The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Barre de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico, Monday, 23 January 2006

I was foiled yesterday in getting my blog posted at the Sands Hotel in Barre de Navidad. I took my laptop in with me also to get a full charge on it. But I never found a wi-fi signal and, since I was a passenger in someone else’s motorboat, I did not have the time to go to an internet café and blog. I really miss having a flash memory since I can then write on the boat and take only the flash stick ashore with the blog already written and only needing to be posted. There is also a lot less risk involved in sticking a flash stick into your pocket, possibly in a Ziploc-type bag; the dangers of carrying a laptop ashore were brought all to forcefully home to me yesterday when the inflatable in which I riding took a big sloppy wash from a passing panga over the bow. The wave splashed copiously over the contents of our boat. Fortunately, before leaving I had placed the laptop in a plastic laundry bag; although a little water got inside, no damage was done this time.

I worked for a while on the computer at the hotel hoping that I would at some point get a wi-fi signal. It never came and I dashed up to the internet café to check if I had heard from Kathleen or gotten translating work before making a quick trip to the butchers. Back at the boat I decided that, with only $ 10 left till month-end, there was not much point in going ashore for the moment. I had better aboard and get my painting and other jobs done so I could leave soon.

The gusty northwest winds of last week have disappeared. If there is any wind it is very light and as likely as not from the southwest. Working around the boat is hot now, hotter than almost any day on the Straits of Georgia in British-Columbian summer. At times like these it is best to adopt a Zen-like approach to motorcycle and boat maintenance. Organise some work and let your mind slip into a semi—detached state. In the morning now I do some yoga stretching exercises, which, though seemingly undemanding, have made me stiff at midday and tired earlier in the evening. I play opera recording while I am working, take a break in the early afternoon to have a sandwich and something to drink, and to do some writing.

Yesterday I scraped both of our battered oars in preparation for coating. These have seen a lot of action and the tips of the blades are rough and most of the paint is gone. Scraping the oars removes about 60 percent of the old white paint. I sand them and intend to apply a coat of sealant to the bare ash-wood when I accidentally flip the sanding sponge over the side and fish it out without thinking first with an oar. It was after all the handiest thing available. Of course, now the blade is damp and I cannot put the sealant on tonight. I put them out to dry and will do them in the morning. This gets done this morning and I hope to get a coat of paint on them as well.

This morning too I sand all around the aft deck and apply a coat of light grey paint to the caprail. I debate about painting the caprail all round but for the life of me I cannot find the jug of fine sand that I want to spread on the wet paint to prevent slipperiness underfoot. I know it’s aboard here somewhere because I saw it only a day or two ago. But where has it got to? My Zen mood vanishes in a moment of frustration. Up till then I am pretty cool and enjoying the work despite the heat. After my noon break I shall paint the oars, paint the white trim on tow teak hatchcovers, the lazarette and forecastle hatchcovers, and get a second coat of paint on the dinghy seat which has remained unpainted since I made this replacement for the seat lost when the dinghy flipped off the Pacific coast of Baja California last February.

Last evening Jens and Alice of Veleda invited me over for a beer. After saying yes I had to back out because the oars were drying and I had no means of propulsion. They are going to pick me up later this afternoon and take me over. We are thinking of leaving together along with Curt of SeaReach for Tenacatita on Wednesday. I have a lot to get done before then.

At night the lagoon is beautifully quiet. The stars are extremely bright and there is a little forest of disembodied masthead and anchor lights from the now twenty boats in here; except for the closest ones, I cannot see the boats themselves. After my dinner, I sit outside with a beer and a cigar contemplating my day’s work until I feel weary enough to stretch out on the starboard berth intending to read. It is warm enough the last two nights to make a blanket unnecessary until at least early morning. Inside the cabin it is so dark that I cannot see my hand in front of my face. In the far distance, a mile away, fireworks go off around 2200; I get up to watch and count five or six seconds between burst and sound. They must be coming from Melaque across the bay. I hear disco music too but it is far away and not disturbing (these beach discos and bars are a total nuisance to cruisers in Mexico; Mexicans seem to accept high levels of noise at any time but I am surprised that neighbouring hoteliers don’t complain.) I return to my bed and my book but the intention to read goes the way of my earlier Zen mood and I drift off.

I awaken around 0300, unable to sleep any longer. This is not uncommon for me; it’s probably and “Alterserscheinung” (an indication of old age). Lights go out about 2130 and I am normally awake again around 0300. I have learned not to regret this quiet time, to welcome it now even, for reading or, if the laptop battery will permit, for writing. I normally first go on deck to pay a visit to the leeward shrouds. Tonight again, as usual, I contemplate the constellations, fiery bright in the blue-black heavens, and notice that a last-quarter moon is rising in the southeastern sky. It lays a silver path through the silhouetted sailboats directly to Vilisar. The disco music is still going strong but far away.

Down below I dig out Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes to read some more about the voyage to Ecuador. I heard of one boat headed that way in February and wonder if we are leaving things too late of we go in early April. The other boat intends to stop at Islas Cocos, a group of islands belonging to Costa Rica and on the rhumb line to Ecuador (but a little to the east of a rhumb line aimed at the Galapagos Archipelago). The Cocos are some 600 miles offshore. I try in vain to find something about the Cocos Islands. I drag out the British Admiralty Ocean Passages for the World and flip to the section at the back for sailing vessels. This is section was the whole book until the advent of motor vessels. It’s fascinating to read today since a copy was on every rigged merchantman and warship in the great days of sail. I also unfold all six of the charts and diagrams in the packet that comes with the book. However, the Cocos are barely mentioned here either so I have no idea if you can land there, if they have water and fuel available to us, important considerations for us. We may, after all, have to motor a large part of this trip given the contrary winds and the fact that the Doldrums, that squally belt of contrary or absent winds just above the equator that moves north in the spring and summer. Currents are erratic in this region as well so we need to be prepared. Perhaps it would be better to sail to Ecuador via the Cocos rather than directly to the Galapagos, which we can then visit when we eventually cross to French Polynesia.

Then of course, there is the matter of money. In the middle of the night all worries get a little bigger. I normally avoid troublesome thought during dark hours. But tonight they get to me. I wonder how we can afford flying three kids this summer back and forth and whether we can afford the cruising permits and visas for the Arche de Colón (Galapagos Islands). Obviously this will require some tight planning. Better to do it in the daytime though. Better yet, I shall get Kathleen working on this problem. She’s better at it. I go back to reading C.S. Forester’s The Hornblower Companion, especially the long essay on how he came to write the series and how he goes about actually creating a novel. Very interesting and makes me want to write one too. I have known that feeling before but have never come up with a good idea. Maybe I should be less ambitious and just write a short story or an essay. Actually, now that I think of it, I have a good story about trade financing, believe it or not. I wonder if I could work it up and where I could do the research for it. Best just to start.

Barre de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico, Saturday, 21 January 2006

So hab ich wirklich dich verloren?
Bist du, o Schöne, mir entflohen?
Noch klingt in den gewohnten Ohren
Ein jedes Wort, ein jeder Ton.
So wie des Wandrers Blick am Morgen
Vergebens in die Lüfte dringt,
Wenn, in dem blauen Raum verborgen,
Hoch über ihm die Lerche singt.
So dringet ängstlich hin und wieder
Durch Feld and Busch und Wald mein Blick;
Dich rufen alle meine Lieder;
O komm, Geliebte, mir zurück

Hard to believe that Kathleen has been gone since Tuesday afternoon. Of course, I can keep busy during the day, especially since each trip to the little town of Barre is a good twenty-minute row each way. A quick trip to the internet café, a quick whip-round to the greengrocer or the greengrocer’s pickup truck, a stop at the butchers and the first thing you know it is one or two o’clock. Out at the boat there is “spring maintenance” waiting for me. By the time I get back out there I need a rest, of course, before attacking the scraping, sanding and painting. And don’t forget, I have to find a little time to write during the time the solar panels are delivering high power, i.e. afternoons. I cook a dinner, one that will last a few days with repeated reheating, additions, and creative transmogrification. A little reading in the evening and I’m turning off the light at 2130.

The town is a bit more sophisticated than most Mexican beach towns and clearly caters to a Norteamericano public. There are trees and flowers, for starters. There are streets full of eateries and souvenir shops. There is a weekly street market on Wednesday; some of the jewelry exhibitors are Americans or Canadians. Most of the visitors seem to be from Canada but I hear two older guys babbling away in German as I pass; they tell me they spend every winter here away from the damp draughts of northern Europe.

I have learned my way around now, at least in the few blocks near the water. I know which butcher I like and how to ask for most things I want and to get him or his wife to cut the meat the way I need it; I know which street-taco stand has lines of Mexican workers waiting to be served in the morning indicating that the food is good (it is terrific!) and where the owner now calls me by my local name (Ronaldo; Ron means “rum” in Spanish so I avoid using that with Mexicans). After picking up veggies and fruit I sometimes head for a little tiende that has miscellaneous food or household items.

I also started taking in two of our blue-plastic jerry (water) jugs. I would fill them with agua purificado at a little store selling bottled water and trundle them back to the dinghy, which I dock at the Sands Hotel quay. The rowing, the walking and the jug-carrying save me fitness-club fees, at least. It sure keeps me trim; Kathleen says I am now as slim as I was when we got back from our 4-month Alaska cruise in 2002. When we started from Long Beach a year ago I cold barely squeeze into my size 38 shorts. Now Size 36 is getting loose.

Today (Saturday) I resolve not to go ashore but to devote the day to boat-painting. I have all the materials I need. In fact, I still have a full gallon plus part of another gallon of the grey paint for the cabin and caprails and I have bought a litre of white enamel to touch up the bad spots on the topsides. I have also already prepared the spots on the topsides, i.e. scraped, sanded and treated with a sealant so the new paint will hold. I only have to give those spots a light sanding and slap the white paint on.

The side of Vilisar’s cabin were, I think, made originally of single fir or possibly cedar planks. Since then, however, the planks of split the whole length and these splits need to be filled and kept water tight. The blazing heat of the Sea of Cortés over the past year has caused the crack to open again (along with many other smaller cracks around the boat) and ruined my lovely fill-and-paint work from Long Beach. I clean it and prepare it for paint, intending only to touch it up. In the end, because the touch-up is too obvious, and because I have lots of paint anyway, I give the exterior cabin walls a complete coat all round. Looks great! Makes me now want to paint the caprails all round too. Maybe I shall.

The boat is completely torn apart. Not only do I have the lazarette hatch more-or-less emptied to get at paints, but the paint box under the cockpit seat is open. Until today I have managed to keep the main cabin tidy. Today, however, I pull up all the beautiful components of the cabin sole to see if I can identify if and where we are losing drinking water when we heel under sail. We definitely get more water in the bilge when we have canvas up. But where is it coming from? I have eliminated the propeller-shaft gland since we get the water even without running the engine. So it is either a plank seam opening up under the stresses of sailing, or else we are losing drinking water. Kathleen thinks we go through fresh water much faster when we are heeling under sail then we do at anchor.

There is indeed a small trickle of water coming from under the starboard settee just forward of the navigational table. I look up under the water tank under the settee but it is not coming from there. It is actually coming in very slowly from the second seam up from the keel, just a few drops but steadily. Maybe this seam opens up a bit more when we are under sail or in rougher seas. This is not particularly serious since carvel-planked boats all work somewhat and if it is salt water (I taste it hesitantly since the planking has all be creosoted; effective against rot and worms but definitely not good for your health. The rest of the bilge farther forward is dry. I’ll do something about the leaky seam when next we haul out. It probably just needs a little seam filler. Or maybe I should bung a little seam filler into it from the inside as well.

To make the mess in the cabin even more difficult to clear up, I decide to sweep out the dust and hair and other debris that has found its way into the bilge forward and then to carry buckets of sea water below to pour into the bilge as a means of rising it out and keeping everything fresh. I’ll pump it all out tonight. This job definitely goes quicker with two people!

When I finally put the cabin sole back in place they boards look so dry and tired that I decide to give them a coat of lemon oil. Man! Do they look great now! I hope they are not too slippery when I come below with wet feet at sea. The great-looking floor makes the rest of the woodwork look shabby too. So I give them a wipe too. By the time I am finished I have used lemon oil on every piece of dark wood in the main cabin, another hour or two has passed, and I am dirty, oily, and dripping with sweat. I return to the cockpit, pin up the sunshade to keep the slanting rays from burning me, and sink back to drink my last beer.

So far today I have sanded and touched up the port side of the hull with white paint, prepped the starboard side, touched up the parts of the caprail that needed immediate attention, identified a leak in the planking, cleaned out the bilge under the main cabin, oiled all the woodwork in the cabin, and begun to design a foot brace in the cockpit for Kathleen to use while we are heeled over at sea. I make myself feel good by adding the things that I did but had not already listed before on my TO-DO LIST and then strike them off with a flourish. Great work again by Captain Ronnie; Boy Spot-Welding King-of-the-World; Captain Epoxy! And what a great feeling to be doing spring maintenance in the January! My list has not really gotten that much shorter. But I am feeling very smug. Tired, but smug!

To simplify my life, I cook only every few days and make my meals last I have been eating a traditional beef stew, which I made initially in the pressure cooker with stewing meat and bones, and which now gets fresh additions of meat or vegetables every couple of days. It seems to get better each evening when, hungry after a day of physical activity in the open air, I wolf down three bowls for dinner. To accompany it I eat part of the daily baguette I buy from the “French Baker” who comes around in the morning in a panga to hawk his wares. (I have given up the croissants, almond croissants as well as little fruit tarts for cost reasons. But the bread is real treat.) During the day I eat fruit (Mexican oranges and bananas are terrific and we are in the main harvest season).I sometimes open a can of tuna to eat with part of the baguette for lunch.

I soon have to think about moving out of here. It is very calm here normally; no ocean swells come in here although it can get quite breezy some afternoons. This makes it easier to work around the boat. I want to get as much work done as possible here and then head out for some solo sailing. Kathleen will meet me farther down the coast; anywhere south is closer to Mexico City and therefore easier for her to get to coming back next month from Frankfurt.

I have now met several people who are planning to sail to Ecuador this spring. Jack and Lauren on S/V Mandan are crewing with another boat, leaving from Zehuateneo and stopping at the Cocos Islands on the way. They want to leave in February. At present we are planning to leave Acapulco in April before Easter with my son Andrew along as crew. Still debating whether to stop at the Galapagos Islands or not. Ecuador was never mentioned before this year and now we know of several people who have either been there or are heading there soon. I even met a motor trawler form Whitbey Island, Washington, who are planning to motor there next year.

Barre de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico, Thursday, 19 January 2006

Things that go bump

Trouble with laptop batteries has meant no blogging for the last nearly two weeks. In that time we finally pulled up the anchor in rolly La Cruz and began to make our way southwards again. La Cruz was nice enough. But it was not worth it at least to us to spend nearly a month there, most of it simply because we could not get the bottom cleaned on the boat and we could not get drinking water in our tanks.

After an early-morning start from La Cruz and motoring out to Cabo Corrientes, we get up all sail around 0900. The winds are southerly, which is not particularly propitious. But we shall sail as far out as possible close hauled to the southeast before coming about on a starboard tack and starting back toward land. Who knows, maybe the winds will shift more around to the northwest. It is turning into a glorious sailing day with gentlemanly winds and warm but tolerable sunshine. We are happy just to be moving again, happy to have shaken the dust of La Cruz off our feet. We happily hand-steer for a few hours just to feel the boat and the waves and the wind. We then play with the Cap Horn until it takes over the helm and we can read undisturbed except for occasional sweeps of the horizon or for going below to make something to eat or fetch a drink.

At 1300 we come about and start back towards the Mexican coastline, which has meanwhile disappeared into the marine haze. The winds have not shifted but have stayed southerly; on this tack, therefore, we are not likely to make much headway toward our target of Chamela. We opt for our alternative anchorage just south of Cabo Corrientes, Ipala. In fact, on this bearing, we are headed right toward it.

About dawn we talk to Veleda on the VHF. They got their dinghy aboard and the anchor up and left La Cruz about an hour after us. We see them in the distance though they seem to be going farther north. At times we are only able to see the top of their sail. They report at one point that both of their halyard winches have broken and they are jury rigging something to get the mainsail up. It seems to be working since, through the binoculars, we see that they have both their sails working. In fact, by late afternoon they have passed us towards the land and are likely to be in Ipala before us. We see them enter about a mile ahead of us in the late afternoon.

The little cove is crowded with only about four other boats including Veleda. Mandan is there and two other. Jack of Mandan warns of a big submerged rock in the centre; the cruising guide says there are quite a lot of them but they are sufficiently covered with water not to have to worry about them. We circle around trying to find enough room to swing at anchor and finally let the Bruce go in about twenty feet evenly between Mandan and Veleda. We are backing down slowly under power and paying out the chain when suddenly we feel and hear a muffled bump. Kathleen looks first horrified and then ashen, staring straight out to the side of the boat. I rush back and tell her we have to go forward on the engine in order to get off the rock that we evidently have landed. She worries that it will do even more damage and she may be right. But clearly we cannot just sit on the rock so she puts the engine in forward and I run forward to shorten anchor chain. There are refracted swells coming around the point and into the anchorage. We hit while we were in a trough and so were able to get off again though I felt us hit once more. My heart is racing.

I am not worried about our propeller or prop shaft particularly since they are both fairly well protected by the rudder and hull configuration. But we may have damaged some wood and have to be fearful of potential worm damage if the protective anti-fouling paint is opened up.

Once we are settled, Stephen swims over from Veleda and I borrow his diving mask for a quick look, cursing myself for not having bought a mask in La Cruz. (The ones we have are all too small or broken.) Clearly there has been scuffing under the keel about halfway along. But the damage is to the sacrificial “worm shoe”, a ¼-inch board that holds a layer of tarpaper or tarred felt between it and the keel itself. It is there to protect the wooden keel from worm damage; we know there is still tar there since, when we blocked the boat up on the hard last summer to paint the bottom, some of the tar actually squeezed out after all these years. I am in fact a little more worried about the compression damage to the wood right at the aft end of the keel, which Jens and Stephen had told us about when they cleaned the boat. Once I can get a diver lined up again, I shall have him pack some underwater putty around the damaged sites until we next haul out or careen. It might get rather slimy and covered in marine growth. But the damaged surfaces are small, no teredo worms can get through the putty, and I can apply anti-fouling paint later.

Again, things are never as bad – or as good - as they first appear. It is said that there are two kinds of cruisers: those who have hit bottom and those who have not yet hit bottom. It happens, in other words, to the best of cruisers. Nevertheless, backing over invisible rocks is not good a good habit to get into –for either the boat or one’s sense of wellbeing.

There is a little fishing village in Ipala. But we do not launch the dinghy from the foredeck and never go ashore here


We determine to leave again at 0400 the next morning to be sure we can cover the twenty-five sea miles to Chamela and arrive during daylight. Early rising is not a favourite of mine. But with the short winter’s days (still under 11 hours), I should rather do this than run out of time at the other end and have to stand off for a night to avoid entering an unfamiliar harbour in the dark.

But now we are practised. It is very dark as we motor out with the running lights and steaming light burning. There is no sign of life aboard the other boats including Veleda (later they tell us they never heard a thing). A direct course would take us right along the beach so we turn and motorsail out a mile or so to be clear of obstructions closer to shore.

The day is much like the day before. We soon get sail up and motorsail quite contentedly along in the pleasant “winter” sunshine. We here Jack of Amandan and Jens of Veleda talkgin on the VHF. But with the engine running it is too noisy to talk to them. Both of them claim they cannot see us in their radar, which does not say much for the homemade radar reflector I made back in Port Townsend several years ago now! I guess I shall have to break down and buy a proper one. Bob Ferguson told me to get a Lunenburg brand reflector; these were the only ones that he was invariably able to pick up coming down and they threw a huge shadow on the screen.

Chamela is a large sheltered cove with a beach town at the northern end and some islands at the southern. Jens tells us they want to anchor at the islands which reportedly have excellent diving. OK with us! Beach towns in Mexico tend to be very loud at night and we have had it with “loud” in La Cruz. When Veleda arrives an hour or two later, we are anchored in a fairly strong current among several rocky islands that are also bird sanctuaries. We have also had a skinny dip off the side of the boat to refresh ourselves after a day in the sun. Terrific! January!

The next morning Mandan (Jack and Lauren), which spent the night at off the beach town, arrives. We all plan to go ashore to walk the island and snorkel. Or at least, the others plan to snorkel since we have no masks. Stephen ferries all parties ashore to the little beach. Despite the fact that there are very large swells rolling in from the Pacific, the beach and our anchorage hardly feel them.

While the others play in the water, Kathleen and I climb up a path heading toward the other cove and beach. Above our heads pelicans are nesting and we can easily see large chicks (goslings?) stretching tgheir necks up and peepsing for food. If you think pelicans look funny you should see their chicks. They have scrawny and wrinkled necks. Their chick plumage is grey and short; it will be a long time before they get the nice fetathers of the adults. One adults wants to land to get to its young but is alarmed by us and keeps circling while the chicks squawk. Most of the adults however seem fairly non-plussed by our presence, something we found amongst the tree-nesting frigates and ground nesting boobies on Isla Isabel between Mazatlan and San Blas.

The path is short and there do not seem to be any other ones and we head back down to the beach. Apparently the snorkelling is all right but not great. But we find huge trigger fish skeletons (18 inches long and perhaps 12 inches from dorsal to belly) with teeth lying on the beach. There are also the remains of very large hog fish (Jack thinks). These have teeth that look like a parrots or a puffin’s beak. I suspect from the looks of them that these are the carcasses after the fishermen have gleaned fillets off them.


Although it is not listed in our ancient edition of Charlies’ Charts for Mexico (the standard cruising guide for this part of the world), Bob Valine form whom we have the charts has written it in and Mandan and Veleda say it is listed in their guide. WE all push off, the other boats motoring or, olater, motorsailing. We do the whole trip without turning on the engine, glidning peacefully out of the island anchorage and slowly, under headsail alone, when we come into the new anchorage.

Paraiso is delightful. Three or four boats could fit into it at anchor and it is protected on three sides by shoreline and to seaward by an island. We edge in ad drop the anchor in about 20 feet of very clear water over sand bottom. That was a wonderful experience!

In fact we wind up spending three days here because it is so peaceful. We swim off the boat but otherwise just loaf around, read, entertain each other with drinks or meals together. In fact, when Veleda heads off after the second night there (they need to find provisions and, especially, cigarettes), Mandan and Vilisar stay put.


The date (17 January) is drawing near when Kathleen has to depart for Mexico City and then Frankfurt. She really wants to get to Barre de Navidad before leaving for Europe. There is one more little bay where we could put in but we decide to make a longer day-sail first to the larger Tenacatita Bay.\ and after over-nighting briefly, push on to Barre

The inner anchorage at Tenacatita is a favourite amongst cruising boats in this area. But by the time we arrive off the entrance to the Bahia, it is getting late. Since getting in tonight and then coming out again in the morning involves an extra six miles, we decide to anchor in the outer anchorage, just around the entrance cape and off a large reef and a beach town popular with Mexican families. We are the only boat there but we can hear lots of VHF chatter amongst the boats farther inside the bay. They are all nice people but we like to be by ourselves most of the time and in empty coves or anchorages. The Outer Anchorage suits us just fine and we are soon settled in out of the swells behind a range of rocks running partially underwater out to sea.

After a little bit, we launch the dinghy and row ashore to find some fresh fruit and vegetables and a six-pack of Pacific. Landing thorugh the surf is not yet totally second-nature to us. But we arrive relatively dry as the sun sets behind the palapas. We sit down for a drink and get into a conversation with some Canadians down from Saltspring Island. We are to discover that Canadians are over-represented in this area. Barre de Navidad and Melaque across the bay farther down are almost completely in Canadian hands, eh? How did that happen?

We push the boat off into the surf with our groceries getting wet in the bilge. Arriving at the boat we prepare a nice dinner for ourselves and sit outside on the deck enjoying the balmy evening and the starry sky. The beach strip is small and most of the palapas close at dark so we are not disturbed by much noise. A wedding party is getting wound up in the only one left open but, as far out as we are, it does not bother us much. We crawl into our berths and sleep the sleep of the just.


The winds are on the nose the next day. But we get our sails up and motorsail to Melaque. This beach town of about 8,000 is about two miles across from the smaller (4,000) but more elegant Barre de Navidad. Unfortuantley, to get into the protected lagoon behind the town of Barre, you have to be there at high tide, which we cannot achieve today. Anyway, Jens on Veleda warns us not to try the channel into Barre at anything but high tide and not to anchor off the entrance for the night as it is very open to swells. They had a sleepless night waiting for dawn and high tide.
So we anchor off the beach at Melaque - or Malarky, as I like to call it- and go ashore to check out busses for Mexico City for Kathleen’s trip. A nice little town with friendly people who point us to the street where there are several bus terminals. One of them has overnight direct busses to Cuidad Mexico leaving daily at 1715 and, if we want to get on the busses in Barre de Navidad, we can get it fifteen minutes earlier.

We head for an internet café to catch up on our emails, which takes until after dark (I want to see if I have been offered any translating work), then pick up some meat and veggies before making a dash back to the beach. There we find the waves already lapping at the dinghy. Although we pulled it well up on the beach when we arrived, there was nothing to tether it to. I was getting very nervous. Losing your dinghy rates as a high-level inconvenience not to mention the cost of replacing it.

A large chartering yacht called Western Grace comes in. We saw her and met her Dutch-Canadian skipper, John, back in La Paz in April. Since then he has been to Hawaii on the way back to British Columbia where he charters in the summer. We chat for a while and he gives us some directions for getting into the lagoon in Barre de Navidad without landing up on a mudbank. WE pay close attention and hope we have got it.

A few minutes after he leaves us he returns and presents us with a Canadian flag. Ours had become so worn and frayed that you could read charts through it. Someone had given us a Green and white-striped flag with “Heineken Beer” written on it. As a joke I hoisted it up the backstay. “It’s not really very appropriate, is it?” John says. Suitably chastised, I pull the Heineken flag down and replace it with the red-and-white bars with the maple leaf. I remember when parliament was debating Canada’s new flag when Lester Pearson was prime minister. A lot of people didn’t like this design because, as one objection, it looked too much like a beer label. Whichever flag, I think it is important to show one’s true colours.

(In the little anchorage behind the rocky spit, we are near several other yachts. One of them arriving after us in the afternoon is called Wild Wild West and seemed to be manned by one person, an older gentleman. We learned several days later on one of the windy days we were soon to experience in Barre lagoon that Wild Wild West had his sails shredded in high winds out between Barre de Navidad and Tenacatita; when his engine then would not start, he put out a MAYDAY call. He was picked up by a freighter and he abandoned his sailboat. It’s probably still out there somewhere, or has washed up on the beach and been pounded to smithereens.)

Barre de Navidad

Our tide tables are on the hard drive of the computer and the computer will not boot up. We can sort of guess high tide by looking around us but Jens calls us and gives us the data. AS a matter of fact he gives to us twice and gives us two different times. They are close together so we are aiming to enter the lagoon channel at Barre de Navidad at about 1030.

As 1030 approaches we are motoring the two miles across the Bahia towards the channel entrance. We see another sailboat coming form around the point to the southeast and try to time our entrance to follow him. Surely he has been here before. A fishing boat is also steaming rapidly towards the channel.

Unfortunately, the sailboat gets there well before us and we lose sight of it. The fishing-boat skipper, uncooperative item that he is, rounds up before entering and drops his hook. We are on our own. I take the helm and Kathlen goes forward to the bow.

Despite our wary approach, we have time to look to the side of the channel at the immaculately and richly kept grounds of the huge hotel complex there. We haven’t seen lawns like this since when? Victoria? It is a pleasure after the desert scenery of Baja and Sonora. It makes a huge contrast of lifestyles between our semi-camping existence aboard Vilisar and the expensive looking complex ashore there.

Our instructions were to follow the buoyed channel until it runs out and the lagoon is straight ahead and the marina is on our starboard. Then go slowly forward towards the island in the distance and, more importantly, the tallest palm tree on the shre in the far distance behind the island. Everything is going swimmingly. Unfortunately, no one has told us when we are able to turn to port off the channel and into the broader lagoon. We see about a dozen yachts at anchor and turn just before the first of them.

In two seconds Vilisar comes to a grudging stop, lifting her bottom and nosing her bow into the mud on the left of the channel. I throw it into reverse and give it full power. To no available. I go forward and back. Auch nichts! Sitting here on a falling tide might be less than fun and I am running my options. I can get a kedging anchor out to port or starboard at the end of a halyard. By taking up the strain the mast will be pulled over to the side, our effective draught will be lessened as we heel and I might be able to back her off. But this will take lightening work with spligin on an anchor and rowing it out. fOrtunately we are towing the dinghy. Maybe I can also run the bow anchor back under the boat and set it well astern so that someone can winch at the same time.

A little rubber dinghy pulls up manned by, it turns out, Klinton from Langley, B.C. “Everybody gets on the mud at least once around here,” he says. Diplomatically, he suggests that I go astern while he uses his inflatable as a tug to push against our bow. I am sceptical but it begins to work. Vilisar’s bow begins to point back into the channel. Maybe the turning breaks the suction. We thank him profusely as he tells us to go almost up to the island before turning. Ten minutes later we are anchored in about 12 feet of water. I have anchored a bit close to Veleda and a big Nordhaven power boat. But I let out 100 feet of chain despite the scant depth and the tight space. We are in Barre de Navidad.

Under way on Banderas Bay, Mexico, Sunday, 08 January 2006 (approximately 0430)

Yesterday afternoon was breezy with winds of 10-15 knots coming at us across the long fetch across Banderas Bay from Cabo Corrientes. Curiously enough, there were no ocean swells, only the small little wind waves so there was not the usual crashing of surfs on the breakwall a couple of hundred metres away. Had we left today at midday, our original plan, we would be bucking these winds at least to the cape.

Keyed to leave yesterday, we loaf anti-climactically around the Vilisar today. I start getting cabin fever when I am just sitting around and Kathleen says I get grumpy with her. Hard to imagine me in that role but there you are. Kathleen puttered about reorganising the galley and then reading. I readied everything on deck – again - for our departure but generally twiddled my thumbs. I should have gone ashore but didn’t have any real need to do so and didn’t feel like bucking the waves to row back out.

Our new acquaintances, Jack and Monica on their twin-masted steel junk called Bella Via had intended to sail back up to Punta de Mita after picking up their laundry. The wind kept them here, however, and they invite us over for a late-afternoon beer. We get into the dinghy and more or less just drift down to them on the wind.

What a motivating pair of world cruisers these two are! Jack is originally from South Africa and Monica from Vancouver. Their home port is Comox, B.C. (Dayman Island, actually), but they have been living and cruising on Bella Via and their previous boat for thirty years and have circumnavigated at least, once possibly twice. As if that were not enough motivation for us as aspiring circumnavigators, their attitude to boats and sailing is down-to-earth in the extreme. Jacks keeps saying that sailing is basically just drifting down wind. Take your time and enjoy. Don’t try and fight Mother Nature. Get a strong boat and have faith. They both have very encouraging things to say about the stoutness and beauty of Vilisar. “It might lack a bit in cockpit comfort and onboard amenities,” Jack says, which are what modern yachts are primarily designed for, “but Vilisar is an ocean-cruising boat and just what you need.” He points around the anchorage and says most of these boats are just barely acceptable as ocean cruisers. It is all downhill sledding from California so they make it all right. But most of the boats are basically only coast or weekend cruisers, made in factories with an eye to keeping the costs down.

As to maintenance, Jack recommends just using normal exterior enamnel (he uses Comex enamel) rather than all the newest one- and two-part polyurethanes. If you stick to basic white, it doesn’t fade, you don’t have to match colours, and all you have to do is keep patching the bare spots rather than having to repaint huge swaths from time to time. His boat, I might add, looks great even allowing for its fairly recent refit.

He suggests however, that we take the bend out of our mast that Brion Toss put in; a straight mast is a safe mast. He also recommends raising the tab of the windvane steering so it is not so deep in the water. This would eliminate some drag. In fact, good as the Cap Horn is, he thinks Vilisar as a double-ender would be better off with a Hassler-type windvane using a tab attached to the rudder rather than the servo-pendulum that we have. Since we just put this one on a year ago, I think we are going to be living with the Cap Horn for a while yet.

We talked about cruising plans. They are probably heading down to Central America again but were interested to hear about Ecuador, which they have as yet not visited. I asked them how difficult it was to get cruising permits for French Polynesia since one American cruiser has apparently been trying in vain for months to get one. Jack says you just sail down there and they will give you a permit for a month to get through the islands. This leaves plenty of time to poke about but does not allow you to stay indefinitely. I wonder what the situation is for European-Union citizens or vessels.

After returning from Bella Via we talk to Jens about leaving the next morning. He wants to listen to Don of S/V Summer Sausage to hear the weather report before making his decision. Unless we hear that a tropical cyclone is coming through, we told him, we are definitely leaving in the morning about 0400 to be at Cabo Corrientes just after dawn. We notice that at dusk Veleda still has its inflatable tied to the side and the outboard still on it.

About 2130 as we are ready to sleep, Don has still not provided any evening weather via shortwave; apparently there has been some emergency around Cabo San Lucas (somebody set off a 406 MHz EPIRB and Don was staying off the airwaves). We finally shut off our VHF after agreeing with Jens that we would meet him in Chamela or ports south and we would stay in touch in daylight by VHF radio.

We collapse onto the settees feeling a prickle of excitement at the prospects of getting an early start, our tummies filled with a great curried-chicken dinner and another close 10,000-point Canasta tournament completed.

The alarm clock rouses us imperiously at 0330. Dead calm outside and drippy with dew but warm enough to be on deck in a t-shirt. We promised each other last night not to be grumpy at this early hour. Using the foredeck light to illuminate my work, I start pulling in the 200 feet of chain that has served us so well in the surfs of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Half the chain is already in the locker and I hear Kathleen kicking over the Lister air-cooled diesel, a steady rumble coming through the straight-pipe inboard-dry- exhaust pipe and out the side. She logs “0345: Engine on. Bound around Cabo Corrientes for Chamela. Calm sea, clear starlit sky, no wind.” The anchor chain comes taut and then is vertical over the anchor, Kathleen runs the vessel slowly forward to break the anchor out, I haul away until the Bruce comes up dripping and clean from the sandy bottom, give a final heave to get it over the rollers and nestled in its place, tie a line around the chain to prevent the anchor from going overboard accidentally while we are at sea, and signal to Kathleen that we can go ahead on the engine.

The half-moon has already set. But there is enough light from the stars for us to pick our way forward amongst the anchored boats. Our eyes have not been ruined for night vision because we only used the red cabin lights when we got up. As we leave Valeda behind, someone flashes a big spotlight at us. We wave and blink a light at them. Maybe they are getting ready to go.

Soon we are heading out into the middle of Banderas Bay. Our running lights wink green, red and white, the steaming light at spreader level casts a little glow forward. A straight rhumb line will take us in my opinion too close to the coast and I prefer to have lots of room to manoeuvre. The cape has the reputation of being tricky with its winds and currents and you generally never have to reproach yourself for making a wide circle around a point of land. We motor for half an hour till we are well out from the land and into the darkness. Soon we pick up the flashing light at Punta de Mita off to the right. The bottom cleaning has been effective: we are making 5.5 knots without any effort at all. When we motored to Puerto Vallarta ten days ago we were lucky if we could coax 2 knots out of the old girl. Later, while I am writing this, Kathleen comes below to say that we are doing over six knots. Even assuming a favourable current, this is pretty good for us.

Given the frequency with which hull cleaning will have to be done in the tropics and the cost of having someone do it, I think we shall have to give serious consideration to investing in an electrical compressor and simple diving gear. I don’t want scuba stuff but only the more simple hookah system. At present we don’t even have a serviceable face mask though we do have lots of snorkels and a couple of pairs of flippers.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Barre de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico, 15 January 2006

Short note to say we arrived safely in Barre de Navidad. Temperatures in the high 80s F and warm water. Our laptop is not working so cannot at present do much blogging.

Kathleen leaves for Frankfurt on Tuesday by bus to Mexico City and air to Germany. She will be gone five weeks and I shall be doing some maintenance on the boat and solo sailing. I may sail down to Zihuateneo for SailFest 2006 (first week of February.)

At present we are planning to sail to Ecuador from Acapulco in early-mid April. Andrew will be crewing with us. We hope also to stop int he Galapagos Islands on teh way.

More blogging when the computer is back in shape. You can write to us at our email address.

Friday, January 06, 2006

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico, Friday, 06 January 2006

Ready to boogie

I can’t believe that, except for last-minute provisioning and email-checking, we’re actually ready to sail. Yesterday, Jens and Steven came over with their scuba equipment and, in 45 minutes, scraped Vilisar’s hull and propeller of marine growth and barnacles. The murky red-tide water held off until they completed the job. Now we should be able to make reasonable speed both under power and under sail.

I was made a little nervous, however, when Jens reported that there was damaged wood - some compression and a few splinters- on the keel back near the deadwood; I will get a mask on and take a look when the water is clear. The boat’s operations won’t be influenced. But I am very worried about any opportunity for teredo navalis, the dreaded wood-boring marine worm getting at exposed (unpainted) planking, or structural wood and riddling the wood with holes.

With water aboard and the hull cleaned we are ready to go. But Jens, who wants to buddy-boat with us for a while, is worrying. He says that sainted Don of meteorological fame (Don of S/V Summer Passage, or as I call it, S/V Summer Sausage, broadcasts weather forecasts on the ham and SSB nets several times daily) was forecasting easterlies between 10 gusting to 25 knots around Cabo Corrientes, though it could well be that we would get nothing at all. Jens wants to wait things out and we want to get going. He says he was been scared enough getting to Banderas Bay. Another cruiser they know has offered them some free sailing lessons for heavy weather and how to use their windvane steering. But this can only take place on Sunday at the earliest and that assumes there will be some wind. We are afraid that if we wait around it will stretch to another week. La Cruz is fine but not that great. We are itching to go.

Later, on shore, we run into Jens and family again and I told Jens that we want to leave early the next morning. The wind and Banderas Bay are calm and we can motorsail towards Cabo Corrientes some thirty or so nautical miles away (Ypala Cove, a shelter around the cape, is 49 Nm.). There is usually wind in the afternoon. But this wind generally comes straight from Cabo Corrientes and would slow our speed even if we motorsail. Our aim is to be around the cape in daylight at the same time sailing five miles or so off it to avoid contrary currents and gusty winds.

At Fox’s Café, Jens sounds out various other boaters and, although not final, I have the feeling that he will leave with us tomorrow.

Wooden boats

Over at Fox’s Café this morning I run into Monica and Jack, whom we met aboard their junk-rigged vessel, S/V Bella Via, whilst we were both anchored off at La Paz last April. Although originally from South Africa, Jack worked for years repairing fishing boats all up and down the British-Columbia coast so I was able to pick his brain about dealing with wooden boats in this area of the world. He said he passed Vilisar on his way into shore this morning and was wondering how it had fared up in the Sea of Cortés over the hot and dry summer.

The bad news is that Teredo worms can do a lot of damage very quickly. The good news is that, without actually looking at it, it seems that there is not much real damage done to the keel. I told him that we had touched bottom at Loreto when we had anchored in shallow water off the quay and, when Kathleen, Laila (our crew between Guaymas and La Paz), and I returned about noon, there were larg-ish waves rolling into the anchorage and, as we stepped aboard, I felt Vilisar touch the sandy bottom. Of course, we got out of there in a hurry!

I was also curious to know how long it would take to kill Teredo worms when in fresh water or, indeed, out of the water altogether. There is a river estuary in Barre de Navidad where we are headed. Jack said the brackish water in San Blas of Barre de Navidad would certainly get rid of the worms inside a week.

I liked Jack’s attitude to sailing boats. Don’t turn them into works of art. Don’t pretty them up too much. Use ordinary materials; porch paint is as good as the most expensive modern paints, especially for a wooden boat. Keep the amount of brightwork to a minimum unless you want to work yourself to death trying to keep it beautiful. I feel better already.

How not to meet Mexico

I realise looking back that I have written very little about the little town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico, even though we have been here now nearly a month (!) If we don’t get going soon we shall soon be assessed property tax or the coral on the bottom of our boat will join us permanently to the sea bottom!

One way to avoid meeting Mexico is to visit the internet café every time you go ashore. Fox’s Café or Viajero Café in La Cruz are great places and very inviting. You can get a decent cinnamon bun and good coffee. But, you will be hard pressed to meet Mexicans. The cruisers all head there to meet other boaters and to go on-line. After weeks, we realise we have met too few locals, not even walked along the beach to the palapas down the coast. It’s all boaters and cruisers and their hangouts. I shall be more careful about this in the future.

Unfortunately, I have now broken the second flash memory so have to take the whole laptop ashore. I am not sure why they keep getting broken. My laptop is at risk landing and departing through surf; a flash stick is much preferred.

I shall try to write a bit about La Cruz from memory whilst we are at sea over the next few days.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico, Tuesday, 03 January 2006


OK. I was pretty upset about the treatment I received at the hands of Tomas. And being treated like the bearer of bubonic plague by the fishermen around here is pretty annoying. But having damned the whole town the day before yesterday, I am the recipient of several incidents of unsolicited friendliness yesterday: a young man helps me drag the dinghy up the beach above the high-tide mark; another sees me carrying bags of trash along the street and helps me find a trash bin. Ah well! I guess general condemnations are unfair. But stay away from Tomas.

Hull-cleaning and water

After putting a finishing coat of Cetol Gloss on the brightwork we have been refinishing as an initial step in Vilisar’s annual maintenance, we head in to shore. The tide is out and half the harbour basin in exposed. I think the seawall that has been built has perhaps protected the fishermen’s beach from waves. But the swells refracting around the point have also silted up half the basin. Little boys are walking out into the middle of the harbour though just there close to shore where the fishermen launch their pangas and the cruisers land their dinghies, it is a little deeper. We have to get out of the dinghy way out, walk the boat over the sandbar and then get back in again to row the last twenty-five yards to shore.

We have brought two of our five-gallon blue jerry jugs to fill them on shore. We have enough water aboard for another week perhaps but think we should perhaps be bringing water out each time we go ashore. But first I head up to a very nice souvenir shop near Phylos that is apparently run by a young American lady named Michelle. She gets things done around here someone has told me, Kate I think over at Café Viajero.

We find Michelle in the shop along with her mother and her auntie and a couple from Ottawa. Michelle is shocked that someone (Tomas) would demand Pesos 20 for a five-gallon jug of water and even more scandalised that he wanted Pesos 300 to ferry it out to the boat. If I came back on Wednesday morning she would get it all done. The water would cost Pesos 16 a bottle and it should not cost more than Pesos 100 for the boatman. She wanted nothing for her efforts.

The second good piece of news is that we may get the hull cleaned in the next couple of days as well. Jan on S/V Slipaway called me on VHF in the morning for the contact to the chart-lending library in Puerto Vallarta. In the course of the conversation I explained my problem of getting Jens’ diving tanks filled and our bottom scraped. She said her husband would do it for a six-pack though he could not do it until today (Tuesday). Jens takes the bottles over this morning. I told Jens that if and Steven clean the hull I will pay him the same as I would pay any other diver plus I would also pay whatever it took to get the bottles filled.

So, as bad as Sunday was, things are starting to move. We might actually be out of here by Thursday, heading south around Cabo Corrientes together with Veleda. I sure hope so.

This morning I finally mount the repaired and refinished port lightboard that was shattered last February off the Pacific coast of Baja California. Everything is mounted using heavy fisherman twine, i.e. without screws, clamps, etc. Very salty! I seem to have got the hang of that thanks to Bob Valine who once showed me how to do it back in Port Townsend, Washington, so long ago now in summer 2001. Another job well done by Captain Ronnie, Boy Spot-welding King-of-the-World; Captain Epoxy!

Kathleen gets into the dinghy and in a superhuman effort finishes scrubbing the topsides near the waterline where scum has built up from the waves. We are low on our lines. In these tropical waters green slime builds up even from the waves slapping against the hull above the anti-fouling paint. It looks great now.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sunday, 01 January 2006

We are up in the dark at 0630 yesterday, New Year’s Eve day, to bus it into town with Jens, Alice and Steven from S/V Veleda. They are out to buy Steven a six-string acoustic guitar at Sam’s Club in PV and have borrowed a membership card from someone for the occasion. We have never been inside a Sam’s Club so are going along for the sightseeing and perhaps to get some provisions for the trip.

Sam’s only carries electric guitars so Jens et alia take off downtown to a music instrument shop leaving the Sam’s Club card with us. Just like East Germans after the Wall came down, we are totally overwhelmed by the stacks of merchandise and, after a bit of walking around, we head over to Wal-Mart next store to get something to eat at the snack bar. There are no street vendors around these big box stores; only acres of paved parking spaces. It is Saturday, year-end and month-end so there is a tidal surge of shoppers.

Fortified, we return to the fray. Kathleen is not convinced that the food items we are buying are that much cheaper than Wal-Mart. More importantly, how much food do two people actually need? And, not to be forgotten, we have to schlep all this stuff back down to the boat on foot. We do in fact buy enough to fill four shopping bags and feel like poseurs amongst the people lined up to check out carts piled high with items. We head for the bus stop and back to La Cruz.

We agree to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Alice, Jens and Steven on Veleda. When we get over there it is already dark. Alice has bought some roast chickens in town and made up a lovely sit-down dinner with salad and pasta. None of us lasts till midnight; it turns cool and we leave for home in a good mood having spent some nice time with nice people.

As we are leaving there is a techno-“music” concert getting started on the beach. There are lots of tents and flashing lights and big TV screens and the “music” is deafening even out here some half a kilometre away. I can see lots of people dancing in the flashing disco lights. As we settle into bed the noise gets louder and louder, the beat endlessly repetitive with robotic speaking voices blended in over top from time to time. This music must have been invented by tone-deaf engineers since, beyond the fast, antsy beat there is no music involved. In fact it reminds me of a long day at sea with our Lister diesel engine running. The music goes on all night and, as I write this at mid-day on New Year’s Day, it has continued without interruption and looks set to continue on for another night. In town this morning, you could hardly hear it. But out on the water it is very, very intrusive and several boats have left because of it. I got to sleep last night by using earplugs.

La Cruz renamed “Sullen City” or “Gouge Gorge”

On the way up to the bus stop in the morning we meet an obese, ca. 40-year-old Mexican chap named Tomas. He addresses us in good English and after a few moments I asked him about how to get bottled water out to the boat and if he knows of a diver to clean Vilisar’s hull. He himself has a panga called “Rockin’ Robyn”, which he uses as a taxi and for whale-watching rides. He can bring the water out and how many bottles do we want? He’ll pick up the full bottles from a Purificado, deliver them and return the empties. We got into some negotations and it is clear that the water is going to be about the same price category as Chanel #5. Nevertheless, we finally come to a price for the water (at cost) plus Pesos 300 for delivery the next day, New Year’s Day.

He points to a young and fit-looking young man whose name turns out to be Felix. Tomas talks to him in Spanish; I offer a dollar a foot (35), which is the standard rate in Los Angeles and San Carlos; Tomas tells him sotto voce I understand no Spanish whatsoever; to demand more. We finally settle on Pesos 500 (ca. US$ 50) and he promises he will be there on the beach when I come in at 0900 on New Year’s Day. I am sceptical that he can handle the probably two hours of work underwater without a wet suit and using only a snorkel. But I have little choice at this point and I agree.

This morning I get up in time to row into the harbour to meet Felix. Tomas is there, but not Felix.
“Oh, I t’ink he get drunk las’ night. He’s not here,” Tomas tells me. “But my son he’ gonna do it.”
He calls his son on the cellphone that magically appears from somewhere out of the folds of fat around his belt. A very brief father-son dialogue.
“No! He don’t wanna do it. But I have a friend visiting me right now. He needs money and he’s gonna do it. He’s real experienced.”
About that time friend arrives in Tomas’ van along with friend’s two young teenage boys. Friend is like Tomas, a very fat mid-forties, and obviously has not had much physical exercise in the last twenty years. The only diving this guy has done is into the chow trough. Tomas talks to him and friend is obviously needing a lot of coaxing. But if friend is now finally convinced to attempt it, I am only convinced that friend hasn’t got a clue and I wave it off.
“Ok, amigo. Whatver!” Thomas says. “I go get your ten bottles of water now. I think the water is going to cost Pesos 20 a bottle.”
“Twenty pesos a bottle!” I reply. “You must be joking.”
“Well, that’s what my wife tol’ me it costs”
“Your wife is running a personal slush fund or you are just setting me up,” I think but do not say.
A few minutes later he arrives back down at the beach carrying in his van ten full water bottles, the fat non-diving friend, and the two boys.
“Where’s your dinghy? Oh, yeah, the water cost twenty pesos a bottle,” he says.
“Well, you can take it right back because I am not paying that price for water. It costs fifteen a bottle or maximum sixteen to get it delivered right to your house in La Cruz. And anyway, I thought you were going to deliver it out to the sailboat? That’s what we agreed.”
Tomas flashes me a receipt from an abarrotes, a small store with the twenty pesos price documented there.
“I don’t care! Either you’re ripping me off or the store is ripping you off. I’m not paying that price!”
“OK, get in! I’ll take you up to the store.”
I get in and we rattle over the cobblestones for a few blocks to the little corner store.
El senor no es contenta con el precio,” Tomas tells the middle-aged lady in the darkness behind the cash register. Without a comment she hands me the two hundred pesos that I had given to Tomas the day before by way of an advance on the water.

Tomas goes back out to the curb, slides open the side door of the van and tells me I can just unload it myself. So while Thomas the Tank Engine, his fat compañero and the two porky kids watch, I lug bottle for bottle to the back of the store. I am fuming but I finish the job and start to walk away down the street.
“No hard feelings, Amigo,” says that ambulatory bowel movement.
Amigo?” I say in disgust and keep right on walking.

I walk the few blocks down to Fox’s Café to use the internet. It’s down but I tell Fox about my experience. I also tell him that, the cruisers and the Americans here aside, the locals seem very sullen and unfriendly. Unlike every other place I have been in Mexico, they pointedly avoid eye contact and almost never reply if you say “Buenos Dias” as you go by. After my experience with Thomas the Tank Engine I have come to the opinion that anyone you deal with here regards you simply as a chicken to be plucked. They don’t even respect you enough to stick to agreements or appointments. Fox is married to a Mexican so he knows.

“They have a real attitude problem here. To them you are just another Norteamericano.” He was apologetic but agreed that they can be pretty unfriendly to the cruisers here.

I leave after a while to try to get on line somewhere else. But the other internet places are closed for Sunday or because they are recovering from hangovers. Finally, I stop for some fruit and veggies and head back out to the dinghy. The good news is that there is no surf running and I get back out to Vilisar, still feeling badly used and totally frustrated because I am no farther along in getting water or getting the bottled water and totally bummed out on this place.

I understand that a small village that can be very personable when there are only a few tourists. But this openness can soon be overwhelmed if the number of visitors increase. I saw this happen in little Greek-island villages in the 1970’s. Understandably, the locals, friendly at first, simply could not deal with too many outsiders and became aggressive and gouging. The Italian beach resorts went through the same process a generation earlier. Eventually, the town becomes a prosperous and well-organised hotel beach-town catering to package holidayers. The local people become waiters, cooks, chambermaids, trinket-shopkeepers, gigilos and prostitutes. They take part in “friendliness” training sessions. The small fishing village, of course, has disappeared long before that happens.

Even understanding the process, I am now heartily sick of La Cruz and wish we could get out of here. Maybe we shall go without the bottom cleaned. We have enough water for another week. We will be slow but we would be gone from this place. Jens says today that his hull is thoroughly fouled. He is going to use his last air in his scuba tanks to clean his prop and hull. He’s frustrated too.