Good news! We are mobile once again!!!
It took us 20 days to locate, buy, and wait for our “new” engine, a rebuild from Mazatlan, but it finally arrived on Monday. Then, it took us a day to swap parts from the old to the new, a day to get it in the boat, a day and a half to align the thing, and a day to hook it all up and getting it running. Phew! We did 100% of the work ourselves, much to the amusement of the marina staff. The marina manager’s jaw dropped when Elan told him that the two of us wrestled the greasy ol engine out of the boat and onto the dock ourselves, and then employees came out of the woodwork to ask Elan if he was “un mechanico?” as he sat tearing the two apart. It’s hard to say what the locals think of us youngsters cruising around on a boat, but their reactions made it clear that they didn’t expect us to be greasy handed do-it-yourselfers. If they only knew, haha! I will admit that it was not an easy, or a fun project; it cost us a lot of bloody knuckles, gallons of sweat, and a handful of swearwords, but I am so proud of Elan for masterminding the swap and getting us going again. We have, unfortunately, done this same swap once before when we first bought the boat because the original engine had seized up in storage, so we had a few gems of knowledge to help us through the process.
Here’s what we did:
1- We hoisted the old engine out using a come-along strapped around a couple of 4x4s over the companionway, shoved it out onto the cockpit floor, then used the boom to hoist the engine up over the side of the boat and onto the dock (which ripped the boom out of the mast in the process – what can I say, its heavy- about 550lbs).
2- As Elan busily swapped parts from one engine to the other, I had the delightful job of cleaning the grease that splattered EVERYWHERE in the engine compartment when it blew open. If you had seen me afterwards, you would have assumed that I had climbed into the engine bay, done somersaults all day until all grease had been effectively transferred from the bay to myself… And sadly that’s not that far from the truth. But, it turned out semi clean, so I called it good.
3- We reversed the engine haulout process to get the new one in, and then the fun really began. Not.
4- My most unpleasant memories of the last engine swap related to engine alignment, and unfortunately, it was no different this time. We spent many, hot, sticky hours tweaking nuts and bolts 1/16 of an inch at a time trying to get the transmission and prop shaft to line up perfectly. Specs say all sides of the coupler should have less than 4/1000 of an inch of gap. How are you really supposed to measure to that kind of accuracy? Haha. This step also required chiseling out the engine liner in two places to allow the new engine to fit in. So much for our idea of an “identical drop-in-and-go” engine. Anyway, we did our best and eventually said good enough.
5- Then comes the actual fun part: hooking up cooling, electrical, fuel and firing her up for the first time! Like our old one, it’s a huge, hulking, deafeningly loud, beast of an engine, but it was music to our weary ears. We popped the cork on a mini Champaign bottle that my friend Alina gave us ages ago to christen the boat with… Sorry Alina, this was a worthy cause!
6- We put about 6 hours on the engine letting it pull against docklines at the dock, and everything seems to be working well. We still have a few minor kinks to work out, but nothing to stop us from leaving… And so we are getting the heck out of here!
We are planning to check out of Mexico (again) tomorrow and then head south for Costa Rica. We will have to keep moving at a quick clip to get to Panama before the weather gets too sloppy. Technically, hurricane season started two weeks ago, but our forecast looks dead calm so we are going to bomb down the coast to put as much distance as possible between us and the storms before they really come to the party. We are still hoping to catch up to Solent in Costa Rica and Deja in Panama so we’ve got lots calling us south. This means sailing on by Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua without stopping, but we should be able to catch Guatemala and Nicaragua on the other side when we have more time. We figure we can make it to Panama City in about 12 days if we only stop overnight for fuel twice in Costa Rica. We’ll see what mother nature has in store for us!
While it has been nice to stay in one place for a while, we are ready to be moving along. We celebrated a very subdued 30th Birthday for Elan while we were here, both knowing that we should have been in Panama with Deja, Jake, Bri and the Solent crew. We’ll just have to delay that milestone party for a little while!
Our days here have been hot and humid, in the high 90s, and our nights are almost always full of thunder and lightning. Elan and I both grew up in eastern Washington, where the summers can easily reach 100 degrees and stay there for weeks at a time. I don’t consider either of us particularly wimpy when it comes to hot weather, but I have made a big realization. Handling the heat when you have a place to escape- AC in your house, in your car, or at your office/school, is much, much easier than when you can’t escape it day or night. We both know we should have been using our down-time to get some much-needed work done on the boat while we waited for the new engine, but it is very, very hard to put those desires into action when it’s so hot. My favorite chore became doing the laundry (by hand in a bucket of course-we are in the boonies) just because it meant I got to play in some water for a while.
I’ve never seen Apollo so lethargic. We give him cold beers to sleep with, because it breaks my heart to see him panting so hard.
We have managed to accomplish a few things despite the heat. I have finished/refinished most of the teak on the interior, we made screen covers for every door and window (the mosquitos are voracious at night), we beefed up the backstay backing plate, and we have updated a few of our blog pages: the “Spot Tracker” actually works now, and we added more info to the “About Us” and “The Boat” pages. Keep an eye out for a new page about the restoration process, coming soon.
Luckily our marina here has COLD showers. That’s basically been the highlight of every day, even though by the time we dry off, we are already sweaty again. Its something to do. You are probably wondering; Why were they so bored? Well. We are in the boonies. Our marina is kind of inland, away from the ocean. Its brand new, and will be really nice someday, but for now there is nothing here except one very expensive Italian restaurant, a handful of boats (most of which are empty, just stored here for the summer) and the internet is intermittent at best. That’s it. We are 27km from the nearest town, Tapachula, which requires taking a ‘combi’ to reach. Combis are an adventure unto themselves. Its basically like a taxi, except that instead of picking up one customer and going directly to their destination, they keep picking people up along the way, and sometimes you have to get out and switch to another combi to get where you really want to go. Most of the time my choices are: sit on Elan’s lap, so they can squeeze one more person in, or get sat on. I don’t have to tell you that they don’t have AC, in fact, I have been surprised more than once that our rattle wagons actually reached their destination. Elan asked one driver, “Is the car ok? Do we need a mechanic?” to which he responded, “oh no, its just dirty gas” as we sputtered, screeched and lurched down the highway. One day, Elan rode in a 16 passenger van with nearly 30 people, including a 9 month old baby who crawled over 3 laps to repeatedly pet Elan’s beard and then laugh hysterically. Cant blame the kid, can you? 🙂
We did our best to stay busy at the marina. We made friends with both of the marina managers, Memo and Enrique. One day as we were riding our folding bikes a few miles from the marina, we happened to ride by Memo as he was setting up for his birthday party and he waved us in. Elan and I had a blast getting to know people and eating cueritos and carnitas. All along this voyage, Elan and I have been a little disappointed in how difficult it is to meet and mingle with locals. By nature of being on a boat and always on the move, we’ve felt a little… divided. It was really nice to meet people and feel included in their real lives. A few days after the party, we woke up to someone yelling “Alan! Alan!” (that’s how everyone pronounces it here) at 6am. It was one of our new friends inviting us to go fishing. Elan went, and brought home several Sierras. By faaar the best fish we have eaten on this entire trip, not dark and tough like bonito but light and flakey deliciousness!
I mentioned that there aren’t many boats in the marina with us, but the few that are here are great. We’ve been spending time with a nice couple and their two kids from Colorado. I have to say, the boating community is pretty awesome. Where else in the world do you strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger and then invite them to dinner 30 seconds later? Before even saying hello to someone, you already know you have something major in common: boats! And boat people LOVE to talk about their boats, their fish tales, their big storm story, and their travel, etc. 🙂 Cruisers are also incredibly generous; we all know how difficult it can be to get supplies and information, so when anyone needs anything, someone always steps up to help out. Pretty cool, really.
By far, the best gift our new friends on HotSpur gave us was offering to doggie sit Apollo so we could travel inland for a few days. We love our “kid” to pieces, but he does prevent us from being able to leave the boat for long. There are no rental cars in Tapachula, so busses were our only option to get inland- not so good for traveling with a pet. So we left Apo and the boat in the hands of a super cute 12 year old, who later admitted to wearing him out every day. Perfect!
We hopped on a 13 hour bus to the northern part of the state of Chiapas. Our bus wound through lush jungley areas, pine-covered high mountains and many tiny traditional Mayan (or i guess Mayan descendants) villages. We found it interesting that on the way north our bus was stopped every half hour for military check points, but only twice on the way south. Guess that tells you which way they are worried about things travelling. The checkpoints varied from 30 seconds of questions for the bus driver to having machine gunned dudes searching the bus, questioning passengers and videotaping everyone’s face. We didn’t really care until we realized we lost our bus tickets halfway through, but no one ever questioned us, so no biggie.
We arrived in the town of Palenque at 11pm, 2 hours later than scheduled, so we were happy to crash at an (air-conditioned!!!) Best Western that first night. We woke up early the next day to tromp around the spectacular Palenque ruins complete with museum, waterfalls and howler monkies. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
That night we stayed in a little bungalow in the jungle just outside of the ruins, and woke up early again to catch a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, a cute town with 18th century churches, and a happening “backpacker” vibe. We spent the day there and then rode the rest of the way home on a night bus.
It was great to get off of the boat for a while and have a change of scenery while we waited for the engine to come. We both came back sick as dogs with high fevers (don’t try this at home in 95 degree weather) for a few days, but overall it was still worth it.
So, tomorrow, we say a prayer, cross our fingers, quadruple check our alignment, and shove off the dock that has been our home for the last month. Wooohoo!
Love to you all,
A & E