Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Retrospect

Not a palm tree in sight.

We are enjoying life on land, with its not-boiling-hot weather (I love fall!!), stand-up refrigerators (no more taking everything out of the fridge for that last piece of cheese), employment opportunities, family fun times and vast floor space perfect for crawling babies. But the transition has not been without some nostalgia.  

For one thing, we had an amazing time. With each other, with our boat and with the ocean. We met tons of new people, made lasting friendships, spoke regularly in a foreign language, hiked through jungles, swam in pristine reefs, learned the sport of spearfishing and lived on the ocean for days at a time with no outside contact except the occasional sea bird or passing dolphin pod. People rarely get to experience such complete solitude or to travel so extensively, bringing their home with them.

And I wish we could have kept going for a few more years, especially up into the Sea of Cortez with its electric blue water and storms of sea life and desert landscape. It just looked incredible, but so it goes sometimes. Even though we didn't travel much this last year, I'm happy that we accomplished something much more important. We were able to stay with our baby, both of us, for almost his entire first year, which is just unheard of normally. You can't get much better than that. 

So without further ado, here are some photos of our trip and beyond. 









And because it just wouldn't be a blog post without some baby pics, here are some photos of Jari since we've been back in the States. I can hardly believe it, but he's almost 1. Just a month and half to go. 









Sunday, September 21, 2014

News, News and More News


Where to start? I guess I should begin where I left off. We hauled Bettie out and painted the bottom. Vlad and Jaime sanded off all the old bottom paint and ground down and fared the keel. Then, they painted on two coats of epoxy primer and three coats of bottom paint mixed with cooperous oxide and New Mexican hot chili powder (don’t ask!). It took seven days of pretty grueling, in-the-hot-sun work, but they got it done and done well. 

Look at that awesome, shiny paint job!

Of course, as I complained before, it cost mucho dinero, because as we now know the La Cruz Shipyard has the most expensive haul out fee in North America at $19.80 a foot for the haul out and $1.10 for lay days. At least, I couldn't find a pricier work yard after a few days of internet scouring. They raised their already vastly inflated prices 10% from 2013. Go figure. 

Anyway, for eight days on the hard, we paid $1,100, which was a slight discount due to my complaining. I would highly recommend going somewhere (pretty much anywhere!) else if you want a fair price and decent service. (The service wasn’t terrible, but it was pretty crap when you consider that we were paying such an astronomical price. Everyone told me to get used to it because "it’s Mexico," but my thought is that if they want to charge more than the United States they had best have better, faster service. Or you might as well go to San Diego. Which I highly suggest anyway.) Ok, I’m done complaining about this, and I hope I’ve warned all future, budget, DIYers to steer clear of the Banderas Bay area if you need a shipyard. I repeat DO NOT go to La Cruz or Puerto Vallarta for a haul out if you at all value your money. 

So, what else has happened in the past month and a half? Well, we have been hashing over our future plans for a while now and decided that it was time. Time to head back to land. Back to jobs. We are now in New Mexico, where Vlad is working and I am on Jaroslav duty, and we are contemplating our next move.

This is what we look like when we contemplate.

And so we are putting Bettie up for sale. When we started this adventure back in 2012, we knew we had enough savings for a couple of years of sailing. Then, we had a kiddo, and then we got stuck in working in La Cruz, and then we decided that maybe it was finally time for something different. I have some final thoughts on our trip that I'll go into detail on in subsequent posts, a bit of nostalgia mixed with excitement for whatever we decide to do next. And of course, I'll give details on Bettie in case anyone wants to buy the best boat ever.  


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bettie's Haul Out

We always knew Bettie had a good looking bottom, but we were pleasantly surprised at how nice her hull was even though she hasn't had a fresh coat of bottom paint in at least five years. We are three days into our haul out, and things are looking good.

The keel was rusty but no more than we expected, and there were no blisters. Also, he investigated the crack in the rudder - that crack that everyone always points out to us with these very concerned looks on their faces - and he discovered something kind of cool. The rudder is just covered in fiberglass, and the crack is just in the covering. Underneath, it's solid teak! Craziness.

But mainly what Vlad did was grind rust off the keel. All day long. In 94 degree heat. He looked like a coal miner by 6:00 p.m. on the first day. Thankfully, he has a guy helping him, and Jami has sanded a half of the hull and scored us some bro deals on gel coat and fiberglass resin - things we would have had to hunt for costing us precious time. Here's Vlad looking as dusty as that Mexican street:

I had big dreams when it came to our haul out, that Vlad and I would undertake this massive project together and complain about how hot it was and how much painting sucked but in the end we would have completed this major and essential piece of boat maintenance. There's something satisfying in that, a sense of accomplishment in the face of heat stroke. Instead, I am on baby duty, and while that is also an essential task I kind of feel like I'm missing out, which just goes to show you can complain even while sitting in air conditioning.

On the bright side, though, we discovered that Jari loves on the orbital sander. I guess he inherited the power tools gene.

 

 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sometimes It Doesn't Pay to Be Cheap

Can you tell that Jari and I are displeased about haul out prices in Banderas Bay?

There is a not-so-subtle irony that in our search for a cheap place to redo our bottom paint we wound up in the most expensive place in North America to haul out our boat. More expensive than San Francisco. More expensive than Key West. And more expensive than Seattle. In fact, I have yet to find a place in the United States where it costs more to haul out, put your boat on stands and splash it back in the water than Banderas Bay.

A little background. Bettie needs a bottom job. Bad. For those of you non boaters, every couple of years boats need new paint on the portion of the boat that is below the waterline. This ensures you don't wind up with a keel that looks like a marine sanctuary. At the moment, every time we scrape the bottom of the boat I'm afraid we are going to get fined by the EPA.

We needed new bottom paint when we left Texas but thought we could find a cheap yard somewhere in Central America where we could haul the boat out and do the work ourselves for a way better price. However, we made an unfortunate error. On the Caribbean coast of Panama, there was only one haul out facility, and that was Shelter Bay. They made the most of their monopoly, charging $12 a foot for a haul out, and the boat yards on the Pacific side of Panama weren't any better. Little did we know that would have been a steal compared with Banderas Bay.

So we moved on to Mexico where prices would surely be more reasonable. And they are. In San Blas, a tiny town 60 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, the cost is $8.49. In Mazatlan, it's $11.53. In La Paz, I got a quote for a little more than $800 for someone else to do the work for us. And in Guaymas, it's a flat rate of $300. In Banderas Bay?? $19.80 a foot at the La Cruz Shipyard. And $17.80 at Opequimar, the other shipyard in Puerto Vallarta. Funnily enough, Opequimar's lay days are more expensive, so the price is almost exactly the same.

Anyway, I wasn't too fazed by the astronomical prices because we had heard you could negotiate like our friends over at Brio did. They got a quote of $10.92 a foot at both Opequimar and La Cruz (read their excellent post about it here) and had a great haul out in La Cruz. Oh, the difference a year makes.

We went over to the shipyard to discuss pricing and spoke with Alejandro, the same guy Brio talked to last year. He said he could no longer negotiate but would give us last year's rate of $18.00 a foot. (They jacked their prices up 10% for both haul outs and lay days since last year. I'd be curious to see how much they went up in 2012.) He then said we could speak with the harbor master if we wanted to negotiate further.

So here begins my two conversations with the harbor master. During the first conversation, I asked for the survey rate, the same $14 rate they offered Brio last year without any negotiation. Instead, he offers me 5% off of the $18.00. Now the price was at $17.10.

And I got to thinking. You see, this price sounded really expensive to me, but I knew next to nothing about prices for haul outs. So I decided to do a bit of internet sleuthing. Surely the price would be more in, say, San Francisco where the cost of living is ten times that of La Cruz.

At the DIY yard (Berkeley Marine Center) in San Francisco, it's $11.00 a foot, a full $8.80 lower than in La Cruz! In San Diego, I couldn't find a DIY yard, but for $1,360 I can get the bottom job done at Driscoll Mission Bay Boat Yard and Marina. That's only $300 more than the price I was quoted here, and someone else does the work for me. In Seattle at the Canal Boatyard, I could get a haul out for $9.00 a foot, less than half of the rate in La Cruz. In Key West, an incredibly expensive place period, it's $8.00 a foot.

At first, I thought, what are the odds that we have found the most expensive haul out rates in the entire world! But I got on to Cruisers Forum and the Women Who Sail Facebook page and asked if anyone had heard of a higher price. And, indeed, higher prices exist. One guy was quoted $23.62 a foot in Kotka, Finland. A woman who had sailed extensively in Europe said that her haul out in Crete was less expensive at $16.98 a foot but that on the mainland it could get more expensive at $20 a foot or higher. The prices in Sydney, Australia are comparable to here at $17.10 a foot on the low end.

I still have emails out to see if prices are higher in Singapore or Tokyo, and there might be a higher price in Flamenco Marina in Panama City. But the fact is that all of these places (besides PC) have exceptionally high costs of living, much more so than Mexico. And with cost of living factored in, this might very well be the most expensive haul out rate in the world.

That's when I went back to the harbor master for our second discussion. I asked him what the rationale was behind his pricing structure when I could get the same service in one of the most expensive cities in the United States for close to half the price. His answer: the high cost of living and taxes! As if San Francisco doesn't have a higher cost of living and I'm betting way more of a tax burden, at least that's what I hear all the California cruisers complaining about.

He then went on to say that he had gotten tired of all the negotiating that cruisers were doing over the prices, including going back and forth between them and Opequimar to try to score a better deal. Which I will admit does sound annoying until you consider the fact that the prices they are asking for are so out of the realm of reason that it would be idiotic not to negotiate. Anyway, so he went to the guy at Opequimar, and they both agreed to keep their prices at a set rate and to no longer negotiate with cruisers. He then said that the price must be expensive for us, which may or may not have been a slight (just because my husband has the boat covered in tarps right now does not mean that we are destitute!), but $19.80 a foot is expensive. It's expensive in the United States. It's expensive in Mexico. Heck, it's even up there in Australia and in Europe.

You may wonder why I am writing this. Why don't I just quit complaining, get over the fact that boating costs money and head to one of the other, cheaper, spots in Mexico? And my answer is this: I am willing to get gouged. I have accepted the fact that as people who live on boats we are expected to pay more than the fair price. But there is a limit, and I for one think $19.80 is way over that line. If you are a boater who does his or her own work, then DO NOT come to Banderas Bay. Seriously, just get your work done in the United States. We wish we had.

** Update: after my second conversation with the harbor master, the shipyard has decided to run a 15% off special until the end of October. Unfortunately, even though this is still insanely overpriced, we have to take them up on it due to time constraints and the fact that the travel lift in San Blas has been down for "routine maintenance" for the past two months. So be it. And if you made it through all that, here are a couple of happy sailors for your time!

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Back by Popular Demand

 

Grandmas really like baby photos in blog posts, but because our computer is no longer functional there has been a major lack of baby pictures, or any pictures for that matter, on the blog. The computer, which Vlad thinks was struck by lightning in the giant electrical storm we had a couple of weeks ago, is still on the fritz, and we won't be able to get it fixed any time soon. So I have been forced to try to blog from the iPad, a less conducive medium. I am trying out a couple of different apps to see which one works best, so please be patient with any technical difficulties.

In other news, we are back in the marina for a couple of weeks. Vlad is doing some work to the toe rail that just couldn't get done at anchor, and he is also doing some little fix it things like getting rid of our only leak and giving the engine some love.


On the baby front, we are really enjoying the six-month stage. Jari is just too much fun! He's curious about everything and has a penchant for dogs and hermit crabs. And toes. And the marina key cards. And sea birds. And books. And dinghy rides. And the baking utensils that make up his awesome percussion band. If it's active or going places, he's down.


And talk about mobile, I can't leave him alone on the bed anymore, and he is working on crawling in the marina's lounge area, the only spot we can find with a decent amount of floor space. He is also living it up in solid food land, which is a delight in Mexico. So far, he's had papaya, apples, pears, apricots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, leeks and potatoes, zuchini, grapefruit, eggs, fish, yogurt, curries and the list goes on. His favorite to this point is banana cooked in coconut milk with rice cereal. And his most hated is avocado. I'm not sure what happened, but he's decided that we are trying to kill him when we feed him avocado. Babies, quien sabe!


Here are some more baby photos to appease the grandmas.


 

 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Swarm of Bees

I've figured out what worse than a broken computer and a few sleepless nights. Bees. On your boat. 

The other night we came back to Bettie after a lovely evening of chitchatting and tacos. Jari went down easily for his 45-minute pre-sleep nap. (Why he can't just go to sleep then is one of those baby mysteries I've yet to figure out.) And Vlad and I had a beer in the cockpit. While taking that first sip of beer, I noticed this strange, dark mass hanging from the bimini, something that looked like the outline of a push broom brush, but thought it must be a tarp or something that Vlad had flung over the top as rain protection. 

And in any case, I soon forgot all about it when we resumed our heated discussion about this article I had read on Slate. The author gets freaked out because he sees two kids alone in the back seat of a car, and it's a hot day. That sounds pretty bad, until he mentions that the girls look to be about 9 and 12! And I'm thinking, wait a second, in two years the 12 year old will be able to drive a car. Surely she can open the door if it gets too hot? People were saying that he should have called 911. Baffling.

Anyway, we proceed to agree that we will probably get arrested for letting Jari play out in the woods without (gasp!) parental supervision when Vlad mentions this silly bee that's been crawling on his arm, and we both remark that it's a little late for bees as we watch it bumble its way up to the dark mass perched above our transom. That's when Vlad, who knew he hadn't put a tarp on the bimini, said uh, oh.

While we were out blithely eating dinner, a bee swarm had taken up residence on our boat and were quietly sleeping in a giant clump of what must have been a few thousand.

Now, I have a bit of a bee phobia. While I appreciate bees in the theoretical sense - their importance to pollination, the delicious honey they create and their general sweet nature - I still freak out when one is buzzing around my face, so my feelings when faced with a pile of bees on our boat was more dread than anything else. Vlad, on the other hand, is a bee aficionado. He loves them and even pets them when they land on his hand. This attitude came in handy.

Then Jari woke up, and for once I was secretly thankful that my job in this bee situation was taking of the baby. We went below, shut all the hatches, and Jari and I snuggled down under the fans in what was rapidly becoming a sweat box while Vlad went to work on the bees. 

First, he put a tarp and a plastic bin under the bee blob and then pulled down one side of the bimini top so that it provided a barrier between the companion way and the hive. Then, he shook the bimini to knock the bees down, but the blob didn't move. So he broke out the samurai sword. (Yes, we have a samurai sword on board in case of pirate attack. And bear spray.) With the samurai sword, he knocked the majority of the bees into the plastic tub. Each time he did any of these things, he would then jump back down into the boat, slamming shut the door, and would wait until the bee-splosion calmed down before venturing back outside. Did I mention that he looked kind of like he was having fun doing this? Yeah, he likes bees.

So now we had a box full of bees, and because it was nighttime and the bees were especially docile Vlad was able to drop the box of bees into the dinghy. Now we had a dinghy full of bees. And I mean full of bees. There were bees in the box, clumps of bees on the outside of the box and balls of bees on the whole front of the dinghy. It was a lot of bees! 

Vlad decided that the best course of action would be to take the bees to shore, but as he was driving away from the boat he realized he couldn't beach land the dinghy because bees were covering the front of the boat. So he made a snap decision to take the bee box to our friend's boat in the marina to get some help. Perhaps this wasn't the best idea, but you know what they say. Don't judge a man until you've driven around in his dinghy full of bees.

He pulled the dinghy up to our friend's boat and tries to tie up but in the process finally pisses the bees off enough that they start taking action. He banged on our friend's boat for help, but there was no answer. Then he sprayed the bees with water, further infuriating them. At this point, there wasn't much else he could think of to do, so he left the pile of bees on the dock, thinking that they would fly away in the morning. Well, they moved onto our friend's boat. Everything turned out ok. He was able to get rid of them early the next morning, but we were pretty sure that we would be ostracized from everyone in the marina for dropping off a bucket of bees on Dock 10. Our friend wasn't mad about the situation, though he did say that he didn't want any more presents from Vlad ever again.

Vlad suffered six stings in this entire process, and most of them were at the end of the saga. We could have waited until morning to deal with the bees because sometimes they fly away on their own, but we were worried about the baby if they decided that our boat looked like a nice place to stay. Jari did get stung. We are not sure when it happened, but there were several dozen (hundred?) stragglers the next morning. I'm guessing that one of them was hiding in his life jacket and stung him when I put it on before we went to town. That was the only time I can think of that he cried. His little hand swelled up and turned red, but he didn't have a major reaction, thank goodness. 


Anyway, it was a long, bee-filled night, but aside from a few stings and the deaths of hundreds of bees, well, it could have been worse. Plus, Dock 10 doesn't hate us. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Conspiracy of Sleep and Humidity

It's officially the rainy season. Every night we are greeted with the flash bang of lightning at 3:00 a.m., and every morning I wake up to soggy cockpit cushions that we can't seem to get dry enough to stow before the next torrential downpour. 

And it seems that all the humidity was just too much for my computer, which may have suffered its second hard drive failure in so many years. That makes a total of three failed computer hard drives and two dead-as-door-nails external hard drives. Electronics are no match for boat life.

And all that extra moisture means squall activity, especially at night, which leads me to the sleep portion of this conspiracy. Life with a baby is fun but not exactly restful. Jari started out as an excellent sleeper. For four months, he slept pretty much through the night, every night, and I would wake up all bright eyed to a happy, equally bright-eyed baby. It was fabulous. 

Then we got hit with the four-month sleep regression, and then he outgrew his bassinet. We tried to make a bunk for him on the settee, but he would have none of it. So he ended up sleeping in bed with us. In a bed slightly smaller that a full size mattress. Did I mention that our baby defies the laws of physics and takes up the majority of the bed? It's true. Did I also mention that Jari kicks and scratches all night? Yeah, he does. Did I also mention that as his main food source he really prefers to snuggle up right next to me and then kick and scratch? 

Long story short, I was having a really hard time sleeping and would spend all night shuffling around to various corners of the boat trying to get comfortable enough to doze for at least a couple of hours. Vlad said it was like living with a groundhog, in addition to the hedgehog and the bed hog we already had on board. So now I sleep on the settee. Every night we raise up the table, and I get to snuggle down by my lonesome while Vlad sleeps with the baby. And we were all sleeping relatively well, until the humidity kicked in. 


Now the baby wakes up at least once a night from the thunder storms and then I'm up for another hour or two trying to get back to sleep and then he wakes up again. And our computer is broken. I know this doesn't count as an actual conspiracy, but it sure feels that way.