.

In the smaller basin where the fishermen are near town there had some serious problems. The narrow entrance just pumped waves inside like a shotgun. Several pangas were sunk. There was a cruise ship on the dock that immediately departed for deep water.

Fortunately for us all we experienced was the rushing current and the elevator ride up and down about 15 times so far today. I shot a boring little video that shows some of the current draining out of the marina...remember this water is normally at a dead standstill.

Bahia Santa Cruz in Huatulco

The passage across the Tehuantepec went better then we could have ever planned. The killer part was after we crossed the gulf. That part was supposed to be easy; no one told the ocean. The waves were whipped up in a wild frenzy like some kind of fake scene out of Hollywood. I've never seen anything quite like it. There was practically no wind, yet here were these 6 foot tall brick wall waves slapping us every 4-5 seconds from random directions. The current was still pushing us fast so we were slamming into to these beasts and flying out the back side.

Imagine rocketing up at 30 degrees then plummeting down the back at 30 degrees. Repeat 1000 times every few seconds for 10 hours. It was truly mind-boggling. I don't know what caused these conditions or how it was physically possible for us to hit these waves so hard and have the boat continue to move at 5 knots or more. Normally when we slam into waves this hard we end up crawling at 1-2 knots or even going briefly backwards after the impact.

Somehow we charged onward. Dunking the bow over and over. Rocking and rolling violently and only rarely after a brutal series of slamming waves would we loose speed down to 4 knots. All those random waves and no wind? Insanity. Sometimes they would calm down almost instantly and we'd think relief! Only to turn on more violently 30 minutes later. I thought that the ocean was playing some kind of sick joke on us.

The good news was we arrived about 15 hours ahead of our best guess. The bad news was we could only eat crackers, were unable to sleep during our off-watch times and arrived in the pitch black night. Since we've been in here 3 or 4 times before and there are lots of lights for guiding cruise ships into this little bay, we chanced a night entrance between cliffs and rocks. Despite exhaustion we kept it together and anchored safely at about 3am this morning.

It is nice to have the Tehuantepec behind us and be back in this fun anchorage. There are actually other cruising boats around and tomorrow we get to do about 30 pounds of laundry and find some TAMALES DE ELOTE!

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Greetings from the middle of the Tehauntepec

After waiting an eternal 13 days an opening in the nasty gulf of Tehauntepec finally appeared! This little gulf is probably the nastiest stretch of water that I have ever known. I'll spare you all the boring details, let's just say that this place sucks.

Our luck has really turned for the good, however. Since leaving Puerto Chiapas, Mexico we have had tremendous force of nature pushing us for the past 36 hours. Some sort of mystery current has been our benevolent benefactor moving our boat with an unseen hand at 20% to 30% faster than we can normally go. If all goes well it will cut 12 hours off of our projected crossing time!

So here on the start of day 2 we are a bit groggy. There were a lot of shrimp boats out working the shoals, but we never had any problems or had to alter course much. The winds have been against us, but light. Right now we have been moving at 6.6 knots (we normally max out about 5 without that current push) and the wind is SW at 10 knots. We have to turn SW against the wind of course later this evening, but we are trying to time things so that when we need to turn the thermal (day time) SW winds will start to die down. What all this means is we've been motoring. Motoring because of headwinds and motoring to avoid more headwinds. At least our Tehuantepec weather window is gorgeously long lasting a full 24 hours longer than we need. Due to the mellow conditions we are taking the 16 degree short-cut which chops off a few miles and reduces the amount of time we will have to head SW against the wind...fellow sailors don't try this at home; stick to one foot on the beach.

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Chorizo-Dr Pepper-Haas-Heaven

Posted on Wednesday Feb 17, 2010

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Today I cooked up some soy chorizo with black beans, pico de gallo and haas avocados to make the worlds most delicious burritos.

It probably sounds crazy, but here's the skinny. Mexico has a lot of good soy products. They make some excellent soy chorizo and outside of Costa Rica/Panama Haas avocados are hard to find. There are several different varieties of avocados, but haas is what many of us gringos are used to. Now, to be honest, Nicaragua has some of the worlds finest tomatoes (and rum) but some combinations like soy chorizo and haas avocado with a fresh pico del gallo (chopped tomatoes, onion, celantro, lime juice) can not be beat.

And Dr. Pepper, as bizarre as it sounds is one of my favorite drinks. But this random blend of raisins (I think) and sugar isn't a big hit outside the US. But occasionally places in Mexico carry Dr. Pepper. Now I'm in some kind of coma induced chorizo-dr pepper-avacado-mezcal stupor.

And while we are still waiting for the Tehuantepec winds to stop blowing for a few days in a row so we can travel north, at least we are enjoying ourselves!

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Photos from Nicaragua

Posted on Friday Feb 12, 2010

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We finally found internet! So here are some photos from our time in Corinto which was a great place to hang out with the boat. We were surrounded by mangroves and volcanoes. That cloud on top of the volcano, isn`t a cloud; that is smoke and ash! Sometimes you can hear a rumble.

Ivan and his family were friendly and helpful. We let the kids take a turn at trying to row PUFF around the estuary. The navigator took them straight across the water and hard onto the mud. We had to go out in Ivan`s boat and pull them out of the muck.
We took several day trips to see some of the famous areas and parks around northern Nicaragua. We even splurged one day and rented a car to see the highlands.
This photo is from the cathedral in Leon. It seems you can`t take a photo anywhere without a volcano or another church in the background.
One of our side trips took us up to the private forest reserve run by a coffee plantation Selva Negra. They are hard core conservationists with all shade grown coffee and they have even developed a new way to capture the waste from coffee processing and reusing it...something no one had done before. They have a small lodge with private chalets. The most amazing of the building is the little chapel which has been carefully designed and watered so that it is covered with plants. It looks like a living building and it is truly amazing.

Here`s a picture of Sherrell looking out the window of the chapel. Notice the roof and walls?

And the chalets are on the edge of their private reserve where we hiked several trails and listened to the howler monkeys.